The commander of the 2nd Infantry Division banned alcohol and instituted other restrictions after a number of misconduct incidents in South Korea. Above, about 5,000 soldiers from the 2nd ID form a human version of its Indian-head patch at Indian-Head Stage Field on Camp Casey, South Korea, in 2009. (Maj. Vance Fleming / Army)
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The 10,000 soldiers assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea can not drink alcohol and their three- and four-day passes have been terminated following several incidents of misconduct in recent weeks.
The restrictions, announced March 18 by Maj. Gen. Edward Cardon, commanding general of the 2nd Infantry Division, are in place indefinitely, officials said.
“The 10,000 soldiers of the division serve with honor and professionalism,” Cardon said in a statement. “However, recent acts of indiscipline by 10 soldiers have undermined the overall readiness of the command and impacted our relationship with our South Korean neighbors.”
Cardon’s actions follow a St. Patrick’s Day weekend where five soldiers were involved in a knife fight and two others were involved in separate early-morning fights with South Korean police.
“I am very concerned by these recent incidents,” Cardon said. “We will not tolerate our 60-year-plus relationship being tarnished by the inappropriate behavior of 10 soldiers.”
American soldiers are subject to South Korean law, and the Army will continue to cooperate with local authorities relating to these incidents, Cardon said.
“Pending the outcomes of the investigations and actions of the [South Korean] justice system, these soldiers will be processed for possible elimination from the United States Army,” he said.
In addition, he said, all 10,000 soldiers assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea are subject to the following restrictions:
Suspension of alcohol consumption.
Termination of all three- and four-day weekend passes.
A complete review of the pass policy.
A review of all soldiers who have had past misconduct.
Training on responsible conduct.
Leadership seminars that will focus on discipline and its relationship to readiness.
The division also will review all training and risk assessment measures to ensure “the overall readiness of the command given heightened tensions,” Cardon said.
The Army has about 19,000 soldiers stationed in South Korea. About 10,000 of those are assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division, and the rest are assigned to subordinate units belonging to Eighth Army and U.S. Forces-Korea.
On March 16, five soldiers and a spouse were involved in an altercation with a South Korean club owner in the Dongducheon Entertainment District, which features restaurants, clubs, and clothing and souvenir shops. The district includes “a small number” of clubs that have been and remain off-limits to U.S. soldiers, officials said.
The soldiers, a staff sergeant, three specialists and a private, belonged to the division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team.
Three of the soldiers were injured when the club owner stabbed them with a knife. Another was injured when he was hit in the head with a baseball bat.
One soldier was seriously injured, suffering a stab wound to the abdomen. He was flown to U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan for surgery and is in intensive care, officials said March 20.
The other two soldiers who were stabbed, one in the buttocks and the other in the hand, were treated and released. The soldier who was hit in the head also was treated and released.
The club owner was arrested by the Korean National Police, and the soldiers are being made available for interviews as part of a joint South Korean and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command investigation, officials said.
The next day, March 17, one soldier shoved a South Korean police officer who subsequently fell down some stairs, and another soldier struck a police officer, the Stars and Stripes, citing 2nd Infantry Division officials, reported.
Stripes also reported that half a dozen soldiers from the division recently were accused of harassing a South Korean woman on a subway train near Uijeongbu.
On March 2, three soldiers assigned to Headquarters Battalion, Eighth Army, were said to have been firing a soft air gun in a congested area of the Itaewon district adjacent to the U.S. base at Yongsan.
South Korean police tried to stop the soldiers, but the Americans left in a vehicle that was subsequently chased by a South Korean police officer in a taxi, officials said.
The soldiers were eventually cornered in an alley, and as they tried to escape, a South Korean police officer fired four shots — one blank and three live rounds — at their vehicle. One of the soldiers was hit, and the police officer was hit by the fleeing vehicle.
The soldier who was injured was treated on post at Yongsan and has since been released.
In response to these events, Col. Andrew Mutter, spokesman for Eighth Army, released a statement on March 18.
“We are aware and concerned by recent incident involving our service members,” he said. “In every case, we have and are continuing to fully cooperate with local law enforcement officials.”
In addition, “we are taking deliberate measures and actions to address all acts of misconduct and inappropriate behavior,” Mutter said.
“Our soldiers have a very good track record and have earned the trust and respect of the Korean people over the last 60 years,” Mutter said. “The great majority of our 10,000 [2nd Infantry Division] soldiers conduct themselves with pride and honor, but unfortunately it is the .01 percent that get the attention. We expect all of our soldiers to be ambassadors of the United States at all times.”