19 April, 2022
“To be honest, it came as a bit of shock when I got it.” He’s New Zealand’s Senior Non-Commissioned Officer at UNC Headquarters. He’s been there four months out of six; his successor will do a 12-month posting. “I’ve worked in multi-national environments before so I was naturally interested in it, but I didn’t get my hopes too high.”
United Nations Command, established in 1950, is based at Camp Humphreys, a United States garrison of around 30,000 personnel south of Seoul. It is comprised of military personnel from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States. Its basic objective is enforcing the terms of the Armistice Agreement between North and South Korea.
WOCT McKeich reports to a United States Army Colonel and acts as a Senior Enlisted Adviser to a Major General. He represents the voice, culture and concerns of the enlisted personnel to Command, and brings the perspective of the enlisted personnel to support the mission of UNC. He also ensures his boss learns as many Kiwi colloquialisms as he can.
“I take every opportunity to add value and identify areas where we can support the UNC position from a Senior NCO perspective,” he says.
It means representing the UNC at multinational meetings and events. “One of my fondest memories to date was being asked to join ten United States E9’s [the highest enlisted US rank] at a Keystone learning event at the Korean Combat Training Centre (KCTC). We formed a panel that was attended by a few hundred Junior NCOs and was live-streamed across several South Korean military bases. What struck me the most was, as we got off the bus, I was literally mobbed. It was the first time they had seen, let alone interacted with a New Zealand Senior NCO.”
A month later, among E9s from the United States and Korea, he was asked to deliver a presentation on the UNCs past, present and priorities for the year, in front of General Paul LaCamera, Commander of UNC.
He’s now in a routine where the KCTC events happening twice a month, where he and other E9s continue the learning events for Korean E9s and junior NCOs. He’s also helped develop a mentorship programme, been a panel member on quarterly awards, organised ceremonial events and helped to develop policy.
“Naturally it hasn’t been all work. Before the weather got to the point where it is at now (-12 this morning) I got up to Camp BONIFAS and managed to get a few golf shots away on the ‘world’s most dangerous golf hole’.” He’s describing a 192-yard par-3 fairway 500 yards south of the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. A sliced shot could end up in a minefield.
“To say the first four months have flown by would be an understatement. Even though we haven’t been able to see as much of South Korea as we would have liked due to COVID, the work has been fantastic and extremely rewarding. The Kiwi contingent are a great bunch and are representing and flying the New Zealand flag in their various positions across the organisation with pride and professionalism.”
His final thought is to the ‘homefront’ – his wife Kimberly, and the 10th wedding anniversary they can’t be together for. “See you soon!”