Pacific edition, Sunday, June 17, 2007

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — A Patriot missile battalion set to depart South Korea after 13 years cased its colors Friday.

The 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery, transferred its mission to the 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery, which begins a one-year tour in South Korea.

The 1-43 ADA has been based in South Korea since 1994 but by the end of this month will have completed its move to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

In replacing it, the 1-7 ADA is the first Army battalion to deploy overseas in full battalion strength, under a new method of deploying units overseas, Army officials have said. In the case of the Army Patriot missile units, for example, previous rotations were at the smaller, battery size.

With its rotation to South Korea the 1-7 ADA has become part of the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, which maintains eight Patriot firing batteries on the peninsula. The brigade is based at Osan Air Base.

Under the switch, troops change places but the missiles and other inventory stay in place. Each of the two battalions has about 660 soldiers.

Lt. Col. John R. Chavez, 1-43 ADA commander, said Friday was “a proud day” in the battalion’s history, and lauded its soldiers, current and past.

“They have endured the heat, the cold, the rain, the snow, the wind, the lightning, all the while performing a 24-7 air defense mission,” he said.

Lt. Col. Eric G. Sanchez, commander of the 1-7 ADA, said the battalion trained nearly a year for its deployment to South Korea.

“We will do everything in our power to ensure this deployment becomes the standard for the rest of the Army to emulate,” Sanchez said.

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