CAMP HOVEY - Soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division on a rotational tour in Korea got a welcome chance to join their South Korean army counterparts earlier this month to practice the combat methods both forces would use to support the other in wartime.
The troops worked side-by-side in mounting a series of air-and-ground assaults on a mock objective. The training ran July 30 through Aug. 4 at Nightmare Range, a South Korean training range near Pocheon.
The U.S. troops were from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, part of the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team. The brigade, based at Fort Hood, Texas, is on a nine-month rotational tour with the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division.
Their counterparts were from the South Korean army's 137th Mechanized Battalion, 16th Mechanized Brigade, 8th Infantry Division. It included South Korean mechanized infantry, aviation, engineer and mortar elements. The South Korean battalion's commander, Lt. Col. Kim Seung-kon, led the training.
"It was his battalion that came up with the training schedule, with the training plan, so we fell in and went along just like we were one of his companies," said Capt. Steven W. Northrop, Company B's commanding officer.
"This is the first time that a U.S. Army company from the Combined Division was led by a Republic of Korea army unit," Northrop said.
In the main training event, the troops practiced a series of maneuvers that paired a South Korean company with a U.S. platoon of M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. The aim was to work together through the full range of steps involved in carrying out an attack using ground troops supported by aircraft.
South Korean troops maneuvered their armored vehicles across the battlefield, called in live 81 mm and 4.2 inch mortar support, fired other weapons, called in a South Korean Cobra helicopter that fired live ammunition, launched smoke grenades to hinder the enemy's view, and set down a bridge across a mock anti-tank ditch, allowing the American Bradleys to roll across toward the objective.
"We did all the steps of the combined arms company maneuver," said Northrop. "They conducted the breach," he said of the South Korean force that bridged the obstacle, "and then we exploited it."
The combined arms assault drill was done on three separate occasions over a period of six days, with a different company and platoon rotating through each time, Northrop said.
Soldiers of both forces welcomed the chance to train together and better understand the other's battlefield capabilities.
"It's really awesome for me to conduct a combined arms exercise with U.S. forces," said Kim, the South Korean battalion commander. "Because, during war we should be able to fight together. During peacetime, we need to familiarize with each other and train together so that we can fight."
"We were working side by side with our Korean allies," said Northrop, "so every opportunity we had to pair a U.S. Soldier with a Korean Soldier, we did every step of the way. We put our forward observer teams with our fires officer, with their forward observer. That was when they were firing their live mortar rounds."
"We've gotten to work with the Korean forward observers, and talk about how they do fires and forward observing, versus how we do fires and forward observing," said Staff Sgt. Ty Thomson, a fire support noncommissioned officer with Company B.
The troops also got to tell their counterparts about how they evacuate wounded from the battlefield, and numerous other combat methods, Northrop said.
"So like during our practice rehearsals, Soldiers would share techniques together," said Northrop.
"They would share capabilities. We even had one full day where we showed our different vehicle platforms. But even at night, Soldiers would get together and do different drills. Basic first aid training. They played basketball together. They showed each other their weapon systems. So at the Soldier level, there was a lot of interaction."
The U.S. Soldiers were struck by how well the two forces could operate together, despite differences in equipment.
"Our interoperability, as we discovered from being here, is better than we first anticipated," said Capt. Gary Bostic, 2nd Battalion's assistant operations officer. "We are capable of towing their vehicles, using their bullets and sustaining ourselves at a greater capacity than we first thought."
In all, said Northrop, the six days were of "tremendous value" to his Soldiers, who are aware that a common slogan of the U.S. military in Korea is "Ready to Fight Tonight," sometimes shortened to "Fight Tonight."
"It gave them a sense of understanding, a sense of being here with our Korean allies," Northrup said. "We were side-by-side with a sister unit. We don't say 'Fight Tonight!' We do 'Fight Tonight!'"