Soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade played a role in a major international military exercise in August.
The Milwaukee-based unit sent 32 Soldiers to Fort Lewis, Washington, to participate in Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a yearly exercise that simulates a war on the Korean Peninsula. This year's exercise, which occurs annually in August, tested U.S., South Korean and other Allied nations' abilities to execute their battle plans in the event of hostilities. The simulated scenario began approximately 100 days into the notional outbreak of war.
Lt. Col. Steven Sherrod, the 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade's administrative officer and officer-in-charge for the exercise, said U.S. forces executed plans for a counterattack after a North Korean invasion of the South. Ulchi Freedom Guardian, which is one of two annual major exercises on the peninsula, tests a different phase of operations each year.
"The purpose is preparation for the day that you might fight some sort of conflict on the Korean Peninsula," Sherrod said. "And to be better prepared for that eventuality."
The Soldiers of the 157th worked with the 25th Infantry Division's headquarters staff, which played its role from Hawaii and South Korea.
"We had a small battle staff that was basically working and doing all of the communication coordination that we would as a maneuver enhancement brigade for a division," Sherrod said. "So we had charge of the rear area, the mobility, route clearance and route security kinds of issues for the division forces."
In addition, 157th Soldiers played the role of moving engineer, military police and logistics units on the battlefield.
It proved to be a valuable experience for the Soldiers, who hailed from the brigade's headquarters staff, and several subordinate battalions including the Sussex, Wisconsin-based 108th Forward Support Company, the Oak Creek, Wisconsin-based 257th Brigade Support Battalion, and the 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery out of Milwaukee.
Many of the Soldiers experienced a major exercise for the first time and received valuable training on headquarters processes and the equipment used to command and control battle spaces.
"For a lot of our junior Soldiers, particularly if they were not at annual training, we utilized a lot of our computer systems and so forth for the first time this year in a consolidated fashion," Sherrod said. "So we got a lot of additional training on that - particularly the Command Post of the Future, which is our current platform for conducting operations logistics for the brigade as well as contacts with higher headquarters.
"For the battle staff it was valuable because we had to do all the reporting and briefing and planning and decision-making as far as fighting the battle and supporting the battle," he said.
Ulchi Freedom Guardian provided a rare test for the Soldiers to operate at the corps level and above. Most of the Soldiers had only operated with units at the company, battalion and brigade level prior to the exercise, according to Lt. Col. Tim Skelton, the commander of the 257th Brigade Support Battalion.
Sherrod and Lt. Col. Tim Skelton were both impressed by their team's performance, especially considering many of the Soldiers had not worked together previously.
The exercise kicked off in earnest on Aug. 24, but Soldiers and units arrived in the preceding days and weeks for setup and training. It concluded Aug. 28 and the unit returned to Wisconsin Aug. 30.