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At Osan Air Base in South Korea last month, airmen unload munitions from an A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane during a training exercise held to prepare for a major Pacific Air Forces operational readiness inspection set to start Monday or earlier for Osan’s 51st Fighter Wing and the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base.

At Osan Air Base in South Korea last month, airmen unload munitions from an A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane during a training exercise held to prepare for a major Pacific Air Forces operational readiness inspection set to start Monday or earlier for Osan’s 51st Fighter Wing and the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base. (Brian Ferguson/Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — U.S. airmen at Osan and Kunsan air bases in South Korea are girding for major inspections of their combat readiness next week, to be carried out by inspectors from Pacific Air Forces headquarters in Hawaii.

Air Force units undergo the operational readiness inspections every two years. The inspections gauge whether a unit is ready for combat.

Inspections for each wing are to run from Monday to Friday, though some portions could begin as early as this weekend, officials said. Last month, as a preliminary step to the inspections, examiners evaluated both wings on their ability to evacuate civilian noncombatants in a simulated wartime scenario.

An operational readiness inspection amounts to "making sure that we are ready at a moment’s notice to respond to any contingency in the Pacific region," said 1st Lt. David R. Herndon, spokesman for Kunsan’s 8th Fighter Wing.

The inspections will bring more than 120 PACAF inspectors to Osan and more than 100 to Kunsan, officials said.

Inspectors place airmen in surprise mock combat situations and then see how they perform under the sudden pressure, Herndon said.

"Surprise is key to the inspectors, and I guess our wing personnel are challenged because they don’t know exactly what is going to take place," he said.

All aspects of the wings’ operations will be tested, and virtually all airmen will participate — more than 3,500 at Osan and about 2,600 at Kunsan.

Fighter pilots, for example, will have to take off and perform mock combat missions in which they engage in dogfights, attack ground targets and fly close air support missions for friendly ground troops, officials at both wings said.

Ground crews will be evaluated on how they handle the rigors of launching and recovering jets under combat conditions.

Security Forces police and airmen drawn from nonpolice squadrons will form base defense forces to respond to simulated ground attacks.

Base hospitals and staffs will be evaluated on how they handle the stream of mock battle casualties.

Mock chemical attacks are expected to be a key feature of the inspections, and airmen will often have to perform their wartime jobs in cumbersome chemical protective suits.

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