Media Roundtable with General Charles Flynn, USARPAC commander

By U.S. Army Public AffairsMay 20, 2024

May 8, 2024

Moderator: And welcome to the USARPAC Media Roundtable with USARPAC commander General Charles Flynn. Today’s 30-minute roundtable is on the record where he will discuss the latest Army events in the Pacific. While we are scheduled for 30 minutes, due to the large number of RSVPs we received, we’ll try to stretch it a bit longer based on General Flynn’s schedule. If we run out of time and you’re not called on, please submit your written questions to the USARPAC Public Affairs for a response. To help move things along, please limit yourself to one question and a follow up so we can get to as many of you as possible. As a reminder, please keep your phones muted until called on. Now, without further ado, I’m going to turn it over to General Flynn for his opening comments. So sir, go ahead.

CPT Justin Owens: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. This is Captain Justin Owens. We are still waiting for General Flynn to come out of a meeting. So, give us a couple seconds and I’ll come right back online. Sorry for the delay.

General Flynn: Good morning, everyone, and thanks for taking time to talk about a number of things out here in the Pacific. I'll start by saying that in the month of April I've been in seven countries. So Japan, Korea, Thailand, at the tail end of Cobra Gold and the beginning of Hanum Guardian. And then I was in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and just wrapped up in the Philippines at the Duran Balikatan and will remain on in the Philippines in an exercise called Salaknib. So I think I've got a pretty good sense of my recent circulations in the region about how, at least, the Army partners are thinking and their sense of the situation. The other aspect I'll bring on is next week out here in Hawaii, we have our largest annual Army conference of land forces in the Pacific. It's called LANPAC. It's co-sponsored or sponsored by AUSA, but it is hosted by us. And right now we've got 15 Chiefs of Army and roughly 30 nations represented here, a couple from Europe, in fact, and NATO and a number from throughout the region. And then the last comment I'll make before opening up to your questions is I'm pretty excited about the delivery of a number of our modernization and transformation efforts that we have in the--that we have been working on in the Army and how those transformation and modernization efforts from a training center to organizational changes to positional advantage are all pulling the land power network together in ways that previously I'd not seen. So I'm excited about that and I'll pause there and take your questions. Thanks.

JW: Okay, sir, thank you for those comments. We're going to open things up with Philip Stewart and then we'll go to Natasha Bertrand. So Philip, go ahead and get us kicked off.

Phillip Stewart: Okay. I was wondering if you could help explain a little bit about the incident involving the Australian helicopter and the Chinese aircraft and the flares and kind of what it means for sanctions enforcement on North Korea? And kind of what did you see as the significance of that event?

General Flynn: Yeah, I don't have any details on that incident.

Moderator: Okay, Natasha.

PS: [crosstalk] with the Australian--

Moderator: Okay, we'll go to Natasha, and then next will be Courtney Kube. So Natasha, go ahead. Natasha Bertrand, do you have a question? Okay, nothing heard, we'll circle back Courtney Kube and then we'll go to Jennifer Judson. Nothing heard from Courtney. Mosh are you there? Okay, nothing heard we'll go to Jen Judson and then to Dylan Harris, then to Meredith Roaten. So go ahead, Jen.

Jennifer Judson: Hi, sir. I'm actually in the Philippines right now, so I'm going to ask a Philippines-oriented question. I would like to get a little bit more information on where you are working with the Philippines government on the EDCA sites and how the US Army might be able to take advantage of those going forward. Maybe you've learned some things using a few of those sites during Balikatan. So just like a rundown on where you are in trying to figure out how those sites could be used when you're considering forward projection and your relationship with the Philippines. Thank you.

