2,900-soldier Iron Focus exercise pits ‘good guys’ against ‘the bad’
January 23, 2007
YEONCHEON, South Korea — Sgt. Sean Burke and the rest of his scout squad gazed across a chunk of ruddy land lined by a hilly ridge of leafless trees and orange clay.
Within the trees, three tanks from the 2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment concealed themselves, along with even more Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
They were on Burke’s side. The good guys — known as the “Blue Force” — had the firepower and technology advantage against the black-clad “Op4” opposing forces.
However, Burke said the opposing forces had been at the Rooster 8 training area since the beginning of Iron Focus, the 2,900 soldier-strong, 1st Brigade Heavy Combat Team multi-week exercise, while Burke and his men, on Friday, had been on site only a couple of days.
“They’ve been in every spider hole and up every trail in Rooster 8,” Burke said.
As he spoke, Op4 cavalry scouts lurked through trees, attempting to pinpoint blue force positions and send them back to their armor component.
To compensate, Burke and another team peered across the battlefield with the Long-Range Advanced Scout Surveillance system. It allows them to see the enemy from several miles away in detail, and from even farther away in thermal imaging mode.
The brigade soldiers at the opposing forces headquarters had a pretty good idea what they would be up against, but it didn’t affect their confidence, or their trash-talking.
Actors often say that while everyone roots for the hero, it’s more fun to play the villain. The black-clad opposition forces clearly relished their role as spoilers.
“They came in here thinking they were the Pittsburgh Steelers from last year, when they’re really the Steelers from this year,” said Sgt. Zane Young, referring to the defending Super Bowl champions who recently missed the playoffs.
However, most of the soldiers placed the talking in context. Friday’s scenario was held to improve tactics on both sides and help commanders see how their soldiers respond to the pressure of being under attack.
“We’re going to test their screen and see if there are any holes,” said opposing forces leader 1st Lt. Chris Williams. “We have a lot more tactical freedom to push the limits. I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”
Just as in real life, the “bad guys” don’t play by the rules. The opposing forces raided the blue forces on a down day, at night, said Staff Sgt. Lemuel Brown.
It was very effective, added a smiling Pfc. Robert Whalen.
“We get to keep ’em up all night and do what we want,” Whalen said.
The tactics have kept the blue forces on their toes, said Staff. Sgt. Frank Howard as he watched for the enemy from the top of his Bradley vehicle.
“They have a tendency to throw something different at you each and every day,” Howard said.