Sustainment in Indo-Pacific Poses ‘Critical Challenge’

Sustainment in Indo-Pacific Poses ‘Critical Challenge’

Soldier partnership in the Pacific
Photo by: U.S. Army/Sgt. 1st Class Justin A. Naylor

The Army should think critically about its power and presence in the vast Indo-Pacific, an Army leader in the region said. 

“Power projection in [the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command], it’s definitely a challenge,” said Maj. Gen. Jered Helwig, commander of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command in Hawaii. “We have to really think through it. We have the opportunity now to do that, and we need to take advantage of it.” 

As the Army’s senior logistics organization in the Indo-Pacific, the 8th Theater Sustainment Command conducts theater opening, distribution and sustainment throughout the region. 

The Indo-Pacific area of responsibility encompasses about half of the earth’s surface, stretching between the western U.S. to the western border of India, and from Antarctica to the North Pole, according to the command. 

This distance presents a “critical challenge” that the Army “deals with and think[s] about a lot,” Helwig said during a Sept. 15 discussion with reporters.

“Our theater is very large,” he said. “The distances that are required to travel for materiel, for equipment, for logistics, we have to understand [them].” 

It takes seven to 10 days to ship equipment from the West Coast of the U.S. just to get to Hawaii, and depending on where the equipment needs to go in the region, it could take another 10 days or longer, Helwig said.

“We always have to be cognizant of the distribution challenges associated with supporting the joint force in the … region,” he said. 

One of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command’s best defenses against the challenges it faces are its partnerships, Helwig said. 

“How do we, across not just the Army, but the joint force, provide … sustainment?” he said. “And how do we build those connective tissues, not only with … all of the services but also with our coalition partners? We have many opportunities through exercises to do that.” 

This includes the U.S. Army Pacific’s Operations Pathways, a series of exercises conducted alongside allies and partners in countries across the region.

“It’s been great to … really lean into [partnerships] ... and build those capabilities for these exercises going into [2023],” Helwig said.