THERE are many Soldiers-those on active duty and those who come back to the Army as civil servants-who return for duty in Korea. As they drive up to the front gate of Camp Casey, they are immediately aware of the transformation. "Wow, things have changed. This is nothing like it used to be," is a typical reaction.

The shock-and-awe effect is not lost on Red Cloud Garrison's commander, Col. Larry "Pepper" Jackson.

"There have been so many changes in Red Cloud Garrison, for the folks who have just arrived, you will have to realize that the folks who have been here for the past three to four years are the ones who truly paved the way for all the new things you see here right now," Jackson said while addressing a crowd of Soldiers and their Family members during a community town hall meeting.

When the Army set a standard of support for all garrisons, no matter the location of the garrison, and called it tour normalization, the Soldiers and civilians of those garrisons were called upon to begin the work. Four years prior to tour normalization, South Korea's once gritty "Area I," now dubbed Red Cloud Garrison (which comprises not only Red Cloud, but Camp Casey, Camp Stanley, Camps Mobile, Castle, Castle North, Hovey, Jackson and Kwangsari), was a non-command-sponsored duty area where Soldiers spent a one-year "hardship tour." At the direction of the Pentagon, these individuals turned the situation around under Jackson's leadership and invited Soldiers, civilians and retirees to bring their Families and live fully supported, as they would in any Army garrison in the world.

When Jackson took command June 26, 2007, he started the ball rolling on a continuous schedule of renovation and construction. Although Red Cloud Garrison is not given any resources for new construction, all the renovation construction is fully funded.

"Three or four years ago this was a dependent-restricted area," Jackson said. "If one of you had mentioned to me as a garrison commander, 'Hey Col. Pepper Jackson, I want a kindergarten through grade-eight school,' I would say, 'I don't think that will happen.' Or, 'Col. Jackson are we going to have a daycare center'' I would probably have said, 'Unlikely.' But now we have child youth services programs and more coming in the near future.

"Recently, I have enjoyed seeing the fruits of our labor, speaking of the folks who have been here for the past three years. All the things that have come about really have come from your voices, so all of you within the sound of my voice, don't think you don't make a difference. You make a huge difference."

Seven years ago in what was Area I, there were seven services and they were spread out all over the area.

"What was amazing," Jackson said, "was watching so many young ladies with baby carriages having to push those carriages from one building on one side of the post to get something done, to another across the way on the other side of post to get something else done. So we got smart about it and consolidated seven services right next to our new lodge and bus station on Red Cloud Garrison."

Services for Families living within the footprint of Red Cloud Garrison are growing as fast as the renovation and construction projects are completed.

After passing through the drive-in gates on Casey or passing through the walk-in gate, the first thing you will see is many square acres of new renovation and construction. Taking the first left from the gate will bring you to the new Department of Defense Education Activity School, which will educate more than 300 kindergarten through eighth-grade children.

Standing just north of the Gateway Club, heralded the "Best Club in the Army," in 2009, is the middle of "downtown Casey," as Jackson is fond of saying.

There you will see the new child development center building, the Child Youth Center, the Army Community Center, and Maude Hall, a lodging facility. These new services are bringing the garrison into the 21st century under Army tour normalization.

"I am really proud of all the things we have been able to accomplish," Jackson said. "We take care of our own here in Warrior Country, and we cannot rest on our laurels. There is so much more to do here because what we are really trying to do for us, the 2nd Infantry Division Soldiers, civilians and all the folks who work here, is bridge this gap of five years until we get to Humphreys.

"In the meantime, I'm going to make sure we live in the same quality of life you would find on any other garrison anywhere in the world."

<i>Jim Cunningham works for USAG-Red Cloud public affairs.</i>

Page last updated Tue July 27th, 2010 at 18:03