AUSA News: Logistics, Partners Shape Latest Army Pacific Operation
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Operation Pathways, Army Pacific Command’s annual joint campaign to rehearse operational and strategic movement throughout the Pacific, has been exercised in one form or another since 2014, but its latest iteration has been heavily influenced by what Army officials called a “unique” focus on logistics and an expanded scope from partners and allies.
“This year, I would say Operation Pathways … was unique from a logistics perspective in that it allowed us to really … focus on sustainment,” Maj. Gen. Jered Helwig, commanding general of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, said during a panel discussion at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition Oct. 9.
The panel discussed how “irresponsible and insidious” behavior from China has brought a renewed focus on logistics and the challenges the Indo-Pacific region presents, as well as how combined efforts can offer solutions.
The Indo-Pacific is “20 times the size of [U.S. European Command],” Maj. Gen. Paula Lodi, commanding general of the 18th Medical Command, said during the panel.
“And if you think that these operations might involve time-sensitive, inter- and intra-theater patient movement and medical resupply operations, then it matters to you that it's a non-contiguous region where 50 percent of the Earth's ocean exists,” she said. “And so that just sets the scene for the complication of doing medical operations and sustainment operations in the Indo-Pacific.”
Helwig said most logisticians and echelons of sustainment will say that exercises “don’t necessarily stress the enterprise of logistics,” particularly at the operational and strategic level, because “the capacity that those headquarters are built for is larger than what one single exercise can usually put on to a system.”
What Operation Pathways allows, by pulling together multiple exercises, is an opportunity to examine them holistically from a logistics and sustainment perspective, he said.
“Then your sustainment as a warfighting function, your logistics as a warfighting function, is able to actualize and pull on all of those threads that are required to really get after the learning objectives as logisticians that we need to be successful and to understand the theater,” he said.
One example of logistics activity rehearsed during Operation Pathways is joint petroleum over-the-shore, or figuring out how to move fuel from sea to land — an activity Helwig described as “really important.”
“Rehearsing the movement of equipment from larger vessels onto the shore in support of any kind of operation that might need to happen was a great opportunity for our teams to pull all that together — particularly in distance where we had to anticipate all of the fog and friction that you might expect when you have to project TRANSCOM vessels, forces from FORSCOM showing up and then our own organic forces onto a meeting location, and then discharge all that equipment.”
One of many exercises that make up Operation Pathways is Talisman Sabre, which started nearly a decade ago as an Army-to-Army exercise, Gen. Charles Flynn, commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, told reports during a media roundtable.
“Now, things have happened in the region that are causing our partners to make a choice,” he said. “We're not making this binary — ‘You're with us or you're against us.’ We're saying this is what we're doing. This is an Army-to-Army exercise, but now they're bolting on.”
This year’s exercise involved 15 nations and 30,000 members of the Joint Force, he said. Described by Flynn as a joint combined rehearsal on different terrain, the exercise is a large-scale joint exercise between the United States and Australia.
Helwig said a unique aspect of Talisman Sabre this year was establishing a joint theater sustainment component with Australia and joint partners. When considering logistics activities, the Army — particularly in the Pacific — “always [has] to have the joint force as part of the conversation,” he said.
“And so as part of Talisman Sabre and Operation Pathways, we were able to build that connective tissue, pull that team in and work collaboratively right next to each other and solve a multitude of problems earlier … that we would not have been able to do had we not had us sitting next to each other learning from each other,” he said. “So I think that’s a great takeaway from this year as well.”
Joint activities allow the campaign to “really build on some great lessons that I think will really help us as we go forward to continue the campaigning in logistics,” he said.
Flynn said his ultimate measure of success for the campaign is “when you see an increase in multilateral and multinational training going on. That's because the partners are asking for it.”
And they’re asking for two reasons, he said. “One, they see the value of interoperability with us and other partner forces in the region. And then the second reason they're asking for it is they do not appreciate the irresponsible and insidious behavior of the Chinese in the region.”