SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii — Three maneuver advisor teams, or MATs, from the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade participated in the multinational exercise, Joint Pacific Multinational Training Center Rotation 23-01 in Hawaii, Oct. 31- Nov. 9, 2022.
JPMRC is the Army’s training center in the Indo-Pacific region. The center facilitates unit readiness and allows commanders to train their forces in the unique environments and conditions where they are most likely to be employed in the event of crisis or conflict.
Each MAT trained with allies and partners from the armies of Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, respectively, to better integrate each country into the 25th Infantry Division-led exercise which was dispersed across four islands.
“We began planning for JPMRC 23-1 during JPMRC 22-1 last year,” Maj. Steven Morse, Commander, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 5th SFAB said. “The 25th ID and JPMRC, from command teams to planners, to company leadership, have been phenomenal teammates, integrating our partners fully into planning and execution.”
On the ground in Hawaii, Capt. Bradley Dunn, MAT 5212 Team Leader, shared his experiences integrating the Philippine Army into the exercise.
“MAT 5212 linked in with our Philippine Army counterparts prior to the exercise, and it provided our team a close look at how the [Philippine Army's] 91st Brigade Reconnaissance Company fights,” Dunn said. “Early on, we identified some strengths and weaknesses of the force, offered feedback for anticipated training and conducted tasks that the [Philippine Army's] was unfamiliar with such as walking at night under night vision devices.”
Exercises like JPMRC 23-01 are designed to test multinational readiness and interoperability.
While SFABs serve as the “integrators” between 25th ID and the partner force, these SFAB advisors are often the first to identify issues related to interoperability and provide remedies to mitigate them.
“The biggest challenge establishing interoperability with the 91st BRC during JPMRC 23-01 would have to be our communications platforms,” Dunn said. “The approach we took was to have the MAT team leader act in a liaison role between the Foreign Security Force Commander and the U.S. Task Force Commander.”
Over on the big island, MAT 5223 found themselves hunkered down in the island’s volcanic sands with the Royal Thai Army.
“The austere environment of the Pōhakuloa Training Area forced the U.S. Task Force and [Royal Thai Army] company out of their comfort zones,” Staff Sgt. Eric Melendez, Team 5223 Mechanic Advisor said. “Both units are unaccustomed to fighting outside of the jungle; the arid and expansive training area tested logistics systems at multiple echelons.”
Being an expert logistician, Melendez was able to compare and contrast logistical doctrine and protocol to better assist the Royal Thai Army’s sustainment operations.
“U.S. and Thai doctrine are very similar when it comes to sustainment,” Melendez said. “Our team was able to provide licensed drivers and expertise in terms of logistics flow from the brigade support area to the combat trains command post, forward logistics element and our company trains.”
Beyond training towards tactical mastery of the fundamentals, one of the little-known strengths of the SFAB lies in the interpersonal relationships forged between advisors and the partner force.
“The [Royal Thai Army] fully incorporated us into their training which included immersion in their culture and traditions,” MAT 5223 Communications Advisor, Sgt. Melissa Lovely said. “From celebratory Thai cuisine, to gifting us traditional Thai boxing shorts, the [Royal Thai Army] was excited to share any piece of home with us which has built a lasting relationship, both personally and professionally.”
These bonds began prior to the exercise and will continue as all three teams spent time in each respective country prior to coming to JPMRC 23-01.
“SFAB advisors’ persistent forward presence with these partner forces, and familiarization with their priorities, allowed us to serve as 'connective tissue' between their goals and opportunities in the exercise, both with participating forces and senior observers,” Morse said.
“We additionally prepared through early integration with our gaining U.S. battalion task forces and interoperability training with the participating partner forces, beginning at partner forces home-station training sites and carrying into reception, staging, onward movement and integration,” Morse added.
In Oahu, MAT 5211 partnered with Indonesia’s Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Darat, or TNI-AD.
“Working with the TNI-AD was a truly remarkable experience,” Sgt. 1st Class Dan Sullivan, Team Sgt., MAT 5211, said. “From day one of training in Area X-Ray, through the last day of force-on-force, their soldiers displayed an eagerness to learn and a willingness to work.”
Operating in the jungles of Indonesia, the TNI-AD are considered by many to be the world’s most elite jungle warfighters, offering insight to SFAB advisors.
“The TNI-AD at JPMRC moved around the battle space and in particular through the jungle terrain much quicker than their US counterparts,” Sullivan said. “This mobility was the result of several factors with lighter equipment in general and conscious and disciplined consideration being given to how and where to save weight allowing them to overtake opposing units quickly in close terrain as well as maneuver much faster than adjacent units.”
This shared learning between the SFAB and partner forces, amplifies the SFAB’s ability to better integrate allies and partners into exercises like JPMRC.
“JPMRC 23-01 has better prepared our team for our upcoming forward mission building interoperability in the Philippines because it has given us a ground truth assessment of their abilities in a combat training environment,” Dunn said.
These assessments may prove critical for the Vanguard Brigade’s continuing mission.
“This knowledge will now help not only drive our future training opportunities with the Philippine Army over the next couple months but provide us a better outlook on how we can operate with them on the same battlefield against a shared adversary,” Dunn added.
The 5th SFAB will maintain these three MATs forward in the Indo-Pacific until spring 2023 where they will continue to build on the partnerships bolstered at JPMRC 23-01.