U.S., South Korea sport big guns in live-fire exercise
May 17, 2006
RODRIGUEZ RANGE, South Korea — U.S. and South Korean servicemembers conducted one of their largest joint single live-fire exercises in recent years Sunday, combining joint airpower with armor against a simulated brigade-sized armor and artillery unit.
Units from the 2nd Infantry’s Division Combat Aviation Brigade coordinated air attacks with the U.S. Air Force and South Korean attack helicopters, while U.S. infantry and South Korean tanks fired at ground targets during a simulated battle to protect a flank and counter a large-scale attack.
Several brigade officers said they had been deploying to South Korea for tours from the early 1980s to the present day, and none could remember seeing such a large-scale joint effort between the two nations and so many different units.
The event wasn’t something devised at higher levels as a political statement, said brigade vice commander Col. Ben Williams.
“It’s about training the same way we fight,” Williams said. “This is tactical and event driven … not a dog and pony show.”
Brigade commander Col. Pete Foreman ran the exercise while conferring with South Korean commanders through an interpreter in the operations center.
Meanwhile, soldiers who normally fire their weapons only at Rodriguez Range during semi-annual qualification tests gained practice in more realistic situations Sunday.
The scenario began with advancing ground units engaging a mock artillery and armored force. South Korean 109th Aviation Brigade K-1 tanks called for air support.
A Black Hawk crew from the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment soldiers dropped an Air Force tactical air control party into the battle after firing automatic 7.62 mm rounds at a theoretical ground enemy.
“The gunners are shooting on the move as we evade targets,” said pilot Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Braund. “This is what a Black Hawk was made for. In a combat zone, it’s what we do.”
The tactical air controllers from the 604th Air Support Operations Squadron set up communications on a bushy hillside, then contacted soldiers from the 3rd Squadron, 6th Cavalry and 1st Battalion, 2nd Attack Battalion.
“Roger, we have enemy armor/artillery moving south into the valley,” Senior Airman Ryan Cornelis radioed to four Apache helicopters who unleashed a barrage of missiles and ammunition into a hillside.
A few minutes later, Kunsan Air Base’s 8th Fighter Wing F-16s flew in and dropped bombs on the targets. When the Apaches left, the South Korean army’s 109th Aviation Brigade laid down fire with AH-1 Cobra helicopters.
Meanwhile, the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry fired mortars as South Korean 60th Armor Brigade K-1 tanks scored hits at targets ranging from roughly 600 to 1,800 yards.
Just 10 years ago, it would have been much more difficult to coordinate an effort with multiple South Korean units, said brigade operations plans chief Maj. Doug Hooks. But despite logistical hurdles in coordinating such a large exercise, the brigade would like to schedule similar events in the future, Hooks said.
“This is a great relationship builder and a huge step for us in working with the (Republic of Korea) army,” Hooks said.