Ex ULCHI FREEDOM GUARDIAN
As per the written armistice that brokered the end of the Korean War in 1953, a number of United Nations Member States offer support in the region.
Military personnel from these ‘Sending States’ continue to provide Defence Engagement through attendance at two major exercises on the peninsula, and I was lucky to deploy on one of those exercises: the annual Ex ULCHI FREEDOM GUARDIAN (UFG).
Two days of admin followed our arrival, although the tedium was broken-up with a tour of the De-Militarised Zone (DMZ). A visit on many ‘Bucket Lists’, I found the experience quite bizarre; it is fascinating that this situation exists in such a modern and technologically advanced part of the world. Our time viewing the buildings that straddle the official border was carefully watched from the North, and we were provided a number of South Korean Guards who maintained a martial arts stance facing across the border. Interestingly, there were also two guards inside the building to ensure that no tourists attempted to exit the door into the North.
Katchi Kapshida!’ We go together!
The RAF personnel deployed to the Air Component Command at Osan Air Base, an hour south of Seoul. Acting as the Multi Nation Command Centre Liaison Officer in the Air Mobility Division, I worked opposite shifts to an Australian Sqn Ldr Pilot. My role was to coordinate multinational Air Transport assets in conjunction with the US and the Republic of Korea, in order to maintain an even flow of Air Transport in exercise scenarios.
The opportunity to work alongside the Republic of Korea was a real privilege, and I found that my assumption that their personnel might be less loyal to the military due to the National Service laws was wholly incorrect. The local food was delicious and only two of the RAF group managed to find themselves eating what they had presumed was noodle soup; it was actually vein soup. Also the local drink, Soju, is quite brilliant and absolutely must be tried!
On the whole, the experience was incredibly valuable. The exercise is still evolving and the frustration of being the smallest cog working with the US military machine will take some work to improve, but the opportunity to work alongside our UN allies and learn from how they do business was an excellent broadening experience.