Military News

Friday, July 26, 2013

EOD techs demonstrate capabilities at Airburst Range

by Air National Guard Capt. Kinder Blacke
140th Wing Public Affairs


7/24/2013 - FORT CARSON, Colo. -- The Explosive Ordnance Disposal team from the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, put on a show at Airburst Range on Friday, July 12, demonstrating several of their capabilities for an audience of some of their fans.

Four members of the Denver Broncos and a handful of other spectators joined to watch the EOD team "blow stuff up" as part of their monthly training requirements.

"It was great bringing Lt. Garland (Broncos offensive lineman and COANG member) and his fellow players out with us, and we were able to get some good training in the process," said Tech. Sgt. Andrew "AJ" LeBeau, resource manager, 140th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight. "Our flight is newly back in business and bringing those guys out was a lot of fun and a great way to get the word out that we're building up our team again."

Recently, the wing's EOD program was threatened due to a lack in funding from the National Guard Bureau. Fortunately, the Colorado Air National Guard was able to secure funding for their program and is in the process of building a robust EOD crew.

Conducting a "Demo Day" was a good way for the 140 EOD Flight to expose community members to their career field in a loud way. Oftentimes, people fail to realize that the Air Force even has EOD capabilities, yet the COANG EOD technicians are an integral part of the EOD mission alongside their counterparts in the other services.

"I find it surprising how few people know that the Air Force has EOD, and that we are imbedded with ground forces," said LeBeau. "Going 'outside the wire' doesn't really apply to us; most deployments we reside on Forward Operating Bases or are out on patrols the entire time."

According to LeBeau, in deployed locations, EOD technicians support ground troops, primarily U.S. Army and Marines as well as foreign militaries, destroying enemy explosive stockpiles and defeating IED networks. Stateside their main missions include aircraft support, responding in support of local bomb squads, and training. All of these missions are inherently very dangerous.

Airmen in the EOD career field unfortunately have to cope with inevitable sacrifice... losing their sister and brother EOD techs.

"I would say that the worst part of the job is seeing all the people in the same career field that are killed or injured doing our job," said Airman 1st Class Darrell Linkus, 140 EOD team member.

However, the number of people the EOD techs prevent from being killed or injured is innumerable.

"It's intense, but we save lives," says LeBeau. "Every explosive we remove or destroy allows people to carry on their normal lives, or in a warzone, live to fight another day."

The EOD team's mission is truly critical. "As an EOD Operator we perform various duties that include locating, accessing, identifying, rendering safe, neutralizing, and disposing of hazards from foreign and domestic, conventional, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high yield explosives (CBRNE), unexploded explosive ordnance (UXO), improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and weapons of mass destruction (WMD that present a threat to operations, installations, personnel, or material)," explained Linkus.

There are technically nine different mission areas for EOD: Aerospace Vehicle Launch and Recovery, Force Protection, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Nuclear Weapon Incident/Accident, Unexploded Explosive Ordnance Recovery, Range Clearance, Mortuary Services, Federal Agency and Civil Authority Support, and Base Populace Training.

All that being said, "the simplest definition of an EOD tech is we mitigate explosive hazards," said LeBeau. "We do a job that scares most people, but we work and train very hard to ensure we complete our mission as safely as possible."

While it may seem like an exciting mission, this job is not for the faint of heart or will. Just making it through training to become a qualified EOD operator is a huge challenge. The school boasts an eighty percent dropout rate.

"Tech school for EOD is very long and extremely stressful," said Linkus, who graduated from the program in February 2013 and is the wing's newest EOD team member.

Candidates begin in a 5-week selection school at Sheppard AFB where instructors screen the new EOD recruits to determine who will be best-suited for the career field. "The initial school is filled with very challenging tests both physically and mentally, ranging from the standard Air Force fitness test to timed ruck marches with up to eighty pounds of weight that you have to carry for miles," said Linkus.

After passing the preliminary school, candidates continue on to Eglin AFB for the Naval School of Explosive Ordnance Disposal, referred to as NAVSCOLEOD, which is broken down into nine divisions, all lasting about a month.

The divisions cover every aspect of explosives from CONUS and OCONUS IED response to all military ordnance, both US and foreign, as well as Chemical and Nuclear weapons.

"The school is challenging for many reasons," Linkus explained. "There is a lot of information that is covered in the school. We were taking up to one hundred pages of hand written notes a week and due to the sensitivity of the information that we deal with, nothing is taken home to study-- all studying takes place at the school house."

