Osan’s Stinger Crews Defend the Parimeter

This story first appeared in the MiG Alley Flyer on July 27, 1990. I wonder if there are still only two stinger units in the entire Air Force? How has this defense strategy evolved with technology??

Defend and protect. That’s the name of the game for the 51st Security Police Stinger section.

As one of only two stinger units in the entire Air Force – the other being at Kunsan Air Base – its mission is to help defend Osan from an air attack, according to MSgt. Elbert R. Joiner, stinger superintendent. The special duty SP’s maintain a 360-degree air-defense of the base, he said.

Defending Osan is basically a three-tier operation, Sergeant Joiner explained. It begins with a battle director who provides air war orders and weapons control status. From here, the operation depends on communications from the Radar Approach Control facility where a stinger controller observes incoming aircraft.


SSgt. Phillip Sigman and SSgt. Frank Ferguson inspect a stinger.

The last, yet most vital, link to this chain are the actual stinger operators in the field. Assigned to two-man teams positioned at various locations along the base perimeter, they are prepared to spring into action at the command controller’s notice. One team member servers as chief, and is the person who actually mans the weapon, while the other troop keeps an eye out for incoming aircraft. “Part of the training for a stinger crewman includes aircraft identification. Stinger team members are required to identify 86 types of aircraft,” the sergeant said.

Completing one of two specialty training sessions annually is mandatory training as well.

“Every six months we go to the military training simulator at Camp Stanley. It’s basically an audiovisual simulation of aircraft attacking at different speeds,” Sergeant Joiner said. “There are also sessions held throughout the year during the Cope Thunder exercises in the Philippines. Both provide practical training, and both enhance our capabilities.”


SSgt. Sigman mans the stinger missile while SSgt. Ferguson points out a simulated target.

It’s the weapon, though, which makes the gunner so effective. The long, tubular shaped stinger gun allows its operator to bring down enemy aircraft. At five feet long and 34.5 pounds, the weapon can discharge heat seeking heads capable of traveling at supersonic speeds. Moreover, the missiles use infrared tracking to home in the hottest part of the aircraft.

“It’s a very powerful gun,” Sergeant Joiner said. “It can be used for both offense and defense. One of the reasons it’s so effective is because of its many capabilities.”

Among the features cited is its detection system. By connecting the gun to a portable radar device attached to his belt, an operator has three modes available in which to detect aircraft.

“First, it checks for identification ‘mode four’ aircraft which are termed positive friends. Then it checks for ‘mode three’s’ which are possible friends,” explained Sergeant Joiner. “If the Interrogator Friend or Foe unit begins to beep, though, that’s when we may have trouble. This means the incoming aircraft is unknown and must be verified by sight.”


SSgts. Ferguson and Sigman, stinger team members, remove a stinger from its holding area.

Such a highly efficient and mobile defense system allows stinger units to effectively protect Air Force assets.

“Our people are trained to protect this base on short notice and engage hostile attacks in order to maintain base operations,” the sergeant added.

In one of the last remaining places on Earth where the communist threat remains, it’s refreshing to know that our security and readiness are in a constant state of preparedness with the latest of technologies.



This article first appeared in the MiG Alley Flyer on May 4, 1990. Many military members stationed in Korea have been near, right up against, or even in the DMZ. There are now guided tours of the area. To this day, however, the reality remains that this is one of the most heavily fortified areas in the world. I believe the experience of the casual tourist is much different from those of us who’ve spent countless hours performing our duties knowing that the enemy may very well have his weapon sights set on us. There is a big difference between spending a few hours there as opposed to spending days, weeks, or months while having to actually see your enemy, in the flesh, anxiously watching your every move.

This visit to the DMZ coincided with the discovery of a North Korean tunnel dug under the DMZ, and contentious negotiations between the North and South/US regarding the annual Team Spirit exercise. Needless to say, tensions on the peninsula were running higher than usual.

Thanks again for reading and “Stands Alone!”

What appeared as a seemingly typical bus ride to somewhere in the Republic of Korea quickly turned into a harsh reality as a group of US service members headed north to observe the Demilitarized Zone.

There was nothing unusual about the ride until north of Seoul. Traffic congestion and the capital city’s modern skyscrapers suddenly gave way to thick, fortress-type walls, rolls of razor-sharp barbed wire, and observation towers – all remnants of a time when the area wasn’t so peaceful.


North Korean soldiers get a look at something the free world has already seen — North Korean tunnel digging equipment.

