- Despite heightened tension between the US and North Korea over the latter’s nuclear weapons program, life in America’s largest overseas military base continues as usual.
- Camp Humphreys, an $US11 billion US Army garrison located in South Korea, is expanding. There could be 42,000 American soldiers and civilians living there by 2020.
- The camp resembles a typical small American city with a shopping mall, churches, a golf course, and even high school football.
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump visited Camp Humphreys, an $US11 billion US Army garrison that is now America’s largest overseas military base.
The camp is located just 40 miles south of Seoul and about 60 miles from the Demilitarized Zone bordering North Korea. Life on the camp resembles that of a small American city, even though it is situated in a far-off area of the Korean countryside once populated by rice paddies and rural farmers.
“We built an entire city from scratch,” Col. Scott Mueller, the camp’s commander, told The Washington Post.
Camp Humphreys was years in the making and faced many obstacles along the way.
After World War II, the US seized control of the area, but it wasn’t until 2003 that US officials would decide to relocate military headquarters to Camp Humphreys “to improve the force posture and operational efficiency” of troops stationed in the country.
Camp Humphreys’ continuing expansion comes as fears mount over what many perceive to be an out-of-control “war of words” between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The threat of a nuclear conflict has many on edge. But for the thousands of American soldiers and civilians living inside the US military’s newest headquarters, life goes on:
Today, Camp Humphreys, located near the city of Pyeongtaek, serves as the headquarters for all US military forces stationed in South Korea.
For decades, the US government has been trying to relocate its South Korean military headquarters from the center of Seoul to an area farther south that would be out of the reach of North Korea’s artillery firing range in the case of an attack.
Protests broke out in and around Pyeongtaek in 2005 opposing American military expansion plans.
The US government eventually offered compensation to many local residents to get them to relocate to make room for construction of the camp.
The US plan moved closer to fruition this July when the 8th Army, the regiment overseeing all US troops in South Korea, moved to Camp Humphreys.
Just last month, Camp Humphreys unveiled a new veterinary clinic, dental clinic, and food court for soldiers.
Source: USA Today
There are about 25,000 living at the base now, but there could be close to 42,000 people, including soldiers, civilians, and contractors living there by 2020.
A new $US6.2 million, 24,000 square-foot mini-mall also opened earlier this month. It has everything from food to toiletries, beverages to auto supplies, and a Starbucks.
There’s a sports complex, including baseball, football, and soccer fields.
And a handful of churches. More are expected to be built as the expansion continues.
Source: USAG – Humphreys Youtube
Kids can participate in a youth soccer league, just one of the many recreational activities available to families and children.
Humphreys High School comprises grades 9-12 and serves about 360 students who are children of US staff and service members.
Also included among the camp’s unique American luxuries are Arby’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King restaurants.
College sports teams often visit the camp to entertain the troops. Here, soldiers cheer during a game between two visiting US university basketball teams — Georgetown and Oregon — in 2013.
American artists and performers stop by the camp as well. Earlier this year, country singer Chase Rice performed for the troops and their families.
In their free time, soldiers can head to the community activities center where they can play a variety of games.
Residents also have access to a bowling alley, movie theatre, fitness center, and swimming pool.
There’s more to life at Camp Humphreys. After all, its purpose is to serve the US military.
Camp Humphreys is home to many first-term soldiers. The goal of training at the base is to drive the point home to younger soldiers that “at any time North Korea could come across that line and combat preparedness will determine whether they live or die,” according to Lt. Col. Julius A. Rigole Jr.
The military uses their surroundings for real life training, such as using the camp’s gym for a hostage drill.
Throughout the year, the camp often hosts team building and cultural events between Americans and South Koreans.
The activities help strengthen the bond between the US and Korea.
It’s also common for Americans to meet with Korean military and defence officials.
Camp residents, meanwhile, get to experience the holidays even though they are far away from home in the US. Independence Day celebrations are held every July 4.
There are many special events for Christmas, too.
Kids dressed up for Halloween play games organised for the special occasion.
Humphreys middle and high school students perform concerts for their parents.
Meanwhile, to accommodate the thousands of new residents expected to move to the camp in the coming months and years, more housing complexes are being built as part of the US government’s expansion plans.
While Camp Humphreys continues to grow, life for many of its residents has stayed the same.
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