After graduating high school in San Diego, CA, Lawrence Dumpit attended the University of California from 1981-1985 before enlisting on October 14, 1986. After basic infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia, Lawrence Dumpit left for Osan Air Force Base. His 1st Battalion Final 3rd Infantry 503rd Infantry Regiment known as the “First Rock” would be stationed at Camp Casey near Tongduchon (just south of the DMZ) as a Korean Defense Veteran. Lawrence Dumpit served two tours in Korea as an anti-armor section leader from May 1997-2000 and then as a member of a mechanized tank unit from May 2004 to October 2008. He shared the relationship the US enlisted soldiers built with the draftees of the Korean military as they worked through their understanding of rank, and the respect towards those who earned that status. Although their units were outfitted with the latest military gear, he could empathize with the Korean War soldiers who had to deal with the treacherous mountains, bitter cold winters, and impassable muddy conditions during monsoon season. During his tours, he was encouraged to immerse himself in the Korean culture, exploring foods, customs, and building relationships with the local people.
Impact: Economic & Military Relations with Korea
Lawrence Dumpit described the economic impact Korea has had on the US and its boom in technology throughout the 1990s. He mentioned that even on base at Miramar in San Diego, soldiers had a lot of LG and Samsung products which were made in Korea. He observed that there are a lot of cars on the road today that were manufactured in Korea (Hyundai, Kia).
Training and Protecting South Korea
Lawrence Dumpit went from bootcamp to Osan Air Force Base and went North to Camp Casey in Korea. This was located near Dongducheon and his duties were to destroy enemy tanks. For this first tour in Korea, he was there from 1997 to May 2000.
Prior Knowledge of the Korean War
From 2004 to 2008, Lawrence Dumpit's second tour, was filled with working with tanks on the ground. This was a change from the first tour in 1997. He didn't know a lot about Korea before he was stationed there, but he did know about the war because he learned about it during school.
First Impressions of Korea in 1997 and Korean Culture
Lawrence Dumpit was not a lot to go off base when he went to Camp Casey until he was given a one-week training about the Korean culture including the food, language, and civilians. The living conditions in Camp Casey were old WWII barracks because they were the oldest on the base and it was a lot better than the Koreans living in one room. He was paid 3,000 dollars a month.
South Korean Soldiers Work With US Troops
Lawrence Dumpit worked with South Korean soldiers, but they were not professional soldiers because they were drafted into the military. Therefore, many of the soldiers were not as professional as the US troops. The Korean soldiers made rank, but the US soldiers felt that they didn't earn it, so this started some problems with the US troops.