Lieutenant General Robert Brown, I Corps commanding general, discussed the Armys plan to refocus its efforts toward partnerships with Pacific allies June 18 during a visit to Joint Base Lewis-McChord by Vietnamese military leadership.
Brown said the concept of training for mutual benefit alongside militaries across Southeast Asia is in preparation for myriad potential threats, to include terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
The region, Brown said, represents a large section of the continent U.S. forces have neglected because of counter-insurgency missions in the Middle East.
The Vietnamese Peoples Armed Forces do not yet play a role in the effort, referred to officially as the Pacific Rim rebalance.
The group of visiting leaders spent the week traveling across the country to understand what their participation in the U.S. training engagements would entail. Much of the group, which included Senior Lt. Gen. Do Ba Ty, chief of staff of the Vietnamese Peoples Army, expressed concern that its countrys involvement could pull its forces into a possible conflict with China, a nation whose territorial disputes with Vietnam have created a cause for concern.
Some of the group fears that a growing union of U.S. and Southeast Asian forces might stir suspicion that could motivate retaliation by China.
But Brown assured the officers, who represented all three of Vietnams military branches, that the U.S. wants no part in a clash with China.
No one wants conflict between China and the United States, and they dont want to be put in between that conflict, either, the general told the group during a briefing on the details of the Pacific rebalance. No one wants it, and I can assure you we certainly dont want it.
Factoring in a previous role as an exercise commander for U.S. Pacific Command and multiple engagements with Chinese leadership, Brown said that over the years China has become increasingly interested in training with the U.S.
In the past, we didnt get good responses, he said, adding that I Corps will persistently invite China to partner with its troops as it moves along with Pacific rebalance missions. Now, were starting to see good responses.
I Corps, regionally aligned with PACOM, will certify as a joint task force this summer during a training exercise with Australian forces. Already, Americas Corps has seven exercises with Pacific allies planned for this year, to include Cobra Gold, a humanitarian assistance mission with Thailand that Brown said will also incorporate Chinese leadership.
Brown explained the exercises to his counterpart, Ty, while referencing a map on a slide presentation.
Despite concerns that China may see the Pacific rebalance as an affront, Ty showed interest in partnering with U.S. forces in the future.
This interaction I see today is very useful for us, Ty told Brown. Together, we can exchange and share our experience.
Theyre very excited to send soldiers here and to have more of our Soldiers there, Brown said.
He added that American troops top threat is the possibility of a natural disaster a typhoon, tsunami, or major flooding.
But U.S. and Pacific forces will also remain concerned with potential terrorist attacks, territorial conflicts, piracy and pandemic outbreaks.
After the briefing on rebalance, Brown took the group on a tour of Stryker vehicles at the JBLM Mission Training Complex.
The group also met two former battalion commanders, who talked about their combat experience and the benefit in using virtual training aids to prepare for deployment. It made it that much smoother when we got into country because we leveraged technology to increase situational understanding, former commander Lt. Col. Ryan Wolfgram told the Vietnamese officers.
The group was fascinated with the capabilities of the Stryker variants weapons systems and virtual training available to U.S. Soldiers, but it was the interaction with Soldiers, Brown said, that was crucial.
The equipment is important, but seeing our Soldiers, talking to our Soldiers, seeing our leaders, thats what other armies see and go, Wow. Thats why theyre the best in the world because they have such great Soldiers, he said.