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NEWS | Oct. 2, 2013

USFK holds change of command

By Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson, U.S. Forces Korea PAO

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 2011.

“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 command.

“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 Defense Commission.

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 Korea.”

Click here for more photos.

Click here for the complete change of command video.

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