I Corps soldiers head to Korea for annual war games

Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, I Corps commanding general, briefs Adm. Choi Yoonhee, chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, in preparation for Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises at Camp Yongin, South Korea, in 2014.


By WYATT OLSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 22, 2016

The commander of I Corps and about 400 personnel from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., are heading to the Korean peninsula to take part in U.S.-South Korean war games that kicked off this week.

“I will be forward, and we’ll roughly have a task organization under us that will support the entire [South Korean] operation as part of this yearly exercise,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza said Monday.

About 25,000 U.S. and 50,000 South Korean personnel are participating in the drills, which elicit the ire — and hyperbole — of the North Korean regime. The Korean People’s Army issued a statement Monday saying that “the slightest sign of aggression” would result in “a heap of ashes through Korean-style preemptive nuclear strike.”

I Corps has already deployed early-entry and tactical command posts in Korea, Lanza said.

The I Corps task organization will have elements of the 25th Division, the 3rd Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian Division.

Specifics about how the nearly two-week exercise, much of which will be computer simulated, are hard to come by.

“I think what I can share with you … it’s obviously a tactical operation for us with operational and strategic significance,” Lanza said. “There will obviously be a general scheme of maneuver against some type of action that forces us into some kind of response.

“As I’ve said before, it’s not related to any real-world or current event, but it really is a readiness exercise to train our forces and build our interoperability and the partnership of the [South Korea]-U.S. alliance.”

The exercise strengthens I Corps’ expeditionary capabilities and ability to deploy its command post forward into a theater, Lanza said.

Because of the complexity of both Korean terrain and operating with a large South Korean force, the exercise helps I Corps ready itself for global and Pacific operations, he said.

That outcome dovetails with the updated theater guidance issued Aug. 12 by Adm. Harry Harris, leader of U.S. Pacific Command, which lists “be ready to fight tonight” as a priority.

“I think the Corps has a significant role to play as an operational headquarters for PACOM in the future,” Lanza said. “I see perhaps some of the operations becoming more joint. I see them leveraging our partners, both guard and reserve.”

I Corps shifted its mission to the Pacific in 2012 as part of the Obama administration’s “Pacific pivot,” which is intended to refocus the nation’s priorities away from Afghanistan and Iraq to the Asian region.

I Corps has played a role in increasing the Army’s presence in the region through Pacific Pathways, an initiative under which units of deployed U.S. soldiers remain in theater for two or three sequential exercises. One leg of Pacific Pathways in September will include Japan and Malaysia, with the next involving Thailand, Cambodia, Korea and the Philippines.

Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord will also be involved in the Yama Sakura exercise with Japan in December and the Yudh Abhyas exercise in India in early 2017.

“I don’t see our requirements lessening,” Lanza said. “I see our requirements continuing to grow.”

Twitter: @WyattWOlson