Air Force Members Help Save Korean Boy

NOTE: I continue to dig through a stash of old magazines and newspapers I wrote for during my time in the United States Air Force. This article appeared in a weekly newspaper titled The MiG Alley flyer which served Osan and Suwon Air Bases in Korea. The date of the article is May, 4, 1990. Thanks for reading.

A joint Air Force-Army rescue team rushed to the aid of a 4-year-old Korean boy who injured his head after falling from a bridge last week.

Pak, Jin Young, son of Pak, Sung Koo, of Oul Lung-do, an island located approximately 90 miles off the east coast of the peninsula, suffered a skull fracture and severe cuts after falling into a river bed on the island.

The rescue team, made up of members from Detachment 8, 730th Pararescue Squadron, Osan AB, and B Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Regiment, Camp Humphreys, flew to the island and evacuated the boy to Young-nam University Hospital in Taegu.

“We left Osan with the information that the boy was semi-comatose,” pararescue specialist SSgt. Brian L. Douglas said. “We arrived at a helicopter pad on the island about 1:10 in the morning. The boy’s father was sitting in the vehicle with the boy wrapped in a blanket.”

According to hospital officials, the boy underwent seven hours of surgery for internal bleeding of the head on the morning of April 26. The boy’s condition remained unknown the following afternoon.

“I hope he makes it,” said Sergeant Douglas. “And, I’m glad I had the opportunity to help him. That’s the best part of the this job and that’s why we’re here. We go through a lot of training and none of it is a waste of time — especially for a 4-year old boy. I just hope he can pull through.”

NOTE: This was written a long time ago and I do not remember if the boy pulled through this ordeal. Hopefully, I will come across a follow-up article as I continue digging though the stack of papers.

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Orphaned Sergeant Returns Home to Korea

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NOTE: Part of my duties in the U.S. Air Force was that of a journalist for various newspapers and magazines. I recently stumbled across a stash of old copies of different publications which have been in storage and thought it would be fun to breathe new life into some of the articles. This article first appeared in “The Mig Alley Flyer,” June 1, 1990 while I was a Senior Airman stationed at Osan Air Force Base, Korea. Thanks for reading!

By most accounts, Sgt. John N. Davenport, a stinger specialist with the 51st Security Police Squadron, Osan AB, had an ordinary childhood. He wrestled in high school, and lettered in both soccer and track. Growing up in Long, Island, NY, he was picked on by other children from time to time.

In comparing Sergeant Davenport with the typical American child, however, most similarities end here. Originally named Johna Blake, he was born and raised in Chechon Children’s Home in Seoul; an orphan whose mother passed away during his birth, and his father’s whereabouts unknown. Luckily, for the sergeant, Perry and Maryln Davenport of New York wanted a son.

Recalling the day he came to the United States, Sergeant Davenport said he never really knew what was happening at the time. No one said anything to him, so it was just like any other he left the orphanage. Little did he know that, this time, his life was about to change forever.

“I can remember a long plane ride. I was wearing a traditional silk Korean outfit and I was confused,” said Sergeant Davenport. “I remember being at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and seeing my parents for the first time. They gave me a yellow toy car, which I still have today. Somehow, from that day on, I knew they were my parents.”

There were many other folks who were anxious to meet him, he would soon learn.

“When we arrived home, there was a big party for me. Friends, neighbors, relatives….I was shocked,” recalled Sergeant Davenport.

As an eight-year-old in a new country, things were very strange. For starters, he did not speak English. He was also one of only three other children in the neighborhood of Asian descent, which presented additional challenges.

“I had a hard time growing up,” he said. “Other kids picked on me for no reason. It wasn’t until the ninth grade and I started playing sports and made a lot of friends that things got better for me”

After graduating from high school, he attended Suffolk Community College in New York for one year. Then, at age 22, he decided to join the Air Force…something that had always intrigued him. Sergeant Davenport gained a favorable impression of the U.S. military before ever setting foot on American soil.

“As a child, I can remember Army soldiers coming to the orphanage and bringing food and clothes, and taking us on field trips,” he said. “But after being in America a little while and hearing about the things the Air Force did, and seeing people uniform, I said to myself, ‘I want to be a part of that.'”

“I feel it’s been a good experience so far,” said the five-year sergeant. “The education benefits are great and I love the travel. I especially love being stationed in Korea, though.”

Assigned to Korea for only six months now, Sergeant Davenport feels he has learned a lot about himself already.

