By Cpl. Il Hwan Jang, Eighth Army Public AffairsOctober 12, 2016
A crowd of more than 1 million people descended on the small town of Gyeryong during the Republic of Korea Army Ground Forces Festival Oct. 2-6 to see ROKA and U.S. Army exhibits on display.
Representing the Eighth Army were Soldiers and equipment from the 2nd Infantry Division (Now the 2nd Inf. Div. /ROK-U.S. Combined Division), 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. They brought with them Infantry Fighting Vehicles, small arms displays, explosive ordinance disposal teams and a Patriot missile system.
"I was a warrant officer for 36 years serving as a helicopter pilot," said Moon, Eun-Sik from Daejeon. "It comforts me to know that the forces of two nations together would be an indomitable force that constantly contribute to our nation's defense and I appreciate that as I see these displays with my grandson."
Also included in the Eighth Army presence was the Eighth Army Experience, a multimedia display hosted by the Eighth Army Public Affairs office that comprise of videos, photos and static displays that show ROK-U.S. Soldiers training together to continue to forge the long-lasting bond between the two nations.
"Our family came through the Eighth Army booth last year, and this year's exhibition not only grew in size but also in contents compared to what we saw last time." said Seo, Hyun-Jung from Daejeon City. "It is exciting to see all the new photos and static displays they exhibit. My son loved trying out body armor in the photo zone as he grew up from last year."
Seo also said the visit to the Eighth Army experience helped him see the value of the two nations working together and he would like for his son to work side-by-side with U.S. forces during his mandatory service.
Attendees also saw various Korean and U.S. performance groups as they entertained attendees with musical performances and parades.
"Our bands have been preparing for parades and stage performance for this event during the course of last week," said Staff Sgt. James Beeson, a member of the Eighth Army Band. "I have been performing in European countries, the United States and others, and Korean audiences are always very appreciative and it makes our job more enjoyable."
For some attendees like Seo, Kwang-Hui, a Vietnam War Veteran from Yoosung, Daejeon, the Eighth Army displays and performances took them back to a time in their life when Eighth Army Soldiers helped them or fought side by side with them.
"I was in Vietnam fighting alongside our U.S. allies and these newer U.S. Combat Rations brings up memories of eating C-Ration back then," said Seo as he viewed the Meal Ready to Eat display. "Koreans back then loved to eat a lot, however, just one portion of the combat ration would help us carry out missions through the harsh battle."
Attendees also had a chance to interact with the Korean Augmentation to U.S. Army soldiers who act as a military diplomat between the ROK and U.S. Armies translating, guiding and navigating. The KATUSAs have served side-by-side with their U.S. counterparts in units across the ROK for more than 60 years to ensure that the two militaries can work together seamlessly.
"I served as KATUSA for 3 years in 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from 1968 to 1970," said Lee, Man-Sik, from Nonsan. "I took my grandson to Ground Forces Festival to tell him about my experience in the U.S Army. I'm very pleased to see that my younger fellow KATUSAs wearing the Indian Head patch are still upholding those values."
Even as GFF draws to a close, Eighth Army is already planning its next event to promote friendship between the ROK and U.S. to build on the friendship shared by the two nations for more than six decades.
The Eighth Army civil affairs office is responsible for planning and overseeing U.S. force's participation in community relation events such as the Nakdong River Battle reenactment and Ground Forces Festival.
"These events allow the ROK civilian population a chance to interact with U.S. Soldiers and the KATUSAs that work with them and gives them a better understanding of the relationship between the two forces and our mission to safeguard the ROK," said Maj. Kelly Jones, the chief of military to military operations at Eighth Army civil military operations. "We look forward to improving our participation in these events every year to continue building the long standing relationship between the ROK and the U.S. Our goal is that everyone that attends takes away a better understanding of the unique, dynamic and combined efforts between our two forces."