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Gen. Brooks awarded S. Korea's state medal on Armed Forces Day

2017/09/28 15:13

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By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), received South Korea's top state medal from President Moon Jae-in on Thursday for his contribution to the alliance and the defense of the region amid growing North Korean threats.

He is the first U.S. military officer to be awarded the Tongil Medal of the Order, the highest national security merit, during the South's Armed Forces Day. Traditionally, the country's president bestowed the medal on USFK commanders when they finish their service here.

"I humbly accept the award on behalf of all the men and women I lead, and I view this medal as an expression of the president's support for the (South Korea) U.S. alliance," Brooks said in a statement released after the 69th Armed Forces Day ceremony held at the headquarters of the Navy's Second Fleet in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in confers a top state medal on Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, during the Armed Forces Day event in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, on Sept. 28, 2017. (Yonhap) South Korean President Moon Jae-in confers a top state medal on Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, during the Armed Forces Day event in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, on Sept. 28, 2017. (Yonhap)

The award for the commander reflects South Korea's respect for his duty as the leader of 28,500 American troops in the nation technically still at war with the North. The two Koreas put an end to their 1950-53 conflict in a truce, not a formal peace treaty.

Last year, he took over the command of the USFK, as well as the allies' Combined Forces Command and the United Nations Command (UNC).

His role and mission are crucial to South Korea's national security, especially as the communist North has ratcheted up its military threats, and quickened its nuclear and missile development.

Many South Korean defense officials recognize his leadership and strategic mind.

Gen. Vincent K. Brooks (C), commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, talks with Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo (R), chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, jointly inspecting honor guards at the U.S. Army Garrison in Yongsan, Seoul, on Sept. 26, 2017. (Yonhap) Gen. Vincent K. Brooks (C), commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, talks with Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo (R), chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, jointly inspecting honor guards at the U.S. Army Garrison in Yongsan, Seoul, on Sept. 26, 2017. (Yonhap)

Meanwhile, Moon presented the U.S. Naval Forces Korea the Presidential Unit Citation (PUC), which is the highest unit-level award given by the South Korean government.

It was awarded to Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, who commands the troops, officially named Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea (CNFK), and the other sailors of the unit for their "outstanding contribution" to the defense of the nation.

CNFK is the U.S. Navy's representative in South Korea. Its presence on the peninsula dates back to 1957, when it was created to support the mission of the UNC and advise the organization, training, administration and readiness of the South Korean naval forces. CNFK is based in Busan, a southern port city.

Rear. Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Korea, in a file photo (Yonhap) Rear. Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Korea, in a file photo (Yonhap)

lcd@yna.co.kr

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