USAG YONGSAN, South Korea — The 524th Military Intelligence Battalion turns over their Yongsan Field Office (YFO) home for the past 22 years in a small ceremony, here, Apr. 14, 2021.
Signing over building 4833, scheduled for demolition, is part of a larger effort to hand over the majority of the land previously occupied by U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan back to the Republic of Korea government as part of the Yongsan Relocation Plan.
Lt. Col. Nathan Reed, commander, 524th MI Battalion, relayed some of the history of the site for the gathered party.
“There is a lot of history here,” said Reed. “When YFO moved into the building in 1999, it was pre 9/11. Think of post 9/11 and all the efforts that came out of that field office to hold the ground while our country was focused elsewhere.”
He then went on to explain the field office has also endured multiple name changes. Originally, YFO was under Bravo Company, 524th MI Battalion, however, in 2013, the 524th cased its colors. The field office was reflagged under Bravo Company, 532nd MI Battalion. The agents at the field office continued their mission for another four years under new leadership, until 524th MI Battalion was re-established at Camp Humphreys in 2017 when it returned to 524th.
“The mission still endures, just in a new location,” said Reed. “Yet, today we say goodbye to a very historical location for the Yongsan Field Office.”
Jeremy Odom, one of the lead special agents from the Yongsan Field Office, gave a few comments.
“Many awesome Soldiers and agents were established here and moved all around the world. But it’s not this building that developed YFO into what it is today; it was the agents, the Soldiers, the IOS (Intelligence Operation Specialists), our partners, our Host Nation counterparts that we worked with here, and the professional relationships that have been built.”
Michael Hunter, supervisory special agent in charge of the Yongsan Field Office, said back when he was the special agent in charge in 2005 he had a much larger staff of agents and Korean National intelligence operations specialists that focused on the concerns of the Korean national capital region.
“Although times and the political climate were changing in South Korea and in the United States, the alliance has always stood firm despite all the turmoil,” said Hunter. “When I walked into this as the senior agent and then as the SAC (Special Agent in Charge), we had 19 agents, and five HUMINT (human intelligence) Soldiers that helped us because we didn’t have enough agents at 19. We were that busy. There were over 20,000 people that were assigned to Yongsan with Soldiers, DoD Civilians, and Family members. It was joint and combined.”
Hunter continued, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence (CI) footprint today in Seoul is considerably smaller due to base realignments and closures. The YFO continues to work with the host nation law enforcement and intelligence community partners headquartered in Seoul to provide CI support to ensure the safety of our installations, our operations, and most importantly, our personnel.
Reflecting on the past, Hunter said, “Over the years, a lot of really good special agents have come through those doors, and walked out of here a year or two later with real experience under their belt that they wouldn’t get elsewhere.”
He went on to talk about turning in building 4833 and moving to their new location saying, “We couldn’t have done it without the support of the community. The provost marshals, base closure team, and garrison have been great.”
As the YFO sign on the building was removed, Capt. John Phillips, commander, Alpha Detachment said, “With this, we are officially returning building 4833 to U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan-Casey, and transferring the Yongsan Field Office’s mission to building 2552.”