2nd Lt. David Lara stands in the middle of a group of ROK army soldiers and a Korean augmentee to the United States Army to discuss their plan during the first combined short range air defense training exercise between ROK and U.S. air defense artillery units Sept. 7 at the Darrakae training area, Pocheon, South Korea. (Photo by U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Charles Morrison)
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea -- Soldiers assigned to 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment partnered with Republic of Korea (ROK) forces for the first combined short range air defense training event on the Korean Peninsula.
The purpose of the exercise was to integrate efforts between the ROK and U.S. forces on Short Range Air Defense, known as SHORAD. The field exercise allowed the ROK and U.S. troops to gain familiarity with each other's weapon systems and capabilities, with an end goal of building an enduring partnership between the two units.
"The best part of the training was being able to work through real-life scenarios that required coordination between the ROK and U.S. leadership to effectively complete our short range air defense mission," said 2nd Lt. David Lara, platoon leader, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment. "We also forged a relationship with our ROK counterparts that could prove greatly beneficial in a wartime scenario."
The idea behind the training started in earnest with the 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment battalion commander, Lt. Col. Marc Pelini, reaching out to the ROK 516 Air Defense Artillery leadership to gauge interest. The idea of a combined training event was received in kind and planners on both ends immediately launched into action.
Lara reached out to one of the 516 Air Defense Artillery's platoon leaders, 1st Lt. Seung Joo Kim, and they laid the foundation by scheduling a combined network communication exercise to ensure both units would be able to talk via radios in an arduous field environment.
The controlled communication exercise was critical to the success of the operation, according to Lara, and the lines of communication were seamless throughout their field training exercise. Furthermore, the two platoon leaders bridged the language gap by leveraging Korean augmentees to the United States Army and translators with the 516 Air Defense Artillery, nullifying an identified obstacle.
While in the field, both units trained on their mission essential tasks of emplacing combined SHORAD assets to defend a critical location, de-conflicting engagements of enemy aircraft based on sector of fire, and utilizing secondary means of targeting enemy aircraft when their primary weapon system becomes combat ineffective.
For U.S. Soldiers, this meant using the man-portable air-defense system, where two-Soldier teams are capable of eliminating low altitude cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems and air breathing threats.
The ROK army simulated those targets by providing the oppositional force throughout the exercise, and tested the combined short range air defense with scout helicopters and a perimeter attack by ROK Special Forces.
"It was incredible to see how quickly the Soldiers adapted to each other," said Lara. "By the end of the exercise, we had built a level of cohesiveness that will be a great foundation for future combined operations with our ROK allies."
The units are planning more combined training events to further expand their scope of understanding and strengthening their newly casted relationship. The next exercise will occur over the next few months and build on their recent successes, while also working to improve on areas identified during their after action review.
"The combined exercise helped us by learning about the equipment capabilities of our ROK army counterparts," said Spc. Nick Riley. "We were able to integrate our systems, then develop and test our defensive plans to provide the best short range air defense possible."
Battery E, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment was realigned with 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade in April after being under the operational control of 210 Fires Brigade for the past several years. They are the only U.S. Avenger unit in the Korean theater of operation.