By Sgt. Brandon A. Bednarek (2d ID)March 26, 2015
CAMP MOBILE, South Korea -- There may be some truth to the proverbial saying: "time heals all wounds"; but the scars of history are an enduring reminder to prepare for the future.
Scarred by a war and ongoing military tensions, South Korea went from a land of sorrow to a flourishing global powerhouse, in part, through the continued preparations and deterrence found in the Republic of Korea and U.S. alliance.
Recently, Soldiers from the 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and their ROK counterparts participated in the annual Key Resolve exercise March 2--12 at Camp Mobile, South Korea to improve the interoperability and deterrence efforts of U.S. and ROK militaries.
"Key Resolve is one of the most important exercises we do," said Col. Michael J. Lawson, commander of 210th Field Artillery Brigade. "It involves every level of forces; joint forces and combined forces that operate here in Korea."
The two-week command post exercise, which is conducted yearly through coordination at the theater level by United States Forces Korea and Korea's Ministry of Defense, is based on computer-assisted simulations that test units' abilities to work seamlessly alongside alliance forces within a shared battle space.
Although simulations are based on realistic scenarios and threats, the exercise does not reflect any current real-world situations or events. It serves instead as a defense-oriented demonstration of a strong U.S. and ROK alliance committed to the safety and security of the Korean people.
"Key Resolve has two big purposes," said Maj. Jeremy F. Linney, the brigade's operations officer. "The first is to ensure our readiness to deter North Korean aggression and defend against an attack. The second purpose is working on our interoperability within the alliance."
For this particular exercise, the brigade's main function was aiding forces with the Third Republic of Korea Army through employment of counter-fire missions. Support from the unit's Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and other field artillery assets provided the necessary freedom of movement for Korean ground forces.
Similar maneuvering freedoms were also offered to alliance air assets by eliminating enemy air defense capabilities.
"Counter-fire missions are very important, not only to the people who receive incoming fires, but it's important to get [enemy weapon systems] out of the fight," said Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Stites, senior operations noncommissioned officer.
"We have the ability to support maneuver by clearing a lot of land," continued Stites, a native of Howell, Michigan. "We also have the ability to reach out and touch targets that are further away than the frontline traces."
The brigade's MLRS battalions were tasked with executing a majority of the exercise's counter-fire missions from respective command nodes at Camp Casey. Their decentralized positions allowed the brigade to test battalions' ability to carry out missions while maintaining a high level of communication with the brigade's tactical operations center.
"Key Resolve offers us an opportunity to practice our mission command system on how we organize and operate battalion headquarters and how we interact with both our higher headquarters and subordinate units," said Lt. Col. Mark Brock, commander of 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. "It's an opportunity for us to make the linkage with our higher headquarters both with planning as well as our operations through a wide variety of means."
"It's an opportunity to demonstrate to larger organizations what our capabilities are, what our strengths are, and what we bring to one of the strongest alliances in the world," added Brock.
Success of the exercise, however, did not rest solely on the battalion or brigade's skillful application of lethality. In fact, the mission would not have been possible without the combined effort among its non-lethal enablers, said Linney.
"As a field artillery brigade, the fires and artillerymen tend to get the spotlight," said Linney, a Ticonderoga, New York native. "But in reality, none of this works without the sustainment side and without protection."
"We can plan all the artillery missions we want, but if logisticians can't get us the fuel, food, and ammunition in timely manner and through difficult terrains and enemy actions, none of it works," he continued. "It's all those other supporting tasks that enable us to test that interoperability through the exercise."
Key Resolve also provided tertiary training opportunities for the unit's Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, whose leadership used the exercise as a vehicle to train Soldiers on a variety of tactical procedures and techniques.
Unlike previous command-post exercises, the brigade opted to conduct operations from an abandoned structure located away from their fixed headquarters at Camp Casey. This allowed Soldiers to practice their ability to rapidly establish a command post anywhere using only in-place resources, according to Linney.
An access control point with armed troops was also established at the entrance of the brigade's operations center to ensure the area was secured from unauthorized entry.
"Setting up the control point gives all Soldiers the general idea about security and the importance of security," said 1st Sgt. Willie Vines, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. "It is important because it limits the actual access to individuals who are not authorized to come inside that area."
Having served as commander for the brigade's past two Key Resolve exercises, Lawson admitted the unit has dramatically improved its dynamic use of assets in support of a larger number of higher headquarters at the operational level.
"Our employment of forces has increased substantially," said Lawson. "The result is that we are better at handling the complexity of operations that we weren't able to address last year."
The interoperability between U.S. and ROK forces during the exercise generates a dominant combat multiplier that strengthens overall effectiveness of the alliance, said Lawson.
"The Koreans have some capabilities we don't have and we have some capabilities they don't have," Lawson continued. "We layer those on top of each other and that gives us a very robust coalition which makes it very hard to defeat us."
"This exercise shows us the path to the future," said Linney. "It gives us a path for combined training and how we can leverage each others' strengths to build a better alliance."