Army making plans for new I Corps element
U.S. Army Japan has created a transition team to plan the establishment of an I Corps forward headquarters element at Camp Zama within “the next few months,” a command spokesman said Friday.
It’s a key block of the U.S. military’s realignment puzzle in Japan, but the move doesn’t mean more tanks, artillery battalions or Bradley Fighting Vehicles for the installation on the outskirts of Tokyo.
Maj. Jim Crawford, a U.S. Army Japan spokesman, said it’s all about restructuring and modernizing communications. And to the casual observer, the change could essentially go unnoticed.
“There won’t be a lot of hardware or 600-man infantry battalions. Those are big, visual things and that’s not what’s coming here for this headquarters,” he said. “It’s not something a person standing outside the gates is going to see. Even if you come onto Camp Zama, you’re not going to see some huge change.”
At least initially, the setup also will not require extra soldiers, Crawford added. He said it’s a matter of “repatching” — figuring out which ones will remain under U.S. Army Japan and who will be reassigned to I Corps.
“We feel we have most of the soldiers already here to make this happen,” he said. “If we still have more positions that need to be filled, they might send more troops over to fill those. But the amounts and impact should be minimal.”
The full I Corps body is staying at Fort Lewis, Wash. Crawford said the new forward headquarters provides a platform in which it can respond “more rapidly and effectively” for the defense of Japan and other Far East contingencies, should the need arise.
The shift toward a truly modernized tactical headquarters requires new communications equipment “to make us deployable and expeditionary,” he added.
He said the process also involves putting together a battle simulation center, which will be at nearby Sagami Depot.
“It’s a facility where you can conduct computer war games,” he said. “We need training in how to command and control infantry units.”
While Camp Zama isn’t expanding or opening up any new large training areas, Crawford said the installation will get an influx of Humvees to accommodate deployments. He declined to say how many.
Arrival of the I Corps forward headquarters at Zama signals deactivation of the 9th Theater Support Command. A ceremony will be held Sept. 8 at Fort Belvoir, Va., but actual operations are scheduled to cease a week later (Sept. 15).
The 9th TSC formed on Okinawa in 1960. Two years later, it moved to Thailand, where it stayed until 1970. It resurfaced at Zama in 1994 and became the Army’s senior logistical unit in the Pacific.
“It would be redundant to have an extra logistical headquarters here, so it’s no longer needed,” Crawford said.
Maj. Gen. Elbert N. Perkins, the U.S. Army Japan commander, will become deputy I Corps commander and also head up its new forward headquarters element.
“This is part of the Army’s transformation. It’s part of modernizing our forces around the world,” Crawford said. “This is good for both countries. It strengthens the alliance between Japan and the U.S. We’re fulfilling our side of the obligation.”
And Japan is slated to establish its own expeditionary headquarters at Zama. According to the U.S.-Japan military realignment report, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Central Readiness Force will move there by 2012.