Transforming to Meet New Challenges

Article excerpt

U.S. Forces Korea

In 2010, U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) looks to the future as it continues to transform to meet new challenges. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War. The memorials, reenactments and celebrations remind us that the Korean War still holds many lessons for our current transformation efforts. The best way to honor our veterans and fallen is to ensure that today's servicemembers are armed with all we have learned from our past and ongoing wars so that they are ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow. U.S. Forces Korea, the Eighth U.S. Army and our Republic of Korea (ROK) allies are transforming today so they will be better prepared to meet tomorrow's regional challenges.

The Korean War taught us that our militaries must be agile, adaptive forces that can transform rapidly to meet the requirements of multiple contingencies. A force might have to make the transition from peacekeeping to insurgency to general war in a very short time span. Our USFK transformation efforts prepare us to meet a wide range of contingencies. First, we are prepared to deter aggression and provocations as part of our everyday armistice mission. Second, we are prepared to fight in a general war to defend the territory of the Republic of Korea. Third, in the aftermath of general war or destabilizing conditions on the Korean Peninsula, we are ready to conduct stability operations. Finally, the ROK-U.S. alliance can provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the region.

When we look at the history of the Korean War, we discover that the units that fought in those early battles had, following World War II, quickly and effectively transformed from fighting a general war in the Pacific to occupation duty in Japan. The occupation of Japan was a success, and commanders from General of the Army Douglas MacArthur down seemed content. The root of the problem, however, was that as a result of the wrong kind of planning and training, the wrong unit organization and the wrong force posture, those forces could not transform rapidly to deal with an unforeseen contingency. These deficiencies, along with a general sense that nuclear weapons had made land warfare obsolete and that the United States would always have the time and space to rapidly enlarge a small force of professionals with conscripts and reservists, led directly to the tragedy of Task Force Smith and the near disaster of the Pusan Perimeter battles.

Thousands of lives were sacrificed needlessly as units, leaders and soldiers relearned lost skills in the heat of battie. The Army transformed on the fly, in fighting positions and command posts under enemy fire. Learning was measured in lives and in hilltops won or lost.

After the Korean War, Army leaders took the first steps towards becoming a learning organization. The realization that our enemies would fight us via insurgencies and not general war led to a great deal of study and thought about counterinsurgency warfare. The intellectual ferment culminated in the tests of air mobility concepts by the 11th Air Assault Division (Test), which deployed to Vietnam as the First Cavalry Division and successfully used air-assault tactics to win at Ia Drang and in other battles.

Applying the lessons of the Korean War and others derived from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, USFK and our ROK allies, in conjunction with U.S. Pacific Command and the U.S. Embassy, are looking ahead to construct the force and alliance that can continue to deter war provocations and preserve peace and stability in Northeast Asia through the 21st century.

Like the Far East Command in 1950, we find that the security environment in Northeast Asia is changing. North Korea knows that it cannot defeat the combined conventional might of the Republic of Korea and the United States and will increasingly use other means to reach its strategic goals. While we must always remain prepared for a conventional attack, we must also be an adaptive, agile force that can fight and win across the spectrum of conflict. …