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Home : Media : Speeches / Testimony
NEWS | April 30, 2016

U.S. Forces Korea Change of Command

By ADM Harry B. Harris, Jr. U.S. Pacific Command

Admiral Harry Harris Jr.

Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
USFK Change of Command
Seoul, Republic of Korea
April 30, 2016
As Delivered

Thanks, General Selva, for those remarks and for your exceptional leadership of America’s Joint Force. Good afternoon, everyone. It’s a privilege to be here to acknowledge our ironclad alliance with the Republic of Korea, and to honor two outstanding American patriots – and two personal friends: “Scap” Scaparrotti and Vince Brooks.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, let me start by providing a heartfelt “thank you” to all of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and partner nation service members of this distinct multinational, combined, and joint command. What you do on a daily basis matters to U.S. Pacific Command, to our alliance, to the people of South Korea and the United States, and – in fact – to the entire global community.

Now, I realize there are a lot of speakers today, so let me put your minds at ease by saying up front that I know the Gettysburg address – arguably the greatest speech ever given – lasted just two minutes.

While Julius Caesar once spoke for two hours... and his friends killed him.

I’ve seen what the men and women of U.S. Forces Korea can do with weapons, so I’ll be short.

Folks, this ceremony is one of our most cherished and important traditions. It represents the continuing recognition – indeed, celebration – of who we are and what we truly value as warriors: the exercise of command, the absolute nature of accountability.. and the art of leadership. Today is also about the continuum of leadership, with leaders who can stand firm in one of the planet’s most demanding and dynamic environments. So as we bid farewell to one extraordinary Soldier, we also welcome another.

General Scap Scaparrotti is one of the most selfless, professional, and aggressive warriors I know. With Scap, we’ve got three commanders for the price of one. And for the past two and a half years, he’s made immeasurable contributions to the defense of the American homeland, to the Korean Peninsula, and to the region.

And yet, he’d be the first to tell you what most solid leaders would: the true measure of any command’s success is not how well he or she performs, but how well the force performs; it’s how they step up during times of crisis... and there have been many recently.

North Korea's provocative, irresponsible behavior has had three notable outcomes, one intentional and two less so. First, the North is more dangerous than ever. Second, it’s more of a pariah state then ever; the Republic has global allies, friends and partners and the North has, well... well, I can’t think of any.

Third, and most importantly, Pyongyang's behavior has immeasurably strengthened the ROK-U.S. alliance and unequivocally improved the ROK-Japan-U.S. trilateral relationship. Thank you, Kim Jong-Un!

Bet you never thought you’d hear a shout out like that!

In all seriousness, the Demilitarized Zone is the most heavily fortified border in the world. The situation is tense; it’s real and a heartbeat away from going fully kinetic.

Yet, during Scap’s tenure, not a beat was missed.

In the midst of a real and constant North Korean threat, the ROK-U.S. alliance has grown stronger than ever. On Scap’s watch we saw the transformation of the 2nd Infantry Division into the first Combined Division with a ROK-U.S. staff. He’s expanded annual ROK-U.S. joint military exercises into more complex, demanding, and joint training opportunities. And arguably, the PACOM-U.S.F.K. relationship has never been better. We’ve exercised together to improve our own coordination in a run-up to war, and we’ve strengthened bonds with ROK allies and regional partners that have advanced America’s strategic Rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Scap, thank you for being a trusted advisor, an inspirational leader, and a battle buddy and shipmate – or should I say punching bag – during our Congressional testimony together. But most of all, thanks for being a true friend. I’m happy knowing NATO and EUCOM are in great hands as you take the reins as the Supreme Allied Commander.

I’m also pleased to welcome the Brooks family to the Peninsula. I’ve had the great pleasure of working side-by-side in Hawaii with General Vince Brooks for nearly three years. Without a doubt, he’s the perfect fit to take on the tremendous responsibility of command in Korea.

From his position as commander of U.S. Army Pacific, Vince created the Pacific Pathways concept. He’s responsible for dramatically increasing theater-wide Army engagements. Vince’s foresight for a Peninsula rotational force makes us twice as ready to deter aggression and fight tonight.

Vince, I’m ecstatic that another Pacific and Peninsular expert, a tested warrior, and a good friend will take the helm here. It’s telling that we send officers of the highest caliber to command on the Peninsula. It’s another indicator of our commitment to the alliance we share with the Republic of Korea.

Forged on the battlefield and through the blood we shed together, the United States and South Korea’s partnership continues to be one of the strongest on Earth. For seven decades, we’ve shared trust, understanding, and respect. It’s been remarkable for me to watch the ROK Armed Forces grow to be one of the greatest fighting forces on the planet.

So I’ll conclude my remarks with the ancient Korean maxim for national defense: “유 비 무 환” (“yu bi mu hwan”)… which – as you know – means “when you are prepared, you have nothing to fear.” The armed forces of the United States stand ready to fight tonight with our brothers and sisters in the Republic of Korea.

May God bless all of our men and women in uniform. May God bless the Brooks and Scaparotti families… and may God bless the Republic of Korea and the United States of America.

Katchi kapshida! Thank you very much.


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