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Pacific Army Forces Push Readiness

November 2006
By Robert K. Ackerman
E-mail About the Author

 
A soldier with the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team walks past a carved marble wall during a patrol in Sadr City, Iraq. The U.S. Army–Pacific is contributing forces to Iraq concurrent with its own missions in the vast Asia-Pacific region.
Diverse challenges amid wartime support strain plans for protecting one-third of the Earth.

Coalition interoperability and transformation dominate the challenges facing the U.S. Army–Pacific as it supports the Global War on Terrorism. Nearby wars, backyard threats and rapidly changing network-centric technologies all compete for top billing for a component command that encompasses the world’s largest ocean and more than three dozen countries.

North Korea’s recent missile and atomic tests have increased tensions in the region and have brought about a rapid drive for countermeasures. The war on terrorism has claimed resources that otherwise would be supporting the Army’s Pacific transformation efforts. And, above all, coalition interoperability among the dozens of nations composing the U.S. Pacific Command’s (PACOM’s) area of operations remains a daunting challenge, especially with a growing technology gap.

These events and activities have wreaked havoc with long-range plans and schedules. But, as with other U.S. services and commands, the U.S. Army–Pacific must make adjustments on the run as it supports the ongoing war effort.

Lt. Gen. John M. Brown III, USA, is the commanding general of the U.S. Army–Pacific. To him, first and foremost among the U.S. Army–Pacific’s missions is to contribute to the Global War on Terrorism. For out-of-theater operations, the Army provides specific units and individual augmentees that PACOM then passes to the U.S. Central Command for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In each of the past two years, approximately, 25,000 Pacific-based soldiers have deployed from PACOM to Southwest Asia.

In the PACOM area of responsibility, the Army provides units that conduct counterterror operations throughout the region. In the Philippines, PACOM has a special-operations-led joint task force that provides planning assistance and intelligence to the country’s armed forces. Much of this effort is geared to counterinsurgency activities against fundamentalists in the southern part of the Philippines. Roughly 100 U.S. Army–Pacific soldiers are part of that task force, Gen. Brown allows.

The U.S. Army–Pacific also provides the foundation of PACOM’s Joint Task Force–Homeland Defense. Whereas the U.S. Northern Command provides homeland defense for the continental United States, PACOM provides homeland defense for the 50th state, Hawaii, and for U.S. territories such as American Samoa and Guam.

PACOM also operates a theater security cooperation program that provides military-to-military interplay with the armed forces from the 43 countries that make up PACOM’s area of responsibility. The general relates that the command constantly conducts training and exercises with those foreign forces in efforts that range from multilevel major corps headquarters-level exercises to small individual subject-matter exchanges that share lessons learned.

He continues that a portion of the theater security cooperation program can be considered a part of the war on terrorism. This engagement with U.S. allies and neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region is part of efforts to gain access and build capabilities, along with interoperability, so that these foreign forces can join the international fight against terrorists wherever they emerge. Gen. Brown estimates that this year alone will see more than 100 program exercises involving the U.S. Army–Pacific and 39 of the 43 nations.

The transformation gripping the U.S. Army as a whole is changing the face of the U.S. Army–Pacific. Gen. Brown explains that his command began transforming by focusing on battalion- and brigade-level organizations and units. The U.S. Army–Pacific has nearly completed the transformation of those units across the theater, he offers.

The U.S. Army–Pacific’s 172nd Infantry Brigade, based in Alaska, transformed into the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. This transformation was completed more than a year ago, and the brigade currently is serving in Iraq. The U.S. Army–Pacific also is standing up a new brigade combat team in Alaska—the 4th of the 25th Airborne Infantry Combat Brigade Combat Team has reached its operational capability and has conducted its mission rehearsal exercises. Soon it also will be deployed to Iraq.

A small aviation battalion task force has been expanded to include all rotary-wing Army aviation capabilities such as CH-47, UH-60 and OH-50 helicopters. This new aviation task force can conduct training and deploy with the Stryker brigade and the airborne brigade, which represents a major upgrade to U.S. Army–Pacific capabilities in Alaska, the general offers.

These transformation activities must take place amid wartime conditions, the general points out. For example, the headquarters of the 25th Infantry Division and its Hawaii-based organizations returned to Hawaii from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan more than a year ago and began transforming almost immediately. The division headquarters transformed into a modular expeditionary division headquarters organization; the division’s 3rd Infantry Brigade transformed into a modular expeditionary infantry brigade combat team; the aviation brigade transformed into the new type of combat aviation brigade; and the division support command was given to U.S. Army–Pacific, which transformed it into a new modular sustainment brigade. All of these transformations were completed in about one year; and following certification, these forces redeployed into Northern Iraq along with other Army brigade combat teams.

 
Soldiers from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team conduct live-fire exercises at Fort Richardson, Alaska. While based in the snowy part of the U.S. Pacific Command, the brigade combat team can—and does—deploy throughout its area of operations and beyond, including Iraq.
Now, the U.S. Army–Pacific has shifted its transformation efforts to higher level headquarters organizations. The U.S. Army has designated five theater army headquarters, one of which is targeted for the U.S. Army–Pacific. It will support PACOM as an Army service component command, but it also will provide an operational command post allowing the theater army to serve either as a higher echelon joint task force headquarters or as a joint force land component command headquarters. Gen. Brown notes that the U.S. Army–Pacific has begun filling that operational command post with officers and noncommissioned officers, and this effort will continue into next year. He hopes it will be certified—both for army service component command missions and for warfighting command and control missions—as theater-army-capable by fall 2007.

