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718th EOD Company assist JSA Security Battalion to improve their position

May 15, 2012

By Lt. Christopher A. Taylor

Panmunjom, South Korea -- U.S. Soldiers assigned to 718th EOD Company in Yongsan put their training and skills to the test this last week in a Combined U.S. and ROK operation to improve visibility along the Military Demarcation Line.

Over the past ten years, vegetation has obstructed the view of some of the most dangerous territory on the Korean Peninsula. With this growth of vegetation it has not only began to cause a visibility problem for the Security Battalion but has given the cover and concealment to the North Korean People's Army (KPA) if they choose to infiltrate past the MDL. The only combined U.S. and ROK Battalion on the peninsula realized coordinated a ROK-US operation to clear the vegetation and restore visibility.

To ensure that the KPA understood the mission each morning the Joint Duty Officer with the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) walked up to the MDL escorted with ROK Soldiers assigned to the UNC Security Battalion and relayed a message to the KPA via bullhorn to prevent any escalation of force during this operation.

Once all support elements from both the U.S. and ROK Army were in place the green light was given to begin operations. The Soldiers of the 718th EOD Team began to scan the areas to be trimmed for any Unexploded Ordinance that may have been left from the Korean War or placed later by either side in an attempt to cause harm and/or protection from infiltration. Not only did they have the concerns of an explosion from ordinance but at times were inches from the Communist North Korean border and KPA soldiers who had come down to the MDL to observe the operation.

The EOD Team's safety was very closely monitored by both U.S. and ROK security soldiers lined up between them and the observing KPA soldiers. For an entire week the EOD team worked to ensure the civilian workers from Directorate of Public Works (DPW) and Korean Service Corps (KSC) could complete the operation without any risk of unexploded ordinance in the Area of Operations.

Every member of the EOD team and all Soldiers with the Security Battalion kept the memory in mind of the last major trimming operations in 1976. In August of that year, CPT Arthur G. Bonifas with the assistance of one of the Platoon Leaders 1LT Mark T. Barrett led a tree trimming operation near the Bridge of No Return to restore visibility between two UNC guard posts. Without warning or provocation a group of more than twenty KPA soldiers crossed the MDL and attacked with clubs and axes resulting the deaths of CPT Bonifas and 1LT Barrett. In 1986 Camp Kitty Hawk was renamed Camp Bonifas in honor of the sacrifice that CPT Bonifas made for the security and well being of the South Korean people. The action and dedication of these two U.S. Officers will never be forgotten.

With the current operation underway all workers were separated from the KPA by a cordon of U.S. and ROK Soldiers who maintained a vigilant show of force to prevent any provocation or threat from the KPA.

After five days, the operation was completed and labeled a success by the Security Battalion Commander LTC Edward J. Taylor who expressed is gratefulness to the EOD Soldiers who without them the mission could not have been completed.

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