SEOUL, South Korea -- In the largest exercise of its kind in more than a decade, U.S. and South Korea Soldiers worked together, April 8, in a river crossing exercise involving both air and beach assaults, sectional pontoon bridges, helicopters, tanks, boats and many others, to cross the Imjin River.
Fort Hood, Texas-based Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment "Stallions," 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division; executed the river crossing exercise with Soldiers of the Fort Hood-based 74th Multi-Role Bridging Company "River Rats," 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade; and Soldiers of the Fort Drum, New York-based 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade; and the Republic of Korea Army's 6th Engineer Brigade to secure the area, emplace the floating bridge and maneuver a large element of tactical vehicles across.
The Imjin River, the seventh-largest river in Korea, flows from North Korea into South Korea across the Demilitarized Zone, eventually joining the Han River south of Seoul. Nicknamed the "River of the Dead," it was the site of a number of battles during the Korean War and is still a defining terrain feature in the current conflict between the two countries. Movement of military vehicles and personnel across the river is a training requirement set forth by the 2nd Infantry Division, and the 'Stallions' were selected to execute it.
"It was a complex mission with a lot of moving parts," said 1st Lt. Daniel Desmond, platoon leader, Company B, 2nd attalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, "I've never done this kind of training before, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect."
U.S. and South Korean engineer units were responsible for the construction of a temporary floating bridge capable of supporting an M1A2 Abrams Tank, which weighs approximately 62 metric tons, one of the heaviest main battle tanks in service. More than 20 bridge sections, weighing 12,000 pounds each, were brought in by CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift transport helicopters and modified bridge transporter trucks. Pieces were then moved into place by bridge erection boats and joined together to create the bridge span.
Cpl. Kangsan Kim, River Crossing Company, 6th Engineer Brigade, 6th Army of the Republic of Korea, was one of several engineers tasked with getting the float bridge to span the entire width of the Imjin River.
"I was working with a "T" wrench, which is used to connect and lock in place the different sections of the bridge," said Kim.
After 45 minutes of intense work, the float bridge was complete. This allowed 11 M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles and four Abrams tanks to begin their journey across the river, approximately 30 meters deep in the center.
Sgt. Joshua Smith Sr., dismounted infantry team leader, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, who watched out of the troop door of the Bradley as his team crossed the span, said the experience was very unique.
"The training was awesome," said Smith. "It was my first time doing something like this and you never know if it'll be your last chance. The bridge allowed us to meet and engage the 'enemy' on the far side of the river," said Smith.
U.S. Soldiers worked hand-in-hand with Republic of Korea Army forces to complete the objective.
"The Korean Army was instrumental in the success of this mission," said Desmond. "The task was completed to standard and the ROKA Soldiers were very professional and efficient, even with a language barrier between us. When you've got two nations working together with this many moving pieces, it's a great thing to see the mission being a complete success."