YONGIN, SOUTH KOREA — More than 300 I Corps soldiers showed up at Yongin, South Korea on Aug. 20, bleary-eyed and jet lagged after making the long journey from Joint-Base Lewis McChord to participate in a two-week training exercise.
Two bus rides, two plane flights, several briefings, and clearing security and customs can take a toll. In total, they had been traveling for nearly 24 hours. Now all they needed was food, water, and a place to sleep. Fortunately, I Corps knows how to prepare for these things, and within hours every soldier had a new home in a temporary town called the logistics support area, or “LSA.”
Orchestrating the movement of an army across an ocean is a huge logistical undertaking. It’s not just about transporting a large number of soldiers from point A to point B. It’s also about keeping them alive, safe, and as comfortable as possible once they reach point B. That’s where the LSA mayor’s cell and their Korean partners come in.
In the case of Yongin, a small city of tents was erected to house the influx of U.S. and Canadian soldiers — more than 500 in all. The accommodations might seem rustic to the typical civilian, but to a soldier they were pretty good. Each tent had plywood floors, power supply, lights, and even air conditioning.
Each soldier’s cot was only steps away from a bathroom, showers, and four DFAC tents where they could get two hot meals a day. Everything had been arranged — places for male soldiers to shave, electric outlets to charge devices, laundry services, church services and, in a nod to the modern day that some of our older veterans might find baffling, even WiFi.
“Creating a temporary city like this requires a lot of coordination between us, our Korean partners, and the subordinate units of the 8th Army. It’s a very challenging and complicated effort,” said Army Capt. Robert Arkell, I Corps Headquarters Support Company commander and “mayor” of the temporary city.
“Our Korean partners have been really providing an extensive amount of support for establishing the LSA. We facilitated the contracts for establishing the PX support, the barber and for all the other basic amenities but really the overall architecture and infrastructure was built by the Koreans.”
Local Korean and U.S. personnel buzzed around the LSA at all hours of the day to care for their foreign guests: cooks, water supply specialists, cleaners, shopkeepers, and even a couple of barbers were present to keep the temporary town running smoothly.
In a typical day the temporary village would go through about 8,000 gallons of water, most of that going to the five shower trailers. Two tents were set up with hot water, metal sink bowls and mirrors for the male soldiers to shave.
The 10 culinary specialists from 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery were among the busiest crews keeping the hundreds of soldiers fed every day.
“We’re cooking 1200 servings a day,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Hicks, noncommissioned officer in charge of the field site.
“The guys get up at two in the morning and come in at 2:30 to start cooking to be ready to serve breakfast by six. At dinner time they come in at one, start cooking at 1:30 to be ready to go by five. They’re great workers. I couldn’t ask for a better bunch of soldiers because they work hard, they love what they do and they put their hearts into it.”
Hicks said the two most popular menu items were steak and coffee — with coffee apparently being the fuel powering the engine for this exercise.
“We make thirty gallons of coffee a day,” laughed Hicks. “And that’s not counting the bags of grounds I give to the soldiers to make in their own pots all day long.”
Once the two-week exercise concludes the LSA will be broken down into containers and shipped away – the entire process taking less than two days, leaving an empty field in the middle of the South Korean mountains until I Corps decides to pay a visit again.