Leaders Urge More Multilateral Exercises in Indo-Pacific

Leaders Urge More Multilateral Exercises in Indo-Pacific

two soldiers training to shoot a stinger
Photo by: U.S. Army/Maj. Trevor Wild

Echoing a message that has been repeated throughout the Association of the U.S. Army’s 2024 LANPAC Symposium and Exposition in Honolulu, a panel of military leaders on May 15 emphasized the value of multilateral training and exercises.

“There’s nothing like the ability to show commitment than soldiers that are training together wherever we have an exercise in the region,” said Lt. Gen. James Jarrard, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific.

The U.S. Army and its sister services have been working to increase the scope and scale of exercises with allies and partners, Jarrard said during a panel titled “Many Flags Make Light Work—Multinational Training and Exercises to Build Readiness and Interoperability.”

There are many benefits to these efforts, Jarrard said. It increases interoperability, from individual soldier tasks to more complex sustainment operations, and improves the ability to communicate and share information, he said.

“That is one of the challenges that we have in our service, in our Army, is being able to share information at the speed of war,” Jarrard said. “We’ve got to be able to communicate seamlessly across formations, across cultures and across our languages.”

Training together also increases readiness, Jarrard said. “We’re helping others understand how we train, and we are also learning how they train, so we can build readiness together,” he said. “You can’t build trust overnight. It takes a while, so that’s another area where we’ll show vast improvements as we increase these exercises.”

Special operations forces in the region also are seeking more opportunities to train and work together, said Navy Rear Adm. Jeromy Williams, commander of Special Operations Command Pacific.

On any given day, there are about 3,000 special operations troops in about 15 countries, he said. That presence “continues to reinforce that theme of finding familiar faces, generational relationships that the [special operations] community has built over multiple geographic regions,” Williams said. “They really are the essence of any success that we have in support of the joint force and in support of our partners.”

Special operations forces may comprise a small percentage of the overall joint force, but they also have unique opportunities because of their “ability to work in the seams” or operate with lower visibility in partner countries where that may be needed, Williams said. “We see that as a critical value proposition,” he said.

One of the U.S. military’s regular partners is the Philippine Army. In addition to conducting kinetic exercises, the force also must look at how it influences and conducts cyber and information operations, said Maj. Gen. Leodevic Guinid, vice commander of the Philippine Army. “I believe we have to train as we fight,” he said. “I’ve seen how important it is not only with the people we train but the equipment we have. Does it work? Do our people know how it works?”

One challenge facing the Philippine Army is its forces are still involved in internal security missions, Guinid said. This means pulling units already operating in the field to participate in exercises, which can be disruptive but important for the training and relationship-building opportunities, he said.

Looking ahead, Jarrard said he expects multilateral training opportunities will continue to increase. “We’ve done a lot over the last two years to maintain a more persistent presence inside the first and second island chains,” he said, citing expanded exercises in places such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.

“We’re looking to advance that in other areas, too, [and] we’d like to see that continue to grow and stay and train for longer periods of time in the countries where we’re exercising,” Jarrard said.