By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Editor Ms. Kim Jung-mi
General Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command/United States Forces Korea, stands out from among all his predecessors (and, perhaps, also his successors, for that matter, in the future) for his exceptional ability to sing Aegukka of Korea, the Korean anthem. For that, Gen. Vincent enjoys an unfathomable love and admiration from the Korean people, both in uniform and those in the civi street. The Korean people consider it as a proof of exceptional love Gen. Brooks for Korea and the Korean people.
The Korean people, however, have sad news. The much-admired General Brooks, reportedly, is leaving Korea within the next few months, after successful fulfillment of his tour of duty in Korea.
On Sept. 28, 2017, President Moon Jae-in of Korea decorated Gen. Brooks with the Order of National Defense Merit, the National Unification Medal. It was at the official celebration meeting of the 69th anniversary of National Foundation of Korea.
News of Gen. Brook’s possible departure from Korea comes as a great disappointment to many Koreans, especially the leaders of the Ministry of National Defense and the commanders of the Armed Forces, who all want Brooks to stay in Korea longer.
They all feel that Gen. Brooks liked the Korean people and admired the Korean culture.
They also agree, “Gen. Brooks stands out from all his predecessors as a EUSA commanding general who had the best understanding of Korea.
On May 25 last year, Gen. Brooks was invited as a keynote speaker at a meeting hosted by Seonguhoe (The Korea Retired Generals and Admirals Association) and the Korean Institute for Defense Analyses.
At this time, Gen. Brooks sang the Korean National Anthem in impeccable Korean language, not only the first stanza but all through the fourth.
Gen. Brooks is known at all times to emphasize to his soldiers and the Department of the Army civilians to understand and respect the Korean culture.
Due to this exceptional regard for Korea, it is known that ‘all’ the officers of the US Forces do it in the Korean language when they introduce themselves to the Korean people. Gen. Brooks stands out from his many of predecessors in the fact that he is known to maintain an incomparably close relationship with the Korean people, the successive Presidents of the Republic of Korea on down to the KATUSA privates, the Korean soldiers assigned to the US Army in Korea.
A Korean-language news media report said that Gen. Brooks is called back to the US amid concerns over the lack of seasoned Korea experts in Washington following a series of shake-up inside the Trump Administration.
Citing multiple government sources, a leading Korean-language daily, JoongAng Ilbo, recently reported that Gen. Brooks would leave the US Army in July or August after serving about two years as the commander of the US Forces in South Korea and US-South Korea Combined Forces Command.
Who is succeeding Gen. Brooks?
Among those being considered to succeed Brooks, as predicted by the Korean-language news media, are Gen. Robert B. Brown (commanding general of the US Army Pacific, a position that Brooks had held before coming to South Korea in April 2016).
Most USFK commanders leave the service after serving at least two years. The most recent exception was Gen. Brook’s predecessor Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who was promoted to the commander of US European Command in 2016.
According to Korea’s leading English daily, The Korea Herald, Scaparrotti’s predecessor James Thurman served as the USFK commander between 2011 and 2013 and Thurman’s predecessor Walter Sharp assumed the post from 2008 to 2011. The former US Army generals are now being considered as candidates to be the next US ambassador in Seoul.
General Brooks is a 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he was selected to serve in his senior year as the Cadet Brigade Commander or “First Captain” of the U.S. Corps of Cadets -- the top military leadership position a cadet at West Point can hold. He is the first African American to be selected for this position in West Point’s history.
General Brooks began his service as a lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division. Since that time and during his 36 years as a commissioned officer, including 14 years as a general officer, he has been privileged to command in the field numerous times, including: two infantry companies in Germany; an infantry battalion in Korea near the demilitarized zone; a heavy brigade based in the U.S. but forward-deployed to Kosovo; two divisions, including one forward-deployed to Iraq; and two theater armies, one covering the middle east and central Asia, and the other the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
In addition to his command assignments, General Brooks served twice in the headquarters of the Department of the Army as a staff officer and principal advisor to the Army’s most senior leaders, and once in the Joint Staff advising the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense on strategy and policy for the Western Hemisphere, the Homeland, UN and Multilateral Affairs, and The War on Terrorism. Additional joint duty assignments include three assignments within the headquarters of a component of a combatant command, one staff assignment within a coalition joint task force, and one assignment within a combatant command staff as an operations officer and spokesman.
General Brooks holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy; a Master of Military Art and Science from the School of Advanced Military Studies at the United States Army Command and General Staff College; and an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the New England School of Law in Boston. He also served as a National Security Fellow at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government.
General Brooks is married to Dr. Carol P. Brooks, DSc., an educator and physical therapist. Both the general and his wife are from career Army senior officer families.