By Senior Airman Steven R. DotyJanuary 15, 2008
KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (Army News Service, Jan. 15, 2008) - The smell of crude oil was still evident early Jan. 4 as 45 Soldiers and Airmen joined more than 150 workers and other volunteers as they started another day of beach cleanup after Korea's worst oil spill occurred a month ago at Mallipo Beach.
According to the South Korean Coast Guard, the accident occurred the morning of Dec. 7 when a crane-carrying barge lost control after a wire linking it to the tugboat was cut due to high winds, waves and currents. The vessel then slammed into the Hebei Spirit oil tanker.
A total of 66,000 barrels (2.7 million gallons) of crude oil spilled from the crane barge and washed on shore. The cleanup involved 13 helicopters, 17 airplanes, 327 vessels and over 200,000 workers, including the U.S servicemembers from around South Korea.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Rosenbaum, a fireman with the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron, led the Wolf Pack volunteers to Mallipo.
"We were not able to get there for the initial cleanup when the sea was black, but this work (cleaning oil from rocks) is just as important to not only the environment, but to the way of life for the surrounding communities," said Rosenbaum.
Rosenbaum said a large amount of people expressed their desire to help, so he took the necessary steps to get Soldiers and Airmen involved.
"The South Korean government and its people have been so generous and we wanted to give back the best way we could," he said. "A disaster like this is devastating and requires many hours of work and lots of help. We had over 70 volunteers, but we were only able to bring 45. It was nice to see that so many people wanted to help."
The effects of the oil spill threaten fish farms along an 11-mile stretch of scenic and environmentally-rich coastline, 181 maritime farms and more than 4,000 farmers. The spill also has an economic impact on the summertime season as Mallipo Beach is the most popular tourist attraction in South Korea, averaging about 20 million tourists last year. Thus, the help received in the cleanup process can have enormous impact on so many levels.
Mallipo Beach representatives said they have received countless volunteers and aid in the cleanup process, but understand that it is a very long and tedious process that counts on everybody. From volunteers offering to clean up, to those that hand out free coffee and snacks to the workers, every effort counts and brings the beach and community that much closer to life.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Vine, Charlie 144, Patriot Battery, said he was excited and humbled to be a part of the experience.
"Coming to Korea was a great chance to work with and support the local community," he said. "It was great to know there was another way we could help our host nation and build a stronger relationship with the Airmen of the 8th Fighter Wing at the same time. We were honored to work side by side in the hopes of making a difference to the community of Taean."
(Senior Airman Steven R. Doty serves with the 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office.)