By Maj Gabriel Zinni (2nd BCT, 25th ID )April 16, 2012
POCHEON, South Korea -- Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, "Gimlets," 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, participated in a combined live-fire training exercise with Republic of Korea Soldiers at Rodriguez Multi-purpose Range Complex, Friday, to train not only on their war fighting skills but their ability to execute and accomplish missions as a single, cohesive unit.
The live-fire event consisting of approximately 50 U.S. and ROK soldiers focused on repelling an attack through firepower, maneuver and constant communication between ROK K1 tanks and U.S. Stryker Mobile Gun System vehicles. The event was part of an annual training exercise, Foal Eagle, which falls under the United States Army Pacific Command's Theater Security and Cooperation Program and is designed to maintain proficiency in the two armies' ability to plan and execute combined defensive missions on the Korean peninsula.
"For us, Foal Eagle has accomplished three things," said Lt. Col. Tim Hayden, commander, 1st Bn., 21st Inf. Regt. "It has validated our ability to deploy anywhere in the Pacific theater. It has increased our ability to plan and effectively execute as a combined team with our ROK partners, and it has strengthened the relationship we maintain with our ROK partners not only at the strategic level, but down at the individual Soldier level too".
Hayden, an armor officer commissioned in 1995 from Virginia Tech's Reserve Officer Training Corps program, now commands one of only 27 Stryker battalions within the U.S. Army.
"The Stryker is an incredibly agile, flexible and lethal platform for our Soldiers to fight from," said Hayden. "It complements the ROK Army's vehicles very well which, in a lot of cases, are similar to ours."
"What is most unique about this combined training event is that we (U.S. and ROK armies) took a U.S. platoon and broke it into a section, and took a ROK platoon and broke it into a section, and placed them under one unified combined commander," said Maj. Blake Lackey, the operations officer for 1st Bn., 21st Inf. Regt. "This is the first time we have been able to execute this type of combined training, and it is representative of the professionalism and capabilities of our two organizations."
"This was an exceptional training event in so many ways," said Capt. Todd Stanford, a Huntingdon, Penn., native, and the commander of B Company, 52nd Inf. Regt., 2nd BCT's anti-tank company. "Today's LFX (life fire exercise) has reinforced our interoperability with the ROK Army."
Stanford's company is equipped with the Anti-Tank Guided Missile Stryker variant, or ATGM, and has additional MGS vehicles attached for this training event. The MGS has 105mm cannon, which can engage targets while on the move.
"We conducted a successful defensive combined live-fire operation with the 3rd Tank Company, 56th Bn. 9th Regt. of the RoK Army," said Stanford. "The essential element that made the training event so successful was that we use similar tactics and were able to effectively communicate through translators and radios."
"I knew we were on the same page," said Stanford, referring to the terrain model rehearsal that the two units conducted the day prior to the live-fire event. "Each platoon leader, ROK or U.S., was able to effectively demonstrate their movements on the terrain model. This gave everyone a strong sense of confidence in each other's understanding despite the different languages."
"The majority of our Soldiers have been battle tested over recent years and have combat experience in Iraq with our Stryker vehicles," Hayden said. "These combined training events with our RoK Army partners have enabled us to successfully exercise command and control in restrictive terrain. We are training exactly how we would fight here on the Korean peninsula."
The Gimlets will continue to train with ROK Army units through the month of April before returning to their home station at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.