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"Long Stays of Officers and Men Are Beneficial to ROK-U.S. Alliance"

"Long Stays of Officers and Men Are Beneficial to ROK-U.S. Alliance"

Posted March. 20, 2007 07:15,   


Burwell Bell (picture), commander of U.S. Forces in Korea, has a powerful image in Korea because of his tug of war over negotiations on defense cost sharing and negotiations for transferring wartime operational control.

However, his delicate side has become the topic of a talk after he asked for support for enhancing the ROK-U.S. alliance and the normal family life of U.S. soldiers stationed in Korea, at a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives on March 7.

According to a stenographic note, Commander Bell asked for full budget support of new 2008 fiscal year military facilities, which is currently small, at the beginning of the hearing. He explained that funds for construction expenses are urgently needed to prevent officers, non-commissioned officers, and army civilian employees from being apart from their families.

Currently, the U.S. 8th Army garrison in Yongsan and the base camp for the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division in Gyeonggi Province are under construction.

The number of U.S. military families in Korea numbers around is 5,000. Despite a “ten percent regulation” in effect, Bell has allowed 2,000 more to accompany their families with his authority as long as residence space is provided.

Overseas working regulations stipulate “one year alone, three years with family” in the U.S. armed forces. At the moment, 60 percent of U.S. personnel in Korea are married, and 13,000 of the married ones are living alone. That means that they rotate living with their families every year.

Commander Bell asked for an improvement in the ten percent regulation, recalling his time as an officer in Berlin, East Germany, the center of cold war in the 1970s. He said, “Even though two Soviet army divisions were stationed over the Berlin wall 12km away, I, then a second lieutenant in the armored forces, lived with my wife and had my son in Germany. I don’t understand why accompanying families should be limited, especially when North Korea’s conventional military strength has weakened. These soldiers have already been separated from their families three or four times, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter asked if officers and men and their families have the same thoughts.

Commander Bell answered, “I talked with a majority of their spouses and they did not turn down offers of living abroad.’

He did not forget to say that long stays are essential to the development of the ROK-U.S. alliance. He said, “Families from Korea and the U.S. could be life-long friends and exchange cultures on weekends. The opportunity to become closer to Korea, an alliance based on families, is being compromised.”