By Lee Tae-hoon
Gen. James Thurman was inaugurated Thursday as the 28th commander of the U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK), pledging to bolster the combined defense position against North Korea.
“I will continue to strengthen this great alliance,” he said in a change-of-command ceremony at Yongsan Garrison, Seoul. “Our partnership has grown stronger over time and this will continue during my tenure in command.”
Gen. Thurman succeeded Gen. Walter Sharp, who had commanded the USFK since June 2008. The four-star general will also serve as the chief of the United Nations Command (UNC) and the Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC).
“Together, we will build on this solid foundation, continuing to deter any aggression or provocations on the Korean peninsula in the future,” he said. “I will work with civilian and military leaders to mature an alliance that is prepared to fight and win if necessary.”
Gen. Thurman stressed that he will place his top priorities to combat readiness and improving the quality of lives for his 28,500 troops.
“This force will be ready to fight tonight,” he said. “We will continue to work together to improve the facilities, housing, and opportunities for our service members, civilian employees, and families.”
He also dispelled concerns that the planned U.S. handover of wartime operational control to Korea in 2015 may jeopardize the bilateral alliance.
“This change in command structure is not a lessening of U.S. commitment to the Republic of Korea,” he said. “It is an evolution of a mature and capable alliance with one of our strongest allies.”
Thurman has spent most of his career in field operations. He participated in operations during the Gulf War from 1990 to 1991; in Kosovo in 1999 and 2000; and in Iraq in 2002, 2003 and 2006.
He received a bachelor’s degree in history from East Central Oklahoma University and a Master of Arts from Webster University.
During the ceremony, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin called Thurman “a great general of modern warfare.”
“We’re pleased to have such an experienced field commander,” Kim said. “We expect the Combined Forces Command to be actively ready to deter war and to win all the battles in contingencies.”
The U.S. stations roughly 28,500 troops in Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.