Mrs. Leah Esper, spouse of Mark T. Esper, secretary of the Army, toured U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Jan. 9 to observe facilities constructed to accommodate the relocation of U.S. forces to regional areas south of Seoul.

"My husband and I care greatly about the welfare, services and support available to Soldiers and their Families," said Esper, "But, there is nothing like seeing for ourselves and talking to the people who use those services. That is why we visit installations throughout the world. We are here to help find common sense ways to improve and develop that support."

Esper visited the $63 million Army and Air Force Exchange Service shopping center constructed to support a population expected to surpass 40,000 once all U.S. Forces Korea complete the move over the next year. This population has doubled this summer with the Eighth Army's headquarters move from its former home in Seoul.

"I was very impressed with the facilities available here," she said. "I think it's vital that we provide families overseas with a touch of home and these facilities do just that."

Esper was also in Korea to hear Soldier and Family concerns and take suggestions for improvement. She joined her husband for a town hall session with Family Readiness Group members and Soldiers.

"I know after speaking to Families here and hearing the concerns brought up during the town hall, that the Child Development Center is very important," she said. "The need to expedite the hiring process for child providers is critical, and we will do everything we can to improve the system."

Esper later visited the Camp Humphreys CDC which provides daily care for children of troops stationed at Camp Humphreys.

Esper toured on-post family living areas where she saw high-rise apartments as well as the blueprints for housing areas under construction.

She also experienced Korean culture. Esper attended a performance of "Nong-ak" a show exploring the traditional Korean drum, the "Jang-gu". She sampled foods such as Bibimbap, Bulgogi and Dduk (Korean rice cake) at Han Ra KATUSA Snack Bar. She also visited an organization that helps foreigners adapt to local society.

"Sometimes living overseas can be a bit daunting and resources such as the Pyeongtaek International Exchange Foundation really show how enthusiastic the Korean people are about helping to integrate our Soldiers and Families into the rich culture of Korea."