YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea, July 14, 2011 — With Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presiding, Army Gen. James D. Thurman assumed command of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea here today.
Thurman assumed command from Army Gen. Walter L. “Skip” Sharp.
Mullen thanked Sharp for his leadership during a time of provocations and transformation on the Korean peninsula and called South Korea one of America’s “most essential and important allies.”
“We have nurtured a relationship forged in bitter combat into something much, much more: a living alliance between two thriving democracies,” the chairman said.
During his three years in command, Sharp focused on maintaining readiness, strengthening the South Korean-U.S. alliance and improving quality of life for U.S. service members, civilians and families.
Following North Korea’s attack on the South Korean navy ship Cheonan and its unprovoked shelling on Yeonpyeong Island, Sharp called on North Korea to stop all provocations, change its belligerent rhetoric and seek the path to peace.
“I do hope for the day that North Korea will change its policies and become a responsible member of the international community,” Sharp said during the ceremony, “one that has rid itself of nuclear ambitions, stopped threats and attacks on the Republic of Korea and the world and has provided its people with the freedom and the rights that they deserve.
“If that day would ever come, I am confident that this alliance would be ready to help the people of North Korea,” he continued. “But until that day comes, this great alliance will continue to adjust and grow even stronger, ready to face any threats.”
As a part of the biggest transformation in the history of the alliance, Sharp championed efforts to consolidate U.S forces into two enduring hubs and to bring more families to South Korea.
For his effort to build even stronger bonds between the United States and South Korea, Sharp recently was named an honorary citizen of Seoul, the national capital.
Sharp is retiring later this year after 37 years in uniform. The son of a Korean War veteran, Sharp called his three years in the command “the absolute best three years yet.” “There is no better way to end my military career than serving in Korea as the commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea,” he said.
Thurman takes command in South Korea following a tour as the commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, which consists of more than 750,000 active duty, Reserve and National Guard soldiers.
A veteran combat commander who served in Iraq, Thurman said his priorities are to strengthen the South Korean-U.S. alliance, maintain combat readiness, transform the combined forces command structure and improve quality of life for those serving in South Korea.
Thurman added that the combined defense team would stay ready to deter or defeat any threats against South Korea.
“This alliance stands ready to counter any provocation intended to destabilize the Korean peninsula,” he said. “With your help, I promise to do all I can to continue to strengthen this great alliance.
“This alliance has a long and distinguished history. It has been tested on the battlefield and continues to be strengthened through rigorous training and the commitment of two strong allies,” he continued. “I am committing all of my energy to ensure that the alliance transforms as an enduring deterrence against aggression and, should deterrence fail, as a lethal warfighting force for victory.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
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