In early 2005, I had the pleasure of going on a training deployment to the annual Foal Eagle Joint Military Exercises in Korea as the Junior Engineer of my Special Forces detachment. This was my first trip outside the United States for the purposes of the military, so to say I was excited and nervous would be an understatement.
On this trip I learned a great deal, which I suppose is a pretty good summary to life in general: get my ass kicked, learn some interesting things, have some fun, make friends, reflect on lessons learned, philosophize, rinse and repeat.
The following is a firsthand account of the more memorable experiences of a young, wet-behind-the-ears Special Forces NCO on his first trip to the edge of a premiere global hot spot.
After a week of planning at a South Korean air base, we finally boarded some Chinooks with a sister team that was also being infiltrated. When we reached our landing zone, I quickly realized this was the coolest fast rope infiltration of my life. Looking out the window in the pale winter moonlight (with momentary flashes of the red aviation lights), all I could see was a sea of green arms and fingers swaying in the heavy double-rotor wash. Soon, these tall evergreens began scratching against the hull of the bird. Pucker factor increased. Fortunately, this was one of the few times I flew with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and I quickly learned why these guys are so loved. Feeling the pine trees scraping the side of the bird, I immediately added my voice into their chorus of praise.
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LOL, this is so true
"Yama" means "mountain" in Japanese. "Sahn" means "mountain" in Korean. No Koreans will ever make sense of that reference if explained in a foreign language they are not quite fond of. Yes, the whole country is 2/3 mountains and only 1/3 habitable. I was born and raised there so I sprained my ankle and rolled down accidentally a few times. The famous "JiriSahn 지리산," the mountain of notorious communist partisans hide-out concealed them for too long because it's a place once you get lost in, you might never find your way out. Still today. The fight against that ridiculous dictatorship in disguise of communism--while the real communist country China has been thriving--still goes on as we breathe alive today. Were it not for the sacrifice of those soldiers --especially the ones fought in my Motherland's mountains-- from almost everywhere in the world like Norway, Belgium and even Ethiopia, I would not be able to enjoy my comfortable and peaceful life in Korea. Yes, South Korea.
Before I went SF (3rd Grp) I did two tours in LRSD in Korea (1988, 1992). You definitely have to embrace the suck over there. The Yama's (mountains) were brutal. No gradual slopes, just goes from flat rice paddy to steep incline. The advanced security, speed and the ridge lines become your friend. Our typical infil was by Helo and the typical exfil was between 0100-0400 and 80% of the time it turned into a Truck exfil due to the weather. So we always picked our LZ's near "local resupply" points (village stores) for extra food source due to the extended pick up time.
I get it. Just roll my eyes every time!
Leesatee Original heading for these stories was changed due a direct request from a major sponsor. I don't expect that it'll be reappearing until such time as SOFREP is 100% self-funded or decides to burn a bridge of funding. Just my $0.02