Continuing legacy: 'Gimlets' return to South Korea
April 16, 2012
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (April 16, 2012) -- In July 1950, approximately 400 Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, "Gimlets," dug into their positions near the village of Osan in South Korea. The Gimlet Soldiers held the line as North Korean tanks approached.
The battle that ensued marked the first ground action of the Korean War. More than 60 years later, the Soldiers of the 1st Bn., 21st Inf. Regt., 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, have returned to South Korea, but under much more favorable conditions.
Every year, U.S. military units deploy to South Korea to conduct Foal Eagle, a joint combined training exercise conducted with the intent of enhancing both U.S. forces and the Republic of Korea's alliance by demonstrating their ability to defend the ROK and protect their people and their land, said Maj. Blake Lackey, the operations officer in charge for the 1st Bn., 21st Inf. Regt.
"This annual exercise is what we call a joint combined exercise because it integrates the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines from the U.S. Pacific theater into an exercise to highlight capabilities of rapid force projection and deployment across the spectrum of the joint forces," Lackey said. "It shows our ability to coordinate, plan and execute training with our ROK allies, whether it's ROK Army, Air Force, Marines or Navy."
During this month-long operation, the U.S. and ROK forces will share knowledge as they plan, resource and execute training, Lackey said. Their focuses will differ slightly, but ultimately they will share the same goal.
"The ROK Army will be focused on the defense of the Republic of Korea," Lackey said. "Our focus will be two-fold: validating our ability to rapidly project and defend the ROK, and conducting training operations focused at the squad level that enable us to integrate with the ROK Army's defense of the peninsula."
The culminating event for Foal Eagle will be a combined exercise with a ROK tank platoon and an anti-tank platoon from B Co., 52nd Infantry Regiment (Anti-tank) attached to the Gimlet battalion. The live-fire exercise will test both the U.S. and ROK forces' abilities to work together at every echelon to ensure mission accomplishment, Lackey said.
"The combined defensive live fire is combined from the start of planning all the way through the end of execution," Lackey said. "We do that by combining the training from the lowest level, at the squad level, all the way up to the battalion staff level, where we are able to incorporate them into our training plans and exercises so that they see how we operate and we see how they operate."
Their proficiency at defensive operations and high-intensity conflicts will also afford the Gimlets an opportunity to learn from their ROK Army partners, Lackey said. As the Gimlet battalion prepares to train in high-intensity conflict and transition to full-spectrum operations, Lackey added that the experience should provide invaluable insight for future Gimlet operations.
Moving a battalion of Soldiers, their equipment and Stryker vehicles takes diligent planning, and Lackey said that the battalion staff had only a few weeks between the time they received the mission until troops were expected to be on ground in Korea.
Part of the mission of a Stryker-centric unit, however, is to expeditiously move all combat assets in the shortest amount of time possible. Foal Eagle tested the Gimlets' ability as an expeditionary force to rapidly deploy in support of Pacific theater operations, Lackey said.
"The timing we've had to plan, resource and begin the execution has been very condensed," he said. "Though we have received some great support from the brigade and from the division, it has really been on the battalion to coordinate with another army across the ocean. This validates our strategic reach and deployment capabilities through the relatively short time we had between receiving the mission and executing the deployment of our Soldiers, vehicles and equipment."
Lackey added that this rapid deployment has yielded additional knowledge that will allow them to refine the process further, shortening the response time to a matter of days. This validates the concept that a Stryker unit, particularly the Gimlet battalion, is capable of expeditiously deploying to support its strategic allies anywhere in the world.
"It strengthens our partnership by showing our resolve to our partners, specifically the ROK Army, and how we will be there at a moment's notice to provide support in whatever capacity we can, Lackey said."
The intrinsic value of Foal Eagle can also be found in the heightened professionalism of the Gimlet Soldiers as they work alongside their ROK counterparts, Lackey said.
"It allows us to cooperate with an army that is on the same level that we are and has the same capabilities that we do," he said. "We get to step our game up a little bit and our performance will improve because we've got someone standing next to us that is watching how we operate. That continues to strengthen that long-standing alliance."
As the Gimlet Soldiers download their vehicles from flatbed trailers and unload their gear from overseas containers, they are preparing to continue the legacy left behind by the Gimlets that fought alongside ROK Army Soldiers more than 60 years ago.