Epic Christmas week - What I did over Christmas
Christopher Kim, a Life Scout with Boy Scout Troop 82 of Far East Council is determined to earn the President's Volunteer Service Award. He started his journey by spending his Christmas holiday serving with the United Nations Command Honor Guard at USAG Yongsan. Here's his story:
I am Christopher Kim, a 13 year-old American boy living in Seoul, Korea. I am a Life Scout with Boy Scout Troop 82 of Far East Council. I currently serve as a Troop Guide and an Instructor at the Troop. One early December evening, I was about to go to sleep and my dad came into my room presenting me the opportunity to earn a President's Volunteer Service Award in 2014, PVSA. I jumped out of my bed to learn more about the opportunity. To earn this, I have to do a minimum 50 service hours for the Bronze, 75 hours for Silver, and 100 hours for the Gold Award. After making plans, I realized I can do about 250 service hours over 12 months, a Gold Award attainable by age 25. I have already done many service hours in 2013, so I thought I just have to make a good plan and execute. This is a special executive award issued by the U.S. President to U.S. Citizens for outstanding volunteer service to communities. Although I have already accumulated many volunteer service hours in 2013, I began the PVSA journey by making a significant time commitment over this Christmas week to serve with the United Nations Command Honor Guard at U.S. Forces Korea headquartered at the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan.
With the UNC Honor Guard, I served a total of 33 hours from December 21-30. Here's what my hours looked like. I woke up at 0500 in the morning and went to the UNC Honor Guard headquarters, which is next to the "White House," a moniker used for the USFK Headquarters building where the 4 Star Commanding General Curtis Scaparrotti works. When I got there, I was nervous since it was my first time performing this duty. The Company Commander, Captain Michael Lee, a West Point grad, gave me overall guidance on what I can accomplish over Christmas week. He introduced me to one of his platoon leaders,1LT Edmund Yoon, who took me to the 1st Platoon’s room. There I met the new incoming platoon leader, 1LT Jacob Peterson.
On the first day, the temperature was -8 degrees Celsius (18 Fahrenheit) and I had on just my Class-A Boy Scout Uniform shirt and pants with thermals inside. None of the soldiers were wearing extra layer coats so I, too, dressed for the occasion. At 0620, we paraded down in perfect formation to perform Reveille in front of the UNC Headquarters, the "White House." The way the Honor Guard performed the flag ceremony was brilliant. They were in formation, they didn’t look distracted, they looked just perfect like an orchestra working together on a command by a conductor. At 0630, we raised the flag. After working together on the Reveille, I went on to PT, running with 1LT Edmund Yoon and First Sergeant Jose Santiago, and 1LT Jacob Peterson. We ran 5km and ran up Seoul Namsan Tower. Running was fine, but running up Namsan Tower, at 237 meters or 777 feet to the base of the peak, almost smoked me good. That was tough. If you've walked up Namsan Tower, you know what I mean. It is a 50 degrees walk-up angle.
During the day, 1LT Ed Yoon talked to me about Army life and West Point. Later in the morning, I was introduced to Sergeant David Baughman, a former Star Scout, who became my mentor and trainer throughout the week. He helped with a lot of things that I still remember to this day. On the following days, I repeated the same morning Reveille and different training each day that included Combatives. I got to wrestle with Private Luke Zink who took it easy on me. I learned how to flip over a person, how to pin down someone, and how to flip a person that is on top of me. Private Zink helped me by using himself to demonstrate the positions. Combatives is a realistic hand-to-hand combat training that can be useful in self defense.
From the second day, I was no longer an observer, but performed the flag ceremony together with the Honor Guards. Since it was Christmas Eve, I thought I would go back home for the day. However, SGT Baughman said that at 1700, the Honor Guards would take down the flags and asked if I would like to join them. So I volunteered to come back for the Retreat. After lowering the flag, and securing the halyards, I got to fold the U.S. flag. Folding the U.S. flag was no joke, it took meticulous effort to get the proper fold. With the U.S. flag, when the folding is done, there should be 2 stars on top and 4 stars at the bottom of the triangle. Folding the UN flag was bit easier. I had the honor of carrying the U.S. flag back to UNC Honor Guard headquarters where we refolded the flag properly before we laid the flag to rest overnight. Since I was new, at first I did have some trouble taking down the flags. Two songs were played so I didn't quite know when to take down the flag. First, I listened to the "Retreat" then lowered the flags at "To the Color." Luckily, the Honor Guard in front of me helped me take down the flag. Other than that, I was able to raise and lower the flags well. It was pretty awesome!
Throughout the week, I repeated the morning Reveille and got to do the evening Retreat at 1700 with SGT David Baughman. On Christmas Day, I raised the UN Flag with 2 other UNC Honor Guard permanent service members. I was a bit nervous because I was with a ROK Army soldier and a Philippine Special Forces Army soldier, and the American Honor Guards couldn’t help me. In the end, the training came altogether and I was able to raise the flag and secure the halyard properly.
