CAMP CASEY, South Korea — After a nine-month rotation in South Korea, 2nd Brigade “Black Jack” Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, soldiers returned home to the Great Place, passing the mission off last week to another 1st Cavalry Division unit, the 1st Brigade “Ironhorse” Combat Team.
The transfer lasted more than a month, but was made official on Feb. 26, with a transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Casey, South Korea.
Last June, Black Jack uncased its colors on the Korean peninsula as the first brigade-sized rotation to deploy in support of the South Korean army.
“I really feel like our brigade has been the luckiest brigade in the Army. We’ve had an amazing opportunity to experience Korea, to meet the Korean people and get to learn about their generosity and their hospitality, taste their food, learn their culture … We’ve had a chance to be a part of the ROK (Republic of Korea)/U.S. alliance, which is absolutely the strongest alliance in the world,” said Col. Sean Bernade, 2nd Brigade commander.
Throughout their nine months in the Land of the Morning Calm, Bernabe said his soldiers participated in a variety of challenging training exercises, including live fire, combined arms and air assault operations.
“We’ve had a chance to train like most of these solders have never trained before in their Army career,” Bernabe said.
All of the hard work and training are part of the Army’s mission to train soldiers who are ready to “fight tonight,” if circumstances on the Korean peninsula require.
“At the conclusion of the Korean War, it was not a peace treaty. It was an armistice, so sides separated. … On any given day in the Republic of Korea, we train hard, we play hard, we conduct some really awesome physical training, but we constantly are honing our skills so that if we transition to crisis, we’ll be ready,” said Maj. Gen. Theodore Martin, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, which is headquartered in South Korea, and is in the chain of command for the Fort Hood soldiers during the rotation.
Since mid-January, Ironhorse troopers, which total more than 4,000, have been making their way to South Korea to assume the fight tonight mission from their 2nd Brigade counterparts.
“The Black Jack team has taken Ironhorse soldiers to key locations in this area, all tied to their mission, to do reconnaissance, make sure they understand the route to and from, make sure they understand their tasks and their purpose at those locations, and then to practice it,” Bernabe said.
A tricky transfer
The transfer between brigades was intricately planned to retain readiness.
“The number one priority throughout this transition as we bring in Ironhorse, and as we prepare to send our soldiers home, is to maintain the ability throughout, to execute that wartime mission,” Bernabe said.
As soon as the final flight of Ironhorse soldiers reached South Korea on Feb. 24, training began in full force.
In the early morning hours of Feb. 25, soldiers were alerted to take part in a brigade-wide emergency deployment readiness exercise. Beginning at 2 a.m., each soldier had to prepare all of his or her equipment to be ready for combat in a matter of hours. The exercise simulated the pace and precision with which the unit needs to be prepared to fight in the event of an attack from North Korea.
“Often times in the United States we have different types of tasks, and so for us, first is combat readiness, because if the threat understands that we are fully prepared, that deters them from aggression, so that’s the first piece,” said Col. John DiGiambattista, Ironhorse commander.
With an intense nine months ahead of 1st Brigade, DiGiambattista said his soldiers are ready, and he feels confident in their ability to maintain combat readiness.
“We started training for this mission quite a while ago, and we knew that we were coming well before anybody else talked about it. … There’s a lot of continuity in our leaders and our soldiers, and that adds to our readiness and our capability.”
The Army has not yet announced which brigade will replace 1st Brigade in nine months.