USFK: ‘No final decisions or timelines’ confirmed yet for shutting down Greaves and Giant
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea officials on Friday retracted a major base closure announcement that would have had hundreds of U.S. soldiers moving away from the border with North Korea by the end of the year.
A news release issued Thursday by Installation Management Agency-Korea Region said the closures were official and would happen by Nov. 1.
Friday’s USFK release, though, said that while certain facilities are scheduled for closure under the Land Partnership Plan, “both the ROK and U.S. have confirmed no final decisions or timelines are in place.”
Brig. Gen. John A. MacDonald announced Monday that Camps Greaves and Giant would close by Nov. 1. Additionally, U.S. troops would be reduced from 200 to 43 at Camps Bonifas and Liberty Bell just south of the Demilitarized Zone, he said.
MacDonald made the announcement to Korean employees and U.S. soldiers at Camp Casey during a town hall meeting.
The announcement was made to “provide as much early planning as possible for our Korean civilian employees’ future as it applies to the status of camps Greaves and Giant,” according to USFK.
Under the LPP, U.S. bases will be reduced from 41 to 23 by 2011.
Base closures will come “on a timeline agreed to by both parties,” the release stated. Camps Greaves and Giant were originally scheduled for closure in 2011.
“Finalized information will be released as decisions are agreed to by both the ROK and U.S. partners,” the USFK release read.
Greaves and Giant are home to 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment. Soldiers at Camps Bonifas and Liberty Bell are part of the Joint Security Battalion, a U.N. Command unit headed by a U.S lieutenant colonel responsible for security at Panmunjom.
U.S. and South Korean officials discussed reducing the U.S. presence at Camp Bonifas during the Future of the Alliance initiative meetings. A sixth round of those talks were held this week in Hawaii.
Civilian and Korean Camp Greaves employees are concerned they’ll be left out in the cold if the base does close in the near future.
Camp Greaves Education Center administrator Frank Carroll said his job was in jeopardy and he expected several others to lose their jobs.
“As far as I know there are no contingency plans for us contractors. Once this place closes, we are out on the street looking for other jobs,” Carroll said. “I have worked for Central Texas College for 14 years so maybe they will find a place for me but these other two [employees] will have a hard time finding a place.”
Carroll, who has lived in South Korea for 22 years, said he hopes the base won’t close.
“It is a nice place. I love it here and I’ll be sad to see it go.”
The camp was first occupied by the 1st Marine Division in June 1954 and is named after Cpl. Clinton Greaves, who earned the Medal of Honor while serving with the 9th U.S. Cavalry in 1879.
Camp Greaves is a collection of ancient Quonset huts and more modern facilities including a cinema, swimming pool, sports field, food court, gymnasium and post exchange, ringed by mesh fences and barbed wire.
Camp Giant, located between Paju and Munsan, is home to less than 500 soldiers from the 1-506th. Established in 1957, the 40-acre camp was allegedly named in 1969 by South Korean engineers after the film “Giant” starring James Dean.
Pfc. Frankie Turner, nearing the end of a yearlong tour at Camp Greaves, said he would rather serve there than any other camp in South Korea. Life at Camp Greaves has improved, even in the last year, he said.
“I love this camp,” Turner said. “The leadership is amazing and they train hard. I can’t see myself anywhere else such as Casey or Hovey. Being closer to the DMZ is where I want to be.
“Our motto is: Stands Alone. We are closer to the enemy than anyone else.”