Force rotations in Asia-Pacific are stabilizing region, admiral says
SEOUL — The head of the U.S. Pacific Command says Asia-Pacific force rotations are playing a critical role in stabilizing the region, including an Army aviation unit that deployed last month to South Korea.
“The ability for us to start some rotational Army assets there should allay the fears of anyone that we would diminish our presence on the peninsula,” Adm. Samuel Locklear recently told the Armed Forces Press Service. “It will actually bolster our presence and bolster our commitment to the alliance.”
The 4th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment uncased its colors at Camp Humphreys in October, marking the first of the Army’s new rotational nine-month deployments to South Korea. The 380-soldier unit and its 30 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters are capable of reconnaissance, security and attack missions.
The unit will augment the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade. The squadron deployed to Iraq in 2008 but did not return to South Korea and instead spent 2009 through this year supporting units at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Locklear noted the volatility on the Korean peninsula, where he said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ignores calls to denuclearize and continues to pursue and proliferate weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them.
Locklear told AFPS that the deployment of rotational forces in South Korea, Australia and Singapore will help the U.S. honor its commitments throughout the region as it downsizes its military.
A six-month U.S. Marine deployment to Darwin, Australia, ended in September, with a larger, 1,150-Marine air-ground task force rotation planned for 2014. Singapore also has allowed the U.S. Navy’s first littoral combat ship to rotate through its port and conduct operations with the island-nation’s forces.
Locklear said deployment of U.S. forces to nontraditional areas, including Southeast Asia, is “an indication of a world that is changing” and that the rebalance to Asia is a sign that the U.S. is moving its assets to where they are most relevant for today’s security environment, AFPS reported.
“We position forces forward to maintain security, not to contain or threaten people,” he said.