During my military TIS, I had the chance to serve a year in South Korea. I was assigned to Alpha Battery, 6th Battalion, 52nd ADA (Air Defense Artillery) Regiment under 35th ADA Brigade. Within that one year, I did many things during my downtime that I felt a Leader should do. I furthered my education via online college courses. I explored the country. I learned some of the Korean language through military computer-based training. During this time, the Army had already replaced Rosetta Stone with HeadStart, which I preferred over Joint Language University. Duolingo didn’t include the language. I also did many other things that I’ll explain another day.
Another activity I did during this year was volunteer to teach Korean children the English language. The program, ran by the battalion S-5, consisted of volunteering Soldiers meeting with the kids at a classroom after work, 1-2 hours a day, two or three days a week, for a couple of months at a time. During the first semester, we’d teach using booklets, worksheets, fun and charades for thirty minutes, and then spend thirty minutes playing games, learning Korean and getting to know each other. During the second semester, it was simply one hour of teaching. Therefore, we had to use more creativity to keep the kids and ourselves focused. There was a party on the last day of both semesters. We had the most fun during the House of Dreams. We played with young orphans for hours. It was a blast.
What started as a way to learn more about the culture and earn a Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal blossomed into an important reminder about how important and fulfilling it can be to teach and mentor others, not just those that you’re in some way directly responsible for, and for nothing in return except knowing your actions improved someone’s life somehow. Many Koreans don’t hold as high an opinion of African Americans as Caucasians, but my strength to do pushups with up to seven kids bouncing on my back, endurance to run around the classroom near full speed with one or two kids on my back, concentration to spin a waiting line of kids around by the arms for as long as needed, and my opposing body compared to the average Korean – bald and muscular, seemed to do much for keeping everyone’s interest.