YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea -- The U.S. Army's top operational command in South Korea held a change of command ceremony Feb. 2 at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul. During the ceremony Lt. Gen. Bernard S. Champoux relinquished command of Eighth Army to Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal.

Several high-level American and Korean dignitaries attended the ceremony including the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea the Honorable Dr. Mark Lippert, retired ROK Army Commander Gen. Paik, Sun-yup, and U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.

Scaparrotti, who served as the presiding official for the event, praised Champoux for his leadership as the Eighth Army commander and welcomed Vandal to his new position.

"As the Commander of the Eighth Army, 'Bernie' (Champoux) led over 15,000 Soldiers," said Scaparrotti. "(He) greatly enhanced Eighth Army's readiness …by focusing…on traits (that are) key to promoting deterrence on the peninsula and fundamental to a strong Alliance."

"Now we are very fortunate to have another equally experienced and dedicated command team…Lt. Gen. Tom Vandal, and his wife Doreen. I would like to welcome both of you to your new command and I deeply appreciate your selfless and continued service in Korea."

As the Eighth Army commander, Vandal will play a critical role in leading a force of more than 45,000 Soldiers, Civilians, Korean national employees and family members through a period of historic transition. The majority of U.S. personnel stationed in South Korea are in the process of relocating south of Seoul at two enduring hubs near Pyeongtaek and Daegu. Addressing the jam-packed crowd at the Collier Community Fitness Center, he thanked those who helped him reach this point in his career and humbly accepted the challenge.

"I am humbled and honored to assume my responsibilities today as the 33rd Commander of Eighth Army," said Vandal.

Vandal brings with him a wealth of experience on the Korean Peninsula having served as the commander of the 2nd Infantry Division from June 2013 through April 2015, and most recently as the U.S. Forces Korea director of combined and joint operations. The Rhode Island native and 1982 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point explained to attendees why he believes the ROK-U.S. Alliance is so special.

"We have been stationed around the globe (during) my military career and I can personally attest that there isn't a more generous culture, or a stronger alliance than the relationship that exists between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea," said Vandal. "You have my commitment that we will work together to continue strengthening our partnership."

Champoux leaves Eighth Army having navigated the storied command through some tense times of volatility and provocative actions from North Korea. Despite the unenviable stress that inherently comes with defending the most heavily militarized border in the world, he expressed a sincere appreciation for his time in command.

"In my many years in multiple commands I have never served with a more selfless, (or) conscientious group of professionals as the Eighth Army staff," Champoux said. "I've asked them to be comfortable, being uncomfortable. I've asked that their actions speak louder than their words…and they have never let me…or the Alliance down."

As Vandal steps into the same role, Champoux reflected on why he believes his predecessor will be a success.

"I watched him magnificently command the 'Warrior Division' for two years and knew he was exactly the leader Eighth Army and the alliance needs at this challenging and pivotal time," Champoux explained. "Tom brings continuity, passion, high standards, deep character, tested competence, and total commitment to the mission and our people"

As the ceremony came to a close Vandal expressed his appreciation to Champoux for his mentorship and vowed to carry on the same standards of excellence.

"Thank you for your incredible leadership and mentorship over the past few years," said Vandal. "It has been a true honor and privilege to serve with you as the 2nd Infantry Division Commander, and I look forward to building upon the great legacy you established."