Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you Minister Jeong Kyeong-Doo and General Selva for those remarks and your exceptional leadership.
Ambassador Harris distinguished Ambassadors General Kim, General Bell, General Brown senior civilian and military leaders distinguished visitors thank you for your attendance today in celebrating this time-honored tradition.
To the Brooks, Abrams, Payton and Tagalicud families –– thank you for your continued service and all you do to support our service members and their families.
It is a privilege to be here to recognize some outstanding leaders and acknowledge our ironclad alliance with the Republic of Korea.
For more than six decades, the ROK – U.S. alliance has been the linchpin of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific.
We have trained, fought, and bled side-by-side in our enduring pursuit of freedom, and we have, time and again, demonstrated our steadfast resolve to the phrase ‘Katchi kapshida’ (같이갑시다) – we indeed go together.
But our alliance has developed to be more than just a military partnership.
Our shared political and cultural values have helped South Korea become one of the world’s most thriving democracies…
A democracy that has a government elected by and accountable to their citizens... a democracy that believes in transparency...a democracy that protects basic human rights like freedom of speech and religion...and it is these values that has helped the Republic of Korea become an economic giant, with the 11th largest economy in the world.
These shared values have helped South Korea become a shining example for other countries in the Indo-Pacific to emulate and will continue to strengthen the ROK – U.S. alliance for decades….even centuries to come.
At the heart of this alliance are the amazing Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and partner nation service members that make up this incredible command. You all stand ready to deter our adversaries, and fight and win if deterrence fails, in order to safeguard our interests and preserve our way of life.
What you do on a daily basis positively impacts this command, but more importantly, the ROK – U.S. alliance. So thank you for all that you continue to do.
And for the past two and a half years, the men and women of U.S. Forces Korea have looked to Command Sergeant Major Payton to be their standard bearer. Command Sergeant Major, you have set a tremendous example for our young leaders to emulate. I want to thank you and your family for your unrelenting support of our service members and this great alliance, and I wish you nothing but the best in your future endeavors.
Command Sergeant Major Tagalicud and family, welcome to the Peninsula and USFK. I know you are more than ready for the incredible responsibility of setting and enforcing the standard expected and will continue to build upon this great alliance.
Vince has led this command during one of the most dynamic and contentious times since the end of the Korean War.
When Vince first took command, we saw an increasingly aggressive North Korea, with provocative rhetoric and a series of missile and nuclear tests, to include Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles that threatened not just our South Korean allies, but were a direct threat to the United States homeland.
Vince responded through a series of training events that built interoperability between our forces, ensuring shared doctrine, tactics, procedures, and systems that allow us to operate seamlessly together.
These exercises demonstrated a level of resolve and responsiveness that we are ready to fight and win, if needed.
It was this credible deterrent and the maximum pressure campaign from the UN Security Council’s historic sanctions that sent a clear message to the North Korean regime that the only path to a secure and economically prosperous future is to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.
It is our Alliance's strength and unity of purpose that brought North Korea to the negotiating table, leading to the historic summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim, along with several other high- level talks, all working towards a common end state: the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.
Since those talks, Vince has led the United Nations Command in tri-lateral meetings with the Republic of Korea and North Korea, resulting in the verification of demilitarization efforts at the Demilitarized Zone’s Joint Security Area.
And just three months ago, the United Nations Command led the dignified transfer and repatriation of 55 remains back to the United States, honoring those fallen warriors while also reassuring those still missing and unaccounted for and their families that they will never be forgotten.
Vince, under your leadership, we have started on the historic path to a truly peaceful and prosperous Korean peninsula, but you have also made it clear that our commitment to the Republic of Korea remains absolute, and we remain prepared to defend our allies using all of the capabilities at our disposal.
I have no doubt that you were the right leader at the right time to lead this incredible formation. You and your team have helped make history to what I hope is the peaceful future of the Korean peninsula. Thanks for being such an inspirational and visionary leader. I wish you and Carol the best in your future endeavors.
Though it is hard to say goodbye to the Brooks family, I’m also pleased to welcome the Abrams to the Peninsula.
Abe comes from a family of military leaders and is a proven warfighter. Coming from U.S. Army Forces Command, Abe was responsible for providing combat ready forces to combatant commanders around the world, to include here in Korea.
It’s telling that we send our best officers like Abe to command here on the Pen. It’s another indicator of our commitment to the alliance we share with the Republic of Korea.
I am hopeful, even optimistic, about the ongoing diplomatic negotiations with North Korea.
But I must also be realistic in my role as Commander of USINDOPACOM and continue to emphasize military readiness while simultaneously supporting the U.S. Department of State-led pressure campaign until the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.
Abe, without a doubt, you are the perfect leader to take on this tremendous responsibility during these historic times. I know you and Connie will continue to champion our service members and this incredible ROK-U.S. alliance.
May God bless the Abrams family... the Brooks family... and all of our men and women in uniform … the Republic of Korea and the United States of America.
We go together! Katchi kapshida!(같이갑시다!) Thank you.