TRADOC officer experiences life in Australia as liaison officer
June 28, 2012
FORT EUSTIS, Va. (June 25, 2012) -- Do you know how much weight a kangaroo can carry in its pouch? Seven pounds -- or about the weight of a bowling ball. Or how about the fact that the kangaroo and the Emu are the only two animals that cannot walk backward. Interestingly enough, both animals originate from the same place; Australia.
Australia is known for its beautiful landscapes, wildlife and perky accent. The opportunity to travel abroad and experience foreign cultures such as Australia may only be a dream for some, but not for Maj. Trent Upton, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's liaison officer, or LNO, to the Australian Army's Forces Command Headquarters -- where he has spent the last eight months at a place called Paddington.
"It's fantastic," said Upton. "My wife and I jumped at the chance to give our children the experience of living in another country. It's something that some may take for granted, but not something that the average American child gets the chance to do."
Upton freely admits that he is enjoying life overseas, but also understands that he has an important mission for TRADOC. As a liaison officer, he works closely with his Australian counterparts to build working relationships that provide the familiarity that comes in handy during joint missions or training.
Currently, that includes initiatives like brigade redesign, force generation cycle refinement, and Human Dimension. These topics are not only important to TRADOC's efforts to design the Army of 2020, but also to Australia's modernization missions.
"It's all about establishing and maintaining trust between us. Trust is the underlying strength of any Army, from the buddy team to the strategic level. It's the same with our allies and partners--we a have to understand each other and be confident in each other's capabilities. Building and maintaining trust is critically fundamental to what we do as members of the Army Profession" says Upton.
According to the 2012 Army Posture Statement, building partnerships and capacity, or BPC, is a concept for developing future forces while creating stronger relationships with foreign armies. BPC contributes to strengthening international security capacities to deter potential adversaries and prepare for wartime efforts.
"One of the great things about my job is that I get to observe how a different organization approaches problem solving, and see different perspectives on how to tackle the same problem across its subordinate units and other governmental agencies," said Upton.
Upton, a career Infantry officer, is no stranger to living abroad. Previous duty assignments include a stint in South Korea as well as four combat tours in Iraq.
Randy Heitman, chief of the Liaison and Exchange Division for the International Army Programs Directorate, says that combat and operational experience plays a large role when selecting an individual for an LNO position.
"In the case of Australia, we wanted to fill the position with a combat arms officer who has had two or three deployments with operational experience," Heitman said. "This helps build credibility with the host nation."
When asked if he faced any challenges as an LNO, Upton cited that establishing and maintaining credibility is key.
"You have to make it a point to demonstrate these qualities (relevancy and credibility) on a regular basis," he said. "My combat experience is what helped establish that initial credibility with the Australian Army. I've since expanded it through active engagement across a wide variety of activities such as battle rhythm events, training events and unit functions."
As an American Soldier working alongside Australian forces Upton shared his surprise at discovering the shared challenges each country faces regarding future operations.
As an LNO it is critical to impart the current initiatives and guidance as directed by TRADOC. Attending a TRADOC sponsored LNO conference June 11-16, at Fort Eustis provided Upton the most recent initiatives and the chance to talk with other LNOs about their challenges and experiences.
Upton says that living in Australia is better than he thought it would be, and he and his family have taken trips to explore Sidney, Cairns in Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef, and have toured one of its many rain forests.
"The kids really get a kick out of it," he said. "My kids love to see the wildlife there, some areas you can go to where the animals are out in the wild running around. The kids always like to see this."
When asked what he likes most about living in Australia, Upton said, "The beauty of the countryside. For me, it's kind of an experience of a life time. I've wanted to go to Australia ever since I was a little kid. I've seen things here that, at times, make me have to pinch myself - like wow, I'm really here."
Upton is currently serving a three year assignment ending in September of 2014.