DoD lays groundwork for 'tour normalization' in Korea
December 11, 2008
SEOUL, Korea (Army News Service, Dec. 10, 2008) - At the request of the commander, U.S. Forces Korea, the Department of Defense has approved command sponsorship of families at two new locations in Korea and an increase in tour lengths for accompanied service members permanently assigned there.
The approval was granted in a memorandum signed by Dr. David Chu, the under secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness on Dec. 1 and will result in a change to the Joint Federal Travel Regulation. The services owe implementation plans to DoD by March 1.
"This was a huge step forward," said Gen. Walter Sharp, USFK commander.
"Accompanied tours at five locations (Pyeongtaek, Osan, Daegu, Chinhae, and Seoul) will increase from 24 months to 36 months while two additional locations (Dongducheon and Uijongbu) will allow 24-month accompanied tours," Sharp said. "Unaccompanied tours will remain at 12 months for all seven locations and 24 months for key personnel."
Rich Parker, USFK director for Force Structure, Resources, and Assessment (J8), said the change "will allow us to increase the number of service members in Korea accompanied on command-sponsored tours to 4,350 using mostly existing infrastructure.
"This will enable the command to target key and critical positions for the recruitment of service members to choose accompanied tours in summer 2009," Parker said. "This will keep them in place for the three years necessary to support OPCON transfer in April 2012," he said, referring to U.S. troops passing operational control of areas near the demilitarized zone and Seoul to South Korean forces.
Service members assigned to locations with limited facilities will be required to sign a memorandum acknowledging the exact services available at the installation prior to accepting command sponsorship of their families, USFK officials said.
As USFK moves forces to Camp Humphreys and expands infrastructure and services, this will allow the command to eventually increase the number of service members in Korea with sponsored families from about 2,135 today to about 14,250 when tour normalization is completed, officials said.
"It was critical that this request was approved because it codifies the Department of Defense's commitment to tour normalization for Korea," said Gen.Sharp. "We are going to do this right.
"This means that we will increase the number of service members coming over with their families on command-sponsored tours as we are able to upgrade infrastructure and services," Sharp said. "Our goal is to reach the point when the majority of U.S. service members can bring their families to Korea and stay for normal three-year tours."
(See related AFPS article,<a href="http://www.army.mil/-news/2008/12/11/15023-some-tour-lengths-in-south-korea-to-increase/index.html"target=_blank> "Some tour lengths in South Korea to increase."</a>