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SEOUL — U.S. Marines and their South Korean counterparts gathered earlier this month to discuss upcoming exercises and the continuation of more than 50 years of friendship, according to U.S. Marine Forces Korea officials.

Col. Thompson A. Gerke, MARFORK deputy commander, said the meetings allowed the Marines to discuss their participation in annual training and the future of their respective services.

The final day of meetings saw VIP visitors including Maj. Gen. Duane D. Thiessen, commander MARFORK; Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Weber, commander III Marine Expeditionary Force; Lt. Gen. John F. Goodman, commander Marine Forces Pacific; and South Korean Marine commandant Lt. Gen. Lee Sang-ro.

Gerke said the meetings provided an opportunity for “dialogue and discussions between two services that share a history together.”

U.S. and South Korean Marines have trained during peace and fought side-by-side during war since the 1st Marine Division marched onto the peninsula to fight the North Koreans in 1950.

Their relationship — further developed during Vietnam and now in Iraq — has been “very unique, meaningful, substantive and mutually beneficial,” Gerke said.

The Marines attend each other’s schools and training, he said, and personnel work together in liaison roles. One of the subjects discussed during the recent meetings was how to better utilize the liaisons, Gerke said.

Just getting the staff together for a few days was key in helping the Marines with how they work and communicate. And as the U.S. military transforms in South Korea, Gerke said the “fellowship and camaraderie will continue.”

Gerke pointed toward installation improvements at their infamously austere Camp Mu Juk — near Pohang — as a signal of the U.S. Marines Corps’ future plans on the peninsula.

The United States is investing $60 million to turn the 84-acre facility into a modern installation over 10 years. The recently completed first phase of improvements gave the camp paved surfaces, new perimeter fencing and lighting, an upgraded electrical system, a new drainage system and a gate decked out with force-protection equipment, officials have told Stripes. New shower buildings, two new barracks and a dining hall also have been constructed.

Gerke said the camp contributes to combat readiness and is meaningful to the South Korean-U.S. alliance. It allows the Marines to take advantage of training opportunities in the Pohang area.


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