General Calls Exercises Key to South Korean Defense
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
SEOUL, South Korea, March 11, 2010 Military exercises under way are refining command and control capabilities that will be critical for the U.S. and South Korean militaries to defend against a North Korean attack, the top U.S. general here told reporters today.
Army Gen. William “Skip” Sharp, commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea, talks with reporters about the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises under way to train U.S. and Republic of Korea forces to defend South Korea against aggression. DoD photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Gen. William “Skip” Sharp, commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea, called the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises an important step toward preparing South Korea’s military to assume wartime operational control of its forces in 2012.
The exercises kicked off March 8. Official notification provided to North Korea a month ago on the exercises’ timing and defensive nature generated heavy criticism and threats from Pyongyang.
Sharp declined to discuss specifics about the exercise scenarios because of what they might reveal about Combined Forces Command war plans, but he made no secret of the fact they involve North Korean aggression.
The opposing “red” force, based at Camp Casey, Korea, is “very well versed in North Korea tactics,” he said, and using them against the friendly “blue” forces will create realistic scenarios.
“What we train today, what we are training for after [operational control] transition, is all the threats that we see that North Korea could throw at us,” Sharp said. “We constantly evaluate what North Korea is doing, what they are saying, what they are buying. … And we adjust our exercises and our training to account for that.”
The objective, he said, is to ensure that should North Korea attack, U.S. and South Korean forces working together through Combined Forces Command are “prepared to fight and win if we had to go to war today.”
Four days into the exercise, Sharp said it’s building on efforts over the past year to boost intelligence sharing between Combined Forces Command and South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff, and to improve their ability to interact on a “minute-by-minute basis.”
This, in turn, is helping them “properly see what is going on in the war fight and be able to rapidly make the right decisions on how to react to it,” he said.
The principle has been tested during the past year amid North Korean missile launches and other provocations. In each case, military leaders working together through a collaborative command and control system “saw what was going on [and] reacted as one team,” Sharp said, both militarily and diplomatically.
“We, during this exercise, have done and exercised that same process, that same collaborative command and control system, that we have continued to improve over this last year, and have exercised that here as in the real war fight,” he said.
The exercise pays off tactically as well, Sharp said, in preparing forces to react to a potential artillery strike from the north.
“We work every day, very hard, to make sure we are prepared to deal with the long-range artillery that sits just north of the [demilitarized zone] today that could bring a lot of destruction to Seoul,” Sharp said. “We make sure we have all the intelligence in place to find and locate those artillery systems, and [that] we have fires from the air and ground prepared to destroy them if they every started firing, in order to be able to give the maximum protection to Seoul.
“We exercise that very hard in all our exercises, especially this one,” Sharp said.
South Korean Army Gen. Hwang Eui-don, Combined Forces Command deputy commander, called the exercises a great way for his military to verify and refine its operations while learning tactics, techniques and procedures from the world’s most advanced and combat-capable military. These lessons will prove critical in preparing the South Korean leadership to take on wartime operational control of its forces in just over two years, he said. At that point, U.S. forces will move into a supporting role.
Sharp said he has no doubts that the South Koreans will be ready to take on the broader security mission.
“I am confident we have the plans, the organizations, the systems and the processes in place to be able to be prepared and properly execute [operational control] transition on 17 April 2012,” he said. “And I believe this alliance will be stronger because of that.”