Gyeonggi-do, South Korea — As the Christmas holiday approached, leaders from the 501st Military Intelligence Brigade, made the trek north to visit its forward-deployed Detachment J, to share a meal and holiday camaraderie with Soldiers stationed away from the rest of the unit, Dec. 22.
The 501st MI Brigade command team scheduled the visit to coincide with the Christmas holiday to ensure the Soldiers manning the remote station know that the brigade’s leadership is thinking about them and appreciates their contribution.
During the visit, Col. Paul Oh, brigade commander, Maj. James Howard, brigade assistant operations officer, Maj. Sean Magnuson and Staff Sgt. Kendra Brandon, the brigade unit ministry team, and Capt. Keith Smith, Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, 719th MI Battalion, were given a site tour by Sgt. Derik Price and detachment briefs by Spc. Jonathon Lehmann, Spc. Darren Chung and Sgt. 1st Class Cory Wright, Det. noncommissioned officer in charge, who rotates between Det. J and Det. L, another remote site near the DMZ, stood by to provide additional details.
Soldiers assigned to the detachments perform daily maintenance and systems checks for the equipment and systems on site as well as site security, for both sites located near the southern border of the demilitarized zone and North Korea.
Lehmann, the longest-serving member of the team with 20 months onsite, said they have come to look at the Det. as their home and take care of it as such. He also said he appreciates being able to focus on his job there.
“One cool thing about being up here is that every day is different,” said Lehmann, a military intelligence system maintainer/integrator. “We have teams that come up to work on their systems or transport equipment and we get to work with them.”
“You meet people from so many different organizations that come up. You learn so much; it’s like a fire hose of information because there’s so much equipment around here. You can sit and talk to people and learn how the systems work and how they fix them. Thirty-five tangos (35T Army Military Occupational Specialty - military intelligence system maintainer/ integrator) are kind of the MacGyvers of the IT field; we can work on anything. It could be hardware-based, or software-based. It really just depends on what that unit’s mission is,” Lehmann continued.
Oh asked the Soldiers about their daily routine; one of the issues brought up was that COVID-19 affects them just like it does everyone else; in their case it interrupts scheduled activities, and limits what they are able to do during their monthly passes off-site.
He offered the Soldiers extra time to speak with the chaplain should they feel the need and told them that their needs come first.
“I know some people don’t know what you all do up here to contribute to the fight, but I appreciate you guys,” said Oh.
Oh also took the opportunity to discuss the Chief of Staff of the Army’s priority of preventing sexual assault with this small group of Soldiers that are away from the larger formation. He assured them that he was open to hearing any ideas on ways to improve the force and any input to make things better for his Soldiers and the Army.
Before leaving, the leaders from the brigade wished the detachment Soldiers a Merry Christmas and gave them cookies and snacks for the holiday season.
The 501st Military Intelligence Brigade provides indications and early warning of actions by opposing forces that could threaten the tense but stable peace in the Republic of Korea. In the event of hostilities, the brigade’s mission shifts to providing combined, multi-discipline intelligence and force protection support to the United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command, the CFC Ground Component Command and their subordinate units.