Getting Out is Key to Taking in Korean Sites
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
SEOUL, South Korea, June 27, 2007 Getting out and enjoying recreational opportunities is the key to enjoying the duty in South Korea, said a Navy hospital corpsman stationed in Chinhae, on the southern coast of Korea.
“If you are in the middle of Florida and you don’t get out and go to any of the amusement parks, you’re not going to have any fun. The same goes for Korea,” said Chief Petty Officer Jonathan S. Rascoe. “You have to be ready to extend yourself. If you do that, then you can really have a good time.”
Rascoe is a 19-year veteran of the Navy and runs the small medical clinic at the Navy’s fleet activities base in Chinhae.
About 250 sailors and family members make the quiet base home. Because of its distance from the larger cities to the north, Chinhae, a city of about 130,000, offers more of a quiet, small-town atmosphere. Still, servicemembers are only about 40 minutes from Pusan, the country’s second-largest city. The servicemembers support the operations and logistics of the U.S. 7th Fleet.
The 7th Fleet is the largest U.S. numbered fleet, with about 50 ships, 120 aircraft and about 20,000 sailors and Marines. It has the largest area of responsibility of any fleet, covering more than 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian oceans.
In addition to serving the 7th Fleet, the port of Chinhae is also the principal naval base of the Republic of Korea fleet.
Rascoe has been stationed at Chinhae since December and manages the seven-person staff at the new clinic. He is also the sole lab technician. Despite its small size, the newly built clinic offers state-of-the-art technology. Urgent cases are sent to local hospitals or north to Seoul. It is about a six-hour train ride to Seoul. An Army dental clinic opens up shop in the clinic monthly to provide basic dental care.
The clinic is set up to handle trauma cases and would be the hub for medical care in the area should combat break out or a natural disaster strike, Rascoe said. More staff would fall in on the facility to provide the care.
The Navy offers some sailors the option of bringing their families with them on their tour. Rascoe said he chose to come unaccompanied to stabilize his son during his final year of high school.
The career sailor said the tour would be more enjoyable accompanied by his family, and that he would have been inclined to bring his if the installation had a high school. Currently, only children in grades kindergarten through eighth grade attend school on Chinhae.
Rascoe said he spends his free time traveling on Morale, Welfare and Recreation trips to see the country.
He said one of the best advantages is being able to travel and pay for cheaper lodging on post and still be near the sites. He paid just $28 to stay in a hotel on base near one of the larger shopping areas in the region.
“It’s just wonderful being a part of the military over here, because everything is right there and just waiting for you to take advantage of it,” Rascoe said.
So far he has shopped in Seoul and experienced some of its nightlife, and visited a few of the other larger cities. Rascoe said he likes to go “anywhere there is entertainment beyond just sitting and drinking.”
Live bands play regularly on base, which has restaurants, two clubs, and a small base exchange and commissary.
If not for being without his family, Rascoe said, the tour would be like any other tour of choice for him.
“I love Korea. I think it would be even more of an attraction to me if my family was here to experience it with me,” the chief said.
Rascoe said he has learned to write some of the Korean language and loves to tour the countryside. Nestled among the hills, located next to the ocean, Chinhae makes for scenic tours, he said. The city is widely considered to have some of the most beautiful landscapes in Korea and is also known for its cherry trees which draw tourists in the spring for an annual blossom festival.
“I really like the area. I love the mountains, and the countryside is beautiful,” Rascoe said. “There is so much out there to do if you take advantage of it.”