U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Far East District construction division moves to Humphreys
The majority of the district's construction division employees are set to move to U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys by Oct. 15. The move coincides with a ramping up of construction at the garrison, part of the United States Forces Korea's Yongsan Relocation Plan (YRP), the largest base relocation program in the Department of Defense.
"I think this is the best way to focus everyone on the YRP," said Mike Kopp, construction division quality assurance branch chief. "We can be more efficient down there. Every dollar and every hour counts."
The quality assurance branch will move this summer to allow those with children in Department of Defense Dependent Schools to complete the school year in Seoul.
"Moving is always a challenge, even when it's in country," said Sam Adkins, chief of construction division. "Moving to Humphreys is just like moving to Kansas. You have to get orders, pack out household goods, outprocess your vehicle, outprocess Area II [the Seoul area], travel, stay in temporary quarters until you find an apartment and inprocess Area III [Humphreys area]."
Kopp said everyone in his section has been to Humphreys numerous times and knowing the projects and the people will help ease the transition.
"We had some help from Far East District folks who are already down there," said Kopp. "People shared their experience with places to live and real estate agents so that made the process easier."
Moving can be a stressful time, especially for those who have lived in Seoul for decades. Korean National Sung Ho had lived in Seoul for nearly 14 years and said leaving brought some challenges.
"I talked it over with my family for six months before deciding to move. The biggest problem was educational -- finding the right school for my children," said Ho. "We moved in February and we like it there now. My advice to others is don't be afraid."
Korean nationals account for more than half of construction division's employees and the process of moving them is different compared to U.S. Army civilians.
"On the whole it's probably more difficult for the Koreans to move because their system doesn't have as many benefits for them to move as opposed to ours," said Kopp. "Americans in Korea on the whole we're built more to be mobile and versatile."
Kopp left for Humphreys in May, the first one in his section leave. He said "leading from the front" gave him the opportunity to provide tangible leadership and advice to his employees on what to expect.
"It's not just a question of cutting the orders and the money," said Kopp. "You've got to show them we care. We haven't forgotten about you. We really appreciate what you're doing and we need you. That's the biggest concern I have. This is a challenge to really take care of the people," said Kopp.