Magazine article National Defense

Pacific Pathways to Expand Army's Presence in Region

Magazine article National Defense

Pacific Pathways to Expand Army's Presence in Region

Article excerpt

From September to November, soldiers based in Washington and Hawaii cut a swath through Asia with stops at Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan to conduct training with local forces.

Known as Pacific Pathways, the new concept is designed to both boost the Army's presence in the region as the armed forces make a strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific and reduce costs in fiscally austere times, said Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific.

By taking this approach, "We can be more efficient in using assets and drive costs down," Brooks said. "As you can imagine, that's critical in a time of reduced and reducing resources."

The three exercises--Garuda Shield in Indonesia, Keris Strike in Malaysia and Orient Shield in Japan--were formerly conducted by three separate Army units, Brooks said at the Association of the United States Army annual conference in Washington, D.C.

The innovation was to move units from one country to another with equipment such as Strykers and helicopters shipped from point to point and used as needed, he said. There could be up to three pathways per year, with two or three stops each, he added.

In the future, instead of having to deploy troops from the United States to handle every new crisis that arises, the Army will have a semi-permanent presence in the region and use these "fast response teams" to quickly address threats, said Brooks. There may be up to three units rotating around the region in fiscal year 2015 conducting training with allies, he said.

Getting troops where and when they are needed in Asia has historically been a challenge because it's a vast region, he added.

"This should be a great opportunity for the Army to show its ability to adapt to a changing and challenging security environment," Robert Haddick, a contractor at U.S. Special Operations Command and author of Fire on the Water: China, America and the Future of the Pacific, told National Defense.

"The role of U.S. ground forces in this are underappreciated, but can be one of the most important and effective components of successful U.S. strategy," Haddick said.

With continued cutbacks to its budget and troops, the U.S. Army must reestablish ground forces as a necessary element in the Asia-Pacific rebalance, he added.

Scott Marciel, the State Department's principal deputy assistant secretary at the bureau of East Asian and Pacific affairs, said in a panel discussion while many of these nations are based on islands, they have put most of their resources into their armies rather than their navies and air forces.

"The army remains for them the center piece in terms of size and influence. ... That creates an opportunity from our perspective for our Army to build those relationships, [and] reaffirm that commitment to being a partner," he said.

The first Pacific Pathway was conducted with command, control and support from I Corps, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington and the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.

Maj. Gen. Charles A. Flynn, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division, said the exercise was the equivalent of any large-scale operation in terms of logistics and planning. It began with the loading of 23 Strykers in Tacoma, Washington. The ships then sailed to Honolulu to pick up the aviation assets.

In the month of September, training was split between Garuda Shield in Indonesia and Keris Strike in Malaysia. The idea is to tailor each training to the host country's requirements, he said.

Garuda Shield, for example, involved larger scale combined, live-Fire exercises. In each nation, the Army must establish mission command, sustain the force and execute distributed operations in the theater, Flynn said.

"These are real troops moving in real time, having to on load and off load ships, having to break down and upload ammunition, having to account for all that, having to account for helicopter, people, etc. …

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