And students must study a lot. There are 54 tests throughout the ten month course and sometimes students take three to four tests a week. The 16-hour days and intense physical training five days a week leads to a consistently high stress level, according to Linkus.

"In my opinion, the school was one of the hardest things that I have gone through and I believe the school is hard for a reason with the EOD career field," Linkus said. "In real world situations with explosives, we do not get a second chance to do things right and that is why we must strive for excellence in the school house. After all, the EOD motto is 'Initial Success or Total Failure'."

While it is extremely tough to get through the training, "becoming an EOD tech is extremely rewarding," said LeBeau. "We're looking for people who are highly motivated, determined, and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals."

Since the training is so rigorous, only the best of the best make it to the end to become certified EOD technicians. Then through the course of conducting real world missions together, both on deployments and at home, the EOD techs inevitably become a tightknit community, which both LeBeau and Linkus say is one of the greatest benefits.

"The best part of my job is the people that I work around," said Linkus. "Being a civilian firefighter for seven years, I enjoy the brotherhood, camaraderie, and teamwork that come from such a close knit career field. EOD is the same as the Fire Service in that aspect."

The bond that the four men in the 140 EOD Flight share is obvious after spending only a short time with them, and their battlefield stories help explain why. The visitors who got an inside perspective of the EOD team's work were greatly impressed and everyone agreed it was a great day on the range.

In summary, Linkus added, "having the Broncos out for demo day was a lot of fun and it is always cool to show people what we do and see them have a good time blowing stuff up!"

U.S. Navy Takes Lead in Ordnance Retrieval Mission

U.S. 7th Fleet News Release

SOUTH PACIFIC OCEAN, July 26, 2013 – In coordination with the Australian Defense Force, the U.S. 7th Fleet will take the lead in the safe retrieval and disposal of four bombs which were jettisoned off the coast of Queensland, Australia, by two AV-8B Harrier aircraft in an emergency situation on July 16.

The U.S. military is aware of its professional responsibility to mitigate the environmental impact of its exercises/operations. As partners with our Australian counterparts, and particularly in the context of Exercise Talisman Saber, the U.S. military conscientiously conforms to the proper rules and protocols set forth by Australian military and civilian authorities.

In conducting the retrieval, the 7th Fleet will coordinate closely with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Defense Force to ensure the environment is protected with the greatest care. The U.S. military has been in close contact with the Australian Defense Force and the park authority to determine the appropriate course of action.

We are fully committed to redressing any potential adverse environmental impact in a timely manner. We will announce more detailed plans for recovery operations as they are finalized.

Alabama Air Guard Comm Team Connects in Tenn.

by Master Sgt. Carlos J. Claudio
192nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs


7/25/2013 - MARTIN, Tenn. -- When you need an internet signal at home to access the world wide web you call a local provider and they bring cable or a satellite, when the 280th Combat Communications Squadron sets up an internet signal they bring a GATR (Ground Antenna Transmit and Receive).

GATR is a tan colored, inflatable, 7-foot sphere-like satellite that sits on the ground at a slight angle and is currently being used at Martin Middle School in Martin, Tenn., July 15 in support of the "Hope of Martin" community outreach project, an Air National Guard-led joint training medical Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) mission.

"We provide the main data-link for the joint team here in Tennessee that includes approximately 130 service members from the Air National Guard, Army, Navy, and Navy Reserve," said Master Chad W. White, Alabama Air National Guard, Telecommunications-Radio Frequency Specialist. "If it has any anything to do with communications, we handle it."

The Alabama Air National Guard has a ten-member communications team that offers twenty-four hour a day customer service and also safeguards all data systems by manning the equipment all the time.

Not only does the Air Guard unit deliver internet access, they are also a one-stop-shop for land mobile radios and non-classified Internet Protocol (IP) Router Network (NIPRNet) and when required, they offer secure telephones and Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet).

Airman First Class Coleton Barberree, 280th CS Radio Frequency Transmissions Specialist, said this is his first time working with other military services and he is acquiring knowledge. "Right now I'm learning to work with other branches of the military, their rank systems and also learning about their jobs while they're here on this medical mission," said Barberree.

The IRT program is designed to train U.S. military medical personnel and provide assistance to underserved communities. As of July 15, 2013, the total mission visiting patients is 2429. General procedures performed: 5672. Glasses prescribed: 835. Total value of care: $407, 685.

