Armor crewmen, gunners, infantrymen, artillerymen and support Soldiers wearing the 2nd Infantry Division Indianhead patch made history with Republic of Korea Army Soldiers as they participated in a Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise April 15 at Rodriguez Range.
U.S. and ROK Soldiers have worked together since the beginning of the Korean War on June 25, 1950. However, the CALFEX marks the first time in 60 years in which both countries used such a large number of Soldiers, equipment and weaponry in a joint military training exercise.
The size and make-up of the exercise weren't the only reasons why this year's CALFEX was deemed historic. Among the more than 100 members of the audience was a Korean War hero who commanded a joint contingent of troops during the conflict, ROK Gen. Paik Sun-yup. He was the first four-star general in the Korean Army. His presence at the side of 2nd ID commander Maj. Gen. Michael S. Tucker was a constant reminder for the Warrior Division leader of the legacy he is poised to carry on.
"The idea of U.S. armor fighting alongside ROKA Soldiers is not a new concept," said Tucker. "General Paik led the way when he climbed on the number one tank of the U.S. Army 6th Tank Battalion, attached his ROKA 1st Division and led the charge north toward Pyongyang during the Korean War on October 1950."
Tucker recounted how tears rolled down the cheeks of Gen. Paik as he looked
on at the exercise designed to test ROK/US capabilities. As he watched the
Korean and American Soldiers known as "Team Demon" maneuver side-by-side on
foot, in the air and on tracks, Tucker said, Gen. Paik turned to me and said
"I think I am back in 1950 watching my US and ROK Soldiers," just as he did
60 years ago when he commanded the ROK 1st Division.
This day, Team Demon was organized into three elements. The support force was composed of one U.S. infantry platoon and one ROK Army infantry platoon. The breach force consisted of one U.S. tank platoon and one U.S. engineer "sapper" platoon. The assault force consisted of a ROK Army tank platoon.
Once viewers found a seat and grabbed a pair of earplugs, artillery rounds immediately hit the Pulmu Mountain. Though the audience could not see the artillery rounds, the pounding sound and the thick air of brown smoke told onlookers the supporting efforts were successful.
During the next 50 minutes the combined force of the U.S. and ROK armies, with close air support from the Air Force, continued to attack Pulmu Mountain. After the last tank platoon engaged 'the enemy' with all available weapons, Team Demon had successfully completed their mission.
"It's been an eye-opener for me as well as my Soldiers working with the ROKs," said 1st Lt. Nathan Purswell, platoon leader of B Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team. "We're learning different things from the ROKs as well as them learning from us. It's been great training. I feel like we're a much stronger team after we've conducted this joint exercise."
The demonstration was a culmination of intense training that began in January. While most Soldiers and Families were welcoming the New Year with resolutions, U.S. Soldiers from the 2-9th Inf., ROK Army with the 27th Armor Battalion and 125th Mechanized Infantry Battalion of the 75th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, 26th Mechanized Infantry Division and other supporting units from Warrior Country were executing tactical simulated missions at the company and team level in the close combat tactical trainer as well as live missions in the confines of Camp Casey and Camp Hovey.
"Exercises like these bring both countries together, which is great for morale," said Staff Sgt. Chad Walker, armor crewman with D Co., 2-9th Inf. "Our platoon, in particular, trained with the ROK Soldiers. We went out on the range together and pretty much have been working with them the entire time we have been out here, which brought us very close to each other."
"I'm honored to train and work together with the American Soldiers. I believe it helps us become an even greater force for the security and prosperity of our futures," said 1st Lt. Hyuk Lee of the ROK 75th Mech.