OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea -- "This is only a test." One by one the words broadcasted from the Big Voice echoed in the hills surrounding Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, as security forces personnel checked their public address equipment. Amid that sound, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen of Allied nations entered the Korean Air and Space Operations Center to begin the 2017 Ulchi Freedom Guardian, often called UFG, exercise.
Among the rows and columns of hats and phones from participants of nations present inside the secure facility were the patrol caps of Sea Dragon warriors--Soldiers of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command. The Sea Dragons' purpose on the Korean peninsula upon arrival is to establish effective command and control of integrated air and missile defense resources that defend identified critical assets against air and missile threats.
Command Sgt. Maj. John Foley, the command sergeant major of the 94th AAMDC, stressed the importance of Soldiers knowing their jobs and their roles in the missile defense fight. Whether missile defenders, signal Soldiers, intelligence professionals or sustainers, it is critical that each person knows how to do his or her job, and how to advise the commander from the standpoint of his or her functional area.
"We have common objectives," said Foley referring to the American and Korean partners. He remarked that mutual understanding of the culture and experience of multilateral counterparts was "most important" to facilitate accomplishment of shared goals.
Fortunately for the Sea Dragon team, U.S. Army Capt. Hana Lee, the assistant chief of war plans (current) with the 94th AAMDC provided a critical linguistic bridge between the Americans and Koreans who sat side by side in the Combined Air and Missile Defense Operations Coordination Center (CAMDOCC).
"My Korean language skills definitely helped me do well as a battle captain during UFG 17," said Lee." The ability to speaking to our Republic of Korea [ROK] counterparts in their native language also allowed us to talk about things outside of the military, like our families and cultures, which enhanced camaraderie in the CAMDOCC."
A Department of Defense news release described UFG as a "computer simulated defensive exercise designed to enhance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula." "Approximately 17,500 total U.S. service members" participated in the 10-day training event according to the release.
The rigor and scope of UFG allowed Brig. Gen. Sean Gainey, the commanding general of the 94th AAMDC to conduct the full range of his responsibilities as an AAMDC commander in a way that is unique compared to other exercises. Gainey highlighted the ability to apply joint and combined decision-making processes "[as if it were] a rehearsal if we had to do something real world while building relationships with joint and combined partners."
The training exercise also allowed the unit to continue their real world operations in Hawaii and elsewhere demonstrated the 94th AAMDC's ability to operate in multiple locations simultaneously.
An essential component of the Sea Dragons' success was the forward integration of National Guard Soldiers from the 263rd AAMDC, headquartered at Anderson, South Carolina. Gainey hopes to build on the active-reserve component synergy and commendable performance demonstrated during UFG in future exercises to provide military leadership with viable military options in the Pacific theater area of operation.