Face of Defense: Female Floridian Becomes Army Guard Drill Instructor

By Army Staff Sgt. Carmen Steinbach
107th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

STARKE, Fla., July 26, 2013 – Five years after the National Guard was authorized drill instructor specialties the Florida Army National Guard added another first, by having the first female drill instructor in the state’s history.


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Florida Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Danielle Gorie, the first female Guard drill instructor in her state, checks the compass reading of Army Spc. Ryan Brewer during a recent land navigation exercise at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center in Starke, Fla. Brewer, a prior-service Marine, is currently participating in the Officer Recruit Sustainment program before attending Officer Candidate School at the Regional Training Institute, also located at Camp Blanding. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Carmen Steinbach
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Staff Sgt. Danielle Gorie works full-time for the Florida Army National Guard as the advertising and marketing noncommissioned officer in the recruitment and retention section, but she recently took on a more challenging role as drill instructor.

“I wanted to set myself apart,” said Gorie, who responded to a request for volunteers to attend drill sergeant school.

“I love training troops, and now I can in a drill instructor capacity,” she added. “It’s all about mentoring soldiers and that’s something that I greatly enjoy.”

In order to receive the drill instructor specialty, Gorie and other candidates from various units across the country endured nine grueling weeks of drill instructor training at Fort Jackson, S.C. Out of the 60 class members that completed the training, only eight were female.

“It was basic training all over again,” Gorie said. The drill instructor’s course, she said, was the most difficult challenge she has faced in her military career.
“If you failed a test, you retook it the next morning. If you failed again, you went home,” Gorie said.
In addition to earning the drill instructor specialty, Gorie also gained various certifications during the course, such as combat life saver and combatives instructor.

Having completed drill instructor’s training, Gorie is responsible for training prior service and initial recruits awaiting Officer Candidate School as part of the Officer Recruit Sustainment program.
“Having a drill sergeant as part of our program helps by teaching them basic soldier skills like drill and ceremonies and physical training prior to attending Basic Combat Training,” said Army Capt. Enrique Martinez Jr., officer strength manager. “It also helps minimize the ‘shock’ factor,” when the students arrive to take their first course.

Since its creation, soldiers who’ve attended the RSP program prior to basic training have consistently out-performed their peers, even beyond boot camp, officials said.

Since the majority of Gorie’s trainees have prior military service, and all of them hold college degrees, she expects more from them compared to raw recruits.

“I hold them to a higher standard than I would ordinary privates,” Gorie said. “They’re all adults and capable of having responsibilities even at this new soldier level.”

Reservists shine during seven-day ride across Iowa

by Staff Sgt. Abigail Klein
931st Air Refueling Group Public Affairs


7/25/2013 - OSKALOOSA, Iowa -- As more than 35,000 cyclists roam the back roads of Iowa from Council Bluffs to the Eastern Coast during the seven-day 41st Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, bystanders can't help but notice the blur of 94 Air Force Cycling Team rider uniforms; what they won't immediately notice is how many are "Citizen Airmen."

As with most Air Force teams, the AFCT hosts a variety of Air Force members, many of them Reservists, who are back for the journey, some who are making the journey for the first time.

Among those making the journey for the first time is Master Sgt. Jerry Cromer, a surgical technician from the 301st Medical Squadron at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base - Carswell Field, Texas. Like most AFCT members, Cromer, who has been a rider for more than 20 years, heard about RAGBRAI through word of mouth.

"I had always been a mountain biker, and I had already done two triathlons, so I when I heard about it, I knew I had to do it," Cromer said.

Like most traditional Reservists, Cromer has a civilian job. When he isn't assisting Air Force surgeons, he fights fires in Dallas. Though he had to get permission from his unit and fire house to participate, Cromer said he looked forward to the opportunity to reach out to the local community while and educate people about the Air Force Culture.

"I love cycling; this gives me the chance to do that, and to also see my impact on the community here. You don't always get an opportunity to do that," Cromer said.

This impact is often recounted to the Airmen as they travel through the Iowa towns along their route, where the Airmen are known for frequently stopping to assist any riders with anything from flat tires, to road injuries.

Lt. Col. Mike Rothermel, an assignment facilitator, for the Air Force Reserve Personnel Center at Buckley AFB, Colo., said he keeps coming back because he loves riding and giving back to the community.

