CAMP CASEY, Republic of Korea (Feb. 27, 2018) -- The Dongducheon Volunteer Center hosted an opening ceremony for its annual English class with U.S. and Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army (KATUSA) Soldiers at Dongducheon Volunteer Center, Dongducheon, Republic of Korea.

Since its creation in 2005, the volunteer program has been a mainstay for the 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-US Combined Division's "Good Neighbor Program". The class provides an opportunity for volunteers to freely converse in small groups with local citizens to improve their English fluency.

"You can improve your English and build a good relationship with the volunteers through these classes," said Se Chang Oh, Dongducheon mayor.

Programs like the English class are also helpful to maintaining a strong partnership between the local community and the Soldiers serving in the area, he added.

In addition to overcoming language barriers, the class provides a great opportunity for volunteers and locals to educate one another on their customs and values.

"This is a great opportunity to bring the U.S. Army and local communities together, and to teach participants our language and culture," said Maj. Belinda C. Trevillion, the executive officer of 210th FA Bde, 2ID/RUCD. "This English class hosts a positive environment and continues the partnership that we have with this community."

Following the opening ceremony, the participants were then divided into three groups after taking an assessment based on their understanding of the English language. The conversation between participants and volunteers went on for about an hour.

Korean English academies traditionally focus on teaching grammar with limited access to native English speakers. What makes the program so successful is the ability for students to speak with individuals that use English regularly, so participants can learn English that is useful in real life.

"I have been interested in learning English, but by going to English academies I couldn't quite find the thing I wanted," said Jung Hwan Park, a local citizen who applied for this program. "However, in this English class you can interact with U.S. Soldiers in person, which is not easy in Korea. I feel that my English conversational skill is improving, so I am satisfied with this program and want to attend as many classes as I can."

By volunteering to share their language skills with the locals and the community, their actions is a testament of one of the values the Army instills in its Soldiers.

"One of our Army values is Selfless Service," said Trevillion. "I think this is a perfect way for our Soldiers to demonstrate our Selfless Service; not only to our nation but yours."

"Volunteering is said to be a light of hope for our neighbors," said Oh. "You, the volunteers are that light. Thank you for spending time with us."