5 female officers pass SWC training

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5 female officers pass SWC training

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Five noncommissioned female officers from the Army Special Warfare Command pose for a photo after their successful 400-kilometer march, which lasted from Nov. 13 to 20. Provided by the Army Special Warfare Command

The Army Special Warfare Command’s 400-kilometer march (about 250 miles) is often called “training from hell” by soldiers, who must walk through all kinds of hazardous conditions, from blizzards to heavy rain, and endure a lack of food and blistered feet.

But what is intended to raise the military’s operation capabilities sometimes ends with soldiers dying midway, like in 1998 when six soldiers froze to death during winter training.

Participating soldiers are required to finish the training in a week, which includes walking 60 to 70 kilometers per day without sleep.

History was made last month, however, when five noncommissioned female officers completed the long-distance exercise on Nov. 20, the first time a female officer in the Special Warfare Command (SWC) has ever passed the training.

The five female survivors were Shin Ye-seul and Min Ju-won of the 1st Special Forces Brigade; Kim Si-on and Kim Hong-ji of the 3rd Special Forces Brigade; and Ko Da-eun of the 9th Special Forces Brigade.

“My knee pain gradually worsened, and from time to time, I thought I couldn’t make it,” said Kim Si-won. “But my fellow soldiers were my source of energy.”

Ko said her mind was focused on the single goal of making it in the special forces.

When asked which part of the training was the hardest, all five answered that the fourth and fifth days were the most trying, saying they walked almost unconsciously during that time.

“I’m going to think back to this 400-kilometer march every time I face a dead end in the future,” said Min, who has pledged to become the country’s best special forces soldier.

Chun In-bum, commander of the SWC, explained that the five female soldiers have boosted the team’s morale, as “lesser soldiers gave up midway” in the November march.

Generally, 10 to 30 percent of the soldiers in a unit drop out, Chun said.

The five women were accompanied by around 120 military personnel who successfully finished the program. In regard to the women, Chun said their performance “showed the rising competence of female soldiers [in recent training operations].”

BY YOO SEONG-WOON [selee@joongang.co.kr]

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