Marines want more training in South Korea
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — The U.S. Marine Corps is taking steps to eventually give more of its troops the chance at combat training in South Korea, a venue they say has proved ideal for preparing for Afghanistan deployments.
“It gets cold, it gets hot, they got mountains, they got valleys, it gets wet, it’s dry, it has four seasons to it, it has high elevations, it has multiple types of training areas,” said Col. Douglas O. Fegenbush Jr., deputy commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Korea.
Those things combined make it one of the best training locations anywhere, he said, adding that unit commanders have said they’d like to make the most of the training and come more often.
So the Marines have embarked on a set of long-term cost savings that should free up the money they need to pay for sending more Marines to Korea to train.
The plan targets money the Marines have been paying out in contracted services for electricity, lights, heating, air conditioning, toilets, garbage pickup and other expenses when they train at Camp Mu Juk near Korea’s east coast.
Those costs have been paid out of the training budgets of the units that come to Mu Juk. The more money going to logistics costs means less available to spend on food and other expenses tied into sending each Marine, Fegenbush said.
But by early next year, the Corps itself will provide those services at Mu Juk. That will save individual units about 75 percent on Korea training costs, he said.
The costs generated by a force of 300 Marines on a two-week Korea training stint is about $85,000, Fegenbush said. But without having to pay for the contracted services, that same unit can save about $60,000 in a two-week period, he said.
“The units that are coming will be able to bring more people, because they will have more dollars to spend on people instead of services,” he said.
“They could come three times as often or bring three times the people,” Fegenbush said.
The plan means first spending money to save money.
The Marines have earmarked a total of about $1 million to buy generators, heating and air-conditioning units, permanent toilet and laundry facilities, and other items, as well as upgrading the camp’s electric power grid, he said.
The utility upgrades and other cost-saving measures should be realized this year, and Marine units should start seeing the lower training costs by early next year, Fegenbush said.
The Marines send units from Okinawa, Hawaii, California, Arizona and other places to train in South Korea seven or eight times a year, he said.
“There aren’t six weeks that go by on this peninsula that don’t have some kind of participation,” Fegenbush said of the Marine stopovers for training and exercises.