RODRIGUEZ LIVE-FIRE COMPLEX, Republic of Korea -- Marines are known for running toward the sound of chaos, and they did just that Sept. 25. With steel rain from mortars and artillery slamming into a mountainside, tanks firing then maneuvering, and machine guns unloading thousands of rounds, U.S. and Republic of Korea Marines charged forward during the final exercise of Korean Marine Exchange Program 15-12.
Although KMEP is an annual bilateral training exercise between the ROK and U.S., this final exercise was a milestone for the participating ROK battalion.
“This is history in the making,” said Lt. Col. Yoo Hogeun, the commanding officer of 11th Battalion, 1st Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, ROK Headquarters Marine Corps. “Not only is this is the first time our unit has done anything on a battalion level scale, but it is one of the few times where the (ROK’s) 2nd Division has participated in a KMEP.”
For the battalion, participating in this scope of training exercise meant performing infantry tactics within a broader, combined arms spectrum. The principle units involved were with ROK 11th Battalion, 1st Marines and U.S. 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, III Marine Expeditionary Force. These battalions were supported by two artillery batteries and an entire ROK mechanized unit, which was equipped with tanks.
“For something of this scale to be completed our two nations had to work together from the smallest details all the way up,” said Maj. Sokyoun Lee, the operations officer for ROK 11th Battalion. “The amount of joint work was unbelievable; something I’ve never seen a unit do before.”
Every night the U.S. and ROK battalion leadership sat down, side-by-side, and planned each event. Every section included a U.S. Marine and his ROK Marine counterpart.
“We have had translators working night after night to maintain such great communications among our forces,” said Lee, from Seoul, ROK. “Every brief has slides translated for English and Korean … so that everyone knows exactly what is happening.”
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Timothy D. Kucala, an intelligence officer with 2nd Battalion, currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF, under the unit deployment program, said that the units maintained effective partnership throughout the mission.
“These battalions’ actions were synchronized and calculated across the battlefield due to a team of versatile, fast and adaptive Marines,” said Kucala, from Stafford, Virginia. “The Marines maintained a continuous feedback loop throughout all hours of the night, through various support channels, working together.”