Large US contingent to take part in South Korean exercise
SEOUL — Almost 10,000 U.S. troops will join the South Korean military later this month in the peninsula’s largest joint amphibious landing drill, South Korean media reported Tuesday.
U.S. Forces Korea officials did not comment on the exercise, although a Pentagon spokesman told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency that the number of troops taking part in this year’s Ssang Yong exercise — to be held March 27 through April 7 — is unprecedented.
“The scale of this year’s Ssang Yong is greater than any other in the past, proving the Navy and Marine Corps’ ability to conduct the full spectrum of a combined arms, amphibious landing operations in cooperation with our international partners,” Lt. Col. Jeff Pool told Yonhap.
Yonhap reported that, along with the 9,500 U.S. forces, some 3,500 South Korean marines and 1,000 South Korean sailors would be involved.
According to the U.S. 7th Fleet, the U.S. contingent for SSang Yong, which means “double dragon,” will include 7,500 Marines and 2,000 U.S. Navy personnel. The 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade from Okinawa and the 7th Fleet’s Commander Task Force 76 will participate in the exercise, which will address such scenarios as disaster relief and complex expeditionary operations, according to a U.S. military statement.
Yonhap reported that 12 U.S. and South Korean amphibious ships would take part in the drill, along with an unspecified number of Okinawa-based V-22 Ospreys. About 130 Australian soldiers are also expected to participate.
A spokesman for South Korea’s Defense Ministry declined to answer questions Tuesday about Ssang Yong, saying queries should instead be directed to U.S. military public affairs personnel.
Ssang Yong falls under the umbrella of the ongoing Foal Eagle joint field-training exercise, which ends April 18. As part of Foal Eagle, four U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyers arrived Saturday in ports across the peninsula: the USS Curtis Wilbur and USS Lassen in Pyeongtaek, the USS Lake Erie in Mokpo, and the USS Howard in Donghae.
About 12,700 U.S. troops and 200,000 South Korean troops are participating in either Foal Eagle or Key Resolve, the annual joint command post exercise that ended last week.
During last year’s Ssang Yong, 21 U.S. servicemembers were injured when a U.S. military helicopter made a hard landing near the Demilitarized Zone.
Stars and Stripes’ Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this story.