By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2014 – The rotational deployment of a cavalry battalion from Fort Hood, Texas, to South Korea next month is part of a broader effort to rebalance U.S. forces to the Asia-Pacific region in support of the defense strategic guidance released in January 2012.
Defense Department officials announced today that the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, will deploy to Camps Hovey and Stanley on Feb. 1.
About 800 soldiers that make up the combined-arms battalion will deploy for the nine-month rotation with their wheeled and tracked vehicles in support of U.S. Forces Korea and 8th U.S. Army, officials said. Their equipment will remain in South Korea for use by follow-on rotations when the unit returns to Fort Hood.
The deployment underscores the U.S. defense commitment to South Korea and is part of enduring U.S. rebalancing efforts within the Asia-Pacific region, officials said. Posturing a trained, combat-ready force in the region allows for greater responsiveness to better meet theater operational requirements, they added.
An Army attack reconnaissance squadron became the first U.S. rotational land forces in the region when it deployed to South Korea in September. The 4th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, deployed with 30 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Its 380 members are operating in support of 8th Army, the 2nd Infantry Division and the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, Army Lt. Col. Brian Watkins, the squadron commander, reported.
As with the deploying cavalry battalion, the squadron will leave its aircraft behind after the deployment is completed for use by the follow-on rotational unit, which will come from U.S. Army Alaska.
The Army rotational deployments are just one aspect of the rebalance. Marine Rotational Force Darwin was the first new rotational arrangement in the Asia-Pacific region designed to bolster U.S. theater engagement.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced during a joint news conference with President Barack Obama in November 2011 that Australia would host the rotational units. The intent, they said, was to build a rotational presence up to a 2,500-member Marine air-ground task force that would exercise with the Australian defense force and train regional militaries.
In building toward that goal, the first rotation of about 200 Marines deployed to Australia in April 2012, just months after the United States and Australia announced the initiative, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Matthew Puglisi, officer in charge of Marine Rotational Force Darwin, told American Forces Press Service in a telephone interview.
The second rotation of U.S. Marines wrapped up its six-month deployment to Darwin in late September, with the third rotation to increase five-fold when it deploys this spring, Puglisi reported. About 1,150 members of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, are scheduled to deploy from Camp Pendleton, Calif., complete with an infantry battalion, logistics and aviation detachment.
Meanwhile, the Navy has started littoral combat ship rotations in Singapore. USS Freedom completed its first rotation in November, basing its operations at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base after its arrival in April.
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the U.S. Pacific Command commander, is a big fan of rotational units, which he said provide an “uptick in presence” that complements that provided by the 330,000 service members permanently based within the Pacom area of responsibility.
“What they provide is an ability to work with our allies and to leverage the capabilities of the allies across all aspects of peace to conflict,” Locklear said. Rotational forces, he added, also provide a regional presence that could pay dividends if the United States had to flow more forces into a particular area to protect the interests of the United States and its allies.
(Follow Donna Miles on Twitter: @MilesAFPS)
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