Korean-American Soldiers Bridge Cultures
Units that are based in South Korea are augmented by English-speaking Korean Army soldiers, known as KATUSAs -- Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army. American units training in the country don’t have KATUSAs. The linked article from DoD News talks about how the U.S. Army works to integrate with the Korean are staff at the joint operation center and in major exercises.
CAMP YONGIN, South Korea, Aug. 25, 2014 – The white Kia pulled through the gate near a fuel point at Yongsan Army Garrison in Seoul as Army 1st Lt. Jae Hyun Lee made a verbal note to no one in particular, “Okay, I can’t drive like a Korean anymore.” Lee, a company executive officer, and Army Staff Sgt. Min Sung Cha, the unit supply sergeant, were on a mission for Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps. The two U.S. soldiers had just completed the 1.5-hour drive north from the unit’s life support area in Yongin, where the corps stood up for Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2014. Since the two soldiers arrived in South Korea from their home station at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, they had made several runs like these.
Their goal that day was to find an omni-directional microphone on the local economy for the corps’ video teleconference suite. The two soldiers had to quickly find a specialty item in a foreign country -- no big deal, especially since they both grew up in Seoul.
Lee and Cha are part of a group of 10 native-Korean speakers assigned to I Corps. Four of those 10 speakers work for the headquarters battalion.
It’s a statistic that battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Woodrow Ishman Jr. says is extremely fortunate, given the unit’s focus on operations in the Pacific theater.
“It’s huge for us,” Ishman said. “It’s great to have somebody who can overcome the language barrier, knowing they have our best interest at heart. Because of them, it’s seamless for us to get supplies or make trips to the airport.”