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OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Despite a high overseas operations tempo, a stop-move order isn’t likely for airmen stationed in South Korea, said the Air Force’s top enlisted airman, Chief Master Sgt. Gerald R. Murray.

“We have no intention to extend them beyond their deployment,” said Murray, who visited Osan, Kunsan and Yokota air bases.

A war in Iraq could affect deployments, he said. “But right now we don’t have any plans to do that.”

In South Korea, the Air Force mission has become more intensive, with the launch this month of Foal Eagle — a massive field and computer-simulated war exercise — and an additional rear support exercise with the South Korean military.

Also, six F-117A Stealth fighters are participating in exercises at Kunsan Air Base. North Korea has increased tension in the region, recently launching two anti-ship missiles into the Sea of Japan and chasing a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane March 2.

Murray said he’s heard some concerns about the North Korea situation from airmen, but told them to “trust their leadership” and be prepared to do their job the best they can.

“We are always making and assessing what our needs are to be able to meet any kinds of threats,” Murray said.

“Again, much of this is set by how our president views things and directs us to go. I can’t speculate on any specific operation or anything we are going to take.”

The Air Force will continue to have a higher operations tempo than during the Cold War, but Murray said he doesn’t hear people complaining.

“I don’t see our airmen, like when I came in, cleaning latrines, running buffers on floors and out mowing grass because our airmen are focused on their mission,” Murray said.

About 40,000 airmen are deployed overseas now, separated from their families, he said. But airmen aren’t whining, he said, and the Air Force is trying to balance its forces to reduce stress on the service.

The Air Force will implement a rule soon blocking most airmen returning from a remote tour from deploying for six months rather than the current 60 days, Murray said.

Murray also discussed other issues important to the morale of airmen in east Asia, including quality-of-life improvements and pay.

For the past three years, airmen have received targeted pay raises, Murray said. Grades E-1 through E-4 rank at least 85 percent of their civilian counterparts for pay base on level of experience.

But senior enlisted — mainly E-7s and E-8s — still only get about 35 percent of civilian counterparts by comparison, but the Air Force is working to change that, he said.

“We recognize that it is and will continue to be a military that’s going to have a higher operations tempo than we did in the past when we were in a Cold War environment,” Murray said.

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