Lt. Col. Jeongjin Ha: Q&A with Republic of Korean FLO to Tinker AFB

  • Published
  • By Allyson B. Crawford, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFLCMC) -- The United States Air Force has relationships with partner nations worldwide. Some partners send their nationals to American military bases to act as foreign liaison officers (FLOs). The FLOs present the views of their government to their American counterparts on issues of mutual importance. Serving as a FLO is an honor as the individual is an official representative of their home nation. 

Lt. Col. Jeongjin Ha is the first female South Korean Foreign Liaison Officer (FLO) at Tinker AFB and just the fourth female FLO overall from her country. A short Q & A with Lt. Col. Ha follows. 

How long have you been serving in the Republic of Korea Air Force? 20 years
Why did you decide to join the Korean Air Force? When I was in high school, my father, who was an army officer, suggested, 'How about become a soldier?'
I was always proud of my father as a soldier and as my father. I thought that the fact that my father encouraged me to pursue a career in which he had been engaged all his life meant that my father must have had a strong sense of duty and pride as a soldier. At a time when I had to choose a career path, my father's suggestion made me think a lot. And then he gave me a ticket to the '96 Seoul Air Show. At that time, the Seoul Air Show was the first air show held by the Republic of Korea Air Force. The air show gave me a deep emotion and gave me the confidence to become an Air Force officer.
How long have you been stationed at Tinker AFB? About six months.
Please explain how you ended up working as a FLO at Tinker. When I became an Air Force officer, I always dreamed of being deployed overseas. New work experiences and personal relationships always help me grow, so I definitely wanted to apply if I had the chance. Then, when I was a major in the Air Force, I came across a document announcing the selection of FLOs at Tinker AFB. That position was vacant for a long time since 2013, but dispatch would resume in 2021. I was so excited, but since only lieutenant colonels could apply, I was not eligible. Two years later, I was promoted and had the honor of being selected as a replacement.
What do you like most about living in Oklahoma, USA? Most people are friendly. The USAF co-worker I work with and the FLOs from other countries are the driving force that allowed me to quickly settle in this unfamiliar place.
What is it like being the first female South Korean FLO at TinkerAlthough I am the first female FLO at Tinker AFB, I am the fourth female FLO in the Republic Korea Air Force. There was a female Korean FLO working at Robins AFB, and the current Korean FLO at Hill AFB is also female.

'You are the first female FLO in my time working at Tinker AFB!'

That's what I heard the most when I first came to Tinker AFB. To be honest, I was even more surprised by the reactions of people who were surprised to see me in the United States, where I thought there would be more social opportunities for women. Isn’t this the 21st century?
In the past, there were many career issues related to women's jobs or gender. However, there is a trend now that the boundaries between men and women are gradually disappearing in work. I think we should look at it from an equal perspective.
In your opinion, why do you think there are so few women who become FLOs?
The main reason is that the ratio of female soldiers is not high. The United States has the highest female military ratio at approximately 19.7%. In the case of Republic of Korea, it is currently about 10.7%. The goal is to achieve 15.3% by 2027.
For another reason, in the case of married women, there are realistic limitations such as children and husbands. When a man is dispatched to foreign country, it is quite natural for the whole family to go together. In the opposite case, it is not easy to accept.
Can you explain the basics of your job and how you interact with the USAF propulsion team at Tinker?
[My role] is responsible for obtaining technical data, technical inquiries, and material support for the F100, F110, J85, and T56 engines operated by the ROKAF. Tinker's USAF has many members from various fields, mainly the country manager and technical manager in charge of ROKAF for each aircraft type.
They [USAF Airmen]  are actively providing technical support so that the ROKAF can operate its aircraft stably. Above all, they understand the crisis situation on the Korean Peninsula better than anyone else. So, we know very well why the ROKAF must maintain the highest level of readiness. When I first met Tinker's USAF, they said, 'We are one team.' This meant that we understood each other so well that there was no need for lengthy explanations of what we were to each other.