'Talisman Saber' shows Army's expanding role in Pacific
July 24, 2013
By David Vergun
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 24, 2013) -- I Corps is playing a key role in Exercise Talisman Saber in Australia, demonstrating the Army's increasing influence in the Pacific, said one of the exercise planners.
Many associate the Navy with the Pacific, but no one lives on the ocean," said Lt. Col. Jade Hinman, deputy plans officer for I Corps. "They live on the land," and that's where the Army's significant capability comes into play.
When Talisman Saber, the largest bilateral exercise between the U.S. and Australia, started in 2005, it was largely "naval-centric," said Hinman.
And, for good reason, as the Army was heavily engaged at the time in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This year, however, the Army is "injecting more land operations" into the biennial exercise, although participation by naval forces and the Air Force remains high, along with Australia's 1st Division, he said.
A main goal of the exercise is to certify I Corps for joint operational readiness. This ensures I Corps will be mission-ready for U.S. Pacific Command should the need arise. The need could be anything from warfare to humanitarian assistance, he said.
U.S. Pacific Command's area covers nearly half the globe, including 36 nations. U.S. Army Pacific represents the Army component, with I Corps taking a main role, along with 8th Army in Korea, and a number of brigades.
Much of the exercise is being done with high-powered computer simulators in the main headquarters in Brisbane, Australia, where Hinman is located, along with simulators and players at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and in a number of other locations including Alaska, Hawaii and San Diego.
National Guard Soldiers of the 34th and 36th Divisions are participating out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, along with a number of Army active duty and reserve-component units.
The players in the virtual world operate in "real time," with realistic scenarios based on events that could conceivably occur in the Pacific, from natural disasters to all-out war, Hinman said.
"Real time" means Queensland time. Queensland is a state in northeast Australia where Brisbane is located. That means Soldiers at Lewis-McChord, 14 time zones away, are doing a lot of their work at night, he said.
The exercise itself is taking place July 20-28, so the simulators are programmed to crunch months or even years of "crises" into that period of time, and Soldiers and other players need to resolve those crises within that timeframe, he explained.
Soldiers operating the simulators issue orders, resolve conflicts and provide solutions to tricky problems, he said.
It's a pretty stressful environment to work in and operations continue around the clock, he said.
Hinman himself is acquainted with stress, having served several tours in Iraq, including one as a tank company commander. He also is a graduate of the prestigious School of Advanced Military Studies, known as SAMS, a graduate-level program that focuses on complex and ambiguous problems at the strategic level, training that comes in handy for this exercise.
BOOTS ON GROUND
Not all is simulation.
Australia itself has been divided into a number of fictitious countries, each with various problems and conflicts, Hinman said.
One of the scenarios involves a threat to regional and global stability, requiring the Navy and a Marine expeditionary unit to conduct an amphibious landing at Queensland's Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
The landings were real and the Australians were also involved in that, both onshore and offshore.
The Army's boots-on-the-ground piece consisted of some 400 paratroopers from the 25th Infantry Division at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, flying 16 hours and then jumping into the training area in support of the joint/combined forcible entry effort.
Upon safely hitting the ground, the paratroopers came under the control of the 1st Division (Australia), he said, noting that the two nations share network and communications capabilities and the exercise provided a rigorous test of those systems.
Once the forcible entry and fighting succeeds, assuming that it does, stability operations take place, with the eventual goal of the military handing power over to a legitimately elected political body, all in a matter of days, he explained.
Australia is not the only U.S. partner in the region. Nations throughout the region are "eager to train with us and we with them," he said, and this and follow-on exercises will provide ample opportunity.
This exercise is a lot more than just a game, Hinman emphasized. It was designed to be "painfully realistic" and he said lives could one day depend on getting it right, adding "we care."