CAMP CARROLL, South Korea — Good news for Task Force 2-34 troops: They’re heading home soon.

The soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan., arrived in South Korea in late February for Foal Eagle/RSO&I, two overlapping training exercises. They were supposed to stay 30 days.

But when most of the 5,000 exercise troops packed their bags and shipped souvenirs home, Task Force 2-34 soldiers were told to stay.

“A limited number of forces — including personnel and equipment — were ordered to remain after the conclusion of the exercise,” said Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, 8th Army spokesman.

The roughly 800 soldiers remained, Boylan said, to “enhance the deterrence capabilities.”

Now, senior leaders say it’s time for the soldiers to return home, Boylan said.

Although he couldn’t provide a specific date, Boylan said the task force is going home “in the near future.”

When word came of the holdover, the force’s leadership moved quickly to make the best of it — and to avert morale problems.

The force’s commander addressed his troops in formation: “We were going to be … very positive to set the tone and be the right role models,” said Lt. Col. George Brinegar, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 34th Armored Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, and commander of Task Force 2-34.

Korea’s hilly terrain and tight spaces are a big contrast to the flat, grassy expanses the Kansas troops are used to training in. There would be more time to check the condition of armored vehicles stored at Camp Carroll.

And there would be time for unit sports, sightseeing and shopping trips.

The commander set three main goals for the extension:

• Sharpen individual soldier skills.• Hone crew skills: “Whether you’re in a tank or a Bradley,” he said, “focus on those things that will make you effective in combat.”• Promote physical fitness: “This is tough terrain here — hills, mountains,” he said, “and it’s going to test the best warfighter.

“My point was, we’re gonna maximize the precious time that we have, to get better.”

“At first, it sucked,” said Sgt. Bernard Partridge, a tank mechanic with the 2nd Battalion’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company. “But you gotta do your job.”

Partridge was determined to keep his soldiers’ morale up.

For Sgt. Brad Richards, a light wheel vehicle mechanic, “It was a slight disappointment, but I knew I was gonna have to be there for my soldiers,” he said.

At Fort Riley, Richards got only a limited chance to work with the M88A1 recovery vehicle, he said, but it was a different story in Korea.

“Prior to me coming over, I had a little, slight training on it, but being over here and extended here, that just gave me a better opportunity to train myself on that vehicle,” Richards said.

It wasn’t all work:

“We bought a barbecue grill,” said Spc. Justin Smith, an Abrams tank gunner with Company C. “Usually, every evening, we’d have a cookout. We’ve played a lot of cards.”

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