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CAMP ZAMA, Japan — The Pacific theater’s Army supply and support command is holding its first forward-deployed command exercise in Japan this week to practice how it can best respond to crises throughout the Pacific, according to Army officials.

The relatively new unit, the 8th Theater Sustainment Command out of Fort Shafter, Hawaii, provides supplies, policing and engineering to the Army’s Pacific commands. It also coordinates those services and supplies in a crisis, and it is that coordination the unit is testing this week at Camp Zama, just outside of Tokyo.

"This is a great workout for us," Maj. Gen. Raymond Mason, the 8th TSC’s commander, said Monday.

"This is the first time we’re actually deploying our pure, forward command post," he said of the week-long training. "We’re really working through all the standard operating procedures, the structure, the interface with our different kinds of headquarters … to determine all those pieces that we need to conduct operations."

The Army has formed three theater-level supply and service commands in recent years to give top generals in the Pacific, Europe and Central commands more flexibility and control over supplies and support needed in the region, especially during any crisis, Mason said.

In turn, that leverage and direct communication is meant to better supply soldiers, and in some cases other servicemembers, with the trucks, fuel, food or weapons they need to respond to hostile or humanitarian crises, Mason said.

Mason took command in October of the 8th TSC, which was formed about two years ago. The other two theater sustainment commands are the 1st TSC at Fort Bragg, which serves the U.S. Army Central, and the 21st TSC, which serves U.S. Army Europe.

All told, the 8th TSC includes about 5,500 soldiers who mainly work at supply, engineering and military police units throughout Hawaii, Japan and South Korea. Currently, more than 1,000 members are deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, Mason said.

The command’s unit in Okinawa, the 10th Support Group, often provides supplies throughout Asia when other countries request help for humanitarian crises, Mason said.

This week, the soldiers will practice virtual responses, including planning and communicating with U.S. units across the Pacific theater’s 11 time zones, Mason said. Stretching across the globe is part of the challenge of running a theater-based supply chain, he said.

It’s also a challenge to deal with so many different environments in that area, from Hawaii to India.

"You’ve got to be prepared for that," he said. "You’ve got so many different nations, languages, and their cultures that you’ve got to be attuned to and understand how things operate in different countries around the world."

The goal, Mason said, is to help rather than cause some cultural blunder.

"We spend a fair amount of time before we deploy training our soldiers … on the cultural aspects as the nations that they are going to train with."


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