ROK-US combined exercises and training
The ROK-US combined exercises and drills, which have played a pivotal role in the defense of the Republic of Korea for 70 years, have now established themselves as another symbol representing the robustness of the ROK-US alliance.
As the ROK-US joint exercises and training have been subdivided and specialized under various names in various scales and forms for 70 years, the types are also very wide.
Accordingly, since the ROK-US Mutual Defense Treaty was formally signed in 1953, the major ROK-US combined exercises and exercises will be highlighted over time.
“We go together!”
ROK-U.S. combined exercises and training where valiant ROK and U.S. service members come together under common values and goals. Let’s take a look at the changes in the past until the current system was established.
The ROK-US combined exercises and training are largely divided into command post exercises (CPX) and field maneuver exercises (FTX) and training.
According to the Ministry of National Defense, the command post exercise is an exercise to train commanders, staff, operational and communication personnel at each level.
It refers to exercises to move and operate command posts, practice command and reference procedures, apply operational plans and operational rules, and develop command and control capabilities under various situations while maintaining communication in a virtual situation.
Field maneuvering exercises are extensive and long-term exercises conducted as bilateral training covering all tactical situations by participating in all or some of the personnel and equipment of units organized by units at the division level or higher.
It is mainly conducted for the purpose of comprehensively acquiring various tactical specifications, including combat service support situations. It is also conducted to test doctrine and organization or to demonstrate combat power.
After the Korean War, the Armistice Agreement, and the ROK-US Mutual Defense Treaty came into effect, 1954 is called the beginning of the ROK-US joint exercises. At this time, the focus lens command post exercise was held for the first time, supervised by the USFK and the UN Command.
From 1961, the Foal Eagle (FE) exercise began as a small-scale rear area protection exercise, and was expanded to combined and joint outdoor maneuvering exercises in the future.
The US administration’s adoption of the ‘Nixon Doctrine’ and subsequent US President Carter’s plan to reduce US forces in Korea served as an opportunity to expand and develop joint exercises and training between the US and Korea in earnest, thereby strengthening the ROK-US relationship.
At the time, the ROK and the US conducted the Focus Retina exercise in 1969 to resolve the defense vacuum caused by the reduction of the USFK and to check the US military reinforcement system on the Korean Peninsula in case of emergency.
The Team Spirit (TS) exercise, a large-scale ROK-US outdoor maneuver exercise, was also conducted for the first time in 1976 in response to the US plan to reduce the USFK.
In particular, the team spirit exercise was conducted from 1976 to 1993, and it started as the first landing training, but later expanded as sea and air exercises were added, and ground training included crossing training and preparation for regular warfare.
In the midst of this, with the establishment of the ROK-US Combined Forces Command in 1978, operational control was transferred from the UNC to the ROK-US Combined Forces Command. With this, the ROK-US joint exercises and training will be on the right track.
As the ROK-US joint exercises were adjusted in the early 1990s, Team Spirit exercises were suspended in 1994, followed by Combined Wartime Reinforcements (RSOI) exercises and corps-level outdoor maneuvering exercises and defense training, which are independent Korean military exercises.
The combined wartime reinforcement exercise includes a series of procedures such as reception, staging, forward movement, and integration of US reinforcements to be mobilized in the event of a war on the Korean Peninsula, and the ROK military supporting them. It is a command post exercise conducted through computer simulation to master wartime support, mutual logistics support, mobilization, and procedures for restoring combat power of the ROK Army.
Since 2002, the ROK-US joint exercise has been conducted in two parts: the first half and the second half.
Combined wartime reinforcement practice and eagle practice were integrated into the ‘Allied Wartime Reinforcement and Eagle (RSOI/FE)’ exercise, and Eulji Focus Lens practice was conducted in the second half.
In particular, in 2006, an agreement was reached between the United States and South Korea to transfer wartime operational control over the Korean military from the United States to South Korea.
Accordingly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, together with the ROK-US Combined Forces Command (CFC), decided to establish a new exercise concept during the transition period with a plan to develop theater operation capabilities under the leadership of the ROK military and support from the US, using the combined exercise as a driving force for OPCON transfer.
The name of the joint exercise has also been changed amidst this trend. The combined wartime reinforcements and eagle exercises in the first half were changed to Key Resolve and Eagle (KR/FE) exercises, and the Ulji Focus Lens exercises in the second half were changed to Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercises.
The name was also changed from the second half of 2019 to the combined command post training (CCPT), and then to the first half of the joint exercise conducted from 2020 to 2022.
Even after that, considering the meaning and purpose of the joint exercise, Korea and the US changed the name of the joint exercise from last year to the Ulji Freedom Shield (UFS, Ulchi Freedom Shield) exercise, and the first half joint exercise was renamed the Freedom Shield (FS, Freedom Shield) from this year. Changed.
The name change of the combined exercise expresses the new determination and strong will of the two countries to further strengthen the ROK-US alliance, and also contains the meaning of inheriting the alliance’s combined exercise tradition.