"I met a lady, who said, 'Oh you're Air Force! You helped us so much last year, thank you.' She went right into telling me that she would be down at her son's BMT [Basic Military Training] graduation," Rothermel said. "Upon hearing this, I couldn't help but ask if their willingness to help people last year had something to do with her son's enlistment, and she said enthusiastically, 'Absolutely.' Just wearing [the uniform] and the connection you have with people, you wouldn't normally get that."

Whether changing an inner tube or a life, the Citizen Airmen continue to capitalize on the 400-mile platform RAGBRAI provides to showcase the Air Force mission one tire revolution at a time.

B-52 CONECT: A reboot for the Digital Age

by Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs


7/26/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- One thing is certain: it's not your father's B-52.

The B-52 Stratofortress has been the Air Force's star long-range strategic heavy bomber and premier standoff weapon for more than 50 years. For generations, the B-52 has successfully executed missions all over the globe.

But in the 21st century, the pace of things has accelerated beyond the wildest dreams of the original designers who first put plans for the aircraft on the drawing board more than 60 years ago.

"Things change so quickly now, that you simply can't take 20- to 30-hour-old data into the fight with you any longer," said Alan Williams, the deputy program element monitor at Air Force Global Strike Command.

With digital display screens, computer network servers and real-time communication uplinks, the B-52 of the future will be far removed from the final batch that was delivered to Minot Air Force Base, N.D., in 1962.

The Combat Network Communications Technology, or CONECT, program will help thrust the B-52 into the modern era.

"Now the crews will be able to do final mission planning enroute," Williams said. "They will be able to get targeting updates; they will be able to get intelligence updates, all while they are en route so that they can get the most current data."

The beyond line of sight, or BLOS, communications ability introduced in the CONECT upgrades will allow for a central air operations center to pass along updated threat and targeting data to the aircraft for rapid machine-to-machine retargeting, rather than having the crew and mission be dependent solely upon information that was available at take-off.

"The aircraft will be much more effective and safer for the crew because of being able to receive those threat and target updates," Williams said, adding that CONECT will also allow the aircrew to receive last-minute updates so that they are able to strike the most current or necessary targets and do it rapidly because of the new machine-to-machine targeting capability.

CONECT also brings an unprecedented networking ability to the B-52.

"It provides us with a digital backbone so that we can pass data all the way around the aircraft," Williams said, explaining that with the upgrades, any data available to one crew member will now be available to every other member instantaneously via the new digital displays at each workstation.

These new upgrades will provide a foundation that may help guarantee the aircraft's viability through the remainder of its life span, which is currently projected to extend beyond 2040.

"Now when we add additional systems to the aircraft at some future date, we will be going from a digital component, across our new digital backbone, to another digital component elsewhere in the aircraft," Williams said. "In the future, it will make upgrades easier to do because we'll already have that digital infrastructure in the aircraft."

Williams summed up the CONECT upgrades by saying they would help convert the B-52 from an analog aircraft to a digital platform for today's warfighter.

"It is taking the B-52 from a rotary-dial phone to a smartphone," Williams said.

With the CONECT upgrades in place, the B-52 will be well-equipped to enter the Digital Age. In doing so, "the aircraft" will continue to be an adaptable powerhouse for decades to come.

The road to fitness: One Airman's drive to get fit, inspire others

by Airman 1st Class Tom Brading
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs


7/26/2013 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. (AFNS) -- A photojournalist assigned to the 628th Air Base Wing public affairs office here has lost more than 60 pounds since he began his fitness journey a little more than a year ago.

Senior Airman Jared Trimarchi's road to fitness has been paved with hard work and discipline, all to improve his health. Today, he inspires others to start their own journey.

"Losing weight isn't easy," he said. "But nothing worth having in life is."

A humiliating reality check got Trimarchi's attention; he was removed from the base's ceremonial honor guard because his 250-pound frame didn't present a professional appearance.

"My weight gain was my fault," he said. "I was stuck in my old eating habits. Obviously, that is no excuse, ... but it was mine. I had more excuses, too. I blamed my leadership, my genetics, and even my wife's cooking skills."

To be separated from something that gave him so much pride was a crushing blow, Trimarshi said.

"I was devastated," he added. "Being a member of the honor guard team meant the world to me. From presenting the colors at ceremonies on base to giving full military honors at a fallen hero's funeral, it was the most rewarding experience I've had in the Air Force and one of my most rewarding experiences in my life."

The worst part of the ordeal, he said, was feeling as if the honor guard was better off without him.

