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Backbone of the Wolf Pack - Yi Pyong Chun

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mya M. Crosby
  • 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Kunsan, home of the Wolf Pack, fosters a unique environment of cultural exchange and understanding. Through working together toward common goals and building upon a strong foundation of cooperation, service members and Korean civilians form friendships, and make memories.

Even as military members come and go, there are those who form the backbone of the Wolf Pack, embodying the Korean and American bond. They live on inside the hearts and minds of all who have called Kunsan home.

The lasting legacy of Yi Pyong Chun, 8th Security Forces Squadron security investigator, began when the community - military and local - welcomed him back with open arms upon returning to the Gunsan City area.

“In 1984, I worked at the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron as a realty specialist. Then in 1993, I became a security investigator,” Yi said. “When I was first hired… my unit was called the 8th Security Police Squadron and not the 8th Security Forces Squadron.”

Now, Mr. Yi spearheads the criminal investigation section’s coordination with the host nation’s law enforcement.

With his hometown knowledge of the local community of Gunsan, and his gained knowledge of Kunsan AB, Yi has fortified the 8th SFS’s relationship with the Korean National Police.

“Whenever we have an incident involving a service member or a status of forces agreement violation, KNP usually notifies him first, and he knows all the right steps to get the facts,” said Tech. Sgt. Andrew James Rafael Smalley, 8th SFS noncommissioned officer in charge of criminal investigations.

“Not only does he focus on the work partnership we have with local law enforcement, he promotes camaraderie by setting up dinners and other social events. These gatherings allow both law enforcement agencies to communicate in a more relaxed manner, exchanging culture and expressing differences, allowing us to further develop friendships with our Korean counterparts.”

Before Yi was forming partnerships between the local Korean community and U.S. Air Force community, he served in the R.O.K. Air Force, where his love for the military started.

“I graduated from university in 1978,” Yi said. “I was in ROTC and became a ROKAF officer, then retired in 1980 as a 1st Lieutenant. I was in a reconnaissance unit near the demilitarized zone and my main mission was to gather intel. The military was good to me and sometimes I wish I stayed, because I miss it. After I retired, I worked at a factory, because I graduated studying industrial engineering.”

After working at the factory for 4 years, Yi decided to come back home. Where he would return to his mother, begin to build a family, and forever be a part of the Kunsan community.

“I love military operations and I love my country so I applied for the job at Kunsan,” Yi said. “Gunsan is my hometown. My mom was here. My home was here.”

At home both in Gunsan and Kunsan, Yi’s future is looking bright through, and after, retirement.

“Now, I can retire in 2024, but I hope I can extend and retire at 70 years old,” Yi said. “I have two daughters, and they're in year-one-and-two in high school. They’re leaving in two or three years so that’s why I hope to extend—for when they’re gone.

“After that, I plan to stay in Kunsan with my wife,” he continued. “I want to ‘car camp’ more. It's so popular in Korea right now so I usually go with my family and friends. We cook and eat, but most of the time we share old memories with each other.”

Sharing memories with his wife and children is no different to Yi than sharing them with his coworkers, whom he also considers family.

“He’s a very caring person,” Smalley said. “While Airmen are typically stationed in Kunsan AB for a year or in some cases like me, three years; he’s gotten to learn about each person in his section, take pictures with them, and if you ask about the pictures, he’ll tell you a story.

“Senior noncommissioned officers and officers have come to our office and asked for him,” he recalled. “They’ll say, ‘Back in 2000-something, I worked with Hutch (Yi) and I wanted to see him.’ Mr. Yi will not only remember this person, but have a picture of a dinner or outing they had from back then and tell everyone about it.”

Though Yi is known for more than his knowledge and taking a walk down memory lane, Airmen value his presence.

“Mr. Yi is like the dad of our section because he takes care of everyone, knows everything, and has stories from 30 to 40 years ago that are funny and interesting,” Smalley said. “Some people see this place as a stepping stone to ‘better’ bases or places - Hawaii, Japan, maybe Europe - and don’t remember any of the Koreans they spent time with, but everyone always remember him, not just because he’s an interesting guy, but because he’s family.”