Meanwhile, in 2019, the government exercise and the ROK-US joint exercise were separated, and at this time, the Eulji Taegeuk exercise was conducted in connection with the Taegeuk exercise, a solo Korean military exercise.
However, in the case of government exercises, they were conducted mainly in non-military crises such as disasters, and there was a limit to improving the ability to perform national total war (battlefield level) through the integration of national capabilities in wartime.
In response, South Korea and the U.S. implemented the Eulji Freedom Shield Exercise, which combines the government exercise (Eulji Exercise) and the ROK-US joint exercise from the joint exercise in the second half of last year to show the deterrence of the ROK-US alliance against North Korea and improve the ability to carry out combined operations.
As a result, for the first time in five years since 2017, the war-fighting functions of all government departments have been deployed from the wartime command post. The 3-night, 4-day practical training provided an opportunity to intensively master the national total war execution system and develop the theater combined practice system.
In the first half of this year, Korea and the U.S. conducted the ‘Freedom Shield’ exercise for 11 days from the 13th to the 23rd of last month.
The Freedom Shield exercise is a theater-level command post exercise with the concept of a total war, which is conducted for the purpose of examining the combined defense posture through computer simulation and mastering the operational plan of the ROK-US combined force under the assumption of North Korea’s invasion of the South.
This combined exercise was a customized exercise based on a practice scenario that reflected changing threats and a changed security environment, such as North Korea’s nuclear and missile advancement and lessons learned from recent wars and conflicts.
Also, unlike previous years, it was not divided into part 1 and part 2, but was conducted continuously day and night. The ROK-US joint exercises, which had been scaled back and adjusted due to COVID-19, have finally been normalized.
During the Freedom Shield exercise, the joint landing drill was expanded to the level of the previous Eagle exercise, and large-scale joint outdoor maneuver training was intensively conducted to improve the ability to perform combined operations.
South Korea and the U.S. named the combined outdoor maneuver training, which is especially intensively implemented during the exercise of the shield of freedom, the warrior’s shield (WS). This symbolizes the ability and will of the ROK-U.S. combined forces to solidify the combined defense posture to defend the Republic of Korea, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
An official from the Ministry of National Defense cited the joint landing exercise, ‘Ssangryong Exercise’, as the most noteworthy exercise among the ROK-US combined exercises and exercises.
The Ssangryong exercise was expanded from the existing brigade-level to the division-level, and was conducted from the 20th of last month to the 3rd of this month at sea and in the air around Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province.
This is the first resumption this year after five years since 2018 as the defense ministers of South Korea and the United States agreed to expand the scale and scope of joint exercises at a meeting held in November last year. It is regarded as a meaningful exercise that showed the firmness of the ROK-US alliance on its 70th anniversary.
On the 29th of last month, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Kim Seung-gyeom visited the site of the amphibious assault, which is the decisive action stage of the Ssangryong exercise, and said, “This ROK-US combined landing exercise is part of the strengthened ‘warrior’s shield’ combined outdoor maneuver training.” It will be quickly deployed into the region and play a decisive role in winning the war.”
Combined landing training is a training in which air assault units and maritime assault units simultaneously land on a target point from the sea and recapture the target point.
As can be seen from the Incheon Landing Operation in the past, the landing training to catch the enemy from the rear has a strong offensive character, not a defensive one. Accordingly, the Ssangryong exercise, which is conducted as an amphibious exercise, is known as a joint exercise that North Korea is very sensitive to.
On April 24, 2023, President Seok-Yeol Yoon paid a state visit to the United States, the first in 12 years for a South Korean president. At the Korea-US summit held on the 26th, President Yoon and US President Biden announced the’Washington Declaration’.
The two heads of state made it clear in the Washington Declaration that they confirmed in the strongest language their commitment to maintain the combined defense posture in accordance with the ROK-US Mutual Defense Treaty.
They also made it official that they would strengthen joint training activities on the application of nuclear deterrence on the Korean Peninsula. It is evaluated that this is a measure to enhance the execution power of extended deterrence to deter North Korea’s nuclear threat.
Taking this summit as an opportunity, the two countries delivered a firm message to the international community through the Washington Declaration that they would stand together against all threats to their common security.
With further strengthened combined exercises and drills in the future, the ROK and the U.S. hope to welcome another 70 years of strong ROK-US alliance.
The ROK-US alliance, which started with traditional military security cooperation, has developed into a ‘global comprehensive strategic alliance’ following relationships such as the 21st century strategic alliance, comprehensive strategic alliance, and mutually beneficial and complementary alliance over the past 70 years.
This establishes a new milestone in the ROK-US alliance, covering various fields such as supply chain, health, climate change, and energy.
The ROK-US alliance is expanding new horizons of cooperation. The next and final part will shed light on the various aspects of the ROK-US alliance, which has been expanding the scope of cooperation from military security cooperation to the global level for 70 years.
Policy briefing Seri Yoon
Source: Policy news, link