The 1st Cavalry Division soldiers heading to Korea in the coming weeks endured an arduous training path to prepare, said Lt. Col. Arthur Sellers, commander of 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
For about a year, soldiers conducted training — beginning with a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., followed by specific tasks at Fort Hood’s training grounds.
“The battalion is very well trained and ready to go,” said the battalion’s Command Sgt. Maj. Wayne Phillips, who has been with the battalion for about two years. “This is probably one of the top manned, equipped and trained units in the Army right now.”
The unit is the first combined arms battalion to serve a rotational, nine-month deployment to South Korea. About 800 soldiers will deploy to Camps Hovey and Stanley, and will improve combat readiness on the peninsula through successful integration of the unit into 2nd Infantry Division, said Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, spokeswoman for Eighth Army in Korea. There are about 28,500 U.S. service members stationed in the country.
“Essentially we are the third combined arms battalion,” said Sellers, who has commanded the battalion for nearly two years.
The new method of rotating entire units through Korea, as opposed to individual soldiers filling positions, will mitigate personnel turbulence, Army officials stated. An aviation unit from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., deployed in September with a similar concept.
“At first it was kind of a wait-and-see attitude, because no one knew what to expect, but now soldiers are very excited about it,” Phillips said. “A lot of soldiers have volunteered to stay in the Army longer or to come here because they want to do the rotation and see Korea.”
Sellers said he is looking forward to opportunities to partner with the Republic of Korea army for training.
“That will provide our soldiers an opportunity that I don’t think they are going to get many other times throughout their career,” Sellers said. “I think it’s going to be quite an opportunity for them to understand how capable the (Republic of Korea) army is.
“To train with them as opposed to training them,” he added, referencing the work of soldiers toward the end of the Iraq war and currently in the Afghanistan war. “This will be training with equal partners, which I think will be a change.”
Aside from training for the new mission, the battalion also had to sign for a complete second set of equipment to deploy with, which will be left in Korea for the next rotational unit to use. All of it is updated to the latest standards.
“No unit has ever been asked to do what we had to do,” Sellers said of the six-month process. “It was very difficult. ... Then we had to get that stuff painted green.”
Sellers and Phillips have experience in Korea and said the green tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles brought back old memories.
“The most exciting thing for me is demonstrating our commitment to the U.S.-South Korea relationship and that alliance, and showcasing that for the South Korean people,” Sellers said. “It’ll be very good to get the 1st Cav patch back on the Korean peninsula. ... There’s some monuments over there for 1st Cav units that fought in the Korean War.”
The battalion command team expects to uncase its colors in Korea on Feb. 13.