MARCH 18, 2015, YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea – After two weeks of training, participants in the annual military training exercise Key Resolve have packed up their equipment and are homeward bound.
Among those were nearly two dozen Soldiers assigned to the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 213th Regional Support Group. The Soldiers deployed from the United States to support the March 2-13 drill in South Korea. Joining in were members of the Pennsylvania Guard’s 109th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
Key Resolve is a computer-based exercise, with scenarios presented to planners and operations specialists to work through and determine solutions. It specifically tests the ability of U.S. Forces Korea and the armed services of South Korea to deal with a variety of situations that could affect South Korea.
Two main groups of 213th RSG Soldiers provided support to Eighth Army during the exercise. A modest group of Soldiers sent to support the training included transportation staff officers and non-commissioned officers from the unit’s headquarters company to provide expertise in the areas of transportation and logistics.
Cohesion of units can be a concern for some, but Soldiers of the 213th RSG learned to adapt and work as individual augmenters within a unit of personnel they did not know well.
“We’ve been very flexible working with (Eighth Army) and, because we showed up with a variety of skill sets, (Eighth Army) were able to plug us into different positions,” said Maj. Eric Turner, commander of the 28th Finance Battalion and chief of supply and services at the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office.
Turner said the exercise tested several of his core competencies as a transportation officer in a realistic simulation of potential operational scenarios on the Korean Peninsula. This included working within a framework previously unfamiliar to Turner.
As the only 213th RSG augmenter experienced with sea, air, road and rail transport, the Eagleville, Pennsylvania, native was assigned to the Combined Transportation Movement Center in Seoul.
“I got really lucky working with Maj. Turner because of his merchant marine background,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Razon, one of Turner’s co-workers during the exercise. “Basically, it took me only a few minutes to explain to him what our duties were, and we spoke the same language, being mariners, and he was able to fall into the role automatically.”
A second group of Soldiers came from the 109th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment to support Eighth Army Public Affairs’ simulation of a media operations center. The public affairs Soldiers also were required to learn during the training. While experienced through recent training in eastern Europe, the 109th MPAD was tested on its ability to support a mission on the Korean peninsula.
“MPADs have a dual mission. The first part is to produce command information products and the second part is to augment media operations centers. In this mission, we were able to do both,” said Maj. Angela King-Sweigart, commander of the 109th Public Affairs Detachment.
The challenge of creating and sharing stories, called command information by those in Army public affairs, was one of the tasks assigned to Spc. Alexis Gonzales.
Before joining the MPAD in late 2013, Gonzalez’s military job was to fuel helicopters, but she decided to pursue a position in public affairs because she is studying communications in college. Gonzales said she thought the Key Resolve exercise was difficult, but rewarding.
“The most challenging thing about being here is the fact that I haven’t been to Defense Information School yet, to fully learn the job of broadcast specialist, but I’ve been lucky to have a lot of skilled NCOs in the 109th (MPAD) and in the Eighth Army PAO helping me out,” she said.
Both groups of Soldiers faced the challenge of having to adapt to a reality on the ground that differed from what their expectation of this training would be, and both groups overcame the challenge and learned valuable lessons for their military careers.
“The mission here has been a success and my Soldiers have done very well and illustrated the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s interoperability with the active-duty component,” said King-Sweigart.