6-6 CAV builds collective readiness on the Korean Peninsula

by Spc. Thomas Scaggs
10th Combat Aviation Brigade

As day breaks near the Bongsu Mountain in South Korea, a small team of highly trained operators emerges from the thick underbrush. In the chilly air, the team of 10, compromised of U.S. Air Force Combat Controllers and Republic of Korea Joint Fires Observers moves stealthily through the wood line, en route to their objective as AH-64D Apache Longbows from 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, circle high overhead.

6-6 CAV, 320th Special Tactics Squadron, and Korean Army Joint Fires Observers completed Operation Teak Knife throughout November across South Korea in order to enhance Joint U.S. Army and Republic of Korea Army interoperability and build combat power.

This unique exercise is a critical step in strengthening ties between the RoK Army and U.S. Armed Forces. Korean Combat Controllers, who are certified as U.S. Joint Fires Observers spent weeks training, readying for this capstone event known simply as “Teak Knife.”

The 320th Special Tactics Squadron, based at Kadena Air Base, Japan, led the teams through the exercise. As the field portion of the training got underway, the teams sought to confirm the security of their infiltration zone from where they would control the air assets once they arrived on station. After completing this objective, the U.S. Soldiers and Korean Soldiers gathered to discuss their plan and set up their security posture.

Overlooking the Yedang Lake in front of Bongsu Mountain, the Soldiers began to search for any signs of enemy activity. Their primary concern was the elimination of any enemy air defense assets.

Shortly after beginning the search, the teams identified three enemy air defense systems placed in boats on the lake.

Not long after their discovery of the enemy, AH-64D Apache Longbows from the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment arrived on station. As with all of their previous rehearsals and pre-coordination, the RoK Army controllers took command of the aircraft after receiving their check-in briefs with continued assistance from their 320th STS counterparts.

Despite not being native English speakers, the RoK controllers trained hard on mastering the tenets of the standard call-for-fire terminology in training with the 320th STS in the garrison environment prior to coming to the field. This training was key to enabling their effective communication with U.S. assets, like the Apaches, during the execution phase of Teak Knife.

According to Capt. Michael McConville, of Charlie Troop, 6-6 Cavalry (Commanding) Teak Knife’s lead planner, “Using common JFIRE brevity allowed the aircrews to quickly detect, identify, and (notionally) prosecute targets handed over from RoK JFOs.”

This interoperability is key considering the importance of the RoK-U.S. alliance and the frequency with which these units work together.

Once reporting the notional air defense assets up to their chain of command, their headquarters approved a firing mission, prompting the RoK controllers to direct the Apaches onto the notional targets in order to destroy them.

This exercise demonstrated the ability of RoK forces to talk U.S. assets onto notional targets using the latest in highly sophisticated technology.

Using calls for fire with grid areas and also utilizing equipment like Ground Laser Target Designators (GLTD), the RoK ground forces demonstrated the capability to communicate and operate effectively with the Apaches.

Once in receipt of the target, the Apaches engaged the notional air defense assets and successfully destroyed the enemy targets.

“Working with 320th STS and their RoK JFO counterparts was a unique and rewarding training experience,” McConville said. “We were able to further build shared understanding and common TTPs that will make us more discriminately lethal on a combined division maneuver battlefield.”

Exercises like these are critical in building the confidence of both ground and air forces for future training and real-world events.

According to Lieutenant Jo Joon-won, RoK Army, Joint Fire Observer, “Through training, we were able to improve the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces' ability to carry out combined operations.”

This capability will continue to be of extreme importance in building readiness to Fight Tonight.

As for the future of training events such as Teak Knife, Capt. McConville shared, “We hope to continue to build upon our great relationship with the RoK ground forces.”

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