WARRIOR BASE, South Korea - Five Nevada Guardsmen from the 106th Public Affairs Detachment traveled to South Korea to augment the Eighth Army Public Affairs Office in the Key Resolve exercise.
In 2012, the Nevada Army Guard’s 106th Public Affairs Detachment sought out an opportunity to put their skills to the test during their next annual training. The unit jumped at the opportunity to mobilize March 6–23, 2013, to South Korea, to augment the Eighth Army Public Affairs. The unit reported for duty at operation Key Resolve, a computer based training simulation designed to improve combat-readiness for the Republic of Korea, U.S., and other military forces worldwide. While covering the exercise, the 106th uncovered an assortment of unique and interesting stories.
The unit arrived in South Korea early March 8, after more than 24 hours and about 10,000 miles of travel. A dense fog blanketed the countryside as the soldiers disembarked from the Incheon airport. The soldiers still had several hours before finally arriving at their destination, Warrior Base, in a remote rural area north of Seoul. Tired and jet-lagged, the PAD remained eager to see a new country and get to work. Within a few hours of arriving in country, they had multiple leads for stories.
By augmenting the Eighth Army public affairs office, the 106th could lighten the load the Eighth Army soldiers were tasked with during the exercise.
“To have a PAD come in with the abilities that the 106th brings, I know that I can leave the command information gathering to them and focus on the other aspects of my job,” said Sgt. Maj. Paul Shultz of the Eighth Army Public Affairs Office.
The following day the unit awoke early to get a start on their mission. The day kicked off with the soldiers attending a briefing about the exercise and its security considerations, then another briefing to familiarize them with their duties during the training.
The PAD began gathering information from news sources and nearly completed a few stories by the end of the first full day.
Over the next few days the soldiers began work on daily publications, which the print section dubbed “Boots on the Ground”, and the broadcast called “Profile of the Day." The dailies highlighted one soldier in print and a web address to watch another soldier’s video profile. All print materials were posted in both English and Hangul translations. The dailies were posted in 20 locations across the base on doorways and in high traffic areas. Twenty primarily junior service members from the combined exercise saw their faces and short stories in this way.
“At first I was wondering why there were soldiers faces posted everywhere, so I read a few of them,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Blunt, the driver for the Eighth Army’s commanding general. “I think it’s a great morale builder.”
On their seventh day, the unit split up carrying out their assignments. A team of one reporter and a broadcaster, traveled into Seoul to interview Gen. Paik Sun-yup and to collect information for stories about the 60th anniversary of the armistice between North and South Korea. Paik is the most highly decorated soldier in Korean military history and South Korea’s first four-star general. The remaining soldiers stayed behind at Warrior Base and pursued their individual assignments.
On Wednesday, March 13, The 106th PAD toured the Demilitarized Zone, courtesy of the Eighth Army PAO. The unit observed the border between North and South Korea and even, for a few moments, stepped into what was physically North Korea. Their leisure day didn’t last long, though, by the time lunch had been eaten, the soldiers of the 106th were back to work at Warrior Base.
For the next few days, the unit continued to produce news stories for the Eighth Army. Since the unit began producing the “Boots on the Ground” and “Profile of the Day” stories, the readership on the Eighth Army’s Facebook page increased in activity more than 400 percent.
“These are stories about people,” Schultz said. “That’s what social media is all about. People want to see other people.”
The unit also provided coverage of the memorial ceremony for the Republic of Korea Ship, Cheonan. Officials concluded the ship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo and 47 ROK sailors died as a result. Several high profile people came out to the event including Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson, the Eighth Army commanding general and Kang Ok-Sun the chair woman of the Eighth Army Good Neighbor Advisory Council. The unit’s broadcast story of the event was featured on the Armed Forces Network.
While in South Korea, the unit came across a soldier who served in the Nevada Army Guard for 11 years, Staff Sgt. Robert Merritt. He worked as part of the 1864th and the 593rd Transportation Companies out of Elko, Nev., before he transitioned to active duty.
“When I saw the Nevada Guard patch, it lit me up,” Merritt said. “There’s a representation of the Nevada Guard here in South Korea, and I thought it was phenomenal.”
One week after the unit began in Korea, the Eighth Army PAO treated the 106th to a half day of sightseeing. They traveled back into Seoul for an authentic Korean barbeque lunch and picked up souvenirs for their families.
When the exercise met its mid-way point on Sunday, March 17, everyone on Warrior Base was able to lighten their work load, except for the 106th PAD. The unit used this as an opportunity to get ahead on their projects in order to free up more time for more stories in the coming week.
On Tuesday, March 19, the unit split up once again to pursue their individual stories. One soldier flew in a helicopter around South Korea in the company of Lt. Gen. Johnson, during his visits to some of the other installations participating in Key Resolve.
Another soldier traveled to Seoul to tend to other business with the Eighth Army PAO. The rest stayed behind at warrior base to attend, photograph and film a coining ceremony for ROK and U.S. soldiers around post. The coins were handed out by Gen. James D. Thurman, the commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces, Korea.
For the last few days of the exercise, the unit finished up their stories and began creating a compilation of them all into a magazine style format. One of the soldiers in the 106th also filmed a public service announcement to be run on the Armed Forces Network.
This annual training was a success for the 106th. Some of the unit’s soldiers received awards from the Eighth Army PAO. Broadcast stories aired on AFN and print stories found their way into publications as well as on to the front page of multiple websites. They had also received an appreciative response regarding the dailies from the readers around Warrior Base. As a result of their hard work, the 106th established a strong working relationship with the Eighth Army PAO.
“With the experience I have had with the 106th, they would be the first ones I’d request to have back,” Schultz said.
After two weeks, Key Resolve was over. All that stood between the five soldiers and their families and friends was a short day of sightseeing in Seoul and a long, 18-hour trip home.