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Special ops in Korea.

IT'S a country that time has forgotten," said CSM Richard Kimmich of North Korea.

"I was in Afghanistan from January to August 2002 and in Iraq from March 2002 to August 2003." ;aid the current command sergeant major of Special Operations Command. Korea. known as SOCKOR. "Now this command is fighting the Cold War against old Soviet- and Chinese-type doctrine.

"We have to be prepared for war 365 days a year. because we never know when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il will say. 'We need to unify Korea today.'" Kimmich said.

If the North chooses to invade South Korea, there will be little warning, said Kimmich. If war breaks out. his 82-person headquarters would swell to some 500, with reinforcements from the Republic of Korea army, to form the Combined Unconventional Warfare Task Force.

North Korea has the fourth largest military forces in the world--some 1.2 million active-duty soldiers, more than 13.000 artillery systems and one of the largest submarine fleets in the world, according to U.S. State Department records.

"'In 1991. when the United States and other nations were reducing the size of their military forces, North Korea focused on building up its forces." Kimmich said. In 1991. too. North Korea had 40 percent of its army positioned along the demilitarized zone some 25 miles north of South Korea's capital, Seoul, and U.S. Forces. Korea's Yongsan Garrison.

Today, 70 percent of the North Korean army is positioned along the DMZ. Kimmich said. And U.S. State Department reports indicate that the North "has perhaps the world's second largest special-operations force, designed for insertion behind the lines in wartime."

Additionally, the reports reveal that "North Korean forces have a substantial numerical advantage over those of South Korea (between 2 and 3 to 1) in several key categories of offensive weapons--tanks, long-range artillery and armored personnel carriers."

Ironically, nighttime satellite images of the divided peninsula show a bleak, black image of the North, which accommodates some 23 million people, versus a bright, vibrant image of South Korea, population about 48 million, Kimmich said.

To stay prepared for crises and war, SOCKOR participates in six training exercises annually with ROK Special Warfare Command forces, including a counterterrorist exercise that focuses on marksmanship training, said Eighth U.S. Army spokesman MAJ Jerome Pionk.

Two of the events involve all U.S. and ROK special-operations forces, said SGM Jack Hagan of the 39th Special Forces Detachment.

Attached to the 1st Special Forces Group, the 16 Soldiers in the detachment work at 11 locations on the Korean peninsula, Hagan said.

"U.S. special-forces Soldiers have been training ROK soldiers for 48 years, so we no longer concentrate on basic Soldier skills. Most of the training we conduct is concentrated on advanced skills and interoperability," he said.

It includes courses such as fast-rope master, jumpmaster, combat dive supervisor, water infiltration, over-the-horizon navigation, tactical air control. military free fall and airfield seizure, among others.

"As liaisons to ROK special-forces units, we teach their teams to call in U.S. strike aircraft and coordinate for other U.S. assets, such as Army night aviation and intelligence," Hagan added.

Recently, ROK SF soldiers parachuted onto an airfield at low altitude at night and took control of the runway, allowing mock follow-on forces to come in within 30 minutes. 'That was significant, because it was something they hadn't previously done." Hagan said.

The SF Soldiers. master sergeants who serve as advisers to ROK army generals, trained approximately 1.000 ROK SF soldiers last year, Hagan said. using the "train-the-trainer" technique.

"We've maintained a legacy with Korean special forces, who supported us immediately after the Korean War, in Vietnam and now in Iraq," said BG Simeon Trombitas, SOCKOR's commander.

"As we learn lessons from our combat experiences, we share those with the Korean army. And we train them on changing systems." Trombitas said.

"The July 2006 missile launches and the October underground nuclear-weapon test by North Korea further demonstrate the need for the U.S. military presence in South Korea as a deterrent on the peninsula." he added.

"The U.S. and ROK special operations soldiers are at their highest level of proficiency. I have no doubts that they're ready to do their nations' bidding," Trombitas concluded.
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Author:Hasenauer, Heike
Publication:Soldiers Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2007
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