On the last day of the Honor Guard service duty, I gave commands to raise and lower the flags at the Knight Field Yongsan Garrison. My dad, Tommy Kim, paraded with us in his Scoutmaster uniform to show us his camaraderie, and my mom Sandra Kyung Joo Kim and my 10 year old sister Ashley came to watch me. Several other Companies joined us in the formation and I could clearly see that giving correct and loud commands were vital. The last day had to be perfect because so many people depended on my correct commands. And I didn't want to look foolish in front of my little sister. I practiced the commands a day before with SGT David Baughman. And as suggested by CPT Michael Lee, I practiced in my dad's car, yelling out commands as loudly as I can. Since it was difficult to memorize all the commands and actions just in a day, it was more helpful to have SGT David Baughman by my side whispering them into my ears as I gave commands at the center of Knight Field. The freezing cold was extreme, between -6 to -8 degrees Celsius (18-21 Fahrenheit) throughout the week. It was epic cold! My ears were numb and stinging and my cheeks were hardening which made my speech difficult. Even a tough guy like SGT Baughman was cold and shivering. We were both shivering but well-composed.
Other great training included advanced orienteering that took my Boy Scout training bit further. Reading the terrains and colors on the map helped me make decisions on what courses to take to negotiate the terrains, and paths I may take to get to my objectives safely while spending limited energy. During the day in my working clothes, I learned weapons safety and did drills with an M14 drilling rifle that was dressed in ivory rifle sling. Specialist Loren Schaub taught me the drilling basics such as: doing right shoulder, standing at attention with a rifle, fixing a bayonet, and doing left shoulder. I had to practice these forms many times so that I can get used to doing the moves by muscle memory. Later, SGT David Baughman and Specialist Loren Schaub helped me with doing left face, right face, and about face in the Honor Guard way. They also showed me how the Honor Guards do their rifle drills, and some other tricks with the rifles. I learned the differences between the Honor Guard rifle drills and the Soldiers’ way of rifle drills.
I also served with the UNC Honor Guard at the Pearl S. Buck Foundation Adopt-a-Child Christmas Party/Toy Drive at the South Post Chapel Fellowship Hall on December 21st, and at the Namsanwon Orphanage on December 30th. It is an orphanage housing 60 children, ages 0-18. It was initially built by the U.S. Army in 1952. The close ties between the Orphanage and the U.S. Military continues today. My dad and I joined the UNC Honor Guards to sweep the grounds and my mom and my little sister Ashley played and cared for children ages 0-3 at the nursery. After the clean-up, we had a little time for a basketball game. I actually wanted to stay a little longer to meet the older orphans who were at school.
Despite the epic cold weather, the flag duty volunteer service with the UNC Honor Guard will last in my memory forever. I will never forget this experience and the mentorship and training I received from SGT David Baughman, the soldiers, and officers at the UNC Honor Guard. I did what no other kids would consider doing at my age, especially over the Christmas holiday week in the freezing cold and in the early morning hours. It was no joke waking up at 0500 just to get to the parade on time and to perform the flag ceremony with professional soldiers, who can make each moves perfect and carefully synchronized. On the last day, we traded awards. SGT David Baughman gave me UNC Honor Guard pins and patches. In the Boy Scout tradition, scouts trade patches with friends. I gave out Boy Scout Far East Council District patches to 8 U.S. soldiers who served with me. These U.S. Army soldiers include: UNC Honor Guard Commanding Officer Captain Michael Lee, 1st Lieutenant Edmund Yoon, 1st Lieutenant Jacob Peterson, 1SGT Jose Santiago, SGT David Baughman, a former Star Scout who mentored me, Specialist Loren Schaub, Private First Class Jacob Burns, a former Life Scout, and Private Luke Zink. I look forward to using my training to serve with the UNC Honor Guard at VIP ceremonial functions during 2014. I would like to train other scouts in the District so they can learn how to respect the flag of our country and to perform honorable ceremonies with pride. I am grateful for this experience and proud to serve together with the UNC Honor Guard.
A brief background of the UNC Honor Guard as described on the Facebook
The United Nations Command Honor Guard is the only multinational honor guard in the world. It represents the 17 nations of the UN Command in Seoul, Korea. The UNC Honor Guard provides world-class ceremonial support for the United Nations Command in Seoul, Korea while also serving as an elite protection force in support of the UNC Commander. As the only multinational and multi-service honor guard in the world, the United Nations Command Honor Guard has permanent service members from the Republic of Korea, the United States, Thailand, and the Philippines. The unit also integrates other nations' service members, such as those from Canada, on a temporary basis.
The unit provides a vast array of ceremonial support - from a professional drill team to full field ceremonies. In addition, the United Nations Command Honor Guard remains committed to being the face of the UN Command. The members of this Honor Guard continually strive to achieve unit's motto of "Better than the Best."