Story by Sgt. Elizabeth Cole
9th Mission Support Command
HONOLULU - Being selected to serve as a Korean Augmentation to the United States Army, or KATUSA, is an honor in itself. But, being selected as the U.S. Army Reserve's first KATUSA takes the distinction to a whole new level.
Initiated more than 60 years ago through an agreement by Republic of Korea President Rhee Syng-man and U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, KATUSAs are an integral component to the relationship that has developed between South Korea and the U.S. and remains a vital element of the strong bonds between the two nations.
A few short weeks ago, the 9th Mission Support Command’s 658th Regional Support Group, located in Yongsan, Seoul, South Korea, enlisted the help of Korean counterpart Pvt. Kieok Ryu to assist in its day-to-day activities.
Col. Stacy Yamada, commander, 658th RSG, explained the addition of its newest member represents more than just additional manpower.
“Additional support provided by KATUSAs allows units to broaden our engagements with the community and quickly build a necessary support structure,” Yamada said.
“Pvt. Ryu, who not only speaks, lives and knows the Republic of Korea, provides us a critical link to our host nation,” Yamada added. “In the reality of war and conflict, particularly in South Korea, having a local as a member of our unit allows us to find and capitalize on the bonds between our two countries.”
South Korea requires that all males serve for just less than two years in the military. Citizens have the option to serve with the ROK army or volunteer for the KATUSA program, which requires an in-depth application and selection process.
Applicants are also tested on their English proficiency.
The process culminates with a lottery drawing where some applicants are chosen to augment the U.S. Army.
“The KATUSA program is very popular here, and it takes a lot of hard work and luck to be chosen,” Ryu said.
Ryu explained that he picked up the English language in Korea and Singapore, and by watching a lot of American movies.
He made it a goal to become proficient because he knew knowing English would make him an ideal candidate for not only the program, but also when applying to universities and ultimately jobs.
So far, Ryu is learning a great deal from his U.S. counterparts.
“Working with U.S. soldiers has been great,” Ryu said. “I can tell they care so much about how their soldiers are doing. Their quality of life is so much more improved, and I feel really luck to be involved.”
Ryu also said he feels Koreans and Americans have so much to learn from each other and hopes the KATUSA program will be better known so that other countries can be involved.
“It would be a good start in creating global alliances amongst militaries throughout the world,” said Ryu.