By SSG Joshua TverbergOctober 9, 2014
UIJEONGBU, South Korea - The 2nd Infantry "Warrior" Division is entering a significant phase in its 100-year history. Since 1950, 2ID Soldiers have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their Republic of Korea allies on Freedom's Frontier keeping the peninsula secure against an aggressive and oppressive North Korean regime. The Division is constantly seeking ways to further improve its readiness and strengthen the historic alliance it shares with the Republic of Korea.
In the next two years, as part of the Land Partnership Plan-an agreement made between the U.S. and ROK governments-the 2nd Inf. Div. will relocate further south on the Korean peninsula to Pyeongtak. To commemorate this move, the Division participated in a groundbreaking ceremony this past April for its future headquarters at Camp Humphreys. The expansion and construction project costs an estimated 10 billion dollars, most of which is paid for by the Republic of Korea. This includes motor pools, barracks, headquarters, housing, medical, educational, and recreational facilities for 24,000 troops.
"The 2nd Infantry Division stands ready to accomplish its mission to be ready to 'Fight Tonight' regardless of where it calls home," said Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal, 2nd Inf. Div. Commanding General. "The communities of Dongducheon, Yang-ju and Uijeongbu have been extremely supportive over the years, and we are committed to working hand-in-hand with leaders to ensure a smooth transition with minimal adverse effects on the local citizens."
The construction project underway at Camp Humphreys is the largest in the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Additionally, there are plans to improve the facilities at Rodriguez Range, which will allow for increased training capabilities.
By 2016, the Division will move into world-class facilities, allowing consolidation with ROK forces and increased interoperability; not only with the ROK, but also within U.S. Forces Korea.
Since being forward-stationed on the Korean peninsula since 1965, the 2nd Infantry Division has always served alongside its Allies. In July 2014, the ROK and the United States agreed to the establishment of a combined U.S.-ROK Division. According to the ROK Ministry of National Defense, the new Division is scheduled to stand up in the beginning of 2015 and will include a combined division staff, and a brigade from the Republic of Korea army. Decisions on troop numbers and the types of equipment involved will be based on the operational needs and the capabilities required to support the Combined Forces Command's Operational Plans.
"The Combined Division construct is itself historic. It will be the first of its kind at any time in the U.S. Army's history. U.S. and Korean Soldiers will literally operate under one flag with one unified effort," said Vandal.
ROK officials agree that the combined Division will help strengthen the Alliance and provide training opportunities to improve war-fighting skills and to increase interoperability between the ROK and U.S.
"The allies currently have their Combined Forces Command to ensure the strategic-level cooperation. But the new Division will provide opportunities to strengthen the allies' tactical-level wartime cooperation," said Maj. Gen. Wi Seung-ho, chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Division in charge of a new allied defense structure. "Through the preparations for the wartime Division, the allied troops would be able to achieve some synergic effect, strengthen interoperability and raise personnel with expertise in allied operations and other alliance-related issues."
In addition to furthering their partnership with the ROK military, the Division is also supporting the U.S. Army's rebalancing efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. This October, the fourth rotational battalion will begin their nine-month deployment to the Korea peninsula in support of the 2ID mission.
By using rotational forces, the Division is applying the lessons learned from 13 years of preparing and sending units to combat. Rotational Forces provide trained units and Soldiers from the Continental United States to improve the overall readiness posture. "Rotational units allow us to leverage regionally aligned forces that have trained to deploy to the Korean Theater of Operations and have conducted a certified training event at one of our Combat Training Centers," according to Vandal.
Each unit arrives in country fully trained and in the ready phase of the force generation process. Not only do the rotational tours of duty help Soldiers and units maintain readiness, they provide Soldiers with a broader global skill-set in support of the U.S. Army's strategic shift to the Pacific Theater.
This past July, 2ID welcomed the 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska. This was the second Attack Reconnaissance Squadron to serve as a rotational force supporting 2ID. The unit arrived ready to conduct operations with OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters. Within a few weeks of their arrival, they supported a combined training exercise with elements of the Republic of Korea Army and another rotational unit, the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
"The addition of rotational units to the Division makes these training opportunities paramount in developing Soldiers capable of working together not only with other U.S. units but their ROK Allies as well," said Vandal.
On July 1, both rotational units conducted a week-long gunnery exercise at the Multi-Purpose Range Complex, also known as Rodriguez Range, near Pocheon, South Korea. They didn't go at it alone though. The 4th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, a regular at The MPRC with their AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopters and an organic unit of the 2nd Inf. Div., also trained with the rotational duo.
"It's definitely a unique opportunity," said 1st Lt. Demetrios Kolitsos, 1st platoon leader with Company C, 1-12th Cav. Regt. and native of Youngtown, Ohio. "It's been a very good experience for us thus far. We've had a chance to work with other units out here that we don't have much experience with. Korea itself provides some very unique challenges, and we had an opportunity to use all of the different assets at our disposal to meet those challenges."
Another training exercise in July afforded the 1-12th Cav. Regt., from 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, an opportunity to train with not only organic 2nd Inf. Div. units, but the ROK Army as well.
The Republic of Korea's 101st Inf. Regt. 17th Inf. Div. worked alongside the 23rd Chemical Bn., 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, and 1st Bn., 12th Cavalry Regt. to conduct a combined Air Assault exercise at Camp Mobile near Dongducheon.
"It's an incredibly valuable experience to get so many Soldiers from the ROK Army and U.S. Army together to do such a complex operation," said Capt. Drew M. Mumford, commander of Co. B, 1-12 CAV. "Learning how their tactics work, how they understand the battlefield and how they maneuver will help us do combined operations in the future."
As we move closer to the goals of the U.S.-ROK Alliance and the U.S. Army concept, the Division will continue to conduct combined training exercises that incorporate elements of the ROK army and rotational units.
"For almost fifty years, the 2nd Infantry Division has successfully served as a forward-stationed Division on the Korean Peninsula. In order to continue this momentum, we must constantly seek ways to further improve our readiness and strengthen the historic alliance we share with the Republic of Korea," said Vandal.