CHUNG RYONG, Republic of Korea -- Marines from the U.S. and Republic of Korea literally “kicked off” Korean Marine Exchange Program 15-12 with a soccer game at Chung Ryong, Sept. 12, 2015. U.S. and ROK Marines played soccer, basketball, tug of war and held a relay race with a large weighted pack on their backs.
The purpose of the sports day was to forge a sense of unity and camaraderie among the ROK and U.S. which has grown throughout previous iterations of KMEP. Like its predecessors, KMEP 15-12 enhances the ROK and U.S. alliance and stability on the Korean Peninsula. Sports day started the forging of bonds that were strong enough to withstand the upcoming rigors of training.
“This is the first real day of KMEP, and we are starting it off with a fun day to build strong relations,” said 1st Lt. Matt Shibata, a platoon commander with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, currently attached to 4th Marine Regiment, III Marine Expeditionary Force through the Unit Deployment Program. “These Marines are going to start off with friendly competitions to not only build their competitive drive, but to create long lasting friendship.”
The day also included a shared meal of both U.S. and ROK traditional foods. The U.S. troops cooked hamburgers and hotdogs, and the ROK troops cooked bulgogi, literally meaning “fire meat” in Korean, which is a beef dish where the meat is marinated to enhance its flavor and tenderness.
“I have had a lot of fun out here with the Marines,” said ROK Sgt. Geonan Park, a rifleman with 2nd Company, 11th Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. “Everyone is really excited to work with the (U.S.) Marines and see what they can do. I have heard only great things about the Marines.”
Teams competing together were integrated with U.S. and ROK Marines side by side during the competition. The winners received a company certificate handed down by the battalion commanders of the U.S. and ROK forces.
“It was a lot of fun to be on the field with the ROK (Marines),” said Sgt. Brett Tate, a squad leader from Alger, Michigan, with Fox Company. “They were great at soccer and it was tough to keep up with them; I look forward to seeing that in our future training together.”