WASHINGTON -- While the Army continues to expand its capabilities over potential adversaries in the Indo-Pacific, it will still lean on allies and partners to help build stability and security in the region, the chief of staff said Tuesday.
The Army is in “a very good place,” said Gen. James C. McConville about both supporting diplomacy and policy in the Indo-Pacific.
However, McConville hopes to achieve “peace through strength,” he said. “A strong military comes from strong relationships, at home with government relationships, [and] with allies and partners in the region.”
Modernization efforts will also play a critical role in providing overmatch in the future, he said.
To do that, the Army plans to turn its multi-domain operations concept into real doctrine.
During the opening remarks of the virtual Indo-Pacific Landpower Conference, the general discussed how the Army’s latest organizations are now tailored to operate around the world to support combatant commanders at the strategic competition level.
“That’s why we need peace through strength,” he said. “Together with allies and partners, we have many more options collectively than we do as individual nations to maintain our strength and readiness in the region.”
A push in the Indo-Pacific
As an example, McConville said the Army has established six security force assistance brigades.
The SFABs “have the skills, knowledge, and capability to serve the needs of the region,” he said, “by focusing on building relationships with our allies and partners.”
McConville said the 5th SFAB is dedicated to the Indo-Pacific and has already partnered with multiple foreign militaries while maintaining a presence in the region.
Last month, the 5th SFAB began to conduct its first-ever training rotation with the Philippine Army. During their training, which is slated to end in June, the militaries plan to train in various communications, logistics, and unit training management events, according to a news release from the U.S. embassy in the Philippines.
“Through these combined engagements, U.S. Soldiers will learn and train alongside Philippine partners, sharing best practices and collaborating on areas of mutual interest, laying the groundwork for future exercises between the two nations,” the release read.
In addition, the Army plans to develop more multi-domain task forces with the critical capabilities needed to counter adversary anti-access/area denial capabilities.
Based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, the first task force activated in the fall after it bolstered its capabilities through several exercises and assessments in the region.
“[It] has two functions: it provides long-range precision effects, and if required, it can provide long-range precision fires,” McConville said. “Those long-range precision effects deal with intelligence, information operations, cyber, and electronic warfare.”
On the other hand, long-range precision fires will be capable of destroying difficult targets, like anti-access locations, using missile-delivered indirect precision fires.
The Army also aims to provide air and maritime maneuvering capabilities, he said.
“We recognize that we will be contested in all domains on the land, in the sea, in the air, and also in cyber and space and we have to develop the proper doctrine,” he said.
Doctrine will also rely on combined exercises with allies and partners. “It happens through expanding international professional military education programs,” he told the foreign military leaders at the conference.
Responding to COVID-19
This was the second year the conference was held virtually to follow safety precautions brought on by COVID-19. Regarding the virus, McConville was optimistic the Army was on the right track.
Even today, as SFAB teams and other units deploy internationally, each Soldier is maintaining all COVID-19 protocols to prevent the spread of the airborne virus, he said.
At every level, the Army is “working through COVID,” he said. “Wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, quarantining, or early on we limited PCS move, when people got sick [the Army] had to deal with it.
“I’m very pleased with how the force has worked through that and been able to maintain its worldwide mission,” he added.
McConville went on to praise the Army’s doctors, nurses, and medical professionals who went to civilian hospitals at the peak of the pandemic. The Army also sent its engineers to stand up health care facilities to provide care during critical times.
“I've heard many testimonies from hospitals where our doctors, nurses and medical professionals [voluntary retiree recall program] showed up just in the right time when they thought they couldn't do any more and gave them hope,” the general said.
The Army has also now set up large-scale vaccination sites around the country. “Between the National Guard, reserves and our active Soldiers, we are responsible for vaccinating millions of people. I think about 15 million people have gotten their vaccinations through sites ran by the military,” he said.
Through the efforts of many, the chief said he hopes the virus will be defeated so in the future “each and every one of us will have more opportunities for face-to-face meetings,” he said.
“I can’t say it enough,” he added. “The source of our strength comes from the relationships we have with you, our allies and partners.”