This month Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta laid out plans for the future of the US military. And as troops return from Afghanistan, that strategy includes shifting security operations to the Pacific Rim. Soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) will play a major role in that plan.
The Army’s I Corps is headquartered at JBLM. They’ve played a major role in the war in Afghanistan. Now Lieutenant General Robert Brown, I Corps commander says their mission will shift to Japan, China and Indonesia.
“It’s been about four or five years since the Corps has been able to focus solely on the Pacific," says Brown. "We’ve done little things here and there, of course, but now, as units come back, they won’t go back to Afghanistan. For the first time in 11 years they’ll go to the Pacific.“
Brown says much of that work will be humanitarian assistance and disaster response. But he stressed troops must continue to train for the worst case scenario. “You know it wouldn’t be smart to train for humanitarian assistance and then, say something happens, God forbid, in the world, and you have to go and you don’t have the skills you need. We can’t afford that,” says Brown.
Brown made his comment during an informal chat with reporters.
He says some soldiers from JBLM will remain in Afghanistan after the expected troop drawdown in 2014. Brown says chemical battalions, military police and intelligence units are indispensable in Afghanistan. Between 500 and 1,000 troops will remain.
He says it’s too soon to tell how anticipated fiscal cuts at the Department of Defense will affect the shift to the pacific.