By Mr Christopher I Bush (20th Support Command)December 14, 2011
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Ten Republic of South Korea Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Defense Command soldiers converged on Aberdeen Proving Ground's Edgewood Area for an open exchange ideas and expertise with their American counterparts during a visit to the 20th Support Command (CBRNE) headquarters Dec. 3 -- 10.
During their weeklong visit, the South Koreans, led by their commander Brig. Gen. Charsub Kim, engaged in multiple discussions with 20th Spt. Cmd. (CBRNE) Soldiers and civilians about their ongoing tactical relationship in various exercises throughout the year. The South Korean soldiers also observed a capabilities exercise in APG's Warrior Training Center where they inquired about equipment and procedures their American counterparts use to successfully accomplish various CBRNE missions.
Throughout the CAPEX, Kim peppered -- mostly with the help of a U.S. Army Korean translator, but often in English -- the CBRNE Soldiers with probing questions about their jobs, training, and equipment. Kim followed up most of his incisive line of questioning with compliments about the "excellent" briefings from the Soldiers.
The open dialog between the two allied armies -- particularly in a field as complex and diverse as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense -- is an extremely useful tool to ensure future training and operations are carried out seamlessly, according to the 20th Spt. Cmd. (CBRNE) commanding general.
"This visit afforded us the opportunity to both open our doors and welcome our Korean colleagues to our home here at APG, and we also had a chance to share experiences and gain some key insights from one another," Brig. Gen. Leslie Smith said. "These types of exchanges are beneficial in continuing to build on what is already a great partnership between the 20th Support Command (CBRNE) and our Korean counterparts."
The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency also opened its doors to the Korean guests during a guided tour and equipment demonstration at the Chemical Demilitarization Training Facility.
"During this visit to the 20th, I was able to see their equipment and their operations," said Capt. Kyu Hak Oh, a defense material research officer. "I believe we can use the 20th as an example in the future."
One of the activities the Americans and Koreans worked on during the visit was a "table top exercise" that ran through various scenarios the two organizations may face in future missions. Although a slight language barrier existed between the Koreans and Americans, once they began conversing in highly-technical CBRN dialect, information flowed easily between the two groups, according to one Korean officer.
"I enjoyed experiencing the TTX and the CAPEX because I got an idea how operations are carried out," said Maj. Jun Yoo, head of the Chemical and Environmental Analysis Branch of the ROK CBRDC. "I have spent some time outside the military working in labs so being able to see these operations helped me learn a lot and I will use this knowledge in my lab in Korea."
The interaction with the Koreans was extremely beneficial to the Soldiers and civilians of the 20th Spt. Cmd. (CBRNE), according to Maj. Matthew Armstrong, a nuclear research officer.
"I learned a lot this week and I believe we made a lot of progress," Armstrong, who served as the project officer for the Koreans' visit, said during an after action review with the ROK soldiers. "I want to continue to build on what we accomplished this week."
The Koreans and Americans discussed a wide variety of topics in almost all areas of operations during the visit; from handling chemical and biological samples collected in the field to moving people and equipment into place for a mission.
"I found this week informative as a logistician," Lt. Col. Christopher Foye, 20th Spt. Cmd. (CBRNE) logistics chief said. "I learned a lot about ROK capabilities in regards to logistics."
The mix of both social events and mission-specific interactions during the week proved to be conducive to the learning process.
"I was humbled by the depth of knowledge of the ROK soldiers," said Maj. Maria Bochat, an operations plans officer. "I think that more interactions will help us both and I hope we continue these conversations."
In addition to their meetings with organizations at APG, the Korean soldiers traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with members of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency as well as visit the Pentagon. While in D.C. the Koreans also made time to visit the Korean War Memorial.
Building and nurturing the relationship between the two CBRNE organizations is critical to the safety and security of both the United States and Korea, said Sgt. Maj. Sean Burke, 20th Spt. Cmd. (CBRNE) command sergeant major.
"We never know when we will be called to work together to resolve something in the world," Burke explained. Because of this, Burke said it was important that the two armies have a working knowledge of each others' processes in the CBRNE field.
"If our relationship continues to build, we will be able to contribute to the security of our two nations," Col. Jeum Sul Kim, head of the ROK CBRDC Planning and Analysis Division said. "The 20th staff members are all motivated, so when I go back to Korea I hope to bring some of that motivation with me."