YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - The USAG-Yongsan community saw many positive changes in 2008. From dining facility and quarters renovations, to classroom construction and school improvements, the Garrison invested time and resources into community improvement.

"The Army recognized Yongsan as third place winners in the Army Communities of Excellence competition," said USAG-Yongsan Commander Col. Dave Hall. "To stand on that stage at the Pentagon and represent our great community in front of the senior Army leadership ... that was huge."

The victory brought the community an additional $750,000 to invest in quality of life projects. In November, the Army ACOE team again visited Yongsan to judge for next year's competition.

"In this next competition, we're in the top seven installations worldwide that they're looking at," Hall said. "Out of 179 installations, that says we live in a great community."

U.S. Forces Korea officials continued to push for tour normalization in 2008. An increase in command sponsorship authorizations meant USAG-Yongsan needed to prepare more classroom space. The Garrison unveiled a new classroom building for middle school students Aug. 22.

Around the post, Garrison workers opened a new running track on South Post adjacent to the heliport, and made plans to add a family park near the driving range. Garrison officials also announced a dog park to be opened near the South Post Visitor Center Gate.

Late last year, the Defense Commissary Agency moved forward with a plan to introduce a new store on K-16 Air Base. The Garrison is going after funding to make that project a reality as soon as possible, officials said. Also, DeCA officials made early-bird shopping a reality at the Yongsan Commissary.

In December, the Korea National Housing Corporation -- owners of Hannam Village -- announced a major construction project to improve vacant high-rises. The Army hopes to put community members into the new quarters as soon as the project is complete in 2010.

The Good Neighbor projects increased as more Soldiers, Civilian Employees and Family Members learned about Korean culture and went on tours. The Garrison participated in several projects to help Koreans, such as delivering heating fuel to the elderly and food for the needy.

The community celebrated 2008 holidays in style with spectacular Fourth of July and Fall Festival celebrations and holiday tree lightings. More than 5,000 Korean and Americans attended the Columbus Day celebration Oct. 11.

Throughout the year, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, Armed Forces Entertainment and the USO sponsored entertainment venues. One of the more memorable shows included the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders Dec. 27 at Collier Field House.

Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army Soldiers enjoyed a week of competitions with U.S. Soldiers during the 2008 KATUSA Week. The event enhanced relations by introducing American Soldiers to Korean culture and competitions.

The Garrison hosted President George W. Bush for a special town hall meeting Aug. 6 during a short visit to Korea. The event packed Collier Field House with Servicemembers from across the peninsula.

Army and Air Force Exchange Service taxi prices went up in 2008, and so did the price of gasoline. However, by year's end gas prices came down and AAFES added additional taxi services.

Garrison Firefighters trained with local Korean departments, participated in a mass casualty exercise and put out a South Post residential fire.

In sports, the local Army-Navy flag football game was a huge upset as Navy beat Army for the first time in years, 16-14. The SAHS Falcons won the Far East Division Championship

In October, USAG-Yongsan community members came together for the Army Family Action Plan Conference. The delegates looked at more than 225 suggestions from the community on how to improve services and attain a better quality of life.

Hall said the community truly lived up to the tenants of the Army Family Covenant.

"USAG-Yongsan is moving forward with construction upgrades and renovations," Hall said. "Our recent DODDS school projects, parking additions, quarters conversion projects, new bus stops, gate and visitor center improvements, and AAFES upgrades are all examples of how the Garrison is striving to improve quality of life."

The events of the past year highlight the spirit of the USAG-Yongsan community, Hall said.