CAMP CARROLL, South Korea - As the spring weather melts away the winter snow, U.S. forces around South Korea gear up and execute annual spring-time training.
With the coming of the warm weather, the 501st Sustainment Brigade began participating in what is one of the largest joint-military exercises executed in the Korean theater of operations, Exercise Foal Eagle 2011.
The purpose of Exercise Foal Eagle is to enhance South Korea and the U.S.'s ability to defend against threats, protect the region, and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula. The mission of the 501st SBDE within this purpose is to provide theater sustainment support to incoming and other ground units throughout the peninsula and to execute noncombatant evacuation operation procedures.
On Feb. 28, the 551st Inland Cargo Transfer Company, a unit within the 501st SBDE, kicked off its portion of the FE '11 exercise by receiving more than 200 Soldiers at Daegu International Airport from the 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Irwin, Calif., and the Washington Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion,146th Field Artillery, which is headquartered in Olympia, Wash. The 551st ensured the visiting unit's equipment and Soldiers were properly received and prepared from movement to training locations in Korea.
A few days later 551st ICTC Soldiers helped the two units receive vehicles which were prepositioned at Camp Carroll's Area Prepositioned Stock 4 yard and rail load those vehicles onto trains that will meet the units at their final destination near a training site further north.
Pfc. Luis Delgado, a 551st ICTC truck driver, said this exercise marked his third time doing rail-load operations.
"I feel it is going pretty smoothly and that we are learning a lot," said Luis as he tightened down a chain that holds the vehicle to the rail car. "We are getting used to the job and the more we do it, the more experience we get and the better we get."
Pfc. Nathaniel Boyd, another truck driver with the 551st ICTC, offered his feelings on the rail loading.
Boyd said with a smile, "It feels great helping out fellow Soldiers get their equipment so they can train."
The 551st ICTC continued training with its Korean partner unit in Busan: the 2nd Battalion, 125th Infantry Regiment of the South Korean army.
"It's important to have relationships like we (551st ICTC) do," said Capt. Aaron Becker, the 551st ICTC company commander. "The Koreans have the land to train on and the experience training here. They are vital to the success of the operations we conduct together."
Becker's unit conducted training in several areas while with the 2nd Bn., 125th Inf. Regt., including weapons familiarization, where Soldiers of both armies shared hands-on information about each other's weapons systems.
In other areas, Champion Brigade Soldiers trained on noncombatant evacuations at Camp Walker, located in Daegu.
The priority of the 501st STB, during contingency situations and on order from the U.S. Embassy-Seoul, is to make sure all family members of U.S. service members and noncombatant U.S. citizens are evacuated safely and quickly from Korea.
Staff Sgt. Dana McCall, a noncommissioned officer with the 501st STB, would be the senior NCO in charge of the Camp Walker Evacuation Control Center if such as event were to happen.
McCall said she feels operations have been going well. "People are cooperating more than I expected," said McCall. "It's a rough process and a lot of unknowns will appear during it, but all we can do is deal with them as they come along."
McCall said if she was a family member back home waiting for loved ones, she would feel confident knowing her family members would be card from by the 501st STB.
Pfc. Shawn Collier, a Soldier with the 501st STB, played the role of a civilian evacuee. "I feel the NEO representatives are doing their jobs efficiently and that it is good training overall," said Collier. "I am fully confident in the 501st STB and that they are mission capable."
Collier said he is confident the 501st STB could take care of anyone and everyone in all possible situations.
Sgt. Edgar Flores, an NCO from the 501st STB who served as the NEO site security manager during the exercise, said if they were truly evacuating people, he would tell families back home and the Soldiers on the Korean peninsula not to worry.
"I would tell them that we won't stop working until we get their families out of here safely," Flores said.
Exercise Foal Eagle runs from March 1 to April 30 throughout South Korea. Approximately 10,500 U.S. forces support the Foal Eagle exercise. A separate simultaneous exercise called Key Resolve is running until March 10.