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South Korea base workers listen to Area I commander Col. Forrest R. Newton at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, on Tuesday.
South Korea base workers listen to Area I commander Col. Forrest R. Newton at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, on Tuesday. (Seth Robson / S&S)

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — The U.S. Army has no plans to reduce its civilian workforce in Warrior Country in the immediate future, Area I commander Col. Forrest R. Newton told base workers here Tuesday.

But Newton did say cuts might happen as the U.S. military eventually realigns its forces.

About 250 South Korean base workers gathered at the Camp Red Cloud theater for a meeting aimed at dispelling rumors that Area I was about to dramatically downsize its South Korean workforce, Newton said. The meeting also was partly a response to the recent suicide of a South Korean base worker, he added after speaking to the workers.

South Korean employees said the man was under stress because he feared he would lose his job.

“I cannot find the words to describe how devastating it is to lose someone for what I consider to be not very good reasons,” Newton told the workers, encouraging them to talk to him if they had problems. “I am going to work very hard as your commander in Area I to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“If something disturbs you, if something bothers you, if something is making you upset you have an opportunity, rather than to live with that, to make sure you come see me.”

Nobody responded when Newton asked for a show of hands of workers who had “received reduction in force notices and not been given new jobs.”

“The only person who can terminate an employee in Area I is me,” he said. “I make the final decision, so if someone is out here telling you they can fire you they are wrong. No one has told me to reduce any workforce at any time in the near future.

“I don’t have any plans to reduce any force at this time,” he added. “Where is all this concern coming from about reduction in force?”

Uijeongbu enclave base workers union chief Kang Hyung-do told Stars and Stripes that before Tuesday’s meeting it was rumored Area I job cuts would come in January or February and that lists of people whose jobs would be axed already had been prepared. However, he added, Newton reassured workers at the meeting that the rumors were false.

Newton advised workers to ignore any talk of immediate job cuts.

“If you are going to worry about something, worry about where your next vacation is going to be,” he said.

However, Newton told workers that forces in South Korea are being restructured and some are leaving the peninsula, and at some point the number of Army support workers will be reduced.

“What is occurring here is out of your hands and out of my hands,” he said.

But Newton said he would give workers 180- days notice of any force reduction.

“If we are told to move or reduce or remove a post I will come to you and stand before you and tell you exactly what we are going to do,” he said.

Newton advised workers not to rely on a published time-line for movement of U.S. forces, which would see Area I bases close over the next few years.

“Has anybody ever seen a building go up with (the) time scale that (it) is supposed to?” he asked.

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