U.S. Forces Korea celebrated the opening of its new headquarters south of Seoul Friday, a major step in the much-delayed relocation of most troops farther from the front lines.
With fanfare, USFK commander Gen. Vincent Brooks and other senior officials dedicated the new, four-story building on Camp Humphreys in the rural area of Pyeongtaek.
Brooks, who also leads the United Nations Command and the Combined Forces Command, called it “an historic and exciting event.”
“It represents the significant investment in the long-term presence of U.S. Forces Korea,” he said in remarks before the ribbon cutting.
The headquarters, which has a traditional Korean-style tiled roof and a parade ground out front, replaces the command’s longtime home in the so-called White House on Yongsan Army Garrison in Seoul.
The historic move is the result of a 2004 agreement between the United States and South Korea to reduce the military’s footprint on the divided peninsula by consolidating most American troops, contractors and family members on southern hubs.
The relocation was supposed to take place in 2008, but was delayed several times due to construction and quality control problems with the nearly $11 billion expansion of Camp Humphreys, a once-remote outpost 40 miles south of the capital.
U.S. officials have said the transition will take at least two years to complete, during which the military will maintain residual forces on Yongsan and areas to the north.
The 2nd Infantry Division, which is based north of Seoul at Camp Red Cloud, is also slated to move to Humphreys, although an exact relocation date has not been announced.
The move has primarily been complicated by delays in the completion of a state-of-the-art hospital.
A secure operations center is also expected to open in January 2021 — although a temporary facility is being built in the meantime, according to a timeline laid out at a recent town-hall meeting on Yongsan.
Camp Humphreys has been transformed into the equivalent of a small American town with schools, a waterpark, a golf course and a “downtown” area that includes a commissary, Post Exchange and mini mall.
Now the Army’s largest overseas base, it’s forecast to eventually house about 40,000 people.
While officials stress the situation is fluid and timelines are subject to change, Haight said that two-thirds of the UNC and USFK headquarters — or about 650 employees and their families — were expected to move to Humphreys this summer.
In addition to freeing up prime real estate in Seoul, the military has welcomed the upgraded and hardened facilities at Humphreys.
The relocation also puts the bulk of the some 28,500 American servicemembers, civilian contractors and family members at a safer distance from North Korea’s massive arsenal of conventional weapons poised on the border, just 35 miles north of Seoul.
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