CAMP CASEY, Korea — The 1st “Iron” Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, has been on the Koren Peninsula continuously since 1965. During that time, it has built a shared history with the Republic of Korea Army and the local population. Through combined training and operations, Iron Brigade has stood shoulder to shoulder with its Korean Army counterparts to deter the hostile North Korean regime.
Now history is in the making as 2nd “Black Jack” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, replaces 1st Brigade — a first of many future rotations to the peninsula.
“It changes a little bit how the United States puts ground forces in Korea, but it does not change the commitment to the armistice at all,” said Maj. Timothy Ferguson, the operations officer for 1st Brigade. “It still puts a capable, highly trained force on the ground to help with deterrence and to strengthen the alliance with the Republic of Korea.”
Every course of action has pros and cons, and by using a rotational brigade there are more pros in the long term, Ferguson said. Rotational brigades receive a lot of collective training and evaluations in places such as the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. They come over with a lot of capabilities and very ready to fight.
As part of the rotation process, Black Jack conducted a pre-deployment site survey Jan. 26-30 at Area 1, in order to further their understanding of their mission. The survey included a Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army soldiers’ engagement, multiple orientations of the local ranges, an aerial reconnaissance, unit footprint tours and a tour of Osan Air Base.
“A (site survey) is a chance to really understand the entirety of the situation we are going into,” said Lt. Col. Jason Tussey, the commander of Black Jack’s 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment. “Being here on the ground allows us to see and touch everything, which is invaluable; it helps us see what resources and training facilities will be available for our soldiers to use.”
The movement of all the soldiers has to be carefully coordinated, said Col. Sean Bernabe, Black Jack Brigade commander. There has to be an exchange of information, such as the intricacies of the mission and what tasks to perform to help support allies, between incoming and outgoing units. That is key to making a smooth transition between the brigades.
“I have seen rotations both in Iraq and Afghanistan ... what that experience has taught us is how to understand the environment we are going operate in,” Tussey said. “You have to understand the culture, the people, the economics, the government and local military forces. You just have to understand all those things in order to maintain a good relationship with the population.”
Black Jack has a rotation at the National Training Center scheduled for later this month.
“The reality is we are the first rotational brigade to deploy to South Korea, so we have the task to help the Army think through how to make the next rotation better and as smooth as possible for the next brigade coming in,” Bernabe said. “Our nation has decided that we are going to start addressing this mission with a rotational brigade, so we will do it and we will do the best we can.”