Soldiers shifting to Pacific via new 'pathway'

By Gary SheftickOctober 15, 2014

Pacific Pathways in Malaysia
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Pvt. Darrell Enger, 2nd Platoon, C. Company, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, conducts a dismounted patrol with Malaysian Army Soldiers during counter-IED training at Kem Desa Pahlawan, Malaysia, Sept. 20, 2014 during bilateral... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Pacific Pathways explained
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WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 14, 2014) -- The Army has more Soldiers assigned to the Pacific theater this year and more of them are involved with engagements in regional countries, thanks to a program called Pacific Pathways.

"Rebalance is real in the Pacific, no question," said Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of U.S. Army Pacific, known as USARPAC, at a press conference, yesterday, during the Association of the U.S. Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Brooks talked about a 60-percent increase in forces assigned to U.S. Pacific Command, saying that means about 40,000 more Soldiers are now available to USARPAC. Much of that is due to the return of large units such as I Corps, he said. For the past 13 years, I Corps has been rotating forces to U.S. Central Command and now the brigades are back to support exercises in the Pacific.

This year, Stryker Brigade Soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, participated in three exercises in the Pacific concurrently for more than two months.

"These aren't just training events," Brooks said. "These are sovereign nations accepting foreign troops on their soil for mutual benefit for limited duration."

Exercises in the Pacific support the U.S. Department of State by enhancing relations between nations in the region, Brooks said.

Exercises enhance interoperability between militaries and could pay big dividends if conflict erupts in the region, he explained.

About 700 Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and another 500 from supporting units traveled to Malaysia and Indonesia first, then on to Japan for Exercise Orient Shield. They followed an innovative "pathway" across the Pacific that made the exercise participation more affordable and more efficient, Brooks said.

First, the Soldiers conducted home station training and then went on to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. Then, a contracted vessel transported equipment and personnel overseas. Some participated in Exercise Garuda Shield in Indonesia, Sept. 1-30. Others participated almost simultaneously in Keris Strike in Malaysia, Sept. 13-27.

Now the Soldiers have gone on to Japan, where they will participate in Exercise Orient Shield, Oct. 24 - Nov. 5.

While this Pacific Pathways "pilot program" is still being evaluated, Brooks said the approach enables USARPAC "to squeeze every dollar we can and leverage every opportunity we have, to build readiness while conducting exercises."

Pacific Pathways is a way to "increase forces in more places, without more bases," Brooks said.

USARPAC plans to conduct three such "Pacific Pathways" next year and in subsequent years. Each "pathway" will be a series of stops -- two or three exercises, Brooks said.

"I mentioned that it's innovation," he said. "It's also transformation on how we task organize and tailor ourselves. "We think it can inform the application of the Army Operating Concept in the future."

While exercises are a major way the Army engages with nations in the Indo-Asian-Pacific region, Brooks said they're not the only way. The exchange of subject-matter experts, referred to as SMEs, is also important.

"Our expertise is in high demand" on a variety of subjects, Brooks said. While many Pacific nations are improving their own capabilities, SMEs in health care, public health issues, engineering, logistics and civil affairs are still in demand, he said.

SME exchanges can be even more wide-ranging, Brooks said. As an example, he proposed the U.S. Army might help nations in the region build a professional Chaplains Corps.

"So that the countries that ask us about such a capability can protect against a creep of violent extremism into the youth that they're joining into their formations," Brooks said.

There's also a great demand to export professionalism to help with humanitarian assistance and disaster response in the region, he said. He explained the Indo-Asian-Pacific region has half of the world's population and "the greatest numbers of natural disasters that result in human deaths."

"The ability to respond to such disasters," he said, "if handled poorly, can become a national security issue."

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