Although both sides of the Korean peninsula are observing a cease-fire agreement, the possibility for conflict is very real. Despite the military’s contributions to the environment, however, Korean villagers continue on in the shadows and memories of the Korean War. And, despite the language barriers, it was clearly understood that past US efforts and sacrifices, as well as a continued presence, are appreciated. As the bus lurched further and further north into smaller and smaller towns, smiling Korean citizens could be seen waving and bowing to their American friends. Upon stopping at the Korean War Museum before entering the Joint Security Area, several Koreans, military and civilian alike, paused to have photos taken with American GI’s.

Moving on, there is a one-lane bridge spanning a large river and running parallel to the remains of another destroyed during the war. Then, several more checkpoints are negotiated before reaching Panmumjom and a back ground dominated by armed soldiers and Army compounds. Panmumjom is, essentially, an abandoned village which straddles the demarcation line between North and South Korea.

There is also Camp Bonifas. There, the scenery becomes even more intense with a large, anti-tank barrier, followed by heavily barbed-wire fenced-off land. Guard shacks overlooking an area planted with land mines appear every 120 yards.


A view of the “Bridge of no Return. Those who crossed have never been seen from, nor heard from, again. Insert: A South Korean solider keeps watch on the DMZ.

After finally arriving to the boundary where north meets south, GI’s received a firsthand look at North Korean soldiers and “propaganda village,” which is a seemingly perfect, albeit practically deserted town, just across the border. Looming over the village is a giant, 600-pound North Korean flag dangling from an iron tower more than 100 meters high, and loud speakers playing nationalistic music and anti-American messages up to 12 hours daily.

Directly in front of the village are letters in Hangul script which are reminiscent of the famous Hollywood letters in California. The words proclaim the ROK to be a U.S. colony, and invite South Koreans to enter the North and live “the good life.”

Another landmark is the “Bridge to No Return.” Following the signing of the Armistice Agreement in 1953, released prisoners of war from both sides had to decide whether they wanted to go North or South. All decisions were final. Once a POW crossed to one side, or the other, they became permanent residents never allowed to return to the other side – thus the name.


A view of the North as seen from the South. Armistice meetings are held in the second building from the left. Also, the large building in the North is actually a façade designed to give the impression of grandeur. If viewed from off to one side, the viewer will see that the North Korean soldiers in the building can basically only stand side-by-side, and that building actually lacks any depth.

Sgt. Tim S. Jenne, 554th RED HORSE Squadron, had never been to the DMZ and enjoyed the tour.

“It was interesting,” he said. “Seeing it gave me a better understanding and respect for why I’m here. Before, I thought Korea was just another assignment, but now I think it’s as close to the real thing as you can get.”

Sgt. Robert Sanderman agreed,” I wish we could have spent more time there, but it was impressive. To actually see what happens there every day, and see how active the people stationed there are, gives you a real appreciation for why we’re here.”


Sabre Spirit 1990

These photos were taken in 1990 during the Sabre Spirit Exercise at Suwon and Taegu (The Gu!) Air Bases. Lots of “bomb building,” missile preparation and chemical warfare training going on for an entire week. Anybody remember who won? Who got the bragging rights in 1990??


Sgt. Joe Skinner (under wing) directs SSgt. Gary Braley as he pushes the 370-gallon wing tank for uploading onto an RF-4C phantom jet. Sgt. Steve Taylor (on wing) holds the aft tank restrain post down until the tank has been uploaded. All the airman are members of the combat aircraft serving team at Taegu Air Base.



SSgt. Scott Andre and SrA. Carl Yaekel install arming wires on an inert Mark 82 500-pound bomb. Both are members of the combat ammunition production team at the Gu.Image

A1C David Gilbert, fuels technician, pulls a hose from a tank truck on his way to fill an RF-4C’s tanks during an integrated (Taegu).


Sgt. Mark Morgan installs an M-905 tail fuse into an adapter booster at Suwon Air Base.


Sgt. Allen D. Erickson checks the lug alignments on a Mark82 bomb (Suwon).Image

A1C Gary D. Dunlap moves Mark82 bombs from a pallet using the rapid assembly munitions system (Suwon).



PJ’s save lives in war & peace

I wrote this article in 1990 and it first appeared in the Aug., 3, 1990, edition of the MiG Alley Flyer at Osan Air Base. As usual, I got to spend a day with these guys and I remember them being a great bunch. And, as always, looking at this material again has me wondering whatever happened to them? Thanks for reading. Ray 

In 1989, para-rescue forces assigned here saved 157 people and assisted in the rescues of 64 of others. In short, this is exactly why Detachment 8, 1730th Para-rescue Squadron, exists.

In the event of an accident or disaster, the unit is called upon to move people in distress to the safety of rescue aircraft, according to MSgt. Eric L. Gregory, detachment chief. The 15-man shop is responsible for conducting operations on both land and water, during war and peacetime. These Air Force special forces must conduct endless training and real-world rescue missions. In order to do so, members of this elite unit must endure a lengthy and rigorous training program immediately following basic training.

