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Korean Officer Contributes to U.S. Mission

Maj. Paek outside the United States Transportation Command building.

Republic of Korea Army Maj. Jihye Paek, United States Transportation Command Korean liaison officer, poses outside the USTRANSCOM building, Mar. 4, 2020, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. When she was offered the opportunity to serve with USTRANSCOM, she applied without hesitation because she said she has always wanted to work with foreign militaries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin Savage)

Maj. Paek with two of her children.

Republic of Korea Army Maj. Jihye Paek, United States Transportation Command Korean liaison officer, plays with her youngest children, Junwon and Junseon Kim, outside of Scott Elementary, Mar. 4, 2020, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. She said all three of her children are adjusting well to living in America, making friends and learning English. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin Savage)

Maj. Paek with her husband and children after school.

Republic of Korea Army Maj. Jihye Paek, United States Transportation Command Korean liaison officer, greets her oldest child, Junhong Kim, after kindergarten, Mar. 4, 2020, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Paek and her family have only been here for six months, but she said they enjoy learning about the culture and travelling around the country. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin Savage)

Maj. Paek with her family at Scott Air Force Base.

Republic of Korea Army Maj. Jihye Paek, United States Transportation Command Korean liaison officer, poses with her family in front of Scott Elementary School, Mar. 4, 2020, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Paek’s husband, Deukhwan Kim, took a leave of absence from his job in Korea so he could come to America with his wife and help her with the kids. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kristin Savage)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – Imagine growing up with the opportunity to watch foreign military members working together to accomplish a global mission. One foreign officer at Scott has gone from watching military members work in foreign countries to being in that role.

Seven months ago, Republic of Korea Army Maj. Jihye Paek, United States Transportation Command Korean liaison officer, arrived at Scott Air Force Base accompanied by her husband, Deukhwan Kim, and their three children: Junhong, Junwon and Junseon Kim.

“My husband took a leave of absence from his work, and he’s helping me by taking care of the kids,” said Paek. “[My kids] are adjusting just fine and making friends and learning English. I value this time because it gives us a chance to learn something from other cultures.”

Her previous work experience and knowledge of foreign militaries helped her get this assignment.

“When I was serving in the Republic of Korea Transportation Command, they offered me this position because I was serving as a highway and railway officer, and I had the chance to work with the U.S. military during combined exercises,” said Paek. “I was really happy for this opportunity, and I applied for this position without hesitation.”

Her position at Scott is similar to what she does with the Korean Army. She said she’s here to learn how U.S. TRANSCOM operates and hopefully use that information to improve ROK TRANSCOM. 

Paek grew up watching other militaries from around the globe work together and has been wanting the opportunity to serve abroad.

 “I spent my school days in Kyrgyzstan. I had been living there for 10 years and during that time I got to observe a lot of dispatched military from the U.S., from Korea and from other countries,” said Paek. “I always wanted to have the opportunity to serve abroad not only [in the] U.S. but maybe other countries, too.  I thought it was honorable to wear the uniform every day, so I joined the Korean Army.”

Paek and her sister were encouraged to join the military from a young age by their mother, who had wanted to join, too, but instead chose to stay home to raise them.  She was also inspired by her grandfather who was an officer in the ROK Marine Corps.

Paek says she has a friend and mentor, Joseph Lepanto, United States Transportation Command international agreements manager, who helps her out and gives her advice.

“She tries to learn as much as she can about how USTRANSCOM operates and shares our best practices with her command to see if that is something they can do or improve,” said Lepanto. “She is always available and willing to help anyone who reaches out to her for help with an issue involving ROK.”

Paek loves that she can now serve her country and make a difference internationally.

“As a liaison officer, I really want to be one of the people who contribute to enhance the alliance between ROK and the US,” said Paek.