Eighth Army Town Hall Highlights need for transparency during relocation
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea -- Members of the military community in South Korea converged on the South Post Chapel on U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul Sept. 22 for the latest in a series of Transformation Town Hall meetings in preparation for the upcoming move to Camp Humphreys. The move is the largest peace-time re-stationing of U.S. forces in Department of Defense history with more than 42,000 personnel and family members scheduled to relocate.
Addressing attendees Eighth Army Commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal stressed the importance of maintaining transparency throughout the move to minimize disruption and maximize efficiencies.
"This is the largest move of any kind overseas in the history of the Army," said Vandal. "In the aggregate it is a $10.7 billion construction project that has been ongoing for more than ten years. This year we (are beginning to) transition from the construction phase…to the movement phase or the execution phase. That is the phase that has a direct impact on you or your families."
"The intent of the (town hall) is to be as transparent as possible for all of the people impacted by the move…and to provide you an update and an opportunity to ask those hard questions. We may not always have the answers to those questions, (but) we should at least identify what the outstanding issues are and work to get those questions answered."
Eighth Army Director of Strategy, Plans and Transformation Col. George Shatzer echoed similar sentiments.
"This is a very large undertaking including massive construction projects, (and) movement of thousands of personnel from Area I and Yongsan down to Camp Humphreys," Shatzer said. "There is a lot of movement coming next year particularly in late-Spring and mid-Summer and really throughout the rest of 2017."
As one would expect with a relocation of this magnitude delays are inevitable, but Shatzer assured attendees that re-stationing efforts are still moving forward.
"You may have heard rumors from a coworker or neighbor that there is a big delay," he said. "While some of that may be true…those difficulties are not slowing down the overall movement effort. Any time we have a confirmed delay or issue that is brought to our attention the Eighth Army Transformation Team works very closely with the U.S. Forces Korea Transformation Team to develop alternatives to keep the overall process moving forward."
For personnel worried how a delay might affect their situation, Shatzer urged those individuals to speak with their chain of command.
"Each unit or organization's plan is going to be tailored to their needs, so talk to your leadership," he said. "If you have a question about how this process is going to impact you individually they are the best prepared to provide you with (an answer)."
One of the biggest challenges with a move this large is making sure that everyone has the latest information. Hoping to close those gaps in information Vandal lobbied attendees to come together as a team to make sure everyone is prepared to relocate.
"I challenge you to help us get the word out…because the last thing we want is to have an individual…looking for this three to six months from now and they haven't had the opportunity to set conditions for it to be a successful and seamless move," he said.
Also addressing attendees was U.S. Army Garrison Humphrey Deputy Commander Patrick MacKenzie who updated the community on some of the progress taking place at Camp Humphreys.
He explained that in addition to the $10.7 billion that has been spent to transform the installation into one of the Army's flagship garrison communities there has been another $649 million spent outside the gates on the local infrastructure. The off-post initiatives include the addition of a KTX line that stops near Pyeongtaek and a new highway bridge. Both options are expected to greatly reduce travel times to Camp Humphreys.
"They tested the KTX for the first time from Jiji station (and) they got here to Seoul in 18 minutes," MacKenzie said. "(It will) be ready to go the first week in December. Our Korean partners will (also) have a bus that goes back-and-forth from Jiji station to Camp Humphreys to get us to and from that high-speed train station."
"The new highway bridge is another good news story for us on Camp Humphreys and the local community," he continued. "It (usually) takes about an hour and a half to get to the installation. Taking the highway bridge to Highway 17 (will) drop you off at one of our access control points on Camp Humphreys and shorten that time to approximately 50 minutes."
Individuals and families looking for more information about the upcoming relocation are encouraged to visit the Eighth Army Transformation and Relocation website at http://8tharmy.korea.army.mil/transformation/.