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Army bids adieu to Camp Hialeah
By Kevin Jackson
Area IV Public Affairs

Soldiers from the 19th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and civilian employees from the Area IV Support Activity-Busan fold the American flag, which was lowered for the last time during a ceremony Aug. 10 at Camp Hialeah, South Korea.
Soldiers from the 19th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and civilian employees from the Area IV Support Activity-Busan fold the American flag, which was lowered for the last time during a ceremony Aug. 10 at Camp Hialeah, South Korea.

CAMP HIALEAH, South Korea (Aug. 11, 2006) - As a recording of "Retreat" and "To the Colors" briskly pierced the thick humid air on the vacant installation, United States and Republic of Korea flags were lowered for the last time in front of the quaint post headquarters building here Aug. 10.

About 150 Korean and American dignitaries from Busan Metropolitan City and the U.S. Army throughout Area IV attended the closure ceremony that drew to a close the camp's nearly 61 years of history with the U.S. Army in the ROK's second largest city.

The simple but poignant ceremony included the presentation of Korean colors that flew over the installation to Busan Metropolitan City Mayor Hur Nam-sik and Yi Tong-ki, who as the senior local national employee spent the past 39 years working here. American flags were presented to representatives for the mayor of Hialeah, Fla., and George Clinger, the senior Department of the Army Civilian with 40 years of service, including the past 12 years at Camp Hialeah before his departure last month.

The installation's storied history was read and followed by the announcement that "Camp Hialeah is hereby closed." Finally, the ritualistic casing of the Area IV Support Activity colors symbolized its retirement as an organization in the Busan enclave.

U.S. Forces Korea announced June 1, 2005, that Camp Hialeah would close – paving the way for the further streamlining of U.S. Forces and the return of valuable real estate to the ROK as part of the amended Land Partnership Plan. The closure will result in the return of 133 acres, or about 160,000 pyeong of land.

"This camp closing returns valuable real estate to the Korean people and helps both our countries realign and transform our forces to ensure the best capabilities are available to the combined defense of this great nation," said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. McHale, commanding general of the 19th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

Lt. Col. Roger R. Danseareau, the Camp Hialeah Garrison commander who arrived for duty here in June 2005, was charged with the task of closing the installation that many Soldiers considered the best duty assignment in the ROK.

"I have had many challenging assignments over the years that I have served in the military, but this particular assignment was truly the most challenging and exciting of them all," Dansereau said. "As the last garrison commander of Camp Hialeah, it is my hope that we have represented our country well and though we leave this camp, the legacy we leave behind is one of goodwill and friendship."

Mayor Hur paid homage to the fallen Soldiers of the Korean War and subsequent U.S. service members for their commitment and dedication to preserving peace and security on the peninsula. He also acknowledged the nation's remarkable growth during the past 50 years and praised U.S. service members for their goodwill toward the citizens of Busan.

"During your stay in Busan, you have taken part in lots of goodwill activities through the Good Neighbor Program, such as Arbor Day tree planting, sister relationships with local school and orphanages. We all appreciate your effort to become our good neighbor," he said through his English-speaking translator, Yi Eun-sook, during the ceremony.

Camp Hialeah was home to thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines throughout its history. Among the last units to leave the installation were the 72nd Ordnance Company and 6th Korean Service Corps Company, which were reassigned on the peninsula; and the 552nd Military Police Company, 4th Quartermaster Detachment (Airborne) and the 61st Chemical Company relocated to Hawaii, Alaska and Fort Lewis, Wash., respectively.

The installation was never officially memorialized. During the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula, a horse racing track encircling the main area of the installation was owned by the Joseon Racing Association. An American Sailor aptly named the camp after a famous thoroughbred racing track in Hialeah, Fla.

U.S. Army troops first occupied the installation on Sept. 16, 1945, following Japan's withdrawal from the peninsula, and remained until the end of 1946. The installation passed to the U.S. Consulate and the United Nations organization until they were evacuated at the outbreak of the Korean War.

The 24th Infantry Division landed in Busan in early July 1950 and the 8069th Replacement Depot operated at the compound. It became a critical strategic and logistical staging area during the Korean War and remained an important logistics hub throughout its numerous reorganizations for the next half-century.

Camp Hialeah was the centerpiece of the U.S. Army's Busan area of operations and provided life support for American forces at the Pusan Storage Facility, Pier 8, the Defense Reutilization Management Office and Gimhae Air Base. At its peak, the Busan enclave had a population of 2,500 U.S. military and Department of Defense civilian employees.

The installation that had a reputation as a small, friendly and very close-knit community was a three-time winner of the Korea-wide small-size Army Community of Excellence award.

Camp Hialeah will remain in caretaker status until all remaining activities associated with installation closure are completed and USFK turns it over to the ROK government.