Mission of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command
More than 46 years of fragile peace
have marked the history of "post-war" Korea, where the longest armistice
ever remains tenuously in force. For most of these years, the directing
headquarters was the United Nations Command (UNC), which had also
directed combat operations in the 1950-53 war.
The defense structure in Korea was
eventually overtaken by the professional growth and development of the
Republic of Korea’s (ROK) armed forces. As early as 1965 it was
recognized that what worked in the war could be significantly improved
by increasing ROK participation in the planning structure.
A combined operational planning staff,
developed in 1968 as an adjunct to United Nations Command/United States
Forces Korea/ Eighth United States Army Headquarters and the U.S.-led
‘I’ Corps (Group), evolved in 1971 as an integrated field army
headquarters. However, it was not until 1978, as a bilateral agreement
related to the planned U.S. ground combat force withdrawal of that time
(subsequently canceled in 1981), that the senior headquarters in Korea
was organized, as a combined staff.
Hostilities today are deterred by this
binational defense team that evolved from the multi-national UNC.
Established on November 7, 1978, the ROK/U.S. Combined Forces Command
(CFC) is the warfighting headquarters. Its role is to deter, or defeat
if necessary, outside aggression against the ROK.
To accomplish that mission, the CFC has
operational control over more than 600,000 active-duty military
personnel of all services, of both countries. In wartime, augmentation
could include some 3.5 million ROK reservists as well as additional U.S.
forces deployed from outside the ROK. If North Korea attacked, the CFC
would provide a coordinated defense through its Air, Ground, Naval and
Combined Marine Forces Component Commands and the Combined
Unconventional Warfare Task Force. In-country and augmentation U.S.
forces would be provided to the CFC for employment by the respective
The CFC is commanded by a four-star U.S.
general, with a four-star ROK Army general as deputy commander.
Throughout the command structure, binational manning is readily
apparent: if the chief of a staff section is Korean, the deputy is
American and vice versa. This integrated structure exists within the
component commands as well as the headquarters. All CFC components are
tactically integrated through continuous combined and joint planning,
training and exercises.
The major field training exercise was the
Team Spirit series that began in 1976 and grew to nearly 200,000 ROK
and U.S. participants commensurate with increased perceptions of the
North Korean threat. U.S. participation in the exercise included
augmentation forces of all services tactically deployed to the ROK from
other Pacific bases and the continental United States. This exercise was
last held in 1993.
Separate ROK and U.S. command post
exercises were combined as Ulchi Focus Lens (UFL) in 1976. In December
2006, The CFC CDR ordered the name of UFL be changed. The ROK staff
retained the name of the ROK government exercise "Ulchi" and changed the
exercise name to "Ulchi Freedom Guardian". UFG is an annual joint and
combined simulation-supported command post exercise that trains Combined
Forces Command personnel and major component, subordinate and
augmenting staffs using state-of-the-art wargaming computer simulations
and support infrastructures.
At the unit level, frequent no-notice
alerts, musters, and operational readiness inspections insure combat
preparedness for ROK and U.S. forces. Both countries are pursuing
ambitious modernization programs to maintain a viable ROK/U.S. military
posture that will convince North Korea that any form of aggression or
adventurism will fail. The ROK is making strides in equipment
improvement through a rapidly expanding domestic defense industry, as
well as purchases from foreign sources. U.S. efforts toward
modernization include newer, more powerful weapon systems, greater
mobility and helicopter lift capability, and vastly increased anti-armor
In summary, the Combined Forces Command
reflects the mutual commitment of the Republic of Korea and the United
States to maintain peace and security, and the willingness and
capability to take that commitment into battle, if the need arises.