Alaska-based ‘Bobcats’ work on building 'lethality' during Korea rotation
By MARCUS FICHTL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 5, 2017
POCHEON, South Korea — Six hundred U.S. troops wrapped up a monthlong training rotation to South Korea Monday with something in short supply this time of year at their home station in Alaska — darkness.
Soldiers from the Fort Wainwright-based 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment “Bobcats” spent May living and training at the 3,390-acre Rodriguez Live Fire Range north of Seoul.
“We’re here to build our lethality,” battalion commander Lt. Col. R. Blake Lackey said Wednesday.
That includes being able to operate day and night, the latter being difficult in the Alaskan summer, he said.
“This time of year we’ll be training at 1:30 in the morning and it’s still daylight,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Moore, 34, a recon team leader with the battalion.
“When it’s dark in Alaska it’s winter and it’s pretty harsh,” the West Palm Beach, Fla., native added. “So it’s really difficult to get after some of the more basic and fundamental [requirements].”
The Korea rotation has taken the unit “to a higher level of readiness we didn’t think was possible,” Lackey said.
The battalion trained with its 8th Army and South Korean counterparts during a time of high tension on the peninsula that included multiple North Korean missile tests and the deployment of U.S. aircraft carriers to the region.
Lackey said he and his leadership have been using the real-world events to drill readiness into the troops.
The Alaska-based soldiers also visited Outpost Harry – a Korean War battle site – where their battalion earned a Presidential Unit Citation by holding off thousands of Chinese troops on June 12, 1953.
“This is a real place to be and we have to be ready at all times,” Lackey said. “Whether it’s Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea or Russia, we have to be ready.”