By David McNally
RDECOM Public Affairs
NEAR SUWON, Republic of Korea — Army science and technology is playing an expanded role in military exercises in Korea, officials said.
The Republic of Korea-United States Combined Forces Command exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian runs through Aug. 26. For the first time, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command is providing real-time support.
“When you commit to an exercise, you become part of the scenario and you’re given tasks and challenges to overcome,” said Col. Jim Bass, acting Science and Technology Acquisition Corps Adviser to U.S. Forces Korea.
Major headquarter elements from the Republic of Korea, United States and the United Nations Command are taking part in the UFG exercise both on the Korean peninsula and at U.S. military headquarters in the Pacific and the United States. Officials said the annual computer-assisted simulation command post exercise “is, like all CFC exercises, routine and defense-oriented.”
Science and technology support is being offered at three major echelons in Korea: U.S. Forces Korea, 8th U.S. Army and the 2nd Infantry Division, Bass said.
“Our expectations of a gradual introduction of our capabilities through several exercises were greatly exceeded,” Bass said. “The leadership at all echelons engaged our teams and immediately challenged our engineers with both real world and exercise-generated technology issues. The exercise and our contributions to it went extremely well.”
Today’s Army uses science, technology and engineering to fill Warfighter capability gaps. Soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq regularly tap into resources available from RDECOM science and technology teams.
“One of our critical skills is the ability to translate a Warfighter need into its core requirements,” Bass said. “Is the requirement a technology issue, training issue or sustainment issue? Then we get it transitioned to the proper organization for resolution.”
Bass said the Army is seeing success using science and technology advisors in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“To replicate that resource, and to exercise that capability is not trivial and requires a commitment to operationalize RDECOM personnel to support exercises and contingency operations with sustainable trained personnel resources,” Bass said. “Participation in this exercise represents that commitment to the Warfighters in the USFK and Pacific Command.”
Bass said during the exercise USFK leaders submitted more than 22 real-world requests to RDECOM to look for specific solutions to empower, unburden and protect the Warfighter.
“Everywhere we are able to get to do our mission we are seen as a valuable or critical resource to solve current and future technology gaps,” Bass said. “These 16 requests are not exercise inserts, but real issues to be supported by our research, development and engineering centers and labs.”
RDECOM has more than 13,000 researchers, technologists and engineers at the Army Research Laboratory and research centers across the United States.
In April, RDECOM stood up a technology center at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, to rapidly prototype solutions for Soldiers on the front. Science and technology advisors have become a key conduit for identifying gaps and filling them, officials said.
Bass commands the RDECOM element in Tokyo and has the responsibility of providing science, technology and engineering support to the U.S. Army throughout the Pacific region.
“This was a great first effort,” Bass said of the exercise involvement. “We have established ourselves on the peninsula and will now be a regular participant in UFG and other Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea exercises.”