Gwang-Ju AB, Korea - Hidden Valley Inn was a total dump. Kunsan is great compared to this place. If you're going there your scheduler screwed you over. We were forced to divert in there to pick up cargo. The controllers' English is horrible. Gwang-Ju is a ROK base with a 30-person USAF presence keeping the lights on. The base commander happens to be a Captain. If you can stay off-base it's great (big city 1.2 million people) but on base you're screwed. Make sure you read the Giant Report and do a thorough airfield study. Although the base has F-5's and scheduled airline service, the taxiing is sporty to say the least. There are construction cones and equipment all over the place. One of our crews almost taxied into a ROK airman on a bicycle and during engine start they were playing soccer 20 yards away and accidentally kicked the ball in front of us a number of times. The cadre at Gwang-Ju will put you up in self-service contingency dorms complete with bottled water since it is not potable. The room is free so you get what you pay for. ;-) Food-wise your only choice is the Food Court across the street from billeting open 7-7 every day. There is a small shopette, Anthony's Pizza and American Grill. For cheap booze, check out Yoda's, the only bar on base. You can get loaded for $5 easy. For mission planning head to the Command Post but for filing just use the ROK 1801 and drop it off at the ROK base ops.
Kunsan, Korea - Front Motel - I wouldn't want anyone to even think about staying here, so I won't give you the number. First of all, don't RON at Kunsan unless you absolutely have to. If you're faced with having to RON here, then lie, cheat, steal, just do whatever you can to get out of there. As of Aug 01, most of the visitor's quarters on base are occupied with permanent party, so you will be off base. Most of the hotels are in the city of Kunsan, which is about 10 miles from base. We stayed at the Front Motel, which SUCKED! I should've clued into the red lights illuminating the hallways. The clue light for me came on when I entered the hot, small room and saw a condom machine at the head of the bed and pubes in the sink. Thank God I had a small can of Lysol, which I used to disinfect the bed and bathroom. For those of you who like hair dryers, there's a coin operated hair dryer on the dresser. My room didn't have a coin-operated vibrating bed, but I'm sure I could get one if I asked. Problem was, NOBODY speaks English here. I hope this will be the low point of all my billeting experiences.
Personally I've seen better TA and servicing at civilian FBO's back in the States. EVERYTHING is geared towards the fighters so expect to do everything yourself, hands down the WORST transient support I've ever seen for a heavy. When you arrive you can try to call command post or AMCC but they never answered our radio calls (this was the case the whole week, even after we talked to them on the phone). Try to get the frequency for the SOF in the tower and they can make things happen. If you get to land on the first approach you're lucky since they will usually break you out for the fighters. Heavy aircraft will shutdown the runway if you land on 36 because you have to back taxi to park. Basically the only taxiway for heavies is Bravo due to taxi restrictions on the parallel. Security Forces and Customs met us at the plane and then everyone left before we could ask for a lift to Base Ops. Our crew chiefs asked TA about fleet servicing and they replied, "What's fleet service?" In order to check NOTAMs at Base Ops you normally have to kick one of the people off their computer. Overall the biggest hassle was Trans. Make sure you call ahead for a U-drive if you can. They were more than happy to drive us around but that wasn't the hassle. If you are lucky to get a U-drive, someone has to take a 45-question driving test and then they have to take you off- base for a short orientation (not cool at 1 am). If you land late and need food your only option is the Community Center (open 24 hours and booze is available). There is also the local AAFES (Taco Bell, Robin Hood, etc) fast-food place called the "Jet Stream” which closes at 10 pm. There is a curfew off base (midnight) so grab booze and food before you leave the base; the BX is next to the "Jet Stream". Billeting is scarce so make sure you call ahead for reservations since you will most likely be off-base. We were put up at the Kunsan Tourist hotel, which is in downtown Kunsan. We were impressed that they had a bellhop and rooms were decent however the restaurant upstairs is not that great. If you need Won you can get it at the front desk and not get screwed on the exchanged rate. There are a number of restaurants and bars with walking distance of the hotel but good luck finding an English menu. There is an area not to far from the base called "A-town" which caters to Americans. It is nothing more than a few streets with restaurants and bars. At the entrance, there is a guy who will change dollars into Won; it’s the first place on the right when you get to the top of the hill. For awesome Korean food, across from the guy who does Won-exchange is a place called “Cherry Boys.” Ten bucks will get you some of the best bulgogi (Korean barbeque with rice) you’ve ever had and a beer.
~Kunsan was a dump! Thanks for making those of us who spent a YEAR in the Wolf Pack busting our butts on those "fighters" you obviously despise feel so worthy. It was never designed for MAC, why the attitude? Yes, Osan is a paradise in comparison. Something constructive - there are TWO billet structures at the Kun. Sounds like you were in the one by the theater. Yeek! Ask for space across the "golf course". Still not terrific, but at least the walls won't shake in the wind. Oh, and A-Town is GREAT if you don't wimp out too early... (enlisted) ~What IS "fleet service"? Emptying your trash and toilet? Um, no sir, dumpster is right over there. Ops OIC desk is second door on the right...
