The ability to rapidly project combat power to any location on the globe and execute large-scale combat operations (LSCO) has been one of the distinct advantages of the U.S. Army throughout history. Joint Publication 3-0 (JP 3-0, US DOD), Joint Operations, defines force projection as “The ability to project the military instrument of national power from the continental United States or another theater, in response to requirements for military operations. Force projection operations extend from mobilization and deployment of forces to redeployment to the continental United States or home theater.” This force projection capability is a complex and perishable skill that we as an institution must maintain to ensure that we have a ready force.
Large-scale deployment exercises like DefenderPacific, executed in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDO-PACOM) area of responsibility (AOR), replicate this task’s scope, scale, and requirements. It is important to understand that force projection is not just the ability of an individual unit (or units) to mobilize and deploy from point A to point B, but the full spectrum of systems, assets, and organizations that synchronize to facilitate operational success. With future threats being unknown in LSCO, the ability to mission command a division-size element as it mobilizes, deploys, and executes combat operations in the USINDOPACOM AOR constitutes a clear training priority.
When asked about the importance of the 6th Ordnance Battalion’s (6th OD BN) mission, Mark Featherston, 6th OD BN chief of surveillance, said, ‘Fight Tonight’ is the mantra that drives all Eighth Army actions, and 6th OD BN takes it to heart. To that end, the (unit) provides a full litany of services for the ammunition and explosives stored in the ROK. Ultimately, Soldiers need viable ammunition to complete their missions, and 6th OD BN’s whole purpose is to ensure they have it.”
The Korean peninsula is an area of operations where U.S. force projection is crucial to maintaining lethality and American interests in the region. With two near-peer militaries in close proximity, the readiness of the Eighth Army, 2nd Infantry Division, and the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command is paramount. A key part of this readiness is the ability to support force projection into the Republic of Korea (ROK) AOR. The decisive element for Class V operations within the Korean theater of operations is the 6th OD BN.
The three critical areas for enabling Class V force projection capabilities in the Korean AOR are the U.S. Korean partnership; Army prepositioned stocks (APS) draw training, maintenance, and retrograde activities.
The Battalion’s Mission and Partnership in Korea
The 6th OD BN performs Class V operations (issues, turn-ins, inspections, retrograde, and storage) for all U.S. titled ammunition supporting Eighth Army units. This formation is unique in that it is the only ammunition-specific battalion in the Army. It is a subordinate unit of 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command (ESC) and Material Support Command Korea (MSC-K). The 6th OD BN also provides direct support to Counter Fire Task Force, Theater Ballistic Missile Defense, brigade set combat load draw, combined/joint reception, staging and onward movement, and combined Joint Task Force 8 mission sets.
The 6th OD BN works closely with the ROK Ammunition Support Command to support the Eighth Army ammunition mission. ROK Army (ROKA) installations store all U.S. Class V stocks and the 6th OD BN workforce consists of 210 Korean national (KN) workers and Korean service corpsmen that complement the unit modification table of organization and equipment. The host nation support dynamic is critical to the sustainment enterprise as it allows access to ROK sustainment assets, personnel, and critical infrastructure to support the ammunition mission requirements in theater.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Darius Nabaa, the BN ammunition warrant officer, said “Due to the importance of 6th OD BN’s Class V mission on the peninsula, it is vital that Soldiers and KNs maintain a tight-knit working group. By doing this, we ensure ROKA is constantly synced in with 6th OD BN’s Class V operations to maintain timely issues, turn-ins, receipts, shipments, inspections, storage, and retrograde while sustaining Eighth Army’s ‘Fight Tonight’ combat readiness.”
Dispersed throughout the Korean peninsula are the battalion’s three subordinate ordnance companies. The 17th Ordnance Company (OD CO), located on Camp Kwangsari, manages multiple ammunition supply points with civilian quality assurance specialist, ammunition surveillance (QASAS) personnel and KN ammunition inspectors. The 52nd OD CO located on Camp Humphreys manages ammunition depots (ADs) with QASAS personnel, and KN ammunition inspectors. The 84th OD CO, located on Camp Carroll, also manages ADs as well as operations conducted at Chinhae Pier with QASAS personnel, and KN ammunition inspectors.
