U.S. ARMY GARRISON HUMPHREYS, South Korea - In a change-of-command ceremony streamed live, Lt. Gen. Willard “Bill” Burleson III officially assumed command of Eighth Army Oct. 2. The physical ceremony took place at the Collier Fitness Center on USAG Humphreys with limited guests due to COVID-19 measures. United States Forces Korea commander, Gen. Robert Abrams, officiated the ceremony.
Burleson assumed command from Lt. Gen. Michael Bills who served as commanding general since January 2018. Bills passed the Eighth Army colors to Burleson symbolizing the official change of command inside the military installation’s “Super Gym.” The colors were then passed to Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Cobb, Eighth Army senior enlisted advisor, to care for the storage of the colors.
Burleson said he will ensure Eighth Army remains ready to defend U.S. interests and South Korea while in command.
“I’m humbled and honored to assume this command,” said Burleson. “Eighth Army’s presence here in Korea and in the Pacific certainly sends a strong signal not just to the Republic of Korea, but to our regional allies, on the United States’ commitment to deterring our potential adversaries. And while we all hope and pray for peace, we must never forget that we’re not there yet. And you have my commitment that Eighth Army will remain prepared to fight tonight.”
Burleson comes to Eighth Army from within the Republic of Korea, where he previously served as the assistant chief of staff U-3/C-3/J-3 at United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and United States Forces Korea.
As Eighth Army commanding general, Burleson oversees six major subordinate commands and smaller units across the peninsula. He is in charge of a headquarters that commands and controls a Republic of Korea-U.S. combined ground force responsible for the defense of the Republic of Korea.
“Protecting the force, maintaining and building readiness, and taking care of Soldiers and their families, our my priorities,” Burleson said. “We go together; and it’s not just a saying. It’s the bond between our countries, the militaries of the Republic of Korea and the United States. We’ve gone together in combat and the blood of our Soldiers is mixed together on the soil of the Korean peninsula, and we must continue together for the combined defense of the Republic of Korea.”
Burleson graduated from the United States Military Academy and was commissioned as an infantry officer in May 1988. He has served in numerous command and staff positions, to include multiple combat deployments. After attending the Army War College, Burleson served as commander of 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, where his brigade served in Regional Command-North, Afghanistan. He later served as senior advisor to the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense and as commanding general of 7th Infantry Division.
Following the ceremony, the outgoing commander, Bills, officially retired after serving 42 years in the U.S. Army.
“To all the Soldiers here today, you represent the best our nation has to offer,” Bills said. “You are part of a proud legacy of Soldiers who liberated the Pacific during World War II and the Soldiers who defended freedom and democracy during the Korean War. Eighth Army arrived here on 30 June, 1950, and we’ve never left the side of our Korean allies. Soldiers, take pride in what it means to be the Pacific Victors warriors serving on freedom’s frontier. Take pride in Eighth Army’s history and remember the valuable lessons learned through the blood and sweat of our predecessors. We must always be well trained, disciplined teammates within the ROK-US alliance, ready to fight tonight.”
On duty in the Western Pacific since 1944, Eighth Army has served as both a field army and theater army. Eighth Army today stands ready to defend U.S. national interests and those of its allies whenever called upon as U.S Army’s Pacific Victors.
To view video of the ceremony, visit the official Eighth Army Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Eighth.Army.Korea.