OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — The Army unit that became the first since the Korean War to deploy temporarily to South Korea at battalion size is wrapping up its one-year tour.

The 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery rotated last year from Fort Bliss, Texas, to Suwon Air Base as part of the Army’s 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.

The brigade, headquartered at Osan Air Base, maintains Patriot firing batteries on the peninsula. The 1-7 ADA will return to the United States by the end of this month and be replaced by the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery, also from Bliss.

A ceremony is set for 10 a.m. Friday at Suwon. In what’s known as a relief in place, the personnel change, but the equipment stays put.

Among several major training benefits his battalion gained in South Korea was what they learned driving convoys on the peninsula, according to commander Lt. Col. Eric L. Sanchez.

The country’s toll booths, narrow roads and other aspects of driving in South Korea couldn’t be replicated "when you’re sitting in a desert in Fort Bliss," he said.

Also, having a young private first class driving a "big 10-ton truck … having to encounter what we encountered, it’s quite challenging," he said.

Soldiers will be able to apply that driving savvy in future assignments elsewhere, according to Sanchez.

One "huge" benefit came not in South Korea but at Fort Bliss: giving his unit nearly a year of Korea-specific training before the deployment rather than starting from scratch once overseas.

"When we landed here the battalion was ready. We were already trained when we hit the ground," he said.

The battalion-sized rotation was new and made on relatively short notice, so the unit learned many lessons, including creating a checklist that should smooth the transition for future battalions rotating into South Korea, Sanchez said.

"The system wasn’t totally in place, so what we did was over the year we developed a checklist that has 467 different checks," he said.

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