ROK Partners with Deep US Ties help 94th AAMDC achieve AMD success during UFG16

by Maj. Jonathan Stafford, 94th AAMDC G3 Chief of Operations
Stripes Korea

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea - The US military and the ROK air force operate various missile defense systems to protect South Korea. To coordinate missile defense operations between the two countries, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command and the ROK Air Defense Missile Command (ADMC) operate the combined air and missile defense operations coordination center (CAMDOCC) at Osan Air Base, South Korea. The CAMDOCC was exercised during the Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2016 exercise, Aug. 22 - Sept. 4, 2016, when 94th AAMDC Soldiers from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii deployed to Korea to conduct operations with their ROK air force counterparts.

A key aspect to the successful coordination during the exercise was the strong personal ties some ROK service members have with the United States. For example, 1st Lt. Dong-jun Kim is a 2012 graduate of the University of California-San Diego. Following graduation, he became a ROK air force officer in order to complete his mandatory 2-year military service commitment to South Korea. Despite being a military police officer, 1st Lt. Kim's strong English skills have made him the primary interpreter in the CAMDOCC.

"Serving with the 94th AAMDC has been one of the highlights of my military career. Additionally, working in the CAMDOCC has given me great appreciation for the complexities of missile defense operations," said Kim.

Captain Ji-hwan Yoo is another key ROK air force officer with strong US ties. Yoo is a 2012 graduate of the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Selection to attend the US Air Force Academy is one of the top honors for a junior officer in the ROK air force. During UFG16 Capt. Yoo served as a battle captain in the CAMDOCC responsible for coordinating ROK air defense operations with his US counterparts.

"I have enjoyed working with the US Army during UFG16. I learned a lot about US Army air defense operations from my American counterparts," said Yoo. "Likewise, the 94th AAMDC Soldiers were able to learn more about our ROK air defense capabilities. This led to better understanding and coordination between our two militaries."

Corporal Gwang-moo Heo is a Korean Augmentee to the US Army (KATUSA) assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. During the exercise Cpl. Heo was tasked to be the primary translator for written documents shared between the US and ROK militaries in the CAMDOCC. Heo was able to build his strong English skills by attending Ohio State University before beginning his mandatory service in the ROK army.

"KATUSA soldiers have a long history of serving as interpreters for the US Army stretching back to the program's beginnings during the Korean War. It has been an honor for me to continue this tradition by working with the Soldiers of the 94th AAMDC in the CAMDOCC during UFG16," said Heo.

All three ROK service members plan to continue their strong ties to the US after UFG16. Following the completion of their mandatory military service, both 1st Lt. Kim and Cpl. Heo plan to go back to the US to continue their education. Kim is currently in the process of applying to various US colleges to attend law school while Heo plans to return to Ohio State University. Captain Yoo plans to be a career ROK air force officer and looks forward to working many more exercises with the Soldiers of the 94th AAMDC.

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