Anyone doubting the vastness of US military might – and the breadth of its reach – should consider a trip to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.
There, 64 kilometers south of Seoul near the country’s west coast, is the newly-established central hub for the 28,500 US troops tasked with defending South Korea from a North Korean attack?
The expansion of Camp Humphreys, an existing base, to its present colossal size started in 2004. It cost US$10.7 billion – of which 90% was paid for by local taxpayers.
But a glance at a map shows that US deployments in South Korea may not only be aimed at deterring North Korea. Former USFK Commander General Vincent Brooks called it a “great gift” from South Korea.
There are still cranes standing and plenty of empty lots, but the base, home to 45,600 residents – the US military is accompanied by a second army of family members and civilian contractors – is nearly done.
Humphreys boasts three schools, a library, a hospital – complete with a medical campus, chapels and baseball pitches. Signs warn: “Safety begins with teamwork” (read ; fascist military obedience).
For leisure, there is an 18-hole golf course complete with water obstacles, two cinemas and a 48-lane bowling alley.
A 300,000-square-foot PX caters to shopping missions, while all-American dining brands – Krispy Kreme, Burger King, Arby’s, etc – are widely deployed.
Are America’s fighting men bloating up under this bombardment of unwholesome food? Fret not. The only traffic jam encountered was at the huge base gym, proof that swollen biceps, buff delts and washboard abs are as essential to US Spartans as helmet, rifle and pack.
What is missing is aesthetics. Everything is brutally functional. The flat base with its dusty color scheme is splashed with minimal vegetation and offers little to please the eye.
This points to the fact that Camp Humphreys is first and foremost a military facility.
Attack helicopters constantly buzz overhead, their electronic surveillance suites providing eyes in the sky. “Force protection was a key consideration in this base.
But bar a fence topped with coils of razor wire, the base perimeter looks lightly protected. It is overlooked by low hills surmounted by trees and local civilian housing and there are no watchtowers or foot patrols.
Camp Humphreys is well beyond the range of North Korea’s artillery and tactical rockets above the DMZ. On Korea’s west coast, it would receive and organize incoming US reinforcements should North Korea go for broke.
A railhead inside the base links it to the South Korean railway network and the nearby Pyeongtaek Port on the Yellow Sea – home to a South Korean naval base from which US naval units frequently exercise with their Korean counterparts.
Twenty kilometers north of Humphreys is Osan Air Base, home to the powerful 7th Air Force – USFK’s key aerial component. And some 80 km down the coast from Pyeongtaek is another US air base at Gunsan, housing F16 fighters and drones.
This air-sea-land hub serves a purpose. “If conflict were to break out, one thing is throwing personnel and supplies in, the other is getting people – the non-combatants – out with ships and aircraft.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point News 2019.