214th Fires Brigade building international relationships
October 15, 2010
FORT SILL, Okla.-- In the ebb and flow of national interest, forging a partnership is an art form. It must be built on common purpose and trust, and it must be strong enough to endure an ever-changing political landscape.
However, such matters are rather large in scale and their effects are often removed from the day-to-day lives of those in the Fort Sill community. But, that is changing.
Together, the Fires Center of Excellence, Fort Sill and the 214th Fires Brigade have become an important component in the complex machinery of U.S. foreign relations, aiding in the developing partnership with the Singaporean government, said Lt. Col. Sean
Blundon, the Army Program Manager at the U.S. Embassy, Office of Defense Coordination in Singapore.
As an English-speaking state, Singapore is a major financial hub for Southeast Asia, and as a parliamentary democracy, Singapore shares many characteristics with some of America's closest partners. It is also a member of a select group of nations allowed to use the Foreign Military Sales program, he said.
As the home of Army artillery, Fort Sill is in a unique position to provide battle-tested expertise on Singapore's recently acquired High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, said Lt. Col. Michael Glowaski, the officer in charge of future operations at Fort Sill.
The fire support coordinator for the 214th Fires Brigade, and one of the individuals helping to map out future operations with the Singaporean armed forces, or SAF, Master Sgt. Matthew Schroeder, noted that the SAF need somewhere to conduct HIMARS training.
"The city and country of Singapore is on an island roughly the size of Fort Sill, and they have about 5 million people there, so it would be impossible for them to fire at home," he said.
Previously held at other U.S. installations, the level of support for the event was determined to be greatest at Fort Sill. Therefore, the SAF's tri-annual combined-arms live-fire exercise CALFEX - dubbed Forging Sabre - was relocated and executed at Fort Sill last November, said Schroeder.
The CALFEX was meant to test the full range of Singaporean military capabilities, said Charles Quirk, the country program manager for Singapore at the Security Assistance Training Field Activity, located at Fort Monroe, Va. <span>
"The exercise was a huge success. It went very well," said Glowaski.
SAF units converged on Fort Sill with CH-47D Chinook and AH64D Apache Longbow helicopters, F-16 Falcons, unmanned aerial vehicles, an M109Paladin howitzer leased from the 75th Fires Brigade and a few HIMARS leased from the 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery of the Oklahoma National Guard in Lawton, said Blundon.
While the opportunity to train at Fort Sill provides the SAF with obvious operational advantages and shared experiences with their U.S. counterparts, Blundon does not consider the relationship to be one-sided.
"Multinational training exercises are invaluable to the U.S. Army because they emulate some of the natural difficulties of a coalition environment, emphasizing the need to adapt to different operating procedures, military and social cultures, and even languages," he said.
"Additionally, the Foreign Military Sales program serves U.S. interests by providing common weapons and command and control systems to key regional partners. But, more importantly, it gives us opportunities - if not the requirement - to develop some level of interoperability [with other nations], which is vital to conducting joint operations, whether humanitarian relief or otherwise," said Blundon.
Forging Sabre is scheduled to remain at Fort Sill for the foreseeable future, according to Quirk, and the recent decision to assign two field artillery foreign liaison officers to the Fires Center of Excellence is meant to further cement the bonds between the two nations, added Blundon.
"The commanding general, [Fires Center of Excellence], and 214th Fires Brigade - along with the rest of the Fort Sill community have been outstanding contributors to developing the relationship with the Singapore artillery and the Singapore armed forces," said Blundon. "It is this kind of support that strengthens U.S. foreign relations and diplomacy abroad."
This November, the 214th Fires Brigade and Fort Sill will continue working with the SAF on Daring Warrior, an annual training and certification exercise conducted in the years between Forging Sabre. But, the added significance of this event is the evolution of the SAFproficiency on the HIMARS, said Schroeder.
"Last year, we had National Guardsmen standing in as crew chiefs while the Singaporean soldiers operated the systems. This year, they're doing it all on their own," he said.
While a momentous occasion for the SAF, Blundon believes this transition also represents an important step in the evolution of the U.S. Army's mission.
"Sooner or later, the U.S. will no longer be at war, and it will be even more critical to our peacetime readiness to develop and maintain our ability to conduct operations in a coalition environment," he said. "Increasing the frequency of this kind of training ... is one of the ways we can maintain the experience and lessons learned from the past nine years."
Though Forging Sabre and Daring Warrior are both tentatively scheduled to remain at Fort Sill, the elements are in place to help keep it here, Quirk said.
"Right now, Daring Warrior is relatively small, but there's room to expand it. The possibility exists of eventually integrating American and Singaporean forces in some of the exercises. This is intended to be a long-term relationship," concluded Glowaski.