CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — U.S. Army colonelsmade a ritual plea for a safe outcome before a traditional Korean altar that included a pig’s head and other symbols Thursday at a groundbreaking for a $57 million elementary school at the largest U.S. military base overseas.
Cols. Heather Levy, commander of the Corps of Engineers’ Far East District, and Ryan Workman, garrison commander at Camp Humphreys, took part in the South Korean ritual, which included a small cash offering, as construction begins on East Elementary School.
The project is a “major milestone,” Workman said in a speech. Building a third primary school on the base indicates coming growth at the Army post.
“A lot of hard work has gone into making this happen and we are proud to break ground on this important project, which will further enhance education for our children,” he said.
The 99,000-square-foot campus – part of Department of Defense Activity’s Pacific West District – is scheduled to open in March 2026, according to a project factsheet.
The school will accommodate 440 students and staff at first, with room to expand its capacity to 600 people.
A group of officials from the South Korean Ministry of National Defense, the Ilsung Construction Co. and DODEA joined Workman and Levy in a traditional Korean ceremony that included an altar with a pig’s severed head, which symbolized success and abundance, rice cakes, incense and fish. The group also poured wine at the construction site for good luck.
Pacific West District superintendent Jacob Sherwood said the project continues a bond between the U.S. military and South Korea.
“It’s super exciting to see our continued growth here at Humphreys,” he told Stars and Stripes. “What this highlights is the shared partnership for continued growth between us and the host nation.”
East Elementary will join Humphreys West and Humphreys Central as the third DODEA elementary school on base. Humphreys also has a middle school and a high school.
The two existing elementary schools “aren’t quite to capacity” yet, but DODEA expects growing student enrollment.
“In the next couple of years, we’re going to see those schools maxed out and this will be the perfect time for this school to come on board,” he said.