CAMP CASEY, Republic of Korea -- Soldiers wrap a satba (belt) around their waist and thigh, lock on to each other, and try to bring any part of their opponent's body to the ground.
This is a traditional Korean sport called Ssireum wrestling, one of many sports Soldiers participated in during the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA)/U.S. Soldier Friendship Week (KUSFW) at Camp Casey May 14-18.
KUSFW brought KATUSAs and U.S. Soldiers within the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division together for a week of traditional American and Korean sports competitions to strengthen the alliance and teamwork between U.S. Soldiers and their ROK counterparts.
"This was a very fun and good opportunity to meet and interact [with] the other units and build friendship through Ssireum wresting, which is the national sport of Korea," said Sgt. TaeYup Kim, a Colorado native, and Infantryman assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division.
Warrior Division competitors participated in various sports like basketball, soccer, relay races, tug of war, a squad competition, and the Korean traditional sport, Jok Ku (foot volleyball).
"KATUSA friendship week is very exciting, I am very honored to be able to attend, especially being able to participate in Jok Ku and play against U.S. Army Soldiers," said (ROK) Sgt. Maj. TaeHun Kim, Sgt. Maj. of 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. "It's very honorable for me to play a famous Korean sport with U.S. Soldiers. It strengthens the friendship and alliance we have with U.S. Army Soldiers," Kim said.
"It was fun playing against Soldiers from other units," said KATUSA Pfc. SuChun Hwang, a native of Seoul, and medic assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division. "I learned this week is not all about winning or competition, but getting to know new people in our unit despite their rank or nationality," Hwang continued.
The brigade who won the most events was 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division (rotational).
KATUSAs and U.S. Soldiers also participated in cultural exchange events such as Jegi (hacky sack), Tuho (large sticks thrown into pots), Burna spining (spinning dish-shaped disk), learning Korean traditional instruments, and Korean traditional brush writing. Participants also sampled traditional Korean food like Jeon (Korean pancakes), lotus tea and Hangwa (Korean rice cakes).
"I have really enjoyed this week. It was really fun doing all the cultural events. I got to play Korean instruments and throw the arrows (Tuho) and was trying all the Korean food like the Korean pancakes (Jeon) with my friends," said Pvt. Joel Candelario a native of Texas, assigned to 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2ID/RUCD. "My KATUSA friend made a Korean fan for me and left a note in Hangul. My best friend here is a KATUSA, and so participating in all these events made us even closer," said Candelario.
On the fourth day of the week, ROK, 2ID/RUCD, and USAG Red Cloud leadership inducted Kim, Dae Wook into the KATUSA Hall of Fame during a dinner, which honored KATUSAs for their lasting contributions.
Soldiers gathered at Schoonover Bowl at Camp Casey on May 18 for the closing awards, ROK cultural events, and closing remarks from Col. Brandon D. Newton, U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud commander.
"My hope is that all of you have taken this week and cultivated the bonds between our two countries and your units," said Newton. "The ROK U.S. alliance is a unique partnership, bound by blood and grounded in our shared values and warrior ethos."