So, we wrote about the 2nd Infantry Division taking some rather drastic actions with regard to alcohol and off post passes in reaction to some incidents involving soldiers stationed in Korea.
I’ll maintain my position that mass punishment is a bad idea, and usually a tool of a weak leader.
Having said that, it would seem I was a bit hasty in my post on the matter.
I have a pretty solid source that clues me in that the draconian restrictions emplaced were not just in reaction to these two events:
On March 16, five soldiers and a spouse were involved in an altercation with a South Korean club owner in the Dongducheon Entertainment District, which features restaurants, clubs, and clothing and souvenir shops. The district includes “a small number” of clubs that have been and remain off-limits to U.S. soldiers, officials said.
The soldiers — a staff sergeant, three specialists and a private — belonged to the division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team.
Three of the soldiers were injured when the club owner stabbed them with a knife. Another was injured when he was hit in the head with a baseball bat.
One soldier was seriously injured, suffering a stab wound to the abdomen. He was flown to U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan for surgery and is in intensive care, officials said March 20.
The other two soldiers who were stabbed, one in the buttocks and the other in the hand, were treated and released. The soldier who was hit in the head also was treated and released.
The club owner was arrested by the Korean National Police, and the soldiers are being made available for interviews as part of a joint South Korean and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command investigation, officials said.
The next day, March 17, one soldier shoved a South Korean police officer who subsequently fell down some stairs, and another soldier struck a police officer, the Stars and Stripes, citing 2nd Infantry Division officials, reported.
Stripes also reported that half a dozen soldiers from the division recently were accused of harassing a South Korean woman on a subway train near Uijeongbu.
On March 2, three soldiers assigned to Headquarters Battalion, Eighth Army, were said to have been firing a soft air gun in a congested area of the Itaewon district adjacent to the U.S. base at Yongsan.
South Korean police tried to stop the soldiers, but the Americans left in a vehicle that was subsequently chased by a South Korean police officer in a taxi, officials said.
The soldiers were eventually cornered in an alley, and as they tried to escape, a South Korean police officer fired four shots — one blank and three live rounds — at their vehicle. One of the soldiers was hit, and the police officer was hit by the fleeing vehicle.
The soldier who was injured was treated on post at Yongsan and has since been released.
Instead, there has been a sustained, widespread pattern of incidents across several subordinate commands within the division. In addition to the incidents the Army Times mentions, there were a couple more, all disturbing, all indicative of a deterioration of unit and individual discipline, and damn near all involving alcohol.
We like to think that soldiers are paragons of virtue, but sadly, that’s not always the case. In an offline discussion, I admitted to my source that I was guilty of acting overseas in ways I’d probably never dream of stateside. Nothing criminal like the jerks above, but just generally being a jackass.
Like it or not, personal conduct overseas directly impacts how a host nation sees the United States. While many Koreans fully appreciate the sacrifices Americans have made on their behalf, they also understandably don’t think that gives US troops a license to loot, pillage and rape.
Word is, some of the restrictions emplaced by the Commanding General have already been lifted. Technically, what has happened is he’s restored authority to subordinate commanders to decide issues of alcohol consumption, and off post passes. Whether those commanders have restored permission is another matter. Each commander has to make a judgment of what is best for his unit.
In sum, it sounds like rather than a knee-jerk reaction, the CG has instead given the troops leash a good jerk, reminding his soldiers that the Army, and the American people, expect them to behave as adults.