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Pacific Pathways training evolves by sending Asian troops to US

U.S soldiers assigned to Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 1-2 Stryker Brigade help the Royal Thai Army prepare an air assault exercise during Cobra Gold 16 in Lop Buri, Thailand, Feb. 13, 2016. Cobra Gold is part of Pacific Pathways, which strings together already established Army exercises with allies and partner nations throughout the Pacific.

KWADWO FRIMPONG/U.S. ARMY

By WYATT OLSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 8, 2016

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii — Now in its third year, the Army’s Pacific Pathways will employ a “reverse” strategy for this summer’s training, bringing troops from partner nations to Hawaii, Alaska and Washington.

Meanwhile, a separate phase of Pathways exercises based in the Philippines will usher in a “hub-and-spoke” expeditionary design, in which the command-and-control element will remain in the Philippines while task forces are sent to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

“Pathways has continued to evolve,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, commander of I Corps, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash.

Pacific Pathways was launched in 2014 by Gen. Vincent Brooks, former U.S. Army Pacific commander, with the intent of stringing together already established Army exercises with allies and partner nations throughout the Pacific. This way, instead of Army units deploying troops and equipment for a single exercise and then returning to home station, Pathways created an expeditionary-style deployment — stringing together training opportunities in two- to three-month increments — that amped up the Army’s presence throughout the region.

“What Pathways has done is taken some disparate exercises and remodeled those into a deployment and an operation,” Lanza said.

Pathways is part of the Obama administration’s rebalance to the Pacific, enhancing the Army’s readiness, rehearsals, reconnaissance and relationships with allies and partners in the Pacific, he said.

“That is the evolution of Pathways, so that it is more than just building partner capacity,” Lanza said. “It’s achieving readiness for us and achieving readiness for our partners and allies, based on their needs as a country.”

But up until now, Pathways has been all about U.S. soldiers heading out into the Pacific.

“What we’ve done with reverse Pathways now is that we actually have some of the other militaries coming to train with us in our training areas,” Lanza said.

This summer, Singaporean soldiers will travel to Hawaii to train with the 25th Infantry Division on the Big Island, Japanese soldiers will arrive at Yakima Training Center in Washington and Canadians will join training in Alaska.

“What we’ve done here is built an operation where we’re leveraging all three training areas simultaneously,” Lanza said.

Foreign soldiers from the Pacific have long traveled to America for training, but this is the first simultaneous and coordinated effort to immerse them in comprehensive drills, including live-fire training.

Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn, 25th ID commander, described reverse Pathways as chiefly “a natural evolution” of a concept now headed into its seventh cycle.

“I think it’s equally important for the forces in the region we’re partnered and training with to come to our environment and some of our training facilities where we can enhance some things for them to do by way of live, virtual and constructive integration,” he said.

Singaporean soldiers have trained biennially in Hawaii as part of the Tiger Balm exercise, so in that regard, it’s similar to the way U.S. soldiers have used existing exercises for Pathways.

But training with Singapore in late June and July will focus on coalition communications and networks involving handheld drones for reconnaissance and surveillance.

The 25th ID also will share targeting practices by providing Singaporean soldiers access to U.S. satellite communications systems, Flynn said.

Reverse Pathways also aims to provide visiting soldiers with a greater sense of rapid deployment. For example, Singaporean soldiers will arrive in Honolulu by commercial airline and then, within about 24 hours, travel by helicopter to the Pohakuloa Training Area on the island of Hawaii, Flynn said.

The roughly 109,000-acre Pohakuloa, used for live-fire training, will give Singaporean soldiers a chance to participate in combined-arms training, including attack aviation and artillery, Lanza said.

“They don’t get those opportunities too often at home station, and they don’t get to do it with us,” he said.

In the Philippines, U.S. soldiers from Hawaii and Washington will spend about three months at Fort Magsaysay forming a division command post, Flynn said. From there they will command a task force sent to Thailand, while simultaneously commanding a separate force conducting bilateral training with Filipino soldiers elsewhere in the Philippines.

After that, the two forces will become a combined aviation task force with logistical capabilities and conduct exercises in Malaysia and Indonesia.

“And so its hub is in the Philippines, and its spokes are in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia,” Flynn said.

Lanza said Pathways has led to streamlining of command movement.

“We have taken the Corps’ ability to take an early entry command post and put that on one C-17, which is significant because we can project mission command anywhere in the Pacific initially on one aircraft to enable operation,” Lanza said. “That’s a significant improvement in terms of how we’ve evolved mission command in the future.”

olson.wyatt@stripes.com
Twitter: @WyattWOlson

Brig. Gen. Brian Alvin, third from left, speaks with high ranking members of the 6th Royal Australian Regiment during Operation Hamel 15, part of Pacific Pathways 2015, near Rockhampton, Australia, July 9, 2015.
MICHAEL SHARP/U.S. ARMY

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