CAMP CASEY, South Korea — The soldiers of the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, are settling in to their new homes on Camps Casey and Hovey located outside Dongducheon, South Korea.
The nine-month tour offers many opportunities of those willing to invest their time and energy.
For soldiers looking to strengthen their bodies and minds while learning a bit about Korean culture and history, Grandmaster Ki Sung Kim, the 2nd Infantry Division’s taekwondo instructor on Camp Hovey has the answer.
Kim has been training the soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division for the past 47 years, first alongside his father and now as the head of his own taekwondo academy. During that time his tutelage has led two of his students to become national champions in the sport.
Now, as the Army shifts its focus toward restructuring the partnership with the South Korean army, Kim is training cavalry soldiers for the first time.
Classes are nearly full of soldiers who upon entering the gym at Camp Hovey were drawn to the padded room tucked in the back room, the sound of fighting echoing down the hall.
“I’ve got a friend who was taking it,” said Pfc. Semeke Jr., with the brigades’ 4th Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment. “She talked to me about it; she brought me here last week.”
Many, like Semeke, were drawn by the idea of being capable of defending yourself in any situation.
“Our job is a demanding job,” Semeke said. “You need to be able to protect yourself.”
For 1st Lt. Hannah Faughn with the 8th Brigade Engineer Battalion, practicing taekwondo is as simple as falling into old habits.
“I used to take karate when I was younger,” Faughn said. “I got pretty high up in it.”
“I saw that (Grandmaster Kim) was doing taekwondo and I wanted to get back into it, into fighting sports,” Faughn said.
Second Lt. Emily McManus, a fire direction officer with the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment has dreamed of learning taekwondo ever since she was young.
“My parents would never let me do it when I was a kid,” McManus said. “I’ve always liked combatives and some of the moves are similar.”
The soldiers taking the class don’t mind having to sweat a little more in addition to their morning physical training sessions.
“Here I try to have a lot more fun than I do at PT,” McManus said. “It’s more of a relaxing environment.”
“It’s a no-judge atmosphere.”
For Faughn, learning taekwondo is about more than getting an extra workout. “Not only are you doing extra PT but you’re getting something out of it.”
Faughn approaches taekwondo the same way that she does training with her section, by using her enthusiasm to motivate others.
“I push myself hard there, and in here I push myself because I want to branch up in belts,” she said.
The soldier’s efforts in taekwondo also afford them the opportunity to interact with South Koreans who are learning the sport. Master Kim regularly takes students from his class on Camp Hovey to train with his Korean students off-post during the weekends.
“It was really interesting to work with some of the locals near Jihaeng,” Faughn said. “They’re really interested in soldiers and what we’re doing.”