By Master Sgt. Michael PintagroJuly 27, 2010
AMERICAN and Korean warriors who more often train to "fight tonight" embraced a weeklong opportunity to "play today" in early April.
Warrior Friendship Week, an annual 2nd Infantry Division teambuilding event, harnessed the spirit of American, Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army, and Republic of Korea Army soldiers, as well as Family members and local communities, on behalf of the U.S.-ROK alliance.
Team and individual athletic events punctuated by "fun runs" and a golf scramble at Camp Casey dominated the early stages of Warrior Friendship Week.
Activities included such traditional Korean contests as kimajun and ssireum wrestling. A tae kwon do demonstration, static displays and Korean cuisine samplings also provided participants a taste of local culture. The event featured international favorites like soccer and basketball, along with perennial team-building contests such as tug-of-war. A unique "Ultimate Warrior" relay tested participants' ingenuity in a specifically military genre of "extreme sports."
Major subordinate commands conducted unit-level preliminary competitions at home bases during the first two days of competition. Allied warriors competed mainly as part of combined American and Korean teams. Volleyballs, soccer balls and occasionally Soldiers filled the air from Dongducheon to Pyeongtaek as units from various installations north of Seoul competed on fields and courts amid generally pleasant spring weather.
American and Korean participants alike embraced the team-building opportunity. U.S. Soldiers welcomed the chance to participate in Korean activities and develop camaraderie with Korean colleagues.
"I thought the Korean sports were a lot of fun to watch," said Spc. Christopher Baldwin of Company A, Division Special Troops Battalion. "I'd never seen ssireum wrestling in person so this was a unique opportunity to see and participate in a traditional cultural event. It is also great to see ROK army soldiers out here supporting the event as well. Being a guest in their country, I feel more welcomed by their taking part in Warrior Friendship Week."
"It's really great to be able to socialize with KATUSAs outside of work in a fun sporting environment," added Pfc. Zach Forshell of Co. A, 1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team. "I really like unwinding with a round of golf and was really excited to hear that Sgt. Cho, who I see every day, enjoys golf too. It was a natural fit that we would enter the golf scramble together."
KATUSA and ROK troops echoed those sentiments.
"I think it's really important that the ROK army is out here participating in these events," said Pfc. Chung Jin-Ho, a KATUSA serving with Co. D, 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment, 1st HBCT. "They are bringing so much enthusiasm to the games and I think the American Soldiers are picking-up on it. I feel proud that Korean soldiers are supporting these games."
"This event is really important," said ROK 1st Lt. Noh Jong-San. "The two armies never get to have the kind of cultural exchange that we're getting in these relaxing, fun activities when we interact in military exercises. I feel very fortunate to be out here playing a round of golf with American Soldiers."
Families as well as ROK allies played an unprecedented role in this year's version of the annual division esprit-building event.
"Families were out in force this year-wives, children, baby strollers-and were ubiquitous all week from Camp Casey to Camp Humphreys," said Lt. Col. Eric Davis, a key event organizer. "They watched the games, they cooked and ate at the barbecues, and the kids ran all over the place. All the Family activities were well attended and exceeded expectations."
"This was part of a conscious decision to make this a Family-friendly event," Davis added. "We invited Families through the chain of command, the command information papers and everything else. I think the involvement of the Families vastly improved Warrior Friendship Week. I think the results speak for themselves and validate our decision."
The Families added innovative wrinkles to the week's festivities, including children's games, barbecues and cooking contests.
"Some of the other wives and I entered the chili making competition," said Lauren Gasper, whose husband serves with Co. B, DSTB. "It was so much fun giving the Soldiers a taste of something that was homemade. I'm not sure who won, but it was all gone by the end of the morning."
They also participated enthusiastically in the sporting events.
"I watched my husband play in the "kimajun" event," Gasper said. "That was just hysterical. It was interesting to see Soldiers participate in a traditional Korean sport and truly enjoy themselves. I think that Warrior Friendship Week offered both the Soldiers and their Families a unique opportunity to relax together and get to know each other outside of work."
Warriors and Family members converged on Camp Casey for the championship rounds of team athletic events and barbecue, as well as the tae kwon do demonstration and marquee Family entertainment.
Major Gen. Michael S. Tucker, the 2nd ID commander, and other key leaders presided over the closing activities. The general congratulated participants and thanked Family members for their participation. An awards ceremony highlighted outstanding individual and team performances.
The event concluded on a high note as country singer Mark Chesnutt serenaded a combined crowd of American and Korean warriors and Families.
"This embodies everything the Warrior Division is about-our American and Korean soldiers competing side by side toward a common objective," said Lt. Col. Russell Goemaere, the division spokesman. "Our warriors are tough, spirited competitors on the ball field as they are on the battlefield. But we also take care of each other and take care of our Family members, who are a huge part of everything we do. Warrior Friendship Week really captures the essence of the commander's vision: the spirit to fight and win tonight and, at the same time, a firm commitment to taking care of our Soldiers and Families."