USFK set to inactivate unit, rotate in U.S. troops

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USFK set to inactivate unit, rotate in U.S. troops


One of the key combat units in the U.S. Forces Korea will be inactivated next year, with a rotational unit from the United States set to take over, according to both countries’ militaries.

The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division, which has been stationed at Camp Casey in Dongducheon, northern Gyeonggi, since 1965, will be dismantled in June 2015. The Pentagon was scheduled to announce the decision Friday morning eastern standard time.

The change is a part of the ongoing restructuring of the U.S. forces due to the Budget Control Act of 2011. The Army has announced that it will slash the number of brigade combat teams from 45 to 32 by the end of 2017.

Taking into account threats from North Korea, rotational troops will be deployed in the South in order to maintain Korea-U.S. allied deterrence capabilities.

“Although the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team will be eliminated, its equipment will be left here and operated by rotating forces, so there will be no vacancy in terms of combat readiness,” said an official from the U.S. Forces Korea.

A 4,600-strong team from Fort Hood, Texas, will replace the unit, and troops will be rotated every nine months starting in June.

In response to concerns that troops would be scheduled to leave Korea just after becoming accustomed to the country’s terrain, a South Korean military official said that the new rotational system could actually be of benefit.

“The current 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team is formed by soldiers who came from deployments from around the world, including the United States,” he said. “But the rotational unit moves in teams, so its readiness can be stronger. Because more soldiers will serve in Korea in the new system, it can actually be more helpful in a time of emergency.”

The 2nd Infantry Division has three key units: the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade and the 210th Field Artillery Brigade.

The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team operates tanks and armored vehicles, while the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade is equipped with Apache attack helicopters.

The 210th Field Artillery Brigade operates the Army Tactical Missile System, a long-range surface-to-surface guided missile system known as ATACMS.

The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team withdrew to the U.S. mainland after the Korean Armistice Agreement effectively ended the 1950-53 Korean War, but came back to the South’s front lines in 1965 as the North Korean military deployed its soldiers to the inter-Korean border.

Last month, Seoul and Washington agreed to major changes in their alliance realignment plan, delaying the U.S. handover of wartime operational control of Korean troops to an unspecified date in the future.

At the time, they also agreed that the 210th Field Artillery Brigade, whose role is to deter the North’s long-range guns, will remain in its current location in Dongducheon until early 2020. The unit was originally set to move to Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, by 2016.


BY SER MYO-JA, JEONG YONG-SOO [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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