RODRIGUEZ LIVE FIRE COMPLEX, KOREA--Why would anyone trade in the warm, tropical air of Hawaii for the cool winds of Korea'

For Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division, leaving Hawaii, if only briefly, made perfect sense.

The Schofield Barracks-based 2nd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, the Army's fifth Stryker Brigade Combat Team, conducted a two-week gunnery exercise at Rodriguez Live-fire Complex as part of Korea's annual Reception, Staging, Onward movement and Integration exercise.

"It's been really great being a part of this exercise," said Maj. Ad Godinez, the battalion's training officer. "RSOI is a great test for what a Stryker brigade can do quickly in this theater."

Although the unit arrived in Korea March 18, coordination and planning began long before leaving Hawaii.

Planning began in October, only about a month after the brigade received its first Stryker vehicles. The unit deployed four Strykers and about 50 infantry and support Soldiers to Korea by way of two Air Force C-17 flights from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii to K-2. Each vehicle was loaded onto the planes combat-ready, complete with their 50-caliber weapons systems mounted.

"It showed us the Strykers' ability to deploy anywhere within the Pacific realm," explained Sgt. 1st Class James Burciaga, 2nd platoon sergeant for Company A.

The unit also coordinated with the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, based at Camp Casey, Korea. Although the 2nd Infantry Division didn't actively participate in the training, they played a key role in ensuring the 25th ID's training went as smoothly as possible.

"What we are is a package from the brigade operations that is the link between the commander of 1HBCT to this maneuver unit," said Capt. Gregory Hickerson, the 1HBCT training officer. "From the moment that the C17's landed on the peninsula, we've had units supporting this platoon from there up to this point. The range personnel here have bent over backwards to help this platoon accomplish its mission."

"(The) 2ID has allowed us to walk onto the range and just do our training," said 1st Lt. Dustin Lujan, 2nd platoon leader.

That training included five stages of maneuver and gunnery practice, including day and night fire, shooting at multiple and moving targets, MOUT training and close quarter maneuvers. The platoon also conducted about 25 dry and live fire exercises. This type of training at Rodriguez Live-fire Complex, where the terrain is larger than those in Hawaii, helped give the 25th ID Soldiers more knowledge of their new vehicle.

"Our training areas are a little shorter," Godinez said. "(Here), we get to practice the length of our weapons systems. We've actually tested our equipment to the limits of its ability with this terrain."

"These opportunities don't come often," Burciaga added, "and when they do, we embrace them."
This opportunity wasn't wasted on the platoon's Soldiers. Many, like Stryker driver Pfc. Joshua Lloyd, found that the training made them even more excited about the Stryker.

"It's made us a lot more comfortable with the vehicle," he said. "We can actually open it up out here and see what it can do."

Korea's unpredictable weather also played a key role in the training. On top of going from cold to warm temperatures, it rained during the latter days of the exercise. However, for infantry Soldiers, the rainy days were just business as usual.

"This is infantry weather," Godinez said. "This is the way we like to fight, when no one else wants to fight."

"This rain has been a blessing, the way we've received this rain at critical times," Hickerson added. "Every time we were going to go live with our tracer ammunition, we've received rain, which moistened the ground. There's been no disruption in training - no fires, no shut-downs of the range. If they can accomplish this mission in the rain, they can accomplish it anywhere."

Through it all, Godinez said the platoon did accomplish their mission. Aside from the training, they even gave two 1HBCT and one 25th ID medics the chance to conduct three medical evacuation rehearsals.

"The exercise has really been exceptional, especially for our Soldiers," he said. "I think we're (going) back a better-trained platoon, a better-trained squad."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16