“The Air Force gave me the opportunity to ‘come home’ and learn who I am. That was the biggest problem I had growing up — I never knew anything about my own culture. I was happy growing up in America, but I was always curious about the place from which I came.”

One of the highlights of being stationed at Osan is the opportunity to visit the same orphanage where he was raised. Even more so, the same woman who raised him is still there.

“Her name is Jane White, but we always called her Mamma Jane. She started that home from scratch more than 30 years ago and has dedicated her entire life to caring for abandoned children. For anyone, especially from another culture, to sacrifice so much, is amazing. If she taught me anything, it’s how to care.”

Even more incredible is the fact that Mamma Jane recognized Sergeant Davenport, instantly, after so many years.

“I could not believe it,” Sergeant Davenport exclaimed. “I walked in the door and she looked up and said hi as if I had just left yesterday…very nonchalant. She didn’t even know I was coming!”

“One thing that sticks out about her is a Korean folk song she still teaches to every child. It’s probably my favorite song to this day. She is just such an amazing woman.”

Sergeant Davenport is amazed by the fact that he was able to visit her again and still thinks of her as his second mother. And although he never had the opportunity to meet his biological parents, he had no doubt about his real parents.

“I am so lucky to have been adopted,” he said. “I go back now and see all the kids the same age I was who my never be adopted because people want newborns. I’m very grateful. I love my American family very much and there is no doubt in my mind that they are my real parents.”

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Controller Averts Disaster

NOTE: This article appeared in a weekly newspaper called “The Pacesetter,” on Friday, Oct. 6, 1989. This was my first full-time duty assignment (Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana) and anything appearing from “The Pacesetter” illustrates the results of my very first writing assignments.

Thanks to the knowledge and skills demonstrated by a Grissom air traffic controller, a Northfield, IL., man en route to Florida was able to safely land his twin-engine plane despite suffering from chest pains.

Lawrence Raynor, 57, and his wife Sally, were forced to make an emergency landing at the White County Airport near Monitcello, IN., after Mr. Raynor contacted Grissom air traffic control with complaints of chest pains.

The distress signal was received by TSgt. Keith Bowler at 11:22 a.m., Sept. 28. Mr. Raynor indicated that he wished to land as soon possible.

“When he first made contact, I asked him for some landmarks so that we could try to pin-point his position,” explained Sergeant Bowler. “He told me he was afraid to look left or right, or bend down, to look at his charts because he was afraid of aggravating the problem. I knew right away that I had to get that plane down as soon as possible.”

Because of the difficulty in calculating Mr. Raynor’s coordinates, Sergeant Bowler asked the pilot to dial a VOR, or VHF omnidirectional number. This is a navigational device that emits signals to aircraft allowing navigational direction to be located on a radar scope.

After finally establishing radar communication, Sergeant Bowler was able to locate the distressed plane and guide it to the nearest airport. Once the plane was in contact with the airport, the sergeant then radioed the White County Memorial Hospital. The plane landed safely at 11:30 a.m., and Mr. Raynor was immediately rushed to the hospital where he was treated and released.

“I was just doing my job,” Sergeant Bowler said. “Any other air traffic controller would have done the same thing.”

Sergeant Bowler, who was assisting eight other aircraft in the area at the time, said there was no time to be nervous about the incident.

“There was no time for stress. If I had gotten nervous, he would have gotten nervous. All I was worried about getting that plane down safely.”

Although the incident was not an everyday occurrence for the controllers at Grissom, it was basically just another day’s work for Sergeant Bowler. SMSgt. Pomerleau, Sergeant Bowler’s supervisor. summed it up best: “That what we get paid for.”

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Korean Students Speak up

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Korean Students Speak Up

Note from author: Part of my duties in the United States Air Force in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s was as a journalist. Far too much of what I was assigned to cover were award ceremonies and “grip and grin” photos. However, once in awhile, I was given the opportunity to cover something exciting. This was one of my best and I felt it was worth sharing. This article appeared in a weekly newspaper called The MiG Alley Flyer on May 25, 1990. It’s worth noting that violent student demonstrations were regular occurrences and garnered regular headlines out of Korea during this time. It’s also worth noting that this publication was “Best in Air Force,” for this year ;).

Editor’s note: Mig Alley Flyer staff writer, SrA Raymond East, recently visited several Korean universities to talk with students about their views on American-Korean relations. As timing would have it, his visit fell on the same day of massive student protests. What he found was some frank and surprising views from student bodies that will most likely produce the leaders of the 21st century.

