US Congressional Representatives visit Camp Casey
CAMP CASEY, South Korea - Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives traveled to Camp Casey and visited Soldiers of 2nd Infantry Division/ROK - U.S. Combined Division as part of their tour of South Korea last week.
U.S. Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam and U.S. Congressman Robert Wittman, Virginia, met with service members from their respective states on Feb. 18. Both representatives serve on the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees military readiness, training, logistics and maintenance issues and programs, military construction, installations and family housing issues, and the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process.
The visit comes during a period of elevated tensions following North Korea's controversial rocket launch earlier this month. South Korea recently announced the closure of the jointly-operated Kaesong Industrial Complex. On Wednesday, four U.S. F-22 stealth fighters flew over South Korea in a clear show of force against North Korea.
After landing at Camp Casey, the delegation traveled to Seong Ji Gol Village training area and met with Soldiers from 210th Field Artillery Brigade. Rep. Bordallo and Rep. Wittman climbed inside the M270A1 Multiple Launch Rocket System, which can strike targets over 300km away. Soldiers also briefed them on the Avenger Air Defense System, which intercepts airborne threats using Stinger missiles and .50 cal machine guns, and the AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder radar, capable of tracking incoming artillery and transmitting data to counter-fire units. Working in sync, the lethal combination is a powerful deterrent against North Korean aggression.
Capt. Jeffrey Grimes, the commander of Alpha Battery, 3rd Battalion, 13th Field Artillery Regiment stated, "Our Soldiers are highly trained and motivated. I can honestly say I'm proud of all their hard work and everything they have achieved in the few weeks since we arrived here. As the current 'Ready Battery', we're prepared to 'Fight Tonight' if called upon and send rockets downrange."
Rep. Wittman, from the 1st District of Virginia, praised the Soldiers' professionalism and expertise, stating "It's purely because of our Soldiers and the great skills and knowledge and ability they bring to the table which makes us the greatest fighting force in the world."
"My favorite part of the day was being out there watching the demonstration and seeing the equipment and being able to see all that goes into [serving here]," remarked Rep. Bordallo. "I was very impressed with all the coordination between the U.S. and ROK Forces. It's wonderful to see that you are working side-by-side."
3-13 FAR Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Will B. Freds said "The MLRS rotational unit first and foremost demonstrates the United States' unshakable commitment to our Korean allies. The addition of our battalion to the 210th Thunder Brigade significantly increases combat power on the peninsula while providing the Combined Forces Commander an even wider array of deterrent options. By deploying from Fort Sill and assuming the 'Ready Battery' mission within two weeks of arrival proves the expeditionary capability of our Army and the quality of our trained and ready Soldiers."
The congressional visit will assist the Readiness Subcommittee's findings regarding issues affecting unit training, equipment maintenance, facilities and services. Their recommendations will influence key decisions on the Army's budget, outlined in the National Defense Authorization Act of each year.
"It is critical to understand what [Congress] must do to support readiness, especially here on the Korean Peninsula with the recent acts of aggression from Kim Jung-Un," remarked Wittman, who serves as chairman of the subcommittee. "I want to make sure we understand those things so we can make the right decisions in the House Armed Services Committee as far as the dedication of resources, to understand what it takes to sustain training levels so when [rotational units] come here, they're ready for any of the scenarios they might face."
In light of sequestration and budget cuts, Bordallo also stressed the need to directly interact with Soldiers and see "what's happening on the ground, the true perspective of what [Soldiers] are dealing with and making sure as we make decisions and that we're aware of what our men and women who are forward deployed are going through."
Following a meeting with 2nd Infantry Division leaders, Soldiers and congressional representatives enjoyed lunch together at Thunder Inn Dining Facility. Soldiers from Guam and Virginia talked with their congressional representatives about their military service in Korea and life back home.
Pfc. Avonte J. Chavis, a Chesterfield, Virginia, native assigned as a Field Artillery Surveyor/Meteorological Crewmember to 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery Regiment said "Rep. Wittman was a down-to-earth, really cool guy. We had an in-depth conversation about fishing. I was surprised but very thankful he spent some time to talk with a handful of Soldiers."
Staff Sgt. Renato V. Capistrano, a Yona, Guam, native assigned as a 13P Fire Direction Center section chief to 3-13 FAR said, "I've had the privilege of meeting Rep. Bordallo before. It's nice to have your congresswoman come out and engage people at your level, to see and experience what we do, which doesn't happen often."
Sgt. 1st Class Ernest L. Smith, 91X Maintenance Supervisor from Staunton, VA said "Rep. Wittman easily connected with all the Soldiers. He spoke to each of us about our hometowns and even knew some of our family members. He definitely cares about the well-being of both Soldiers and his fellow Virginians."
"I think the most important thing that I can do is to go to places where our men and women are forward deployed," stated Wittman, "to first of all thank them for the job that they are doing and to understand the sacrifices they go through to serve in these areas."