By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (July 18, 2012) -- Building partnerships with the armies of Asian and Pacific nations is the focus of the Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno's trip through Australia and Thailand.
This week, Odierno visited first with Lt. Gen. David Morrison, his counterpart in the Australian army. The two talked about declining defense budgets in both Australia and the United States, a continued partnership between the Australian and American armies and areas of mutual concern to both nations in the Asian and Pacific regions.
Odierno also addressed the Australian Center for Defense and Strategic Studies, which is similar to the U.S. Army War College. He also visited the Australian War Memorial and while there, laid a wreath with Morrison to further drive home the importance of the alliance and shared sacrifice between the U.S. and Australian armies.
Also while in Australia, Odierno addressed the 36th annual Pacific Armies Management Seminar, also known as PAMS. This year, leadership from some 27 armies in the Pacific region attended the event, including China.
"Our partnerships in the Pacific region have always been exceptionally important to the United States and to the U.S. Army in particular," Odierno said.
In the Pacific region, the largest component of most nations' military is their army.
"For many decades, and especially since the end of the Second World War, the United States has depended on strong partnerships in the Pacific, built on mutual respect, trust and cooperation, to ensure the stability, peace and prosperity of a region that is critical not only to the individual nations represented here today, but the entire international community," Odierno said.
The general said one example of the strong relationship between the U.S. Army and the armies of Asian and Pacific nations has been the support provided in both Iraq and Afghanistan by many of the nations represented at the PAMS.
Odierno also talked about challenges facing not only the United States, but the international community, as well. Challenges he raised include the damaged global economy, competition for dwindling natural resources and the rise of extremist groups.
The general said that while the nation-state still exists, with a central government and controlled borders, individual groups that are enabled by new technology have become a more powerful influencing factor that can change the nature of global relationships in ways they could not have in the past.
"Empowered by technology, individual actors, whether Soldiers, civilians or adversaries, can broadcast an image or message to a global audience in an instant, and these tactical actions can and often will have strategic impacts," Odierno said.
The Internet and social networking have also created new forces to be reckoned with, the general said. He told army leaders at the seminar that developing new ways to deal with those forces is something that must be integrated into training, just like training for operations on land.
"Technology allows like-minded individuals to come together virtually, united by passionate causes and shared ideas," he said. "These new human relationships are not constrained by geography or formal borders, and represent a new space we must embrace and integrate into our operations alongside the physical terrain as we plan and conduct operations."
In the United States, he said, the Army has already started to bolster its own training with "a better understanding of human behavior and different cultural lenses." That is something he suggested the armies of other nations should do as well.
Four areas of potential regional instability that that can affect all nations collectively, the general said, include competition over resources; the agendas of non-state actors; the activities of those using virtual environments, such as the Internet; and the effects of natural disasters in highly populated areas.
While there are new concerns, the general said, traditional concerns still exist. These include territorial disputes and national usage of "the global commons." Odierno said that the United States is but one player among many who have interest in the Pacific region.
"Reinforcing the importance of international norms of behavior is key to these efforts," he said. "In each of these cases, it is important to emphasize that we must all work this together."
As the United States' operations draw down in the Middle East, first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan, Odierno said that America's Soldiers will be returning to the military installations in the Asian and Pacific region. Those Soldiers, he said, will be available to participate in partnership-building operations in in the Pacific.
"I know these units look forward to re-energizing and expanding the partnerships, exercises and exchanges that we share with so many of you," he said.
Right now, the general said, the United States has about 60,000 Soldiers in the Pacific region, and America's commitment there is "as strong as it has ever been."
To further bolster ongoing relationships between America's Army and the armies of nations in the Asian and Pacific regions, Odierno said senior leaders of Pacific armies must continue to dialogue with each other. Additionally, he said, nations must work together in multi-nation training exercises to improve interoperability and to develop a better understanding of each other. In the wake of natural disaster, he said, nations must be committed to each other and ready to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief when needed. Armies must also be willing to share intelligence with each other, as well as technology.
Odierno reminded leaders at the seminar that the United States Army has a long history in the Pacific with nations there, and that he wants to continue to build on those relationships. Right now, for instance, of the seven Mutual Defense Agreements between the United States and foreign nations, five are in the Pacific region.
"We want open, transparent relationships with all nations for continued peace and security," Odierno told military leaders. "Many countries here today have fought with us, to include our gracious Australian hosts who have steadfastly been at our side for the past century. I look forward to an even brighter future built around strengthening ties with our long-time allies and closer relationships with potential partners in the pursuit of our shared interests and lasting regional stability and peace. "
Following his visit to Australia, Odierno moved on to Thailand. On Friday, he will meet with his counterpart there, Gen. Prayut Chan-O-Cha, commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Army.