YONGSAN GARRISON, SEOUL, South Korea —
In a change of command ceremony co-hosted by the U.S. Secretary of
Defense and the Republic of Korea Minister of Defense, leadership of
United Nations Command, ROK – US Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces
Korea changed hands Oct. 2 during a ceremony at Knight Field.
Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti assumed command of the UNC, CFC and USFK,
replacing Gen. James D. Thurman, who has served as commander since July
“This ceremony is yet another affirmation of the enduring strength of
this alliance,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “It’s an opportunity
to recognize the contributions of every man and woman in uniform that
stands watch here on freedom’s frontier. Today we thank all the service
members of this storied command, both Korean and American, who keep this
country strong, prosperous and free, and help preserve peace and
stability in northeast Asia and stand prepared against any aggression
from the North.”
Hagel and ROK Defense Min. Kim Kwan-Jin passed the colors of the
Combined Forces Command from Thurman to Scaparrotti, symbolizing the
transfer of leadership of the wartime command responsible for more than
700,000 South Korean and U.S. forces. In the event of hostilities, the
CFC would provide a coordinated defense through its Ground, Air, Naval,
and Combined Marine Forces Component Commands and the Combined
Unconventional Warfare Task Force.
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey
transferred the colors of the United Nations Command from Thurman to
Scaparrotti, symbolizing the transfer of leadership of the command
responsible for maintaining the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement and
for managing the participation of the sixteen U.N. Sending States,
including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, France,
Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, South
Africa, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Adm. Samuel Locklear III, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, passed the
colors of the U.S. Forces Korea from Thurman to Scaparrotti, symbolizing
the transfer of leadership of the command responsible for the 28,500
U.S. forces serving in South Korea. USFK is the joint headquarters
through which American combat forces would be sent to the CFC’s fighting
components. Major USFK elements include the Eighth United States Army,
U.S. Air Forces Korea (Seventh Air Force), and U.S. Naval Forces Korea.
Hagel highlighted Thurman’s leadership in Kosovo and in two deployments
in Iraq, and enumerated several key accomplishments during his time in
“Gen. Thurman assumed this command during a time of great challenge and
uncertainty here on the peninsula,” said Hagel. “The transition of
power in Pyongyang and the continued provocations by that desperate and
isolated regime presented a series of challenges and crises, all of
which Gen. Thurman navigated skillfully and successfully.”
During the ceremony, Hagel presented Thurman the Defense Distinguished
Service Medal, and presented Thurman’s wife Delia the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint Distinguished Service Award.
Thurman, a native of Marietta, Okla., said during the course of his 38
years of service, and ten commands, that leading UNC/CFC/USFK was the
most challenging and rewarding experience of his career.
“To the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, civilians, and family
members of this great multinational, joint, and combined team, I give my
heartfelt thanks for the support and dedication that you have given me
during my time as the commander of the United Nations Command, Combined
Forces Command, and the United States Forces Korea,” said Thurman.
“Whether you are from the ROK military, a member of the United Nations
Command Sending States, the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, or
from the U.S. military, you made a difference every day and have kept
this Alliance strong,” he said. “Even during North Korea’s period of
prolonged provocation earlier this year, we have remained strong and
vigilant, and have shown the world that we are ready to defend the
Republic of Korea and defeat any aggression.”
During Thurman’s tenure, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Il died in Dec.
2011, and his son Kim Jong-Un took over as Chairman of the National
Thurman oversaw the UNC/CFC/USFK through several North Korean provocations.
In December 2012, a North Korean rocket launch put a satellite into
orbit, a violation of a U.N. ban on North Korean ballistic missile
tests. In February 2013, North Korea carried out a third nuclear test.
In April 2013, North Korea announced it would restart all facilities at
its main Yongbyon nuclear complex and withdrew its workers from the
joint Kaesong Industrial Park. North Korea tested four short-range
missiles in May 2013. Finally, in September 2013, North and South Korea
reopened the Kaesong Industrial Park.
“Their long range missile launches, the third nuclear test, cyber
terrorism and the declaration of the annulment of the Armistice all
pushed the peninsula security situation right up to the edge,” said ROK
Def. Min. Kim Kwan-Jin “And every time, I consulted with Sec. Hagel,
(U.S.) Ambassador (to Korea Sung) Kim and Gen. Thurman, and we were able
to successfully deter North Korea and maintain the highest combined
watch and readiness posture.”
Gen. Dempsey said the Alliance has evolved and grown stronger over time.
“For 60 years we’ve endured three generations of constant provocations
together and we’ve never backed down,” said Dempsey. “For sixty years we
have lived together, we have trained together, and we have grown
together, and, today, no one can doubt that if it becomes necessary to
fight on the Korean peninsula, we will go together.”
The strength of the Alliance is in our common goals, said Dempsey.
“This is more than a partnership, it’s a living and enduring alliance –
an alliance based on common values, mutual trust and a shared vision of
a peaceful peninsula,” said Dempsey.
Scaparrotti introduced himself to service members and civilians of the
United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea,
and outlined his priorities.
“As your new commander, my priorities are straight forward,” said
Scaparrotti. “First, sustain and strengthen the Alliance. We will
continue to be committed to each other to make our Alliance better.
Second, maintain the Armistice. We will be ready to ‘Fight Tonight.’ We
will continue to deter and defeat aggression. Third, transform and
achieve Strategic Alliance 2015. Fourth, sustain force and family
readiness. We must always remain mission ready and maintain healthy
command climates and comprehensive fitness. Fifth, enhance the team of
the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces
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