GIs in South Korea get crash course in safe driving

Korea traffic is something the commander of an Apache Longbow helicopter unit wants his troops to be ready to handle.



TAEGU, South Korea — Spc. Kevin Kline drove his big truck through a small town in South Korea.

It was last summer, and although he’d been in South Korea only a few months, he’d heard the horror stories. He was about to experience them firsthand.

A small sedan approached from behind.

“They were swinging in front of, in and out of the convoy, they would kind of ease out and look, and pass me,” Kline said.

It was the moment his unit’s driver’s training prepared him for.

The Army in South Korea puts a strong emphasis on unit-level driver’s training programs.

“Primarily, the drivers of the tactical vehicles are the young soldiers,” said Army Maj. Andrew Mutter, spokesman for the 19th Theater Support Command in Taegu.

“For many of them, this is the first time they’re coming to Korea … so it’s critical for mission accomplishment that we train our soldiers in the proper driving techniques, with a very heavy emphasis on safety.”

Staff Sgt. Richard Turnbow, 1st Platoon sergeant for the 267th Chemical Company, part of the 23rd Chemical Battalion out of Camp Carroll in Waegwan, is the platoon’s master driver. He conducts driver’s training for the company’s new arrivals.

They go over the basics — how to handle a sudden skid on an icy road, how to drive in sand, mud, and South Korea’s monsoon rains.

“Try not to get nervous, relax but stay aware,” Turnbow tells soldiers. “Continue to look at your mirrors all the time. Do not get tunnel vision. …”

At Camp Walker in Taegu, the 19th TSC’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company has a similar training program. And the unit is pushing to get up to 85 percent or more of its troops, sergeants first class and below, licensed to drive tactical vehicles.

“It’s a goal that we’re setting here in Korea because we are forward-deployed,” said 1st Lt. Terrill Lee, the company’s executive officer.

“Just think about it,” he said. “If the balloon goes up, we’re not using commercial vehicles. … We have to move out tactically. … If war jumps off or the balloon comes up, this is where we’re fighting.”

South Korea is known for its traffic congestion, which can offer a very challenging environment for U.S. military drivers stationed there.

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