Sharp Bids Farewell, Thurman Assumes Command in Korea

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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