SEOUL, Republic of Korea - For nearly 60 years, U.S. military forces have been serving, living and working in the Republic of Korea. Our alliance with the country is one of the strongest in the world, and our continued partnership is designed to maintain stability on the Korean peninsula and in the East Asia region.
As many U.S. servicemembers, family members and civilian employees know, the next few years promise many changes to military life in Korea, including the Yongsan Relocation Program, the Land Partnership Plan and Tour Normalization.
The end-state of USFK transformation will be to relocate the majority of U.S. Forces in Korea to two enduring hubs: the Northwest or Pyeongtaek hub, comprised mainly of U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys and Osan Air Force Base; and the Southeast or Daegu hub, comprised mainly of U.S. Army Garrison Daegu and Chinhae Naval Base. In addition, military tours in Korea will become normalized two-year unaccompanied or three-year accompanied tours.
"Under the Yongsan Relocation Program we're moving all U.S. forces out of the Seoul Metropolitan area to USAG Humphreys here at Pyeongtaek," said Rakes.
When YRP is targeted to be complete, around 2014, approximately 5,000 servicemembers will be moved out of the Seoul area.
"Under the Land Partnership Plan we're moving all of the U.S. forces stationed north of the Han River, primarily the 2nd Infantry Division for the Army, from their current locations to U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys," Rakes continued.
When LPP is targeted to be complete, around 2016, approximately 7,000 servicemembers will be moved from areas north of Seoul.
"Tour normalization is all about making Korea more like Europe and Japan, where unaccompanied Soldiers serve a two-year tour and accompanied Soldiers serve a three-year tour; and everyone who has family members and wants to bring them to Korea will be allowed to do so as we implement full tour normalization over a period of years in three phases," Rakes said.
According to Rakes, in 2002 there were approximately 104 U.S. military installations and sites in Korea. As of 2009, there were approximately 70 U.S. military installations and sites in Korea. When the USFK transformation is complete, which is currently projected for 2016, 47 U.S. military installations and sites will remain. Those sites will be concentrated primarily in the two enduring hubs.
"We will retain the Joint Training Facility in the north, so crew-served weapons training and armored vehicle training will all still be conducted at the Joint Training Facility," said Rakes.
"We will also retain a small presence in the Seoul Metropolitan area that will be centered around the Dragon Hill Lodge," Rakes added.
Harleston explained that he sees the two primary reasons for YRP and LPP are to reduce the footprint of U.S. forces on the Korean peninsula, at the request of the Korean Government, and to gain efficiency by consolidating operations.
"Basically, after the Korean war, we just settled where we were. So, we were all over the place, mainly along what were the former main supply routes," said Rakes.
"By closing all of these antiquated and inefficient installations, we gain a lot of efficiency in terms of improving the quality of life and achieving cost savings," Rakes said.
"We also get increased safety because we put less Soldiers on the road moving back and forth," added Harleston.
Transformation in Korea can be compared to similar Base Realignment and Closure initiatives that are ongoing at installations located in the continental United States. Like USAG Humphreys, Fort Sill, Okla., and Fort Bliss, Texas, are in the process of change.
Fort Sill is projected to grow from approximately 20,000 personnel to more than 26,000 personnel, a 31 percent increase, and will be adding two million square feet of facilities.
Fort Bliss is projected to grow from approximately 20,000 personnel to over 38,000 personnel, an 89 percent increase, and will be adding 13 million square feet of facilities.
In comparison, by the projected end of USFK Transformation in 2016, USAG Humphreys is projected to grow from approximately 10,000 personnel to more than 44,000 personnel, a whopping 390 percent increase, and will be adding 25 million square feet of facilities.
"Upon completion, USAG-Humphreys will be one of the most efficient and modern military communities in the world, and an assignment of choice for our Soldiers, civilians, and their family members," said Rakes.