By Sgt. Nicole HallJune 2, 2014
U.S. service members are visitors to the Republic of Korea and it is important to foster positive relations with our host nation. U. S. Forces Korea, peninsula wide operates the Good Neighbor Program to assist the U.S. military in making and keeping positive, friendly relations, and maintaining a strong Alliance.
As ambassadors to the U.S., it is important to visit the local community, showing a friendly presence. Soldiers from 602nd Aviation Support Battalion, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, create that presence with their own English camp.
Each company rotates to Dunpo Middle School in Asan, South Korea, a school the battalion has adopted and regularly visits.
In their most recent visit to the school, Capt. Benjamin H. Jung, the battalion chaplain and native of New York City, escorted nine Soldiers to the school to help 7th and 8th graders learn English. Many of the Soldiers that participated during the day were new to Korea and it was their first time visiting the Korean school.
"I was nervous at first, but I had to overcome it, because the kids looked up to me as an adult," said Pfc. Gabriel Ramirez, from Pheonix, Ariz., an electronic missile equipment repairer assigned to Company B "I broke the ice by asking their names and we kept conversing from there. Even though we come from different backgrounds, we still managed to have a good time together."
The Soldiers were broken down into groups of four students. Many Soldiers began their conversation the task for the day of learning about the students they were helping teach English.
Many of the children knew minimal to conversational English already, and they were able to assist Soldiers and their classmates to communicate. Korean Augmentees to the United States Army were also present to assist with translating.
The classroom was relatively quiet as the class began. By the end of the class, giggles and laughs could be heard throughout the room. Handshakes between Soldiers and students were exchanged when it was time to leave for the day.
"It was a great experience going to the school," said Ramirez. "We all learn from each other, no matter the age, gender, race, etc. I definitely plan to go back and volunteer with the English class."
The principle of Asan Middle School, Jung, Dae Soo greeted and thanked Soldiers for the work with his students.
602nd ASB Soldiers are regulars to the school and will continue to teach students English. The battalion also volunteers at a Pyeongtaek Child Care Center and an after school program for at risk youth. Soldiers who volunteer to be a part of these amazing opportunities, can also use the hours to earn a Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
"The Good Neighbor Program provides a positive opportunity for our Soldiers to interact with Korean citizens," said Jung. "Just from interaction with the students, Soldiers discover how similar school life is in America, giving Soldiers a practical perception of Korean culture. The GNP also displays to Korean citizens the Army's genuine kindness and enthusiasm in supporting their nation."