The U.S. and ROK Begin Operation ‘Freedom Shield’

On Tuesday of last week, Marine Corps forces from both the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) began the annual ‘Freedom Shield’ exercises. The training began a day after North Korea test-launched two cruise missiles, which the North Korean media claimed were “tipped with a test warhead simulating a nuclear warhead.”

The III Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF) from Okinawa are the primary wing of the American forces that are taking part in the Freedom Shield exercise. United States Marine Corps Major Patrick Majeski noted, “This exercise showcases III MEF’s posture by projecting power from multiple locations to enhance the integrated defense of our allies and partners as a stand-in force for the Indo-Pacific.” The I MEF from Camp Pendleton, California, is also involved in the exercise. This is the first time the I MEF’s headquarters element has deployed to the Korean peninsula in more than 20 years.

American cross-branch aircraft are also taking part in the exercises, to include the F-35B and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. In order to increase joint readiness, as part of the exercises U.S. forces created a combined marine component command (CMCC) with ROK marines. The CMCC allows for the seamless integration of American and ROK forces, which would allow for quick and decisive action to be taken in a time of crisis. British Royal Marines are also participating in the exercise, while forces from France, Australia, and the Philippines are observing.

A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 lands during exercise Keen Sword 23 at Tutsara Island, Kumamoto, Japan, Nov. 14, 2022.

The exercise includes training for amphibious landings, live-fire drills, and the important integration of US and ROK forces. The III MEF described the goal of the exercises on their website, saying, “The exercise will include but not be limited to lessons learned from current and ongoing conflicts to increase the units’ combat readiness and combined defense posture, as well as strengthen the security and stability on the Korean peninsula and across Northeast Asia.”

South Korean Marine Corps Commandant Lt. Gen. Kim Gye-hwan also spoke about the exercises, saying, “The upcoming training will demonstrate the South Korea-US alliance’s will to realize peace through strength.”

Coinciding with the training is a related joint-operations drill, ‘Warrior Shield FTX’. The III MEF described Warrior Shield on their website, saying, “The purpose of the training for Warrior Shield FTX is to further enhance the ROK and U.S. militaries’ cooperation through air, land, sea, space, cyber, and special operations and improve upon tactics, techniques, and procedures.” The III MEF wrapped up their website’s post about the exercises by saying, “The ROK-U.S. Alliance remains at a high level of readiness and continues to maintain a robust combined defense posture. All professional militaries train using routine and continuously executed events to maintain proficiency, credibility, and trust. Freedom Shield 23 is the latest example of that training and the ironclad commitment to support and defend ROK sovereignty from any threat or adversary.”

The training is set to last 10 days and will end on April 30th.


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