The 48th Chemical Brigade deploys to Korea for warpath III exercise.
At 4 a.m. on Sunday, 25 June 1950, North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel (known as the "Military Demarcation Line" in that part of the world) and launched a full-scale invasion of South Korea. Four days later, Seoul (the capital of South Korea) fell. After 3 years of combat operations in places such as the Chosin Reservoir and Heartbreak Ridge, an armistice was signed in July 1953.
Nearly 60 years later, the 48th Chemical Brigade "Spartans" from Fort Hood, Texas--along with elements of the 23d Chemical Battalion "Lions" and the 110th Chemical Battalion (Technical Escort) "Iron Dragons" from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington--deployed to the Republic of Korea (ROK) to join the 2d Infantry Division (2ID), the 20th Support Command (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Yield Explosives [CBRNE]), and the ROK Armed Forces in Warpath III--the first-ever, division level, weapons of mass destruction-elimination (WMD-E), full spectrum exercise.
The 48th Chemical Brigade Warpath III mission set included deploying to the ROK in support of 2ID to combat weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to counter improvised explosive device fusion cell operations. The brigade also executed mission command of its subordinate battalions in support of efforts to eliminate North Korea's WMD.
Not only did the Spartans complete their mission, they conducted the largest strategic movement, deployment, and operation since their inception--and they did it without incident or injury. In addition, they conducted mission command across the entire Korean theater of operations. The leaders and Soldiers demonstrated that, when resourced, the 48th Chemical Brigade is capable of adapting to the diverse needs of full spectrum operations and unified land operations, integrating various required enablers--including explosive ordnance disposal and ROK forces as well as other technical WMD operations experts--and employing units within an austere operational environment. The exercise underscored the importance of training units to be proficient in their technical core competencies and tactical warrior tasks and reinforced the necessity of exercising units in unfamiliar environments to rapidly improve their readiness for combat and other contingency missions. It also highlighted the need to establish a common operational picture to effectively integrate U.S. forces, our ROK partners, and interagency personnel involved in WMD operations. The staff of III Corps and the support of the 20th Support Command were key and essential elements that contributed to the success of the brigade in meeting its training objectives, which included * Deploying the brigade and two battalion headquarters in support of WMD-E and counter improvised explosive device operations.
* Synchronizing WMD-E and counter improvised explosive device operations through the division WMD fusion cell.
* Training brigade staff in WMD-E operations.
* Conducting collaborative and parallel staff planning with 2ID staff.
* Refining tactics, techniques, and procedures for conducting WMD-E operations and maintaining partnerships with ROK forces.
* Reestablishing partnerships with CBRNE ROK forces.
* Supporting and synchronizing WMD-E and counter improvised explosive device operations through the division WMD fusion cell.
The purpose of the Warpath III exercise was to evaluate the ability of the division and subordinate brigades to support the ROK by controlling and preventing the proliferation of WMD material. A fusion cell was created within the brigade tactical operations center (TOC) for the purpose of analyzing information, providing recommendations, and synchronizing and synergizing efforts. The fusion cell was comprised of key members of division, chemical brigade, and ROK staffs as well as theater experts. During each hypothetical exercise scenario, U.S. forces demonstrated resolve in supporting the ROK while also improving interoperability and sharpening readiness.
All Warpath III participants (including the brigade) conducted 24-hour battle staff operations in a field level environment. The command post exercise portion of the operation concentrated on specific aspects of combined and joint warfighting according to Combined Forces Command operations plans. Once the full spectrum of reception, staging, onward movement, and integration had been crossed, the Hazardous Response Platoon (HRP), 61st Chemical Company; CBRNE Response Team 2C, 110th Chemical Battalion; and the 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, performed the decisive air-insertion mission and cleared an underground facility, allowing chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) assets to assess and exploit the facility. The HRP initially established an emergency personnel decontamination station alongside the hasty ROK decontamination station. The platoon also made use of unarmed ground equipment that was outfitted with a mounted camera, which allowed command post personnel to view any dangers existing in the target area. As the assault element cleared the facility, the HRP conducted initial-entry operations. CBRNE Response Team 2C and a team from the ROK CBRN Defense Command served as follow-on forces.
These elements conducted assessment, sampling, detection, verification, and render-safe operations. Detailed troop decontamination was jointly performed by the 4th and 61st Chemical Companies.
