Yongsan Garrison’s new commander has a long history on the Korean Peninsula

Accepting the colors, Col. Ellis Baker assumes command of U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan-Casey during a ceremony inside Collier Community Fitness Center at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, Friday, July 10, 2020.


By MATTHEW KEELER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 10, 2020

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Col. Monica Washington turned over responsibility Friday for this steadily shrinking garrison to a successor with a long history in South Korea.

Once the most populous U.S. military installation in the country, Yongsan, in the heart of the capital city, Seoul, was headquarters for major commands – U.S. Forces Korea, United Nations Command and Eighth Army.

Those numbers dwindled during Washington’s two-year tenure, and the commands moved 55 miles south to Camp Humphreys as part of an $11 billion relocation program.

“Her area of responsibility began in 2018 in support of a population of approximately 25,000 and decreased to 13,000 in 2020,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel Christian, the Eighth Army’s deputy commanding general for sustainment.

The Yongsan commander’s responsibility includes camps beyond the city, including training areas near the Demilitarized Zone, the border with North Korea just 28 miles away.

The continuing process of shutting down the installation now falls to Col. Ellis Baker, a Mount Olive, N.C., native with a string of previous assignments on the peninsula. Between 1998 and 2019, he was posted to Humphreys, Camp Carroll, Camp Stanley, Camp Casey and Yongsan.

“The alliance [between the U.S. and South Korea] is the No. 1 important thing we are doing,” Baker said during the change-of-command ceremony. “This strategic opportunity the Army has given me and my family to help foster that as we give back the historic site to [South Korea] and all the significance that entails as we set conditions for our shared future is something that I look forward to greatly.”

He was accompanied Friday by his spouse, Jinhwa Lee, and their 5-month-old daughter.

“This is my second home,” Baker said, “I do love Korea.”

The handover, with coronavirus safety measures included, took place at the Collier Community Fitness Center on Yongsan.

The Army is steadily shutting down services throughout the garrison in preparation for returning the property to the South Korean government.

Yongsan continues to support thousands of service members, Defense Department civilians, U.S. Embassy staff, contractors, retirees and their family members.

Washington is headed for the Pentagon to serve as executive officer for the Army assistant chief of staff, G9, Installations.

“Today is a day of mixed emotions,” she said during the ceremony. “One part of me is excited about the next step in my journey, while a big part of me wants to stay and continue our efforts to return the historic Yongsan to [South Korea].”

Twitter: @MattKeeler1231