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Construction continues on a new nine-story family housing tower the U.S. Air Force is building outside Osan Air Base in South Korea.
Construction continues on a new nine-story family housing tower the U.S. Air Force is building outside Osan Air Base in South Korea. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)
Construction continues on a new nine-story family housing tower the U.S. Air Force is building outside Osan Air Base in South Korea.
Construction continues on a new nine-story family housing tower the U.S. Air Force is building outside Osan Air Base in South Korea. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)
Workers at the construction site of the new Osan housing tower.
Workers at the construction site of the new Osan housing tower. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Air Force dignitaries broke ground Tuesday on a new nine-story, off-base housing tower, marking a key early step in the gradual expansion of the Pyongtaek region into the U.S. military’s central troop hub in South Korea.

The project is the first construction to go forward under the Land Partnership Plan, signed in March 2002 between the South Korean and U.S. governments, officials said.

Under the plan, the U.S. military will gradually close many of its installations, shift many of its forces south of Seoul, and enlarge some of its key remaining installations. Among those slated to grow are Osan Air Base and Camp Humphreys, both in the Pyongtaek area.

“This is the first … construction we’re doing for the Land Partnership Plan in all of Korea,” said Capt. Jeff Lin, chief of construction management at the 51st Civil Engineering Squadron at Osan.

Construction on the new $30 million tower project has been under way since November on the first building, which will have 112 apartments and is set to open in February 2006.

And the Air Force will begin construction on two more such buildings — one this fall, the other in fall 2005.

The first building is going up on a 7.2-acre site next to Mustang Valley Village, an existing Air Force family housing complex that houses 199 families in three-story townhouse-style apartment buildings, about a five minute drive southeast of the air base perimeter.

Though the site of the new tower currently lies outside the base perimeter, it is on land owned by the Air Force and will eventually be enclosed behind a wall or other perimeter barrier. The other two buildings will be on the current site of the 1000 series officer dorms, not far from the base officers’ club.

The new tower will house command-sponsored families of commanders or personnel deemed “essential,” said Lin.

“And if there’s still space in there, other folks can fit in there,” Lin said. “They have to be command-sponsored, though.”

When Air Force families eventually move into the nine-story building, awaiting them will be elevators, carpeting, dishwashers and other state-of-the-art features installed to meet Air Force housing standards, officials said.

The building will have 48 two-bedroom apartments, 48 three-bedroom apartments and 16 four-bedroom apartments, Lin said.

The project also calls for 109 parking spaces, landscaping, outdoor barbecue, picnic pavilions and outdoor play areas for children.

U.S. military officials Tuesday morning attended a brief groundbreaking ceremony hosted by Hyundae Engineering and Construction Co. Ltd., the South Korean firm performing the construction under contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

This project “will bring a new standard of family living for military members stationed here at Osan,” Brig. Gen. Maury Forsyth, commander of Osan’s 51st Fighter Wing, said in brief remarks at the groundbreaking.

“It will give our families, on average, 50 percent more living space than they currently have,” Forsyth said.

Military readiness, he said, “has many aspects. Sorties and fuel are easy to quantify but job satisfaction, efficiency, and family readiness are harder to measure. We’ve come a long way improving these immeasurable quality-of-life factors across the board at Osan and this will be the most visible example of our efforts.”

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