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[Herald Interview] Relocation of US base won’t hurt readiness: US commanders

 CAMP CASEY, Dongducheon -- Despite the relocation of a major US military base from the inter-Korean border to the south of Seoul, the unit’s combat readiness will remain just as strong as before, its outgoing and incoming commanders stressed Tuesday.

“The location of the division and various brigades ... (it) really does not matter where we are stationed,” Maj. Gen. Theodore D. Martin, who was the commander general of the 2nd Infantry Division for the past two years, said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

The unit’s incoming chief, Maj. Gen. Scott McKean, echoed the remark, highlighting his other role as commander of the Korea-US Combined Division, which the 2nd division formed with South Korean mechanized infantry brigade for wartime operations.

“We will maintain the disciplined forces. The more we get interoperable, and integrated into the (South Korean armed forces), the more powerful and the more deterrence we will provide,” said McKean during the joint interview. 

Maj. Gen. Theodore D. Martin, the outgoing commanding general of the US’ 2nd Infantry Division, poses with his successor Maj. Gen. Scott Mckean at Camp Casey in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province. Yonhap
Maj. Gen. Theodore D. Martin, the outgoing commanding general of the US’ 2nd Infantry Division, poses with his successor Maj. Gen. Scott Mckean at Camp Casey in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province. Yonhap

McKean took over his duties with a change of command ceremony at Camp Casey in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province, shortly after the interview. The ceremony was attended by the allies’ top military generals, including Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the US Forces in Korea.

Under the relocation scheme, called “Land Partnership Plan,” the 2nd infantry division will move to Camp Humphreys, in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, where the 8th Army’s headquarters had recently moved from Yongsan, Seoul.

The division’s 210th Field Artillery Brigade, designed to counter North Korea’s long-range artillery units positioned across the heavily-armed border, will remain at Camp Casey until “conditions are met,” according to the allies’ militaries.

“We are on our way to reposition (the) armored brigade combat team from Camp Casey to Camp Humphreys within the next years. The division’s headquarters move to Pyeongtaek -- this is all part of what we call (the) transformation plan,” Martin said. 

The two commanders highlighted that the Korean peninsula is under “heightened tension” following North Korea’s missile and nuclear activities, pledging to fend off Pyongyang’s aggressive acts and maintain peace and security on the peninsula.

“The Korean Peninsula is consistently at a period of high tensions. (It is) the strength of our alliance that keeps us ready to deter those type of aggressions (from North Korea),” said McKean, recalling his previous service in South Korea.

Commissioned in 1990 from US military academy at West Point, McKean served in South Korea as a training officer to the 2nd Infantry Division and as an executive officer to former USFK Commander Ret. Gen. James D. Thurman.

Martin, in particular, noted South Korea’s efforts to ease cross-border tensions -- such as its offer to hold inter-Korean military talks -- is a “good thing,” while highlighting his troops’ mission to deter North Korea’s provocations.

“Our mission is to deter any aggression and maintain armistice. I think any actions that seek to reduce potential tensions on the Korean Peninsula are good things -- whether or not the North Koreans extend hands of friendship. At the tactical level, I will maintain readiness and ready to fight tonight,” he said.

Martin was sworn in as the 2nd Division Commander in April 2015 and became the first commander of the Korea-US Combined Division two months later. During his tenure, the combined division was awarded presidential unit citation by the South Korean government in October. He will return to Washington for his duty at Pentagon.

“(The awarding event) stands at the highlight of my professional military career, and a bright sharing day in the history of (the 2nd Infantry Division),” said Martin during his speech at the change of command ceremony.

By Yeo Jun-suk (