YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea, Sept. 10, 2010 — An ongoing series of exercises has improved the readiness of the U.S.-South Korean alliance, the commander of Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea said here yesterday.
In a roundtable discussion with Korean journalists, Army Gen. Walter L. “Skip” Sharp discussed the series of exercises that are taking place in the wake of the North Korean sinking of the South Korean ship Cheonan, introduced the Strategic Alliance 2015 plan, and praised South Korea for putting on a first-class celebration honoring Korean War veterans.
Sharp was joined by South Korean Gen. Jung Seung Jo, the Combined Forces Command deputy commander, who focused his comments on the importance of the recently completed Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2010 exercise, one of the largest and most comprehensive combined command post exercises in the world.
Sharp started his remarks by paying homage to the Korean War veterans who laid the foundation for the U.S.-South Korean alliance.
“Those Korean War veterans who fought side by side secured the future of a nation and laid the groundwork for one of the greatest military alliances the world has ever seen, an alliance that has ensured the security of the Republic of Korea for 60 years and served as the cornerstone for peace and prosperity in this region,” he said.
The general then discussed the importance of adapting the exercise and training program to provide realistic training. He pointed to the recently completed maritime and air readiness exercise Operation Invincible Spirit, along with Ulchi Freedom Guardian, as fitting this model.
The next alliance exercise will be an anti-submarine warfare exercise in the seas off South Korea’s west coast at a date to be announced in the coming weeks.
Sharp said he’s been impressed by the South Korean military’s professionalism, dedication and operational competence during the exercises. “We will continue to plan and conduct realistic and focused [combined] training events to ensure we maintain the highest level of combined readiness,” he said.
The general indicated that lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan increased the realism and training value of the exercises. Two of these lessons, which were applied during Ulchi Freedom Guardian, are the importance of being prepared to conduct offensive and stability operations at the same time in different areas and the need for an operation to be a unified effort across all elements of government.
Jung said Ulchi Freedom Guardian also was critical in ensuring alliance readiness during a full spectrum of operations, both during crisis management and wartime. He also emphasized that the exercise moved the alliance toward South Korea’s assumption of the combined defense scheduled for late 2015.
“UFG 2010 was fruitful as we continue to prepare for transition of operational control to guarantee a perfect and smooth transition,” he said.
Sharp introduced Strategic Alliance 2015, an alliance plan to synchronize South Korean and U.S. transformation initiatives as the alliance prepares for the transfer of operational control for combined defense.
“I am absolutely confident that our new bilateral plan, Strategic Alliance 2015, will better synchronize our ongoing transformation efforts; reaffirm the U.S. commitment to [South Korea] and the region; ensure both of our nations are even better prepared to swiftly counter, deter and defeat any North Korean provocations and aggression; and will ultimately result in a stronger alliance,” he said.
Sharp identified key elements of the plan. It includes refining and improving combined plans and developing new organizational structures and command and control relationships. It also features acquiring, organizing and training new systems and capabilities key to the transfer of operational control, as well as more realistic training based on current and future threats to the Korean peninsula and the consolidation of U.S. military units into two enduring hubs, which he indicated will be complete around 2016.
Jung said delaying the operational-control transfer to 2015 will enable South Korea’s armed forces to improve their surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as their capabilities in command, control, communications, computers and intelligence and precision targeting.
Sharp expressed pride in the U.S.-South Korean alliance and confidence that it will continue to grow even stronger.
“I am very proud of how strongly we work together as an alliance across all of the different components,” he said. “I’m very confident in our capability to deter and defeat any type of threat from North Korea as what is truly the strongest alliance that has been that strong alliance for 60 years now.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)