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U.S. Army to Asia: “We’re Back”

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US Army

Lt. Harold Fullmer talks with Japan Ground Self Defense Force soldiers during a joint exercise at the Kita-Fuji Training Area, Japan, in October. Fullmer belongs to a Texas National Guard unit, but more active duty troops will be appearing in the Asia Pacific region.

CAMP SENDAI, Japan – For evidence that the U.S. rebalancing in Asia is more than rhetoric, take a look at the shoulder patches that U.S. troops are wearing at a major war exercise here this week: the 25th Infantry Division, 8th Army, I Corps.  These are Army units that were heavily engaged in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and are making their first appearance at the annual Yama Sakura command post exercise in more than a decade.

“I call it a ‘re-focus,’” says Lt. Gen. Frank Wiercinski, a veteran of a half-dozen Pacific assignments who heads the U.S. side of the exercise; he is currently commander of all U.S. Army forces in the Pacific. “We have not been able to provide the Pacific Command with the Army arrow in its quiver for the last 11 years. Now, you are going to see more opportunity for everything from individual exchanges, to platoons, to companies, to battalions, even to command post exercises of this size. We’re able to do that now because everybody is home.”

The Yama Sakura exercise, which rotates annually among Japan’s five regional army groups, is designed to test the ability of U.S. and Japanese commanders to respond to a major ground invasion.  That seems an unlikely scenario nowadays – would China really try to seize the Kanto plain? – but Wiercinski says it allows U.S. and Japanese forces to prepare for a wide range of missions, including disaster relief.

By a quirk of scheduling, this week’s exercise is being held at the same Japan Ground Self Defense Force camp where Operation Tomodachi, the military response to the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, was headquartered in 2011. More than 100,000 Japanese and 10,000 U.S. troops were mobilized in that effort, which triggered a resurgence in support for both forces among the Japanese public.

“What we did in Operation Tomodachi was the same thing we would do, with minor differences, in an armed conflict. We use the same techniques, the same coordination. We would communicate the same way,” says Wiercinski.

As it happens, Wiercinski was involved in much of the planning for relief operations as commander of U.S. Army forces in Japan; he was driving to Tokyo’s Narita Airport to report to a new assignment in the United States when the magnitude 9 earthquake struck just off the coast of Sendai on March 11, 2001. More than 15,000 were killed and thousands more are still missing.

Some 800 U.S. soldiers based in Japan, Hawaii, South Korea and Washington state, along with 4,500 troops from Japan’s Northeastern Army, are taking part in the Yama Sakura (Mountain Cherry Blossom) exercise.  Army reservists and National Guard troops had taken the place of active duty U.S. soldiers in recent years but regular Army troops are now returning.

Wiercinski says the Army is shifting its focus to the Asia-Pacific region as combat rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan wind down and units pick up their previous missions. Relatively few Army troops are based in Asia, but Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said this week that 70,000 Army troops, mostly in the U.S., would be aligned for operations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Here are excerpts from a conversation with Wiercinski during a break in the Yama Sakura exercise this week:

Is it really necessary for the Army to re-orient to the Pacific? After all, the Marines have 15,000 troops in Japan, are building new facilities on Guam and the Northern Marianas, and have sent a unit of 250 Marines to Darwin, Australia, that will eventually grow to 2,500.  

“The Marines are expeditionary and they do that very well. But when it comes to the long haul and sustainment, that has to come from the Army because of its size and its capabilities. Seven of the 10 largest armies in the world are in the region. Of the 27 nations that have militaries out here, 26 of them are army dominant. This is an army theater…  People say to me, ‘Hey, we got 250 Marines in Darwin, Australia.’ With all due respect to the commandant of the Marine Corps, they’re great guys, but it’s 250 Marines. This is a big place – there’s enough work for everybody.”

OK. Does that mean we’ll see more soldiers based in the region?

“We are not interested in that. But we have to look at ways to reduce this tyranny of distance. This is a logistics theater. I could put 700 soldiers in two 747s and be here in eight hours – but where’s the equipment, the logistics?… We’re looking very actively at prepositioning equipment that people can fall in on. You train on the West Coast, you get culturally focused on the area that you are regionally aligned with, then if something occurs, you put soldiers on a plane, fly over, link up with your equipment, and move out. That’s what I’d like to see and that’s kind of the grand strategy.”

Army

Lieut. General Frank Wiercinski

With the war in Iraq over and the conflict in Afghanistan winding down, is the Army looking for someone new to fight?

“I’m not looking for any enemies. I’m looking for engagement. I’m looking for staying in ‘phase zero’ operations out here. If you look at my mission statement, it says, ‘ensure peace, security and stability.’ Nowhere in there does it say ‘attack.’ I’m looking to keep it right where it is, and that’s hard enough, given some of the actors in the area.”

How concerned are you about China’s growing military capabilities? Do you see China as a threat?

“I think China wants the same thing that everybody wants, and that’s to maintain stability and security. How we choose to go about that I think might be different. But China doesn’t want a war out here, nobody does. It just doesn’t help anybody’s national interest.”

What’s your biggest worry?

“It’s North Korea. You’ve got a 29-year-old five-star general in charge. They’re getting ready to launch a missile. They have two UN Security Council resolutions telling them not to do this, and they’re just blatantly going on with it.  From what we saw with the last one, you don’t know where these things are going to go, or how far they’re going to go. One of those could fall in South Korea, in the Philippines. Nothing good comes of this. Yeah, that keeps me up at night.”

14 comments
powerupgo
powerupgo

In can see a lot of pro ChiCom comments in the house.

