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Army Col. Donald J. Hendrix hands a Lunar New Year gift of canned tuna to a resident near the Walker Army Heliport. Friday’s gift giving is part of the U.S. military’s drive to foster good relations. Hendrix is commander of the Area IV Support Activity in Taegu, South Korea.

Army Col. Donald J. Hendrix hands a Lunar New Year gift of canned tuna to a resident near the Walker Army Heliport. Friday’s gift giving is part of the U.S. military’s drive to foster good relations. Hendrix is commander of the Area IV Support Activity in Taegu, South Korea. (Oh Dong-keun / U.S. Army)

PYONGTAEK, South Korea — The U.S. Army in southeastern Korea is using this week’s Lunar New Year holiday to further expand its ongoing campaign to foster good relations between itself and the Korean public.

For the first time in memory, Army officials said Monday, Camp Carroll in Waegwan has adopted a goodwill measure already in its eighth year in Taegu: having a senior officer go to off-base homes to hand residents gift sets of canned tuna for the Lunar New Year.

The holiday began Tuesday and runs through tomorrow.

Waegwan is about a 30-minute drive north of Taegu, in Kyongsang Province. Camp Carroll’s installation commander, Wilfred Plumley, visited an off-base home and met with members of several local households Friday afternoon.

During the visit, arranged by the base community relations officer, Plumley gave residents the gifts, drank tea with them and discussed an incident last summer, in which a Camp Carroll water back-up ran outside the base and damaged homes.

Plumley said the residents filed claims with South Korea’s government “and they’ve all been paid by the Korean government. There was a flood and 13 households had damage done, so I thought it would be appropriate on our part to go out and give them some Lunar New Year gifts.”

“It went over much better than I thought,” the commander said. “They were kind of astonished that we even thought of them.

“We went in there and just sat down there on the floor and had tea and talked for a little bit, 30 or 45 minutes, something like that,” he said. “And also the mayor of Waegwan came out and joined us.

“Apparently, we haven’t done this at Camp Carroll before,” Plumley said. “It’s an annual event in Taegu.”

That same afternoon in Taegu, Army Col. Donald J. Hendrix presented the tuna gift sets to residents who live near the Walker Army Heliport, also known as H-805.

Hendrix is commander of the Area IV Support Activity, based at nearby Camp Henry in Taegu.

The Army often has acknowledged residents’ complaints about noise and vibration from helicopters using the heliport.

“It’s one of the reasons why we need to take this opportunity to go out and meet the people — the inconveniences associated with airfield operations,” said Kevin Jackson, the support activity’s chief spokesman.

Hendrix stopped briefly at about 50 homes and handed residents the gift bag.

Accompanying Hendrix were the heliport’s commander, Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brian Parrotte; and the support activity’s senior noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. Patricia Keit.

The Army has distributed holiday gifts to the heliport’s neighbors since 1998, during the Chusok holiday, which usually falls in September, and during the Lunar New Year.

“These small actions like going out and wishing them a happy Lunar New Year are important to us and they mean a lot to the Korean people there,” Jackson said.

The Army in the region has kept up an ever-growing range of community relations efforts since the U.S. military command in Korea launched the Good Neighbor Program in 2003. It directs that U.S. military units in South Korea actively foster improved relations with the Korean public.

In Area IV, that has included open house events at H-805, sending soldier volunteers to teach basic English classes in local Korean schools and holding various language and cultural exchange events that bring together U.S. soldiers and Korean students.

“Even through the giving of Chusok and Lunar New Year gifts, people have come to see us in a different light,” Jackson said, “and I think that’s been one of the most important parts of our program, just to interact with them and hear their concerns and help them better understand us at the same time.”


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