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'Setting the standard' for closing U.S.bases in S. Korea

Editor's Note: This story is part of an occasional series on U.S. bases in South Korea closing this year.

CAMP GARRY OWEN, South Korea – Area I and 2nd Infantry Division officials have set standards for the departure of U.S. forces from six bases near Korea’s Demilitarized Zone during a tour of Camp Garry Owen.

More than 100 members of the Western Corridor Base Closure Working Group toured the camp with Brigadier Gen. Charles A. Anderson, 2nd ID assistant division commander (support), in an exercise designed to get all organizations involved in the base closures singing the same tune.

Western Corridor bases slated to close by year’s end also include camps Greaves, Edwards, Stanton, Howze, and Giant.

At Camp Garry Owen, the group examined buildings and equipment to determine what would be removed and who would be responsible for moving it. Anderson had plenty of questions for the officials as he moved about the base, which consists of dozens of aging Quonset huts and a few modern buildings.

The general entered some buildings and poked around behind others to discover piles of unused equipment waiting to be cleaned up.

“What about those sandbags? What about that blue and red sign? What about that telephone pole lying on top of that drain?” Anderson asked the officials as he walked.

Area I commander Col. Jeff Christiansen said the working group included officials from 33 organizations involved in the base closures, including the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), Area I, 2nd ID units stationed at Western Corridor bases, commissary operators, the 2nd ID Museum and Moral, Welfare and Recreation (MWR).

“We are setting the standards” for closing the other camps, Christenson said. “We are attempting to identify under what conditions and to what standards we will leave this installation. We felt it necessary to get each of the subject matter experts out here on the ground so we can ensure they are working under the same assumptions.”

The goal is to return the installations to the South Korean government in such a state that there are no grounds for future complaints about their condition, he said.

“My main concern is that we don’t leave an environmental mess in the motor pool … that at some time in the future whoever inherits this property is not upset. Our standards are to leave the buildings clean and functional so there is no trash left in buildings,” he said.

At other camps, such as Camp Howze, officials have decided to leave behind trees with plaques dedicating them to various soldiers and other officials. Decisions are being made on a case-by-case basis, officials said.

Camp Garry Owen’s current tenant, 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, is moving to Camp Hovey and will take all of its equipment, Christenson said.

One of the officials involved in Friday’s tour, AAFES Area I general manager Ronald Daugherty, said AAFES would coordinate its departure from the bases to coincide with the troop withdrawal.

AAFES operates an internet café, snack bar, post exchange, theater, barber shop, laundry pick-up, alternations shop, tailor, gift shop, vending machines and an AT&T call center at Camp Garry Owen. The AAFES property removed from the bases will be stored at a warehouse at Camp Market south of Seoul, Daugherty said.

Col. Rock Donahue, commander of 2nd ID’s Engineers Brigade and chairman of a committee coordinating the Western Corridor base closures, said a tremendous amount of culture and history are associated with the bases.

“We are trying to vacate these camps in a disciplined fashion so we don’t take away from that,” he said.

2nd ID historical records show that Camp Garry Owen, near Munsan, originally was an apple orchard. In 1951, it became base for the United Nations Command (UNC) Military Armistice Conference Delegation. On July 27, 1953, the base theater was where UNC commander Gen. Mark W. Clark signed the Armistice Agreement that ended fighting in the Korean War.

At first the theater, which was demolished in the 1970s, was the only permanent structure on the base, which consisted of 14 tents, volleyball courts, a baseball diamond and a skeet range. For a time the base was called Camp Rice, then Camp Pelham in honor of a distinguished Civil War artilleryman. It eventually was re-designated Camp Garry Owen, the title of a distinctive cavalry ballad.

Units that have occupied the base include the 69th Field Artillery Battalion, 1st Marine Division (which became 49th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Infantry Division); 13th Field Artillery, 24th Infantry Division; 2nd Battalion, 19th Field Artillery Regiment; and 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment; 1st Battalion, 4th Artillery Regiment; E Company, 2nd Engineers Battalion; and 5th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment [which became 4-7 Cavalry Regiment].

Anderson said the goal is to ensure standards are met when the bases close.

“Our standard is clean, functional and empty. We want to do this in a professional manner,” he said.

Closing the bases is an emotional process for many people but soldiers serving in the Western Corridor are excited about moving to camps Casey and Hovey, Anderson said. “It is emotional but we also understand that change is good. You roll up your sleeves, you have a positive attitude and you move on. It is all about change.”

PREVIOUS STORIES:
As Camp Howze closing nears, many historical items are being preserved (Oct. 19, 2004)
Camps Casey, Hovey spruced up for influx of troops (Oct. 19, 2004)


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