General Flynn: Thanks. So a couple points I'll make on the EDCA sites. First of all, those were a great help in adding more. And the reason I bring that point up first is that what it allows us access to do training in different environments across the country. Let me give you one, a couple of cases. First of all, a number of them have airfields where we can help improve the infrastructure. And then, of course, one that I'm particularly interested in, and we have been for a number of years because I first visited a decade ago in 2014, is Fort Magsaysay one of the EDCA sites. That EDCA site is also a--there is a Philippine division headquarters, there's a DIVARTY there, the Special Operations Command. And they are helping, and we are working with them to create a combat training center, Jen, just like our JRTC, NTC, or JPMRC. And I'll stay on that for a minute. So right now, our JPMRC X, the exportable version of that, is actually deploying into the Philippines to help enable, assist, and allow the Philippine Army to begin to establish their own training center in the vicinity of Fort Magsaysay. And so we're happy to work with them. And I'll just go a couple steps further here. This is where we deployed it last year, Jen, you might remember, during Talisman Sabre in Townsville in Australia. So the Australians have a combat training center there. We've deployed it in `21 and `22 into Nataraja in Indonesia as part of Super Garuda Shield. And next year, we're likely to deploy it into Thailand for Cobra Gold. The reason I'm bringing this up is that the armies, the land power network in the region is seeking, because a number of them are schooled in our IMET courses, particularly across the Army, which has 65% of those seats. And they've also been to our training centers. And so they see the value of that, and we're helping them create that capability within their own armies. And, of course, where they choose to put it and how they choose to build it is their decision, but they turned to us for the expertise that we have. And JPMRC is a really good, concrete example of assistance that we're giving them in and around their EDCA sites and the EDCA site. One other comment I guess I just make on the EDCA site, there are a series of projects that we help because they're beneficial, right, to both. I mean I'll give you one example. There's range facilities at Fort Magsaysay that we have been assisting with project development on. I'll call it, horizontal vertical construction to improve the range sites. Of course, that helps the Philippine Army because now they have an improved range. But it also helps us because when we're over there from Balikatan and Salaknib, we have a better range facility to be able to operate on. And I hope that helps answer your question.

JJ: Yeah. Just to follow up, do you have a sense of where you are in terms of working with the Philippine government when you could say these EDCA sites are fully operational, established, and good to go, or is this going to be just a continual improvement process over the course of many years?

General Flynn: Yeah, I think this is, this is more the latter. It's just an improvement process over a number of years. Again, here as a major general, we had EDCA sites. And so I've seen changes at Fort Magsaysay. And I think those changes are because the Philippine government has decided that those sites are areas where we can conduct enhanced defensive or defense cooperative activities. And so those locations allow us to do that. And I guess, more maybe if I, if I zoom out a little bit, Jen, on this is, I think what's become more focused is that the Philippine military is now focused on territorial defense operations. And that shift from counterinsurgency is in support of our allies and in support of a treaty ally that defense matters. And we help defend terrain. We help defend people, and help them protect and defend their territorial integrity and national sovereignty. And we have a treaty obligation and therefore a responsibility to do that. And so that's what we're doing.

Moderator: Okay, sir. Thank you. Thank you for that, sir. Next up is Meredith Roaten, and then we'll go to Ashley Roque.

Meredith Roaten: Hi General Flynn, thanks for doing this. My question is related to the force structure changes that were announced earlier this year. There wasn't a lot of detail given about the elimination of certain active-duty Security Force Assistant Brigade positions and I was wondering if you could say if that impacted us, Army Pacific at all, and if there were any other parts of the force structure change that impacted you. Thanks.

General Flynn: Yeah, no, I. Well, first of all, in the SFAB. No, none of that impacted us at all. In fact, there's a greater demand for the Security Force Assistance Brigades because the region has seen the value of it. I certainly see the value of it now. And so we're working on that. Now, what I will tell you is that, and it may not be clear, but we have had a number of new formations out here in the Pacific, right? We have two Multi-Domain Task Forces. We reorganized US Army Alaska into 11th Airborne Brigade. We have a theater information advantage directorate here at this headquarters. We have a theater fires element at this headquarters. We have a theater strike effects group at this headquarters. We are fielding new capabilities into the region, from intelligence capabilities to long-range precision fires to integrated air and missile defense to sustainment capabilities. So I actually look at the sum total of the ARSTRUC as increases or improvements in our capabilities. Does it mean that we have everything we need? No. But what it does mean is that the Army recognizes that the investments out here are incredibly important one comes to mind, a fifth composite watercraft company is going to be, it was approved to be stationed in Japan, and we're asking for some others to come out this way. And so I could go deeper and deeper on this, but. But the sum total of ARSTRUC, I would say, impacts, is very positive out here in the Pacific.

