WASHINGTON -- On a trip that lasted 12 days, spanned six stops, and covered 12,000 miles, Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning gained firsthand experience with the U.S. Soldiers who are defending our nation, building partnerships, and executing President Obama's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.

The U.S. Army Pacific is the United State's largest component command, and the Pacific Theater is home to the world's three largest economies, four of the world's most populous countries, and six of the world's 10 largest Armies. At each stop along the way, Soldiers demonstrated the capabilities they are developing to counter emerging threats and deter potential adversaries.

During his tour, the Secretary witnessed the Army's growing importance to regional security, and he engaged with Soldiers who participated in several Pacific Pathways exercises and a series of joint engagements that promote interoperability.

From Hawaii to Malaysia to northeast Asia and on to Alaska, Secretary Fanning saw how the U.S. Army is carrying out missions that promote security cooperation and stability in a region that is expected to be home to half the world's population and economic activity by 2050.

On his first stop in Hawaii from July 26 to 27, Secretary Fanning held a spirited conversation about regional security with fellows at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. Later, Soldiers from 25th Infantry Division showed him how to move across a rope line, build a fire in the wilderness using everyday tools, and demonstrated the Army's refocus on jungle warfare training.

The Secretary paid a visit to Soldiers training during the Tiger Balm exercise with Singaporean counterparts, where the U.S. Army is doubling down on its ability to dominate the most difficult terrain. He later toured Tripler Army Medical Center, where the Soldiers and staff walked him through their efforts to address mental and behavioral health as well as the physical wounds of war.

The Secretary then traveled to Guam, where he engaged 400 active-duty National Guard and Reserve Soldiers as well as Department of the Army Civilians during a wide-ranging town hall. He concluded the stop with a visit to the site of a THAAD missile defense system -- a system that plays a critical role in protecting the U.S. people, forces, and friends in the region.

The next leg of the Secretary's Pacific tour brought him to Malaysia, a nation that serves as a key partner as part of the Army's Pacific Pathways program. On July 30, the Secretary met with the Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and elements of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, who were working side-by-side with their Malaysian Army counterparts during the Keris Strike exercises.

The fourth stop of the trip took Fanning to Japan, home to Army Preposition Stock which supports the National Military Strategy by strategically prepositioning critical war stocks, afloat and ashore worldwide, thereby reducing the deployment response times of the modular expeditionary Army.

Secretary Fanning arrived at his next stop, South Korea, on August 2, where he visited with an Army Air defense brigade that is vital to preventing ballistic missile threats. There he participated in pilot training for flight maneuvers and fired training rockets from a Kiowa Warrior helicopter.

Finally, on the Secretary's last stop in Alaska, he witnessed troops from 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry division battling the elements of the Iowa National Guard during exercise Artic Anvil.

The Secretary walked the line, witnessing the fire fights and indirect fire simulators. Later, he met with Soldiers of 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division as they conducted parachute rigging, battle drills at the High Angle Marksmanship Range at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Each stop on his two-week trip provided Secretary Fanning with an up-close and personal understanding of how the people of the U.S. Army -- Soldiers and civilians -- provide a foundation for security and prosperity in the Pacific.