Transformation in South Korea making ‘more capable’ units
February 14, 2006
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — When the U.S. Army is finished transforming in South Korea, the differences will go far beyond smaller troop numbers and larger bases in the central part of the country, according to the 8th U.S. Army’s top officer for force management and future operations.
The changes — part of both the Pentagon-wide plans and agreements between America and South Korea — will create more stability for military families, will cut down on deployed human-resources staff, and will create more unit cohesion, according to Col. Richard Parker, the officer in charge of implementing the changes for 8th Army.
In South Korea, plans already have caused historic changes. More than a dozen bases have closed, the 2nd Infantry Division has restructured and a new Army aviation brigade was created. Stand-alone personnel units, like the 175th Finance Command at Yongsan Garrison, are being dismantled or meshed into other, larger commands.
But more changes are on the way, Parker said during a talk Thursday night to a group of 8th Army officers.
The linchpin of transformation is the Army’s focus on brigades, units that typically contain around 3,000 soldiers, rather than the larger divisions, which hold at least two brigades.
“In each case, we’re creating smaller but more capable and lethal organizations,” Parker said.
The Army wants these brigades to be mobile, self-contained units that can deploy quickly anywhere in the world, Parker said. The goal, he added, is to be able to amass a fighting Army within 30 days.
Ultimately, brigade soldiers will train together, deploy together, and return to the same American military base together, he said. The idea is to keep units together longer while giving soldiers’ families the ability to live in the same area for years at a time.
The brigades will consist of five to seven battalions to provide the firepower, maintenance, equipment, manpower and policing needed to engage in a battle, Parker told officers in an educational briefing. Traditionally, an Army brigade has held two to three battalions.
For South Korea, a key change will come this summer with the creation of the 501st Sustainment Brigade, Parker said. The brigade will be the first operational unit of its kind in the Army and will be responsible for one of the major missions here: reception, staging, onward movement and integration.
Other changes involve how the Army runs its personnel offices worldwide, Parker said. Eventually, there will be no personnel offices in South Korea other than each unit’s individual human-resources office, usually known as the S-1 office. Decisions like assignments and questions about pay will be directed to two human-resources offices worldwide, he said.
The way the Army conducts troop rotations will also affect soldiers assigned to South Korea.
Soldiers attached to stateside-based brigade combat teams will rotate to South Korea together on a one-year, unaccompanied tour. Other support staff will come to South Korea on accompanied tours for as long as three years, much like in Germany.
The drawdown of troops here will continue through 2008, the planned end date for the changes agreed to by the U.S. and Korean governments.
The Army here has shrunk by about 8,000 soldiers already; another 3,500 will go by 2008 under the current plan. USFK’s overall plan is to reduce servicemembers here down to 25,000.