With the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and numerous security challenges across the Indo-Pacific region, the stage was set for informative discussions at the 2022 Land Forces of the Pacific symposium, or LANPAC, in Honolulu, Hawaii from May 17-19, 2022.
With a focus on discussing how land power contributes to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, LANPAC attendees representing alliance and partner nations from around the world, most from the Pacific, had the opportunity to attend discussion panels and observe emerging technology demonstrations, all intended to drive a conversation on the importance of joint land forces in peace and conflict.
Central to this discussion was the panel chaired by Lt. Gen. Bill Burleson, the commanding general of the U.S. Eighth Army, who stressed that strong alliances and troop readiness are key to deterring aggression not just on the Korean Peninsula where he is stationed, but across the entire Pacific region.
Citing lessons from history and current events, the 34-year career U.S. Army officer illustrated how individual threats to U.S. national security in parts of the Pacific can no longer be viewed as isolated events affecting single nations, but rather, as potential threats to everyone living in the Indo-Pacific.
“We consistently have (North Korean) provocations - short-range, medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missile provocations,” said Burleson, speaking of his recent experience as a Soldier in South Korea, also known as the Republic of Korea, or ROK. “And you can read it in the news today, we think we are on the cusp of potentially another (intercontinental ballistic missile) test. ICBM - that means U.S. homeland. That means Guam. That means Hawaii.”
Burleson added that he believes part of the solution for solving challenges of the current time lie in learning from past failures and making an effort to ensure they are not repeated. Among the key ways he said mistakes can be avoided is by continuing to improve joint operability and to increase training opportunities among alliance and partner members. These efforts must occur continually to ensure alliance and partner land forces are well-trained, ready, and resourced to respond to any threat throughout the Pacific at any time.
Burleson said a slogan used by many Soldiers stationed in South Korea, “Fight Tonight,” bears special meaning to him.
“We have to be ready...readiness can’t wait until the call comes,” explained Burleson of the requirement to serve in Korea. He further clarified how the U.S. Army previously underestimated the need to remain vigilant during the early 1950s, thus resulting in the disastrous outcome for Task Force Smith.
A second phrase noted by Burleson, “Katchi Kapshida,” was born out of shared ROK-US struggle during the Korean War, today serves as a testament to the strength and commitment of the ROK-U.S. Alliance. To Burleson, that experience is part of what makes the seven-decades old alliance such a strong deterrence to potential adversaries.
During the Korean War, “when their back was against the wall down in Busan, and General (Walton) Walker said we are going to stand or die, (Republic of Korea General) Paik Sun-yup said, ’We’re going to go together,’ Burleson said. “And that’s what we do with allies and partners.”
Listen to comments by Burleson at https://www.dvidshub.net/video/844342/lt-gen-bill-burleson-speaks-lanpac-22.