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At Kunsan Air Base in South Korea, Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Anderson, right, gets insight into how Kunsan airmen would defend the base.
At Kunsan Air Base in South Korea, Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Anderson, right, gets insight into how Kunsan airmen would defend the base. (Courtesy of U.S. Air Force)
At Kunsan Air Base in South Korea, Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Anderson, right, gets insight into how Kunsan airmen would defend the base.
At Kunsan Air Base in South Korea, Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Anderson, right, gets insight into how Kunsan airmen would defend the base. (Courtesy of U.S. Air Force)
At Kunsan Air Base in South Korea earlier this week, Air Force Col. Jack Weinstein, a member of the Installation Excellence selection board, sits in the cockpit of an F-16 fighter jet of Kunsan's 8th Fighter Wing and talks with wing members. The board is evaluating Kunsan and two other Air Force installations in the running for a top-level Defense Department award for excellence.
At Kunsan Air Base in South Korea earlier this week, Air Force Col. Jack Weinstein, a member of the Installation Excellence selection board, sits in the cockpit of an F-16 fighter jet of Kunsan's 8th Fighter Wing and talks with wing members. The board is evaluating Kunsan and two other Air Force installations in the running for a top-level Defense Department award for excellence. (Courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Kunsan Air Base is a finalist for a top-level Defense Department installation excellence award.

The base, home to the 8th Fighter Wing, also known as the Wolf Pack, is one of three Air Force installations in the running for the 2006 Commander-in-Chief’s Installation Excellence Award.

The annual award goes to military installations providing exemplary support of Defense Department missions.

Winners in 2005 were Fort Stewart, Ga.; the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Naval Base Kitsap, Wash.; and the Defense Distribution Depot in San Joaquin, Calif.

The other 2006 Air Force finalists are Ramstein Air Base in Germany and Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Misawa Air Base, Japan, was the 2005 Air Force winner; Beal Air Force Base, Calif., won in 2004. Kunsan was the Air Force winner in 2000.

Even being a finalist is considered “an honor” within the Air Force, said 1st Lt. Brooke Brander, a Wolf Pack spokeswoman.

“Only one base … receives that recognition out of the entire Air Force every year,” she said. “So it’s a huge recognition to the installation that wins that award for all of the efforts that they’ve put forth over the previous year.”

Just by emerging as an award finalist, Kunsan will receive $500,000 to be spent on quality-of-life improvements and initiatives, said Maj. Jarrard Galbreath, 8th Mission Support Squadron commander.

The final winner will get an additional $500,000, bringing total winnings to $1 million, he said.

A team of high-ranking evaluators from the award’s selection board visited Kunsan earlier this week, Galbreath said. The team consisted of a two-star general, a one-star general, three colonels and a civilian, he said. The two-star general is the selection board team leader. The one-star general and the colonels are wing commanders and therefore possess “a good understanding of installation operations,” Galbreath said.

Base officials showed the team around and took them to various presentations highlighting innovations the wing has made in helping carry out its mission and in improving quality of life.

The team saw the Wolf Pack’s “Iron Viper” program, which is a class in which the wing’s weapons specialists show how they build and disassemble bombs and other munitions.

It’s open to all wing members regardless of job field who want insight into the world of Air Force munitions. But the wing’s pilots are the ones who usually attend, said Brander.

They also were briefed on how the base would defend itself against attack and were shown a program that recycles a chemical used in refrigeration systems, Brander said.

Once the team has seen all three bases, each will “wait for the announcement,” Galbreath said. “At this point, (we) don’t know exactly when that will be. We’re expecting sometime in spring.”

No decisions have been made yet on how to spend the $500,000 award money, Galbreath said, adding that Wolf Pack commander Col. Brian Bishop soon is to set up a “cross-functional team to best determine the way to allocate” the funds.

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