Cav troops eager to explore Korea
CAMP STANLEY -- One of the big reasons Spc. Joshua Rockwell joined the U.S. Army was for a chance to see the world.
So Rockwell, a medic, volunteered four times to deploy overseas but never got to go.
"I'd been in for three years, so I was startin' to lose hope that I was going to get to see another country," said Rockwell, 28, of Unadilla, New York.
But things changed a few months ago at Fort Hood, Texas, when they asked for volunteers for a Korea deployment.
"I raised my hand," he said. "I've always wanted to travel, growing up. That's part of the reason why I joined the military. Because my dad told me, 'You would travel a lot.'"
He was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division?'s 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, a combined arms battalion that was being readied for a nine-month deployment to Korea as part of the 2nd Infantry Division's 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team.
The battalion has about 800 Soldiers in Korea, stationed at Camp Stanley in Uijeongbu and Camp Hovey in Dongducheon, said 1st Lt. Kevin Cho, a battalion spokesman. They've also brought with them Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and other equipment, he said.
Many of the battalion's Soldiers hadn't been outside their home state before joining the Army, said Cho, and the Korea deployment is giving them their first chance at seeing a foreign country.
"So I think the Soldiers are just excited to go out, to explore, to see the culture, just to see what Korea has to offer," Cho said.
For Spc. Benjamin Hornblower, 23, of New Canaan, Conn., a forward observer with the battalion?'s Company C, high on his explore-Korea list is getting a look at its cities -- especially its bustling capital, Seoul.
"It's supposed to be the major population center and the cultural hub of the country," said Hornblower. "From what I've heard so far it's supposed to be amazing."
Pfc. Dareon Nimmons, 22, of Washington, D.C., is a Bradley Fighting Vehicle driver with Company C.
He'd been to Canada but Korea is his first overseas assignment with the Army. He wants to get out and see the "everyday life" of Korea, including the food.
"I've definitely heard that Koreans have very, very great meat dishes," Nimmons said. "I haven't had a chance to really try it, so definitely want to try some before I leave."
Staff Sgt. James Foreman, 27, of Medford, Oregon, a fire support specialist with Company C, has eight years in the Army and has deployed to Iraq twice and Afghanistan once, but he too is in Korea for the first time.
Foreman got to try one of those meat dishes recently at a restaurant near Camp Stanley on his first trip off-post.
The meal was barbecued meat --grilled at the customer's table. A slice of meat and maybe a few other ingredients are placed on a leaf of lettuce, then rolled up and eaten. To many Americans stationed in Korea this is known as eating "beef and leaf."
The Soldiers had already heard about this popular Korean dish at a cultural awareness class they were given after arriving, Foreman said.
Nevertheless, the actual experience at first crack was full of the unfamiliar, and the uncertain.
"Everything is just a big conglomerate of side dishes and they give you lettuce," said Foreman. "Well, they gave us lettuce and we had to basically build our own food and then eat it out of, like, a lettuce-burrito type thing rather than eat it with silverware.
"And we're not even sure we were doing it correctly," said Foreman. "We just had the cultural in-brief classes and we tried to do what they said with the leaf. Trying to eat out of a piece of lettuce was kind of difficult."
And for Foreman, eating with metal chopsticks -- which can tend to be slippery -- is also something that can take some getting used to.
"But the food was good," he said.
Meanwhile, he also wants to explore Korean cities but has no detailed plan yet.
"I'd like to see Seoul," said Foreman, who's been in the Army eight years and has deployed to Iraq twice and Afghanistan once. "And then I heard that you can go to like old Buddhist temples and see those. I think that would be kind of interesting to see and spend some time up there."
Rockwell, who finally got his wish to get overseas, is eager to get the exploration started. He's a medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Company.
"Just to see everything," he said. "Experiencing as much as I can throughout my life has always been important for me."