By Maj. Carlos CuebasAugust 27, 2012
TAEGU, Korea (Aug. 27, 2012) -- The Korean War holds a special place in the collective memory of Puerto Rico. In August 1950, Soldiers from the 65th Infantry Regiment, the only Hispanic segregated unit in the U.S. military history, departed from Puerto Rico to participate in the Korean War, where they played a critical role during the hostilities, by participating in nine major campaigns through the peninsula, being one of the first troops to meet the enemy.
The role of the Borinqueneers was so valuable that Gen. Douglas MacArthur, in 1951, is quoted to have said, "The Puerto Ricans forming the ranks of the gallant 65th Infantry on the battlefields of Korea are writing a brilliant record of achievement in battle and I am proud indeed to have them in this command. I wish that we might have many more like them."
Sixty two years later, in August 2012, approximately 100 troops from the 166th and the 210th Regional Support Groups, known as RSGs, U.S. Army Reserve Puerto Rico, had the opportunity to live again the history, by participating in the exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian, or UFG, one of the two major annual combined events designed to improve the alliance's capability to defend South Korea.
Spc. Humberto Davis, an Information Systems Operator from Carolina, Puerto Rico, with 4 years of service, assigned to the 166th RSG, was one of the Soldiers selected for the mission.
"It is an honor to be able to continue what our ancestors initiated, maintaining the great reputation of Puerto Rican Soldiers," said Davis, who works in the help desk and operates the Video Teleconferences system, at one of the locations where the classified exercise is conducted.
Sgt. Jennis Galindez, from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, was another Soldier who traveled the 9,648 miles from Puerto Rico to Korea to participate in this mission. She was in charge of the Entry Control Point to one of the classified facilities, where the war-gaming exercise was taking place.
"This is a very new experience. I had never been to Korea before but I feel proud because our unit was selected to participate in this highly visible mission and because, knowing what other Soldiers from Puerto Rico did sixty years ago, I feel that somehow I continue their legacy by being here today," said Galindez, a Military Police noncommissioned officer assigned to the 613th Military Police Company, U.S. Army Reserve Puerto Rico.
Even though the role played by Davis and Galindez was instrumental for mission success, the participation of the U.S. Army Reserve Puerto Rico troops was being felt in every major operation of the mission, to include leaders who were in charge of critical tasks during the exercise.
One of these leaders was Col. Hector M. Moran, 166th RSG commander, whose uncle, Marcos Moran, served in Korea with the Borinqueneers in 1952.
"It is a deep honor for me to be here and live again part of the history of the 65th Infantry Regiment Soldiers," said an emotional Moran.
"Every time that we participate in this type of exercise there is a lot of learning because we are developing and implementing real plans, which could be executed if needed," added Moran while explaining the training benefits of the event.
According to Moran, by participating in UFG 2012, his staff has been able to exercise its proficiency on logistics management and Military Decision Making Process.
"I brought here my heavy hitters," said Moran, meaning that there was a selection process to identify the best Soldiers of his command to participate in the mission.
Command Sgt Maj. Harry Muñoz, from the 210th RSG, also had a key leadership role in the mission.
"During the first week we improved our knowledge on several logistics software applications and then we started applying that knowledge into the exercise itself, "said Muñoz, who is in Korea for the first time in his career.
"We have personnel with experience and who are ready to perform. All our troops are happy with their mission," added Muñoz.
Brig. Gen. Fernando Fernandez, commanding general of the 1st Mission Support Command, U.S. Army Reserve Puerto Rico, and Command Sgt. Maj. Rene Rivera, enlisted adviser to Fernandez, visited Korea to see firsthand the job being performed by their troops.
During the visit, Fernandez met with Minister Park Sung-choon's, the Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs from the Government of Korea.
"Puerto Ricans sacrificed a lot during the Korean War, but by seeing how great your country is now, we understand that the sacrifice was well worth it. Today, as we did sixty years ago, we are still standing up, shoulder to shoulder with the Korean citizens, ready and prepared to support and defend democracy in Korea," said Fernandez during his encounter with Sung-choon's.
"The people of the Republic of Korea are very grateful for the sacrifices and contributions of the Puerto Rican Soldiers. I want to express my deep gratitude for your troops' participation in the UFG mission," responded Sung-choon's, whose position in the Korean government is equivalent to a five star general.
The participation of the troops from the U.S. Army Reserve Puerto Rico in UFG 2012, shows how a new generation of troops from Puerto Rico honors the military tradition of the 65th Infantry Regiment, continuing the legacy of resolute support to democracy and freedom on the Korean peninsula.
The role performed by the troops from Puerto Rico also shows the operational nature of the largest U.S. Army Reserve Command in the Caribbean, which during the month of August 2012 is concurrently performing missions in Korea, Ecuador, Colombia and Afghanistan.