Fusilier Derek Kinne, a prisoner of war during the Korean War, helped bring realism to the start of Angel Thunder 13, with his opening remarks to the 500 participants.
Kinne was awarded the George Cross Medal for valor he showed in withstanding torture at the hands of the Chinese Communist forces during the Korean War. He discussed his initial capture and escape, his further escape attempts and his unrelenting ferocity toward his captors.
In a rescue exercise, the aspect of survival, evasion, resistance, and escape is foremost on the minds of the participants. As one leg of the Guardian Angel Triad, SERE is not an afterthought, and Kinne’s presence at the opening of Angel Thunder demonstrated this.
In response to questions from the audience, Kinne talked about his motivations, his creativity in circumventing the attempts of his captors to break his spirit and turn him against his comrades and his country.
His words were honest and simple to the question of how does someone survive something like what he endured.
“You have it in you, all of you do,” said Kinne. “ You don’t know your worth until the chips are all down. Then, you’ll know, and it will give you strength.”
Kinne was taken prisoner by the communists on the last day of the Imjin River Battle on April 25, 1951. He escaped twice, the first time within a day of his capture, and was held in solitary confinement for months on end as a result of his unbreakable defiance. He was eventually released on Aug. 10, 1953.
In all, 3,017 joint, total force, coalition and interagency partners were trained and 109 aircraft participated in Angel Thunder 13. Exercise participants logged more than 1,749 flight hours in 30 exercise scenarios in which approximately 295 people were saved.
Despite the massive size of the exercise, the planners ensured that the budget was as efficient as possible, staying within $1.75 million, said Brett Hartnett, Angel Thunder exercise director and technical manager.