When it comes to training for combat and missions, the more realistic the simulated scenario that Soldiers face, the better prepared they’ll be when confronting challenges and choices on the battlefield. This notion helped guide changes to how the United States Army’s Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center (JPMRC) prepares troops for deployment and creates new ways for Indo-Pacific allies and partners to share lessons learned while training alongside U.S. Soldiers.
For the first time, the JPMRC and the 25th Infantry Division conducted a combat training center rotation on the islands of Hawaii to take advantage of the operating environment — including jungle, archipelago and high altitude — comparable to those that U.S. troops and other Indo-Pacific militaries face throughout the region. The inaugural iteration included participants from Indonesia and Thailand.
“It’s a different way of thinking. It’s a different way of acting. A lot of people have talked about the Pacific theater needing a combat training center in the future, and right now, we’re providing that, so the future is now,” said Maj. James Anderson, commander of JPMRC. “We are an instrumentational system that is designed to provide a live, virtual, constructive environment, meaning we can replicate forces — naval, Air Force, space, cyber — and we can bring all those entities to bear on the live training audience. Taking the Army doctrine, working with the joint doctrine, working with our partners and allies, keeping forces in theater, and then training in the environment, I mean we’re really creating a really cool thing here that ensures the highest level of readiness for the brigade combat teams and its Soldiers.”
The JPMRC partnered with one of the U.S. Army’s premier proving grounds, the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) in Fort Polk, Louisiana. Unlike Hawaii, Fort Polk does not offer Soldiers the chance to train in the types of ocean and jungle environments they will face in the region.
“Having this realistic training environment, having the amphibious assault exercise, being able to work with our partners and the joint force here in this environment, we’re going to see a lot of benefit,” Lt. Col. Jamie Dobson, spokeswoman for the 25th Infantry Division, told the Stars and Stripes newspaper, adding that future iterations of the training are expected.
Training in Hawaii not only allowed participants to experience a real-life environment, it also provided opportunities to deepen long-standing relationships with U.S. allies and partners Indonesia and Thailand.
A month earlier, the Indonesian National Armed Forces — known as the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) — and military planners from the Hawaii National Guard (HING) had completed Gema Bhakti, a peace operation and humanitarian assistance exercise. The September 2021 relationship-building exchange marked their first face-to-face state partnership program since late 2019 because of COVID-19.
“I have learned a lot during this staff exercise,” Maj. Raja Sitanggang, a TNI staff officer, said in a HING news report. “As a peacekeeping officer, I help guide the planning process as we transition from peace enforcement to peacekeeping inside this year’s exercise scenario. This exercise requires us to think critically and creatively because there is no easy established answer. The Hawaii National Guard is very professional and selected diverse officers to represent them in this program. It is impressive.”
HING personnel traveled to Jakarta, Indonesia, for the exchange, which took place regularly before the pandemic.
To facilitate the relationships and skills development during the JPMRC and 25th Infantry Division simulations in October 2021, JRTC staff traveled to Hawaii for the training scenarios, which included 4,000 U.S. Soldiers alongside 200 Indonesian and Thai Soldiers, according to Stars and Stripes. (Pictured: An Indonesian Soldier scans for opposing forces during the Joint Pacific Multinational Rotation Center training in Hawaii in October 2021.) Conducting the training in Hawaii also allowed U.S. allies and partners to share lessons learned from navigating similar terrains in their nations.
Such events are a throwback to World War II, with the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps increasing training in Hawaii as part of the strategy to become “21st century island-hopping forces,” according to The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The newspaper noted that artillery and long-range missiles are a priority in the U.S. Army’s modernization plan.
IMAGE CREDIT: SGT. CARLIE LOPEZ/U.S. ARMY