HONOLULU – In a region as vast and diverse as the Indo-Pacific, Army leaders said interaction among partner nations may be the most effective way to train for joint military operations. But those efforts present an obstacle that can be difficult to quantify.
“I think we’re challenged with time,” said Maj. Gen Brian Eifler, U.S. Army Alaska commander, during a 2022 Land Forces Pacific Symposium panel May 18. “I think a couple of us up here can get really blinded and just sort of see what we have to do in front of us.”
“We have to think not just joint, but as combined [forces] earlier, deeper in the process.”
Eifler added that his units must design training opportunities with partner nations earlier in the planning stages to sync schedules with foreign allies. To hasten the multinational training process, Eifler said Army units have adopted the philosophy “train as we fight.”
Rear Adm. Brett Sonter of the Royal Australian Navy said that allies should integrate participating forces long before the training begins and that allies and partners should be involved in every stage of planning and development of exercises. He added that allies in the Pacific must also remain flexible in their planning. Areas of the region could be subject to extreme weather which could impact mass exercises.
“[The demand of joint training] is actually demonstrating the realization of the lack of strategic and operational warning time that now exists in a geostrategic environment,” Sonter said. “And here, it's getting back to … you train how you are going to fight because we no longer have the actual luxury of time.”
Also added that there is a need for more collaborative systems needed between the U.S. and its allies and partners.
Solders from U.S. Army Alaska, Soldiers train with militaries of Mongolia, Nepal, India, Japan and Chile in mountainous and extreme cold environments. Soldiers learn to survive and operate in harsh climates and the command has been tasked with serving as the Army’s authority on operations in the Arctic.
Col. Ryan O’Connor, 196th Infantry Brigade Commander, said the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, or JPMRC not only allows training at the tactical and collective level, but can tailor training based on a unit’s specific readiness needs.
JPMRC hosts three rotations of training, in warm climates on Hawaiian Islands in October, and most recently cold weather training in Alaska in March. During the summer the center executes exercises in different host nations and designs exercises based on that nation’s unique geography and environment.
“We'll tailor the exercise to get right after your force’s training objectives,” O’Connor said.
“JPRC also provides an operations group, mission command and some elements of higher command as needed.”
In each JPMRC exercise, the Army incorporates live and virtual forces while utilizing mountainous and jungle terrain into mission objectives.
In an environment that spans 100 million square miles, more of the world than any of the Army’s other five geographic combatant commands, preparing for warfare in dense jungles, warm climates and tropical coastlines poses a host of problems for Army units. Soldiers learn from the experiences of allied nations, Eifler said.
In last year’s Operation Garuda Shield, about 1,000 U.S. Soldiers and 850 Indonesian Soldiers traversed into the Southeast Asian nation to engage in joint multi-national exercises as well as cultural exchange.
Soldiers spent time in Baturaja, south Sumatra, which hosts the 3,000-acre Combat Training Center as well as Amborawang, and Makalisung.
“I can't think of one exercise that we did when we didn't learn from our partners, or it hasn't been mutual learning,” Eifler said. “It's not a one way street; it's cooperation. And it's learning from each other’s doctrines … That collaboration really makes us better. We do need fresh perspectives, especially from our allies in the region who have dealing with potential issues and crises more than we have.”