Story By: Kim, Pyeong Kang
Etched in stone at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. are the words, "Freedom is not free."
Forged from the ashes of the Korean War nearly 70 years ago, the United States and the Republic of Korea, through shoulder-to-shoulder combat, safeguarded one the most treasured and cherished values of mankind, Freedom. Through combined hardship and commitment to each other, the nations established an enduring Alliance. American sons and daughters answered the call of a nation to defend a country that some had never knew and never met.
Although we may have been strangers 70 years ago, with the passed-on torch of Freedom, the inextricable bond the ROK and U.S. now shares is unfathomable.
An example of this is illustrated in the combined combat division led by U.S and ROK Flag officers located in the Republic of Korea, the 8th U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division. Service members of this unique Alliance work together shoulder-to-shoulder every day to maintain peace and stability during this time of Armistice. There are also several thousand Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA) Soldiers living and working with U.S. Soldiers at bases throughout the Republic of Korea.
This special ROK-U.S. bond is exhibited in the southern hub of the Korean Peninsula, in the City of Daegu, nicknamed Colorful Daegu because of its rich history in the textiles industry.
It is in Daegu where Soldiers, Dept. of Defense Civilians and Family Members of the 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command form lasting relations with the Daegu Community, which further enhances the strong ROK-U.S. Alliance.
As explained in the U.S. Forces Korea Regulation 360-4, the Good Neighbor Program and USFK aim to promote and achieve harmonious relations between USFK and its various communities; including, but not limited to, officials, institutions, organizations and individuals within the ROK.
In Colorful Daegu, Team 19 Soldiers, Civilians and Family Members serve as illustrations of good stewardship to the ROK-U.S. Alliance by honoring and carrying out the USFK's intent according to the tenets of the Good Neighbor Program.
"It's the people who support the Good Neighbor Program who reinforce the pillars of success, which are Community Relations, Cultural Awareness and Military-to-Military Exchange training," said Joseph Lee, who is the community relations director of the 19th ESC.
Lee said the command of the 19th ESC regularly conducts Key Leader Engagements with senior leaders of the community in the key disciplines of government, industry, medicine, law and education.
Volunteering in good-will activities is important to Team 19 as the unit stays actively engaged in meaningful interactions with the community by participating and volunteering in several outreach activities. Examples of these include partnering through the GNP with Daegu's Nam-Gu District Social Welfare Center to help serve hot meals to underprivileged, elderly citizens, and volunteering through the GNP's partnership with Habitat for Humanity to renovate older homes to improve living conditions for residents in and around Daegu.
The command of the 19th ESC encourages its Soldiers to immerse in Cultural Adaption while providing cultural learning opportunities and experiences. Through the Good Neighbor Program, Team 19 regularly initiates and organizes cultural tours, training and community events.
During a recent Cultural Tour in September 2018, the Good Neighbors of Area IV hosted a cultural and educational tour to the picturesque Island of Oedo. During the tour, the Commanding General of the 19th ESC, Brig. Gen. Michel M. Russell Sr., shared his insights on the Good Neighbor Program.
"All these types of cultural events are extremely important to us, especially for U.S. Forces here in Korea," Russell said. "We have several programs that we do here in Area IV that gets all of our Soldiers out of their barracks, gets our families out of their homes, off the bases, camps and stations and in to the cultural immensity of Korea."
While upholding an unwavering relationship with the local community during peace time brings the benefit of promoting a positive view of the U.S. Forces in Korea, the operational partnership with the ROK Military remains just as important and imperative to these efforts in sustaining the Alliance.
Military-to-Military Exchanges are a key component to nurturing the Good Neighbor Program. The 19th ESC has established strong relationships with ROK Military Schools and Units situated in the vicinity of Daegu. As a professional development model, the 19th ESC participates in mentorship programs with local Reserve Officers Training Corps Cadets to provide real-life experiences and professional connections for the aspiring ROK military leaders.
As the 19th ESC carries out its core responsibilities of maintaining effective Sustainment Operations throughout the ROK, the USFK Good Neighbor Program stands as a success model, enhancing Team 19's effectiveness through positive relations with ROK officials, institutions, Armed Forces, and communities.