SEONGJU, South Korea - From the high desert of El Paso, Texas to the rolling hills of Seongju, South Korea, Delta Battery, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment conducted a reflagging ceremony Oct. 19 to signify their realignment with 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade from the 11th ADA Brigade.
D-2 deployed to the Republic of Korea from Fort Bliss, Texas April 2017 as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense Global Response Force amidst growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
After achieving initial operating capability and setting the conditions for follow on operations, Alpha Battery, 4th ADA Regiment, also out of Fort Bliss, Texas assumed the THAAD mission. The transfer of authority allowed D-2 to redeploy stateside to prepare for the unit's return to South Korea on permanent change of station orders.
"Today marks a significant day for the air defense community, the U.S. Army, and the proud and peaceful nation of the Republic of Korea," said Col. Rick Wright, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade commander. "It's another milestone in our long history, as we continue to proudly serve the citizens of the Republic of Korea and the United States."
As the guest speaker, Wright praised all those that contributed to bringing the most advanced air defense artillery weapon system to the Korean Peninsula. While also acknowledging their ability to fight tonight and fight together by adding THAAD to the layered air defense structure.
"Every phase of the operation has been an absolute team effort," said Maj. Benny Lee, 35th ADA Brigade executive officer. "From the moment the system rolled off the plane, it has been a collective effort with ROK and U.S. Soldiers and Airmen working side by side in defense of the Korean Peninsula."
The team approach transcended both the planning and emplacement stages, as the ROK and U.S. moved additional units to Seongju to support daily operations. The newly formed collection promptly adopted a new moniker to reflect their mission, and like that, Combined Task Force Defender was born.
The arrival of the THAAD system is also changing the narrative for political and military leaders when discussing ballistic missile defense to the international community. The ROK-U.S. alliance are now better resourced to respond to a tactical ballistic missile threat.
"What Combined Task Force Defender does on a daily basis matters to our alliance," said Wright. "It matters to the people of South Korea, the United States, and in fact, to the entire Pacific region."
One of the more notable stories from the original formation of D-2 that emplaced the weapon system in April is that some of the Soldiers returned to Fort Bliss, Texas with the Army's new 'R' device on their personal achievement award for employing THAAD in a remote location.
"It has been exciting and rewarding to be a part of this team," said Capt. Dwayne Solomon, D-2 commander. "I'm absolutely humbled to be part of a group that is literally writing history."
The 35th ADA Brigade now employs the full complement of the U.S. Army's ADA capabilities in the Republic of Korea, consisting of Avenger, Patriot and THAAD.