JANGSEONG, South Korea –
After two years of expert exchanges and friendship building, instructors with the Asia Pacific Counter IED Fusion Center (APCFC) conducted the first ever train the trainer (T3) counter IED course with the Republic of Korea Army.
The historic event took place here 10-14 November, 2014, on the grounds of the ROK Engineer School, and involved 26 junior officers and non-commissioned officers who are now qualified to teach counter improvised explosive device (IED) principles and techniques to their respective units in the ROK Army.
"Two years ago we started with a simple threat brief," said Brian Kerkove, lead instructor for the Center's Korea based mobile training team. "From there we progressed to one and two day courses, to now a five day T3 course for the ROK Engineers."
Kerkove said engineers, more specifically explosive hazard clearance teams (EHCT), are responsible for spotting and identifying IEDs in the event of war on the Korean Peninsula. The 10-person EHCTs are nested in engineer battalions throughout the ROK Army said Kerkove.
Students received instruction regarding mines, unexploded munitions, and homemade explosives; materials used in the construction of IEDs. In a tactical environment, students learned how to react to an IED discovery while on foot patrol and in a vehicle convoy. Kerkove said the most difficult part was for each individual to stand up in front of peers to deliver the course material, just like they would be doing back at their home units.
"I was a little nervous [teaching back material] mainly because I was worried about conveying the information effectively," said Lieutenant Joo Gayeon through an interpreter. Joo was the only female in the group and said she'll be more relaxed given more opportunities to teach.
"This was the first time exposed to this kind of instruction, but over time I think we will get better at it," said Lieutenant Jeong Song Jun, an engineer who spoke English.
"They are very willing to learn," said Kerkove. "They respect we [US Army] have more than 14 years of counter IED experience via two wars, and understand that this information is vital for survivability on the asymmetrical battlefield."
"Counter IED instruction is highly desired," said Maj. Lee Byungok, staff officer with the ROK engineer school. He said the pilot program was a success, and will want to expand to a two week T3 course. That way said Lee, "…we can integrate into the EHCT qualification program. We don't want to make American Soldiers out of Korean Soldiers, rather take this information and make it our own-fit it in our structure."
Observing a portion of the training was Maj. Gen. Jong Min Chung, commanding general of the Engineer School. Through an interpreter Jong said he was impressed with the results of counter IED training, so much so, he said the ROK Army is making plans to open its own counter IED training center.
"The Engineer School is going through procedures to systemize counter IED instruction, and that is all due to the quality work done by the APCFC over the years, "said Jong.
Engagements like the counter IED training is part of what U.S. Army Pacific Commanding General, Gen. Vincent Brooks called "exporting professionalism" said trainer Kerkove. "We have much experience in this area. By imparting the knowledge to our Korean partners we are increasing capacity, improving relationships, and contributing to the overall security and stability in the region," said Kerkove.
The APCFC, headquartered at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, is the executive agent for all counter-IED training and intelligence gathering for U.S. Pacific Command. Mobile training teams provide home station training for U.S. Forces and deploy overseas on order to participate in subject matter expert exchanges and U.S. Army Pacific exercises in an effort to help build partner nation capacity.