PYEONGTAEK, South Korea, Sept. 6, 2011 -- U.S. and Korean leaders participated in a historic groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction for an elementary and high school Sept. 2, for military family members here.

The campus sites, 700 meters from Camp Humphreys, are scheduled for completion by July 2013.

The three-story schools and adjacent athletic fields will accommodate 1,700 students. The elementary school will hold 850 students and the high school will hold 950. The elementary school will hold kindergarten through fifth-grade classes and the high school will hold sixth through 12th grades until a new middle school opens the following year.

More projects will follow, as Humphreys becomes the premier U.S. military installation in Korea. The construction is being funded by South Korea as a way of showing its commitment to continuing the base relocation of U.S. forces in Korea.

Having Soldiers and families in a central location will make force protection and noncombatant evacuations easier, while also reducing infrastructure costs. This also means the U.S. will not have to conduct recapitalization of pre-World War II buildings in Seoul.

In addition, the new schools will allow for an expanded command sponsorship program. Lack of classroom space has forced the military to use a priority system for command sponsorships.

Retired Lt. Gen. Kim, Kie-soo, chief director of Multinational Division United States Forces Korea Base relocation office, said the ceremony marks the beginning of a new phase in U.S.-Korea relations.

"As we cut the ribbon for this first construction project, future construction works for the relocation effort will also pick up speed," he said. "While domestic contractors provide excellence in construction, we will continue to coordinate with the U.S. in order to complete the relocation program according to the planned timeline."

Gen. James Thurman, United States Forces Korea, or USFK, commander, agreed that a key point has been reached.

"This is a big day and a big milestone that shows the commitment and strength of the ROK(Republic of Korea)-U.S. alliance," he said. "This shows commitment to all of USFK as we commence with Yongsan Relocation Program and show commitment to our future and to the children and Families who come to live in this wonderful country."

Also in attendance were: Col. Joseph P. Moore, United States Army Garrison Humphreys commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Spencer L. Gray, USAGH command sergeant major; Lim Gwan-bin, Korean deputy minister of National Defense Policy; Kim, Kwan-jin, Korean Minister of National Defense; Hong, Yun-sik, prime minister's office for National Administrative Affairs; Ye, Chang-geun, vice governor of gyeonggi-dio; Kim, Seon-gi, Pyongtaek mayor, and Lee, Ji-song, Korea Land and Housing Chief Executive Officer.