By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 19, 2012 – Exercise Foal Eagle – an annual training exercise in South Korea – has given a Hawaii-based battalion an opportunity to spread its wings.
The exercise, which ends April 30, allows U.S. and South Korean service members to work together in defense of the Korean peninsula.
The exercise has added impetus this year, as North Korea launched a missile in defiance of United Nations agreements, said Army Lt. Col. Tim Hayden, commander of the 1st Battalion, 25th Infantry. His unit traveled to South Korea from its base in Hawaii to be part of the exercise.
“[The launch] did serve a strong point to remind us of our responsibility to maintain our readiness and our partnership with our Korean allies,” he added.
The battalion focused on both the training mission and the combined mission with South Korean partners. The unit worked closely with South Korean army units as the exercise unfolded. It is a type of mission the unit, which has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, has not practiced for years, Hayden said.
The battalion started preparing for movement last year and deployed in March. The unit has been able to train on everything from individual skills up through platoon and company level, the colonel said, and conducted combined training with the South Koreans.
“One of the events I’d like to highlight was a combined defensive live-fire shot here on Rodriguez Range,” Hayden said from South Korea. “It was a great event, because we partnered with a Korean tank platoon.”
The South Korean tankers partnered with the battalion’s mobile gun systems – a 105 mm main gun on a Stryker vehicle variant. This allowed the troops of both nations to fight a defensive live-fire battle together.
“What we found was through our troops leading procedures and our rehearsals was both the Korean army and our Army have a lot in common – we have high-caliber leaders, we have well-trained soldiers, we have very good equipment,” he said. “We can communicate and fight on the battlefield today as allies and partners.”
Many of the American soldiers are veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, Hayden noted.
“What this has been able to do for us is focus on a higher-intensity fight, more of a decisive action, and fight in the terrain that we would have to fight here on the peninsula should a contingency arise,” he said. “The change of terrain has forced my leaders to think beyond the standard mission set they are used to in Iraq or Afghanistan.”
The colonel said his unit is ready for the type of combat that could happen in Korea. “We are ready,” he said. “We’ve mastered the basics, and we’re focused on our core competencies and our fundamental warfighting skills, and we remain disciplined in what we do.”