U.S. ARMY GARRISON-HUMPHREYS, South Korea -- Eighth U.S. Army has been located in Seoul since 1953 serving to deter North Korean aggression and defend the Republic of Korea. After 64 years, Eighth Army began a historic new chapter by cutting the red ribbon stretched in front of the new headquarters doors.
The ceremony held at USAG Humphreys, South Korea, July 11, marked the unit's significant transformation and represented its successful relocation from Yongsan to Pyeongtaek. The grand opening of the new General Walton Walker Command Center came after years of extensive efforts. The relocation plan was first decided in 2003 to improve the force posture and operational efficiency of U.S. Forces Korea.
In conjunction with the ribbon cutting, Eighth Army took the opportunity to unveil the statue of the late Gen. Walton Walker, a symbol of Eighth Army's legacy and commitment to the Republic of Korea. They also paid tribute and honored the memory of Walker with the firing of canons in the presence of the Walker family.
Walker was the second Eighth Army commanding general who established a defensive perimeter and drove the North Korean Army north of the 38th parallel during the Korean War. He was killed in a jeep accident in 1950 and posthumously promoted to the rank of general a year later.
Samuel Walker, Gen. Walker's great grandson, served as a guest speaker on behalf of his family. Walker said he tried to paint a picture of who his great grandfather was and truly understand him.
"Gen. Walker did not look the part of a general officer," Walker said. "He stood barely five-feet-five-inches tall, he was not in great shape. But what he lacked in stature and traditional military bearing, he made up for with tenacity, determination and grit."
Walker also praised and expressed his respect for noncommissioned officers today who resemble Gen. Walker in various aspects.
"The themes of Gen. Walker's extraordinary life are important to me personally," said Walker. "But more than that, I think they are relevant to today's military. Gen. Walker's attitude, his attention to detail, his mastery of tactics and his hands on leadership style remind me of the amazing noncommissioned officers that I worked with in my short military career."
Walker said his great grandfather was not perfect and stressed the inspiration his legacy gives us.
"Gen. Walker's life and his legacy underscore the fact that sometimes history is written by the unlikely characters, the misfits or the outsiders," Walker said. "Sometimes history chooses you, not the other way around."
Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal explained the reason behind the name of the headquarters and the implied meaning of celebrating his legacy.
"What could be more appropriate for the new headquarters than to name a state-of-the-art building after the historic leader who left us such a proud legacy for all of us," said Vandal. "Commemorating one of the most influential military leaders in both the U.S. and Korean history reaffirms our bilateral alliance, enduring commitment to the alliance and the transformation of the USFK footprint on the peninsula."
Vandal drew his attention to the efforts to construct the installation that he described as a crown jewel of overseas installations in the Department of Defense. According to him, this was the largest transformation and re-stationing project in the Department of Defense's history and dramatically increased the size of USAG Humphreys, making it the largest U.S. Army garrison overseas. The 10.7 billion dollar endeavor included installing 42 miles of new communications pathways, 655 new buildings and millions of work hours by tens of thousands of workers.
Vandal also pointed out the implication of the transformation and how it enhances the ROK-U.S. alliance.
"Once complete in 2020, the transformation will reflect the enduring commitment of both the ROK and the U.S. governments to this great alliance," Vandal said. "It will also greatly enhance the quality of life, our force protection and, ultimately, our readiness to fight tonight."
Vandal didn't fail to show his gratitude to all those who contributed to the project and appreciated their hard work that will sustain the alliance for a long time.
"This would not have been possible without the continuous efforts of numerous organizations and effective bilateral consultation and collaboration. Further, I want to applaud the thousands of U.S. and Korean service members and civilians who have all been an integral part of this successful transition. Their efforts will impact the ROK and U.S. service members on the peninsula for decades to come. This project serves as another example of how the U.S. and the ROK time and time again, join forces and succeed in every mission that we undertake together.
Vandal went on to note how the combined efforts on the Eighth Army headquarters illustrate the alliance's motto, "Katchi Kapshida -- We go together."
"The spirit of 'Katchi Kapshida' couldn't be more evident as each organization worked through numerous challenges and coordination to ensure the Eighth Army headquarters is a state-of-the-art, mission command facility that will allow us to operate here on the Korean peninsula well into the future," Vandal said.
Vandal concluded his remarks by presenting his blueprint for Eighth Army's future, repeatedly stressing the importance of going together to protect the peace and freedom on the peninsula.
"As the combined forces continue to prepare to be ready, to fight tonight, and to defend the Republic of Korea from North Korean aggression, we will, in true "Kachi Kapshida" spirit, work together with the same grit, determination and tenacity as those who defended the Busan perimeter," Vandal said. "Just as Gen. Walker led allied forces across the 38th parallel over six decades ago, from his current location, he will point north from the new Eighth Army headquarters to remind us all that we must be ready to defend this great nation from the threat from the north."