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.