By Mitch Meador, Fort Sill TribuneJuly 12, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla. (July 12, 2019) -- One day before the Fourth of July, the command team of Lt. Col. James Raines and Command Sgt. Maj. James Platt Jr. cased the colors of 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery (FA) in preparation for the unit's impending deployment to the Republic of Korea.
This will be the "Mission Ready" Battalion's second rotation to the Republic of Korea as part of an ongoing mission there, Raines noted.
Col. Steven Carpenter, commander of 75th FA Brigade, deemed it "an honor to stand in front of the 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery Regiment as they prepare to deploy in support of the last remaining permanently forward-stationed fighting force in the United States Army.
"On the Korean peninsula, these Soldiers will wield the American Army's all-weather, surface-to-surface destruction weapon of choice between 30 and 300 kilometers. And I'm confident that they will do their part to deter aggression, maintain peace on the Korean peninsula, and assure our allies and partners in northeast Asia and on the Pacific Rim.
"And if deterrence fails, these Soldiers will do their part to destroy the enemies of the United States in support of the U.S.-Korean alliance and our national interests.
"Parents, spouses, children, and loved ones in the audience, please accept my sincere gratitude for enduring the hardships that come with these separations and for your sacrifices. Thank you for supporting your Soldiers as they safeguard our nation. You represent what is best about our Army and our nation, and you are the true heroes here today," Carpenter said.
"When the United States deploys its Army, it is a reflection of our unwavering and deep commitment to peace, prosperity and our partners across the globe," he continued. "Every Soldier, (Department of the Army) civilian, community leader, family member, and volunteer has a role. I am grateful that all of you are doing your part."
Afterward, the 2-18th FA commander said the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) battalion will deploy to South Korea for the next nine months to replace its sister battalion that's been there for the past nine months, 3rd Battalion, 13th FA.
"We're going to provide rocket and missile fires in support of the 2ID (2nd Infantry Division) and USFK (United States Forces Korea)," Raines explained.
The battalion received its alert order many months ago, and approximately nine months ago it began preparations for deployment with a series of different training events, starting off with Operation Daring Warrior alongside Singaporean field artillery units.
"That afforded the unit the opportunity to work with some of our coalition partners and train for working with our coalition partners, those who don't necessarily speak English we have to coordinate our artillery assets through.
"Following that, the battalion, working with the brigade and III Corps, was able to conduct an (external evaluation) that allowed us to validate our qualifications to move forward and support USFK and 2ID," Raines said.
Constituted in 2017, 2-18th FA was flagged as the "Mission Ready" unit when it came to Fort Sill from Fort Hood, Texas, a short time later. It has a storied past with 2ID dating back to World War II, when 2-18th FA Soldiers became the first unit to fire rockets from the back of a truck, in support of 2ID.
"To go back and support them again in Korea is absolutely exciting for us and our history," the colonel said.
Its Soldiers live up to the "Mission Ready" name on a daily basis, he insists.
"(Our) Soldiers have trained exceptionally hard, and I'm very proud of what they've accomplished over the last few months, preparing them for deployment," said Raines.
Upon arrival in South Korea, 2-18th FA will do what's called a "relief in place" with 3-13th FA.
"3-13 FA, as well as 210 FA Brigade, have provided a phenomenal support base for us, in letting us understand the operating environment that we're going to come into, the equipment that we'll receive from them, and the mission that we'll assume. They started that through a series of different dialogs and discussions, providing us with paperwork and then finally meeting up with them to do our pre-deployment site survey. Once we conducted that, we were able to go to Korea, actually see them conduct their mission, have briefings from their battalion commander and then the brigade commander, as well as getting guidance from the new 2ID commander.
"So that allowed us to get ready for assumption of the mission. As we move the entire unit forward, (the advance party's) already in place and has begun signing for equipment, and they're there with the battery commanders now and their supply sergeants. The entire unit will move forward shortly in order to assume the mission, and they'll transition by 3-13 providing a left- and a right-seat ride. They will provide us better understanding of our mission requirements and build ready teams to assume the mission."
Raines said family members are very important because the battalion has such a young force going. Many of the Soldiers and their families have never experienced a deployment before.
"So prior to deployment we've tried to have consistent dialog with family members to ensure that they understood where their Soldier was going, what they were going to be doing and understand some of the agencies here on Fort Sill. Just last month we were able to conduct a town hall where we did a deployment fair. They brought in 15 or more agencies from across Fort Sill to be able to talk to our family members (and) tell them what was available to them in order to provide better support.
"And we instated a rear detachment that is commanded by Capt. Cole Holland, and he has a senior enlisted adviser who's going to help maintain contact with all of our Soldiers preparing to deploy or preparing to return home, while also being able to dialog with our Family Readiness Groups and being able to coordinate activities with them," he said.