Monday, March 19, 2007

The Watchers......

Working over here in Korea has been smothering interesting to say the least. However, I am constantly reminded that not everywhere has the Cold War ended.

I do all of my work each day in a place called the HTACC, which stands for Hardened Tactical Air Control Center. For anyone who ever did time in Germany or some of the other NATO bases it is reminiscent of the older buildings that one used to find on NATO bases.

The HTACC is buried into a hill here at Osan. Its windowless and has big blast doors that can be closed in case of attack by one of the dear leaders missiles. Thick blast doors. It is also windowless.
The Hardened Theater Air Control Centerat Osan AB is the largest Combined Air Operations Center in the world. The "Hardened" in the HTACC's designation derives from the 10-foot-thick walls, hence the nickname "Cheyenne Mountain of South Korea." The Hardened Theater Air Control Center's Defense Red Switch Network provided superior multi-level, self-authenticating, flexible, secure communications, which enhanced leadership's command and control effectiveness.

For a picture, go here ( For some reason I could not get it to upload).

The main focus of the building is the operations floor, which looks like every movie you have seen about a Command and Control center. Its darkened and it has a "big board" that shows the air activity over the Korean Penisula. Because the South part of Korea has developed so well, its way too easy to forget that, here, the Korean War never really ended. The two sides agreed to simply stop shooting at one another and came up with some rules to keep from shooting at one another again. However one can never forget that a mere 50 or so miles away-the hordes are there, potentially waiting to try a rematch.

Which to me, is one of the fascinating things about the place. 24/7- Koreans and Americans sit in front of computer screens and watch. They watch for any indication that the "Dear Leader" is going to do something bad. They watch the aircraft come and go through the complex airspace that is Korea.

Probably it was much the same way in Germany during the Cold War. When the big fear was that the Russians would start lobbing shells on the Fulda Gap any day of the week. Now in reality, it's not quite that easy to start a war here or there, but the analogy still holds. The forces here have to be ready to "Fight tonight". And more importantly- to make sure the "Dear Leader" knows it.

So every day, the men and women in BDU's watch their screens. Its been that way for over 50 years. Every time I come here I always think about that.

You know, the United States has not lived under threat of invasion for over a 100 years. Here in Korea, its a reality that, it seems to me, the people here simply shove to the back of their minds and try to forget about. However deep down, they know the danger is still there.

And so, the watchers watch and wait.

Cross posted to the Flight Deck.

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