US and South Korean forces conduct first live fire exercise since new unit formed

The exercise, based on a counterattack against invading forces, comes after the US and South Korean presidents vowed to intensify military cooperation following the May summit in Seoul, and after North Korea conducted 18 missile tests this year compared to four trials last year. 2020 and eight in 2021

CNN was one of two Western media organizations invited to the training.

“There is no stronger alliance in the world than that of the US and the ROK (Republic of Korea),” Colonel Brandon Anderson of the US Army 2nd Infantry Division and second in command told CNN. RUCD, Republic of Korea United States Joint Division.

“The bigger the threat, the bigger the alliance, or the bigger the threat, the bigger the alliance,” Anderson said before U.S. and South Korean tanks and artillery fired on targets simulating enemy troops, armored vehicles and positions at the Rodriguez Combat Fire Complex. hid in the mountains north of Seoul.

The commanders did not name the specific enemy and said that their exercises were defensive in nature, but their location – the training ground is only 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea – leaves no doubt. to whom his message was addressed.

The South Korean commander of the consolidated division, Brig. Gen. Kim Nam Hoon said the US-ROK alliance is playing to the strengths of both sides.

“Cause CFC [Combined Forces Command] may perform better on the Korean peninsula due to the harmony between the capabilities of the United States and the knowledge of the Koreans in the field of operations and geography,” Kim said.

The two allies brought this one-of-a-kind unit together seven years ago to capitalize on it.

Forces ‘must be ready’

At the command center, located on a hill above the shooting range, US and South Korean troops exchanged information on targets for South Korean K-1 tanks and US M1 Abrams tanks, and called in artillery strikes from South Korean K-9s and a US Palladin. batteries out of sight behind the hillside.

The command center was shaking with concussions five seconds after smoke appeared on the mountainside he was standing in front of, about a mile away.

The tanks fired dummies filled with concrete, flying out to 600 meters. [1,969 feet] up to 700 meters [2,297 feet] In front of them. The shells traveled hundreds more meters up the hillside after hitting their target. That’s because if they exploded, like in a real fight, the targets would be destroyed from the first shot, the American officer said.

The exercise was based on a counterattack against the invading forces.

American and South Korean troops in the command center adjusted their fire as targets were destroyed and new ones appeared at the training ground in the distance.

Computer screens flashed as the targets were hit. In other images, tank crews loaded shells into the tank’s gun, and its gun bounced when fired.

“Nothing says confidence like military training,” Anderson said. “US and ROK forces must be ready.”

And, of course, US and South Korean forces are stepping up their readiness.

“Special” Union

A live-fire exercise like Wednesday’s has not been on display since 2018, when then-U.S. President Donald Trump suspended such exercises, saying there was no place for such military exercises while he was in diplomatic talks with North Korea. leader Kim Jong Un.

But Trump and his then-South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in failed to end North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Their successors, Joe Biden and Yoon Seok Yeol, have taken a much tougher stance on the North.

With its missile tests and harsh rhetoric, North Korea shows that it is not interested in negotiations, so a joint exercise like Wednesday’s is a must.

US and South Korea signal willingness to expand military exercises in response to nuclear north

And they are different from what the US military has at least experienced in real combat for a long time, given that in Iraq and Afghanistan the weapons and tactics of the enemy were very different from what a fight with North Korea might entail. .

“We have not stopped looking at the Middle East, but we have come out of how we fight [and] may be [we] refocus on an opponent close to equal,” Anderson said.

“If we are going to look at an almost equal opponent, we will have to operate in more difficult adverse conditions. We have to do it with someone who is capable of harming us,” he said.

US and South Korean officers said they believe working together can limit that damage.

“Interoperability is essential for real joint operations,” said Kim, a South Korean general.

Anderson said the combined unit builds on a 72-year history of working together, remembering the Korean War from 1950-1953.

“We’ve been here since the 1950s… It’s not uncommon to see second or third generation US military personnel on the Korean peninsula. And I’m telling you this because I don’t know of another such special alliance,” he said. .

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