Chinese soldiers have landed in Washington – but don’t be alarmed.
Eighty members of the People’s Liberation Army are in the state this week learning about disaster response. They’re working alongside troops from Joint Base Lewis McChord as well as personnel from the National Guard and state and federal agencies.
The Disaster Management Exchange is in its 11th year, but this is the first time Chinese soldiers have participated here. Later this week Chinese and American soldiers will respond to real-world disaster scenarios, triaging “victims” and clearing rubble.
As the world’s two largest economic powers, the U.S. and China have a major trade relationship, but military relations between the two countries can be tense.
Maj. Gen. Edward Dorman III, commander of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, says it’s only a matter of time before a major event requires international cooperation involving the nations’ troops.
“Hurricane Katrina and hurricane Sandy have taught us the importance of well-synchronized interagency and intergovernmental response and the need to have a central element in charge and to have good communication,” said Dorman, who is leading the exchange.
He says sharing that expertise with China will help if troops from the two nations have to mobilize on short notice. He says the training also will help forge a relationship.
“I think we build trust between the two countries. I think we reduce the potential for misunderstanding," Dorman said.
Chinese soldiers are also learning how federal, state, and local agencies work together during disasters. They’re even training on how to work with the media.