By Pfc. Lim Hong-seo (IMCOM)April 25, 2013
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea -- The KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the United States Army) program is the embodiment of the ROK-U.S. alliance. In commemoration of 60 years of that powerful partnership, 2013 KATUSA & U.S. Soldier Friendship Week was held April 15-18.
The KATUSA program was initiated in July 1950, during the Korean War with the agreement between South Korean president Synghman Rhee and Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Since then, KATUSA has become an important part of the U.S. Army stationed in Korea, working as a liaison with the ROKA (Republic of Korea Army).
The Area II ROKA Support Group organized and supported the 2013 KATUSA & U.S. Soldier Friendship Week. The purpose of this friendship week is to facilitate unit cohesion and foster cultural understanding between the two countries.
During the opening ceremony, KATUSA and U.S. soldiers who are exemplary models for ROK-US alliance received Best Friends Awards. Representatives from both parts swore the ROK&US Friendship Oath as hundreds of KATUSA and U.S. Soldiers witnessed. Ensuing performance of ROK Ministry of National Defense Drill Team and ROKA Special Forces Martial Arts captured the attention of the crowd.
"Over 60 years ago, Korea was one of the poorest countries," said Col. Lee Seok-jae, commander of Eighth Army ROKA Support Group. "Through the alliance between the Republic of Korea and the United States, we were able to achieve a strong national defense and economic growth. As proven through this fact, the alliance proved its important role in the development of Korea. And the KATUSA program is a symbol of the alliance. Today we commence the 36th KATUSA-US Friendship week. I sincerely wish many of you to participate, enjoy, and have a great time."
Several events to foster stronger friendship between KATUSA and U.S. soldiers were held during the week. Many teams composed of soldiers of both nations participated in softball, soccer and basketball tournaments. 5K team runs and various other team sports also brought the soldiers together.
"By cheering and shouting next to each other, I can feel how competing with other companies or brigades in many of these sport events bring KATUSA and U.S. soldier closer and closer," said Pfc. Lee Chang-hyun, administrative specialist at Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan. "I had so much fun actually playing and cheering for my company, and I think the friendship week is a great opportunity to build camaraderie between KATUSAs and U.S soldiers."
U.S. soldiers were able to experience Korean culture, trying Korean rice cake and Bibimbap and dancing along to the sound of Korean traditional instruments. Soldiers showed off their musical gift during the Talent Show and enjoyed the performance of many K-Pop stars during the Entertainment Show.
During the closing ceremony, the winners of each event and the overall winner of 2013 KATUSA & U.S. Soldier Friendship Week were announced. The 65th Medical Brigade claimed this year's champion flag and trophy. Brig. Gen. Chris R. Gentry, deputy commander for Eighth Army, concluded the friendship week by stressing that we are all one team in the end.
"You all have been teammates and competitors in various events this week," Gentry said. "When it comes to the ROK-US alliance, we are all the same team. Friendly, I stress, 'friendly competitions' took place here this week and helped strengthen the ROK-US alliance. Thank you very much for all our competitors, KATUSA and U.S. Soldiers, and I hope you had fun too."