CAMP CARROLL, South Korea -- In the opening days of the Korean War, 41 American prisoners of war were executed by North Korean forces on a hill along the Nakdong River above Waegwan, South Korea.
The site of the war crime on Aug. 17, 1950, known as the Hill 303 massacre, was later used for a memorial constructed by U.S. troops stationed at nearby Camp Carroll Army Base.
On Nov. 5, the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Korea played host to its third annual Nakdong Challenge, paying tribute to all who fought and died in the Korean War while testing current Soldiers’ combat skills.
“Teams were given a small taste of what it was like to fight in the Korean War,” Sgt. 1st Class Donny Hagan said. “The outcome from the competition is for Soldiers to build confidence, competence and resiliency in an environment that could transition to hostilities at any time.”
USAMMC-K, a direct reporting unit to Army Medical Logistics Command, provides medical logistics support to U.S. Forces Korea and organizations located in the Korean theater. It has served as USFK’s theater lead agent for medical materiel since 2009.
USAMMC-K Commander Lt. Col. Marcus D. Perkins said the physically demanding challenge is an opportunity for medical materiel logisticians to hone their skills.
The 16 participants -- four teams of four Soldiers in full combat gear -- went head to head in eight individual challenges, testing their physical fitness, mental acuity, survival skills, marksmanship and proficiency in vehicle operation, navigation and casualty care scenarios.
“My hope as the commander here is that we’re able to harness those skills, build upon those skills, as well as build confidence and resiliency,” said Perkins, describing the battle drills as “just as they would encounter in combat.”
Just as important, Perkins said the challenge was created to commemorate the sacrifices made by U.N. forces in defense of the Pusan Perimeter, specifically during the Nakdong River Battle along the nearby waterway in the southeastern tip of South Korea.
One of the first major engagements of the war, the battle ended in a U.N. victory as joint forces from South Korea, the United States and United Kingdom held their ground against a barrage of attacks over six weeks, forcing North Korea into retreat.
The grueling day culminates with each team summiting Hill 303, where a monument stands honoring all who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Korean War.
Taking top honors this year were “The Maintainers” from the 563rd Medical Logistics Company, consisting of Staff Sgt. Jon Nicolas, Sgt. Jihwan Kim, Pfc. Elijah Lawrence and Pfc. Camoren Collins.
Perkins said the challenge has special meaning to many participants, honoring their family members who served in Korea, like his grandfather, Cpl. Darrell F. Schaub.
“Being a descendent of a Korean War veteran, I feel humbled to be able to follow in the footsteps of being here at the same place in which my grandfather and those Soldiers were willing to make great sacrifices for the preservation of freedom,” he said.