Army Unit from Alaska Gets to Train in Darkness in South Korea

I never thought of this before, but yes Army units from Alaska would have a very limited amount of time to train in darkness since the best months weather wise to train have a lot of daylight:

A soldier from 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, wears chemical-resistant gear while training at Rodriguez Live Fire Range, South Korea, Sunday, June, 4, 2017.

Six hundred U.S. troops wrapped up a monthlong training rotation to South Korea Monday with something in short supply this time of year at their home station in Alaska — darkness.

Soldiers from the Fort Wainwright-based 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment “Bobcats” spent May living and training at the 3,390-acre Rodriguez Live Fire Range north of Seoul.

“We’re here to build our lethality,” battalion commander Lt. Col. R. Blake Lackey said Wednesday.

That includes being able to operate day and night, the latter being difficult in the Alaskan summer, he said.

“This time of year we’ll be training at 1:30 in the morning and it’s still daylight,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Moore, 34, a recon team leader with the battalion.

“When it’s dark in Alaska it’s winter and it’s pretty harsh,” the West Palm Beach, Fla., native added. “So it’s really difficult to get after some of the more basic and fundamental [requirements].”

The Korea rotation has taken the unit “to a higher level of readiness we didn’t think was possible,” Lackey said.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the rest at the link.

ROK Defense Ministry Discloses How It Followed Environmental Laws to Deploy THAAD System

This was actually clever what the Korean Defense Ministry did to comply with ROK environmental laws that would have delayed the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system for up to year:

THAAD site on former South Korean golf course outside of Seongju.

A fact-finding mission into the deployment of a U.S. antimissile system in Korea in April raised a new suspicion that the Ministry of National Defense tried to sidestep an environmental study required by the law, the Blue House said Monday.

Following the discovery, President Moon Jae-in ordered a proper environmental study, effectively stalling the deployment schedule to be completed by the end of this year.

The probe also found that Lt. Gen. Wee Seung-ho, deputy defense minister of policy, has ordered his team to delete crucial pieces of information from a report to Moon’s security team, Yoon Young-chan, senior secretary for public relations, said in a press briefing.

Moon ordered last week an investigation into the ministry’s failure to fully brief his team about the U.S. military’s delivery of four additional launchers for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system.

The probe identified Wee as responsible for the omission and revealed that the ministry tried to avoid the environmental impact study. The conclusion was reported to Moon at the senior secretariat meeting on Monday.

Despite protests by Beijing and Moscow, Seoul and Washington agreed on the deployment of a Thaad battery in July 2016.

Key components of a Thaad battery, including a radar system and two missile launchers, were installed on a former golf course in Seongju, North Gyeongsang, on April 26 – less than two weeks before the May 9 election that brought Moon to power.

A Thaad battery typically consists of six launchers, 48 interceptors, a fire control and communication unit and radar. The military authorities of Korea and the United States planned to complete the deployment before the end of this year.

According to Yoon, the ministry created a plan on Nov. 25, 2016 that it will offer the Seongju site to the U.S. military in two separate transfers. Of the 700,000 square-meter (173-acre) site, a 328,779 square-meter piece was transferred in the first phase and another piece, about 370,000 square meters, was planned to be offered later in the second phase.

“By designating the first phase site to be smaller than 330,000 square meters, the ministry planned that only a summary environmental impact study was needed,” Yoon said. The law requires a full-scale environmental study when the site is larger than 330,000 square meters.

Yoon then said the first phase site is an odd-looking inverse U-shaped piece of land. “The shape was abnormally designed in order to exclude the land that is supposed to be inside the U shape,” he said.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but General Wee claims that he ordered the deletion in the report about the four launchers because the US military asked him to.  My guess would be that the US military wanted to keep the location of the launchers secret for operational security reasons.  We will see how this plays out, but my assessment is that the Moon administration will use this to maximum political advantage to appease his base without actually changing the deployment decision.

Where the Majority of US Military Servicemembers Come From

For those who have served in the military these statistics are probably not surprising:

With an active-duty force comprising merely 0.4% of the U.S. population, this divide between the military and the rest of society is unsurprising. However, and despite the services’ continued efforts, two trends are making it harder to bridge the divide: increased regional and familial concentration within the armed forces.

Why should this disturb us? Because of its subtle impact on the most important decision our nation’s leadership ever makes — when to put young men and women into harm’s way. It also undermines the military’s need for public support.

First, the facts: Having a relative who served in the military has become a critical indicator as to whether an individual will even consider military service. Among veterans under age 40, 60% have an immediate family tie to the military, compared to only 39% of civilians. Of the new recruits joining today, approximately 25% have a parent who has served. As time goes on, this pattern isolates military service; it is becoming a burden borne by an increasingly small number of families.

Similar trends emerge when examining the regional makeup of the force. Places where the military has historical roots, including locations close to military bases, draw more young men and women into the service. So 60% of new military recruits come from the South and the West, with the South alone contributing 36.9% of all recruits, while the Northeast and Midwest remain underrepresented relative to their population of people aged 18 to 24. In fact, half of the states in the U.S. contribute more than their fair share, and half contribute less. Though the service academies receive nominations from all 50 states, they are only one source of military commissions, focused solely on officers. Geographically, the military today is simply not representative of the U.S. population, depriving the armed forces of the organizational strength that comes from diversity.  [USA Today]

You can read more at the link.

