U.S. Army Pfc. Brandon Rodriguez, Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment patriot missile operator and maintainer, tightens a bolt during patriot missile system reload training at Kunsan Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, July 27, 2017. Members of A/2-1 conducted training on operation, manning, sustainment, and employment of the Patriot Weapons system. (Photo by Senior Airman Michael Hunsaker)
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR HICKAM, Hawaii -- Key leaders, senior and junior Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command joined U.S., Korean and United Nations forces in the Republic of Korea for the annual exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian from Aug. 21-31.
Ulchi Freedom Guardian, also known as UFG, is a U.S. and Republic of Korea defense-oriented war-fighting exercise conducted annually to enhance readiness and protect the region while maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula.
The exercise is modeled in computer-simulated scenarios designed to engaged government and military organizations in reacting to numerous crisis scenarios, including those involving the civilian population on the peninsula. Although part of the exercise is computer simulated, South Korean forces train in real-life action exercises to ensure they are prepared for potential terrorist, chemical or weapon attacks.
There are approximately 28,000 service members stationed in South Korea, and an estimated 17,500 of them participated in UFG. They joined military forces from multiple South Korean units from all branches of service, as well as forces from the United Nations Command participating in the exercise.
Maj. Mathew Chambless, a plans and training officer for the 94th AAMDC, said the leadership in the unit uses UFG to train members of its staff and directorates, as well as improve joint partnerships while collaborating with U.S. Pacific Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea.
"We looked at the threat to the U.S. and its allies in the region and discussed processes and procedures to be exercised in order to meet that threat," Chambless said.
"This exercise allows us to further develop missile defense processes and procedures and to both reaffirm and strengthen the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea," he added.
Chambless is no stranger to this type of exercise; he has been involved in five iterations of UFG in some capacity or another over the years. The exercise also provides an opportunity for junior Soldiers to experience and be prepare to manage real world situations in the unit.
"This exercise benefits me as a soldier working in the G4 because it made me oversee what my section does in the real world by supporting and providing units with resources that will help protect and win the fight," said Spc. Virginia Lopez, a unit supply specialist assigned to the unit's logistics directorate.
At all levels, from junior to senior Soldiers, the exercise provides the 94th AAMDC with viable military options to sharpen the unit's ability to support the Indo-Asian Pacific Region with air and missile defense assets when required. The unit's participation in Ulchi Freedom Guardian also demonstrates the tangible U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and its allies as well as the security and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the Pacific region.