CAMP RED CLOUD -- We knew heading into the summer that it would be an eventful one for us in Area I, a period of sweltering heat, heavy rains, and new rotational units joining us here in Warrior Country, where proudly we serve at "The Tip of the Spear."

We knew too that awaiting them would be the same exciting educational, athletic and cultural opportunities open to all Soldiers and Airmen in our community, especially through participation in the Area I Commander's Cup Competition.

The new rotational units are the 2nd Brigade ("Black Jack"), 1st Cavalry Division, and the 2nd Battalion ("Deep Strike"), 20th Field Artillery Regiment. Both are serving with the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-US Combined Division, known also as the Warrior Division.

The Commander's Cup engages units in friendly competition across a broad set of scoring categories -- athletics, college enrollment, volunteerism and a lot else, and among the many benefits are unit pride and cohesion; physical fitness; and psychological and physical resilience.

Scoring is in four-month cycles: July through October; November through February; March through June. Units are scored in three categories based on unit size: small, medium, large.

So Black Jack and Deep Strike Soldiers can hone right in on Commander's Cup participation during the current July to October cycle and again in the November through February stretch. They can join other units in aiming at top honors and the esprit and good-natured bragging rights that come with winning.

I encourage our Black Jack and Deep Strike Soldiers to be enthusiastic Commander's Cup competitors along with all our other Warrior Country Soldiers and Airmen.

Go for the win and keep your eyes on that prized moment when your unit stands tall in formation at the next Commander's Cup Awards Ceremony and Maj. Gen. Theodore "Ted" Martin, the Warrior Division's Commanding General, pins on your unit guidon a coveted Commander's Cup Excellence and Resiliency streamer.

And here's a quick hint for winning in this next Commander's Cup round.

We'll award maximum points to those units that take advantage of CLEP-DANTES testing for those Soldiers who've finished AIT within the last 12 months. To know how that works contact the education center. They're ready to sign you up.

But there's more. We'll also award max points for enrollment in either of two college courses -- both absolutely free with Tuition Assistance -- that'll help acquaint you with the language, culture and society of Korea. One is ASTD 155 (Introduction to Korean Language and Culture); the other, ASTD 158A (Introduction to Korean Society).

The Army has granted a special exception to policy for Soldiers in Korea and Japan that allows even those who've been out of AIT for less than a year to enroll with free Tuition Assistance. Your education center has details.

But there's another opportunity that awaits not only our recently-arrived rotational Soldiers but all our Soldiers, Airmen, civilians and family members here in Area I: the chance to get out and explore Korea.

Our region of Korea is known for its fresh air, great hiking, and for the great food and rich cultural heritage you'll find anywhere in Korea. And we're within easy reach by subway of the glittering national capital, Seoul: from Dongducheon about 90-minutes, from Uijeongbu about an hour.

All that means no end of good, positive experiences to be had while serving in Area I, on-post and off.

Our monthly In The Zone magazine will tell you what recreational and other events we make it our business to provide you on post, as well as tours and other activities off-post. I miss no chance to encourage community members to sign up for a DMZ tour, for example. In The Zone will tell you about those tours and plenty more.

Whether you're here on a one- or two-year tour or for nine months with one of the rotational units, don't miss the broadening experience of getting out and seeing Korea.

The arrival of those rotational units is not the only important change we've seen in this summer.
Lt. Col. Jon R. Gardner assumed command of U.S. Army Garrison Casey July 27 and we welcome him, his wife Casey and daughter Jessica.

We look forward to his keen leadership of USAG Casey in what will be a key transition for Warrior Country as our garrison manages some of the very big changes slated for our installations over the next year and more as the Warrior Division gears up to move south.

In the meantime let's remember that although Labor Day is fast approaching, summer is still with us. That means many chances to give yourself positive experiences here in Korea, through the Commander's Cup, off-post trips and other worthy pursuits. And as you do, be sure to practice good summer safety and, be in Korea an exemplary ambassador for our own country as we serve among the people of this one.