Osan, Korea - The only good thing about the Garden Hotel is that it's right downtown next to all the good shopping. However, the room felt like a musty prison cell. I slept on top of the comforter and didn't take a shower in the morning cause I didn't trust the water. There are great bars and good entertainment all over the place. There is a military 2 A.M. curfew, however, and it's enforced very seriously. No cover charges anywhere and every bar has dancers on stage... although they all looked very bored with their jobs. The Asia Hotel (031-664-2367) is definitely one of the better hotels at Osan. The staff is very friendly and helpful. Rooms are good, pretty roomy with small kitchenettes that have a sink, microwave, and full refrigerator. TV/VCR combo in all rooms. If you have a LAN card with your laptop computer, they have some rooms with free broadband internet access. They've also got two computers in the lobby for guests to surf, check e-mail, etc. It's close to the main gate and within easy stumbling distance of the bars. If you need to do laundry, the staff will give you a laundry sack & do your laundry for you. You can check out their website, it's www.shinbiro.com/~songtan
TA was helpful but did a horrible job parking us, we didn’t know what they were trying to do and didn’t use the hand signals properly. When you arrive, you don’t just have Customs meet you at the airplane, you also have to go to Korean Immigration before they let you go. Also, you must “out-process” through them or risk having ATC prohibit you from taking off (actually happened to someone). FYI, you can have one crewmember take everyone’s immigration/customs cards along with their ID’s to in and out-process them. If you are staying off base, Trans cannot take you to the hotel. After getting your Non-A slip, a shuttle bus from your hotel will pick you up. During the week, there is a curfew at midnight so if you arrive late, plan accordingly. We stayed at the Victoria Hotel and were very impressed with the friendly staff. They didn’t have any beer in the fridge in the lobby so they actually went out and brought us free beer at 1 in the morning despite it being –10 C outside. The front desk staff is more than happy to have food delivered for you. Command Post can get you a phone patch (661-7000); it wasn’t listed on the card in our rooms. Making calls is a big pain in the butt. The hotel is located smack-dab in the middle of all the shopping. Make sure you head to “Royal Bag” for flight gear and luggage tags. “Mr. Bo’s GQ” is around the corner and will custom make an A-2 flight jacket with all the trimmings (including a liner) for $140. A complete mess dress will set you back $260 (you have to provide the insignia). “Best Gortex Shop” will sell you a 3-in-1 Columbia or North Face Jacket knock-off for $60. Most of the places will ship to you and will make you pay the 4% credit card fee is you use plastic. Food- wise, Burger King is across the street from the Victoria and McDonald’s is up the street. The front desk has a little book of the places that deliver. Victoria Hotel was nice. Rooms are clean and well maintained. The A/C works this is very useful during Monsoon season. Centrally located to all shopping, night life and four blocks to the base front gate. Hotel has free drinks in a refrig in the lobby, water soda and beer for the guests. The owner walked to freedom with his Mother across the border from the Evil North when he was a child. Reliable Hotel shuttle van to the base. ~Prince hotel is a four star hotel only a few blocks from the main gate. Osan Tourist Hotel is a DUMP! Dirty, dank and very little to no hot water. Not a nice thing after a long flight. The bright side, close to the gate, shopping and they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. FREE high speed internet in the lounge! Pizza Club, Great pizza near the gate. -135's take note, palletized cargo on these jets coming here is not ATOC's specialty! Transient support is fair to partly cloudy........nuff said.
~Turumi hotel was a palace! Lodging on base is nice, internet access available for $1.25 per half hour in the business center. Oriental House, one of the on-base food delivery options, is really bad. Eat on the economy or on the base -- just don't eat at the Oriental House!
~ Five Star hotel was nice 031 665-8354. Outstanding service. The owner; "GI" Joe provides aircrew with anything you may need. From free "Hite" beer to computers in each room. His staff goes out of their way to please. They will drive you anywhere in the area to include pick ups at the bars at curfew time. The rooms are standard for Korea. Ask for the Five Star in your three hour out call.
~Hotel Capital 611-7811 was decent. If billeting is full, don't expect them to hook you up with contract quarters. There is a book they will let you look at to find one your like. Also, there are usually a couple hotel owners loitering around the lobby to drum business. We opted for the Hotel Capital since the bus was right there. The owner is all about service: free cooked to order breakfast, free shuttle bus, free booze up in the bar, free drop-off laundry, decent cable TV, and T1 internet connections in your room. For coffee fiends, head to The Coffee Tree which is about halfway down the main drag down a side street on the left. The best non-Korean restaurant we found is called The Puffin. Go out the main gate and turn left. Turn right at the Fusion restaurant and go down the hill. It's a block down on the left. For good Korean food, turn right out the gate and about one block down is Han Yang. For those fortunate enough to break here, Seoul is quite easy to get to. First head to the BX and pick up a travel book for Seoul (e.g. Lonely Planet) and then head to the KEU Restaurant across the street from billeting. Buses leave every hour or so to Yongsan Army Base and costs $4.5 but you can get stuck in traffic. A cheaper and faster way is to head to Songtan Train Station (get a lift from your hotel or walk). For $1.5 you can go one way to Yongsan train station and transfer to the Seoul subway system (which is quite nice). There are three types of trains so catch the one that says "rapid service". Rechargable debit cards (T Money cards) are available but cost $2.5 and you put $10 on it. The upside is not having to buy tickets everywhere you go. The last train leaves for Songtan around 21:45 so plan accordingly.
~Asia Hotel was a palace! I've stayed in some real nice places before, but for some reason when a room comes with a 60 inch TV and a computer with internet access, I could care less about anything else. They even had pretty good DVD's. Hotel manger drove us around and even offered to settle a dispute with a vendor. Breakfast was not bad considering 2 old ladies making it with god knows what in the kitchen. Pretty close to base, 10 min walk to the train station.