Iron Horse Soldiers bond with ROK Special Forces
December 21, 2010
- Pfc. Richard Dejesus never thought that he would find a best friend thousands of miles away from the United States.
- Even more unbelievable to Dejesus is the fact that his new best friend is a Republic of Korea Army Special Force Soldier.
- Dejesus has been volunteering to provide English language training every week to an elite ROK Special Forces unit.
SUWON AIR BASE, South Korea - Pfc. Richard Dejesus never thought that he would find a best friend thousands of miles away from the United States.
Even more unbelievable to Dejesus is the fact that his new best friend is a Republic of Korea Army Special Force Soldier.
Dejesus, a 34-year-old communication specialist assigned to Headquarters Battery, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, and other Soldiers from the Iron Horse Battalion, here at Suwon Air Base, have been volunteering to provide English language training every week to the elite ROK Special Warfare Training Group Soldiers since September of this year.
"I have always wanted to be special force, and it is one of the primary reasons I joined the army last year," said Dejesus, a native of New York City. "And that is also the reason why I jumped up at the opportunity to interact with these elite Korean Soldiers."
"I was a bit anxious before the first class began" Dejesus admitted. "After all, these students are supposed to be the most lethal, most professional and most respected Soldiers the ROK military can offer."
It was during that class, Dejesus first met Master Sgt. Kim Myung-seok. He was one of the students in Dejesus' discussion group.
"He [Kim] immediately impressed me with his down-to-earth demeanor and light-hearted humor," said Dejesus, "You can see in his eyes that he genuinely cares about the people around him."
Kim, a 36-year-old native of Daegu, is serving as one of the primary airborne instructors at ROK Special Warfare Training Group and had more than 200 high altitude, low opening jumps under his belt. Kim is also a decorated combat veteran serving with the ROK Special Force since 1990.
Dejesus continued, "People often have this perception of special force being frigid if not unapproachable, but Master Sergeant Kim broke every stereotype out there."
"He (PFC Dejesus) was extremely thorough in his instruction and demonstrated a maturity not typical of the folks in his rank," Kim recalled his first impression of Dejesus. "But even more importantly, in many aspects, he reminded me so much of myself."
From that day on, the two Soldiers formed an unlikely friendship.
And Kim was correct about the similarities between him and Dejesus. Both put their children above everything else in the world. Both shared the passion for baseball and an active lifestyle. But more importantly, both dreamed of becoming Special Force since childhood.
"As soon as I learned of his desire to become Special Force, I encouraged him to pursue his dream," Kim said.
"I enlisted in the military as a 32-year-old private, and trust me, it was not an easy decision," Dejesus recalled. "Before the military, I worked as a glazier (glass maker) in New York for 8 years, but I never could give up my dream of becoming a Special Force Soldier in the U.S. Army."
"I told him [Dejesus], our motto here at Special Warfare Training Group is 'making the impossible possible,'" Kim said, "and it is not just physically but also mentally - a strong will can make anything happen."
Dejesus will be submitting his U.S. Special Force application in the near future.
Many people agree that unaccompanied tour here at Korea can be difficult, especially for a new Soldier on a first tour away from family and loved ones. That was especially true for Dejesus who has never been separated from his son for a prolonged period of time.
"I still cannot forget that weekend when Master Sergeant Kim called me and invited me to play baseball with his family," Dejesus remembered. "Somehow he knew that I was really missing my family that day and hearing a friendly voice on the other end was exactly what I needed to feel better."
"We have become more than friends but brothers," Kim said in an open manner. "It is my responsibility to look after a family member [Dejesus]."
"I have been deployed to Iraq in 2008, working with the U.S. Special Force extensively," Kim said proudly, "and I have always been very impressed with the quality of Soldiers serving in the U.S. Army."
Kim continued, "Pfc. Dejesus and the volunteer teachers from 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment definitely reaffirmed my perception, and as a direct result of their effort and similar efforts across the peninsula, the U.S. and ROK alliance is stronger than ever."