U.S. Army Pacific leader provides perspective on Indo-Asia-Pacific partnerships
WASHINGTON (March 9, 2015) -- Pacific Pathways will include 29 exercises with 12 Indo-Asia-Pacific countries over the next five years, said the commander of U.S. Army Pacific, USARPAC.
"The strategic rebalancing in the U.S. is real," said Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commanding general of USARPAC, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 4. He offered his perspectives on East Asia and thoughts on several engagement activities to build partnerships with Indo-Asian-Pacific countries.
"We think we can point to a number of things that certainly from our military contributions that have aided that rebalance," Brooks said "… in the Army alone we've risen from about 80,000 Soldiers, who are assigned under the command of U.S. Pacific Command, up to 106,000 at the present time."
Brooks said that the 26,000 Soldier increase was a global force management decision that was done largely by increasing the number of units assigned from Washington State and placing them under the authority of U.S. Pacific Command. Aside from having additional forces, the increase brings additional professionals who are in "very high demand."
"Our friends in the region are asking to meet with us as professionals with mutual respect, to exchange knowledge, to exchange skill sets… we can also learn from our friends and their experiences," Brooks said.
Humanitarian assistance and disaster response are the most common engagements in the region, he said, because of the nature of the Indo-Asian-Pacific region and the fact that more than 80 percent of the natural disasters that happen globally and that result in loss of life occur there. More than half the world's population lives there in 17 percent of the world's land mass.
The Indo-Asia-Pacific theater is also one of the most militarized regions in the world possessing seven of the 10 largest standing militaries, the world's largest and most sophisticated navies and five of the world's declared nuclear armed nations, said U.S. Pacific Command, or PACOM, commander Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III.
Addressing fiscal year 2014's Pacific Pathways, Brooks said the lessons learned will be applied to the subsequent five-year plan, which will include 12 countries, five of which have existing treaties with the United States.
"How we respond… and the importance of preserving these alliances is certainly part of where their interests lie," he said. "We find that we have to be thoughtful about the needs of each country with whom we engage and the capabilities that we can bring to bear than can be beneficial."
Brooks said that some countries have asked the United States to help build them a more professional military or a professional chaplain's corps modeled on the U.S. Army. Others, he said, want to discuss increasing the roles of women and help them think through modernization efforts as strategies change.
"It's different for every single country, and the good news is we have sufficient flexibility and capacity in our military forces, in our joint forces and U.S. Army forces and that has made a difference," he said.
Brooks said the Army was getting more out of these exercises than initially thought such as joint practice on complex problems and working with the whole of government partners and especially with U.S. embassies around the region because the rules change from country to country.
"Each country we go to is permitting U.S. troops to conduct exercises on the sovereign territory of one of our friends and that's how these things should be viewed, so it's creating broad effects in terms of the value we're getting as an Army and as a joint team," he said.
"We have been seeking and are having success in increasing the land force dialogue with the People's Liberation Army [China] to the U.S. Army Pacific," Brooks said. "Our view is this is a channel of communication that's really important to have, especially as we have frictions that will occur in the air and maritime environment.
"We don't see a collision between the PLA [People's Liberation Army] and the U.S. Army at the present time, so we should build our relationship while we can to prevent miscalculation to prevent misunderstanding," he said.