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Hinesville native throws first pitch at KBO game
Lt. Col. Jason Luckey,
Lt. Col. Jason Luckey, a Hinesville native, throws out the first pitch at a KBO game. Photo by Sgt. Shawnee Vercammen/1st Signal Brigade

By Monee Luckey, Special to the Courier.

On September 21, the Suwon KT Wiz invited Lt. Col. Jason Luckey to throw the ceremonial first pitch of the game. The Suwon KT Wiz is a baseball club in the Korean Baseball Organization, the highest league of professional baseball in South Korea. They won the Korean Series in 2021. KT Wiz honored Lt. Col. Luckey for his family’s history of service in Korea.

Lt. Col. Luckey, commander of 304th Expeditionary Signal Battalion-Enhanced in Camp Humphreys, South Korea, is a native of Hinesville’s Azalea Street community. He has served a total of six and a half years in South Korea. He comes from a military family to include both close and distant relatives. His father served 24 years in the U.S. Army, eight of which were served in the South Korea. Additionally, his grandfather served 17 months during the Korean War.

Following the Korean National Anthem, Lt. Col. Luckey shared with the crowd that he was honored to be there, and he hopes the team wins another Korean Series this year. Fans cheered him on as the team mascots escorted him to the pitcher’s mound. Sgt. Maj. Youngjae Kim, Republic of Korea Army sergeant major assigned to the 1st Signal Brigade, took the ceremonial first at bat.

“I’ve always known I would join the military. I’ve valued service and held pride for my family’s contributions to our nation’s defense,” said Lt. Col. Luckey. “I view it as a privilege, a responsibility, and a reward to honor our service and carry on the legacy.”

Career parallels

Lt. Col. Luckey’s father, retired Lt. Col. Keith Cromartie, first arrived to Korea in 1979 after serving as a platoon leader in the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. At that time, he served as an infantry company commander within the 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey, South Korea. In 1987, he returned to Korea serving as the deputy commander for the United Nations Command - Security Battalion at the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom. Finally in 1999, Lt. Col. Cromartie served in the 8th Army G1 as a staff officer.

Seven years later, Lt. Col. Luckey began a similar career path in South Korea. He served a three-and-a-half-year tour in the 210th Fires Brigade at Camp Casey, first as battalion S6 for 6-37th Field Artillery, next as the commander in 579th Signal Company, and later as the battalion S3 for the 70th Brigade Support Battalion. In 2020, Lt. Col. Luckey returned to Korea, serving as the deputy G6 on the 8th Army staff before assuming battalion command in 2022.

“I’m very proud Jason chooses to continue to serve and excel in his Army career,” said Lt. Col. Cromartie. “It’s special that we both served as company commanders at Camp Casey and served on Eighth Army staff. I look forward to watching his career blossom.”

The Korean War

Lt. Col. Luckey’s grandfather, Sgt. 1st Class James Luckey, was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. He began his 17-month combat tour on the Korean peninsula in August 1950. During his deployment, he served as a wrecker crew section chief. His role was to recover disabled tanks during battle. Records show that his unit, the 57th Ordnance Recovery Company, conducted operations as far north as Pyongyang. He departed South Korea in January 1952. Sgt. 1st Class Luckey retired from the military in April 1966 and later retired from the Hinesville Department of Public Works in the late 1980s.

“Stories of my grandfather’s travels around the world to include Africa and Europe during WWII and Korea had a big impact on my desire to serve overseas,” said Lt. Col. Luckey.

Impact with the Korean Army Lt. Col. Luckey has made impacts with the Korean military as well. He commands more than 500 U.S. and Korean soldiers. His battalion is assigned 36 Korean soldiers serving under the Korean Augmentees to the U.S. Army (KATUSA) program. The Korean soldiers are fully integrated into the unit. They train with the unit, live alongside U.S. soldiers, and are prepared to fight shoulder to shoulder with the unit if called to do so.

Lt. Col. Luckey served as the keynote speaker during a KATUSA Expiration of Term of Service (ETS) ceremony at Camp Humphreys in December 2022. The ETS ceremony celebrates the completion of the Korean soldiers’ 18-month conscribed service obligation. He encouraged the soldiers to take pride in their service and the bond they created. He also offered his appreciation for their service to the Republic of Korea (ROK)-United States (US) Alliance.

In August, Lt. Col. Luckey led a team of commanders and first sergeants on a visit with the Korean Defense Language Institute (KDLI). Principal topics of discussion with KDLI leaders and students were leadership, service, and U.S. Army culture. The KDLI is a language training and research center within the Korean Joint Forces Military University. It is dedicated to training officers and non-commissioned officers from 20 countries to cultivate their language skills, promote international military exchange, and develop pro-Korean sentiment.

Lt. Col. Luckey’s choice to serve falls in line with his family’s military service in the U.S. Army. As he reflects on 27 years of service, he remains committed to the nation and to ROKU. S. alliance.

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