"Due to the honor guard dress and appearance standards, Airman Trimarchi had to be temporarily removed from the team," said Master Sgt. John Gott, the 628th Air Base Wing public affairs superintendent. "I was confident he would return to honor guard after losing weight and maintaining the proper appearance. We never gave up on him, and he didn't give up on himself."

Every journey begins with that first step, and for Trimarchi, that step was at the base running track. With every mile he put behind him, he became one step closer to his goal of returning to the honor guard.

"I started by simply eating smaller meal portions," he said. "My body was trying to convince me I was hungry. I wasn't. For me, the pain was just the mind trying to fight my body. I had to be stronger, mentally and physically."

The battle raged in Trimarchi for the upcoming weeks, he said, and his mental and physical resilience became stronger with the passing days. Overcoming temptations such as sweets, fast food and soda, and replacing them with lean meat, fresh fruits and water was challenging, he added, but he never gave up on himself.

"I didn't falter. Going back to the honor guard was my only option," Trimarchi said. "I could've come up with excuses why getting out of bed at 4 a.m. to run was a bad idea, or why I deserved a 'cheat meal,' but I was done with the excuses. Making excuses, and not taking personal responsibility, is what got me into the mess I was in at the time."

After two months passed, Trimarchi was able to return to the honor guard to complete his rotation with the team.

Achieving his short-term goal opened the door for Trimarchi to go for more. He is training to apply for Air Force special operations duty.

"Trimarchi's passion for total fitness, healthy eating and exercise is contagious," said Staff Sgt. William O'Brien, the NCO in charge of media operations in the public affairs office. "He's young, idealistic, enthusiastic and motivated."

But Trimarchi said he believes his story is more of a cautionary tale than a heroic one.

"Nobody should ever let themselves get to where I was," he said. "Being in the Air Force, you already have a certain level of professionalism to maintain. It took me losing everything to learn how important that was, and I'll never take something as meaningful as wearing the Air Force uniform for granted again."

Noting that he now looks and feels better, Trimarchi said his journey wouldn't have happened without the proper mindset and support.

"If you can conquer your mind, then your body will have no choice but to follow," he said. "Just set a goal, get support, believe in yourself and never give up."

Wounded Vet Reflects on Korean War 60 Years After Armistice

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2013 – With plans to participate in ceremonies here tomorrow marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice agreement, a veteran who lost two limbs in the conflict said he’s proud of what thousands who fought there accomplished -- and what those who followed in their footsteps have preserved.


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Retired Army Col. William Weber, 87, who lost an arm and leg during the Korean War, said he’s proud of what he and his fellow Korean War veterans accomplished and what those who have served in South Korean ever since have preserved. Courtesy photo
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Retired Army Col. William Weber was a young lieutenant when he arrived in Korea with the 187th Airborne Regiment Combat Team in August 1950, joining U.S. Marines on the ground in the bloody Battle of Seoul.

Five months after his deployment, Weber was severely wounded -- first by a strike that claimed his arm shortly before midnight on Feb. 15, 1951, and another attack several hours later that took his leg. He was evacuated to an Army hospital in Tokyo to be stabilized before his transfer to the Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, Mich., one of three military facilities that specialized in amputee care.

Now approaching his 88th birthday, Weber still vividly recalls the frustration of prolonged ceasefire negotiations that started shortly after he medically evacuated from Korea dragged on for two years before the armistice was reached.

Half of the casualties of the war -- in which 36,574 U.S. troops died and another 103,284 were wounded -- occurred as the talks languished, Weber noted.

“It was a travesty of common sense on the part of the communists,” he said. “They are the ones who delayed it because of demands they made and the hope that they could achieve politically what they couldn’t achieve militarily.”

Even today, 60 years after the United Nations, North Korea and China signed the armistice agreement, Weber expressed disappointment that the final peace treaty that was to follow within 60 days never materialized.

That has left the two Koreas still technically at war, and Weber expressed dismay over North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s public nullification of the armistice earlier this year.

Yet Weber is quick to note the significance of what he called “a significant benchmark of the 20th century.”

“It was a catalyst that began the downfall of the attempt of communism to dominate the world,” he said.
Weber, who served in World War II as well as Korea, sees a common thread.

“I like to remind people that World War II saved the world for democracy. Korea saved it from communism,” he said. “That is where we drew a line in the sand as a free world, and indicated that we would not allow armed aggression to conquer a free people. And since that time, it never has. The world took a stance and it worked.”

