Eighth Army participates in RoK Ground Forces Festival
GYERYONG, SOUTH KOREA - Eighth Army Soldiers and equipment were on display at the Republic of Korea Ground Forces Festival 2014 held at the RoK Military Headquarters Oct. 1-5.
It's one of the largest military festivals in the world and this year over 1 million people attended the five day event.
Dozens of combat vehicles both air and ground along with South Korea's military history and current technology were on display, in near Smithsonian quality presentations, at the sprawling festival site held on an Army Airfield a short distance from the RoK military headquarters.
U.S. and RoK Special Forces conducted several demonstrations to include a free-fall and "hostage rescue" parachuting and rappelling into the festival to the loud applause of the large crowd gathered to watch the spectacle.
Even the RoK Air Force got involved, with their "Black Eagles" demonstration team wowing the crowd with precision air acrobatics in their T50B "Golden Eagle" jets.
The whirl of helicopter blades and roar of jets were nearly constant as was the sound of gunfire at a small firing range where people could fire a real rifle, albeit with blanks, at a target with the Korean military version of laser based Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System
Any Korean festival wouldn't be complete without at least one K-Pop group making an appearance. This year there were several to include the group "Girls Day." Musical performances with military marching bands and traditional Korean groups were going on constantly in the main stadium and a number of small stages spread throughout the grounds.
Mixed in with the Korean main battle tanks and a large number of different types of helicopters were several pieces of U.S. military equipment to include a Patriot Missile system, an Avenger Missile system, an NBC variant of a Stryker vehicle, an AH-64E Apache (Longbow) attack helicopter and even a few Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) robots that spent majority of their time chasing around giggling children. All the U.S. equipment was manned by young Soldiers and Korean Augmentees to the U.S. Army or KATUSA's.
KATUSA's helped bridge the language barrier by being there, wearing the Korean flag on their shoulder, and providing a visible representation of the RoK/U.S. Alliance.
"This is a great opportunity for Korean civilians to see what the RoK Army and other services have, something they cannot normally see up close," said Korean Augmentees to the U.S. Army Cpl. Lee Jin-Kil who works for Eighth Army Public Affairs and spent the festival answering questions about working with the U.S. military. Lee also spent a lot of his time assisting civilians don the U.S. style body armor and other personal protective gear for photos at the Eight Army booth provided by the RoK Army.
The small American contingent of about 30 Soldiers were kept busy providing information on U.S. military equipment and being "rock-stars," posing for photos with Korean civilians, many of whom had never met a U.S. Soldier.
"This is unbelievable, never seen or been a part of anything like this," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mike Wagner 4th Aerial Reconnaissance Bn., 2nd Aviation Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, as he held a baby and looked out at the long line of Koreans waiting to get a photo with him in front of his Apache attack helicopter.
If you were wearing ACU's you couldn't go anywhere without someone wanting to practice their English or have their picture taken with a U.S. Soldier.
"The people are very friendly and they really seem to love us, and they are very interested in our equipment and how it helps protect their country," said SPC Kevin Delaney, D Co. 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade who was manning a Patriot Missile System.
"We should do this more often, they really love us here and we [U.S. Soldiers] feel really appreciated, this makes me feel that my job here in Korea is important," said PFC Dylan Carrardelle, E Co., 6th Bn. 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.
It seems that the strong bond between the RoK and U.S. militaries also extends to the relationship between the Korean and American people.
"We have strong military ties from the Korean War to Vietnam to current operations and any time we get to work together it helps strengthen the deep bond between our militaries and our countries," said Lt. Col. Park Hyung-Gukwan (through an interpreter), the RoK Army officer in charge of organizing and running the festival.
"It is an honor to be a part of this year's Ground Forces Festival which highlights the accomplishments of the Republic of Korea's military and also showcases the RoK/U.S. partnership and commitment to the defense of the Korean Peninsula," said Col. Jeffrey A. Bryan, Assistant Chief of Staff, Eighth Army Civil Affairs, who was responsible for coordinating U.S. participation.
"We hope the U.S. military who participated enjoyed the festival as much as we enjoyed having them here side to side with us and we want even more U.S. participation next year," added Park.
U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kevin P. Bell