The Army's ongoing drawdown will not impact the service's commitment to or ability to train in the Asia-Pacific region, the commanding general of I Corps told Army Times.
The Army on July 9 announced additional force structure reductions that would, among other cuts, convert the airborne brigade in Alaska into a battalion task force and reorganize a Stryker brigade combat team in Hawaii into an infantry BCT.
"I don't think it'll impact our ability to conduct training. My concern in the future is really about the potential impact on readiness," said Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, who is in Australia for Talisman Sabre, a biennial combined U.S.-Australia exercise. "There are soldiers from I Corps involved all over the Pacific doing training, integration, developing a professional [noncommissioned officer] corps, and establishing theater security cooperation that really ties to our rebalance."
I Corps has been in Australia since July 1 preparing for Talisman Sabre. The exercise wraps up July 21.
More than 30,000 troops are involved in this year's exercise, which Lanza described as "bigger and more complex" than previous iterations. More than 1,200 of those troops are U.S. soldiers, to include soldiers from I Corps headquarters, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, and a battalion from 4th BCT, 25th Infantry, which parachuted into the exercise.
"It's a very complex, very dynamic exercise that has tested our soldiers but also really worked us in a joint, inter-agency, multi-national environment," Lanza said.
The exercise incorporates special operations, amphibious landings, airborne operations, land force maneuver, urban, air and maritime operations, and live fire from small arms, artillery, naval vessels and aircraft, according to the Australian Department of Defence.
For the first time this year, the exercise is being run simultaneously within the Shoalwater Bay Training Area near Rockhampton in Central Queensland, and at Fog Bay, southwest of Darwin, according to the Australian Department of Defence.
In the exercise, the notional countries of Monmir and Legais off the coast of Australia have come under attack from a third country. The American troops, at the request of the Australian government, are in country to help the Australians defeat the threat, described as a "near peer competitor and hybrid threat," and transition the security environment so Monmir and Legais can restore their legitimate governments, Lanza said.
"It's a very complex, very engaging threat that's really testing our abilities," he said from his headquarters at the Enoggera Barracks in Brisbane, where he heads up the combined force land component headquarters.
Talisman Sabre also is serving as I Corps' certification as a land force component command headquarters, he said.
Throughout the event, the Army has worked alongside the other services, the Australian military, government agencies from several countries.
"One of the big differences this time is we have really increased the amount of interagency work," Lanza said.
His headquarters is working closely with the Australians' Contingency Response Crisis Group as well as implemented the United Nations' Women, Peace and Security initiative, which stresses the importance of women's equal and full participation in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.
At Shoalwater Bay Training Area, soldiers from 3rd BCT, 25th Infantry, along with the airborne battalion from 4th BCT, are training alongside Australia's 7th Brigade, Lanza said. At the same time, the U.S. and Australian navies are conducting joint training off the coast of Australia, the Marines are conducting amphibious training, and special operations troops are conducting live-fire training near Sydney, he said.
"The greatness of this exercise is a lot of [exercises] are command post exercises, but this is more than that," he said. "It really enhances our interoperability. This kind of exercise, when you look at the organizations that are part of this, really shows our commitment to the Pacific but also how we work with our partners and allies."
The exercise also has further cemented the partnership between the U.S. and Australia, Lanza said.
"The U.S.-Australia partnership really a cornerstone of stability in the region," he said.
The Australian military "is a highly capable, professional force that are not only good partners and allies, but tremendous warfighters with tremendous skills," Lanza said. "It really is an honor to work with them."
As I Corps wraps up in Australia, its soldiers have a busy summer and fall ahead, with upcoming exercises in South Korea, Japan and Fort Bliss, Texas.
"When you get soldiers who can deploy and do these kinds of missions, it's exactly what they signed up to do," Lanza said. "Our soldiers are excited, they're passionate. The energy you get from our soldiers doing these kinds of operations is exactly what will continue to sustain us as the Army moves in to the future."