The Army plans to conduct more maritime exercises with Navy ships in the Pacific as part of the services’ rebalance to the region, service leaders said Monday at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington D.C.
“We've begun to train our aviation units in Hawaii, Alaska, Japan and Korea to train them over water. We’ve done deck landing qualifications and participated in medical and logistical exercises. We are increasing the amount we are doing with the joint team,” said Gen. Vincent Brooks, Pacific Commander.
Brooks added that the Army participated in the Rim of the Pacific training exercise this past summer, performing deck landings and medical evacuations.
“We were flying out to ships with Army helicopters integrating air, land and sea. As we bring domains together we find the Army is an active player,” he said.
Overall, the Army has increased its presence in the Pacific from 60,000 soldiers up to 100,000, Brooks said.
“The rebalance takes the form of a 60-percent increase in forces assigned to the Pacific. This is an important step as part of the Army’s regional alignment,” Brooks added.
As part of its rebalance to the Pacific, the Army plans to build upon a program it refers to as Pacific Pathways. This involves an effort to move a battalion-sized element of approximately 700 soldiers from a Stryker Task Force and about 500 enabling troops from support units. The effort links a series of exercises with foreign militaries by deploying Army forces for longer periods of time than a traditional exercise.
The first Pacific Pathways partners in 2014 have been Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan, U.S. Army officials said. The idea is to build readiness and strengthen interoperability so that Army forces are well prepared to respond in tandem with allied nations in the event of disaster.
Preparing for humanitarian relief and disaster-response mission is a huge part of the Army’s Pacific theater strategy, Brooks added.
“Humanitarian and disaster response is an area of common purpose around the region. We spend quite a bit of time exchanging knowledge, gathering knowledge and building expertise from countries that have extensive experience,” he said. “It is 80-percent more likely we will need to respond to a natural disaster instead of a combat scenario.”
In particular, Brooks added that Army-to-Army cooperation with the Peoples Liberation Army with respect to disaster preparedness has helped the two countries reduce or eliminate areas of potential tension.
“We think Army to Army engagement can be an important relationship that is less constrained by the areas of friction that occur in maritime and air environments. We've had humanitarian and disaster response exchanges,” Brooks said.