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A 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment soldier fires a Stinger missile in November at a target at Chulmae Range, South Korea.

A 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment soldier fires a Stinger missile in November at a target at Chulmae Range, South Korea. (Seth Robson / S&S)

A 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment soldier fires a Stinger missile in November at a target at Chulmae Range, South Korea.

A 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment soldier fires a Stinger missile in November at a target at Chulmae Range, South Korea. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Pfc. Tramone Beacham hoses down a 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment Light Medium Tactical Vehicle at Camp Sears on Friday in preparation of the unit’s transfer to Fort Lewis, Wash.

Pfc. Tramone Beacham hoses down a 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery Regiment Light Medium Tactical Vehicle at Camp Sears on Friday in preparation of the unit’s transfer to Fort Lewis, Wash. (Seth Robson / S&S)

CAMP SEARS, South Korea — U.S. Army air defense artillery battalions are transforming to defend against a full range of threats from aircraft to theater ballistic and cruise missiles, according to Lt. Col. Dan Sauter, commander, 5th ADA Regiment, 5th Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division.

The battalion is preparing to leave its base at Camp Sears, South Korea, for Fort Lewis, Wash., later this year with 150 personnel and 12 Avenger ADA units, which fire Stinger missiles at low-altitude targets.

Battery D, which includes 24 Avengers and Sentinel radar units, will stay in South Korea. Soldiers from the unit will continue to live and train beside 2nd ID soldiers at Camp Casey. But they’ll join the 1st Battalion, 43rd ADA Regiment, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Sauter said.

By Oct. 16, the 1-43 will have transformed into an Air and Missile Defense (composite) Battalion and operate Avenger and Patriot missiles. Around the same time, the Fort Bliss, Texas-based 1st Battalion, 44th ADA Regiment also will transform into the composite battalion.

“We are designing composite battalions with both Patriots, Avengers and Sentinels. It gives us capability in all aspects of the ADA — both high altitude and low altitude,” Sauter explained.

The Army used to have short-range (Avenger) units and long-range (Patriot) ADA units.

Now the Army is using new technology and lessons learned from Operation Iraqi Freedom, where ADA units faced Iraqi cruise missiles and fixed-wing tactical ballistic missiles.

The composite battalions will provide ADA support from the brigade level up to the level equivalent to the 8th Army, he said.

At the same time, South Korea’s air defense capability is improving, with the Republic of Korea military fielding Vulcan 20 mm Gatling guns, Orlikan 35 mm air defense artillery guns and Mistral surface-to-air missiles, Sauter said.

The North Korean air threat, according to GlobalSecurity.org, includes hundreds of fixed-wing Chinese and Russian 1950s- and 1960s-vintage aircraft, helicopters and surface-to-surface missiles.

At Fort Lewis, the 5-5 will field the Surface Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile. The missiles originally were used only as air-to-air missiles, but improved technology lets them be fired from the ground against long-range air threats, he said.

“We now have the technology to engage aircraft beyond visual recognition,” he said.

Sauter’s soldiers already are preparing vehicles and loading equipment for transport back to the United States, he said.

Pfc. Tramone Beacham, 19, of Hazelhurst, Miss., spent Friday hosing down six vehicles due to be inspected by customs officers before they head back. Dirt attached to military vehicles might contain organisms illegal to import into the United States without a permit because of possible threats to agriculture and the environment.

“We have to get down and dirty,” Beacham said. “You can’t leave one piece of dirt or they (U.S. customs officials) will send it back.”

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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