Forcefully knocking on the door three times, Republic of Korea Army Cpl. Young Woong Won entered the large room Aug. 19 at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, to face a table of five senior U.S. and ROK noncommissioned officers.
Raising his right arm to give a crisp salute, Won reported to the board, "Cpl. Young Woong Won reporting to the president of the board."
Won was one of six Korean augmentees serving in the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, to take the challenge of going to the Gen. Paik Sun Yup Leadership Award quarterly selection board at the 2nd Infantry Division.
"When I first heard about the board, my fellow KATUSAs, U.S. Soldiers, and my Republic of Korea Army sergeant major encouraged me and supported me to go on the board," said Won, a Korean Augmentee to the US Army serving as a M1A2 Abrams crewmember in the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st ABCT.
The General Paik, Sun Yup Leadership Award is a reward earned by exceptional KATUSAs whose achievements and performance merit special recognition. It is a means of recognizing those KATUSAs who have contributed significantly to the alliance and a combat ready Army. Awardees exemplify leadership characterized by personal concern for the needs, training, development and welfare of both ROK and US Soldiers, and concern for families of Soldiers.
Paik Sun Yup was the foremost Republic of Korea Army General of the Korean War. When North Korea launched their general offensive June 25, 1950, then Col. Paik Sun Yup, at age 29 was commanding the 1st ROK Division that was positioned on the provisional boundary north of Seoul and astride the main North Korean axis of advance. Despite the surprise and violence of the attack, Paik's division held fast for three days before withdrawing and conducting a series of delaying actions south to the Naktong River where a coordinated UN Command defense was finally organized.
In the heavy fighting of August and September, the 1st ROK Division was the hinge between American and South Korean Forces and shares credit for successive defeats of the enemy's effort to capture Taegu. Paik led his division in the breakout following the Inchon landing and in the active advance into North Korea where 1st Division seized
the center of Pyongyang.
Twice the recipient of the Taeguk Medal, Korea's highest honor, Paik Sun Yup became the ROK Army's first four star general, the ROKA Chief of Staff and the Chairman of the ROK Joint Chiefs. Following his retirement in 1960 he continued to serve his nation and became the ambassador to 19 different nations.
For the eleven KATUSAs nominated from Area I, attending the division-level board was an honor comparable to U.S. Soldiers going to the Sergeant Audie Murphy's board.
"If the nominees pass the board, they will receive a medallion and be inducted the Gen. Paik Sun Yup Club," said Sgt. 1st Class Tevishiah Dinkins-Lucas, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of personnel, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division. "Which is equivalent to the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club for U.S. Soldiers."
To become a part of it, KATUSAs must be nominated by their commanders, attend a battalion-level and a brigade-level board, and finally pass a division-level board. Participants also wrote a one-page essay, "Who inspired me the most to earn the GEN Paik Sun Yup Leadership Award."
"These two boards are both rigorous because there are command sergeant majors sitting on the board," said Lucas. "So a lot of times, the junior enlisted Soldiers and NCOs could get nervous in front of senior enlisted leaders."
Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Mitchell, 2nd Infantry Division, and four ROK Army sergeants major presided over the board, held at the Warrior Room in the Commanding General's Mess on Camp Red Cloud, South Korea.
Each nominee was questioned on subjects such as land navigation, weapons, customs and courtesies, supply economy, Army command policy, leadership, first aid, physical readiness training and Gen. Paik's biography.
By the end of the board, eight of the eleven KATUSAs had passed, including four from 1st ABCT, and were inducted into the General Paik Sun Yup's Club.
Cpl. Won was one of them.
"I'm happy and thankful for making the board and getting into the General Paik Sun Yup's Club," said Won. "I'd like to thank everyone who has helped me from the beginning, as I am a dual-citizen in South Korea and the United States, I want to be a part of those who strengthen this mutual relationship and keep the world in peace."