YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. and South Korean soldiers are mourning the death of Sgt. 1st Class Choi Kap-joo, sergeant major for the Korean Augmentees to the U.S. Army for Camp Long and Camp Eagle.

Choi, who died Dec. 23, served as the most senior soldier for all augmentees at the camps since July 2002, officials said. He had leukemia.

“He was an outstanding soldier and an extremely professional noncommissioned officer,” Maj. Amy Parker, Camp Long and Camp Eagle commander, said at a Dec. 29 memorial service.

“Sgt. Maj. Choi continuously tried to improve the quality of life for the KATUSAs during his 18 months here, and he succeeded. I want to extend my deepest sympathy to all affected by his passing.”

Choi’s death, Parker said, was “a tragic loss” not only for his family and friends, but U.S. soldiers, augmentees and the Republic of Korea Army.

According to Area I officials, Choi was diagnosed in November and his condition rapidly deteriorated.

“Just one month ago, Sgt. Maj. Choi played in a soccer game with us, and we also ate dinner together,” Sgt. Kim Yung-sik remembered at the memorial service, according to a military news release.

“We remember him as a disciplined soldier, a principle-oriented leader and a faithful brother.”

Choi graduated from Shin-book High School in 1992 and became an infantryman in the Republic of Korea Army shortly after. He served as a drill sergeant and platoon leader before becoming a community relations noncommissioned officer for the Joint Security Area Security Battalion.

Maj. Yoon Yeo-pyo, senior Republic of Korea Army officer for Area III, said Choi “showed great sensitivity for his duty, support and love for his soldiers, loyalty to his organization and continuous effort for self-development,” according to the Army release.

Officials say there are more than 60 augmentees assigned to camps Long and Eagle. Thousands more serve across the peninsula.

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