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Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor aid a "police chief" shot by a sniper during a search-and-cordon exercise Wednesday at the Hovey Cut urban training facility on Camp Casey, South Korea. The mission, part of a five-day exercise, was designed to test lieutenants and junior noncommissioned officers on their leadership and planning skills.

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor aid a "police chief" shot by a sniper during a search-and-cordon exercise Wednesday at the Hovey Cut urban training facility on Camp Casey, South Korea. The mission, part of a five-day exercise, was designed to test lieutenants and junior noncommissioned officers on their leadership and planning skills. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor aid a "police chief" shot by a sniper during a search-and-cordon exercise Wednesday at the Hovey Cut urban training facility on Camp Casey, South Korea. The mission, part of a five-day exercise, was designed to test lieutenants and junior noncommissioned officers on their leadership and planning skills.

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor aid a "police chief" shot by a sniper during a search-and-cordon exercise Wednesday at the Hovey Cut urban training facility on Camp Casey, South Korea. The mission, part of a five-day exercise, was designed to test lieutenants and junior noncommissioned officers on their leadership and planning skills. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor collect information while "under fire" during the search-and-cordon exercise Wednesday at Camp Casey.

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor collect information while "under fire" during the search-and-cordon exercise Wednesday at Camp Casey. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor deal with civilians during the search-and-cordon exercise.

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor deal with civilians during the search-and-cordon exercise. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

CAMP CASEY, South Korea — Six days into his first duty assignment, 2nd Lt. Derek Kenmotsu is positioned next to a “wounded police chief.”

At the same time, “drunken civilians” try to touch his soldiers’ rifles. Higher headquarters wants to know why they haven’t acquired their high-value target. Communications frequencies are down.

Meanwhile, a sniper lurks somewhere at the Hovey Cut Military Operations on Urban Terrain training range.

“All things did not go as planned,” said Kenmotsu, of Foster City, Calif. “It’s been food for thought. You have to plan for contingencies.”

The search-and-cordon mission was less about pure execution than about how junior leaders such as Kenmotsu planned and adapted during the 2nd Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor exercise.

Battalion commander Lt. Col. Tom Isom designed Wednesday’s exercise to test lieutenants and junior noncommissioned officers on “Big Eight” concepts, such as time management, risk management and implementing operational orders. “It’s not set up so they hit a home run on this mission,” Isom said.

The original goal of finding the “senior bad guy” soon changed into one of protecting civilians throughout the two-story street of corrugated metal containers, designed to simulate a small village.

South Korean augmentee soldiers acted as civilians, playing roles ranging from “mean drunk” to a Buddha look-alike religious leader chanting, “Oh, Taliban!”

Some of 1-72’s teams had interpreters to help them, while others did not and occasionally resorted to barking orders in English.

“If I get in your face and start yelling in a different language, do you respect me?” Isom said. “Screaming in someone’s face doesn’t earn respect.”

It’s a lesson Isom said he learned in Iraq, and one that junior enlisted soldiers will learn along with their soldier tasks.

The battalion-scale mission also gave soldiers a better sense of how their role fits into larger schemes, said Pvt. Sean Reb, who as a team leader had direct responsibility for others for the first time.

Although mission results weren’t the primary focus of evaluation, it gives supervisors a lift when they realize that the soldiers really get it.

“I see their eyes widen the first time they understand the movement,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Davis of Dubuque, Iowa. “It’s shock first, then it turns to comfort with the equipment, and then understanding.”

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