Patriot missile brigade starts moving in at Osan

Pfc. Jeremy Hall, left, a petroleum supply specialist, and Spc. Sidney Canterbury, a heavy wheel mechanic, work Thursday to clean oil from a spill containment pallet at Osan. Both are soliders with 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery. The Army Patriot missile unit is soon to come under the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, now setting up its headquarters at the base.


By FRANKLIN FISHER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 23, 2004

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — The Army Patriot missile brigade deploying from the United States to South Korea has begun moving into its newly built headquarters here, the smell of paint and new furniture filling the corridors.

The 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade should be fully operational on the Korean peninsula by year’s end, officials said Thursday. “We hope to have all the quality of life, be settled in by that time,” said Col. Ken Cox, the brigade’s commanding officer.

The Army is deploying the brigade, which has been stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, to South Korea. Its new headquarters is here, at Osan Air Base, 48 miles south of Korea’s Demilitarized Zone.

About 75 soldiers assigned to the brigade’s headquarters flew in late Tuesday night.

Work is under way to set up phone and computer connections in the two-story, tan and brown building, and to prepare for the troops.

“You got to feed ’em, you got to house ’em, and then just establish our operations here,” said Cox. “It’s amazing what you take for granted when you’ve been somewhere for a while.… There’s still a lot to do.”

Meanwhile, a Patriot missile battalion, the 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery, is to arrive in South Korea sometime early next month and move into quarters on Kwangju Air Base, a South Korean air force installation in the southwest part of the peninsula.

Deploying with it to Kwangju will be the 178th Maintenance Company. About 425 troops from both units will be at Kwangju.

A second Patriot battalion, already in South Korea, also will become part of the brigade, at a date to be announced. The 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery has Patriot batteries at Osan and Kunsan Air Base on South Korea’s western coast and Suwon Air Base, a South Korean air force installation.

The brigade expects to mark completing its deployment to South Korea with a formal ceremony sometime in December. By then, officials said, the brigade will number about 1,200 soldiers and maintain eight firing batteries at four air bases: Osan, Suwon, Kunsan and Kwangju.

The brigade’s headquarters troops spent Thursday moving into or seeking living quarters. Soldiers in pay grades E-5 and below moved into Osan Air Base barracks. Those in higher grades were taken on “housing tours” to scout available off-base apartments.

Also Thursday, airmen worked to install phone lines at the brigade headquarters and brigade troops worked to set up a computer system there.

The brigade troops spent Wednesday at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul doing administrative in-processing chores.

Last week, workers delivered truckloads of new office furniture and equipment, including computer work stations, bookcases, desks and copiers.

Even as a few brigade troops remain at Fort Bliss, cargo ships will bring quantities of brigade equipment to South Korea, including Patriot missiles, launchers and a range of other hardware in the unit’s inventory.

“We got quite a few ships coming in and at the same time we have a small crew at Bliss, closing out buildings and accounts, making sure that our records are straight and are cleared,” said Maj. Erinn Hardaway, brigade personnel chief.

“And then the other big thing is just making sure we’re able to receive the additional soldiers from 2-1 when they get on the ground,” Cox said of the battalion deploying to Kwangju

Until now, the brigade sent troops to South Korea to train with the Air Force during major exercises. But once the transition is completed, brigade troops will begin frequent training.

It’s just one of several key advantages the move will afford, he said.

Another is being at Osan Air Base, headquarters for the U.S. Air Force in South Korea. Its commander has the wartime role of air component commander, the “air boss” who’d oversee the conflict’s air war.

“So this gets us … the connectivity with 7th Air Force,” Cox said. Patriot missile operations occur “in an intensely joint environment,” he said, in which the Patriot units and the Air Force work together closely.

“The more we train with the Air Force, the better trained we are to do our mission, if called upon to do so,” Cox said. “We will train with them a lot. ... We can now train in the environment in which we would have to fight if called upon to do so.”