Air Traffic Group soldiers in S. Korea practice combat skills
May 12, 2006
ICHEON, South Korea — As a remote location air traffic controller, Pfc. Jonathan Woods performs one of the many military jobs the television cameras rarely capture.
Woods and other soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 164th Air Traffic Services Group spend most of their time in technical or maintenance roles. They ply their trade knowing that during war enemies don’t discriminate between combat and noncombat specialties. Even air traffic controllers prepare for enemy fire.
The 164th ATS Group put those skills in play during a joint competition with the 55th South Korean Air Traffic Services Battalion on Tuesday at a South Korean base about 30 miles south of Seoul.
Teams of eight soldiers from the 164th ATS Group’s three companies ran the six-mile skills course with two South Korean soldiers attached to each team. The teams competed for the fastest time around the course.
The soldiers lobbed grenades, donned chemical protective gear and crawled through ambushes. In other words, they did the same things they saw on the posters in the recruiter’s office when they joined the military.
“We should learn our jobs as professionals but, at the same time, this is the Army,” Woods said.
The soldiers ran, sweated and occasionally puked their way through the course, which carried time penalties for improper technique.
The competition was part of a week of training at the South Korean base that includes technical evaluations and ends with sports and recreational activities. Soldiers from each army were to be evaluated separately on activities related to their job specialties. However, they were rated together by U.S. and South Korean supervisors on their soldiering skills.
U.S. soldiers said the South Koreans integrated well into their teams, even during first-aid scenarios.
“They got in right with us,” said Sgt. Shannon Paulsen, whose teammates were Spc. David King and Spc. Rafael Torres of the ATS Group’s 58th Aviation Regiment, Delta Company. “They understood enough English so we didn’t have to do a lot of pointing.”
The first-aid training marked the first time South Korean soldiers trained with large first-aid kits, fake blood and chest wounds, South Korean Lt. Col. Cho Oun-ki said.
“It looked a lot like the real world,” he said. “It was good for the soldiers to see the behavior of the U.S. soldiers in the combined training.”