CAMP WALKER, Republic of Korea -- Uniformed service members of four nations from around the world converged on the Multi-National Coordination Center to support exercise Key Resolve 2013, an annual combined and joint command post exercise throughout the Korean Peninsula, March 11-21.
Together with their U.S. and Korean counterparts, several dozen military officers from Australia, Canada, Denmark, and Great Britain overcame language barriers and made history by providing a broad spectrum of sustainment for a theater of operations, paving the way for more streamlined coalition support in Korea. About 10,000 Republic of Korea Soldiers and 2,500 U.S. Servicemembers participate in the exercise annually.
"This is a first for the UN on two accounts, as it is the first time national command elements have been fully exercised, which is a much more complex process than simply assuming all international coordination has been completed, as was done in the past," said Group Capt. Paul Aggett, Deputy Director, MNCC. "It is also the first time to include our UNC-Rear element, located in Japan, which is a very important part of the process."
Key Resolve 2013 was also a first for the Republic of Korea, as it was led for the first time by the RoK Joint Chiefs of Staff. The exercise was one of many benchmarks in establishing the basis for transitioning wartime operational control to the RoK.
Signal Soldiers of the 311th Signal Command (Theater) helped fulfill both the real-world and notional communication requirements of the exercise. Nine 311th Soldiers travelled to Korea to provide support on the ground while 21 Soldiers provided support from the command's headquarters at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. Of those supporting in Hawaii, six Army Reserve Soldiers travelled from Costa Mesa California, where they are assigned to the command's Support Unit.
"The 311th Soldiers arrived early and worked with the US Army, Pacific G6 and the 36th Signal Battalion to ensure the Wide Area Network was up and functioning at Command Post Oscar," said Maj. Mikel Hugo, a plans officer for the 311th and the USARPAC CCP G6 Battle Major for KR13. "Once the Contingency Command Post arrived on site we worked hand in hand with both the G6 and CCP Communication teams to coordinate support for the Theater Enabling Commands. It was a team effort that worked well. We also participated in the scenario providing notional support, and continued to monitor the network throughout the exercise. "
There are 17 member nations of the United Nations Command including the United States and Korea. In the spirit of the 1953 ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty, they partner with the 15 UNC Sending States - Australia, Belgium, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, France, Greece, South Africa, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey and the United Kingdom -- to conduct training exercises like Key Resolve which highlight their enduring friendship and commitment to the UNC and the region.
"The multinational partnerships that are being strengthened during this exercise are a critical step toward creating an international coalition," said U.S. Brig. Gen. William Welch, Joint Operations Chief, United States Forces Korea-Main. "Together we are honing our unique military capabilities in order to increase Alliance readiness, protect the region and maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula."
Between 1950 and 1953, 22 nations provided combat, combat support, or combat service support forces to the United Nations Command in response to North Korean aggression against the Republic of Korea. By signing the Korean War Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953, military representatives from 16 of those nations reaffirmed their national commitment to the UNC and defense of the ROK should that agreement fail.
During the exercise, the multinational participants served as staff officers either within the MNCC or in component commands throughout the peninsula. Many also worked as liaison officers representing larger groups from their sending state, providing sustainment support through close coordination with the MNCC.
"Some of our greatest challenges have been communicating with one another," said Australian Brig. Gen. Graeme Finney, MNCC Director. "But over the past few weeks, everyone has pitched in and we have become far more effective in our processes and procedures to support the mission."
The MNCC was created in 2009 to enable integration, sustainment and employment of sending state forces contributions to support the UNC mission and ROK-led defense on the Korean Peninsula.
"We are essentially a coordination center, the conduit between all the national command elements and the UN forces across the Korean theater, to facilitate the Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration of the UN sending states," Aggett said. He also serves as Director for MNCC-Main, which is located within the Operational Support Center and Rear Command Post to coordinate support from U.S. Forces Korea and ROK 2nd Operational Command.
"It's great to see the multinational involvement here at Key Resolve, which sends a real message that the UNC is still actively engaged with its commitment to defending the Korean Peninsula. It also shows that the sending states are unified in terms of maintaining the armistice agreement," Finney said. "I have enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the exercise, which is linked to our broader commitment as part of the United Nations Command."
The roles that the participating nations played in various scenarios were designed to hone the skills necessary to defend the Korean Peninsula, improve ROK-U.S. combined forces' operational capabilities, coordinate and execute the deployment of combined reinforcements, and maintain ROK military combat capabilities.
"When working among a number of nations and languages, sometimes even simple tasks become complicated," Aggett said. "However, everyone is working hard together through all of our challenges because we're all here for one cause - to support the ROK."