WASHINGTON -- It's important for militaries in the Pacific region to maintain cooperation, dialogue and effective personal relationships with one another, particularly with the looming threat of a belligerent North Korea, said Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal.

Vandal, commander, Eighth Army/chief of staff, Republic of Korea -- U.S. Combined Forces Command, offered these remarks at the "Land Forces in the Pacific: Advancing Joint and Multi-National Integration" symposium, May 24. The Association of the United States Army Institute of Land Warfare sponsored the conference.

He said that forums like LANPAC help to further these interpersonal communications and friendships.

For example, Vandal mentioned that Gen. Robert B. Brown, commander, U.S. Army Pacific, attended a trilateral breakfast the day before the symposium with Gen. Toshiya Okabe, chief of the ground staff, Japan Self-Defense Force and Gen. Jang Jun-Kyu, chief of the ground staff, Republic of Korea.

"They had a dialogue and much closer relationship than we'd seen previously and last night at dinner they were seated next to each other having a great dialogue," Vandal said. "That trilateral relationship is very important, given some of the developments that are occurring in North Korea and that threat from the DPRK that affects the entire region. These types of relationships developed during LANPAC bode well for future cooperation."

PARTNERING FOR HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

Maj. Gen. Bryan Owens, commander, U.S. Army Alaska, said relationship building is not just about unifying against military threats. It's also about cooperating on a host of other issues, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

For example, he cited that the Alaska National Guard has formed a state partnership with Mongolia and participates with other regional nations in Khaan Quest, a disaster relief exercise in Mongolia.

Mongolian Army Brig. Gen. Amgalanbaatar Bujiinov said that besides participating in exercises with natural disaster scenarios, his nation also participates in peacekeeping operations around the world.

"We are between two large nations, Russia and China," he said. "So we try to broaden our interests and participate in global engagements and exercises because my country wants to find acceptance in the rest of the world and maintain friendly relationships with people everywhere."

EXERCISES AND SCHOOL EXCHANGES

Lt. Gen. Azizan Md Delin, a Malaysian Army field commander, said his nation participates regularly in regional exercises like Keris Strike and Cobra Gold.

In addition, he said his soldiers travel to Hawaii to attend Jungle Warfare School, and in turn, he invites U.S. Soldiers to the Malaysian Jungle Warfare School, where they learn to eat frogs and snakes for survival -- something not done at the school in Hawaii.

Col. Ron Sargent, U.S. Army attaché to the U.S. embassy in Malaysia, said there's value in the non-commissioned officer and officer exchanges at the various school houses between Malaysia and the U.S.

In fact, Sargent attended the Malaysian Armed Forces Staff College and he said his counterparts regularly attend the Army War College, National Defense University, the Command and General Staff College, and other venues. He said LANPAC offers a chance to mingle with partners that would be difficult to do any other way because of the vast distances involved between nations.

Owens agreed with that sentiment, saying that a meeting at LANPAC with Okabe, chief of Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force, led to planning for a January 2018 exercise that will involve U.S. Soldiers, stationed in Alaska, to make a jump into Tokyo.

Owens said he's also met leaders from Canada, Mongolia and Nepal at the symposium, which has led to invitations for those countries' troops to participate with U.S. forces in joint exercises, such as Arctic Anvil.

Royal Australian Army Maj. Gen. Roger Noble, who is on loan to the U.S. Army as deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, noted that LANPAC gives him the opportunity to interact with other leaders that he regularly meets with on travels to nations all over Asia.

LANPAC is a great way to team build with partners from Asia and the Pacific, he said. It's also a great way to showcase U.S. military cooperation with other partner nations.

Noble is prime demonstration of such cooperation, as he is the third Australian to assume his current leadership role in U.S. Army Pacific.

INCREASED DIALOGUE

Overall, the purpose of LANPAC is to promote further cooperation between partner nations, whether that be through exercises or military school exchanges.

Gen. David G. Perkins, commander, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, is a proponent of such cooperation. "When you send people to other people's schools, you're immersed in their military and civilian culture," he said. "As a result, you understand how they think about war and about life in general. That's hard to do from a briefing. You have to be there to understand."

In any given day, he said there are thousands of international military students in TRADOC schools. "We get a lot out of it and they get a lot out of it," he said.

On a similar level, LANPAC and similar events allow this exchange of culture and ideas. "There's a synergy of being together here that you don't get from bilateral visits," he concluded.