Commander Eyes Army Troop Rotations in Asia-Pacific
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2012 As operations draw down in Afghanistan, the senior Army commander in the Asia-Pacific said he looks forward to opportunities to begin 30- to 45-day rotational deployments that will enable soldiers to train with their counterparts throughout the region.
In another development, Army Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski announced yesterday that for the first time in U.S. Army Pacific’s history, an allied army general will assume one of its highest positions. Australian Maj. Gen. Rick Burns will join the staff Nov. 4 as deputy commanding general for operations.
Speaking during a “DOD Live” bloggers roundtable yesterday, Wiercinski underscored the importance of expanded Army engagement as the United States implements new strategic guidance focused on the Asia-Pacific region. But acknowledging that neither the United States nor its allies and partners in the region have an interest in establishing new U.S. bases there, he said he favors troop rotations to support more exercises and other military-to-military engagements.
The Marine Corps already is pulling six-month rotational deployments in Darwin, Australia, and the first Navy littoral ship will begin a rotation in Singapore beginning this spring.
Similar arrangements for the Army will help regional armies get to “know each other and … know each other’s techniques, tactics, procedures and doctrine,” Wiercinski said.
“Relationships matter,” he told the bloggers, making it easier for militaries to operate together.
To reduce the time and cost of supporting troop rotations, Wiercinski hopes to pre-position equipment and supplies at key locations for the rotational forces to fall in on when they arrive in the theater. Equipment previously used in Iraq, or slated to be returned from Afghanistan as forces draw down there, could be pre-positioned in the Asia-Pacific region rather than mothballed in the United States, he said.
Pre-positioned equipment and a system of trained rotational forces provides more capability in the region and ensures better preparedness for contingencies that may arise, he said.
Asked about tensions on the Korean peninsula, Wiercinski said the United States’ goal is to use the diplomatic process to prevent conflict from occurring. “It will not serve anyone’s national interest if we have to go to conflict across the [Demilitarized Zone],” he said. “And everyone knows that no one would want that.”
Noting that nobody has a crystal ball that can predict what will happen or what capabilities will be needed, Wiercinski identified one exception. “I can absolutely tell you that there will be a natural disaster in the Asia-Pacific rim soon,” he said, whether it’s an earthquake, tsunami, typhoon or other disaster.
As a result of that likelihood, most of the exercises U.S. Army Pacific participates in include a humanitarian assistance and disaster response element.
“I think all of the nations that we have in the region are focused on this area, because we know that is the enemy that is constantly with us and will attack at some point of time in the near future,” Wiercinski said.
Asked if the U.S. “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific marginalizes the role of the Army, Wiercinski offered an emphatic “no.”
Twenty-seven of the 28 militaries in the region are army-dominant, he noted, and 21 regional chiefs of defense are army generals.
“We live in the human domain – the land domain. It is where … the human state is affected by anything from humanitarian assistance [and] disaster relief to armed conflict,” he said. “It involves human beings on the ground, and that takes an army to sustain that.”
Recognizing that every military service has a role to play in national responses, Wiercinski said the Army is uniquely organized and equipped to provide the sustainment the entire military needs to operate.
“We are the service that is in there for the long haul,” he said. “When something occurs on the ground, it is the Army that has the staying power that is there to assist.”