Regionally aligned forces getting global workout
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 23, 2014) -- "Soldiers are now deployed in a regionally aligned force-fashion around the world where they need to be, whether to fulfill treaty obligations, secure prosperity and peace or consolidate gains," said Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander, U.S. Army Pacific.
Brooks spoke at the Association of the United States Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition, during an Institute of Land Warfare panel titled "Regionally Aligned Forces: A Globally Responsive and Regionally Engaged Army," last week.
This week's events have seen a continued acceleration of Regionally Aligned Forces, referred to as RAF, movements worldwide on a scale few would have imagined a year ago, according to the panelists.
On Oct. 19, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered U.S. Northern Command to prepare and train a 30-member expeditionary medical support team that could, if required, provide short-notice assistance to civilian medical professionals in the United States.
Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., the commander of U.S. Northern Command, led the effort to form the joint team, which is now training at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. The team consists of 20 critical care nurses, five doctors trained in infectious disease and five trainers in infectious disease protocols.
On Oct. 20, Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and some 30 Soldiers departed Senegal for Liberia, where they will join hundreds of troops engaged in the fight against Ebola. Meanwhile, at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Springs, Maryland, Army researchers are busy testing vaccines for Ebola.
On Oct. 21, Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade parachuted into Romania. That same day, U.S. Army Europe and NATO Allied Land Command met in Germany to plan future training and exercises.
Also on that same day, elements of the 1st Cavalry Division were arriving in South Korea to bolster efforts by the 2nd Infantry Division to maintain peace and security on the Korean peninsula.
On Oct. 22, some 100 Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division's headquarters deployed to Germany to participate in Exercise Combined Resolve III.
Meanwhile, Soldiers are still serving in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, and others are supporting efforts in Iraq to degrade and destroy the Islamic State.
And, Soldiers from 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, just arrived in Japan and are readying to participate in Exercise Orient Shield, beginning Oct. 27.
That's just this week. Over the last few months, Soldiers have been taking part in exercises throughout Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, as well as in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and many other areas of the world.
And, Army leaders and Defense Department officials have indicated that there's room at the table for more partners, should they wish to join regional and world security efforts. On Oct. 20, Hagel met with China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi to discuss the importance of maintaining the positive momentum that has developed in the military-to-military relationship between the United States and China.
The two leaders also reaffirmed their shared interest in strengthening cooperation on regional and global challenges and noted the potential for greater cooperation in several areas, to include providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief when crises arise, and containing the spread of Ebola in West Africa, according to a Pentagon spokesman.
Here's how RAF works:
Brigades, divisions and corps are assigned to combatant commanders from different regions of the world -- U.S. Africa Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Central Command, and U.S. Southern Command.
Those forces, including active and Reserve Components, could be U.S.-based with some forces deployed to the region to which they're assigned. The level of force could be large, such as a brigade, or it could be just a few Soldiers, such as an advise-and-assist mission. These levels are thus tailorable and scalable to meet the required needs.
Units assigned to a region could also be deployed outside their area, should the need arise. Units are not permanently assigned to regions. They rotate in and out of the various regions.
The primary goal of RAF is to prevent war by partnering with nations within the region. Partnering can be military-to-military training, providing disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, and sharing intelligence and interoperability.
RAF is also about partnering with other government and nongovernmental agencies in disaster relief and humanitarian operations. The Army has even expanded the RAF partnership to include the private sector and academia, said another panel member, Lt. Gen. Jeff Talley, chief, Army Reserve and commanding general, U.S. Army Reserve Command.
He cited water projects in Africa, which involved small teams of Soldiers, partnering with private enterprise and the State Department.
Lt. Gen. Pat Donahue, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command, another panel member, said FORSCOM will not send Soldiers on a RAF assignment "unless they're properly trained, led and equipped, assuring our allies worldwide that we're honoring our commitments."
He added that RAF missions will provide "Soldiers with rewarding and challenging missions" in the years ahead.