Camp Carroll welcoming South Korean visits in bid to improve relations
February 16, 2005
PYONGTAEK, South Korea — The Army at Camp Carroll in South Korea plans to host the Korean National Police and a Korean veterans group this year as part of its ongoing drive to forge good ties with the South Korean public, the installation’s manager said Monday.
Korean grade-schoolers and groups of older students also will be among those invited throughout the year, said Wilfred Plumley, the manager of the installation in Waegwan, in southeastern Korea.
No dates have been set yet for a visit the base hopes to have from the KNP, Plumley said.
“We’ll definitely host them,” he said. “It’s just a matter of when.”
The event will be somewhat a reprise of the day in April 2003 when dozens of young KNP officers visited Camp Carroll for outdoor barbecuing, sports and conversation with U.S. soldiers.
Base officials also plan a visit from the Korean Veterans Association at a date still to be fixed, Plumley said.
KVA members have visited Camp Carroll before. Last year, Plumley was guest speaker at the group’s annual banquet in Kwangju, in southwestern Korea.
On one KVA visit to Camp Carroll, Plumley said, he met a veteran who some five decades earlier had been a KATUSA, or Korean augmentee to the U.S. Army.
“He was a KATUSA since they started KATUSA, and he had a picture of his squad leader from way back when, and he was very proud of that,” Plumley said. The young American in the black-and-white photo was a U.S. Army staff sergeant.
“We also want to keep our programs of bringing Korean children on post as well,” he said.
“We’ve had some who were kindergarten and we’ve had some who were junior high kids,” he said, “because those are good ages to make an influence, because they haven’t gotten their opinions ‘finalized.’”
Typically, the Korean groups’ visits begin with a word of welcome from Plumley, then a briefing about the base from the community relations officer. From there, events vary with the group but may include a look at tactical vehicles and other military hardware or time in the gym or swimming pool.
Stops to the base commissary and post exchange and a driving tour of other key spots on base also are common.
And a favorite with all visiting Korean groups seems to be the base dining facility, or DFAC (pronounced dee-fak). “The Koreans love our DFAC,” Plumley said.
The planned visits are part of the base’s role in the Good Neighbor Program, begun by the U.S. military command in Korea in 2003. It requires U.S. military units regardless of branch to take vigorous steps to foster good relations with the Korean public.
Those steps have ranged from hosting on-base visits by Korean groups, to servicemember volunteers holding English conversation sessions in Korean schools, to sports and social events between U.S. and South Korean military units.
“It gives us an opportunity to show what’s behind our gates,” Plumley said. “As you erode away the unknown, it’s easier to develop those relationships and see those areas of commonality.”
And, he said, “those relationships help us, too, because we’re going to need their support in a contingency — of the local populace. And if they trust us and have a relationship with us, the odds of getting that support in a contingency and even in peacetime is greatly multiplied.”