By Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea/Navy Region Korea/Task Force 78
Since the conclusion of World War II, mine strikes have seriously damaged or sunk 15 U.S. Navy ships, four times more than any other type of weapon. During the Korean War, the 1950 amphibious landings at Wonsan were significantly delayed by more than 3,000 mines laid by North Korean naval forces in just a few weeks. The Amphibious Task Force commander at the time, Admiral Allen E. Smith lamented, “We have lost control of the seas to a nation without a navy, using pre–World War I weapons, laid by vessels that were utilized at the time of the birth of Christ.”
Mines are the original naval anti-access/area denial weapon. Mines are relatively inexpensive, fairly easy to employ, and can lie inconspicuously in areas of high sea traffic. If employed successfully, mines not only destroy ships, but can also close vital international shipping lanes that can threaten the economic stability across the globe.
For more than 60 years, the U.S. and Republic of Korea navies have worked diligently to create a mine warfare partnership that remains ready for any contingency in the waters around the Korean peninsula. Considering the historical context and the danger that mines pose at sea, our navies must take these potential threats seriously. This is why we continue to develop training and engagement opportunities with our Korean partners that increase cooperation, teamwork, and proficiency in all facets of mine countermeasures operations.
During the month of October, we enhanced our mine warfare partnership with the Republic of Korea navy through Clear Horizon 2014. Our navies worked side-by-side, rehearsing vital mine countermeasures skills, across the entire mine warfare spectrum, utilizing the minesweepers USS Warrior (MCM 10) and USS Chief (MCM 14), MH-53 Helicopters from Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14 (HM-14), and members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, Platoon 501. Staff from Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7 (MCMRON) provided command and control of the exercise from Fleet Activities Chinhae.
This training enabled both navies to enhance proficiency and spend time at sea together, exchanging valuable expertise and rehearsing realistic scenarios in mine countermeasures operations. Bilateral exercises like Clear Horizon are the playing fields where we develop the interoperability necessary to ensure the U.S. and Republic of Korea navies can operate effectively together in mine warfare operations when it really matters, to protect and defend the Korean peninsula. Moreover, the Clear Horizon exercise allows our navies to leverage the power of teamwork in a difficult and demanding training environment, which enables us to be ready, if necessary, to fight tonight.
In Korea, we also have the opportunity to enhance multilateral partnerships at sea with the 18 United Nations Command (UNC) member states that have made a commitment to protect and defend the Republic of Korea during contingencies. At the end of October, we held a conference with military representatives from nine UNC member state nations in Seoul to discuss ways to enhance cooperation and training opportunities in mine countermeasures operations at sea. As the UNC Naval Component Commander during armistice, my team has unique opportunities to bring together mine warfare expertise that spans the globe through our UNC member state partners. This conference also included our U.S. Navy experts in mine warfare from the Naval Mine and Antisubmarine Warfare Command (NMAWC).
During these discussions, we engaged in meaningful dialogue on mine warfare with a dynamic group of military professionals who have years of experience and know-how in countering the threat of mines. Engagements like these provide us with another venue to share ideas about how we can continue to enhance readiness in mine countermeasures operations, and realize the full potential of the UNC Naval Component in strengthening our alliance and commitments to the security of the Republic of Korea.
I am extremely proud of the work of our Korean partners, our Forward Deployed Navy Forces from the U.S. 7th Fleet, our mine warfare experts from NMAWC, and our partners from the UNC member state nations for their outstanding engagement during the month of October, to enhance proficiency in mine warfare in the Korean theater of operations. I remain excited about the partnerships we continue to build in Korea that will pave the way for increased cooperation at sea, and enable us to continue to maintain stability and peace in the waters around the Korean peninsula.