CAMP HOVEY, South Korea –For the last 13 years the United States military has been involved in conflicts around the world. Army leadership has gained much field experience from the mountains of Afghanistan and the streets of Baghdad, to the Horn of Africa and the Philippine islands.
Every environment has its opportunities and challenges. South Korea is no different. Soldiers can arrive straight from advanced individual training to Camp Casey, South Korea. Less than 20 miles away sits the 38th parallel where the North Korean army is postured to fight.
A Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army Soldier (left) and two U.S. Soldiers from Company D, 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry (Mechanized), 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, conduct a tank recovery class March 10 at Twin Bridges Training Area, South Korea. KATUSAS give U.S. Soldiers a better understanding of how to interact with the locals, said Command Sgt. Maj. Brad Owens, the senior enlisted advisor for 3rd Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. The KATUSAS are very integrated into the unit and even live in the same quarters. They are there for day-to-day operations, and even participate in recreational events during off-duty hours. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Samuel Northrup, 1ABCT)
“We are not far away from an enemy who wants to kill us,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Trevor Walker, the senior enlisted advisor for 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. “So we are always trying to maintain readiness.
“Soldiers train hard in the U.S., but we train a lot harder here due to the threat,” said Walker.
It is important to keep the Soldiers' minds in the right place and ensure they know why they are here, said Sgt. Brian Moore, an M1A2 Abrams Tank gunner with Company C, 3rd Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. Soldiers need to understand they need to keep their weapons, vehicles, gear and themselves mission ready.
“You have a mission that defines your primary focus,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Brad Owens, the senior enlisted advisor for 3-8 Cavalry. “Using that focus, you build individual as well as collective training. You have to be constantly hitting those training points and constantly evaluating your Soldiers.”
NCOs don't get the same interaction with Soldiers in the U.S. as they do in Korea, Walker said. An NCO will see their Soldiers at physical training and during regular duty hours in the U.S., but after closing formation there is no more interaction for the most part.
“I lived about two doors down from my Soldier when I was in Korea,” said Moore, whose unit is now back in Fort Hood, Texas. “When you have such easy access to them, you can learn things about them and identify things you need to talk about.”
This gives NCOs a chance to see Soldiers progress and identify where they need additional training, said Owens. Working and living so closely with the Soldiers allows a platoon sergeant or squad leader to see some of the habits a Soldier might have that are counter intuitive to the Army values. The NCOs have a greater ability to have an impact and correct those habits.
This close proximity can be an issue when a specialist gets promoted to the rank of sergeant, said Owens. The newly promoted sergeant must understand he is no longer a junior enlisted Soldier. He needs to separate himself from those who were previously his peers.
“To be a professional NCO, you have to careful when speaking with Soldiers,” said Walker. “You must maintain your rank and name and remember who you are speaking with. Yes, you are going to be living near that person, but at the same time you have to maintain that professionalism and not overlook minor incidents.”
Another unique aspect of serving on the Peninsula is the Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army Soldiers, said Walker. The KATUSA Soldiers (Republic of Korea Army Soldiers who are selected to serve within the U.S. Army ranks) provide valuable insight to the local culture and help the U.S. Soldiers perform their missions in many different ways.
“In a combat environment, you don't have the ability to get out and fully understand or see much of the culture,” said Owens. “We can over here. Soldiers who have KATUSAS develop close relationships they would not normally develop in a combat environment.”
KATUSAS give U.S. Soldiers a better understanding of how to interact with the locals, said Owens. The KATUSAS are very integrated into the unit and even live in the same quarters. They are there for day-to-day operations, and even participate in recreational events during off-duty hours.
Training KATUSAS is great for NCO development, Walker said. The Army uses a lot of acronyms and jargon, much of which the KATUSAS are not familiar with. With this in mind, NCOs need to ensure they fully understand the subject matter before teaching the KATUSAS.
“This is the first time many Soldiers will interact with an international partner,” Walker said. “Some people don't interact with an international partner until they are an E6 or E7. Through the KATUSAS, U.S. Soldiers can learn the local customs, courtesies, and language.”
Some Soldiers say the best duty station they ever had was in Korea, said Walker. Others say it was their worst. A lot of it depends on whether or not the Soldier went out or stayed on base all day.
“There is more to Korea than what is in your camp,” said Walker. “You have to go out and immerse yourself in the country. You will be amazed at the rich culture and history the Korean people have here.”
By U.S. Army Sgt. Samuel Northrup
Provided through DVIDS
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