CAMP WALKER, South Korea -- Smiles, laughs, toasts, and awards marked the closing ceremony of the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command's, "Team 19", 21st Annual Korean American Friendship Circle June 27 at Camp Walker's Evergreen Community Club.
The six month KAFC program partners Korean students and families with U.S. Soldiers and their families in an effort to foster cultural relationships between the two countries.
Since last March more than 150 participants have enjoyed everything from American Holidays to daily typical Korean leisure activities, all while learning more about each other's countries and traditions. These events served to provide a unique first hand perspective for the members of the program.
Col. Johnney Matthews, commander of Material Support Command - Korea and KAFC's American Co-president, explained what a unique opportunity the council is.
"This is certainly an education that one cannot learn in the classrooms or books," said Matthews. "Learning and growing through mutual cultural exchanges is the foundation for this program."
The Korean students are selected from universities around the Daegu area. The process is highly competitive. During a celebratory toast, the host of the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Stephen E. Farmen, 19th ESC's commanding general, praised the students for their enthusiasm and dedication to cultural understanding between the two countries.
While the intent of the program is to promote cultural exchanges, Jae Eun Ha, an education major from Yeungnam University, said the program provided her much more. Paired with the family of a U.S. colonel, she says she grew very close with her sponsors and came to rely on their advice about life beyond the program.
"I would talk about life lessons and things," said Ha. "It was like a family almost."
According to Matthews, the personal relationships that develop are a unique aspect of the program.
"The importance of family and friends is shared by both cultures and is another element that makes this such a special program," said Matthews. "The human bond that develops over the course of a term is simply remarkable. Sponsors and students develop a special relationship that can only be described as family."
Col. Robert Davis, 19th ESC G-3, sponsored a team during the term. He said for his family the program exceeded their expectations and they don't plan to let the fun stop just because the term has ended.
"We went in not expecting the bonds to be as deep as they are at the end of it and what ended up evolving over the meetings was that we became good friends," said Davis. "You can't take away the friendships, and we [have] some events planned [together] for the end of July."
Team 19's biggest strength is the diverse force that encompasses our Soldiers, government civilians, Korean nationals, KATUSAs [Korean Augmentation to the United States Army], and our local community. Programs such as KAFC help provide for a safe and prosperous South Korea for many years to come.