The Army will run a third Pacific Pathways deployment this year for soldiers supporting operations in the Asia-Pacific region.
In October, the start of fiscal year 2015, the Army had solidified plans for two Pacific Pathways and was waiting for final approval for the third. The third trip is now a go, officials told Army Times.
Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, will lead the third Pacific Pathway. They are scheduled to participate in Khaan Quest, a peacekeeping exercise in Mongolia; Orient Shield, which focuses on working with Japan's defense force to regain sovereign territory against an armed invasion; and an exercise in South Korea that officials have not publicly named.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Shane Joyce, a platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, leads a patrol across a bridge during a field training exercise with the Indonesian Army's 17th Airborne Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, June 18, 2013, West Java, Indonesia. It is part of the annual Garuda Shield exercise between the U.S. and Indonesian armies. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)
Photo Credit: Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod
The Pathways concept employs a single unit through what officials call a "training pathway." This unit spends the three- to four-month deployment in a series of already approved, consecutive bilateral and multilateral exercises and engagements with foreign militaries.
Pathways are part of the Army's contribution to the United States' rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. They also line up with the Army's regionally-aligned forces concept, which aims to commit troops to a specific region of the world to support the geographic combatant commanders.
The Army has more than 80,000 active-duty soldiers dedicated to the Pacific, including I Corps, the 25th Infantry Division and the 2nd Infantry Division. The service even has shielded these units from deploying to places such as Afghanistan because of its commitment to the Pacific.
The first Pathway for the year already took place. Soldiers from 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division traveled to Thailand for Exercise Cobra Gold, South Korea for Foal Eagle, and the Philippines for Exercise Balikatan.
The other Pathway is scheduled for later this year with soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division's 3rd BCT.
Those soldiers will go to Australia for Exercise Talisman Saber, Indonesia for Garuda Shield, and Malaysia for Keris Strike.
For each Pathway, soldiers also will have time in between exercises to conduct military-to-military engagements and participate in cultural events with their hosts.
So far, Pacific Pathways has been popular among soldiers as well as the partner militaries.
American soldiers have returned with stories about swallowing the raw heart of a cobra, drinking snake's blood, learning jungle survival skills, meeting new people and visiting parts of the world they had never seen.
The exercises also allow the Army to build its readiness and enhance its partnership with the host countries, officials said.
"What we get is readiness," Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division, has told Army Times. "We get relationships, we get a form of reconnaissance, and we get a form of rehearsal."
In addition, having soldiers on the ground across the Pacific gives the Army an advantage, he said.
"We're able to understand a lot about the human domain out there that our people, our soldiers, our leaders are going to have to understand if they're asked to operate in those countries in support of those nations," he said. "When you have real people, with real materiel, real training, and they're out doing real operations, you just can't replicate that."