By Sgt. Christopher DennisJuly 26, 2016
The thundering sound of 155mm artillery shells at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex were the first sounds that Korea had heard from Ironhorse since the last time the unit was here during the Korean War.
In February, Fort Hood, Texas-based Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team "Ironhorse," 1st Cavalry Division, arrived in South Korea to begin their nine-month rotation to deter North Korean aggression.
Ironhorse Soldiers replaced the Soldiers of the 2nd ABCT "Black Jack," 1st Cavalry Division, who deployed to Korea from June 2015 to February 2016.
Soldiers from 1st Battalion "Dragon," 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st ABCT, added to their history by firing the first rounds in Korea May 10 since the unit was last here during the Korean War.
Crews manning M109A6 Paladins fired 155 mm rounds to certify crews and fire direction control teams. But the gunnery was about more than certifications.
"It helps Soldiers connect with the history of the unit and all those who went before them," said Lt. Col. Douglas Hayes, commander, 1st Battalion, 82nd FA. "It's also special when you have retired Col. Jong-hwan Lee visit and talk to troops and tell all of his stories while he was a Korean Augmentee with the 82nd Field Artillery during the War."
Ironhorse has also been training and working with other US Army and Republic of Korea units on the peninsula.
Training events, such as the one held April 6 - 8, when Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion "Stallions," 8th Cavalry Regiment, executed a 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.
As Soldiers from the 1st ABCT conducted joint training, they have also have been training themselves on environments specific to the Korean Peninsula.
Tankers from 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st ABCT, took time during their gunnery training, held at the end of March, to rehearse movement and maneuvers in an urban environment, setting up traffic control points and reacting to sniper fire and improvised explosive devices at Rodriguez range.
"A lot of the senior noncommissioned officers have taken tanks through Iraq, Afghanistan and other places," said Capt. Daniel Davison, commander, Company C, 2nd Bn., 5th Cav. Reg. "But the younger guys have never seen this type of training before."
In addition to units training, individual Soldiers from Ironhorse brigade trained and helped train Republic of Korea Soldiers at Camp Casey March 23, for the "Sandhurst" Competition at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
"The training we put them through today should have given them a little taste of what they should expect in the Sandhurst competition," said Capt. James Teskey, the officer in charge of the training. "Since this is a squad-based movement and skills competition, we tried to mirror that here with a half-a-dozen different stations, plus two or three miles in-between them."
Besides helping South Korean Soldiers, Teskey, a plans officer in the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st ABCT, and 1st Lt. Nicholas Kiser, a platoon leader from Company A, 2nd Bn., 5th Cav. Reg., teamed up to represent the Ironhorse brigade in this year's "Best Ranger Competition," and ended up placing 6th in the grueling, 60-hour buddy team competition that was held from April 15 to 17 at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Not all of the things that the brigade did during the first half of the rotation were devoted to training.
Ironhorse Soldiers cooperated with Soldiers from the 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Dongducheon officials and community members for two projects March 29 and April 5 to clean up the Sincheon River that runs through the town of nearly 100,000 people near Camp Casey, and to plant trees on the nearby AhnHeung-Dong Mountain for Arbor Day.
"I believe Dongducheon is the only place in South Korea where U.S. Soldiers and Korean citizens work shoulder-to-shoulder to protect nature and the city they live in," said Dongducheon Mayor Sechang Oh.
Ironhorse Soldiers also took time in April to focus on serious matters concerning today's Army.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey met with Soldiers of the 91st Engineer Battalion, 1st ABCT, April 6 about the importance of preventing sexual harassment and assaults, and the detrimental effects that those crimes have on force readiness, at the "360 Training Facility," Building 3754-A, at Camp Hovey.
"It's important that we sit down and talk about these things," said Dailey "It's something we can easily combat and get back to the business of what we're about."
In May, the Ironhorse brigade hosted the Expert Infantryman Badge training and testing for all US infantry on the peninsula and gave ROK Army Soldiers, including four female Soldiers, a chance to try and earn a certificate of achievement to honor their attempt at the EIB - currently, South Korean Soldiers are not authorized to wear the U.S badge.
For 12 days, 627 Soldiers from all over the Korean Peninsula trained for the grueling five-day Expert Infantryman Badge testing that started May 22 and ended in May 26 at Schoonover Bowl at Camp Casey, South Korea.
The EIB is a prized and respected badge for Infantrymen through out the US Army.
Of the 627 Soldiers who started the EIB testing, only 131 finished and earned the honor of wearing the Expert Infantryman Badge. And of those, 29 distinguished themselves as "True Blue" Infantryman by successfully completing every event without retest and receiving first time "go's" on every evaluation - 18 U.S. and 11 South Korean Soldiers.
Gen. Vincent Brooks, commanding general, U.S. Forces Korea, personally pinned those recognized as True Blue Infantry during the closing ceremony.
"Well done by each and every one of you earning this coveted and very distinguished badge," said Brooks, who earned the EIB as a captain. "I am especially impressed by the number of True Blue Infantrymen. To this day, the EIB remains one of my most proud accomplishments in my 40-year career."
The Ironhorse brigade will return from its mission in Korea better trained, more capable warfighters ready to join the rest of 1st Cav Div at Fort Hood, said Col. John DiGiambattista, commander, 1st ABCT.
"Our experience here has been more than simply deterring North Korean aggression," said DiGiambattista. "As the second rotational brigade we've developed more experience and proficiency in our warfighting skills, whether that's through conducting counter-weapons of mass destruction training, training with our Korean partners or conducting security missions for the counterfire task force, in all of these opportunities our Soldiers have risen to the occasion."
Ironhorse Soldiers have become more physically fit, more tactically and technically capable and better prepared to serve their nation, either as Soldiers or in civilian life, said DiGiambattista.
"Ultimately, being here in Korea we've contributed to something bigger than ourselves," said DiGiambattista. "We've been part of the U.N. mission that deters North Korean aggression; we've made friendships with our South Korean army friends; and we've learned about new cultures and traveled to places that some of us only dream about."