U.S. Army Pacific plans a range of exercises for 2017 that will give soldiers the chance to interact with counterparts throughout the vast region, including China.
Some USARPAC soldiers can look forward to getting improved jungle boots, by springtime if the Army's project goes as planned.
A look at what's ahead for the next year:
- The Army plans to conduct its Pacific Pathways exercises, which have been taking place three times per fiscal year. In a new addition this year, one of the Pathways will include a visit Cambodia to take part in Angkor Sentinel, Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, commander of I Corps, told Army Times.
Pacific Pathways began in 2014, sending a single unit on a "training pathway" for three to four months in a series of exercises and engagements with foreign militaries.
- An emphasis for Pathways will be increasing the involvement of Army Reserve and Army National Guard soldiers, and to incorporate fires brigades, military intelligence units and other enablers in upcoming exercises, said Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific.
"We have the total Army in Pathways, but it’s mostly active duty," Brown said.
USARPAC will be working toward having the Indiana National Guard brigade lead a Pathway, which is expected to take place in 2018 or ’19, command spokesman Maj. Dave Eastburn told Army Times.
- In 2017 the Army plans to put on hiatus its "reverse Pathways," with the possibility of conducting those every year beginning in 2018, Brown said. USARPAC had its first reverse Pathway last year, and instead of sending soldiers to Singapore, Japan and Canada, troops from those countries trained with U.S. forces in Hawaii, Washington State and Alaska.
- USARPAC will take part in the annual U.S.-China Disaster Management Exchange, an international effort to build coordination between the countries. USARPAC soldiers will get hands-on, side-by-side interaction with soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations and share lessons learned.
"It’s matured from basic visits and briefings into a substantive exchange that uses table top and practical field exchanges to focus and facilitate cooperation and interaction between the U.S. Army and the PLA," Eastburn said. "Activities like this DME strengthen our bilateral relationship with China, improving our ability to save lives, protect property, and collectively better prepare for the next major disaster in the Asia-Pacific.
The effort by PEO Soldier to upgrade the Army’s jungle boots may bring the new boots to USARPAC soldiers in early ’17, officials say.
The Army has been testing tropical uniform items for the past year and a half, and sent out a directed requirement so "we can get two [brigade combat teams] in Hawaii equipped with jungle combat boots by the end of calendar year ," said Col. Dean Hoffman IV, project manager for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment at PEO Soldier.