SEOUL, Republic of Korea —The Far East District welcomed Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Chief of Engineers, on his first visit to Korea July 16-17.
Bostick became the 53rd U.S. Army Chief of Engineers when he assumed command May 22. Since then he has spent the past seven weeks on the road touring the various districts and their projects and meeting a workforce of about 600 Soldiers and more than 37,000 civilians.
Even though Korea was his next stop, Bostick prioritized this visit due to the multi-billion dollar Yongsan Relocation and Land Partnership Plans, currently USACE’s largest project. The two plans are bilateral agreements between the Republic of Korea and the U.S. to consolidate U.S. Forces which are currently spread out over the peninsula. The majority of U.S. Forces will relocate to U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, about 40 miles south of Seoul, by 2016. He also focused on the U.S. strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific region.
“As we look to the future, this is going to continue to be a very important part of the world. We’ve already pulled out of Iraq, we’re pulling out of Afghanistan, and we’re already starting to see a lot of the focus to the Far East,” said Bostick. “It is pivotal that we are successful in this region. So we are going to put all of our energy into this effort.”
Col. Donald E. Degidio, Jr., FED commander, escorted Bostick throughout his visit.
“Lt. Gen. Bostick recognized the superlative actions of the District and the strategic impact the engineers are having regarding the multi-billion dollar transformation effort,” said Degidio. “The district is partaking in a tremendous transformation effort, especially within the YRP and LPP framework.”
Bostick was given a helicopter tour July 17 of the expansion project at Humphreys. The aerial tour is the only way to fully understand first-hand the magnitude of the scope of work being done to improve and expand the existing installation.
During the tour Greg Reiff, area engineer for the district’s Humphreys Area Office, briefed Bostick on the installation’s expansion, the progress of some of the projects, and some of the challenges FED has overcome to get to where it is today.
“The aerial tour is the icing on the cake for these types of visits. When you actually see it from the sky, it gives a whole new perspective to the extent of this program,” said Reiff. “We are essentially taking what were once low-lying rice paddies and turning these into a city. On paper or PowerPoint you might see individual buildings, but up there you get the whole thing. It lets you better visualize the many complexities and challenges of an undertaking of this extent.”
Back on the ground, Bostick addressed FED personnel at a “castle call” meeting at the base gymnasium and used the opportunity to refer back to what he saw on the aerial tour.
“There is a lot of work yet to be done and all of that work is going to get done by the folks on the ground here [in this room],” said Bostick. “If there is a place to be to do work in construction, this is it. I don’t think you could be in a better place to practice your trade.”
Following the “castle call” Bostick was able to visit some of the Humphreys project sites. Dave Talbot, resident engineer at the district’s Family Housing Resident Office, took Bostick to the new housing towers and showed him a mock-up room. From there they proceeded to the 12th floor of the tower where Bostick was able to get an impressive view of the ongoing land development and construction of numerous projects.
Bostick also met with many key leaders in the Korea Ministry of National Defense and U.S. Forces Korea to discuss the role of the entire team of teams who are working together to make the relocation project possible. He met with Gen. James D. Thurman, Commander of United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command/U.S. Forces Korea. He was also able to meet with Korea Vice Minister of National Defense Lee Young-geol.
“The Chief of Engineers visit to the Republic of Korea was of strategic and operational importance to both our ROK-U.S. Alliance and that of U.S. Forces Korea and our U.S. service components,” said Degidio. “He thoroughly enjoyed his visit to the Far East District and Korea.”
Throughout his tour Bostick stressed the importance of the work being done by FED for the military, the Republic of Korea, and for the United States of America by emphasizing that that work could not be done without the district’s people who work by the motto “one team building strong in Korea.”
“The Corps of Engineers is the greatest engineering organization in the world and you are part of that,” said Bostick. “It’s all about people.”