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Capt. Kim Jung Pae, center, of Seoul, the 33-year-old Republic of Korea Army staff liaison officer assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division, stands with two former 2nd Brigade KATUSAs, Sgt. Yuh Joon Ho, 23, of Pusan, left, and Sgt. Kook Jung Hoon, 25, of Seoul.
Capt. Kim Jung Pae, center, of Seoul, the 33-year-old Republic of Korea Army staff liaison officer assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division, stands with two former 2nd Brigade KATUSAs, Sgt. Yuh Joon Ho, 23, of Pusan, left, and Sgt. Kook Jung Hoon, 25, of Seoul. (Seth Robson / S&S)

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Second Infantry Division units serving in South Korea have been boosted by more than 500 KATUSAs (Korean Augmentees to the U.S. Army) transferred from Iraq-bound units from the division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

The 2nd Brigade, also known as Strike Force, deployed to Iraq in August minus its KATUSAs, South Korean soldiers who serve with the U.S. Army on the peninsula. But the KATUSAs will remain with 2nd ID, said Capt. Kim Jung Pae, the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) staff liaison officer assigned to the division.

The KATUSAs have been distributed among the remaining 2nd ID units. The division attempted to send KATUSAs to units similar to the ones they left or, if that was not possible, to keep them at the same base or the nearest base to where they served with the 2nd Brigade, Kim said.

For example, a KATUSA from 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, now in Iraq, might have been assigned to the Camp Casey-based Division Artillery. Or a KATUSA who served with 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, also in Iraq now, might have been reassigned to 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, which is still in South Korea, he said.

“Each soldier’s specialty was retained and they carried their specialty to their new unit,” he said.

The Strike Force KATUSAs have joined more than 1,000 other KATUSAs serving with other 2nd ID units, Kim said.

“The original intention of the ROKA staff office was to conduct a smooth transfer of soldiers to their new units. It has worked well with the cooperation of the U.S. side of 2nd ID,” he said.

The transfer of the soldiers was done under a lottery system to keep it fair, he said.

“Some of the U.S. units didn’t understand why they could not pick individual soldiers. For example, one first sergeant wanted a soldier who was very good at playing the piano but I could not help him because I had to assign the soldiers randomly by computer,” Kim said.

The extra KATUSAs will be an advantage to the units to which they’re assigned, he said.

“Korean soldiers can make their commander or first sergeant understand Korean culture, language and geography,” Kim said. “Korean soldiers are a studious group compared to American soldiers. They are all in college. Compared to American soldiers they are physically weaker but they have a lot of pride and try to be equally strong as the American soldiers during training.”

One of the reassigned KATUSAs, Sgt. Kook Jung-hoon, 25, of Seoul, served with 2nd Brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company before the unit deployed and now is assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

Kook said the lottery system was needed during the reassignment process because most KATUSAs wanted administrative jobs with the U.S. Army.

“They are just doing national service and that (office work) is what they are going to be doing after serving their two years. They don’t want to serve in the line units. The American soldiers are enthusiastic about the physical challenges but for a lot of us this is something that we have to do. It is not like we get a career out of this or a lot of money,” Kook said.

The extra KATUSAs do, at least, provide extra manpower for the units to which they are assigned, he said.

“They can also help those American soldiers who are new to the country. They can show them around,” he said.

Kook enjoys working with U.S. soldiers, but misses his friends from 2nd Brigade, he said.

“The things that were best about my old unit were the commanders and the soldiers who I worked with. At CRC (Camp Red Cloud, where 2nd ID’s HHC is based) it is a high level of unit and there are more high-ranking officers and NCOs. Physically it is really relaxed — it is office work — but it is a more political environment here,” he said.

Another 2nd Brigade KATUSA reassigned to 2nd ID’s HHC, Sgt. Yuh Joon Ho, 23, of Pusan, said he used to work with many American soldiers, but now works mostly with other KATUSAs.

“When I was at 2nd Brigade, I knew a lot of the U.S. soldiers in the company. At [Camp] Hovey I felt more comfortable working with American soldiers. Here, I work with lots of KATUSAs and I don’t have many opportunities to work with American soldiers,” he said.

Yuh said he prefers working with Americans because they are more relaxed.

“When I work with KATUSAs, there is a kind of hierarchy. There is still a hierarchy with the American soldiers but it is more relaxed,” he said.

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