By Russell ShimookaApril 25, 2012
RODRIQUEZ RANGE, South Korea (April 25, 2012) -- Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, "Gimlets," 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division received counter improvised explosive device training during their recent deployment to the Republic of Korea, April 1-30.
The "Gimlets" were on the peninsula as part of Foal Eagle, an annual field training exercise that coincides with Exercise Key Resolve.
The field and command post exercises partners with Soldiers from the Republic of Korea, and incorporates the full range of moving equipment, increasing capabilities, and perpetuating partnerships.
Providing the counter-improvised explosive device, or IED, instruction were trainers from the Asia Pacific Counter IED Fusion Center headquartered at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
"Maintaining our skills at the counter IED fight is absolutely critical to winning in any future conflict," said Lt. Col. Timothy Hayden, battalion commander, 1-21 Infantry Regiment.
"The counter IED training was a first class opportunity that allowed us to refresh, and in some cases, learn new counter IED skills and integrate them in the combined arms maneuver training we're executing as part of Foal Eagle," said Hayden.
The Schofield Barracks based Soldiers had the opportunity to train alongside their South Korean Army counterparts. This was the first time American and Korean Soldiers trained together in counter IED operations said Terry Perez, lead instructor for the center.
"Prior to this, the center trained South Korean Special Forces deploying to Afghanistan back in September 2010, and a couple of ROK engineers last year. We've been looking for ways to reengage with the Koreans since," said Perez. "Should there be hostilities on the peninsula; IEDs will be a huge threat. The South Koreans have much to benefit from this training."
Gen. James P. Thurman, the top U.S. military commander in Korea met with the "Gimlets," and told them their presence was about deterrence and demonstrating the ability to rapidly deploy to the region if necessary.
"This is an excellent opportunity for these men to come here and train on the terrain much like what we would face if we go to war. It's a confidence builder, but more importantly it's a team builder," said Thurman who wears three hats as commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea.
Perez said one platoon daily received classes in IED awareness, homemade explosives, enemy devices, and then participated in dismounted and urban environment patrol exercises.
"This unit (1-21 Infantry) is scheduled to go downrange (Afghanistan) sometime next year, so this is the first step in a multi-phase process of preparing them for deployment," said Perez.
Staff Sgt. Scott Homer, squad leader, 2nd platoon, Bravo Company, said from his experiences in Afghanistan the training was accurate and up to date.
"It's good to have guys dedicated to the IED fight that can give you the most current stuff. If something happened yesterday, they (trainers) are pushing that information to you because they are the funnel for it," said Homer.
The "Gimlets" are primarily a Stryker unit, but according to Perez, the unit needs to learn the basics by recognizing the deadly devices from ground level.
"Ninety eight percent of IEDs are found by the naked eye and over 90 percent of them are first discovered while dismounted," said Perez.
Pfc. Eric Jesse is a Stryker driver for 2nd platoon, Bravo Company. He's been in uniform for just over one year. This will be his first deployment, and said the instruction kept him mentally engaged.
"Being a driver I have a higher chance of being hit," said Jesse. "You can bet that I was paying attention because this is the kind of stuff that will save your life."
In May 2011, The Asia Pacific Counter IED Fusion Center instituted a train the trainer course specifically developed for units of the 2nd Infantry Division based on the peninsula. Trainers make frequent trips to Korea to maintain and improve that program.
The center uses the latest intelligence and threat reporting to provide theater specific, customized counter IED training and solutions to United States assets and partner nations.