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Col. Timothy McNulty, 34th Support Group and Area II commander at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea.
Col. Timothy McNulty, 34th Support Group and Area II commander at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea. (Courtesy of U.S. Army)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Col. Timothy McNulty is like the mayor of a small city within a much larger one.

You could call it Yongsan-ville, a tree-lined grassy Army base that lies in the middle of Seoul, a one-stoplight town for thousands of Americans, South Koreans and servicemembers.

And McNulty, Area II and 34th Support Group commander, is at the top of a pyramid that does everything from repairing leaky pipes in base housing to formulating youth programs for children.

It’s not an easy job, and one that involved taking in lots of opinions and finding solutions through a web of rules and regulations. But McNulty, who took command in July 2003, emphasized he want to make Yongsan the assignment of choice.

“It’s easy to say this,” said the 46-year-old native of Long Island, N.Y., but “I’m sincere: The only problems I can’t fix are the ones I don’t know about.”

McNulty’s goal is a base culture in which concerns are brought to the right levels for decisions.

He’s established a base hotline with a tape recorder to take suggestions. Once a week, he reviews the messages, occasionally grabbing the phone for a personal call.

“I’ve scared some people,” McNulty said. “Sometimes I’ll pick up the phone and call them and thank them for the suggestion and then tell them what we’ve done to make the fix.”

Usually on the last Tuesday of the month, McNulty holds a town hall meeting to hear concerns. Quarterly, they are broadcast on the radio. Past meetings have shown a public not bashful about bringing up everything from infrastructure issues to Army policy concerns.

He also holds quarterly town hall meetings for Hannam Village residents — and one specifically for people at Yongsan Garrison.

Suggestions have resulted in minor improvements such as placing a garbage can near the vacuum cleaners at the Army and Air Force Exchange gas station on south post. A safety net was added near the Astroturf field on south post so kids’ soccer balls don’t bounce into the road. A waiver was created for people who had seen the Noncombatant Evacuation Exercise videos more than once, McNulty said.

McNulty has served in other installation commands and also has taken a four-week pre-command course but suggests instinct and a gentle touch result in the best decisions. “As a colonel with 23 years experience,” he said, “you learn what ‘right’ looks like.”

About 23,000 people in Area II are under McNulty’s command, which also includes several smaller camps in the Seoul area. It houses the most families of any area in South Korea and it has one of the Army’s most active youth programs.

Keeping kids in gainful activities is a constant goal. Under his tenure, a T-ball program for 3- to 5-year-olds — some 68 of them — has been created. Youth employment opportunities recently were expanded; now students can work at Pizza Hut and fill a few part-time slots at the commissary, McNulty said.

Children’s “votes count too,” McNulty said.

“There are improvements to be made every day,” he said. “No two days are the same. The challenges are there. And all I want is the staff to realize is that every day we are going to do something to make things better. I’m excited about being here.”

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