Friday, October 07, 2016

Army Pacific Boss: Soldiers are Key in Complex, Growing Region

October 5, 2016 (Photo Credit: Sgt. Uriah Walker/Army)

The Army is stepping up its exercises and training events in the Pacific as it works to build relationships across a complex, growing region, senior leaders said.

The Asia-Pacific region is home to 10 of the largest economies in the world, seven of the 10 largest armies, and six of the world’s 10 most populous countries, said Gen. Robert Brown, commander of U.S. Army Pacific.

“Just India, China, North and South Korea, there are more people in that area than the whole rest of the world in total,” Brown said Wednesday during the Association of the United States Army annual meeting.

The Pacific also is prone to natural disasters and is home to 24 of the world’s 36 megacities, Brown said.

“There’s tremendous potential and responsibility, and our people are the key,” he said.

The Army has dedicated about 106,000 soldiers and Army civilians to the Pacific, and they are making their presence known through Pacific Pathways and military-to-military engagements across Asia.

This past year, the Army conducted three Pacific Pathways rotations, sending units to countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia for exercises and training events. It also debuted its first reverse Pathways, where soldiers from Singapore, Canada and Japan traveled to the United States for training.

The two-year-old program has been so successful that more and more countries in the Pacific want to participate, including India, Cambodia and Vietnam, said Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, commander of I Corps.

It also has increased interest in building multilateral relationships between the Asian countries, he said.

“Pathways has been able to facilitate that,” he said. “What we’ve seen here is there are a lot of second- and third-order effects besides the operational readiness.”

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The Army will continue conducting three Pacific Pathways every fiscal year. One of the Pathways in 2017 will include a stop in Cambodia for Angkor Sentinel, which is a new addition for a Pathways rotation, Lanza said.

Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force Sgt. 1st Class Yasuhiro Sayashi, 33rd Infantry Regiment, 10th Division, obtains a target during a sniper range at Yakima Training Center, Wash., Aug. 10. Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division and 33rd Infantry Regimment conducted bilateral sniper training.
Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Steven Schneider/Army

Plans also call for a Pathway led by an Army National Guard brigade combat team, maybe as soon as 2018. Future Pathways also could feature a functional or multifunctional brigade, Lanza said.

“Why not take a sustainment organization and look at what we can do in different countries based on their requirements?” Lanza said. “Pathways is not just about what we’re doing but what the other countries need.”

For example, the Singapore army typically wants training in urban operations, while Indonesia pushes for combined arms maneuver, Lanza said.

As the Army continues to work with its partners, it’s also gaining vital training and experience, Lanza said.

“Between the live-fire exercises we’re doing, the training in different environments, working real-world logistics distribution over great distances, Pathways is so much more than what we envisioned,” he said.

In addition to the Pacific, soldiers from I Corps and the 7th Infantry Division also are committed around the world. Soldiers from the 7th Infantry headquarters just returned from Afghanistan, while others are serving in Iraq.

“We have to be ready for whatever the nation asks us to do,” Lanza said. “We have forces all over the world, support every combatant command, not just Pacific Command.”

Fresh off having a headquarters element in Afghanistan, the 7th Infantry Division headquarters is now fully focused on the training and readiness of the eight brigades for which it is responsible, said Maj. Gen. Thomas James, the commander of the 7th Infantry.

“What we’re here for is to build and sustain readiness to be regionally engaged in the Pacific and globally responsive,” he said.

The division has training oversight and authority for eight brigades, including the two Stryker brigade combat teams at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and the Washington Guard’s 81st Stryker BCT through the Army’s Associated Units pilot program, which pairs active-duty units with those in the Guard and Reserve.

The division also is responsible for the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, the 555th Engineer Brigade, and more, James said.

A Mobile Gun System Stryker from the 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division passes a Type-74 tank from the 33rd Infantry Regiment, 10th Division, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force during Rising Thunder at Yakima Training Center, Wash., Aug. 11.
Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Steven Schneider/Army

The 7th Infantry headquarters and its eight brigades are “as busy as ever,” James said.

“It’s a misnomer that we’ve reduced in Iraq and Afghanistan so the Army’s doing less,” he said.

Because of that optempo, the division must “take every resource we have and maximize as much training out of it as we can,” James said.

The 7th Infantry will continue to support I Corps as it conducts exercises across the Pacific, including in Yama Sakura and Ulchi Freedom Guardian, James said. The division also supports Pacific Pathways and bilateral exercises such as Rising Thunder and Orient Shield.

These exercises not only allow soldiers to train, but they also get a chance to form relationships and friendships with their counterparts around the world, James said.

“They form these relationships that quite often will last a lifetime,” he said.

Lanza said demand for troops likely will not go down in 2017.

“The requirements are not going down,” he said. “I think the real world requirements for the military will continue to grow. When you talk about the need for the Army, there’s certainly a role for us over there [in the Pacific].”

Despite the high optempo, Lanza said he’s proud of his team and the work his soldiers have done.

“It shows what good, adaptive leaders are able to do,” he said. 

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