South Korean officers joining 2ID as part of combined division
SEOUL, South Korea — About 30 South Korean officers, including a one-star general, became part of the 2nd Infantry Division’s headquarters staff Thursday as part of the formation of a combined division.
The integration is one of the first concrete steps the two militaries have taken toward the historic restructuring since the initiative was announced last September.
“U.S. and Korean soldiers will literally operate as one unit with one unified effort,” 2ID commander Maj. Gen. Thomas Vandal was quoted as saying in a 2ID statement. “Nowhere else has this been attempted to the extent that we are going to implement, and the fact that we are able to make this happen is momentous.”
The combined division will fall under the 8th Army and include 2ID forces and South Korea’s 16th Brigade. It will be led by the 2ID commander and a South Korean one-star general — initially Brig. Gen. Yin Sung-hwan — acting as deputy commander. Many of the South Korean officers joining the headquarters staff, composed of approximately 750 U.S. troops, will begin integration training next week, according to the statement.
Officials have said the combined division will improve the allies’ warfighting capabilities and create more opportunities for joint training. South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense previously said that during peacetime, troops from each country will live at separate bases and train together as needed.
2ID spokesman Lt. Col. Scott Rawlinson said 2ID will have a “habitual training relationship” with the 16th Brigade, which will not be directly attached to the American unit.
“They’ll always be part of our training events,” he said. “Should hostilities occur, they’ll be operationally controlled by the division commander.”
The combined division will take part in this spring’s annual Key Resolve exercise, he said.
For now, he said, “We’re just getting (the combined division) kicked off. There’s some integration training, and we’re doing administrative stuff like getting email accounts and office space.”
The combined division and its headquarters will initially be located at Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu until forces move to Pyeongtaek, home to Camp Humphreys, as part of the larger consolidation and relocation of U.S. forces on the peninsula. Humphreys will eventually replace U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul as the flagship U.S. military installation on the peninsula, with much of the timing of the relocation hinging on the pace of expansion at the base.
Construction of 2ID headquarters, office and housing facilities at Humphreys is scheduled to be completed in 2016, though the U.S. and South Korea agreed last fall that an American brigade will remain behind in Dongducheon after the relocation.
Rawlinson said there will be no movement of 16th Brigade personnel as part of the formation of the combined division.