YONGSAN, South Korea -- After two years serving as the U.S. Marine Forces Korea commanding general, Maj. Gen. Robert Hedelund spoke on his accomplishments and challenges in MARFORK.
Although there are only about 75 Marines in MARFORK, they play an integral role in the facilitating training for rotational Marines and the building of strong, lasting relationships with their Republic of Korea counterparts, Maj. Gen. Hedelund said.
The MARFORK hosts 15 to 20 Korea Marine Exercise Program training events a year to ensure U.S. Marines are prepared to come to the Peninsula and fight if called upon.
“We have had success in putting together a realistic plan for our two Marine Corps to improve our ability to serve the alliance,” said Maj. Gen. Hedelund.
These events bring in U.S. Marines from off country to both train Korea specific scenarios and work hand-in-hand with their ROK counterparts.
“We use those engagements and training events to really – at the tactical level make sure the Marines that come here to fight and the Marines that are here with the ROK Marine Corps know each other,” said Maj. Gen. Hedelund. “They work together. They fight together. They train together. It’s very symbiotic. We learn things from them. They learn things from us.”
Along with regular scheduled training and the use of U.S. Marine liaison officers to ROK units, MARFORK plays an important role in helping the ROK Marine Corps continue to train and prepare a rapidly deployable Marine Task Force.
The task force, named the Spartan Unit, is similar in size and capability to a U.S. Marine expeditionary unit and would work closely with the ROK Navy to be prepared to respond rapidly when needed.
Maj. Gen. Hedelund said their ROK counterparts “seek to gain our experience” in the training and preparation of this type of unit for a humanitarian assistance or disaster relief crisis.
The ROK and U.S. Marine Corps have nurtured a relationship built upon trust and mutual understanding, during his time in command, he said.
“Our U.S. Marines and our ROK Marines are more comfortable training with each other,” he said. “I think they trust each other more and the relationship is stronger.”
This trust is crucial in combat, and U.S. Marines are prepared to fight side-by-side if called upon.
“The ROK Marine Corps has very good training,” Maj. Gen. Hedelund said. “They have very good discipline, and they are really good marksmen. I’d fight with them tomorrow. And they value that relationship with the U.S. Marine Corps.”
Maj. Gen. Hedelund will relinquish command to Maj. Gen. James Lukeman June 14.