“After basic, we stay at Lackland for physical training,” said SSgt. Mike Perry, a nine-year para-rescue specialist. “Then we go to jump school, scuba school and survival school before we can even go to a regular technical school for job training.”


PJ’s attempt to “save” this soldier during a recent Army training exercise.

“But once we’re done with school, we report to a regular duty station and are responsible for maintaining physical readiness ourselves,” Sergeant Perry said. “We constantly conduct training missions and on-the-job training. We’re always learning because there are so many potential situations we could encounter.”

Although they maintain a constant state of readiness, the peaks and lulls of their business make the “PJs” often feel as if they are under-utilized.

“Sometimes we don’t have any missions for a while, so it’s easy to feel as if we’re not doing anything. All we do is train, train, train,” SSgt. Steve Billman said. “One day, nothing may happen. But the next, one never knows. And it never fails,” Sergeant Billman continued. “Just when we start to relax a little – boom! – we’re up in the air headed off to rescue somebody……but that’s why we’re here.”


Many times it’s necessary for PJs to jump from fix-winged aircraft, as well as helicopters, into densely forested. areas to save accident victims.

The six-year PJ stressed that he doesn’t want anything bad to happen, but that unpleasant situations are the nature of the business. Situations outside the military, coupled with the ongoing North Korean threat, means the PJ’s must always be vigilant.

In peacetime, they assume a role in assisting civilians in danger, evident by Sergeant Billman’s participation in last year’s San Francisco earthquake relief efforts.

“That was probably the most memorable mission I’ve been on,” Sergeant Billman said. “We searched a collapsed bridge and recovered the remains of six people. It’s hard work and it’s also the kind of work nobody else wants to do. Even though the people are already dead, it can still be a gratifying job.”

Sergeant Perry emphasized here that he’d much rather save a person’s life, but explained the importance of recovering the dead.


A PJ troop descends from a helicopter during a training mission.

“If anything, it’ll give the family and friends peace of mind,” Sergeant Perry said. “Death is terrible, but never finding the body makes matters worse. If we can find the body, then at least the individual can be buried and honored.”

Overall, both staff sergeants enjoy their jobs and feel it’s rewarding and gratifying.

“We get to see a lot of the country where were stationed,” Sergeant Billman said. “We get to fly almost every day and meet a lot of people, military and civilian. Everything we do is aimed at helping people, whether it’s recovering the pilots of a downed aircraft or rescuing people from floods.”

By day or night, land, sea or air, or in harsh weather conditions, the 1730th PRS is always ready to spring into action and save the day.


a clean war effort

I was serving as a member of the United States Air Force during the Desert Shield/Desert Storm operations in 1991. As can be expected, many of the people with whom I’d grown up were wondering where I was at that time, and if I was OK.

While this war occurred more than 20 years ago, I suppose the enormity of such events have the appearance that much less time has passed. It’s easy to forget that this was a time before wide-spread cell phone use. E-mail had not yet taken off. Hey – some of us had beepers! Otherwise, in order to track somebody down, we either had to write a letter, or dial the last known phone number. At this particular time, mom’s house was a rational place to start if anybody wanted to inquire as to my whereabouts.

One of my closer friends from high school called the house looking for me. He had actually spent some time living with my family during high school so my mother and he were pretty close. They would joke with each other often.

Coincidentally, I happened to be on a 14-day leave between assignments when Desert Storm actually launched, and this is when that particular phone call came. Now keep in mind he was wondering if I was somewhere in the middle east, or at least stationed at a military base somewhere in the world. Here is how that phone conversation went:


“Hi, Mrs. East. This is Marty.”

“Oh, hi Marty.”

“Is Ray in the Gulf?”


“Well that’s good to hear. Where is he?”

“He’s in the shower.”

We had some good laughs about this over the years…..probably funnier if you were there.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.


Detroit’s Heidelberg Project











The Heidelberg Project/Detroit

I don’t remember exactly what year these photos were taken, but it must’ve been the late 1980’s or early 1990’s. I thought it would interesting to post them now in light of all the recent arson attacks here.

I haven’t been to this area in many years as I no longer live in the Detroit area. Judging from these old pictures, many of the homes and structures were lived in and well-kept at the time these photos were taken. I’ve been to Detroit many times the past few years. I hope I’m wrong, but based on what I’ve seen I’m assuming this neighborhood no longer looks like this. I’d love to see these same photo angles from today’s view.

As always, I wonder where the people in the photos are today? What are they doing now? It would be amazing if one of them saw this link and recognized their young self. I also chuckle at the photo of Detroit’s finest pulling up to crack down on the sidewalk chalk assault team.

For more info: http://www.heidelberg.org/