Normalizing Tours in South Korea

US forces in South Korea will operate under a new policy beginning March 1 that permits more service members to bring their families and serve longer tours—36 months at Chinhae, Daegu, Pyeongtaek, Osan, and Seoul and 24 months at Dongducheon and Uijonbu. Army Gen. Walter Sharp, commander of US Forces Korea, called the change a “huge step forward [since] it lays the groundwork for us to meet our ultimate tour normalization goals of all service members with families here on normal three-year tours.” Sharp said that USFK wants to work toward that three-year across-the-board goal in three phases to aid the planned transfer of operational control to South Korea in 2012. During the first phase, he expects to recruit personnel for accompanied tours to fill critical positions, “which will keep them in place for the three years necessary to support [operational control] transfer in April 2012.” The other two phases will follow planned consolidation of US forces in fewer locations and require funding for additional infrastructure like housing and schools. “We want this to become an assignment just like we have had in Germany for many, many years,” explained Sharp, adding, “Korea is a great place to live; it’s a very safe place to live; the culture here is great, and our families, I am absolutely confident, will greatly enjoy and benefit from being here.” (USFK release and media round table transcript)