CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea -- Camp Humphreys hosted a unique veterans group on Oct. 14--about 180 KATUSA veterans and family members who visited the post for KATUSA Homecoming Day.

Hosted by the Republic of Korea Army Support Group, KATUSA Homecoming Day provided an opportunity for the veterans to see the new Camp Humphreys, visit the old KATUSA Training Academy and share stories from their service with the U.S. Army.

The KATUSA program began at the outbreak of the Korean War as a means to boost the ranks of the American units fighting the war and to familiarize American Soldiers with Korean language, culture and traditions. Since its inception thousands of KATUSA Soldiers have served honorably with American Army units in Korea.

The KVA began in 2007 and has grown to about 8,000 members. In 2013 it was organized as a corporation governed by the Ministry of Foreign.

Sok, Chong Nae, the senior KATUSA veteran at the event, served with the U.S. 7th Infantry Division in 1950 at the outbreak of Korean War. He emphasized patriotism as the key factor in determining a Soldier's strength.

"I went through three weeks of training in Japan before embarking for the landing mission in Incheon. I was 19 years old and knew nothing about my destination. The gun was as long as my height," Sok said.

Sok recalled the terror of being ambushed by the enemy during Christmas and the bond he forged with his fellow U.S. Soldiers by sharing that experience.

"Make your U.S. counterpart battle buddies lifelong friends," he encouraged the junior KATUSAs."
Those who served as KATUSAs since the war have established solid foothold in diverse fields of social life. Many have gone on to serve as leaders in business and industry.

Kim, Myoung Il, a Sports Kyunghyang Editing Desk reporter who served with the 18th Medical Command, 618th Dental Company in 1998, cherished memories of winning the company level Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Relief Exercise competition and celebrating it with U.S. soldiers and junior KATUSAs all night.

"I felt the power of being part of a 'union' in the course of 'going together,'" he said.

Kim registered in the KVA (KATUSA Veterans Association) online and realized the substantiality of 'united KATUSAs'.

"I have learned much from associating with seniors and juniors who faced challenges and made achievements in life with the mentality they internalized during their term of service," he said.

Two years ago, he encountered a junior KATUSA who wished to follow his footsteps as a journalist. Much as he did with that young Soldier, Kim offered advice and encouragement to today's KATUSAs.

"Now is the time to educate yourselves. The interaction with U.S. Soldiers and fellow KATUSAs that you meet will become a great opportunity not only to enhance the strength of the ROK-US alliance but to develop yourselves as leaders," Kim said.

Kim, Jong Wook, the present chairman of the KVA served with the 2nd Infantry Division in 1977. His aim is to enhance the status of former and present KATUSAs and strengthen the ROK-US alliance.
Kim also wants the KVA to provide a platform where senior and junior KATUSAs can create a resource network that would eventually benefit society.

"The confidence I gained from my service term stems from the fact that I had completed the studies that were to determine the rest of my life," Kim told present KATUSAs.

Chong, Ok Rae, an Executive Managing Director at the Korea Consultancy Industry Association who served with the 503rd Infantry Regiment Combat Support Company in 1989, is proud of his experience carrying out transportation and communication operations in the Demilitarized Zone near Panmunjom, Joint Security Area.

"The knowledge I acquired from managing supply in the U.S. Army directly led me to study business administration in the United Kingdom and being employed in the European branch of a major company," he said.

As the leader of the KVA Development and Plans Group, Chong and his group is striving to realize the great potential of a culture where 150 thousand former KATUSAs and two thousand new KATUSAs join every year and support one another in their social life. He seeks to develop the ROK-US alliance into a substantial partnership as well.

"With the support of ex-USFK commanders, the KVA is also working on establishing a USFK Veterans Association that would include 3 million retired U.S. Soldiers and KATUSA veterans as its members," he added.

The visit of successful KATUSA seniors aroused the interest of present KATUSAs. Cpl. Ha, Hong Min, 20th Military Police CID, was curious about the presence of the KVA and expressed his determination to share the information with his juniors.

"I hope all the KATUSAs that are currently serving with me could get an opportunity to engage in a discussion with our seniors," he said.

The KVA has recently put out a survey online to solicit ideas on activities to implement in the future. 540 members have responded to the survey, indicating the high attention that this corporation is attracting, according to Chong, Ok Rae.

"Statistics based on a sample of 500 former KATUSAs show that 40 percent of the KATUSAs are either residing, studying, or working abroad. It opens up possibilities for a real time global network among KATUSAs," he said. "As mediators of the ROK-US alliance, KATUSAs are taking a big leap into the future, continuing to associate in a broader sense in various aspects of life after retirement and planning ways to contribute to society beyond the capacity of a single individual retired Soldier."