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CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — The next batch of soldiers to stay at the Camp Jackson Warrior Leader Course barracks should be a little more comfortable, thanks to 11 volunteers from South Dakota.

During the past two weeks, soldiers from the state National Guard’s 155th Engineering Company repaired the Camp Jackson barracks and eased the backlog on public works projects at Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu.

They’ve built trash shelters, fixed plumbing, painted buildings and performed several tasks that often get taken for granted — until something stops working.

“It’s not the most glamorous job, working on showers, but it’s an important job,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Jennings. “People appreciate you, maybe not directly, but when they have good living conditions and have a hot shower.”

Eight of the 11 guardsmen were deployed to Kuwait prior to the 2003 Iraq invasion, along with a trip to Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. The South Dakotan troops also have deployed to Nicaragua and Honduras to help build schools and shore up infrastructure.

Some of the engineers are electricians, plumbers and carpenters in their civilian jobs, while others work at stores or go to school.

All of the Rapid City-based guardsmen volunteered to come to South Korea; it wasn’t part of their mandated two weeks of guard duty, which they spent patrolling the New Mexico border.

“Coming here is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a different culture. I jumped on it,” said Spc. Shane Hogue, an Air Force civilian worker and student back home.

The pace of life in South Korea came as somewhat of a culture shock to the National Guard soldiers, most of whom live in South Dakota’s second largest city of about 60,000 people.

Staff Sgt. Terry Hoey, a former Marine who was based in California, said even Los Angeles traffic didn’t compare to Seoul.

“I thought L.A. was busy until I got here,” Hoey said. “This is something else.”

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