Pacific edition, Thursday, July 5, 2007

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — The Army Patriot missile brigade that moved to South Korea a few years ago now is well integrated with its Air Force counterparts on the peninsula, said departing commander Col. John G. Rossi.

Until Tuesday, Rossi commanded the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, which began deploying to South Korea in 2004. Before then, the Army had only one Patriot battalion in South Korea.

The deployment raised from six to eight the number of Patriot batteries in South Korea. And it also improved commanders’ ability to manage those missile forces, Rossi said.

“Probably the key thing I’ve seen” since the brigade deployed to South Korea, said Rossi, was its progress in combat readiness on the peninsula.

Rossi said the transition has integrated well with its 7th Air Force counterparts, whose commander would run the air war portion of a military conflict. Both 7th Air Force and the brigade are headquartered at Osan Air Base.

In addition, the brigade installed a vital network of phones, computers, and radar linking it to its partners in the peninsula’s air defense system, Rossi said.

The brigade’s troops have practiced their wartime mission rigorously, Rossi said. “We’ve validated our ability to execute our war plan,” Rossi said. “I think we’ve validated our ability to do that — routinely — through our exercises and our training.”

While doing so, the brigade also was shifting elements from place to place.

Last year, the brigade moved the 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery, from its interim position at the South Korean air force’s Gwangju Air Base to the U.S. Army’s Camp Carroll.

The move brought troops squarely inside the U.S. military’s Daegu-area hub.

They moved into newly renovated barracks and had such amenities as a modern gym and swimming facilities available to them. It also meant housing for those eligible to be accompanied by family members.

And it gave troops quicker access to Army medical, dental, and administrative services, as well as to post exchange and commissary services.

In June, the brigade saw the departure of its 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery after 13 years on the peninsula. It’s been replaced by the 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery.

It’s slated to carry out another battalion-sized rotation this fall, when the 2-1 ADA departs South Korea for Fort Hood, Texas, and is replaced by 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery, from Fort Bliss.

“It’s great from an operational perspective to have units coming in” in battalion strength, Rossi said. “You keep all your personnel, so gunnery and training levels are superb, and they stay that way because you don’t lose people every month.”

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