CAMP HUMPHREYS, PYEONGTAEK, Republic of Korea —
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a distinct pleasure for my wife Ricki and I to be here today on behalf of Secretary of Defense Mattis and Chairman Joe Dunford to preside over today’s ceremonies and to share this special day with two special families.
Minister Jeong, Ambassador Harris, ambassadors from all the sending nations, General Park, Admiral Davidson, General Brooks, General Abrams, General Kim, General Bell, General Brown, members of the Republic of Korea and the United States Armed Forces…
Ladies and gentlemen…thank you for being here to honor those who serve here in United Nations Command, the U.S.-Korea Combined Forces Command, United States Forces Korea, and our long-standing alliance.
I’m delighted to see so many military and civilian leaders from our Korean partners in the audience today.
Your very presence says far more than my words ever could about the enduring strength of this alliance … about the leadership of General Vince Brooks … and about the commitment of the entire U.S.–Korea and sending-state team.
Over the past 65 years, our commitment to each other has faced many challenges, yet it has never wavered.
The U.S.–Republic of Korea alliance, along with the ready-made coalition of the United Nations Command, is the unshakeable bedrock of deterrence that has preserved peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
It’s an alliance built on mutual trust and shared values, fortified by more than six decades of our forces serving shoulder-to-shoulder, training shoulder-to-shoulder, and remaining ready to fight shoulder-to-shoulder, if necessary.
The heart and soul of the alliance is the men and women from the United States, Republic of Korea, and sending states who stand watch every day to keep this country strong, prosperous and free.
And for the past two and a half years, General Brooks has been their leader, providing visionary leadership to United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and United States Forces Korea during one of the most dynamic and demanding periods in the history of our alliance.
Vince took command just three months after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear weapons test. Over the next 19 months, North Korea conducted no fewer than 50 provocative tests and demonstrations in an attempt to showcase its accelerated progress in weapons development, all while elevating its inflammatory rhetoric.
It seemed increasingly likely that the peninsula was headed toward crisis.
Throughout that turbulent time, Vince’s steady leadership ensured the multinational, combined, and joint force serving in the Republic of Korea were always ready to defend South Korea amid the highest of tensions.
Today, the security environment on the Korean Peninsula is at an inflection point, marked by a reduction in tensions, an increase in productive dialogue, and a gradual growth in optimism over a potential sustained relationship with North Korea.
Vince and his United Nations Command team have played a central role in this historic transition, helping to enable the diplomatic progress that is necessary to bring a lasting peace to the peninsula.
Vince: we will be forever grateful for all of your contributions to strengthening this alliance, and for your service throughout an exemplary military career.
I also want to thank Vince’s most important partner, his wife Carol, who has devoted her life to making a difference for others.
Carol: your dedication to the men and women of this command is inspirational and is a reflection of a lifetime of service. Thank you for sharing your husband with the Army and our nation.
We wish you both the best in the next chapter of your lives.
The good news is we’re placing this command in the hands of another very capable couple, Robert and Connie Abrams, who are eager to wrap their arms around this ironclad alliance.
We send only the best to the Pen, and General Abrams is no exception.
You might say excellence runs in Abe’s blood. He’s the son of a former Army Chief of Staff and both of his older brothers were Army general officers.
Abe is taking command today, not because of his family’s patriotic legacy, but because he is one of the most experienced leaders we have in our military.
Abe has more than 36 years of exceptional leadership at every level.
He’s the senior Armor Officer in the Army, a proven leader in combat, and he has participated in or supported over 100 Korea exercises.
Abe has a deep appreciation both of the environment he’s entering and the value of our partnerships.
He believes in leading by personal example, focusing on what’s most important, and empowering his people to get the job done.
Abe spent the last three years leading Army Forces Command, the largest organization in the U.S. military.
His number one priority during that time was building and sustaining readiness across all components of America’s Army…lessons he will no doubt apply here.
I know he is prepared to lead the command in this point in history, and he has a great partner in Connie who will be a source of strength and support.
Connie, your commitment, too, is widely known and I’m sure you’ll bring that same loving arm and embrace to your service here in Korea.
Like Carole, you’ll be a superb champion for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, and our Korea partners who serve here in Korea.
It’s because of leaders like the Brooks and the Abrams, and because of all of you, that we remain the world’s preeminent military force, and why our alliance will always endure.
May God bless all of you. Thank you for being here today, and good luck.