NEWS | April 15, 2019

U.S. Force Korea Commander Awards Soldiers for Efforts Against Wildfire

By Staff Sgt. Diandra Harrell

GANGWON, Republic of Korea - Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams, commanding general, U.S. Forces Korea, United Nations Command, and Combined Forces Command awarded select Warriors for their dedication to duty and the safety and well-being of our Korean friends and neighbors during the Gangwon wildfire.

Abrams presented Soldiers with certificates of commendation and commanders coins on behalf of the Republic of Korea Army Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Park, Hanki, who was unable to be present for the ceremony.

"Our ability, your ability to quickly react to a request from the ROK JCS (Joint Chief of Staff), to get aircraft in the air to help put out fires was incredible," said Abrams. "We're able to do that because were focused on readiness."

Although readiness is essential, USFK personnel also have a responsibility as members of the Alliance to lend support to the Korean people when requested or necessary.

"Our small contribution (to the wildfire) reaffirms the message that we are not just here as part of the warfighting alliance," he explained. "We are truly one team and we are committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea and taking care of its people. All of you should take immense pride in the support we provided to the firefight."

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.

"It's important we use our training and resources to partner with our allies when real-world issues like this arise," said Col. Chad G. Carroll, Cleburne, Texas native, U.S. Forces Korea public affairs director, in a recent press release. "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-gyum, 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."