Army Pacific commander visits Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, met with troops and senior leaders recently at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) to discuss the Army’s strategic vision for the Pacific and how I Corps units will be part of the Army’s continued focus on the region.

During his remarks, Brooks acknowledged that the Army will face certain challenges, but said the Army will maintain its focus and commitment in the Pacific and forecasted that the region would remain a top priority.

Units from I Corps took part in Pacific Pathways 14 earlier this year as part of that emphasis on the Pacific region.

Pacific Pathways will be a recurring series of military-to-military exercises.

Pacific Pathways represents a re-imagining of how exercises were conducted in the region.

Rather than three separate annual exercises supported by three separate units, the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, trained successively in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan.

"[By changing our approach], we were able to be cost effective without losing value," said Brooks.

Adding, "We think we’ve found something here that [will allow] the Army [to] increase its operations in the coming years, while building readiness."

For example, he pointed to the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team unmanned aircraft system capabilities, noting that during the exercise, the unit logged more flight hours under more diverse conditions than it could at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in a year.

Additionally, he said the linked series of exercises added stressors to different levels of command throughout the region.

Basic lessons were learned in the arenas of unit movement planning, logistics, and port operations, while concepts of deployments and the notion of foreign military operations were challenged within the participating units.

"Our unit has deployed to the Middle East numerous times, but this operation was unique in that we were constantly in transition from country to country. Additionally, the majority of the brigade continued daily operations at JBLM," said Col. Louis Zeisman, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team commander.

"All leaders, whether forward deployed or here at JBLM, benefited from the experience," he added.

Brooks stressed the importance of regional partnerships as the key to stability and that the new model created for Pacific Pathways 14 enhances the gains made during military-to-military exchanges.

"The exercises build a degree of reassurance and familiarity with the regional partners and the U.S. forces involved," Brooks said.

"When we take this type of approach, we get the benefit of a much closer exchange between our soldiers and soldiers of foreign militaries, and we get a much deeper appreciation for the differences within the region," he added.

Brooks said that to build on the progress of Pacific Pathways 14, three similar, linked exercises in three different regions within the Pacific are scheduled for each of the next two fiscal years.

"The 2-2 SBCT is actively involved in future Pacific Pathways by capturing lessons learned and ensuring they are shared with future Pathway units," said Zeisman.

Adding, "Our rotation to the Pacific was not perfect; we want to make sure our experience is understood by headquarters at echelon and that lessons learned are applied to set conditions for success."

Of the more than 100,000 soldiers assigned U.S. Army Pacific, Joint Base Lewis-McChord is the largest home station, and as such, the general said, is fundamental to demonstrating the Army’s increased presence in the Pacific.

"You can anticipate that JBLM will continue to play a significant role in the Pacific Region by hosting foreign militaries, participating in exercises and exporting the professionalism of soldiers to our host country militaries, much as it did this year," Brooks said.