Thirty OH-58D Kiowa helicopters will be moving to Camp Humphreys, South Korea, beginning Oct. 1. (Army)
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WASHINGTON — As Capitol Hill wrangles with crafting a bill that would authorize President Obama to launch airstrikes against the regime of Bashir Assad in Syria — an operation that will almost certainly exclude the Army — the nation’s ground pounders are actually hard at work on the other side of the world.
There are still tens of thousands of soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, of course, but there are also some significant doings concerning the strategic “rebalance” to the Asia Pacific.
On Sept. 4, the Army announced it had approved the deployment of 380 soldiers and 30 OH-58D Kiowa helicopters to Camp Humphreys, South Korea, beginning Oct. 1 for a nine-month rotational tour.
The 4th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment had previously been stationed in Korea until its 2008 deployment to Iraq, after which it was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.
A statement from the Army about the rotation said that “the squadron will provide a trained and combat-ready rotational force that will deploy with their equipment to South Korea. The equipment will remain in country for use by follow-on rotations” while the soldiers will return to Washington once the rotation wraps up.
The plan is for the squadron to rejoin its old 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade parent unit, bringing the 2nd CAB back to full strength for the first time in five years.
Army Times reported in July that this new rotational model would cycle in full, trained units with all of their equipment, and would replace the individual on-year tours that until now have marked Korean deployments. The individual tour model was found to be a hassle, since Korean-based units saw degraded cohesion and readiness levels since solders were on different training and rotation schedules.
Overall, the Army has about 19,000 soldiers stationed in South Korea.
But new soldiers and helicopters aren’t the only thing heading to Asia over the next couple weeks. From Sept. 9-13, Army chief Gen. Ray Odierno and his staff will be in New Zealand to meet with dozens of regional partners.
Senior Army leaders from around the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions will converge on New Zealand to attend two events running concurrently: the eighth Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference, as well as the thirty-seventh Pacific Armies Management Seminar.
It’s a major event, and the Kiwis will play host Army Chiefs representing 27 countries from around the region to discuss this year’s topic, the heady-sounding “The Sum is Greater than the Parts: 21st Century Peace Operations in a United Nations Context”
The conference will run at the same time as the thirty-seventh Pacific Armies Management Seminar, where security officials from about 32 nations in the region will meet.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno along with Maj. Gen. David Gawn, Chief of Army, New Zealand; Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander, U.S. Army Pacific; and Brig. Gen. Pete Kelly, Deputy Chief of Army, New Zealand will acts as hosts of the event.