While surfing the Internet today I came upon an article about Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré (pronounced ON-or-ay) who had retired from the U.S. Army this past January.
He is best known for serving as commander of Joint Task Force Katrina responsible for coordinating military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina-affected areas across the gulf coast. Sometimes known as the “Ragin’ Cajun,” Honoré literally stepped into the national and media limelight when New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said during a radio interview on September 1, 2005, “Now, I will tell you this—and I give the president some credit on this—he sent one John Wayne dude down here that can get some stuff done, and his name is [Lt.] Gen. [Russel] Honoré. And he came off the doggone chopper, and he started cussing and people started moving. And he’s getting some stuff done.”
I remembered seeing this on CNN back in 2005 and I nearly fell off my chair because in 2001, when Honoré was then commander of the Second Infantry Division (2ID) in Korea, I had the chance to interview him. I am grateful for the writing opportunities that I had for a few years when I was a feature writer for the Korea Times.
This article appeared in the Korea Times on July 15, 2001
“We Share a Great Alliance” – says 2ID Commander
By Jeffrey Miller, Feature Writer
CAMP RED CLOUD, Uijongbu, South Korea – It’s cool and rainy the day this writer travels north to Uijongbu and into what is known as “Warrior Country,” to have an interview with the commander of the 2nd Infantry Division (2ID), Maj. Gen. Russel L. Honoré.
Instead of waiting for me in his stuffy office, he waited outside at an adjacent patio. There, Honoré, with a cigar in one hand and a tomahawk in the other, was practicing for the “tomahawk-throwing contest” at this year’s “Warrior Olympics.”
His first throw just barely misses the bull’s-eye. His second throw hits the target dead on.
“Here, you give it a try,” said Honoré with a hint of a Creole accent as he hands the Korea Times reporter the tomahawk. “Just relax and release it when you’re ready.”
The first attempt misses not only the target, but bounces off the backdrop. And no better on the next two tries.
“You’re releasing it too soon,” said Honoré with the patience of a little league baseball coach. “I bet you by the time you leave here today you might get a bull’s-eye yourself.”
The tomahawk is an enduring image of Native American warriors and symbolic of their warrior spirit. Another enduring image and symbol of warrior spirit is the “Indianhead” division patch, which has been worn proudly by the 2ID soldiers on their uniforms since the end of WWI. Up here in Warrior Country, both the patch and the 2ID motto “Second to None,” manifest a proud military heritage.
Whether he’s talking about the mission here in Korea and “being prepared to fight tonight,” or serving as commander of the 2ID, it doesn’t take long to learn how proud Honoré is to be a part of the great ROK-U.S. alliance.
Be prepared to fight tonight. You hear that a lot up here, but this is not merely some gung-ho jargon or Spartan mentality. One has only to be reminded of the threat that has existed since the end of the Korean War, not to mention that the presence of U.S. troops on the peninsula has, for the past 50 years, contributed immensely to peace and stability on the peninsula as well as the region.
Honoré, a native of Lakeland, Louisiana, who began his distinguished military career in 1971 when he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, assumed the duties of commanding general of the 2ID last October. This is his second tour in Korea having served here with the 2ID in 1973. In addition to various stateside and overseas assignments, he also commanded a unit that was deployed to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
Serving up here in Warrior Country, Honoré, who sees the ROK-U.S. alliance day in and day out, is extremely proud to be a part of it.
“I’ll tell you right up front, there’s no daylight between the ROK Army and us,” he explained. “We are ‘katchi kapshida.’ We go together in everything that we do. We share a great alliance.”
Sharing this alliance also means cooperation and coordination, not only with the ROK Army, but with the ROK government as well. “We work with them, for them and beside them,” noted Honoré.
The division works closely with local governments, who have been very cooperative in the province, from the 17 different camps located there to the places where the division trains. It is a mission that both countries have shared since the end of the Korean War.
“There is a passion and a commitment to fulfill the great sacrifices of those who proceeded us by continuing to maintain the armistice and continuing to remind people that the cost of freedom is not free,” said Honoré.
Likewise, this total commitment is across the board. “We attend each other’s functions, we play sports together, and the ROK Army teaches us Taekwondo,” said Honoré.
Another example of the ROK – U.S. alliance is the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army (KATUSA) Soldier Program, initiated in July 1950, of which more than 2,000 play an essential role within the division. The objective of the KATUSA Soldier Program is to augment the 8th Army with ROK soldiers in order to increase the ROK – U.S. combined defense capability on the peninsula. It represents not only the commitment and cooperation to deter war, but is also symbolic of the ROK – U.S. friendship and mutual support. “They add an immense combat power to the division,” explained Honoré. “They also are a tremendous resource for our soldiers about Korea.”
Additionally, the KATUSAs play a vital role in communication with other ROK units. They give the division that capability at the platoon and company level to be able to communicate with their ROK counterparts. Without question, training and readiness are essential to the mission of any military unit. In Korea, though with soldiers on one-year tours as well as coordination and cooperation with the ROK Army, training is extremely important.
“We are in a constant training cycle. Soldiers come in as individuals. We have to build teams,” said Honoré. “Training is the cornerstone of what makes us ready to fight tonight.”