CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea -- The Fort Hood, Texas-based 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, officially began its historic move south Friday, becoming the first major unit to leave the mountainous area near the front lines with North Korea.
The redeployment comes as momentum is building for the relocation of the bulk of U.S. Forces Korea from the main base in Seoul and other areas near the world's most militarized border to a newly expanded Camp Humphreys near the city of Pyongtaek.
The move has been repeatedly rescheduled. It was originally set to take place in 2008, then 2012, 2016 and most recently 2017.
"Today we make the first move -- tangible evidence that the long-promised, and long-awaited move south to Pyongtaek is actually going to happen," Maj. Gen. Theodore Martin, commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, said at the casing of the colors ceremony in a gymnasium at Camp Red Cloud.
The move is hugely symbolic because 2ID is considered the Army's most forward-deployed and combat-ready division with a presence just miles from North Korea. The 2nd Battalion, which was based at Camp Stanley, arrived on the divided peninsula in February for a nine-month rotation.
Martin dismissed concerns that the move will jeopardize combat readiness, noting that soldiers will continue to do training rotations at the Rodriguez Live Fire Range and other facilities that will remain in the area.
"Our move will be conducted in an orderly and disciplined fashion. We will not drop any of our ability to react or any of our combat readiness," he told Stars and Stripes after the ceremony.
Camp Red Cloud is in Uijeongbu, the city near the Army unit that inspired the "M*A*S*H" (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) book, movie and television series.
The battalion will begin moving its heavy equipment next week via railroad and late-night convoys to avoid tangling traffic in Seoul.