U.S., ROK Soldiers showcase partnership in Seoul
CAMP HOVEY, South Korea - In an annual contest sponsored by the Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense, U.S. and South Korean Soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, were selected as finalists.
South Korean and U.S. Soldiers from the 91st Engineer Battalion "Sabers," 1st ABCT, got a chance to showcase partnership, unity, and comradery between U.S. and ROK Soldiers July 17 at the 2016 World Soldier and Youth Security Vision Presentation Contest in Seoul, South Korea.
The team of four Korean Augmentees to the U.S. Army - known as "KATUSAs - and one U.S. Soldier from the engineer battalion gave a presentation to a panel of judges highlighting the unique role KATUSAs serve in the U.S. Army, and benefits of the 66-year-old KATUSA program. The team was selected as one of 22 finalists in the competition, from more than 570 teams from 15 countries.
The judges were amongst the highest-ranking political officials in Korea. In-Moo Hwang, the Under Secretary for the ROK Ministry of National Defense, served as the key note speaker and senior judge. The weeklong event was meant to highlight security, unification, and relationship development between North and South Korean.
Each presentation was unique. Teams of civilians and Soldiers spoke, sang, danced or acted in performances at the event. Saber Soldiers said they took it as opportunity to showcase the strong bonds that have developed due to the KATUSA program.
"It was a great opportunity for us to show how strong our partnership is, and that our friendship makes both ROK and U.S. forces better," said ROK Army Sgt. Kim Hanjoon, a KATUSA serving in Company B, 91st Eng. Bn.
The KATUSA program, borne out of necessity during the Korean War, is in its 66th year.
Koreans applying to serve as a KATUSA rather than to serve in the ROK military must have at a valid qualifying score from an English competency test, and meet several requirements. From the pool of prospective KATUSAs that meet all requirements, Soldiers are chosen at random and assigned to various American units with ROK oversight of the program.
Male citizens in South Korea between the ages of 18 and 35 are required to serve for 21 months in the military, during which time they automatically advance through the ranks of private, private first class, corporal and sergeant based on time served. Only a small percentage serve as KATUSAs, and the competition is tough for the coveted postings.
U.S. Soldiers develop strong relationships with their Korean counterparts.
"It was an honor to stand up with the KATUSAs and be a part of this presentation," said Pfc. Todd Vardy, a combat engineer in Co. B, 91st Eng. Bn. "I am deeply humbled and proud to be a part of it."