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Capt. Jason Mascetta of the 555th Fighter Squadron prepares for takeoff Thursday at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. Mascetta is one of approximately 300 airmen from the Italy-based squadron who are spending four months training in South Korea.
Capt. Jason Mascetta of the 555th Fighter Squadron prepares for takeoff Thursday at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. Mascetta is one of approximately 300 airmen from the Italy-based squadron who are spending four months training in South Korea. (Ashley Rowland / S&S)
Capt. Jason Mascetta of the 555th Fighter Squadron prepares for takeoff Thursday at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. Mascetta is one of approximately 300 airmen from the Italy-based squadron who are spending four months training in South Korea.
Capt. Jason Mascetta of the 555th Fighter Squadron prepares for takeoff Thursday at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. Mascetta is one of approximately 300 airmen from the Italy-based squadron who are spending four months training in South Korea. (Ashley Rowland / S&S)
An F-16 that belongs to the 555th Fighter Squadron takes off as another 555th jet prepares for takeoff from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, on Thursday.
An F-16 that belongs to the 555th Fighter Squadron takes off as another 555th jet prepares for takeoff from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, on Thursday. (Ashley Rowland / S&S)
Capt. Jason Mascetta prepares for a flight in an F-16 at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, on Thursday. “It’s good for all the young guys who haven’t been to Korea. It gives them a taste of what they’ll experience and know if they want to do it for the next assignment,” Mascetta said.
Capt. Jason Mascetta prepares for a flight in an F-16 at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, on Thursday. “It’s good for all the young guys who haven’t been to Korea. It gives them a taste of what they’ll experience and know if they want to do it for the next assignment,” Mascetta said. (Ashley Rowland / S&S)
Senior Airman Abraham Marquez helps F-16 pilot Capt. Jason Mascetta prepare for a flight at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, on Thursday. Both are members of the Italy-based 555th Fighter Squadron, which is spending four months at Kunsan as part of a routine training deployment.
Senior Airman Abraham Marquez helps F-16 pilot Capt. Jason Mascetta prepare for a flight at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, on Thursday. Both are members of the Italy-based 555th Fighter Squadron, which is spending four months at Kunsan as part of a routine training deployment. (Ashley Rowland / S&S)
Senior Airman Abraham Marquez of the Italy-based 555th Fighter Squadron helps an F-16 prepare for takeoff at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, on Thursday.
Senior Airman Abraham Marquez of the Italy-based 555th Fighter Squadron helps an F-16 prepare for takeoff at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, on Thursday. (Ashley Rowland / S&S)

European edition, Tuesday, August 7, 2007

KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Capt. Jason Mascetta may be stationed at the foot of the Italian Dolomites, but flying over the rice fields of South Korea feels perfectly normal.

“It’s kind of strange because it feels like home. This was my first base. This is where I learned to be a fighter pilot,” said Mascetta, a member of Aviano Air Base’s 555th Fighter Squadron who was stationed at Kunsan Air Base until last October.

Approximately 300 airmen with the 555th have been stationed at Kunsan since June as part of an Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotation, the first time a squadron from Europe has been sent to a Pacific air base for the routine deployment. The squadron and its 18 fighter jets will return to Italy in October.

“It’s good for all the young guys who haven’t been to Korea. It gives them a taste of what they’ll experience and know if they want to do it for the next assignment,” Mascetta said.

Squadron leaders say flying in South Korea has given them a chance to sharpen their skills in a way they wouldn’t have been able to if they had been sent to Iraq or Afghanistan and restricted to combat-related sorties.

“Here, it’s just a daily training routine,” said Lt. Col. Lance Landrum, squadron operations officer. “It’s good training, especially for some of our young guys. Most F-16 pilots come through Korea.”

Many of the 555th’s airmen recently left training and are “wide-eyed and ready to learn,” said Capt. Stacy Ferguson, assistant officer in charge of aircraft maintenance.

“We’ve been able to watch them closely. I think it’s going to be weird for them to go back and work at their normal jobs at normal bases, because they’re brand new,” she said.

Both said the squadron is able to focus more on training than it did in Italy.

“To go away and just concentrate on maintaining and fixing and flying the planes is just a breath of fresh air,” Landrum said.

“Work is more rewarding right now. We don’t have the distractions we have back home,” Ferguson said. “There’s very few times we don’t have everybody here every day. We’ve really been able to pile on a lot of training for our guys.”

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