Yet like many of his Korean War comrades, Weber said, he remains perplexed that it remains known as “the Forgotten War.”

“If you look at history books that teach children about American history, it is a three-paragraph war,” he said. Most of what’s written focuses not on the war itself, but on the controversy between then-President Harry S. Truman and Gen. Douglas MacArthur, he noted. Truman fired MacArthur as commander of U.N. military forces in South Korea in April 1951.

The United States was preoccupied during the Korean War, Weber said, still reveling as troops home from World War II went to school, re-entered the job market and settled down to start families. “It was la-la land,” he said.

The last thing most Americans wanted at the time was the distraction of another foreign war, particularly one that initially started as a “police action,” he said.

Yet that police action escalated. At the height of the war, about a half-million U.S., United Nations and South Korean forces found themselves arrayed against 1.5 million Chinese and North Korean forces.
“Nowhere during World War II did American forces ever face as many enemies in such a short frontage as in Korea,” Weber said. “It was the bloodiest foreign war in terms of the percentage of casualties we have ever fought.”

Weber rattled off statistics to back up his claim: The chance of those serving being killed or wounded during World War I was 1 in 22; during World War II, 1 in 12; in Vietnam, 1 in 17.

“If you went to Korea, you stood one chance in nine of being killed or wounded,” he said. “American [service members] died at the average rate of 1,000 a month and were wounded at the rate of 3,000 a month for 36 continuous months on a peninsula that was only 160 miles wide.”

To help honor that sacrifice, Weber served nine years on the the presidentially appointed advisory board that led to the dedication of the Korean War Veterans Memorial on Washington’s National Mall in 1995.

The memorial features 19 seven-foot-tall stainless steel soldiers on patrol, the wind blowing their ponchos as they move across the landscape.

But to Weber, who chairs the Korean War Veterans Memorial Foundation, the memorial honors those who served in Korea, but not who made the ultimate sacrifice. He and many other Korean War veterans hope to one day erect a glass remembrance wall that lists those who died in the conflict.

“The American people have never been told the cost of that freedom [won in Korea]. Well, it is 36,574 dead and 103,284 wounded in 36 months of continuous, unbroken combat,” Weber said. “You won’t find anything like that anywhere in America’s history of foreign wars.”

Visiting South Korea for the first time since the war in 2002, Weber said he has no doubt that the sacrifices have paid off.

“I saw firsthand the amazing things the [South] Koreans have done with the freedom that we have enabled them to have,” he said. “A population and a nation that was decimated has become the 12th-largest economy in the world.”

Weber said he remains struck by the gratitude the South Korean people continue to show for those who came to their defense.

He noted, for example, the ongoing Korea Revisit Program, paid for by the South Korean government, which provides Korean War veterans free hotel rooms, meals and tours of Korea.

“It’s an unbelievable thing, the respect and admiration they have for Americans and their U.N. counterparts because of what they did to save their country,” he said.

With the average Korean War veteran now 84 years old, and the population declining by about 700 a day, Weber said, America’s memory of the Korean War is likely to fade as well.

Even after tomorrow’s commemoration, expected to draw thousands of the half-million living Korean veterans to the National Mall, Weber is pragmatic about what will follow.

“I predict with certainty that right after the 27th of July, the Korean War will fall back into the cracks of history again,” he said.

What will keep it alive, he said, is the legacy left by those who fought in the Korean War and of the service of those who have continued to defend South Korea during the past six decades.
Since the signing of the armistice, North Korean attacks have killed 100 U.S. and more than 450 South Korean troops.

Today, 28,500 U.S. forces continue to serve in South Korea, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their South Korean counterparts to provide security on the peninsula.

“They are trip wires,” Weber said. Even with the South Korean Army now holding the demilitarized zone created by the armistice agreement, “the Americans are there, so the North Koreans know that if anything started, the United States would be involved,” he said.

Together, they continue to demonstrate the commitment Webber and his fellow Korean War veterans made six decades ago, he said.

“You can take a good, hard look at what Korea is today and realize that, at one part of our history, we were responsible for that happening. We saved a free people and kept them free and gave them an opportunity to take advantage of their innate ability to progress as a nation,” Weber said.

“One can’t possibly look at the South Korea of today without accepting the fact that what we did there was justified and necessary,” he said. “So you tell me: Why is it an unknown war in the id of American culture?”