MR: And just to clarify, on the increased demand for fifth SFAB, does that translate into more personnel?

General Flynn: Well, no, we have one SFAB that we have fifth SFAB. So fifth SFAB is what it is. What we have to do is manage the risk and manage the demand and manage the day-to-day tempo with the mission requirements. And so we do that at this headquarters with the one Security Force Assistance Brigade we have. It doesn't mean that security force assistance, security assistance, or security cooperation is not being done by other forces that are assigned to US Army Pacific. So it's not just the use of the SFAB. I'll give you an example. We have these small teams that are out in the Oceania area, or some refer to it as the Blue Pacific, but basically we call them OET, these Oceania Engagement Teams. That is a form of an SFAB where they are going in with tailored teams based on the needs of the island nation, say Solomon Island, Vanuatu, Timorese, etcetera. And then the other capability that I think is really unique. And much of this is because of our Guard and Reserve, of which we're used in COMPOS 2 and 3, the Guard and the Reserve forces. And the OETs is also the state partnership program with the National Guard and some of the nations in the region. So, the combination of being able to employ National Guard and Reserve forces in the region where they have not just organizational ties, because we do have Guardsmen and Reservists that are in a number of the countries out here, particularly across Polynesia and Micronesia, that they bring a very unique perspective because of their familial ties and because of their ties, really, to each of the nations. And so I think that that's an important component that the Army brings into the land power network out here. That is a way for us to complement and thicken your question that you've asked me about SFAB. So we use SFABs, we use Oceania Engagement Teams, and we use the state partnership program as sort of a strategic scouting network that does that kind of engagement force. And most of that engagement is a combination of security assistance and security force assistance.

MR: Thank you.

Moderator: Okay. Thank you for that, sir. Next up will be Ashley. Then we'll go to Patti Nieberg.

Ashley Roque: Hi, General. I wanted to ask about the Philippines again and to get a sense when you guys, the first multi-domain task force sort of went with the new mid-range capability a few weeks ago there, did you have to ink some kind of agreement with the government in order to facilitate that? And then also any talk with the Philippines about Army pre-positioned stock?

General Flynn: Yeah, I'll just--on the mid-range capability. I'll just make the comment that we don't do anything in any of these countries without their invitation and consent. So that is--that was part of exercise Balikatan, like anything that we do in another sovereign country. I mean, there's no move going on over there in any of these exercises without close coordination and their permission. On the pre-positioned equipment, I think what I'll say is that, that we, along with us INDOPACOM, are working to distribute and disperse our material and equipment capacities forward. And we're working on that in a number of countries in the region. And the reason we're doing that is because we have always had Army pre-positioned stocks in countries like Japan and Korea. But now we recognize that and we have an opportunity because the countries are interested in working with us, is being able to take these sets of equipment and other, I'll say, consumable materials that we use when we're out training anyways, like fuel, water, food, and then other, I'll say, dual purpose materials like airfield repair, engineering equipment, and then, , fuel distribution, medical, so that we can disperse and distribute our material assets forward for a couple of reasons. One, we need it for protection purposes. Two, we need for resilience, and three, we need--because we need to draw that equipment when we're out operating in each of these countries when we're on exercises because it keeps the equipment well maintained, it keeps the equipment ready, and it also helps our formations, leaders and Soldiers because they're using the equipment that they would most likely have to employ, whether it's a competitive activity that we're out doing on an exercise or whether it's a crisis or something worse than that. So, the use of the equipment while it's dispersed and distributed is also really helpful for us on many levels.

AR: Thank you. And while you're on the phone, I wanted to ask, I think you're supposed to speak at a fires conference today or tomorrow. And yesterday, General Williams out of US Army Europe voiced some concerns about relying too heavily on precision munitions and the jamming and lessons learned out of the ongoing war in Ukraine. I just wanted to sort of get your take on how you’re sort of framing the challenge in your theater.

