OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — The newest Patriot missile battalion to move to Suwon Air Base is to be stationed there permanently instead of just staying a year, a change that will allow more soldiers to bring their families to South Korea with official approval, the Army said Wednesday.
At a transfer of authority ceremony set for 10 a.m. Friday, the 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery from Fort Sill, Okla., is to formally take over for the departing 3rd Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery, which has served a one-year tour in South Korea. The 3-2 ADA will move to Fort Sill.
The incoming battalion will be part of the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, headquartered at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek.
The personnel will change but the missiles and other equipment will remain in place under what’s known as a "relief in place." The battalion is headquartered at Suwon Air Base, a South Korean air force installation.
"It’s basically an even exchange of soldiers coming in and out," about 500 in each battalion, said Maj. Albert LaBella, the brigade’s deputy commanding officer.
Since 2007, the Army had rotated Patriot missile battalions to South Korea for one-year tours with the brigade. Such rotations were made as a temporary change of station, or TCS.
But the move of the 6-52 ADA to Suwon is a permanent change of station. It marks a break from those one-year TCS rotations, said the brigade’s operations officer, Maj. Matthew Grady.
Soldiers without families will spend a year in South Korea; those coming to Korea with command-sponsored families will serve two years, Grady said.
"It is supporting the forward-stationing concept," he said of increasing the number of command-sponsored families in Korea.
Previously, troops in South Korea on a TCS rotation did not have the option of bringing their families with command sponsorship, Grady said.
One other Patriot unit, the brigade’s 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery, is slated to end its one-year TCS tour at Camp Carroll in Waegwan in October. It’ll be replaced by a battalion that will also be permanently stationed in South Korea, the 2nd Battalion, 1st ADA, currently at Fort Hood, Texas.
Thereafter, the brigade will not rotate in new battalions each year but will instead replace soldiers individually as their Korea tours expire.
"For the soldiers stationed here," said Grady, "it means they’ll be on the same system of arriving and departing as the soldiers and airmen and Marines and sailors across the rest of Korea. They will arrive and depart individually."
The brigade maintains Patriot missile batteries at Suwon, Osan and Kunsan air bases, and at Camp Carroll.
Patriot missiles are designed to bring down incoming aircraft, cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles.