Col. Larry "Pepper" Jackson, center, assumes command of USAG-Red Cloud, formerly Area I, from Col. Rick Newton, left, at Camp Red Cloud on Tuesday. Command Sgt. Maj. Greg Bunce, right, readies the garrison colors for the handover.

Col. Larry "Pepper" Jackson, center, assumes command of USAG-Red Cloud, formerly Area I, from Col. Rick Newton, left, at Camp Red Cloud on Tuesday. Command Sgt. Maj. Greg Bunce, right, readies the garrison colors for the handover. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Few people, if any, could accuse Col. Rick Newton of mincing words since he began his tenure as commander of Area I/U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud in 2005.

He didn’t do so during a recent interview and at Tuesday’s ceremony at Camp Red Cloud, where he relinquished command to Col. Larry “Pepper” Jackson.

Newton even joked about his own demeanor after a previous speaker wished him well at his next assignment as provost marshal for Multi-National Forces- Iraq.

“If it was me going to Washington, D.C., it would have been more dangerous,” Newton said.

Newton leaves South Korea after supervising new financial practices in several areas, setting up an equal opportunity office for South Korean employees and organizing teams to repair the area’s 1,900 aging buildings.

Newton’s command focused on three areas: a spending review, servicemember comfort and reassuring workers who have long been told that their jobs were disappearing.

When Newton came to South Korea, the latest in a string of deadlines had U.S. Forces Korea shuttering its Area I bases and moving them to an expanded Camp Humphreys by 2008. That move has since been delayed until at least 2012.

At the time, the uncertainty of possible layoffs for 2,000 South Korean workers and, at best, transfers for U.S. civilians weathered his talented but dispirited work force, he said.

“I found an organization that had forgotten about the soldier,” Newton told the audience at Tuesday’s ceremony. “That’s the truth and everyone knows it.”

Newton promised employees he would not hide any layoff news from them and said it would come well in advance. He then set about instilling a very American, but not necessarily Korean, concept.

“It’s the idea that everybody should be treated the same,” Newton told Stars and Stripes. “If people believe that, they’ll add value to the organization.”

Last year, Newton set up a system for South Korean workers to report anything from unfair treatment to sexual harassment. He also mandated that meetings and important issues formerly briefed in English are now prepared in Korean.

Newton then scrapped blanket contracts to South Korean businesses for work projects in favor of competitive bidding per project.

That move and other structural changes have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction and installation management projects, area officials said.

The Morale, Welfare and Recreation clubs throughout the areas were all bleeding cash when Newton came in 2005. They are all now making enough money to pay their bills, he said.

Newton doesn’t take full credit for those changes, granting it to supervisors and workers in each of these areas.

“The Army has not made us go begging hat in hand, either,” Newton told Stripes. “I really think we are getting our fair share of dollars to support our soldiers.”

In a few days, Newton heads back into military policing, where he began his active-duty career in 1982 after an enlisted stint with the Marines and time as an Army reservist.

While it may not be a job kicking down doors, Newton said he chose Iraq duty because it strikes at the essence of his job.

“I wasn’t ready to take a cubicle job yet,” said the veteran of Vietnam, the first Gulf War and operations in Haiti. “I’ve been training my whole life as a soldier to fight wars. As a soldier … why wouldn’t you want to go?”

One regret: Scarcity of family services

One regret: Scarcity of family services

CAMP RED CLOUD — Due to a lack of command sponsorship for families and reorganization on the peninsula, garrison leadership can’t do some things for servicemembers north of Seoul, outgoing commander Col. Rick Newton said.

Newton was unable to open up day care or youth centers, despite the stream of baby carriages that regularly roll through Camp Casey’s gates.

The area instead tries to support families through volunteer coordinators and making sure stores are stocked with baby essentials, Newton said.

The Pear Blossom Cottages also provide amenities such as play areas, computers, laundry machines and a kitchen for families. Still, Newton would like more to be done.

“There’s no reason not to make this a command-sponsored area,” he said.

However, that could cost millions for more schools, hospitals and facilities. The sponsorship dilemma is a problem that U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell has repeatedly mentioned as one of the biggest reasons that consolidation of forces to Camp Humphreys — south of Seoul — is so important.

While Newton has introduced teams to focus on building and barracks repair, the facilities aren’t being fully renovated — and won’t be, with the move to Camp Humphreys on the horizon, officials said.

Despite those constraints, Newton said his advice for the incoming commander is to continue spending money on soldier comforts. He also recommends the new commander concentrate on coordinating “Good Neighbor” programs with the 2nd Infantry Division and further developing sexual assault prevention programs.

— Erik Slavin

New colonel assuming command

Col. Larry “Pepper” Jackson is assuming his first command as a full colonel. He most recently attended the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

Jackson graduated from Western Carolina University in 1984 and began his career as an armor officer, serving in the first Gulf War as an armor company commander. He later served as commander of the 4th Infantry Division’s 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This is Jackson’s first assignment in South Korea.

Jackson is married, and has a son and a daughter.

— From staff reports

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