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SEOUL — Servicemembers, commanders, families and workers who make up U.S. Forces Korea have logged a year of extraordinary gains and losses.

Eight U.S. bases, some dating from the Korean War, closed. USFK’s top two commanders announced their departures. Yongsan Garrison and Camp Humphreys facilities expanded. The Patriot Express and civilian curfew ended. The 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team moved stateside after its year in Iraq — but not before 68 of its soldiers died.

There were mistakes and crimes, including a few fatal ones. Still, the USFK community rallied, raising money for servicemembers, tsunami and Katrina victims — and for a little South Korean boy who needed an operation so he could hear.

This was 2005:

Jan. 17

Jang Bong-sok, 5, undergoes a successful $30,000 surgery in Busan to implant a cochlear hearing device in his right ear. Members of the Camp Hialeah community and the Army’s Busan Storage Facility donated $5,500 toward the cost. Later in the year, community and servicemembers worked to raise money to restore hearing to the boy’s left ear.

Jan. 21

Gen. Leon J. LaPorte opens a $39 million, 124,000-square-foot wing at Yongsan Garrison’s 121st General Hospital. It includes outpatient and mental health clinics, asthma treatment, pediatrics, a dining hall and operating rooms.

Feb. 19

Sgt. Kenneth Lamond Kelly is stabbed to death in a Camp Carroll barracks room in Waegwan. Three months later, Pfc. Gregory David Robertson is found guilty of the murder and is sentenced to 35 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.

Feb. 26

Chief Warrant Officer Aaron W. Cowan and Capt. Dion J. Burmaz, 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, die when their helicopter crashes at Twin Bridges Training Area near the Demilitarized Zone. Cowan’s father, a retired Army colonel, visits the crash site in April; Burmaz’s family begins efforts to create a scholarship program in his name.

March 1

Air Force 1st Lt. Jason D. Davis is arrested, triggering seven months’ legal wrangling and outcries from South Koreans. Military officials charge Davis with crimes including bribery, extortion, rape, assault, larceny and adultery. He is accused of abusing his position on the Songtan Town Patrol to shake down club owners and have sex with women who worked at bars. During the same time, South Korean prosecutors convict him of illegal possession of weapons and fine him almost $5,000. The military eventually drops some of its harsher charges but refuses Davis’ request to resign. A military judge sentences him to two years’ confinement and dismissal from the Air Force.

March 1

USFK amends its curfew policy to remove its midnight-to-5 a.m. restrictions for civilians, invited contractors and family members. That same week, nine members of a union representing civilian workers formally request hundreds of hours’ back pay for complying with the five-month curfew. The curfew — which still applies to servicemembers — had required government workers and private contractors also to be in their residences for five hours each day. An arbitration is set for March in the case.

March 22

A Korean woman is charged with accepting 30,000 won ($30) an estimated 900 times in exchange for signing people onto base during a three-year period. South Korean officials also charge her with running an illegal exchange service and discover about $1.2 million in a bank account under her name.

March 29

Camp Page closes, one of eight U.S. military bases that closed in 2005 as part of USFK’s plans to downsize and relocate most of its operations to central South Korea. Others that closed included camps McNab, LaGuardia, Nimble, Essayons, Sears and Kyle.

April 1

Lt. Gen. Charles Campbell announces South Korean budget cuts may cause USFK to lay off up to 1,000 on-base South Korean workers. Ninety percent of the 13,000 South Korean on-base workers vote to protest the move; about 4,000 rally near Yongsan on June 3. Three weeks later, USFK and South Korean union officials agree to minimize direct layoffs, fill openings with current workers and further discuss severance pay.

April 29

A commercial ferry carrying U.S. personnel taking part in a noncombatant evacuation exercise — or NEO — strikes what officials believe was a whale about 10 miles off South Korea’s coast. Many passengers complain USFK was unable to provide critical assistance during the incident and failed to provide medical follow-up and counseling for those injured or traumatized. After a July story in Stars and Stripes, the military makes broad changes to NEO drills. Staffing, equipment and communications methods for teams escorting volunteer evacuees are revamped and emergency response teams and shelters on shore remain on stand-by in case of a mishap.

June 10

Pfc. Jeff Bryant, 19, driving a U.S. military vehicle, strikes and kills Kim Myung-ja, 51, who was jaywalking in Dongducheon near Camp Casey. The incident prompts military officials to make sweeping changes to safety policies including barring military vehicles from some routes through high-density areas, putting more emphasis on driver training and vehicle dispatch regulations and installing fish-eye mirrors on Army trucks. The company’s commander and master driver and the vehicle commander receive written reprimands later, after an internal investigation discloses the three failed to properly perform duties as supervisors. Bryant is not punished but receives additional training.

July 10

About 7,000 protesters opposed to expanding Camp Humphreys battle with 10,000 riot police outside the camp, ripping down sections of the base fence and sending dozens from both sides to area hospitals. The protest group, The Pan-Korean National Task Force Against Expansion of U.S. Bases in Pyeongtaek, holds a scattering of protests during the rest of the year, culminating in a large peaceful rally Dec. 11 in downtown Pyeongtaek. The same day, about 4,000 persons attend a pro-U.S. military rally outside Osan Air Base’s main gate in Pyeongtaek’s Songtan section, thrown by the Korean Veterans Association and Songtan Chamber of Commerce.

July 31

About 3,900 soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division — which made history when it deployed from South Korea — leave Iraq after a one-year stint, returning to their new home in Fort Carson, Colo. The brigade lost 68 soldiers; 498 Purple Hearts were awarded and several hundred awards were pending.

Oct. 1

The Patriot Express, a chartered airline service that brings about two-thirds of the U.S. troops to and from South Korea for duty each year, ceases operations and USFK officials expand operations to greet troops at Incheon International Airport.

Nov. 15

Lt. Gen. Charles C. Campbell announces his nomination as deputy commander at U.S. Army Forces Command, the Army’s largest major command. Campbell says he expects to move to the new command in late spring or early summer 2006.

Nov. 28

Gen. Leon LaPorte announces he’ll retire on Feb. 1 after almost 38 years with the Army and four years as top military officer in South Korea. Gen. B.B. Bell III, commander, U.S. Army Europe, will take over as top-ranking U.S. military officer in South Korea.

Dec. 6

The South Korean government releases details of a plan to spend $19 billion to improve infrastructure, upgrade technology and expand public space in Pyeongtaek, future home to much of the U.S. military in South Korea. The 15-year plan calls for changes from improving the city’s seaport to building a high-tech agricultural center to soundproofing buildings, according to the Korean Ministry of Government Administration and House Affairs. One estimate projects that Pyeongtaek’s population will more than double in the next 15 years, from 360,000 to 800,000 by 2020.


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