2ID commander cracks down after recent rash of misconduct
SEOUL — The commander of the 2nd Infantry Division has slapped a number of restrictions on his soldiers in South Korea, including a ban on alcohol consumption, in response to several incidents of misconduct in recent weeks.
“The 10,000 soldiers of the division serve with honor and professionalism,” Maj. Gen. Edward Cardon said in a statement Monday. “However, recent acts of indiscipline by 10 soldiers have undermined the overall readiness of the command and impacted our relationship with our Korean neighbors.
“I am very concerned by these recent incidents,” he said. “We will not tolerate our 60-year-plus relationship being tarnished by the inappropriate behavior of 10 soldiers.”
Cardon’s comments came after a St. Patrick’s Day weekend during which five U.S. soldiers were involved in an early-morning brawl Saturday involving a knife outside a Dongducheon night club, and two others were involved in separate early-morning altercations Sunday with Korean police officers.
Among the provisions indefinitely put in place Sunday by the commander were:
■Suspension of alcohol consumption.
■Termination of all three- and four-day weekend passes, and a complete review of the pass policy.
■A review of all soldiers who have had past instances of misconduct.
■Leadership seminars that will be held focusing on discipline and its relationship to the division’s readiness. Everyone in the division will be subject to responsible-conduct training in the days ahead.
“As part of this effort, we are also reviewing all training and risk-assessment measures to ensure the overall readiness of the command given heightened tensions,” Cardon said.
The 2ID accounts for more than a third of the 28,500 U.S. servicemembers in South Korea; most are based between Seoul and the Demilitarized Zone.
“Readiness is the foundation of our mission here as part of the (South Korea)-U.S. alliance,” Cardon said. “We must always be ready to ‘fight tonight’ to defend the Republic of Korea. That is not enough – we must also maintain the trust and respect of the Korean people.”
Recent incidents of bad behavior by U.S. soldiers have been national news in South Korea and have been condemned by government officials.
The chief of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s North American Affairs Bureau met Sunday with a representative of the U.S. Embassy to express his “strong regret” about the recent spate of incidents. Lee Baek-soon urged American officials here to be proactive in addressing the problem, suggesting it could damage U.S.-South Korea relations.
On Monday, a soldier who was stabbed in the abdomen during the Saturday fight in The Ville, outside Camp Casey, remained in stable condition in the intensive care unit of Brian Allgood Army Community Hospital at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, where he was airlifted.
The brawl outside a night club involved the club owner and five soldiers. Two other soldiers were treated for less-serious stab wounds, and a third for minor injuries after he was hit by a small bat.
On Sunday, one soldier shoved a Korean police officer who subsequently fell down some stairs, and another soldier struck a police officer, according to 2ID officials. It was not immediately clear whether charges had been filed in either incident.
Officials said Cardon’s directive came in response to those and other events involving U.S. soldiers.
A half-dozen 2ID soldiers recently were accused of harassing a Korean woman on a subway train near Uijeongbu. Three soldiers not affiliated with the 2ID were accused of shooting passersby in Seoul with a BB gun and leading police on a high-speed chase during which one of the soldiers was shot by a police officer.
“Our soldiers are subject to Korean law and we continue to work in complete cooperation with the Korean National Police and the (South Korean) Ministry of Justice to ensure those laws are respected,” Cardon said.
“Pending the outcomes of the investigations and actions of the (South Korean) justice system, these soldiers will be processed for possible elimination from the U.S. Army,” he added.
U.S. servicemembers in South Korea are under a 1-5 a.m. curfew, which was put in place in October 2011 by U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. James Thurman after a couple of high-profile crimes involving American soldiers.
Stars and Stripes’ Ashley Rowland and Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.