By 2nd Lt. Gabriel Jenko
1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st ABCT
CAMP CASEY, South Korea - Revisting the grounds where U.S. and South Korean forces were able to turn the tide after barely beating back waves of Chinese attackers during the Korean War, now a battlefield museum, artillery leaders connected with the history of the unit May 24.
Leaders from the 1st Battalion "Dragons," 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, learned about the role their artillery unit played in the three-day Battle of Chipyong-ni, from Soldiers who fought through it and survived.
The Battle of Chipyong-ni, a famous defensive engagement during the Korean War, was an important turning point toward the eventual armistice with North Korea. Stopping the Chinese offensive for the first time, U.N. forces at Chipyong-ni - and at the Battle of Twin Tunnels two weeks prior - fought bravely and survived against overwhelming odds.
"It was unbelievable that 1-82 FA comes back to where their Soldiers had fought before," said retired Republic of Korea Army Jong-hwan Lee, through an interpreter.
When Lee was 17, his countrymen were fleeing Seoul and other northern cities from advancing communist forces. After spending five days in basic training and firing only five bullets during that training, the young Korean Augmentee to the U.S. Army, Pfc. Lee, was assigned as a cannon crew member to Battery A, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.
"As a member of the Dragons, Chipyong-ni is the place where we fought the hardest against the Chinese troops," said Lee. "Our courage and hope helped win this battle."
Lee said spending time with Dragon Soldiers was special.
"I felt like I had taken a time machine back to 1950 and wanted to fight again, together with the 1-82 FA Soldiers," said Lee. "They treated me as real family and veteran, even 60 years later. It was so touching that 1-82 FA didn't forget about Chipyong-ni and the veterans who fought there during the war. We go together, 'Katchikapsida!'"
The "staff ride," as the engagements are known in the Army, was meant to give Dragon leaders an idea of the historical contributions made by Soldiers from their unit in the important battle. Although the unit was an anti-aircraft artillery regiment at the time, their flak guns were effective in the intense ground combat that ensued, often being tasked with helping to close gaps in the line.
"It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to walk the battlefield with those who fought here," said Lt. Col. Douglas Hayes, commander, 1-82 FA. "To learn lessons from them and to gain a unique perspective that you would find hard to replicate from a book."
This visit allowed the leaders of 1-82 FAR to revisit their unit history and understand its role in helping to shape the Korean War, a conflict they still confront today. And moving into Memorial Day, the staff ride took on additional importance of the sacrifices that have been made by those who came before them.
"It was an educational experience that I won't soon forget," said 1st Sgt. Eric Buggeln, Battery A, 1-82 FA. "The fortitude and sacrifices that were displayed in those few days of fighting are both humbling and inspirational."