Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza assumed command of the US Army’s I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in February. I Corps, the only regionally aligned unit of the Army’s three corps, supports the Pacific region. The command conducts military-to-military engagements, capacity-building exercises and security force assistance operations across the Asia-Pacific region. It comprises the 7th Infantry Division and 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command at Lewis-McChord, the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, I Corps (Forward) at Camp Zama, Japan, and the US Army-Alaska brigade combat teams at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Fort Wainwright.
Q. What activities will I Corps conduct over the coming year?
A. The corps will have multiple Pacific Pathways exercises ongoing and then we’ll be doing our certification for our joint task force for Talisman Saber. The corps now has increased its operational role here over the last year with our support units, so now, we have the 7th Infantry Division, the 25th Infantry Division and the 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command as part of the corps, and combat brigades in Alaska that are part of US Army Alaska, as well as I Corps (Forward) in Japan. So the corps now is able to conduct mission command in a way that allows us to execute the Pathways while simultaneously doing other missions. The beauty of what you’re going to see in the corps here, both now and in the future, is that we’re already executing the Army Operating Concept now. What we’ve done with Pathways, and what we’ve done with missions being done simultaneously across multiple countries, is really what the concept is. Smaller forces that are scalable and that operate simultaneously.
Q. What would it mean for you as I Corps commander if the force were to fall to 420,000 troops and you had less money to execute the mission?
A. I think it impacts our ability to really support what we do. We have forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Kuwait. We also have our forces in the Pacific that are conducting operations as part of Pacific Pathways and the engagement strategy. Of the three corps in the Army, we’re the only corps assigned to a combatant commander. So if you look at going to that level, then something has to give. What does not get done? That’s really the decision. Which combatant commander does not receive the support that they need? So right now, we’re able to do the global missions out to 2016 that we’ve been given and to do the regional missions that we have.
Q. So if you have the ability to conduct the Pacific Pathways program in 2015, what’s next after the first rotation wraps up?
A. We’re able to project Pathways out to 2015, where we’ll do three different Pathways rotations. We’re able to complete the Pathways that we’re on right now in Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan. We’re able to conduct our exercises in Japan in December at Yamasaki. We’re able to program our certification for Talisman Saber in Australia. We’re able to support operations in Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand, coming up. We’re able to do engagements with a myriad of countries on a variety of things for which our country teams and embassies are looking.
Q. If the force is cut further and budgets tighten, would these missions go away in 2016 and after?
A. The key then becomes, where do you put those forces, and then where do you accept risk? If you move away from the Pacific, what we lose is the partner capacity and the trust that we’ve built with our allies. That causes concerns because the ability to de-escalate conflict, to avoid miscalculation, to have that trust between partners, to enhance interoperability between our partners and our allies — if you can’t continue that, that starts falling off of the table. And then that is what allows, perhaps, issues in the Pacific to spin in a different way, because right now it is not so much that it is about China as much as it is about working with our partners and allies to balance what is going on in the Pacific with our presence. So the ability to prevent, to shape, to engage, to do things in a small way that are scalable, that are done simultaneously, allows persistent engagement. My concern beyond ’16 is the inability to do that.
Q. And that’s what Pacific Pathways is all about, keeping and building those relationships with new and old allies?
A. Yeah. The concept is that in the past we had disparate exercises. But Pathways links this together operationally, so that you have an operation going on in the Pacific that continues over a four-month period. You have a deployment going on that enhances our expeditionary capability and our readiness. You have innovation. And then, you have experimentation being done. So there are a variety of things that come out of that as you look at what a pathway does. Also, it provides you a capability and capacity forward of the date, which is extremely important.
Q. US Army Pacific commander Gen. Vincent Brooks recently spoke about this innovation part of it. How does that fit in? Are you looking at platforms, or are you looking at leader development, training?
A. Yes and yes. In Indonesia, we just conducted a combined-arms, live-fire exercise. We had two battalion commanders, one Indonesian, one American, with Russian and US helicopters. They were given a mission to conduct a combined-arms, live-fire exercise in a nonstandard range, and they came up with that plan together. Now to do that, you’ve got to be very creative and very innovative, and they pulled that off. That’s where the innovation comes in. I think that the part of the leader development comes in when you’re a lieutenant or a young noncommissioned officer, and you’re leading patrols in a jungle environment in Malaysia with your Malaysian counterparts, and you’re building that together.
Q. Is there anything that has come out of the first rotation of exercise that you want to tweak when it comes to predeployment training?
A. At home station, I was very happy with the training that we did at the National Training Center because the brigade went in there and they did a decisive-action rotation, and they came out of there at a high level of readiness. One of the things on which we want to train is our ability to deploy rapidly using ships and on how we contract for our shipping. I think that that will be something in the future.
Q. And what about the innovation aspect that you touched on earlier? Are there technological solutions that you’re looking at?
A. I think another thing that we will want to do is look at the requirements of the country teams early on — what do the country teams want, and then how do we measure our training plan or operations to nest with what their requirements are. The other thing that we’ll have to do is to expand our ability to have more command posts available. One of the things that Pacific Pathways taught us is the need to have smaller command posts that we can deploy rapidly into multiple locations, so that we have distributive-mission command. That’s extremely important.
Q. Have communications with allies, and between home station and the deployed teams, been difficult?
A. When you’re operating in different countries across multiple time zones, the ability to have a network architecture, the ability to achieve a common operating picture, is tough work. When you start looking at it with other countries, how do you achieve that common operating picture? How do you keep our network architecture together, and how do you actually have interoperability working collectively? We’ve worked that with the Brits and with the Canadians, and it’s challenging. Imagine working it now with the Malaysians, the Indonesians and others. So, those are some things, in the future, at which we’re looking. These are all positive outcomes about working Pathways in the future.
Q. Are there issues with classification and encryption?
A. We spend a lot of time exchanging information so that, while at the tactical level, we don’t have to really worry about some of the authorities about whom you’re talking for classified information. I think that in the future a part of the discussion will be at a higher level of what are we going to do for interoperability, and how do we broker some of the authority and some of the firewalls that you have right now in interoperability. You see that with Japan. You see that with [South] Korea in some of the operations. We just finished an exercise in [South] Korea where we had to have a high preponderance of liaison officers to work with the 3rd [Republic of Korea] Army because of the ability to pass information to fire coordination data, intelligence, etc.
Q. Coming off a decade of working from fixed locations to being more expeditionary, that’s a big change.
A. After a decade of war we have learned a lot about doing counterinsurgency. We have learned a lot doing small-unit tactics. We have learned a lot in Iraq and Afghanistan. The point now is to build on what we’ve learned at that level and then bridge forward to increase our capability and capacity to do a full range of operations.
First of all, logistics, the ability to work in an austere environment, the ability to develop communications, logistic support because we’ve been working from [combat outposts] and [forward operating bases] over the last couple of years.