General Flynn: Well, I'm not, I am speaking later, but I'm not familiar with what General Williams made a comment on. I'll just, here's what I will say is with fires, we always need a combination of area fire weapons and precision munitions. So, maybe a mortar or two Howitzers have a role on the modern battlefield, as you're seeing over in Europe. And I would argue that particular asset also plays a role out here. But out here, just like in Europe, you also need another set of equipment and types of munitions that are precision in nature. GMLRS, ATACMS, and then our,the work that we're doing on our long range precision fires from hypersonic to the mid-range capability to the prism capable HIMARS. So all of those are going to be needed in today's environment and certainly into the future.

Moderator: Okay, sir, thank you for that. Next up is Patty, and then we'll go to Dan Schere.

Patty Nieberg: Hi, General Flynn, thank you so much for being this. So my question, so in Europe, they just were wrapping up an exercise that involved driving hundreds of vehicles 900 kilometers as a proof of concept for moving a brigade. But obviously that's European roads. And I'm curious in the Pacific, obviously I know logistics is a big issue that you guys are focusing on, but in terms of moving big pieces over the terrain, what exercises would you like to see? And what are some examples of exercises that have worked kind of beyond just airlift?

General Flynn: Yeah, I'll give you an example of things that are large movements out here that often don't get the I've seen the notoriety of the long, I'll call it road march on with vehicles. So let me tell you where we started. In February, we had a corps headquarters, division headquarters, and multiple one-star enabling commands and brigades in Thailand for exercise Cobra Gold. And then after that, Hanuman Guardian. That is like February and March simultaneously. We're moving equipment and other capabilities into the Philippines from, I'll say, the third island chain, Alaska, Hawaii, and even the west coast Joint Base Lewis McChord. And at the same time, we're repositioning assets out of Thailand into the Philippines towards Balikatan. And then Balikatan has ended, and we will remain there with exercise Salaknib until the July timeframe. And then in July, we'll actually take some assets out of the Philippines, and then again, other assets in the Alaska, Hawaii, and west coast, and we'll move them to Super Garuda Shield in Indonesia, and this is in the July, August time frame. And then we'll move from Indonesia and move to Japan for Orient Shield. Now, what you don't see is you don't see the other forms of exercising and training that's going on in the Korean peninsula day in and day out, which there's a number of exercises that the Koreans and US, the combined forces, are doing in Korea every day. For example, we recently rotated out the Stryker brigade, which is another big move from the continental United States over to the Korean peninsula, and then the redeployment of another one. And then the positioning of other smaller assets from Security Force Assistance Brigade training to OETs. And I mentioned before, and then the Army's maritime capabilities through its Army watercraft systems, that they're moving tanks, they're moving other materials, they're moving supplies and then I'll kind of jump back to Talisman Sabre `23. What you see over in Gaza right now, that was actually rehearsed out here doing JLOT and JPOT, which is the joint logistics over the shore, and then joint petroleum over the shore. We actually rehearsed that with the very brigade that is doing that in the Middle East during Talisman Sabre. So I guess what I'm just trying to describe here is that a road march from one country to another country through connected roads is that that's--I guess that's what they can do in Europe. But what I'm describing is movements between South Asia, Northeast Asia, the first island chain, Southeast Asia, the other continent of Australia. And so what I'm trying to outline here is like--and this is multimodal transportation, right? So this is commercial air. This is military air. This is military sealift command. This is Army watercraft. This is inland transportation. It's port opening capability. This is like strategic readiness. Because what we're doing is we're translating strategic movement into operational maneuver inside north, the Indo Pacific AOR from the Asian continent to exercise the connected by the archipelago land bridge of Southeast Asia that connects the other continent, that's out here, Australia. And then, of course, all the operations that we do day to day in the northern tip of the first island chain and on the Asian continent between Japan and South Korea. I mean, I'll just give you another example. In the midst of all this is conquest up in Mongolia. So we have security force assistance brigade up there with SOC PAC forces that are working with the Mongolian Army on security force assistance as well. So, I mean, to me, a foot march from one country to another and going through a number of NATO countries, that's great. But if you can just expand, if you can just think about the expansive nature of movement and maneuver, and the logistics required to tie all that together, it is just extraordinary what we do out here. I mean, the entire European continent fits basically within the first island chain, or I'll just say the South China Sea, if you will. The South China Sea and Philippine Sea. This is just a massive piece of earth. And I hope you can appreciate my comments there.

