USFK begins new helipad construction
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — With a throng of South Korean media members on hand to record the event, U.S. Forces Korea officials Thursday knocked down the final barrier — literally — to building a new helipad for military use in Seoul.
As more than two dozen cameras clicked away, a large yellow construction vehicle took bite after bite from a concrete-and-cinder-block wall separating Yongsan Garrison and the back side of the Ministry of National Defense compound. Officials said enough work on the new helipad will be complete by May that flight operations can be shifted from the older spot, near Gate 17.
“This really is a historic date … we are tearing down barriers,” said Lt. Col. Steve Roemhildt, chief engineer for the U.S. military in the Seoul area.
“This is a complex project, and the solution was an effort where we shared land between the two installations.”
Negotiations over moving the helipad took almost seven years, officials have said, with a major complaint being the old flight path took helicopters too near the new Korean national museum next to Yongsan Garrison. Under the agreement reached with the MND and Ministry of Culture and Tourism earlier this year, the new helipad would be located on the MND compound and used by both U.S. and South Korean military helicopters.
The first stage in moving the pad, known as H-208, involved tearing down some 20 senior officer housing quarters on Yongsan. Families in those units were relocated to other housing areas and the demolition work was completed this month.
The project will be completed in four stages, Roemhildt said. The first two phases included tearing down the housing units and the wall. The third stage is building the new helipad; the final stage includes putting up sound-mitigation walls near the new helipad and building a new air traffic control facility.
The final touches should be completed by the end of next year, officials said.