Three Soldiers saw firsthand how future service members at U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys will live during a barracks tour, Oct. 10, with the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program.
Col. Heather Levy, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Far East District, hosted the three Soldiers at an under-construction barracks complex that will eventually be home to more than 900 service members.
“We were super excited when we got this opportunity because one of our biggest things that we deal with in BOSS is quality of life,” said Spc. George Walters, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, USAG Humphreys, who is from Cooperstown, Pennsylvania. “We get to have input and impact on the Soldier’s life and give the Soldier-perspective to those who don’t live in the barracks.”
The full tour included a chance to speak with engineers as they walked through what will be future barracks rooms – currently just bare concrete walls and exposed pipes.
“I really liked being able to see behind the scenes of our housing and being able to ask all these questions about our housing and how it affects our lives,” said Spc. Jaleesa Lopez, HHC, USAG Humphreys, who is from North Carolina.
Jamie Hagio, USACE’s construction division chief, says he appreciates input from service members on projects like this.
“Stakeholders, and especially those who will end up using the facility, can give us keen insight into how it will be used,” said Hagio. “This can improve our designs based on changes in the operational environment.”
Some of the input from previous service members at USAG Humphreys – that was incorporated into this construction project – was a kitchenette available in each living space and improved laundry facilities.
“I like how we’re improving the quality of life for our Soldiers by listening to their concerns, such as the lack of dryers in the laundry rooms in older barracks,” said Pfc. Alex Torres, 17th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, who is from Lathrop, California.
Torres also added that having better living quarters will improve Soldier morale and “help them have a happier time in Korea.”
“Providing opportunities like these for Soldiers to visit our projects is one of the fundamental things we do to showcase the future,” said Levy. “Hearing feedback in real-time also helps us know how we can change future construction to better support their needs as the Army changes.”
The barracks complex when finished will be three, eight-story buildings capable of housing up to 302 service members each. Every living unit will contain two bedrooms and a shared living space with a kitchenette and bathroom. The exterior will have four gazebos, a barbecue shelter, and landscaping will include grass and trees. Project completion is anticipated in spring 2025.
The BOSS program represents the voice of single servicemembers and is based on three pillars – quality of life, community service, and recreation and leisure. Volunteers with BOSS coordinate and participate in community services projects, organize recreation and leisure activities, and actively support the quality-of-life needs of single Soldiers.
U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys is the “Army’s Home in Korea” and is located along the western coast of South Korea within the seaport city of Pyeongtaek, approximately 40 miles south of Seoul. Camp Humphreys is the headquarters for the Eighth U.S. Army, the Second Infantry Division, the Army's most active airfield in the Pacific, and the hub of U.S. Forces Korea.
Beneath a blue sky and nestled among family housing towers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Far East District joined the Ministry of National Defense - Defense Installation Agency (MND-DIA), Eighth Army, U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys and the Department of Defense Education Activity to break ground on a new elementary school for the installation on Sept. 7, 2023.
“The US Army Corps of Engineers Far East District is here to deliver engineering solutions at these historic times for our two nations,” said Col. Heather Levy, FED commander, during the ceremony. “This project is one more example of the strength of the ROK-US alliance, and the strength of the partnership of the engineers here in Korea – and what we all can do together.”
Donning hard hats and shovels, representatives from the Army, MND-DIA, DoDEA, the contractor and students lined up to ceremonially mark the beginning of the new school.
“Education is the backbone to our readiness and an investment in our future,” said Brig. Gen. Sean Crockett, Deputy Commanding General – Operations, Eighth Army. “This building represents expansion. It is the creation of a space where education can build a foundation to flourish in impactful ways.”
The new school will provide capacity for 440 students and staff with the ability to accommodate up to 600. The facility will be the third elementary and fifth school constructed by FED on the garrison.
“With Humphreys West, and Humphreys Central already serving our military connected students and their families, this third elementary school is rightfully named Humphreys East Elementary School and will bring our total capacity of elementary spaces at Camp Humphreys to nearly 2,400 students,” said Dr. Jacob Sherwood, DoDEA Pacific West Superintendent.
The project also encompasses the creation of a multipurpose athletic field and a nature walking path. It will also have an outdoor learning lab, an outdoor classroom, a sensory garden and an ecology walking loop to contribute to the outdoor environment of the school.
“Oftentimes, school is one of the first places families find connection and community upon arrival to an overseas duty assignment,” Sherwood said. “Within the walls of the school we are officially breaking ground on today, friendships will be formed. Skills will be built. Academics will be learned. And for decades to come, parents, staff, and the Humphreys community will come together to support our youngest military-connected children in this facility.”
A bilateral endeavor, FED designed the school and MND-DIA issued the construction contract.
“For this, by supervising the project jointly between DIA and FED, we shall provide an elementary school with the highest quality,” said Col. Lee, Inchul, MND-DIA USFK Program Division Chief.
Levy emphasized the amount of partnership projects like this take between the two agencies.
“We at the Far East District don’t accomplish anything in isolation,” she said. “We rely on our counterparts at MND-DIA to work side by side to ensure safety, quality, and adherence to the schedule and cost controls.”
The event concluded with representatives participating in a traditional Korean prayer for good fortune on the project.
“This project is a true depiction of unity and the ROK-US Alliance,” Crockett said. “None of this would be possible without the Republic of Korea, Ministry of Defense. Through their support, this building represents the U.S. and Republic of Korea’s aligned goals to achieve mission readiness through the prioritization of people.”