By Cpl. Dasol ChoiSeptember 15, 2016
CAMP HOVEY, South Korea - When U.S. Soldiers relocate to South Korea, they encounter a group of Republic of Korea Army Soldiers who wear the U.S. Army combat uniform and share the same working and living areas.
Korean Augmentation to the United States Army, or KATUSA Soldiers, are assigned to U.S. Army bases in South Korea to help U.S. Soldiers maintain 'fight tonight' readiness in a foreign country.
To efficiently manage KATUSAs and enforce Republic of Korea regulations, a few KATUSAs are selected and appointed as Senior KATUSAs.
"Our main responsibilities include accountability of each KATUSA Soldier, checking if something goes wrong, and resolving any issues involving KATUSAs," said ROK Army Sgt. Jae-Hyeok Choi, Senior KATUSA, Battery C, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
Senior KATUSAs have the same daily routine as other KATUSAs do. Senior KATUSAs start each working day with U.S. Army physical readiness training and report to their sections.
One thing that differentiates senior KATUSAs from others is that their work involves more ROK Army functions, and fewer U.S. Army tasks.
"As other senior KATUSAs and I are working at the ROK Army Staff Office, we usually deal with duties tasked by ROK," said Sgt. Tae-Young Cho, senior KATUSA, Battery A, 1-82 FA Bn., 1st ABCT. "I'm trying to reduce the confusion that comes from the difference between the ROK Army's tasks and those of the U.S. Army."
Although many KATUSAs are eager to become senior KATUSAs, only a few are chosen. The selection process for the position varies by each unit, but hardworking Soldiers are nominated.
"I was recommended by other KATUSAs in my battery as I had actively participated in a lot of exercises such as a 'Spur Ride' and a 'Best Warrior Competition,'" said Sgt. Jeong-Woo Si, Senior KATUSA of Battery B, 1-82 FA Bn. "In my battalion, the ROK Army sergeant major appoints a new senior KATUSA, based on a voluntary basis followed by a personal interview and recommendations from other KATUSA Soldiers."
Becoming a Senior KATUSA provides an opportunity to demonstrate leadership. Sometimes, however, senior KATUSAs find it challenging to balance Soldiers needs and expectations with requirements from both U.S. and ROK militaries.
"One thing that I feel hard is that I have to maintain an equilibrium," said Cho. "Every one has a different idea, so I am trying my best to adjust all different points to make everyone agree."
Despite some difficulties, senior KATUSAs work hard to reinforce the relationship between the U.S. Army and the ROK Army.
"I once worked as an interpreter during a combined exercise between the U.S. Army and the ROK Special Forces," said Si. "It sounds like a really small thing, but when I saw myself in the middle of two countries, I felt proud of myself for being a 'military diplomat.'"