A trip to the demilitarized zone

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Shawn P. Crouch
  • 8th Operations Support Squadron superintendent
Few people ever get the chance to come to Korea, let alone visit the world's most guarded and militarized border.

Staff Sgt. Remedios Andaya, Senior Airman Andrew Sneed, Airman 1st Class Nicholas Kiel and I had the opportunity to travel to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, which separates the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea.

Our trip took four hours just to arrive to the Demilitarized Zone. This would be a trip that four aviation resource managers would never forget. Keep in mind this was during the time when the tensions were high on the Korean Peninsula.

The first visit was to the Freedom Bridge, then off to the Third Tunnel, and then finally to the Joint Security Area for the final part of our tour. This part of the tour included entering the conference room that the DPRK and ROK shared and crossing onto the North Korean side.. Being able to walk freely between North and South Korea in this building without becoming a prisoner is something which cannot be described.

"You don't know what it is like to be at the edge of the world until you are at the DMZ," said Sneed. "There, you're surrounded on both sides by countless mines and miles of electric fence; all while knowing that at any time, a flood of North Korean forces could come charging through."

This trip helped us to grasp the importance of our mission at Kunsan and the sovereignty of the ROK.

"Going to the DMZ made me realize what we are actually here for," said Kiel. "It didn't really hit me until I actually saw a North Korean soldier staring at me with his binoculars. If you are stationed in Korea, go and see what our purpose here is in the Republic of Korea. It doesn't get any more real until you are staring back at a North Korean military member who is watching your every move."