GYERYONG, REPUBLIC OF KOREA -- The U.S. Army's Eighth Army was awarded the Republic of Korea RoK Presidential Unit Citation Oct. 1, for outstanding performance in defense of the RoK over the past year.

RoK President Park Geun-hye presented the award to Eighth Army Commander Lt. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux during the opening ceremony of the RoK Ground Forces Festival at RoK Army Headquarters in Gyeryong, South Korea.

"I am truly honored to have accepted this award on behalf of all Soldiers and Civilians in Eighth Army, said Champoux. "We are grateful to maintain the legacy of the generations of men and women who have served side by side with our ROK partners in the common defense of the Republic of Korea."

The award recognizes organizations that make a substantial contribution to the national security and defense of the ROK. Park recognized Eighth Army due to a number of accomplishments that have enhanced the readiness of both RoK and U.S. units.

These accomplishments include the 2nd Infantry Division's integration of RoK Army units, including more than 200 RoK Army Soldiers, into rotations at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, CA this past June. This was the first-ever deployment of RoK forces to a U.S. combat training center, and sends a clear and unmistakable message that the RoK - U.S. alliance is stronger than ever.

Through annual training exercises like Key Resolve (KR), Foal Eagle, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, ROK and US forces continue to increase their interoperability and strengthen the alliance. Most recently, during KR 2014, an annual joint-combined exercise, Eighth Army spearheaded efforts to develop, establish and maintain the operational readiness of three distinct command posts to solidify a combined, effective mission command structure with the RoK Mission Command.

As Eighth Army continues to work with its RoK allies to enhance the defense posture in Korea, this 'Trinity of Mission Command,' will form the foundation of the command structure on the Korean peninsula and greatly improve synchronization between RoK and U.S. units. A new initiative known as the ROK-U.S. Combined Division is set to integrate Korean and U.S. military personnel into one organization in 2015.

Other accomplishments leading to this recognition include the establishment of a rotational Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron and a Combined Arms Brigade in Korea, as well as greater integration of RoK and U.S. Army intelligence units and greatly improved interoperability of tactical communications networks.

The award was issued to the 2nd Infantry Division in 2011, and the 7th Air Force in 2013, for their respective efforts in support of the common defense of the Korean peninsula.

During the ceremony, Park underscored the importance of the selfless service and sacrifice the men and women who serve in the alliance make every day in defense of the Republic of Korea.
"For the past 66 years, the armed forces have fulfilled their duties of safeguarding lives and defending the nation. Though founded under awful conditions with a meager arsenal of weapons, our armed forces have protected the nation by surmounting countless crises and challenges, including the Korean War, and have prevailed with an indomitable spirit."