PN: Definitely, that was--no, that was really good. And thank you for kind of setting the scene. Are there any kind of, like, I [crosstalk]

General Flynn: I want to paint a picture with--when I talk about Operation Pathways, that's essentially campaigning. And what I was just describing there is that is campaigning with the land power network that exists out here. These countries have large armies I'll go Thailand, right. 75% of that military is Army. Philippines, 70% of that military is Army. Indonesia, 70% of that military is Army. The point I'm making here is this is where we connect out here. This is where the land power network is, the security architecture that binds this region together. And if you think about the movements that I was just describing right there, that is Operation Pathways, that is campaigning, that is in time and space, time together, operations, activities and investments that benefit the US national security objectives and those of our allies and partners. And to me, that's the very definition of campaigning. And what I was just describing through those movements is our very real and powerful concrete example of campaigning with land forces in support of the joint force out here and allies and partners and the combined forces across Asia.

PN: Despite all of these successes that you just kind of mentioned, are there certain bottlenecks or things that you would like to see going forward, certain things that you're going to focus on in future exercises?

General Flynn: Well, I mean as you can imagine, coordinating all this logistically is incredibly challenging. So each one of those things, there's host nation agreements, there's timing, there's customs, there's air coordination that has to go on. So we never take a break out here on the coordination of the scale of the logistics required to do this. I think the other thing is the command and control required to do that. The headquarters involvement, from my headquarters to core headquarters, to multiple division headquarters, to theater enabling command, the command and control required to orchestrate, organize, coordinate, synchronize and plan all those activities is a absolutely a 24/7-365 body of work. So I always think through the logistical requirements for all this, and then also the command control. Last point I make, this is actually a very good problem. And it's a good problem because all of this takes multinational work and multilateral coordination. So things like the Japan agreement, the US Japan agreement, you can add Australia to both of those kind of arrangements, the office work that's going on. I mean, I think these things are incredibly important as sort of bodies of coordination for us to be able to capitalize on one another's. Again, these are the things that are binding the reach together and keeping it safe, keeping it stable, keeping it secure.

Moderator: All right, thank you for that, sir. Just a quick admin note. We can hear whoever's typing. If you could please mute your phone. If we can have everybody please check your phones and make sure you're muted. We're getting a lot of background noise. Okay, next we're going to move on to Dan Schere, and from there we'll go to Gina Cavallaro. Go ahead, Dan.

Dan Schere: Hi. Thanks so much for doing this. Just real quickly, the deployment of the mid-range capability recently. Can you maybe talk about any observations from that or lessons learned, challenges with it that maybe still need to be overcome? And this kind of future plans going forward?

General Flynn: Yeah, I guess I'd just say that putting it into the Philippines during this period of time, we're going to learn a lot. So let me give you an example. I was over there with them the day I went up to visit them it was 95 degrees, there was probably 130% humidity, and they are literally a stone's throw away from the ocean. And so you have the effects of heat, you have the effects of humidity, you have the effects of saltwater corrosion. And so all of these things are really helpful for us when we put that capability out there to learn really in a very granular way, from the maintainers to the commanders, to the noncommissioned officers, warrant officers, about the effects of those conditions on the equipment. Of course you saw the picture of how we moved it in there deploying this capability by air lift through the great work of Air mobility command. There's also great lessons in doing this. So, the fact that we were able to rapidly deploy that and then place that in a key position and what our soldiers are doing, just learning so much by being hands on. Again, I always talk about the environment and the conditions out here, and when we introduce our soldiers and their leaders and these capabilities into the environment and those conditions, there's always great insights and lessons from that. I'm not going to go into any of the details of that, but I will just tell you it's been invaluable.

Moderator: Dan, did you have a follow up?

DS: Well, just. Can you say a little bit more about the effect of the heat and the humidity? I mean, is there technology within the MRC that is designed to guard against that, or is that something that might need to be perfected?

