By Capt. Jonathon DaniellFebruary 16, 2017
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea - Riki Ellison, three-time Super Bowl champion and the chairman and founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, spent Valentine's Day accompanying 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Soldiers on a staff ride to the Demilitarized Zone.
Staff rides are guided trips to significant places that provide Soldiers with a better understanding of the location's historical meaning. In this case, an opportunity to learn how Korea became divided.
"I've been serving in Korea for nearly eight months, and this was my first trip to the DMZ," said Staff Sgt. Timothy Orr, 35th ADA Brigade. "It's kind of a surreal place to visit and difficult to put into words, but it's a trip I believe every Soldier should go on during their tour in Korea."
The morning started at the DMZ Museum, then the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, followed by the Joint Security Area. The JSA is where distinct blue buildings straddle the border, providing visitors an opportunity to stand on North Korean soil.
"When I received my orders to South Korea, visiting the DMZ was on my short-list of things to do," said Capt. Andrew Schumaker, 35th ADA Brigade. "I'm happy to say I've now done it, and the picture standing in North Korea makes it even better."
The trip concluded with a visit to the Dora Observatory. Sitting on top of Mount Dora, onlookers can take in panoramic views of the rolling hills, villages, and glimpses of North Koreans working their fields.
According to a National Geographic article, the DMZ was established during the end of WWII when U.S. and Soviet Union leaders agreed on the 38th parallel as the divider to separate the two Koreas.
The article further explains that U.S. Forces were initially looking for a natural occurring line north of Seoul, such as a river or mountain range to propose as a border. With no such luck, it was the 38th parallel on their National Geographic map that clearly stuck out, and without much bartering it was accepted by all.
For many young Soldiers, the staff ride was the perfect trip to set the conditions for serving in Korea.
"This experience provided me with a new perspective on the importance of our mission in Korea," said Pfc. Emma Frerichs, 35th ADA Brigade. "It made everything feel real, and learning about the history will make the rest of my tour in Korea more valuable."
Ellison addressed the Soldiers a couple times throughout the tour, reinforcing the value of the 35th ADA Brigade mission, and how ballistic missile defense is critical to the Republic of Korea.