USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- Following the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group's participation in bilateral Reception, Staging, Onward-movement and Integration and Foal Eagle 2006 (RSOI/FE 06) exercises with the Republic of Korea (ROK) March 26 through April 1, Abraham Lincoln continued on her deployment in the Western Pacific.
Foal Eagle is an annual combined training exercise including combined/joint U.S. military forces and ROK military forces. It is designed to increase the combat readiness and interoperability of Republic of Korean and U.S. forces while also demonstrating a United States' willingness to aid the ROK against foreign enemy forces.
This year, Abraham Lincoln participated in the exercise because her operational schedule facilitated such involvement, but Lincoln's Assistant Navigatior Lt. Cmdr. Joe V. Martinez, suggested that, based on the focus of this year's exercise, which was the use of aircraft, the majority of the ship's involvement took place via the ship's four embarked F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter squadrons (VFA).
Lincoln's four such squadrons, VFA-2 "Bounty Hunters," VFA-34 "Blue Blasters," VFA-137 "Kestrels" and VFA-151 "Fighting Vigilantes," along with a large contingent of U.S. Air Force aircraft based in Kadena, Japan, flew combat air patrols and coordinated bombing runs via a Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC).
This CAOC, Martinez said, was formed specifically for this combined/joint military operation and was equally comprised of both U.S. and ROK leadership.
He said that while the exact details of the operation vary from year to year, the primary focus of the exercise remains consistent - increased fluidity in the working military relationship of United States and ROK forces.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Kim Ki-ho, of the ROK navy, the importance of the allied relationship between the United States and the ROK are vital.
"I believe that we are who we are as a country...partially because of the Americans and some of the sacrifices that they had made," said Ki-ho.
He said that he felt it essential to stress the importance of the allied relationship between the two nations.
While some of the training missions were conducted in a marine environment, Martinez said that some of the squadrons involved utilized the access granted to them to unrestricted airspace over ROK in order to achieve their own land-driven training requirements, as well as the exercise objectives.
In the end, however, the training objective of each command or unit, regardless of branch or country of origin, was far less focused on maintaining a prescribed proficiency, said Martinez, than it was on maintaining and demonstrating cooperation between countries.
"This operation," he said, "proves that we (the United States) can bring an air wing to the coast of any cooperative country and integrate successfully with their forces."
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