Nearly 530,000 U.S. and South Korean troops participatedin Foal Eagle 99, one of the world's largest annual military training exercises. The combined and joint exercise is designed to test rear-area protection operations - or reinforcements - for a war in Korea. The exercise is also used to practice communications between U.S. and South Korean forces, officials said.
The exercise involves a series of tests to determine the readiness of rear forces, such as the Oct. 29 simulated chemical attack against the port of Pusan. About 150 soldiers and civilian dockworkers donned chemical protective gear during the mock attack. The drill -- referred to as Port Chemex 00-1 -- tested reactions and decontamination procedures for both soldiers and Korean civilians at the port.
On the same day in Seoul, U.S. Forces Korea announced that all DoD civilian employees and family members in South Korea would soon be issued protective masks to improve the command's long-term protective posture. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Petrosky, Eighth U.S. Army commander, said that USFK had been planning this addition to its Force and Family Protection Program for more than a year. He said DoD has now approved the command's request and USFK will begin issuing protective masks to family members and DoD noncombatants within a few weeks.
Mission-essential DoD civilians and service members in Korea have for some time been issued protective masks and clothing. The new initiative will provide masks to all civilian employees, their family members, and to the families of all service members. For the past year, civilian longshoremen and even secretaries at Pusan have been practicing how to don gas masks and work in chemical protective gear.
Located approximately 450 km south of Seoul, Pusan is the major port city for U.S. supplies entering Korea. It is also a major target for a chemical attack. "There are known threats here in South Korea because of North Korea's long range scud missile [capabilities] and [possible] chemical agents," said Staff Sgt. Miwon Matchett, chemical noncommissioned officer, 837th Transportation Battalion. "The probability of North Korea attacking the port with missiles carrying chemical agents [is high]." Harvey said he believes his unit may be the only one in South Korea that provides chemical protection training for Korean civilians.
While U.S. troops are familiar with the chemical protection training, Korean port workers weren't. Because of this, Korean civilians were somewhat skeptical over the need for such training. "At first when we explained what we wanted to do, they really didn't understand why," Harvey said. But his soldiers showed the civilian Korean dock workers Cable News Network videos from the Persian Gulf War, gave them an unclassified briefing on the threats from a chemical attack the port faces in the event of a war and the Koreans became more enthused about the prospect of donning protective gear, Harvey said. "It's not easy doing work for three and a half hours in MOPP-4," Harvey said. "But the threat here is high..."
The 837th conducted a decontamination and Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear exchange with Korean nationals at Pier 8. The MOPP4-4 drill required workers to don and work in all of the chemical protective gear issued by the military. The dock workers offloaded a Military Sealift Command ship, the Cape Knox, after the 61st Chemical Company decontaminated the pier while working in full chemical protection gear. This is the first time a U.S. Army unit will decontaminate a U.S. Navy vessel. After spending most of the day in full chemical decontamination gear, both the soldiers and Korean nationals were ready to have a breath of fresh air.
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