Preventing Task Force Smith: The Need to Return US BCTs to Korea
JOINT MILITARY OPERATIONS DEPARTMENT NAVAL WAR COLLEGE NEWPORT United States
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On 05 July, 1950, in the first US engagement of the Korean War, Task Force Smith was obliterated by North Korean forces largely due to the lack of joint support. Since that date, US forces have maintained a constant presence in Korea. However, US force numbers in Korea have been in general decline since the end of the Korean War. In 2015, the last US brigade combat team stationed in Korea cased its colors to be replaced by a rotationally deployed brigade. The departure of this brigade was the result of decisions made in 2002-2003 that resulted in the smallest number of US combat troops in the Republic of Korea since 1950. 14 years later, assumptions about the transformation of the Republic of Korea military and assumptions about the threat posed by the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea that led to this decision have proven false. Although the joint capability of the US in Korea remains strong, the US combat ground forces are dangerously weak. A reassessment of these assumptions, as well as a current assessment of the time, space, and force factors on the Korean peninsula reveals the urgent need to return to a force of three US Brigade Combat Teams in Korea. Failure to do so may result in a repeat of Task Force Smith only this time instead of a ground force with insufficient close air and fires support, the US may significant air, fires, and naval forces with insufficient ground forces to win the fight.
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