Training Together ‘Extremely Important’ in Indo-Pacific

Training Together ‘Extremely Important’ in Indo-Pacific

soldier training
Photo by: Maj. William Leasure

The resumption of large-scale training exercises in the Indo-Pacific will be critical to maintaining readiness and building trust between U.S. forces and allies and partners in the region, Gen. Paul LaCamera said during his confirmation hearing to be the next commander of U.S. forces in South Korea.

In testimony May 18 before the Senate Armed Services Committee, LaCamera said large-scale, joint training exercises present an “extremely important” opportunity to build readiness and give “our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen an opportunity to work with our [Republic of Korea] allies and see just how good they are.”

“At the tactical level, it’s an opportunity for them to build that trust between each other, and at the senior level, with turnover and everything else, it’s an opportunity for us to exercise and continue to build on lessons learned,” said LaCamera, who has commanded U.S. Army Pacific since October 2019. 

If confirmed by the Senate, he would become commander of U.N. Command/Combined Forces Command/U.S. Forces Korea, a position held by Gen. Robert Abrams since November 2018. 

Large-scale U.S. military training exercises with South Korea were halted in 2018 by the Trump administration during negotiations with North Korea. LaCamera said he will assess current training range limitations and seek more trilateral training opportunities with the South Korean and Japanese armies.

“My concern [with training range limitations] isn’t just for U.S. forces. If we’re having challenges, one of the things, if confirmed, I’ll be looking into is how does it impact others’ ability to train, and where does that put the mission at risk,” LaCamera said.

A 1985 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, LaCamera commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment and the XVIII Airborne Corps, and was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was commander of the 10th Mountain Division’s 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment.

He told the panel that, if confirmed, he would continue to ensure that regional partners and allies see the U.S. as their partner of choice.

“When you look at it, our adversaries, China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, the violent extremist organizations, they’re looking to change the international rules-based order that, quite frankly, we’ve established and helped enforce with the Japanese and Republic of Korea and other allies and partners in the region,” he said. 

He added that it will be important to demonstrate “that the way we do business is the right thing, and what we need to continue to highlight is how our adversaries are not operating in those countries’ best interests.”