Force Projection Training and Lines of Effort
Critical to force projection in the region is the APS IV. APS is a cache of equipment and ammunition ready for any warfighter to fall in on in order to enable the “Fight Tonight.” The prepositioned stocks hold the stored combat loads that will outfit a unit designated to support the Korean peninsula during contingency operations on a prepare-to-deploy status. U.S. Forces Korea builds proficiency at rapid force projection through receiving deploying personnel, supporting prepositioned stocks issued to deployed units, and supporting the employment of those armaments by a brigade combat team.
Army units conduct training rotations to Korea to meet these objectives. This is a joint exercise with the 2nd Infantry Division and the designated rotational unit known as Operation Warrior Raider Strike. 6th OD BN serves as the primary manager of the U.S. Class V stocks for 19th ESC. The training event is a useful real-world training opportunity because it replicates the reception, staging, onward movement, and integration actions that would be conducted during contingency operations. The battalion must rapidly provide munitions to support the customer units as they build combat power in the south and prepare for onward movement north in response to any demonstrated hostilities by an adversary.
The 6th OD BN has a unique mission command role that is essential to executing the theater Class V mission during contingency operations. The battalion is the connecting joint for Korean service corps companies and the prepare-to-deploy tasked modular ammunition companies assigned to the battalion during wartime operations. In a matter of weeks, the formation will more than triple in size as it assumes responsibility for the distribution of munitions from the southern tip of the peninsula to the ADs in the south and central regions and the ammunition supply points (ASPs) in the north.
The battalion supports Class V management from the southernmost port to the northernmost ASPs via supply point distribution. The 84th OD CO operates the theater receiving pier with ROK ASC soldiers and manages the transportation of inbound stocks forward to ammunition depots utilizing host nation rail assets. The 52nd OD CO receives the munitions at strategically dispersed ammunition depots across the peninsula. At these locations, bulk stocks are broken down, stored, and requested munitions are moved to the northern ASPs operated by 17th OD CO. The theater Class V enterprise structure fully supports the receipt of an inbound force and can sustain support to provide prolonged endurance to the maneuver elements.
Maintenance and Retrograde
The munitions aspect of force projection is not just providing combat loads to incoming units. The ammunition maintenance and retrograde operations are two critical shaping efforts that help ensure that the warfighter has instant access to serviceable and ready munitions. The 6th OD BN higher headquarters, MSC-K, understands that this aspect of theater readiness is paramount to lethality and rapid force projection.
Maintenance of prepositioned stocks is important to supporting theater readiness and force projection. The three subordinate ordnance companies conduct the prioritization, scheduling, and execution of all ammunition surveillance programs. This includes ensuring that the ammunition combat load inspections and technical assistance visits are scheduled and completed as required. The visits and inspections play a large part in ensuring the serviceability and overall health of the stocks are adequate to support warfighter lethality during LSCO. This is just one of the many requirements that go into U.S. force projection support. Surveillance personnel conduct risk decision inspections on the various munitions storage locations to maintain personnel safety and assess the risk, collateral fallout, and mitigations for any munitions related incident.
The 6th OD BN also conducts multiple retrogrades of expiring munitions each year to Japan and the U.S. for refurbishment or demilitarization. This wide berthing logistical effort leverages the host nation, ROKA, capabilities and personnel, commercial seaports and vessels, Japanese partner coordination, and transportation oversight and support by Surface Deployment Distribution Command.
At the conclusion of training exercises Defender Pacific and Warrior Raider Strike, the USINDOPACOM force will be better prepared to support force projection in the AOR. With this increased proficiency, the Army is one step closer to maintaining our military position on the globe.
Capt. Mike E. Houston is currently serving as the deputy support operations officer for the 6th Ordnance Battalion, Material Support Command Korea, 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command located at Camp Carroll, Korea. He is a graduate of Louisiana Tech University with a B.A. in psychology.
Mark S. Lawrence is currently employed with the Department of the Army as a quality assurance specialist of ammunition surveillance (QASAS). Since July 2015 he has been assigned to Camp Carroll, Republic of Korea, first as a QASAS with the 84th Ordnance Company then as the deputy chief of surveillance for the 6th Ordnance Battalion. He holds an associates degree from the Community College of the Air Force in Munitions Systems Technology.
This article was published in the July-Sept 2021 issue of Army Sustainment.