The maneuver commander's ability to provide the commander of the 2ID with a complete picture of the CBRNE threat was inherent throughout the mission. The goal was to neutralize the enemy, rendering the adversaries unable to interdict any follow-on friendly operations. The 48th Chemical Brigade served as the primary advisor on all CBRNE matters, integrating with the 2ID TOC and the division CBRN cell. The brigade received CBRN attack and intelligence reports via the Combined Information Data Network Exchange and 2ID situational reports and updates from organic units that were under the operational control of 2ID maneuver elements. In addition to the fusion cell, brigade assets included experts from the Nuclear Disablement Team, 20th Support Command, and three explosive ordnance disposal experts from the 3d Ordnance Battalion. By the end of the operation, the unity of effort among all cells produced actionable intelligence that allowed the 2ID to accomplish its objective of preventing the proliferation of CBRNE weapons.
U.S. Soldiers and Korean liaison officers in the brigade TOC exchanged ideas and questions about individual roles, reporting procedures, and information processing within the TOC. A number of U.S. and ROK senior leaders and dignitaries visited the TOC and the fusion cell to obtain operational updates. The resulting cross-talk and joint dialogue collectively improved the leadership by revealing methods for processing information and intelligence; but more importantly, the collaboration strengthened the bond and partnership between the United States and the ROK. At times, the operational tempo restricted the lengths of the conversations; however, situational awareness and education continued through observations and mere presence.
The Warpath III exercise was successful in many ways; however, several challenges were also experienced.
Areas in which the Warpath III exercise was successful include the--
* U.S./ROK training relationship. While the brigade and ground units honed their tactics, techniques, and procedures, the Warpath III exercise also served as an excellent opportunity for U.S. and ROK forces to establish camaraderie and rapport. The brigade operations officer stated that "sometimes our only exposure to, or knowledge about, our counterparts is through information disseminated at the strategic level. It was an amazing experience being able to work with our counterparts at the operational and tactical level[s] and to experience and watch the plans [that were] developed materialize."
* Staff fusion and collaboration. The brigade staff's synchronized information was shared quickly and efficiently, allowing for accurate analyses to be provided to the commander and the 2ID in a timely manner.
* WMD-E awareness. After 10 years of battling insurgencies without the threat of CBRN warfare, the Warpath III exercise enhanced and tested the Soldier skills required to protect against CBRN hazards. Soldiers are expected to face a diverse and complex problem set that will require basic and specialized CBRN skills to survive and be successful in hostile environments.
The brigade faced several internal and external challenges during its largest strategic movement, deployment, and operation since brigade inception. These challenges included the-* Standardized reporting of WMD sites. During various stages of the Warpath III exercise, individual units submitted assessment and exploitation reports for their specific subportions of the overall target; each of these reports differed from the others. Recommendation: Higher-level units should develop a standardized assessment and exploitation report format for use across the Korean theater of operations.
* Tactical integration of U.S. CBRN assets into ROK maneuver force operations. There has been no integration of U.S. CBRN assets (HRPs, CBRNE response teams, chemical reconnaissance detachments) into ROK maneuver force operations during actual collective and combined arms training in recent history; therefore, the challenges associated with such integration have not been experienced. Recommendation: ROK forces should include U.S. CBRN assets in their next live collective training event.
Considering North Korea's existing chemical and biological weapons programs and the advent of their nuclear testing program, the reality of a CBRN threat has been elevated to a whole new level of precedence. The Warpath III exercise proved to be a valuable step toward enhancing the capability of counter WMD operations. Although there were extensive training tactics, techniques, and procedures across several levels, only through continuous, fully combined and integrated training can the security of the Korean peninsula be ensured. The Chemical Corps--and the U.S. Army as a whole--will build upon the lessons learned during this training exercise to achieve mission readiness when faced with any WMD threat. The 48 th Chemical Brigade is looking forward to reinforcing the successes of the Warpath III exercise and continuing to improve overall readiness during this year's upcoming exercise.
Acknowledgement: The 23d and 110th Chemical Battalions and the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 48th Chemical Brigade, contributed to this article.
Major Bates-Wallace is the executive officer, 48th Chemical Brigade. She holds a bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University and a master's degree in business administration from Webster University.
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|Author:||Bates-Wallace, Kimberly A.|
|Publication:||CML Army Chemical Review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2012|
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