Party on the DMZ: JSA Battalion's ninth birthday
July 24, 2013
CAMP BONIFAS, South Korea -- The Korean Demilitarized Zone is known for statue-like guards, visits from foreign dignitaries and north Korean guards watching attentively through binoculars while giant north and South Korean flag waves overhead. For one special afternoon, there was a change of venue. Filling the air was the smell of grilling food, the sounds of music, children and a full summer carnival.
U.S. and Republic of Korea Soldiers and families serving at the Joint Security Area participated in a Freedom-Victory Day festival on June 30, to celebrate the ninth anniversary of the JSA ROK Army Battalion activation.
The festival combined U.S. and ROK JSA battalions was held on the second day of a three-day of sports competition that included Family fun that concluded on July 1 with a formal ceremony to recognize all Soldiers serving at the JSA on the Demilitarized Zone, the 4 kilometer-wide border between North and South Korea and the front line of South Korean defense.
"We are a combined unit under the United Nations Command flag," said Lt. Col. Daniel Edwan, commander, United Nations Command Security Battalion-JSA. "Four or five times a year we are commemorating those that died here, so I wanted to have a celebration for those who are here serving right now, and I believe they deserve it."
The Freedom-Victory Day festival had a carnival-like atmosphere that gave Soldiers an opportunity to relax and enjoy the beginning of summer with friends and family. Sure some of the activities included inflatable slides, bounce houses, a dunk tank, water guns and barbeque with a traditional Korean dinner.
"It's actually nice that there is a family day," said Erica Andersen, wife of Spc. Ryan Andersen, a signal support systems specialist, both from Dallas, Texas. "Doing activities and seeing families makes you feel like you are a part of the military. It makes you feel special."
Throughout the afternoon, Soldiers and Families watched Nanta -- a traditional Korean drums and dance performance, a Mr. JSA fitness competition, a Super Star JSA Noraebang competition, and finally a performance by the Paju city band and a band made up of U.S. Soldiers.
"I think it's really important to do Freedom-Victory Day. It brings the cohesion between the ROK and U.S. Soldiers," said Sgt. Andrew Wilson, a security escort and human resources noncommissioned officer in charge with UNCSB-JSA, from Pittsburgh, Penn.
The event was an opportunity to celebrate the combined ROK Army and U.S. Army unit and the strong bond between its Soldiers and Families.
"Being combined gives us advantages in exploiting the ROK-U.S. Alliance because we have it down to the individual level," said Edwan. "We wanted to go to the next layer and create significant deep roots with these Soldiers and their Families, and know that we're all the same on the inside. We may come from different countries, but we're all here for one reason," he continued.
Senior leaders from the United Nations Supervisory Commission, the ROK Ministry of Unification, and 210th Fires Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division gathered to recognize the history and tradition of service in the JSA. Maj. Gen. Chun In-bum, the South Korean Senior Member of the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission, presided over the ceremony.
"Regardless of the situation, we have maintained our combat readiness posture, and through perfect teamwork, were able to carry out the grave responsibility of defending the nation and at the very front," said Lt. Col. Yoon Bong-hee, JSA ROKA Battalion commander.
The combined battalion is the embodiment of the ROK-U.S. alliance, standing ready to Fight Tonight to deter and defeat the North Korean threat to the Republic of Korea.