By Devon L. Suits, Army News ServiceJuly 26, 2019
WASHINGTON -- More than 600 Soldiers with the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat team helped build readiness and strengthen partnerships in Thailand, the Philippines and Palau, in support of Pacific Pathways 19-1.
"Our mission was to deploy to the Pacific area of operations and accompany with other I Corps units and enablers to conduct multilateral and combined training exercises," said Col. Leo J. Wyszynski, 1-2 SBCT commander.
"We saw improved relationships with our partner-nation militaries and opportunities to expand future training in the Indo-Pacific region," he added.
During the first month of an extended four-month deployment that ended in May, 1-2 SBCT participated in both the Hanuman Guardian and Cobra Gold exercises in Thailand, Wyszynski said. He spoke about his brigade's recent deployment during an Army Current Operations Engagement Tour at the Pentagon, Wednesday.
After Thailand, 1-2 SBCT deployed to the Philippines for three months to participate in Balikatan and another exercise within the region. At the same time, the team developed better ways to operate in a jungle environment by training with the Philippine army's only brigade combat team, Wyszynski added.
"I think the operational timing was of most interest to us," said Lt. Col. Douglas Graham, commander of the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment.
"We were operating in that very hot, humid jungle [or] mountainous terrain, and moving at night … and attacking early. We had this incredible variety of [training] from the Philippine side while operating in different environments.
While in the Philippines, 1-2 SBCT also participated in a short-notice exercise on the island nation of Palau, marking the most significant Army presence on the island in the past 37 years,
Palau is an archipelago of approximately 340 islands, roughly 500 miles southeast of the Philippines in the western Pacific Ocean. While the United States' involvement with Palau dates back to World War I, but in 1982 Palau joined other nations in the region in signing of the Compact of Free Association agreement, or COFA.
According to the agreement, the U.S. plays a vital role in the national defense and security of Palau and other COFA partners. In return, the U.S. has the authority to stage or base armed forces across the region.
"This was a high payoff operation. As a result of our interactions, we developed multi-echelon readiness with our units, from the Soldier to the brigade level, with our other services, and with partner-nation militaries," Wyszynski said.
"It was an honor and privilege to deploy and support the Pacific Pathways mission," he added. "Our Soldiers were incredible and we believe they helped us set the conditions for future Pathways of this expanded scope."