More than 150 Utah National Guard members arrived in Korea this week to participate in an annual military exercise that involves both United States and Korean soldiers.
"Our primary mission is to deploy with I Corps," said Col. Robert Miller, executive officer of the Salt Lake City-based artillery corps made famous among civilians by the movie and television series M*A*S*H.The troops' objective is to practice moving men and equipment from Utah to South Korea, I Corps' area of operation in the event of a wartime deployment. Without practice, the troops wouldn't be able to carry out their assignment in the event of a war, Col. Miller said. "The more that we can practice, the bigger message we send out to whoever might be a threat."
Guard members started the deployment by trucking their equipment to the Tooele Army Depot where it was moved by rail to Tacoma, Wash. The equipment is then shipped to Pusan. The Guard members flew to Korea, met their equipment in Pusan and then drove the military hardware to a field headquarters set up in the northern part of South Korea.
"The second major objective of this exercise is to practice our wartime mission in Korea so we have people who have seen the environment and who have worked in both the Republic of Korea Army and the I Corps staff on an exercise plan," Col. Miller said.
Last summer, a major artillery called FIREX, which was conducted in Utah's West Desert, simulated the same logistical training and transport activities without the troops ever leaving the country.
Lt. Col. Ron Craig, the logistics officer for I Corps, said the major difference between the Team Spirit exercise and FIREX is that Team Spirit is conducted in the place where soldiers might actually be assigned to fight someday.
"FIREX set the groundwork," he said. "The only thing it didn't do was to test the inter-operability between us and the Republic of South Korea military. There were no language problems to overcome," Craig said.
Overseas missions like Team Spirit show the increasing importance the reserve and National Guard units have to national defense, said Brig. Gen. James M. Miller, I Corps commander. "With diminishing military budgets, more missions are being pushed to the reserve."
Gen. Miller is a Guard member who has a full-time civilian career as the dean of the school of education at Southern Utah State College.