Lawrance
Lawrance

America’s lack of composure reflects the complexity of China-U.S. relations. No matter how China reiterates the path of peaceful development and shows good will in practice, the United States remains distrustful of China. The United States has a tradition of creating imaginary enemies, and China seems to be qualified as its imaginary enemy from cultural, historical, and social perspectives. However, imaginary enemies are “imaginary” for a reason, and it is unwise to translate strategic mistrust into strategic confrontation.

 

Lawrance
Lawrance

China had long play PEACE NOT WAR .US had created from peace to war like nearly started war in Korea(blame North) peninsula causes sink of South Korea Ship.It's  insider man handle  job want to happened ignite war here ,and also Japan and Philippine as  well complicated ASEAN like Vietnam.

US had tricky technique want to start war  with  China during past few years ago had bombed China Embassy in Bosnia.China calm down with US ,said old map with have modern technology.Where to BELIEVE!!

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@Lawrance 

You language abilities are abominable... however if you think war is actually intended by either side you qualify as a moron.

Both countries have economies so intertwined that it would be national suicide to start a major war... Nobody wants war except maybe North Korea and they dont really deserve to exist anyway.

Lawrance
Lawrance

Article Act 5 was wistfully created without any countries(World) knew that,so it's not international standard trues at all. US is busybody go around the world and promote to warn other nation about war . More business for US to sell weapon to kill more innocence people. Don't forgot US was attack at Hawaii Pearl Harbor and huge damaged by Japanese,then US also drop two atomic bomb at Nagasaki and Hiroshima,Japan. They are enemy ,how can they sign pact together ,Both are liar. Even that have will not be recognizing by UN ,this act is against China claim in East or South China Sea belong in ancient time. China also prepare for those want to  aggravate trouble to this area ,for sure will counter back them off completely.  

Japanese until now never want to admit serious wrong doing and full stick mistake at present world .GOD teach them with Tsunamis ,earthquake recently may still not enough yet.Whole world knew what Japanese killing innocence civilian in Nanjing ,China. Still want to start short/long war with China with the support of US military backing.China will back them off  by act aggravating trouble around Diaoyu Islands at east china sea.Don't forget ,China have huge military modern weapon now days can put resistance against US allied with Japan.Not one gun bullet as before still won the war strongly resistance in Korean (US lead as United Nation)and Japanese second world war.  

 

TraceyBosnan
TraceyBosnan like.author.displayName 1 Like

70,000 troops in harms way... for what?  To protect Japan, a country that does not want us there and won't pay anything to offset the hundreds of billions we spend?   China can stand up more people in their army than every man woman and child in the United States.   Only Naval an Nuclear power can avert that.    North Korea is full of crazy people, it doesn't matter if you have 7000 or 70,000 people.   PRE POSITION EQUIPMENT... what a FARCE.   BILLIONS more so this general feels comfortable trying to handle all of ASIA.  riight.   

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

Speaking of Army, I've been out awhile -- is this (click below) now a proper salute? (considering arm angle, hand curve and thumb position)

http://www.armytimes.com/xml/news/2012/12/army-austin-to-be-nominated-centcom-commander-120612w/120612-lloyd-austin-800.JPG

Mr.357
Mr.357

@Don_Bacon no, it's not.  But the military has become a lot more relaxed on things such as this and especially drill and ceremony.  Believe it or not there are plenty of people who salute much worse than him.

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

This enhanced US military presence might coincide with a more militarized Japan. from World Politics Review:

Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, the country's main opposition party, is likely to sweep Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's ruling Democratic Party of Japan in the general election scheduled for Dec. 16, according to polls released yesterday. The projected LDP win would install Shinzo Abe as the country’s prime minister for the second time.

Sheila Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and William Grimes, chairman of the Department of International Relations at Boston University, told Trend Lines these elections have major implications for Japan, particularly in foreign policy. 

“This election could be a turning point for the region if a more conservative Japanese leadership takes Japan in a more militarized direction,” Smith said, explaining that Abe, who was prime minister from 2006 to 2007, is widely seen as a conservative nationalist looking to strengthen the Japanese military. “What is less clear is whether or not the LDP will also undertake an assertive diplomatic effort to improve relations with its neighbors.”

“Without a serious effort at reconciliation” with Japan's neighbors, Smith continued, some LDP policies could “intensify Japan’s isolation in the region."

Grimes described Abe as a right-wing leader who is “assertive in terms of how he thinks Japan should run its foreign policy,” adding that while Abe is likely to expand military cooperation with the United States, he may also ask the U.S. to back him up on controversial issues. 

http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/trend-lines/12552/japanese-election-a-potential-turning-point-for-east-asia

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon like.author.displayName 1 Like

US taxpayers paying a million or so per year per soldier so that s/he can be available for disaster relief in Japan. The financing for this will come from money borrowed from Japan, which will soon elbow out China as the US's leading foreign debt source. It makes no sense.

North Korea? How about ending the war, isn't it about time? How about re-unifying Korea, which Koreans want, isn't it about time? Not if the Pentagon wants to justify this stupid “We’re Back” activity.

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

@Don_Bacon 

How the bloody hell are you going to reunify Korea?

Are you supposing that the North take over the South? Neither side wants the other's government and there is no chance the war will end because nobody wants reunification under the polar opposite state!

Do you know a bloody thing about Korea?

darragh_scully
darragh_scully

@Don_Bacon Its not a mentality to say were back. We never really went anywhere. Its a Guess whos back jig for the Army Heads nothing more. For those who do not know that is a McArthur thing who said, I shall return. 


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