GANGWON, Republic of Korea – At a moment's notice, U.S. Army Soldiers joined the battle against one of South Korea’s worst fires in years.
Soldiers with 2-2 Assault Helicopter Battalion and 3-2 General Support Aviation Battalion, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division, mobilized to support efforts to contain and extinguish wildfires in Gangwon province, northeast of Seoul, April 5-6.
"ROK and U.S. personnel are working together to gain control and extinguish the fire in order to protect local ROK citizens,” said Col. Chad G. Carroll, Cleburne, Texas native, U.S. Forces Korea public affairs director, in a recent press release. “It's important we use our training and resources to partner with our allies when real-world issues like this arise. Being able work side by side with our partners demonstrates the iron-clad alliance between the ROK and the U.S."
The aviation brigade sent four helicopters and 21 Soldiers to partner with the Republic of Korea Army III Corps Command.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Johnta Daniels, Jacksonville, Florida native, UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot, 2-2 AHB and his crew were the first to jump into action.
“We were on our final day of training at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex when we were notified of the mission,” said Daniels. “We operate with Koreans on a regular basis. It has always been training, which prepared us for real-world missions like this.”
Aircraft crews used Bambi buckets to collect water from a nearby river to douse the blaze.
“It was a joint effort between our ROKA counterparts and ourselves (U.S. Army), safely coordinating a constant flow of water with minimum delays,” said Daniels. “Once we established a pattern, we saw results.”
First-term Soldier, Pfc. Nicholas Day, Houston, Texas native, UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter maintainer, 2-2 AHB, assisted as a crew chief, securing systems on the aircraft.
“I see the importance of the training we do,” said Day. “People’s homes and lives were being destroyed, so it was crucial that we do our jobs and do them well because of what was at stake.”
“Nearly 4,200 people were evacuated and one person died, authorities said, while 35 were injured,” according to Channel News Asia.
ROKA III Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Kim, Seung-kyum, recognized a familiar face while acknowledging the helicopter crews.
“I remember you,” referring to Capt. Julia McKusick, Colleyville, Texas native, Company A commander, 2-2 AHB, and her assistance with a crash-landing last year.
Kim shared words of encouragement to all those involved in efforts to extinguish the blaze.
“You are the heart of the ROK-U.S. Alliance,” said Kim. “Thank you all for your help and showing how strong we can be when we come together.”