One of the transformation activities that is potentially the most far-reaching is the creation of an Army air and missile defense command, or AAMDC. Established at the request of PACOM, this command addresses the growing technological air and missile capabilities among the many countries composing the Asia-Pacific region. Known as the 94th AAMDC, this group provides planning and coordination for all ground air and missile defense capabilities. It also takes control of any army air defense assets that are introduced into theater during combat operations. Gen. Brown reports that it is exercising throughout the Pacific theater and is being declared fully operational.

One of those countries that are demonstrating advanced missile technology is North Korea. Concerns over its growing missile capability have spurred several nations, including Japan, to develop or upgrade antimissile capabilities. The 94th AAMDC is heavily involved in tracking and monitoring North Korean missile activities, especially in the event that any of the communist country’s missile launches threaten U.S. forces or territory.

Gen. Brown explains that the U.S. Army–Pacific currently is a supporting command of U.S. Forces–Korea, and it would support the 8th Army there in the event of a contingency in Korea. In the Army’s transformation campaign plan, the U.S. Army–Pacific would become the sole Army service component command in the Pacific sometime in the future.

Maintaining a land-based force over one-third of the Earth’s surface places a heavy burden on network centricity, and the U.S. Army–Pacific is finding some aspects of that challenging. The U.S. Army–Pacific operates the Pacific LandWarNet, and it also is tasked with defending it. Gen. Brown allows that, as with all networks, the Pacific LandWarNet constantly is being probed by various interlopers ranging from mischievous hackers to purposeful cyberattackers.

But the U.S. Army–Pacific also must be able to expand the LandWarNet into any joint operations area, both for planned operations and for spontaneous activities such as emergency humanitarian relief. The U.S. Army–Pacific’s network-focused theater signal command is the 311th Signal Command (Theater), which is being created over the coming year. It will be in charge of those Pacific LandWarNet issues, Gen. Brown relates.

The U.S. Army–Pacific is encountering some difficulties in implementing these tasks. The general notes that most available personnel, equipment and resources are going to support warfighters in Afghanistan and Iraq—and properly so. The U.S. Army–Pacific must adjust to that, and some stand-ups have been pushed back—such as the 311th. But the general emphasizes that the U.S. Army–Pacific already is carrying out its necessary LandWarNet tasks. Transformational activities such as the creation of the 311th will give the PACOM commander “a higher level of capability for a much more relevant network capability for Army ground forces and in support of joint operations than we ever have had in this theater,” Gen. Brown declares.

These advanced networking capabilities complicate the U.S. Army– Pacific’s efforts at coalition interoperability, Gen. Brown states. “Some of my folks often say that we’re rapidly becoming a digital force in an analog world,” he offers. “The fact is that as the U.S. armed forces jointly become more and more capable—with the expansion of digital capabilities for information, situational awareness, common operating pictures and precision guidance—some of our allies and neighbors are unable to move as rapidly into those capabilities as we are. So one of our challenges is to ensure that we find ways to continue to operate with our allies in this theater and [find ways to] overcome the technical lack of operational compatibility with other measures.”

Area exercises are a prime means of exploring coalition interoperability measures, the general continues. These measures may take the form of establishing a technical bridge, developing standard operational procedures or expanding liaison capabilities, just to name a few. “[The challenge is] not the intent of our potential coalition partners,” Gen. Brown emphasizes. “We have great allies and neighbors in this theater who intend to—and today do—operate alongside us in coalitions around the world. But we have to take a major responsibility to ensure that we can operate with them, even though we may have technical noncompatibilities.”

One of those allies is Japan, and both countries are taking steps to integrate the operations of their forces more closely. The U.S. and Japanese governments recently have concluded their Defense Policy Review Initiative (DPRI) discussions, and a command post of the U.S. Army’s 1st U.S. Corps headquarters at Fort Lewis, Washington, will be moved forward to Camp Zama, Japan. The coming year will see the standup of an operational, joint-capable 1st U.S. Corps forward command post in Japan. It will join the U.S. Army–Japan headquarters there, which will be an operational command able to conduct joint task force operations as part of PACOM.

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s new Central Readiness Force Command will be co-located at CampZama. While Japan is keeping its regional theater army commands, this new command will be responsible for expeditionary operations primarily consisting of humanitarian assistance or for United Nations peacekeeping missions. The two co-located headquarters will allow the two nations’ forces to train together with improved interoperability.

But even with progress such as the U.S.-Japan DPRI agreements, the war on terrorism is taking its toll on planning. “We are involved in what appears to be a lengthy struggle against forces in the world that are set to undermine and change our way of life and the future of our children and grandchildren,” the general says. “It’s a struggle that is different from any that we have experienced in the past, and it’s a struggle for which we have not charted the final course to success.

“Today, a significant portion of the U.S. armed forces is heavily involved in that struggle, and that is taking its toll and wearing on the readiness of the force,” he continues. “We have to chart a path to success that accounts for and sustains the readiness of this great force that we have today over the long haul of this struggle.”

Gen. Brown allows that maintaining the effective fighting force that characterizes the U.S. military is not a given. “Sustaining the quality of the volunteer force that we have today is my number-one priority,” the general continues. “Ensuring that the great armed forces personnel of all the services have the right equipment for the struggle that we’re in today—and any other potential fights that we have to get into—and doing that over the long haul is still to be determined.

 

Web Resources
U.S. Army–Pacific: www.usarpac.army.mil
U.S. Pacific Command: www.pacom.mil
Japan Defense Agency: www.jda.go.jp/e/index_.htm