PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Over the years, the U.S. Marines have never been shy about saying that their small, out-of-the-way logistics base at Camp Mu Juk in South Korea was a functional but rough-at-the-edges place of duty.

The 84-acre base outside Pohang was known for its unpaved roads, iffy electrical system, makeshift buildings and a wire-and- steel swinging front gate guarded by a few Marines huddled in an outdated guard shack.

But in 2004 South Korean and U.S. officials signed the final paperwork changing Mu Juk’s legal standing to that of an installation covered by the provisions of the status of forces agreement between the two nations. And the U.S. military announced it would spend $60 million to turn muddy Mu Juk into a modern installation over a 10-year period.

Now, with the project’s first phase recently completed, Mu Juk is well on its way to that proud new status, according to Marine Corps officials in South Korea.

“The quality of life of the individual Marine is taking a quantum leap forward,” said Marine Col. Thompson A. Gerke, deputy commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Korea, in Seoul.

Mu Juk now has paved surfaces, a new perimeter fence and lighting, an upgraded electrical system, a new drainage system and a modern main gate with up-to-date force-protection equipment.

Three shower buildings, for use by personnel in South Korea for periodic exercises and training, have gone up, as have two three-story barracks — one for enlisted personnel, one for officers — and a dining hall that can serve 100 people at a sitting.

Each room has its own cooking facilities, a washer and dryer and wiring for cable TV and Internet, said Wayne Darling, Mu Juk’s facility maintenance officer.

Junior enlisted Marines live two to a room and sergeants and above have their own rooms, he said.

“So the quality of life of individual folks today is, I would say, five times better than was true literally a year ago,” Gerke said.

Among items to be built are a fitness center, headquarters building, motor pool, warehouse, public works office building and public works warehouse.

“The composition of the camp staff is changing also from what it historically has been,” Gerke said.

In past years, Mu Juk was run by a camp support detachment under the 9th Engineer Support Battalion on Okinawa. But in January it came under Marine Corps Forces, Korea.

The camp support detachment commander typically was a lieutenant or captain, but that too has changed, Gerke said. Since last year Mu Juk has been commanded by Lt. Col. Mark Giorno, an O-5. And the Marines have proposed that Mu Juk’s future commanders be at grade O-6.

Besides the 40 or so Marines stationed at Mu Juk, the staff will have more than 40 South Korean civil service personnel working as phone operators, dining hall staff and in a range of other jobs, Gerke said. The U.S. civilian staffers eventually may number around five.

“When I first came here,” said Giorno, “we didn’t even have paved roads. Just mud. … So every little bit makes a difference.”

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