YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea (Feb. 22, 2016) -- Despite a visible role on the battlefield, U.S. Army regulations don't allow chaplains to carry weapons; but that doesn't make them immune to enemy action. During just the Korean War, 13 U.S. military chaplains died while on duty. When chaplains come under fire, it's up to the chaplain's assistant to protect them.

About 100 chaplains and chaplain assistants carried out force protection training as it applies to Unit Ministry Teams, Feb. 3, at the 52nd Republic of Korea Army Division Training Center, near Seoul, South Korea.

The Chief of Chaplains Office Headquarters, Republic of Korea Army, hosted the training. Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Chaplain, Lt. Col. Yi, Jung-woo said it was long overdue.

"I have been a ROK Army chaplain for the past 24 years and have always wished for this type of training for our ROK Army chaplain assistants," he said. "For it to become reality, is a dream come true."

Another ROK Army Chaplain, Maj. Lee Kyeong-joo, said it was a good opportunity for ROK Army Soldiers to learn their roles on the battlefield and benefit from the combat experience of their U.S. counterparts.

"As the ceasefire in Korea has lasted for a long time, Korean Soldiers have somewhat lost sight of the importance of [UMTs] in wartime," Lee said. "In contrast, as U.S. Soldiers constantly face wars, they are aware of how important [UMTs are]," Lee said.

This training divided participants into three teams, each took turns at tasks including an obstacle course and a live-fire range.

In addition to practicing their combat skills, participants saw the force protection exercise as a bonding experience and a chance to build up the longstanding partnership between the ROK and U.S. Armies.

"Not only did it make me a better chaplain assistant, but I believe that it also made me a better Soldier, because trust and interaction are the very things that the Army is all about," said Chaplain Assistant Pfc. Hassan Thomas. "And trust is built on the long-term relationship and interaction."
ROK Army Chaplain's Assistant Sgt. 1st Class Jo Su-yeong, Eighth Division of ROK Army Chaplain's echoed the sentiment.

"More training like this would help ROKA and U.S. Soldiers to build friendship and trust, reinforcing the alliance between Korea and the U.S.," she said.