CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea -- A Republic of Korea Soldier, assigned to the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center-Korea through the KATUSA program, was one of five Eighth Army Soldiers recognized for outstanding service in June.
Sgt. Baik In-chul, who served with the 95th Medical Detachment (Blood Support) before retiring July 6, said the award caught him by surprise.
“I did not expect it at all, especially because I was only a couple of weeks away from retirement,” Baik said of the 2021 Best KATUSA Warrior awards, which were presented during a KATUSA Veterans Association event June 16 at U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys.
KATUSA is short for Korean Augmentation to the United States Army, a program that dates back to the beginning of the Korean War in July 1950.
The original concept was to augment the U.S. fighting forces just after the outbreak of the Korean War. After the armistice, KATUSA Soldiers remained with U.S. Soldiers to receive training that was not readily available to the ROK Army and to enhance Korea's mission capability.
Today, initial-entry ROK Soldiers can apply to become KATUSAs and serve alongside allied U.S. Soldiers stationed in Korea in cooperation and combined commitment to deter future war.
During his time as a KATUSA, Baik served with the 95th MDBS for over a year, working as a medical laboratory specialist. He was responsible for the deglycerolization process for over 300 frozen blood units, along with the shipping and receiving of blood products throughout the Korean Peninsula and other duties.
The 95th MDBS, which maintains the largest forward blood bank in the Department of Defense, is a tenant unit under the operational control of USAMMC-K, a direct reporting unit to Army Medical Logistics Command.
“As a vital asset, Sgt. Baik demonstrated exemplary performance, emphasizing and enforcing documentation of quality control, maintenance and troubleshooting of the laboratory equipment and reagent valued at over $2 million,” said Maj. Chewanda Jones, outgoing commander of the 95th MDBS.
Jones said Baik also was chosen to serve as the English-Korean translator for USAMMC-K’s change of command in 2020.
“He was also hand-selected by the Republic of Korea Company Commander as a peer-to-peer counselor and performed duties as a senior KATUSA, even though he did not hold the title,” she said. “This speaks to the fact that he was always reliable and, without question, dependable when needed.”
Baik said attending -- and being recognized -- at the KATUSA event was a memorable and fitting way to cap off his military career.
“I am grateful for my time as a KATUSA,” he said. “I was blessed with great leaders that ensured my positive experience.”