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Team Spirit: A Case Study on the Value of Military Exercises as a Show of Force in the Aftermath of Combat Operations

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Journal article

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Although an armistice ending combat operations was signed on 27 July 1953, no formal peace treaty concluded the Korean War. Consequently, the Democratic People s Republic of Korea DPRK technically has remained at war with the Republic of Korea ROK and the United States for well over half a century. Skirmishes between the two sides have erupted periodically, but no major combat has taken place since the cease-fire. This uneasy peace that has settled over the land of the morning calm has made dealing with the North Korean hermit kingdom a challenge for US and ROK political and military leaders. The adversaries have often utilized displays of power to communicate messages to each other, conducting military exercises to demonstrate political and military resolve. Commanders have long valued the efficacy of exercises. In World War II, Army leaders benefited from the Louisiana maneuvers. REFORGER exercises during the Cold War ensured the capability of US forces to deploy to Europe. Modern exercises at the national and joint readiness training centers, as well as the simulated air wars of the Air Warrior and Flag exercises, have proven invaluable in preparing forces for conflict. Short of actual combat, realistic training exercises are considered the best vehicles to prepare armed forces for war. Military exercises, however, can have value beyond the obvious benefit of readying troops for battle. Just as Carl von Clausewitz postulated that opponents wage war for political purposes, so can the preparation for war have value in the political realm. Such was the case with Team Spirit, an annual combined exercise held in the ROK. Born during a time of political controversy in the 1970s, this exercise, directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took on a life of its own as it became an effective tool for the United States when negotiating with both South and North Korea.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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