Seoul – At first glance, it’s not hard to see why Seoul, with its 12 million people, numerous skyscrapers and bustling industry has taken a place among the world’s more heralded cities.

However, the fact that Koreans are making huge strides at break-neck pace has been a source of concern for some and led to a sense of growing animosity among many students and labor unions against the government.

For foreigners here, the question is, “Why is a country that has a democratic system and is outwardly much better off than their communist siblings to the north, experiencing such a growing feeling of unrest?”

That’s the answer I sought when I visited four Korean universities recently. I did not quite know what to expect. For sure, it wasn’t to walk smack into the middle of a violent student-police clash.

My first stop was at Kyong-Hee University. There, Kim, Young Woo, 24, a history major, was a moderate who felt that the extremely radical students are relatively small in number, especially considering Seoul’s dense population.

“These students feel Korea can take care of its own matters, including defense, without any help from the United States. The radical students don’t necessarily hate Americans, but they simply want full control of their country.” Kim did make it clear that most Korean people wish to remain an ally of the United States.

“We don’t really feel the United States interferes with our country, per say, but many Korean people want to be completely independent,” Kim said. “Personally, I’m not quite sure we are ready for that yet.”

“North Korea is not very far from here, and many of us feel the threat of invasion is possible at any time. Our military is not large enough to protect us.”

Although Kim feels the ROK benefits greatly from the US presence here, he explained that the average Korean citizen feels we are having a negative impact on Korean culture.

“The heavy western influence the military brings here is causing the Korean people to lose some of their culture and traditions,” he said.

Choi, Boo-Kil, 25, also a history student at the university, has a somewhat different view of things. Choi fulfilled his two years of mandatory military duty as a riot patrolman. Prior to that, he was a student who participated in many demonstrations. As a policeman, he was on the other end.

“It was very hard for me to break up student demonstrations because sometimes my friends were in the crowd. And now, sometimes my friends are among the policeman breaking up the protests. So for me, as with many other students, I’m caught in the middle.”

Both Kim and Choi stated they are not too actively involved in politics and are more interested in succeeding in their studies.

“Most students just want to do well in school,” Kim said. “When other students demonstrate and the police come, it just makes it harder for us to go to school. I’m worried about Korea’s future, but I’m also worried about mine. I don’t have time to worry about the politicians and there’s not much I can do about them anyway.”

My biggest surprise came while visiting Dankook University. While walking up a wide walkway with high, brick walls on each side, a large group of students came running in my direction throwing rocks and fire bombs. When I turned to escape, and even larger group of riot patrolman had appeared and were coming from behind firing tear gas and wielding batons. I had nowhere to run. Before I knew it, I was swept up into the crowd of demonstrators.

I backed up against one of the walls and watched the clash. The students were throwing things and yelling anti-government slogans, while the police wore gas masks and pushed against the crowd with their shields. Tear gas was fired and the entire confrontation was dispersed almost instantaneously. The entire event lasted approximately five minutes and, while it seemed to be happening almost in slow motion, it seemed like it all took place in all of five seconds.

That was my opportunity to flee as well. I ran quickly, albeit with burning eyes and throat, and very runny nose.

Next stop: Dongguk University. After my experience at Dankook, I was a little nervous. Upon my arrival, the atmosphere was very peaceful, but the objective was the same. There were groups of students sitting in circles holding up flags and singing quietly amongst themselves. There were some anti-government messages painted on the sidewalks and homemade signs, but, for the most part, things were quiet here.

Na, Geum Sang, a cultural science major, said in general, Korean people like Americans and most of the problems in Korea are internal.

“American people have very good manners. We like Americans and their sense of humor. You are very interesting to us,” he said. “The students here don’t want trouble. We like our schools and don’t feel violence is the way to solve any problems.”

When I visited Dangun University, things were fairly normal. Students were going about their business, oblivious to the outside world. Some were simply studying under a tree while others were tossing baseballs back and forth. A few art students were working on their latest paintings and still others were watching a Korean dance group polish its act.

Of the four universities I visited, I saw the various extremes from radical to nonchalant. But in all, I thought it was a very good experience. The people I saw were young – and clearly the future of Korea.

I also saw a county whose future leaders were struggling for an identity, forged out of the past, present and future.

Whether Americans agree with the students’ point of view is irrelevant, according to one student.

However, he did ask that we try to understand their need to exercise their liberties.

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