U.S. ARMY GARRISON YONGSAN, Korea -- Sgt. Hyeok-Je Kwon, a Korean Augmentee to the U.S. Army (KATUSA) and human resources specialist with Alpha Company (A Co.) 121st Combat Support Hospital, was presented the Gen. Paik Sun-yup Leadership Award by the retired general on April 23, 2019.
The General Paik Sun-yup Leadership Award is in honor of the greatest war hero during the Korean War who was the first four-star general in the history of the South Korean military. Selection as a recipient of the Gen. Paik Leadership Award is a means of recognizing non-commissioned officers, from the rank of corporal to master sergeant, and KATUSAs of any rank whose leadership achievements and performance merit special recognition.
"Kwon has always been hardworking and has virtues of a true Soldier," said Capt. Michael Pikul, A Co. Commander. "The General Paik Award is an honorable recognition which is well-deserved by Kwon and the entire CSH is proud of him."
Kwon said it was special to meet with Gen. Paik in person and to be congratulated by his leadership. He also emphasized and encouraged other Soldiers to challenge themselves to take chances for the award.
"I want to thank my company command team and ROKA Support Office for encouraging me and mentoring me throughout the board process and during the competition," said Kwon. "This is a once in a lifetime experience, and I hope more KATUSAs and Soldiers challenge themselves to compete for this award."
The selection board is the means of recognizing those leaders who have contributed significantly to the development of a professional and combat-ready Army. Recipients exemplify leadership characterized by personal concern for the needs, training, development and welfare of Soldiers, and concern for their families.
"When my unit first sergeant told me about the board, I was working as the Alpha Company's Senior KATUSA with only a few months away from leaving the service," said Kwon. "I thought I should take this as an opportunity to push myself to the limit one last time before I get out of the Army."
Kwon adjusted his short term goals to win the Eighth U.S. Army Gen Paik Sun Yup Leadership Award and to master his physical fitness test scores. To compete for the board, Kwon went through numerous mock boards that his senior enlisted advisor attended to mentor and advise him. This honing process not only allowed Kwon to improve his skillset as a Soldier but also gave him a chance to look back at his time in the Army as a KATUSA.
"Working in the U.S. Army has offered me a lot, and I thought competing for this award was a great chance to showcase everything I have learned from my time as a KATUSA," said Kwon. "Preparing for the board was somewhat challenging from time to time, but this process made me grow as a person and as a Soldier. Winning the award felt like a reward of my service in the Army."
Kwon began a training program for KATUSAs to challenge the General Paik board and continues to educate others on the history behind General Paik.
Kwon joined the Republic of Korea Army in October 2017, graduated Korean Army Training Center in Non-San, and KATUSA Training Academy at Camp Jackson in Uijeongbu. He took a break from studying business administration at Korea University to serve his country. He'll resume his studies this summer, and is interested in becoming an international certified public accountant after finishing college.