Soldiers test new terrain
RODRIGUEZ RANGE, South Korea — While a group of Hawaii-based soldiers may have left the sun and surf back in Honolulu for the frosty mountains of South Korea, they said they were thrilled with the training ranges they found just south of the Demilitarized Zone separating the Koreas.
About 50 soldiers — and four of their Stryker armored vehicles — from the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division arrived in South Korea on March 18 for the annual Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration/Foal Eagle exercises.
The RSOI portion tests the military’s ability to bring warfighters to the peninsula, and the Stryker brigade helped illustrate the multi-service aspect of the training.
The soldiers loaded their vehicles onto an Air Force C-17 and flew into Daegu, South Korea. From there, the Strykers were loaded onto contracted flatbed trucks and were delivered to the Rodriguez Range.
“It’s really a test to see how quickly we could mobilize,” said 2nd platoon leader 1st Lt. Dustin Lujan.
While in South Korea, Maj. Adelaido Godinez said, his soldiers fall under operational command of the 2nd Infantry Division.
In Hawaii, the soldiers must travel from Oahu’s Schofield Barracks to Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii to conduct much of their training.
That’s why they were happy to find the “wide-open ranges and great terrain” in South Korea.
The soldiers said they were very impressed with the support they received from the 16th Korean Service Corps workers who run range operations.
Kim Yong-un, one of the KSC workers, said he was more than happy to do what he could to make the exercise as effective as possible.
“We do everything,” he said.
That included constructing a plywood “shoot house” the soldiers wanted to use to practice clearing buildings and wooden frames from which to hang targets for individual weapons drills.
“They’re building stuff, they’re moving stuff,” said the brigade’s master gunner, Sgt. 1st Class Sean Wussen of the KSC work. “We’re setting up a pretty good lane” to train on.
And with only a limited time on the range, “we’re working it overtime,” Wussen said.
The armored 21-ton Strykers allow commanders to deliver soldiers as close as possible to the fight and that’s what they focused on during this training.
And that mission is important, said Sgt. Dusty Lamborn, a vehicle commander.
“The less they have to bound out in the open, the closer we can get them to the building, the more chance of survivability,” Lamborn said of the soldiers he transports.
The Strykers are crewed by two solders — the vehicle commander and a driver. The commander controls the vehicle’s main weapon: either a .50 caliber machine gun or an MK-19 40mm grenade launcher.