By Lt. Col. Edward K. Woo, Maj. Mishenda S. Siggal, and Maj. Jimmy Y. ChangJanuary 16, 2020
The Indo-Pacific Theater, 8th Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) manages shaping activities designed to establish favorable sustainment conditions for the rapid execution of military operations, otherwise known as "setting the theater." Vital to this mission is deepening U.S. ties with host nations through relationship-building, access agreements, collaborating with allies, and synchronizing efforts which collectively underpin our ability to reach the desired effects to set the theater in the Indo-Pacific.
Constantly challenged by the tyranny of distance, the 8th TSC sets the theater by having the materiel and capabilities in place to expeditiously achieve the desired outputs that enable freedom of maneuver, extend the operational reach, and prolong endurance. FM 4-0 amplifies that, "Setting the theater is a continuous shaping activity and is conducted as part of steady-state posture and for contingency or crisis response operations." ADP 4-0 further elaborates that setting the theater, "begins with the identification and analysis of host and partner nation resources, and capabilities ... . Planners leverage whole-of-government initiatives ... [which include] activities such as theater opening, establishing port and terminal operations; conducting reception, staging, onward movement, and integration; and providing Army support to other Services and common-user logistics." The Korean theater of operations is a recent success story on setting the theater.
THE ALLIANCE AND THREAT
In 2017, the status of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and U.S. alliance was mature and developed due to decades of alliance-building and multinational investment in the region. The alliance faced numerous acts of North Korean provocation as primary stimuli and determinants brought to bear the testing of regional and international resolve. North Korea refused denuclearization and continued its persistence of missile tests. Decidedly, the decades-long alliance and investment across multilateral partnerships throughout the region resulted in an improved defense posture. Combined readiness across all operational aspects developed through training, planning, and executing a succession of well-developed drills. The Joint Force established its footprint across all warfighting functions, mitigating any vulnerabilities with security cooperation, collaboration, and mutual accord of the necessity of access to allies and partners in anticipation of imminent threats.
Despite political differences in Tokyo and Seoul, the ROK-US alliance proved its resolve through sustained solidarity with a swiftly coordinated, three-sided defense after multiple provocations by North Korea in 2017. These major states executed common initiatives across the entire spectrum of regional influence to deter war by conducting intergovernmental meetings on topics related to cyber warfare, countering weapons of mass destruction, and the future of the alliance.
SETTING THE PENINSULA: DECADES IN THE MAKING
The 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) highlights strengthening alliances as an integral defense objective and a critical aspect of the nation's strategic approach. Explicitly, the NDS reflects that "mutually beneficial alliances and partnerships are crucial to our strategy, providing a durable, asymmetric strategic advantage that no competitor or rival can match. This approach has served the United States well, in peace and war, for the past 75 years."
After the conclusion of the Korean War, several mechanisms were implemented to provide access to ports, terminals, airfields, and bases to include: the mutual defense treaty of 1953, mutual logistics support agreements, wartime host nation support, status of forces agreements, and other international agreements. Over time, the presence of U.S. forces in Korea became a symbol of U.S. commitment, and the establishment of Korea rotational forces optimized combined readiness. When setting the Korean peninsula became the Chief of Staff of the Army's priority, disintegration risk across allies and partners was low to none, largely due to multiple decades' worth of alliance-building and combined command post exercises. Lines of communications were already established from the host nation to receive commodities delivered from the strategic support area.
FROM THE FACTORY TO FOXHOLE TO FACTORY
The foundation to setting the theater is the strategic support area. ADP 4-0 describes the strategic support area as "the area extending from the joint security area within a theater to the continental United States (CONUS) or another combatant's area of responsibility (AOR). It includes a vast array of DOD, government, and private sector agencies that participate in the sustainment enterprise. The support provided includes materiel integration and sealift support conducted by United States Army Materiel Command (USAMC), United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)." As the logistics enterprise integrator, 8th TSC provides the capability to leverage critical commodities resourced from the industrial base in support of critical power projection and execution of onward movement into the Korean peninsula.
One high-visibility vignette that took multiple efforts to negotiate was the deployment of missile defense capabilities that Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) brought to the peninsula. In this instance, not only did the U.S. strategic support area have to distribute its assets, but the ROK government had to build readiness from its national pipeline as well. U.S. military leadership negotiated with Lotte Corporation for land and infrastructure at the Seongju Golf Course area, where THAAD was positioned. The ROK Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Technology (MOLIT) also played a key governmental role in allowing access for the THAAD battery to construct on its property. Furthermore, through a combination of interoperability operations, the staffs of United States Forces Korea (USFK) and Combined Forces Command (CFC) worked exhaustively together to ensure the THAADs were functional with ROK systems to establish a defensive posture. USAMC played a critical role in delivering critical commodities in partnership with the joint deployment and distribution enterprise. As a result of the strength of the ROK-U.S. alliance, defensive posture improved interoperability against North Korea.
A critical lesson learned came from the inculcation of multilateral partnerships and agreements among US-JPN-ROK to ensure a shared understanding to deter the North Korean threat. The alliances proved critical to maintaining stability in Northeast Asia. Change and volatility are constants; throughout these realities, alliances, trust, mentorship and agreements prevailed. Continuing its emphasis, during his first week of command of USF-K and visit to the Joint Security Area in November 2018, Gen. Robert Abrams "reaffirmed that the ROK-U.S. Alliance remains ironclad and will continue to play an important role in preventing armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula and promoting peace and stability in the region." Strengthening readiness in Northeast Asia was an undercurrent of combined and enterprise efforts which achieved the affects today through "all things enterprise" initiatives. Although the events on the Korean peninsula in 2017-2018 are only one example, the ability of a nation, its allies, and its partners to project power was clear on the international stage. Fostering relationships with allies and partners is essential to securing the Indo-Pacific region. Bilateral and multilateral agreements are absolutely vital in maintaining the support required for the TSC to set the theater.
Lt. Col. Edward K. Woo is chief, Distribution Integration Branch, at 8th Theater Sustainment Command. He holds a bachelor's degree from New York University and a Master in Military Arts and Science degree from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
Maj. Mishenda S. Siggal is chief, Commander's Initiative Group, 8th Theater Sustainment Command. She holds a bachelor's degree from Campbell University, a Master of Human Relations degree, and a Master of Arts degree with emphasis in international relations from University of Oklahoma.
Maj. Jimmy Y. Chang is executive officer to the commanding general, 8th Theater Sustainment Command. He holds a bachelor's degree from University of Washington.
This article was published in the January-March 2020 issue of Army Sustainment.