By Mr. David Mcnally (RDECOM)September 7, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Walter Sharp paid an official visit to the U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan community Friday, Sept. 5 speaking with residents and touring renovated family housing.
Gen. Sharp held a town hall meeting for about 45 minutes at Commiskey's Restaurant with about 70 representatives from K-16 Air Base, Hannam Village, all Yongsan Garrison housing areas, all services, officers and enlisted, Civilian Employees and Family Members.
The general pointed out that quality of life is one of his top three priorities.
"As part of the quality of life initiative, we're looking at several things," Sharp said. "First, is to make sure that the facilities that we have now are taken care of and they are of the quality that our Servicemembers and their Families deserve."
The commander said they are working that issue at the same time they are building new facilities at enduring installations.
USAG-Yongsan is the largest U.S. military community in Korea. With more than 25,000 Americans, the community is the central hub for events and activities for all outlying communities. However, the Garrison is not an enduring installation. Under the Yongsan Relocation Plan, most of the Garrison will close by 2012.
"The other part of quality of life is to make sure that we are moving toward where all Servicemembers can be over here on normal accompanied three-year tours if they're married or have family members," Sharp said. "It's like that at many other places around the world. It is our goal here. That is supported by our Secretary of Defense and the President, and we're starting to move toward that."
The general said the region must first be prepared to accommodate the additional command-sponsored families.
"I can't just have families all come over here and not have the facilities that we need and that the families deserve in order to be over here for three-years accompanied," he said. "So, all those threads are working closely together in order to make Korea the station of choice, and I'm very encouraged by the progress that I've seen thus far."
During the town hall meeting, Sharp received questions about command sponsorship, medical facilities, transportation issues, and even Army and Air Force Exchange Service topics. Garrison Commander Col. Dave Hall responded to local issues; however, Gen. Sharp promised to get back to each person with additional details within one month.
The general and his wife reside at Yongsan Garrison; however, he visited many other installations in Korea before taking a formal tour here.
"My impression of Yongsan is that it is a great community," Sharp said. "It is a community that is serving me as the commander very well. I think that the quality of life here is great - great high school ... great facilities across the board."