Soldiers from the 1st SFG(A) return from Korea


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice
FORT LEWIS, Wash. (Sine Pari, April 11, 2008) – Featuring a dagger crossed by three lightning bolts, the U.S. Army Special Forces unit patch can be recognized around the world. Now the patch, which represents SF’s unconventional methods and ability to strike by air, land or sea, can be seen on a few fortunate Korean special forces soldiers.

Those Korean soldiers were part of a unit patch exchange with members of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), who deployed to the Republic of Korea in mid-February for the annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises. The 1st SFG(A) Soldiers returned to Fort Lewis, Wash., March 24, after spending more than a month doing everything the patch they wear symbolizes.

During their tenure in the “Land of the Morning Calm,” the Group Soldiers trained in their trade of unconventional warfare and passed on some of that expertise to their Korean counterparts.

Among the lessons the Green Berets taught was the in-depth Tactical Combat Casualty Care medical course, or TC3.

Master Sgt. Randy Kerlee served as the chief instructor for the course and described the training as a “new sequence” that the Koreans had to learn.

He passionately explained the different medical devices used by American medics and shared American medical experiences from Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of Kerlee’s students, ROK Army Master Sgt. Cho, Kyong-ok, a Special Forces medic and medical instructor at Korea’s Special Warfare Training Group, said the American experiences in battle greatly benefited the class.

“I will take the lessons learned from American experience back with me to my students,” Cho said.

Cho added that he will instill lessons taught in the training in his medical classes and that TC3 will spread throughout the ROK army.

The 1st SFG (A) also took time during the exercise to conduct several friendship jumps. A friendship jump is an opportunity for soldiers of different nations to parachute together. Traditionally, jumpers will use the other country’s parachuting equipment for the operation.

For the first jump, parachutists leaped from a C-17 Globemaster at Angang Drop Zone, near the city of Pohang. The drop zone consisted of uncultivated rice fields.

“It was a bit muddier than I expected it to be,” said Sgt. Jason Carter. The muddied jumpmaster jokingly added “there’s nothing quite like taking a piece of the drop zone with you when you leave.”

After gathering up and turning in parachutes, the jumpers from both countries formed two lines facing each other. An impromptu wing exchange ceremony followed the first jump.

Other jump opportunities followed in coming weeks, along with a formal wing pinning ceremony.

In addition to the friendship jumps, American and Korean Special Forces Soldiers jumped into their missions via night time HALO and static line parachuting with combat equipment. HALO, or high altitude, low opening parachuting, is the military’s version of freefall parachuting and is used by Green Berets as a means of infiltration.

Green Berets moved over and through the mountains during the exercise, teaching the Koreans about unconventional warfare along the way. Side by side, American and Korean special operators faced obstacles and figured out how to overcome them.

Soldiers also performed at sea during the exercise, launching operations from the submarine USS Ohio.

In conditions a Navy SEAL stated were highly unfavorable, Green Berets successfully navigated their combat rubber raiding craft at night off a submarine, through snow and rain, in the East Sea’s 4-6 foot swells. The Soldiers moved 23 miles over the horizon and hit their objectives on time and on target. The East Sea is also commonly known as the Sea of Japan.

The deployment culminated at Gyodong Island with 1st SFG (A) Soldiers meeting with Park, Sang-jun and other members of the Tiger Brigade, a Korean War partisan unit comprised of a handful of Americans and bands of Koreans. Gyodong Island is situated less that a kilometer from North Korea’s mainland and was a staging base for the Tiger Brigade.

A little more than five and a half decades ago, Park, the former brigadier commander of the Tiger Brigade, battled communists on the archipelago that dots Korea’s west coast. Today, much of that battle ground belongs to North Korea. Even though Park and other members of the 8240th Army Unit fought hard deep behind enemy lines to disrupt operations, little was given in return for their service.

Soldiers of 1st SFG (A) learned about the unit’s daring Korean War operations while sharing lunch of bulgogi with surviving members during the visit. Certificates were presented from the group to the war veterans.

After the meal, the parties went their separate ways, exchanging hand shakes, business cards and e-mails.

“This deployment was a great chance for us to share something we have in common with our Korean brothers-in-arms,” said Sgt. Matt Haynes, a 1st SFG (A) jumpmaster.

He added that it builds partnerships between the militaries and that they will understand each other if they have to work together during future operations.


Green Berets assigned to 1st Special Forces Group (A) stage their combat rubber raiding craft on deck of the USS Ohio duriing Exercise Key Resolve last month. The exercise was held in the Republic of Korea. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Kosterman)

A member of 1st SFG (A) gives tips to a Korean Special Forces Soldier during Exercise Key Resolve 2008.

A Korean Soldier receives his American airborne wings after a friendship jump at Angang DZ near the city of Pohang, Republic of Korea during Exercise Key Resolve 2008 during a unit patch and airborne wing exchange.