 

US Soldiers Find Out What Average South Koreans Really Think of Them

Via Popular Military comes a video filmed by Korean-American servicemembers serving in USFK. They interviewed random South Koreans in Daegu on what they thought about the US soldiers in their country.  The opinions on the whole were largely favorable with most criticism being soldiers spending too much time in clubs, womanizing, and not learning Korean.

Yokota Airbase Worker Injures Japanese Civilian After Drunk Driving Accident

I bet the leadership in USFJ when they heard about this accident probably thought to themselves, at least this accident did not happen on Okinawa:

A Yokota civilian was under the influence of alcohol before the car he was driving crashed into another vehicle, injuring its occupant, Japanese officials said Monday.

A man in his 20s was taken to the hospital after the accident, which happened around 6 p.m. on May 7, a North Kanto Defense Bureau spokesman said. The man sustained minor injuries to his neck, he said.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

US and South Korea Complete Land Transfer In Preparation for Deployment of THAAD

According to the article the conclusion of the land transfer to USFK allows the US military to expedite preparations to deploy the THAAD missile defense system to the site:

Heavy equipment from USFK enters a THAAD deployment site in Seongju, southeast South Korea, on April 20, 2017. Some local residents protested the move. (Yonhap)

South Korea and the United States completed the regulatory process needed for Seoul’s provision of a base site for a U.S. missile defense battery, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

A bilateral committee on the status of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) approved the plan for land transfer, allowing the U.S. military to begin work for the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in the some 300,000-square-meter land in the southeastern county of Seongju.

The land was formerly owned by a Lotte Group affiliate and used as a golf course.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

US Soldier Accused of Raping a Korean Woman in Busan

Considering that the suspect is an ethnic Korean it will be interesting to see if the Korean media tries to keep a low key approach to this case or not:

An American soldier of Korean ethnicity has been charged with raping a Korean woman at a Busan guesthouse.

Busan Jungbu police have charged the man, 21, with raping the woman, 24.

The soldier, from a U.S. Forces Korea camp in Gyeonggi Province, made the woman’s acquaintance through an online dating app.

On Feb. 18, he met her in person in Busan while on a brief vacation. At about 4:30 a.m., after they had been drinking, the soldier took her to a guesthouse, where he allegedly raped her.

Police said the man had denied the charge.

The police plan to refer the case to U.S. military police, who will deal with it according to the Status of Forces Agreement between Seoul and Washington.  [Korea Times]

Is US Government Rushing THAAD to South Korea Before New President Takes Office?

That is what some are accusing the US of doing:

Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia Program at the Center for a New American Security, wrote in his column before the defense ministerial talks, “Secretary Mattis and his Korean counterparts are likely to seek to accelerate the deployment date of the THAAD missile battery, so that it happens prior to the next Korean election.”

After the talks, Seoul’s ministry said the two officials agreed to push for the deployment as planned, but declined to comment on whether the system would be in place before the election.

Park Won-gon, an international relations professor at Handong Global University, said it is significant for the United States to finalize the plan at the earliest possible date as the political situation in South Korea has been unstable with some opposition lawmakers even calling for withdrawing the decision to deploy THAAD.

He said Washington probably sees the possibility for an opposition candidate winning the election, so is rushing to deploy the battery out of concerns that the decision could be overturned by the next government.

“Mattis probably visited South Korea to check the ongoing situation here and make sure of the deployment in accordance with the Trump administration’s plan to advance its global missile defense program to protect against missile attacks from North Korea and Iran,” he said.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

Navy Special Warfare Unit Faces Investigation for Flying Trump Flag on Military Vehicle

I can’t remember an incident like this happening before, but it is a good reminder to troops to not display partisan political advertisements on military vehicles:

Steve Thompson was on his way to pick up some feed for his goat farm Sunday morning when he noticed an impressive-looking military convoy and started filming. When he neared the lead vehicle in the convoy, the 32-year-old Shepherdsville, Ky., man noticed something else: A large blue and white Trump campaign flag.

“I just thought it was just a bunch of military vehicles,” Thompson, who was driving near Louisville at the time, told the Lexington Herald Leader . “I was surprised because I figured you wouldn’t be able to fly anything on a Humvee other than an American flag.”

The Navy has since confirmed that the convoy was from a Virginia Beach-based special warfare unit.

Thompson’s video is one of two that have been circulating on social media this week, drawing both praise and outrage, and prompting the Navy to open an investigation into the flag-flying display. One of the Facebook videos showing the convoy was viewed close to 80,000 times before it was taken down Thursday afternoon – but not before unleashing a flood of comments.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

Poll Shows Japanese Citizens Do Not Want to Pay More for US Forces

I am surprised this poll showed 5% of people wanting to pay more to keep US forces in Japan.  It will be interesting to see what this number is whenever a similar poll in Korea is done:

A C-5M Super Galaxy arrives at Yokota Air Base, Japan, last year. A Nikkei poll taken this past weekend found that 57 percent of Japanese favored maintaining spending on U.S. bases at current levels, while 30 percent said Japan is spending too much. YASUO OSAKABE/U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO

Japanese citizens do not want to pay more for hosting U.S. military personnel and are now more likely to predict a downturn in bilateral relations, according to a Nikkei poll released Monday.

The survey taken this past weekend found that 57 percent of Japanese favored maintaining spending on U.S. bases at current levels, while 30 percent said Japan is spending too much. Five percent said Japan should spend more, the poll said.

Japan pays an average of 189.3 billion yen — or between $1.65 billion and $1.95 billion, depending on currency exchange rates — per year to support U.S. bases in the country as part of a five-year deal signed in 2015.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.