Troops in Korea look out­ward

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security - BY RICHARD HALLORAN

PYEONG­TAEK, South Korea | The cold wind sweeps down from the Siberian steppes across Manchuria and onto the Korean Penin­sula, brush­ing over a wide ex­panse of rice pad­dies on which is be­ing built a mas­sive U.S. mil­i­tary base. From here, ex­pe­di­tions could be launched to any hot spot in Asia.

The con­ver­sion of Camp Humphreys, long a small iso­lated post, into the U.S. Army Gar­ri­son Humphreys over the next eight years will turn it, along with the nearby U.S. air base at Osan, into a hub in the con­sol­i­da­tion of U.S. forces in South Korea from the present 104 sites to 47 posts. Of the 28,500 U.S. troops re­main­ing in Korea af­ter re­cent re­duc­tions, 18,000 will be here and 5,600 in Osan.

The mis­sion of this gar­ri­son and the air base will be less fo­cused on the threat from North Korea, which can be met by South Korea’s in­creas­ingly strong forces, and more on threats else­where in this re­gion.

“Our mis­sion is to pro­vide the Army the in­stal­la­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties and ser­vices to sup­port ex­pe­di­tionary op­er­a­tions in a time of per­sis­tent con­flict,” said David Frod­sham, a se­nior civil­ian of­fi­cial over­see­ing the gar­ri­son’s ex­pan­sion.

The project will cost $13 bil­lion, 90 per­cent of which is be­ing funded by South Korea to per­suade the United States to keep its troops here. If the U.S. ever de­cides to with­draw those forces, the South Kore­ans will in­herit the mod­ern base.

Th­ese changes are part of a re­align­ment of U.S. forces through­out the Pa­cific. Nearly half of the 17,000 Marines in Ok­i­nawa, Ja­pan, are to be moved to Guam. That cen­tral Pa­cific is­land, which is U.S. ter­ri­tory, is be­ing built into a ma­jor air and naval base. A small base in Sin­ga­pore is com­ing in for more use; U.S. forces train more in Aus­tralia; and the U.S. hopes some­day to gain ac­cess to In­done­sian bases.

Over the next few years, the head­quar­ters of the United Na­tions Com­mand, led by a U.S. fourstar gen­eral, will move here from Seoul, as will the head­quar­ters of U.S. Forces Korea and those of its Army, Navy, Marine Corps and spe­cial op­er­a­tions com­po­nents. The Air Force head­quar­ters is al­ready in Osan. The U.N. com­mand has been here since it fought the Korean War of 1950-53.

The Army’s 2nd In­fantry Divi­sion, its bri­gade com­bat team, ar­tillery he­li­copter, and other units will move from posts north of Seoul to this gar­ri­son 55 miles south of Seoul and 85 miles from the de­mil­i­ta­rized zone that di­vides North and South Korea. So will a long list of in­tel­li­gence, sig­nal, med­i­cal, en­gi­neer­ing and lo­gis­tics units.

The date around which many moves are planned is April 2012, when South Korea as­sumes war­time op­er­a­tional con­trol of its forces now un­der a com­bined U.S.-South Korea com­mand. That will free U.S. forces to con­cen­trate on con­tin­gency plans else­where. South Korea al­ready has peace­time op­er­a­tional con­trol of its troops.

In Pyeong­taek, U.S. Army en­gi­neers have un­der­taken what they say is their largest project ever. The size of the post is to be tripled, to 3,600 acres. Be­cause the ex­pan­sion lies in a flood plain barely above sea level, the en­gi­neers have be­gun cov­er­ing it with dirt to raise the plain eight feet. It will be pro­tected by a levee 10 feet high. In all, it will take 1 mil­lion loads in dump trucks to com­plete the task.

The new post must ac­com­mo­date the troops, head­quar­ters, mo­tor pools and fir­ing ranges, plus 35,000 fam­ily mem­bers ex­pected here. Un­til now, troop tours in Korea have been for one year, un­ac­com­pa­nied by fam­i­lies. That is be­ing ex­tended to three years ac­com­pa­nied by fam­i­lies, which re­quires new hous­ing, schools, med­i­cal clin­ics, sports fields and movie the­aters.

The en­gi­neers are build­ing high-rise offices for com­man­ders, bar­racks for troops, and build­ings with spa­cious fam­ily apart­ments. That hous­ing, plus recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties that in­clude a gym with bas­ket­ball courts wor­thy of the pros, an Olympic swim­ming pool and world-class ex­er­cise equip­ment, are in­tended to make Pyeong­taek a choice as­sign­ment.


Camp Humphreys, a small, iso­lated Army post 85 miles from the de­mil­i­ta­rized zone di­vid­ing North and South Korea, is be­ing trans­formed into U.S. Army Gar­ri­son Humphreys. It will play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the con­sol­i­da­tion of U.S. forces in South Korea, sup­por ting ex­pe­di­tionar y op­er­a­tions through­out the re­gion as South Korean forces con­cen­trate on threats from North Korea.

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