Dozens of officers from 12 UN members participate in FS exercise

Fully prepared in the event of a crisis on the Korean Peninsula

By Diplomacy Journal Lee Jon-young


The Freedom Shield (FS) 2024 joint exercise concluded on March 14. The 11-day exercise, which began on March 4 and concluded on March 14, was based on exercise scenarios reflecting the changing threats and security situation, including lessons from recent wars, and assumed various situations, including a transition of war and all-out war, according to the United Nations Command (UNC).


In particular, this year's exercise focused on multi-domain operations utilizing land, sea, air, cyber and space assets and neutralizing the North Korean nuclear threat. The ROK and the U.S. doubled the number of field maneuver exercises (FTX) from last year to further strengthen the alliance's response capabilities.



Dozens of reinforcements from 12 home countries - the United States, Australia, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy - among the 17 UN organizations that make up the UN Command (UNC) also participated in the exercise, ensuring international support. Member nations have consistently participated in joint exercises in a variety of capacities, in keeping with the command's credo of "under one flag.


Each UN Command member has provided troops and supplies to South Korea, coordinated the deployment of troops and supplies to the front, and established a cooperative system to ensure that troops or supplies arriving from other countries can be used smoothly. Through FS exercises, they have also mastered the situation in case of a crisis on the Korean Peninsula.


The following is an excerpt from a Defense Daily reporter's interview with UNC reinforcements at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek City, Gyeonggi-do, on March 13.


Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Nicholas Corrigan (Grandfather fought during the Korean War), said, “It was a "privilege" to take part in the FS exercise as part of a multinational coalition. Although I am a British military trainer and my role in the FS exercise is public affairs, I've learnt how to maintain a relationship with the media and get the right information out quickly" adding that he has learned the importance of working with multiple countries during the FS exercise.


In particular, Corrigan suggests that in order to build alliances with countries within the UN system, "I think we need to recognize, understand, and respect our differences."


Air Force MAJ Gregory Wallace (2nd time participating to UNC exercise), who served as an air traffic controller on behalf of the three countries, Canada, Italy, and France, said, "I do a lot of missions with the U.S. military back home. I'm looking forward to taking the lessons learned from working with other countries' military personnel back home and applying them to my mission."



Commander Kang Hyung-wook, Canadian Navy, Communications Strategist at the United Nations, noted the benefits of a multinational command structure in the exercise. "UNC members have continued to grow by leveraging their unique strengths," he said. "They have grown together as they continue to improve their readiness for potential contingencies on the Korean Peninsula."


Some of them are descendants of veterans of the Korean War. Their visit to South Korea as reinforcements, more than 70 years apart, reminded them of the mission and importance of UN history.


"As a child, my grandfather often told me stories of his time in the Korean War," said Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Nicholas Corrigan, whose grandfather was a veteran of the Korean War, "and it meant a lot to me to step on Korean soil where he fought."


Australian Army Capt. Blake Parberry's grandfather and great grandfather fought in the Battle of Kapyong together. Every year, the Australian Army celebrates Kapyong Day on April 24. It commemorates and celebrates the sacrifices and achievements of Australian soldiers in the Korean War, including a street march.


Capt. Parberry honored his grandfathers by visiting the battlefields of Kapyong during the FS period. "Words cannot describe the overwhelming emotions I felt when I revisited the place where my grandfathers fought and died for Korea 73 years ago," he said. "It meant a lot to me that I was able to come to Korea on behalf of my grandfather, who wanted to come back so badly."


He added, "I also realized what was important to me as a UN soldier, and I am proud to be with the ROK Armed Forces."


He also emphasized his connection to South Korea by paying tribute to the Guy brothers, known in Belgium as "war heroes" of the Korean War.


"My father, who is a member of the presiding officer, was always proud to carry the coffin of Pierre Guy," said Belgian Army Colonel Erik Op De Beeck. “I grew up hearing such stories and felt proud to come to Korea."

The reinforcements have not wavered in their resolve to support South Korea no matter what.


Belgian Army Lieutenant Nina Subaic participated in the exercise as an Asia-Pacific policy advisor. "The UNC is highly symbolic as an international commitment to support South Korea in the event of war," said Nina Subaic, adding "I hope that the UNC will continue to demonstrate its balance and reciprocity to build the alliance as a complete entity with a strong sense of partnership and support from member states."


"I have visited the Joint Security Area (JSA) back-to-back last year and this year, and it seems that tensions in the JSA are higher this year than last," he said.


The reinforcements said they will cherish their memories of Korea, including the FS exercise, when they return home.


"I will take with me the smiles of the Korean soldiers I worked with at the UN, our commitment to defend Korea, and the memories of our missions."


The troops will return to their home countries one by one after March 14.