US Military Facilities: Korea
The United States' Department of Defense approved US Forces Korea's (USFK) request to normalize tours in Korea on 1 December 2008. Tour Normalization means that servicemembers can now serve in Korea for 2 or 3 years and bring their families with them. The approval was granted in a memorandum signed by Dr. David Chu, the under secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and would result in a change to the Joint Federal Travel Regulation. The services were to provide implementation plans to DoD by 1 March 2009.
The new policy mainly affected incoming servicemembers, but those already stationed in Korea had the option of applying for the extended accompanies tours. The new policy mainly affected incoming servicemembers, but those already stationed in Korea could apply for the extended accompanied tours. As of 2009, it was estimated it would take ten to 15 years to reach full Tour Normalization in Korea. USFK was to achieve Tour Normalization in 3 phases. Phase I was immediate, Phase II was interim and Phase III was the desired end state.
In Phase I (Immediate), as a first step toward Tour Normalization, USFK was to roughly double the number of command-sponsored slots between 2009 and 2010, to 4,320 in Seoul, Osan, Pyeongtaek, Daegu and Chinhae. These 5 locations would increase the number of command-sponsored families and increase tour lengths from 24 months to 36 months, while 2 additional locations (Dongducheon and Uijeongbu, known as Area I) were to offer 24-month accompanied tours.
Although standard overseas tours would be Korea-wide, there would remain a few possible exceptions by location. During this transition period, Servicemembers in Area I would be required to sign a Memorandum of Understanding regarding Limited family Member Service Support Facilities when accepting an accompanied tour. In order to jump start Phase I, 3-year accompanied tours in Pyeongtaek, Osan, Daegu, Chinhae, or Seoul and 2-year accompanied tours in Area I would receive incentive packages.
As of 6 April 2009, soldiers who accepted the 3-year accompanied tour would receive $300 in incentive pay per month. Those accepting the 2-year accompanied tour in Dongducheon and Uijongbu would also receive $300 per month as incentive pay, provided their family members lived with them in those areas. Approval of an accompanied assignment was subject to the adequacy of the support infrastructure and command sponsorship.
In Phase II (Interim), the second phase of Tour Normalization, there was an expected growth to 5,700 families, representing 35 percent of Servicemembers accompanied by their families in Korea. During the transition period, between 2011 and 2016, DoD organizations and families in Dongducheon and Uijeongbu would move to new locations further south. Kunsan would also undergo major infrastructure development to support Tour Normalization. Medical primary care capacity would be available with incremental increases in staffing to match population growth. Servicemembers and their dependents affected by relocation would be moved to their new duty station at government expense.
There was to be overlap between Phase II and Phase III (Endstate) in terms of facility, infrastructure and growth from 4,320 military families to 14,250 military families. Infrastructure would be in place by Endstate for all 5 family service support locations (called Enduring Enclaves) located at Pyeongtaek, Osan, Daegu, Kunsan, and Chinhae. At Endstate, all Servicemembers stationed in South Korea were to be on 2 or 3 year tours and all would be offered command sponsorship.
Tour Normalization was seen as benefiting the command, servicemembers and their families, and the overall interests of the US. It was expected to improve readiness by keeping trained servicemembers in place for longer periods of time improving continuity, stability and retention of cultural knowledge. Tour Normalization would also strengthen the alliance between the US and the Republic of Korea by encouraging more meaningful interaction between US and Korean citizens. Finally, Tour Normalization would demonstrate continued US commitment to a stronger and visible long-term relationship with the Republic of Korea.
By 2010, the projected timeline and numbers were unchanged. Eighth US Army units from Yongsan and other garrisons in the 2nd Infantry Division area were to begin relocating to Camp Humphreys, near Pyeongtaek, on or about 2012. This consolidation would remove all limitations to command sponsorship and allow all Soldiers the opportunity for command-sponsored tours as families would have the full range of Army support to include military housing, medical facilities, schools and Morale Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) facilities.
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