As Pyongyang continues to erode mountains with weapon tests and exchange fiery rhetoric with President Trump, the U.S. Army has been hard at work prepping for the possibility of open conflict by creating a strategic megabase.
3,500 acres of space, housing for 36,000 inhabitants, and $11 billion worth of recent renovations: Welcome to Camp Humphreys. In addition to an airstrip, communication facilities, and barracks, the base, about 40 miles south of Seoul, houses shops, schools, churches — and even a golf course.
A ribbon cutting ceremony is underway at U.S. Army Garrison at Camp Humphreys where a new post exchange is opening up, Nov. 20, 2017. (Photo by USAG Humphreys Public Affairs)
Nice amenities aside, you might be wondering why, with an existing 174 bases in South Korea, the U.S. Army needed such a powerhouse. The answer is two-fold:
1. Consolidating Forces
Camp Humphreys is located just a few miles both from Osan Air Base and Pyeongtaek harbor. Whether forces and assets are coming in via air or sea, they're just a short jaunt from this megabase, making it an ideal waystation for troops funneling into the peninsula and moving toward the front.
Expanding Camp Humphreys is also a way for the US to consolidate forces in the country. Just a little over a decade ago, forces were spread across over 170 bases in South Korea. With a bolstered Camp Humphreys, the U.S. is on track to reach their goal of dividing forces among under 100 bases by 2020. Plus, if conflict does open up, the U.S. will have a single, central meeting place for quick communications and decision-making.
Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, guide the unloading of M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks from Korean railcars July 13, 2016 on US Army Garrison Humphreys. (Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Dennis)
2. Moving the Battlefield
Previously, the U.S. Army garrison at Yongsan in Seoul was seeing heavy use. While it's good to maintain a force in South Korea's capital, it's probably not a good idea to keep your primary base within range of Northern artillery lined up along the border.
Additionally, the North has threatened (as they love to do) to attack key military installations — going as far as to honor Camp Humphreys with the distinction of target #1. Moving the North's bullseye south, away from civilian-dense Seoul, just makes good sense for the unlikely event that Kim Jong-un makes good on a threat.
The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test. (DoD photo courtesy of Missile Defense Agency)
Although it's out of artillery range, as a prime strategic target, Camp Humphreys needs to be protected from North Korean ballistics. To this end, the base is protected by Patriot Air-Defense missiles installed at Osan Air Base and THAAD missiles further to the south.
Of course, the best outcome in Korea doesn't involve open conflict. However, nobody prepares for the best and an expanded Camp Humphreys has been ramped up to deal with the worst if it comes.