Army rebalancing has added 16,000 soldiers to Pacific, general says
By WILLIAM COLE | The (Honolulu) Star-Advertiser | Published: April 9, 2014
The Army's presence in the Pacific has grown to 106,000 active-duty soldiers from about 90,000, an almost 18 percent increase, as the service rebalances in the region while planning drastic cuts elsewhere, officials said.
"How we have forces based in the Pacific we see remaining about the same for the next several years," Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter, said Tuesday.
"One difference would be rotational forces going into and out of Korea, as an example," Brooks said. "But the basing we see being about the same."
Brooks also said Hawaii's approximately 22,500 active-duty soldier count will remain about where it is, and a 4,300-soldier Stryker Brigade at Schofield Barracks that was said to be vulnerable to cuts — and a possible move to Washington state — will stay where it is.
"We don't see the Stryker Brigade leaving for Washington state. We don't have any designs to do that at this point in time," Brooks said.
The four-star general made the comments at a news conference at the Association of the United States Army's LANPAC land forces forum at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.
The Army is on a postwar path to shrink its active-duty force to between 440,000 and 450,000 soldiers from the current 520,000 soldiers over the next five years.
Most of the Army growth in the Pacific occurred in about the past year with soldiers added to I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and helicopter and other units rotating through South Korea, officials said.
"There are some adjustments that we know we're going to have to do," Brooks said. He cited the example of his own headquarters being cut 13 percent, which is expected to be carried out through attrition.
"There will be some adjustments that are done that are on the margins," Brooks said. "But in major terms — we don't see that in the next two to four years at the present time."
AUSA's Institute of Land Warfare, with participation from U.S. Army Pacific and U.S. Pacific Command, organized the Land Power in the Pacific forum, being held through Thursday, for the second year in a row in Hawaii.
Thirteen countries sent delegations to the conference.
"Land power," for purposes of the conference, is defined as the Army, Marine Corps, Special Operations Command Pacific and the equivalent forces of other nations, said retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, a former Army chief of staff and now president of AUSA.
"The U.S. Army, as you know, has been in the Pacific for well over 100 years," Sullivan said.
Six of the largest land armies in the world are in the region, and 21 of 27 chiefs of defense or their equivalents are Army officers, Sullivan said.
With a stated U.S. goal of not becoming enmeshed during coming years in protracted land wars, the Army has set out to become more agile and quick-reacting — in short, more expeditionary, like the Marines.
Brooks was asked about potential overlap after his opening remarks Tuesday.
He had noted that U.S. Army Pacific was designated by the higher U.S. Pacific Command as the theater joint-force land component commander.
"So we will do things like look at what engagements are being done by U.S. Army forces with what countries at what period of time," Brooks said, "ensuring that the engagements by Marine Forces Pacific (and) the engagements being done by Special Operations Command Pacific are complementing each other."
Added Brooks, "Trust me, there's more than enough work to go around."
Brooks said he's also moving ahead with a new deployment concept called "Pacific Pathways" for exercises and engagements with foreign nations that would have rotational forces travel from exercise to exercise for months at a time.
The rotations, expected to start this summer, will be based around brigade elements of several thousand soldiers, with helicopters and other assets likely attached.
As part of a plan to reorganize Army helicopter units, more than 25 older Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters at Wheeler Army Airfield would be retired and replaced by Apache attack helicopters.
Eight Apaches are expected to come to Hawaii on a rotational training deployment from June through August.