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Korean Soldiers at Bagram Welcome Prominent Visitor

By Sgt. Greg Heath, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Jan. 21, 2004 – The more than 200 Republic of Korea soldiers serving at the air base here welcomed their president's top military adviser for a Jan. 19 visit.

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Retired Lt. Gen. Hee-Sang Kim, national defense adviser to the president of the Republic of Korea, visited the more than 200 Korean troops deployed at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, Jan. 19. Photo by Sgt. Greg Heath, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Bagram is home to three deployed South Korean units: the "Dong-yi" medical group, the "Da-san" engineer group and a small civil affairs unit that is part of the Parwan Provincial Reconstruction Team.

In the evening, all of the South Korean soldiers here gathered in the Enduring Faith chapel to hear a message from Kim about the importance of their work in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan's situation today is the same as that in Korea 50 years ago after the Korean War, Kim said. He told the soldiers the work they're doing gives hope to the Afghan people and helps them develop their country, and he expressed South Korea's pride in their performance.

Since arriving in Afghanistan in late August, the current engineer group has completed 46 construction projects, the biggest of which was the expansion of the Bagram airfield's taxiway and runway.

The medical group, the fourth Korean unit of its kind to be deployed to Afghanistan, has treated more than 16,000 Afghan patients since arriving here in late August. In total, the four medical units have treated more than 84,000 Afghans over the last two years.

For medical group interpreter Sgt. Andrew Kyungyoon Kim, and many others, it was a surprise to see such a high-ranking government official come all the way to Afghanistan to visit a relatively small group of soldiers.

The sergeant said one of the most impressive aspects of the entire visit was a simple gesture made by the distinguished visitor.

"We had spent a lot of time setting up a special room for him and his entourage, but he said he wanted to sleep in the tents with the soldiers," said the translator. "It showed me that they wanted to feel what we are feeling out here."

(Army Sgt. Greg Heath is assigned to the 4th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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