ICHEON, South Korea -- More than 5000 years of documented history contribute to the rich culture the Land of the Morning Calm offers for those who venture here. With ones imagination, it is possible to revisit age-old dynasties by touring temples, shrines and old palace grounds across the peninsula.
Soldiers of the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, were able to walk through the sands of time courtesy of their Republic of Korea army counterparts.
The ROK Army Aviation Operations Command took several 2nd CAB Soldiers on a tour of the city of Icheon, South Korea, Aug. 23.
The tour offered insight into the cities past. Icheon was designated as the City of Crafts and Folk Arts by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in July 2010. To begin the tour, Soldiers were brought to the tomb of King Sejong, also known as 'Sejong the Great,' who ruled during the Joseon period. He is revered by the people of Korea and one his major accomplishments include the creation of Hangul, the native phonetic alphabet of the Korean language.
One Soldier expressed his excitement and appreciation for the opportunity to learn this history hands on.
"I actually really liked it," said Pfc. Bradley Dixon, a geospatial engineer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd CAB, and a native of Brandon, Fla. "Today's tour showed us something you only read in history books, but to see it in real life was awe-inspiring."
Soon after visiting the tomb, the group visited the Icheon Municipal Museum where they were introduced to a plethora of Korean folk culture and art. The museum offered exhibits of 1000-year-old ceramic pottery, which is what some would say Icheon is most famous for.
Though the tour was meant to educate and foster good relations with U.S. Soldiers, one Korean Augmented to the United States Army Soldier assigned to 2nd CAB, who helped translate during the tour, also benefitted from the event.
"Even though I'm Korean, this was my first time visiting the tomb of King Sejong the Great," said Pfc. Jung, Seung Hoon, information technology specialist with HHC, 2nd CAB and a native of Seoul, South Korea. "I've learned a lot about the king, but I've never been to his tomb. I also felt proud to show U.S. Soldiers around and explain my culture to them. It made me realize that I should study more Korean history, so I can better explain it to foreigners."
The overarching theme of the tour was to bridge the cultural gap between two aviation units, but the benefits of such gestures go beyond cultural borders.
Chong Yim, a military liaison officer with 2nd CAB, helped coordinate the tour with the commander of the AAOC and explains the benefits of this cultural exchange.
"Many United States Forces Korea Soldiers are only assigned here for one or two years," said Yim. "Most of the time, they stay around their perspective bases and may not have the opportunity to explore other Korean cities. I wanted to help Soldiers see and explore for themselves the cultural aspects of Korea, so they can learn a little bit more about Korean culture today."
These two military entities often conduct combined aviation training. This tour allowed for these allies to break away from normal military operations and move towards a true appreciation and understanding of the host nation's culture.
"We have never had such activities together like today's tour and hanging out together," said 2nd Lt. Lee, GeeSu, a combined operation support officer with the ROK AAOC and a native of Seoul. "It is not related to our combined operation, but it's more like spending time and having fun. I'm sure today's tour improved the relationship between ROK and U.S. Soldiers."
With effective cross-cultural team building and an eagerness to learn about one another, the tour experience surely reinforced the building blocks of a strong Alliance.
U.S. and ROK forces both understand bridging diverse cultures and capabilities leads to an increasingly Army strong and capable Alliance who's ready to Fight Tonight - keeping the "We Go Together" mantra alive.