Below is an article from Voice of America that describes how the US military’s 2nd Infantry Division in Korea conducts tank gunnery training:
At a time of rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, a quartet of U.S. Army “Abrams” M1-A2SEP tanks rolls onto the frozen ground of the Rodriguez Live Fire Range near the DMZ during one of the coldest days of the winter.
The tanks and their crews, from Dragon Company of the 1st Battalion’s 72nd Armor Regiment (1-72 AR), are a small but lethal component of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division stationed close to the tense border separating North and South Korea.
The division has the unenviable task of holding off – until reinforcements arrive – a much larger enemy force, should there be an invasion similar to the one that began the Korean War in 1950.
The tankers’ advanced qualification exercise (known as a gunnery table XII) not only involves the crews inside the 70-ton 1,500-horsepower vehicles, but 400 other support personnel scattered across the range, including those in an observation tower and a large heated tent that serves as the battalion tactical operations center. [VOA News]
You can read more about tank gunnery at the link. You can also read my profile of the Korea Training Center at the below link:
- A Profile of the Korea Training Center
A few important things to point out is that the 2nd Infantry Division is not really a division. It basically has one combat brigade backed up with aviation and logistical support. The rest of the division is stationed stateside. So they are not going to be holding off the North Koreans, it is going to be the job of the much larger ROK Army to do that during an invasion. However, here is something else I found of interest at the very end of the article:
Senior security strategy researcher Hong Hyun-ik, at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, says despite the huge economic disparity between the two Koreas, the South likely would not be able to repel the North without such American units as the 2nd Infantry Division.
Hong contends it would be relative easy for Seoul to be captured by the North should Pyongyang again start a war. Taking this into consideration, he explains, even though South Korea “desires to have an independent defense posture it knows it must rely on U.S. forces here to have a sufficient deterrence.”
I disagree with this assessment. I do not think it would be easy at all for the North Koreans to capture Seoul. In fact I don’t think they would even try because of how it would slow down their invasion plans to wage urban combat in one of the world’s most densely populated cities. The North Koreans would have to end a war very quickly because they likely do not have the logistics to sustain an attack. The only way I could imagine the North Koreans being able to capture the South is through the use of WMD against ROK forces which would end the war quicker for them before their logistics ran out. However, as long as the US is allied with South Korea any use of these weapons would lead to an overwhelming response in kind by the US. Thus this is the actual deterrence that keeps the situation stable on the peninsula.
The Pentagon could pull what remains of the 2nd Infantry Division from Korea tomorrow and I do not think it would have much affect on the tactical fight on the peninsula. The 2ID is however the most visible sign of the US commitment to the US-ROK alliance by putting actual ground soldiers in harms way near the DMZ. This is a strategic communications message to the North Koreans that the US remains committed to the security of South Korea and they best not try an invasion because it will be met with the overwhelming response they know they cannot survive.