Area I Command Perspective

By Col. Jack HaefnerJune 24, 2015

Col. Jack Haefner
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

CAMP RED CLOUD -- It's been only a few days since that bright, hazy Friday morning when on April 24 we saw a change in the command of the 2nd Infantry Division during an impressive ceremony on Camp Casey's Indianhead Field.

With the massed formations of the 2nd Infantry Division drawn up behind their guidons, and with the sounds of the 2nd Infantry Division Band carrying across the long green parade ground, Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal, who had been the Warrior Division's Commanding General for the past 22 months, relinquished command to Maj. Gen. Theodore D. "Ted" Martin.

But though the leadership of the Warrior Division has changed as scheduled, the mission of our garrison to support the division by being the readiness platform that provides them vital facilities and services, is unchanged. We hold fast to this mission, day and night, to help them stay "Ready to Fight Tonight" in defense of the Republic of Korea.

We make sure the Warrior Division and our other tenant units have what they need -- electricity, water, well-maintained roads, motor pools, barracks and other buildings. We provide shopping, recreational facilities and other services Soldiers, civilians and family members need day-to day.

That is and will continue to be our mission: supporting the warfighters of the 2nd Infantry Division.

For them, and for us, Area I is now moving through an especially important time: the so-called "transformation" process that began under Maj. Gen. Vandal and will now continue apace under Maj. Gen. Martin.

Under transformation, the U.S. Army will eventually move out of Area I and head south to a new home now being prepared for it at Camp Humphreys.

We look forward to working with Maj. Gen. Martin and to giving him and the Warrior Division the same unstinting support we've provided while Maj. Gen. Vandal commanded the division. And we're also excited that we'll soon be supporting newly arrived rotational brigades and other units that will become part of the Warrior Country family.

We have a lot to be thankful for in the nearly two years of Maj. Gen. Vandal's leadership in Warrior Country.

For his commitment to the division's readiness, to the well-being and resilience of Soldiers, family members and civilians; and for the concern he showed for our civilian workforce and our Korean employees, friends and neighbors.

His is a robust legacy that has laid the groundwork for the division -- and with it -- our garrison community, to move through the next very important stages of the transformation process.

One clear example of that legacy is a program he initiated called "Think Twice." It kicked off last November and its purpose is to encourage Soldiers to put their time into those things that will benefit them and the U.S.-South Korea military alliance now and in the future. It encourages Soldiers to "Think Twice" about the decisions they make, and especially to behave responsibly and be good ambassadors in their actions when out among the Korean public.

Also a distinct part of Maj. Gen. Vandal's leadership was his emphasis on encouraging Soldiers to explore the rich cultural and recreational opportunities that Korea offers.

In that connection, he played a major role in obtaining permission for Soldiers new to Korea to immediately use Tuition Assistance to pay for classes in Korean language and culture, without having to wait the one-year usually required before use of TA is allowed. (This exception to policy also applies to Soldiers stationed in Japan).

By throwing his considerable influence behind seeking this change to the Tuition Assistance rules, eligible Soldiers can now better understand and be sensitive to Korea's traditions and customs, something that will also help them be even better ambassadors to our Korean hosts.

For Soldiers looking for something good to do with their weekends, Maj. Gen. Vandal reinvigorated friendly athletic competition through two programs: "Friday Night Lights" in volleyball and boxing on Fridays, and in the "Saturday Night Fights" combatives matches.

Part of Maj. Gen. Vandal's aim was to help Soldiers focus on doing things that allow them personal and professional growth. This meant making the most of the recreational, educational and other programs our own garrison maintains in support of our Warrior Country Soldiers, civilians and family members.

In addition, it was Maj. Gen. Vandal who saw the Commander's Cup Competition -- a long-standing Army event -- as being especially important to the morale, esprit and unit cohesion of a division at the "tip of the spear" and always in readiness to defend the Republic of Korea. He breathed new life into the program, rapidly transforming it into the robust, high-profile friendly competition it has since become in Warrior Country.

Moreover, throughout his time as the Warrior Division's Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Vandal gave continuous strong support for the well-being of Warrior Country's Soldiers and Airmen, as well as for our own garrison's Soldiers, civilians, and Korean employees in their daily endeavor is to support the warfighter.

Maj. Gen. Vandal has moved to a new assignment in Seoul. But his forceful commitment to honing combat readiness, to aiding the personal and professional growth of our Soldiers, to furthering the good relations between our Soldiers and our Korean hosts, and his continual efforts to foster resilience and quality of life among all members of our Area I community, are a legacy that will benefit us and our Alliance, now and well into the future.

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