By Jim Garamone
President Barack Obama intends to nominate Army Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti to receive his fourth star and to succeed Army Gen. James D. Thurman as the commander of U.S. Forces in Korea, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced today.
Thurman, who assumed his post in July 2011, is retiring.
Scaparrotti currently serves as the director of the Joint Staff in the Pentagon. Once he is nominated, the Senate must confirm Scaparrotti for a fourth star and the position.
Hagel said Scaparrotti has worked tirelessly on many important issues, particularly the health of the force. He is a proven combat leader, having served in Afghanistan as the commander of the International Security Assistance Force’s Joint Command in Kabul, the secretary said.
Hagel also had high praise for Thurman’s steady leadership during a challenging time on the Korean Peninsula. “Throughout his tenure, General Thurman has helped ensure we are always ready to respond to any contingency,” the secretary said.
Thurman has worked closely with the South Korean military to strengthen alliance cooperation.
Hagel said he discussed the nomination with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in a May 7 meeting at the Pentagon during her visit to Washington. “In my conversation with her and other Korean leaders, I heard an outpouring of respect for General Thurman and the job he has done,” Hagel said. “They are also clearly looking forward to working with General Scaparrotti.”
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed Hagel’s praise for both officers. “I can think of no finer officer to lead U.S. forces in Korea than Lt. Gen. Curt Scaparrotti,” he said. “‘Scap’ is an exceptionally competent leader with the moral character to match. Like our current commander, Gen. J.D. Thurman, he is well-suited to sustaining our strong alliance with the Republic of Korea. Scap’s quiet confidence has delivered success throughout his career.”
Dempsey knows Scaparrotti well, as he served in Iraq as Dempsey’s assistant division commander at the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad from 2003 to 2004.
Thurman has served as the senior U.S. and United Nations commander in Korea during some of the tensest times on the peninsula in recent years.
During his tour, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il died. His son, Kim Jong Un, succeeded as supreme leader. The younger Kim has moved ahead with development of nuclear weapons and missile technology. He launched a rocket that placed a satellite in orbit and also demonstrated the ability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Earlier this year, Kim Jong Un threatened to launch nuclear missiles at the United States and allies in the region. His rhetoric, however, has cooled in recent weeks.
Thurman was commissioned a second lieutenant upon graduation from East Central Oklahoma University in 1975. A tanker, he served in Germany with cavalry units. The general has extensive operational combat experience from Desert Storm to Kosovo to Iraq. He commanded the 4th Infantry Division when it served as the nucleus of the Multinational Division Baghdad in 2006.
Scaparrotti, too, is an officer sculpted by combat. In addition to serving with the 1st Armored Division, he commanded the 82nd Airborne Division and the 1st Corps. He also served as the director of operations for U.S. Central Command and as the 69th commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
Scaparrotti, an infantryman, was commissioned following graduation from West Point in 1978.