CAMP WALKER, South Korea -- Gen. Walter L. Sharp, United States Forces Korea commander, visited Camp Walker May 19 to speak with leaders from around Area IV. Area IV leadership gathered at the Camp Walker Evergreen Community Club for Sharp’s forums.
Sharp, Combined Forces Command commander and United Nations Command commander, took time to visit Area IV before he relinquishes command to Gen. James Thurman, current U.S. Army Forces Command commanding general.
Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Harvey, 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command commanding general, honored Sharp by introducing him to the attendees and talking about his many achievements, assignments and battles.
Sharp began the forum by updating everyone about the current status between north and South Korea in reference to U.S. Forces.
“We want to make sure we’re prepared for quick responses, which we’re working through some details, and continue to refine our plans and to exercise them in case things ramp up, Sharp said.
“I really do believe (the ROK-U.S. alliance) is the strongest it’s ever been, and I don’t know another alliance that is stronger than the ROK-U.S. alliance is right now.”
Sharp assumed his current assignment June 3, 2008, and since then, has worked closely with the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, through several national incidents.
“Under his command, we’ve made great strides in interoperability with the Korean military and the eventual future transfer of operational control of military forces to the Republic of Korea,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Battles, 19th ESC G-1.
Also during his command in Korea, Sharp dealt with the sinking of the Cheonan ship off South Korea’s west coast by a north Korean torpedo March 26, 2010. North Korea also shot artillery rounds at Yeonpyeong Island, also off South Korea’s west coast Nov. 23, 2010.
The Yeonpyeong Island bombardment was the first offensive on South Korean territory that caused civilian casualties since the Korean War ended with an armistice in 1953.
Sharp then talked about issues concerning U.S. Soldiers in South Korea, such as tour normalization and command sponsorship.
“I argue that if you have troops that are here for two or three years instead of one year at a time, the capability in units just increases astronomically. I’ve seen it happen here,” Sharp said.
“I think (tour normalization) also greatly shows to north Korea, to China and to the Republic of Korea that we’re here for the long run.”
Sharp elaborated that command sponsorship will certainly help reduce stress for Soldiers, as well as their families.
In 2008, there were 1,800 command sponsored families, and now there are 4,200 sponsored families peninsula-wide.
Sharp briefed the audience on how strong and steady the ROK-U.S. alliance is and will be for the future.
“You have a mission and a job in a location that has vital national interest to the U.S., which is to keep this place secure and stable,” Sharp said.
At the end of the meetings, all attendees gave Sharp a standing ovation.
“It was great for him to come down and visit the military community here in Daegu to give an assessment of how transformation is going, and also have a chance to talk to the Soldiers in preparation of his change of command this summer,” Battles said. “I believe Gen. Sharp has enhanced relationships with not only the Korean government, but also with the Korean military.”