ROK soldiers integrate into Bagram's base defense
By Master Sgt. Michael Voss, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 28, 2011
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Airmen from the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron and Soldiers from the Republic of Korea army are wrapping up more than a week's worth of escalation of force training in preparation for ROK integration into Bagram's base defense plan.
Beginning April 28, 30 Korean special forces soldiers will start left-seat, right-seat training with some of the 455th ESFS Airmen and begin officially standing watch at various security towers around the airfield, May 1.
"This is the first time the Korean soldiers have actually secured a base in Afghanistan with the Americans," said Maj. Chul Woo, Bagram's ROK security force company commander.
First planned in December 2010, the more than 50 soldiers projected to deploy to Bagram by summer will take over security of the towers around the Korean hospital, here, that sees more than 200 Afghan outpatients each day.
"We are training the Koreans because they just got on the ground, and they are helping augment our force. It is pretty monumental, they have never supported us before," said Capt. Timothy Slater, 455th ESFS Bravo Sector commander. "They are working with U.S. units in combat during this and future rotations to augment our forces becoming an integral part of our base defense plan."
The ROK soldiers began preparing for their deployment here months before making the 2,936 mile journey to Afghanistan, taking Dari classes to help with the language barriers and studying U.S. Air Force security procedural manuals.
"The Korean force assigned to these towers and guarding this base are very honored to work with the Americans," explained Major Woo. "We would like to show the professionalism of the ROK army."
Although current plans only call for the Korean security forces to be assigned here until 2012, Americans like Captain Slater are glad to see their addition to the base.
"The Koreans are very open about what they call the U.S., ROK brotherhood. They are big on letting us know how much they appreciate our help in their country and coming here and helping us here," explained Captain Slater.
Training with the Korean soldiers provides the deployed Airmen the opportunity to step out of their normal routine of guarding towers and checking visitors to the base, instead allowing them to share their expertise with others.
"Our guys are so excited for this opportunity to be able to train military members of other countries," said Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Dees, 455th ESFS security forces."It is giving them an outlook on being a cop that they may have lost. Because it is a partnership, they are going to stand on that post and ensure we are safe while we sleep."
In addition, the cooperation of the Koreans has allowed the stressed security forces career field the ability to free up manning for other crucial areas around the base.
"Air Force wide, security forces are stretched pretty thin, but the coalition help takes some of the strain off the career field service-wide," said Sergeant Dees. "It also helps right here at Bagram. Their help is allowing us to free up some of our forces to help secure additional sectors."
But possibly the most important effect the Koreans have on Bagram is the addition of another uniform around Bagram's perimeter.
"It helps to have the coalition forces. It takes the American face off of the battlefield and makes it a many nations front," Captain Slater said. "Their presence alone definitely helps with the locals. Right now they see a U.S. uniform guarding the base, but as more countries help, it shows the enemy their fight is not simply with the U.S., it is with many different cultures."