By Army Sgt. Raquel Villalona, 2nd Infantry Division/Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Division
CHERWON, South Korea -- Equipped with a helmet, life vest and paddle, first-time rafters were filled with both excitement and anxiety as they approached their yellow rafts.
The U.S. and South Korean soldiers each grabbed a handle and guided their rafts down a hill to the foot of the bank as they prepared to embark the rapids together.
The 2nd Infantry Division/Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Division unit ministry team hosted a Hantan River whitewater rafting trip Sept. 7 to provide members of the Warrior division spiritual resilience training and focus on teamwork.
The day started with a group discussion that included the importance of stress management and comprehensive resilience.
“Living with stress and knowing how to handle pressure is necessary for survival,” said Army Chaplain (Capt.) Steven K. Love, an Edwardsville, Illinois, native, and Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion spiritual leader. “It is related to a person’s ability to take control of their own destiny from the circumstances that surround them.”
Love ties the idea of river rafting to overcoming obstacles in life.
“Whitewater rafting requires the entire team to be fully engaged to get through the challenges, and that relates to life,” he said. “Like the river, soldiers hit some tough spots and it can be fearful, but you learn to get through it with the support of others.”
After the insightful discussions, a morale-boosting Korean barbeque lunch and a safety brief, enthusiastic soldiers descended onto the Hantan River.
‘A Ton of Fun’
“This is my first duty station and first time whitewater rafting,” said Army Pvt. Haley N. Deline, a Grand Blanc, Michigan, native and wheeled-vehicle mechanic for Headquarters Support Company. “It took teamwork and coordination to prevent the raft from flipping over, but we handled the situations well and had a ton of fun.”
The soldiers paddled in sync, creating new bonds and gaining both courage and insight while navigating their way through the intense rapids.
“Rafting made it easier to connect with other soldiers from the division,” said Pfc. Hyun-rae Kim, a South Korean army soldier serving as a U.S. Army augmentee. He is a native of Sejong City and works as a Headquarters Support Company supply specialist.
“I translated in Korean and English for the tour guide, which forced me to interact with soldiers I didn’t know. And in the end, I made new friends,” he added.
Army Maj. Jeffrey P. Nelson, native of Joliet, Illinois, and the division’s deputy plans officer, agreed that communication was key.
“We had to communicate effectively and be aware of what was going on around us and maneuver the raft together,” Nelson said. “We also had to take on different team roles, which is similar to our experience as soldiers in leadership positions.”