General Flynn: It's just different than being in Washington state or it's different than being in Yuma or different than White Sands Missile Range. And so I hope you can have an appreciation for that environment. And we experience it out here in Hawaii. This is also tropic jungle and has salt water, humidity, corrosion, corrosion effect. And so we're learning from that. But it's not like this is totally unfamiliar to us. We have almost 30,000 US Army soldiers that are here in Hawaii, and we know the effects of this. It's just that doing it for real is helpful for our soldiers and our noncommissioned officers and officers to see, and that feedback is very helpful.

Moderator: Thank you, sir. Next up is Gina. Then we will go to Lauren Williams.

Gina Cavallaro: Hi, General Flynn. This is Gina Cavallaro, Army magazine. I kind of have a big picture question. You visited seven countries in April, and I know you travel all the time. Is it starting to feel in the Pacific like there's a real organization forming with all the partners in different nations and their different capabilities, or is it something that constantly needs to be sort of threaded together as you go along? And how does that manifest at LANPAC, which is coming up next week? Thank you.

General Flynn: Yeah, I actually think the--thanks for the question, Gina. So let me, I'll tell you what I see next week, but I'll tell you why I see next week with 15 Chiefs of Army and 30 nations represented, which is the most Chiefs of Army we have. What I see, and this is borne out through my, my recent travel here in April, is that the unity and collective commitment of, and I'm speaking for my portion of the joint force, the armies, the land forces. But I would say I think that is probably similar with my fellow components, the unity and collective commitment that I'm witnessing is growing, increasing and that it's strengthened depending on who you talk to. I think they could they, they could give you their sense of, like, why that's happening. I, from my perspective, having been out here for eight of the last eleven years, going back to 2014, I would just tell you that I think that the sense of the insidious, incremental and irresponsible behavior, and that's how I frame the way the Chinese are acting out here, that has created a bit of a groundswell on the work that we do as teammates. And so the strengthening of that, in my view, is that they also appreciate a safe, stable and secure region. And, of course, they're mostly concerned about their own nation, as they should be. And so I, my view on this, Gina, is that the unity and collective commitment of the land power network out here is different. And it's different because they are, we are all working together in very, very close fashion. And I, as I pointed out, it's things like Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, we're training together. We're generating readiness together, operation pathways, we are applying that readiness together into the region, and we're improving interoperability. We're improving joint readiness, joint combined readiness. And we're sort of denying key terrain, human and physical, from adversarial or opponents. And then the last way we're doing, as I mentioned earlier, I think this notion of creating joint interior lines so that we can increase our operational endurance, increase our staying power, increase our operational reach. As I was describing earlier, the operational maneuver from joint exercise to joint exercise to Army exercise is incredibly important, and we're doing that with our allies and partners in the region, and they are in support of that. So that again, I'm coming back to the unity and collective commitment because I think that is exactly what the land power network, the strategic land power network of the armies out here is demonstrating. I think I got time for one more and then I got a break at 10:00.

Moderator: Okay, sir, last one then. We'll go to Lauren Williams.

Lauren Williams: Yes. Thank you so much for doing this General. I wanted to ask you about the status of the mission partner environments. I know that 1st Corps was kind of the tip of the spear on this and implementing different environments and partner nations. So I wanted to get an update on where you guys are with that and what's coming up next this year in terms of adding that to other mission partners.

General Flynn: Yeah, I'll just make, I'll just say this, 1st Corps has been our operational headquarters that's participating in the INDOPACOM, , build out of the mission partner environment. I actually think that your question around after Project Convergence Capstone 4, there were some really good gains made during PC 4, and we have taken some of those gains and applied them in the region using 1st Corps, 25th, 11th Airborne Division forces in Japan and then forces at Joint Base Lewis McChord that are deployed throughout the region. I think it's iterative and it's evolving and we're learning and we're trying to learn faster on this, but it's obviously this is another area because the partner plays a role here that we have to do continual assessments of that, of that architecture to make sure that we don't expose them or us to challenges with that communications network. So I'll probably leave it there Lauren, and you may want to get with 1st Corps in a little more detail on that.

LW: Thank you. Will do.

Moderator: Okay. Thank you, sir, for your time today and for this media roundtable. And thank you to all who joined us today. Again, if we did not get to you, direct your questions to the USARPAC Public Affairs for a response. Thank you all for your time and enjoy the rest of your day.