‘Death Dealers’ complete Jikdo Island gunnery
Story and photos by Cpl. Timothy N. Oberle, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
HUMPHREYS GARRISON – Armed with Hellfire missiles and 30mm Canon munitions during a blustery week in the middle of November, the 4th Attack Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment took aim with their AH-64 Apache helicopters at the Jikdo Islands.
Jikdo is an instrumented range facility on two islands off the western coast of Korea, near Kunsan Air Base.
Prior to deploying to Kunsan, the unit participated in an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise at Humphreys Garrison and the gunnery was part of the alert. Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Delta Company and Echo Company deployed immediately following the alert to Kunsan to provide support with command and control, fueling operations, and ammunition support to the Apache pilots.
However, extreme weather conditions throughout the week limited the battalion’s ability to conduct the exercise as planned. Dealing with 15-foot waves and a fog cover that cut visibility to less than a mile, the “Death Dealers” persevered and on Nov. 8th the weather conditions lifted just long enough to conduct the mission.
“Conducting a mission while dealing with high winds, large waves, cold temperatures and long flights is difficult, but it also adds a level of realism to the training,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Rowell, 4-2 Avn. Battalion commander.
For Rowell, the realistic nature of the training and intent behind the alert are extremely important in order to keep his battalion ready to “Fight Tonight.”
“The intent of the mission was to validate the battalion’s ability to conduct EDRE operations in support of the division commander’s readiness improvement initiative,” said Rowell. “Conducting missions like this helps to practice every aspect of our real world mission from the initial alert to deploying and finally to destroying any existing threats. The opportunity to execute an event that supports our war time mission and full spectrum training from an alert to firing missiles overwater is invaluable to the battalion.”
Elaborating on the importance of overwater training Rowell said, “Live fire overwater training extends our leaders’ reach and is an integrated component of the comprehensive defense posture here on the Korean peninsula. One of our objectives is to deny an adversary avenues and approaches into Korea. We do this by demonstrating our ability to search, acquire and destroy waterborne and ground threats with fire control radars, modernized target acquisition and designation systems, and long range Hellfire missiles.”
Rowell added, “Our ability to engage while stationary or while flying over 125 mph just over the water, day or night, gives us a tactical and maneuver advantage. If necessary, we can close with enemy vehicles or individuals and engage with our canon weapon systems to eliminate the threat.”
“Jikdo Island is a great venue for these types of exercises,” Rowell added, “because it provides an excellent field of fire and observation to engage Hellfire missiles. Furthermore, its location is perfect because of reduced shipping activity and its close proximity to Korea Search and Rescue services from both Republic of Korea and U.S. emergency services and recovery units.”
When asked whether he had enjoyed the exercise Rowell said emphatically, “The bottom line is that attack pilots always enjoy firing their primary weapon system in challenging environments. Not only do successful training events provide confidence to the individuals and organizations involved, but they also validate our full spectrum operations training focus as we conduct major combat operations in areas we may engage during a real world threat.”