CAMP HUMPHREYS -- For the 36th consecutive year, Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Soldiers worked, played and ate together, side-by-side, during the 2014 KATUSA-U.S. Friendship Week activities, April 14-18.

The week was first observed in 1977, in an effort to boost morale and strengthen the mutual relationship between U.S. and KATUSA Soldiers by conducting various friendship events and cultural exchanges between both nations. Ultimately, this event seeks to strengthen the ROK-US relationship and cooperative spirit through various sports events, where Soldiers of both nations participate.

The week features many activities, including sports popular in both the Republic of Korea and the U.S., during the week. Some of the sports featured were: Korean-style wrestling, arm wrestling, basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball.

"Across Camp Humphreys and throughout the 2nd Infantry Division, Eighth Army and U.S. Forces Korea, our KATUSAs are welcome and essential members of the alliance team," said Brig. Gen. Erik C. Peterson, the 2ID deputy commanding general for support and the senior responsible officer for Camp Humphreys, during the opening ceremony. "You provide much needed manpower. Soldiers tasks are many and an extra hand is often needed and always appreciated."

Peterson went on to say that KATUSA Soldiers are a "vital link to the Korean people and close ROK military partners and they are tangible proof of our interdependence and enduring commitment. For over 63 years, U.S. and ROK Soldiers have stood side-by-side on the Korean peninsula, guaranteeing the security of the Korean people and forging strong bonds of trust and mutual support."

Besides Peterson, Pyeongtaek City Mayor Kim Sun-ki and Anseong City Mayor Hwang Eun-sung, and Maj. Park Seung-gon, Area III ROKA Support Group commander, also delivered opening remarks. This was followed by performances by the Korea Department of Defense Honor Guard, the ROK Army Taekwondo team and a Korean traditional percussion (Salmulnari) group.

The KATUSA Soldier Program was initiated in July 1950 by an informal agreement between Sung-man Rhee, then President of the Republic of Korea, and Gen. Douglas McArthur, Commander in Chief, United Nations Command.

The original concept of this program was to augment the U.S. fighting forces just after the outbreak of the Korean War. After the armistice, KATUSA Soldiers remained with Eighth Army units to receive training that was not readily available in the Republic of Korea Army and to enhance Eighth Army's mission capability.

This program has been continuous since 1950, with only periodic strength adjustments dictated by situational requirements. Originally, KATUSA Soldiers were returned to the ROK Army after serving with U.S. Army units. However, since 1968, KATUSA Soldiers remain with the U.S. Army until their service commitments are completed.

"The week was one of the best weeks I've had at Camp Humphreys," said Pfc. Kim Sung-hoon, assigned to the ROKA Support Office for 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, who call Evanston, Ill., home and participating in his first KATUSA-U.S. Soldier Friendship Week. "Often times, U.S. Soldiers and KATUSAs play sports in separate leagues, partly because of the difference in skills. I feel that this week has been a great opportunity to compete with and develop ties with U.S. Soldiers that will last a long time."

At the April 17 closing ceremony, the unit winners for each event were announced. They were: 304th Expeditionary Signal Battalion/501st Signal Company (Relay Race); Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys/4-58th Airfield Operations Battalion/403rd Logistics Readiness Center/Detachment B, 1-76th Finance (Korean Wrestling); 3-2 General Support Aviation Battalion (Arm Wrestling, Basketball and Soccer); 94th Military Police Battalion/557th Military Police Company/Criminal Investigation Division (Volleyball); and 602nd Aviation Support Battalion (Softball).

The overall first place winner for the week was 3-2 GSAB.