WASHINGTON — The U.S. and its allies are sending an unmistakable message of resolve toward maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific during this year's large-scale military exercise in Australia, the commander of the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division said.
Army Maj. Gen. Joseph A. Ryan's forces are among the nearly 30,000 troops from 13 nations participating in Talisman Sabre 23, a biennial exercise designed to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific by strengthening partnerships and interoperability among key allies.
This year, the 10th iteration of the exercise, marks the largest Talisman Sabre on record. Several Pacific Island partners — including Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tonga — are participating for the first time.
"I think what you're seeing in Talisman Sabre is a great example of those countries who have signed up and said, ‘We want to be a part of it, because we believe in the values, the culture, and the alliance that this represents,'" Ryan said.
"I'm buoyed by the fact that these nations are doing this and acting in their own self-interest, but also as part of a broadly more collective stance against some of the insidious activity that other nations in this region have shown," he said.
The 15-day exercise includes a variety of large-scale logistics and amphibious assault training operations and multinational firepower demonstrations and field training exercises. The spelling of the name — sabre vs. saber — reflects which country is leading the exercise: Talisman Sabre when Australia leads and Talisman Saber when the U.S. leads.
Ryan, who spoke from Australia where he's observing the full spectrum of operations, said the sheer size and scale of the exercise reflects participating nations' commitment to mastering combined, joint operations.
That focus on interoperability, he said, is especially critical in the Indo-Pacific.
"The Indo-Pacific region is a joint, multinational region," Ryan said. "It's not just an air or maritime region. Air and maritime capabilities obviously play a huge role out here in terms of overall objectives, but the capacity of land power to demonstrate alliance, partnership, cooperation and will — which are all important components of deterrence — is unmatched."
"When you can have land forces working together, enduring over time in an exercise, partnering, operating, learning, interoperating together, demonstrating will, and demonstrating the desire to get better together, I think it sends a very clear and unambiguous message to our adversaries that that is what faces you if you choose to continue on a path that is disrespectful of the nations involved," he said.
Nearly 10,000 troops from 10 nations are participating in what is the most comprehensive ground force-centered operation in Talisman Sabre history.
Participating nations are together facing off against a theoretical enemy designed to have what exercise planners call "comprehensive overmatch" over the coalition forces across all warfighting functions.
U.S. Army Col. Ben Martin, operations commander for the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, said the scenario designed by U.S. and Australian planners "reads right out of the most recent, emerging doctrine from both of our countries."
He said putting that doctrine into practice in a realistic and dynamic training environment is critical for being prepared to win in the next conflict.
The field exercise is also an important showcase of the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, which is designed to facilitate theater-specific training. That allows commanders throughout the Indo-Pacific to train their forces in the unique conditions and environments they are likely to be employed in.
Ryan said the readiness center is an important facet of the U.S. efforts to deter aggression and build enabling capabilities in the region.
"We're a people-centric force," he said. "This training we're doing here is all about making our people better, making our people more effective for any contingency that does arise down the road."
"The old adage that the more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in wars, I think, is time-tested and proven to be true," he said. "And that's what we're doing here as part of Talisman Sabre."