USFK’s top NCO talks safety, transformation on radio show
SEOUL — U.S. Forces Korea Command Sgt. Maj. Barry Wheeler, on a monthly call-in radio show, fielded topics Friday ranging from safety to questions about changes USFK’s new commanding general might have in store.
“The most dangerous thing that we do … every day is when we exit the gates” and get on the South Korean highway system, Wheeler said during the one-hour “From the Top” program on American Forces Network.
“You just have to be very careful,” he said. And the troops should “realize you’re paid to watch the other guy.”
One question that was submitted asked about the possibility of better lighting at Yongsan Garrison crosswalks. Saying he didn’t think installing lights at all the crosswalks was possible, Wheeler stressed that both drivers and pedestrians are responsible for safety.
“Don’t assume that somebody can see you,” he said of pedestrians, even those wearing reflective vests. “Safety is ‘job 1,’ ” he said, “and safety is no accident.”
Wheeler also addressed the transformation of the forces on the Korean peninsula and the buildup of Camp Humphreys. Under an agreement with South Korea, the U.S. military plans to transform Camp Humphreys into its premier installation in South Korea by 2008, tripling it in size.
Wheeler said a trip to Humphreys would show a lot of construction, including state-of-the-art gymnasiums and barracks.
“There is a lot ongoing,” he said.
The transformation will allow USFK to consolidate, pulling troops out from congested areas. Another bonus, he said, will be an increase in command-sponsored billets, meaning more troops serving here with their families.
When asked how the transformation and U.S. troops reductions would affect the Korean Augmentees to the U.S. Army — or KATUSAs — Wheeler said he had no “hard facts” but the program obviously would change based on the number of forces.
Another person wanted to know what sort of changes new USFK commander Gen. B.B. Bell might implement in the near future. Bell took command on Feb. 3.
Wheeler praised his new commander, saying “he’s a pretty smart guy” who’s doing what good leaders do when they take over at a new command: Stop, look and listen.
“It’s business as usual,” Wheeler said, with “no changes in the foreseeable future.”
When one soldier asked for advice on balancing work with the goal of getting a college degree, Wheeler said to “focus on what’s important.”
“Military duties have to take priority,” he said, even though education is a good thing. “Be a warrior first … be an educated warrior second. I want you to be a graduate of the foxhole.”