Yeorobun, annyeong hashimnikka (여러분, 안녕하십니까) and Good Morning.
The weather is challenging, but the event is joyous and takes our minds away from our momentary discomfort. Thank you all for being here today.
Jeong kyung doo, guk bang boo chang gwan nim (국방부장관님); General Paul Selva, The Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff; Admiral Phil Davidson, The Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command – Thanks to each of you for making the journey here to Camp Humphreys to officiate the changes of the three commands today. And to your predecessors who placed the colors into my hands in April of 2016, as well as those who served in the positions in the interval of these past 30 months, I say thanks for granting me the privilege of command and for the generous trust and confidence each of you gave to me along the way. It is a true honor to stand on this platform with you today.
This is a historic event in many respects. It is the celebration of 40 years of the R.O.K. – U.S. Combined forces Command; it is the ending and beginning of chapters in the history of the defense of the Republic of Korea for 65 years; and it is the first ceremony to change the three commands on Barker Field, in front of the new general John W. Vessey, Jr headquarters building, here on Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek – historic milestones at the beginning of a new era.
Among the numerous distinguished guests present today are many general officers and admirals, currently serving and retired. There are many excellences and ambassadors, especially those representing our devoted team members – the original United Nations sending states and enabling nations, as well as the neutral nation’s supervisory commission.
There are many civic leaders, national government officials, business leaders, friendship organization leaders, benevolent committee members, and friends of the commands here today, and I thank for honoring us with your presence.
There are so many to thank today, and it will not be possible to call them all out. But bear with me while I call out a few . . .
First, I am grateful to god almighty who placed me here and sustained me up to this moment, and who ordered every one of my steps and inspired every one of my thoughts and actions.
Next, I want to express my appreciation for the warriors of the Republic of Korea, the United States, and the sending states – here in Korea and in Japan, who served under my command. A commander is nothing without someone to carry out the commands. Everything that happened militarily over the last 30 months happened because of what they did collectively. I especially want to thank those beautiful troops standing before us on this field in the moist Pyeongtaek air for making this an extraordinary event, marked with military precision. Of course the best among them are our senior non-commissioned officers and the senior enlisted leaders of the commands and subordinates commands. You are all the greatest professionals I have observed. There is no way we could go wrong with you on the team of teams.
Top billing goes to my command sergeant major, Steven Payton, who took his post as I took mine, and who now relinquishes his post as I do likewise.
You are an amazing warrior and a battle buddy, and I will forever be grateful to you for inspiring me, and Everyone in the three commands, to perform to their utmost, every day. Thanks for going every step of the way with me. I will miss being your commander and I wish you continued success and meaningful service in the months and years to come.
Let me express my thanks to those organizations who served alongside the three commands – the R.O.K. Ministry of National Defense, and the U.S. Department of Defense; the Joint Chiefs of Staff of both the R.O.K. And the United States; the Indo-Pacific command and subordinate commands who literally sustained us and nourished our combat capacity; the ministries and cabinets of the R.O.K. and the U.S. With whom we so closely worked, on matters that transcended traditional military affairs.
The three staffs deserve the highest appreciation, having served so faithfully, and with such distinction, under my command during a time of extraordinary geopolitical challenge, on top of one of the most significant transformations in military history, including internal reorganization and relocations. To my Deputy Commanders and Chiefs of Staff, now three of each – you are remarkable and you truly made all of this history happen. I am honored to have been with you.
To the military spouses of the three commands who stayed the course, shouldered the risk of staying when many called for you to fly away, and who, in so doing, demonstrated that the strength of the alliance comes from what we believe about each other and are willing to do on each other’s behalf.
I especially want to honor and recognize Carol, for balancing two competing and challenging worlds, and doing so with grace and dignity. You are my next mission and my destiny. We will depart the way we arrived, hand in hand.
This tour of duty has taught me the importance of human interaction and the contagious nature of attitudes.
There is much that we can, and did, accomplish when we communicated freely, openly, and trustingly. We built a credible readiness to fight. We demonstrated self-restraint and responsive agility and thus did not have to fight in order to win. We grew stronger under the tests and strains that confronted us, contrary to predictions of cracks and fissures.
Let this be a lesson to all in the alliance.
In this place we have never succeeded by going alone. And, in contrast, we have always succeeded when we went together – crossing the river in the same boat, in the spirit of “dong-gu kong-jae” and in the spirit of “katchi kapshida (같이갑시다).”
May it always be so, even when the far side is neither visible, nor certain until arriving at it. We need not fear anything when we are together, sharing the hazards and the joys alike. But our fears and concerns should rise if we become inclined to go our own way.
Kwibeen yeorobun (귀빈 여러분), distinguished ladies and gentlemen, my time has come to step aside and make room for new leadership to guide us forward, together. My heart will remain here and I will look for a reason to come back and retrieve it.
But now you have new leadership. General Robert “Abe” Abrams is that leader, he is a distinguished soldier and warrior whom I have known since my late teen years and served with multiple times. And, the new top enlisted leader among the commands is also a distinguished soldier – Command Sergeant Major Walter Tagalicud, both of whom know first-hand what is means to be “ready to fight tonight” on this peninsula.
Those of you who remain on the teams they will lead are in great and capable hands. I would ask you to support General Abrams and his wife Connie, and also Command Sergeant Major Tagalicud and his wife Carolyn -- and love them, like you have done for me and for Carol. Abe and Connie, Sergeant Major Tag and Carolyn, congratulations and welcome. Enjoy the journey and prepare to fall in love with the people, the places and the mission of Korea.
Kwibeen yeorobun(귀빈 여러분), I say today what I said on the day the colors went into my hands in 2016 – daehan Minguk, guk min yeorobun, sarang hamnida, sarang hamnida. Nara sarang ha se. (대한민국 국민여러분, 사랑합니다, 사랑합니다. 나라 사랑하세.)
Pak yu jong, tae jang im needa. Kamsa deurimnida.
Annyeong hee ke ship siyo. (박유종, 퇴장입니다. 감사드립니다. 안녕히 가십시오.)