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Talisman Sabre means commitment, I Corps commander says

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (July 20, 2015) -- As Exercise Talisman Sabre 15 wrapped up in Australia this past weekend, the land component commander of that 15-day exercise said the United States' involvement signifies commitment to partner nations in the Pacific region.

From Brisbane, Australia - his headquarters for a little more than two weeks during Talisman Sabre 2015 - Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, I Corps commander, said the United States' presence at the exercise reassures Americans, Australians and allied nations in Pacific that the United States means it when it says it's committed to the stability of the region.

"It conveys to people in America our commitment to re-balance in the Pacific," he said. "The second thing is our commitment to a tremendous ally in Australia. It also conveys to Americans just how ready and trained we are to prevent and shape and win as a military. And it also conveys to our allies the commitment that we want to have, not only to military security, but also to sustaining economic security for all, and creating an environment that's productive, and where we de-escalate conflict and avoid miscalculation for the future."

Lanza acted as the land component commander for Exercise Talisman Sabre, which ran July 4-19 in Australia. The exercise involved the Australian military as well as some 30,000 U.S. service members from all branches.

During Talisman Sabre, the units involved acted out a scenario to restore the legitimate government of two nations, "Monmir" and "Legais," which had been taken by the unfriendly nation of "Kamaria."

"Australia and the United Nations asked us, the Americans, to come in as part of a coalition to restore legitimate government to these countries," Lanza said. "My boss's mission is to compel the Kamarian withdrawal from Monmir and Legais. That's in compliance with the U.N. Security Council Resolution 2192, which gives us the legitimacy to come in ... to restore the legitimate government of those two countries."

For 15 days, the Americans and Australians exercised under that scenario, using whatever aspects of military strategy and tactics were needed to achieve their goal. Exercises, like Talisman Sabre, are designed, ahead of time, to ensure that the militaries involved will need to use the skills deemed most important for possible real-world scenarios.

"This exercises really coincides with unified land operations in terms of where the Army is going," Lanza said.

In Talisman Sabre, Lanza said, military units exercised decisive action - a large part of combat operations. Units also exercised wide-area security and stability operations.

Lanza said he was impressed with how I Corps Soldiers and all those involved, on both sides, performed in the exercise. In particular, he was impressed with the way Americans and Australians were able to work together.

"The partnership with the Australians has been tremendous," Lanza said.

In preparation for Talisman Sabre, Lanza said I Corps Soldiers engaged in academics back home with the Australians. Additionally, he said, I Corps held a "rigorous" command post exercise in advance of participation in Talisman Sabre. On the ground in Australia, I Corps performed above expectations, he said.

"Our Soldiers are working in a joint, interagency, multi-national environment," he said. "We have some young Soldiers in G-9 that are working contingency operations with Australian interagency, as well as international organizations - such as the Red Cross, and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees World Food Program - and these Soldiers are doing that because they have a core competency of skills and they are able to adapt to work with some very complex organizations."

The I Corps air and fire cells worked "very complex issues" in their effort to integrate air space between not just different U.S. services, but air space across the militaries of different nations, he said, and across the international dateline back to the United States.

"This is something that our guys have adapted to in this operational environment," he said. "And every day, I'm just impressed with how much these kids do when you give them the mission and the resources, and you allow them to figure out a problem set that is very complex. They make me proud every single day."

Unique in Talisman Sabre 15 was the involvement of the Australian Crisis Response Coordination Group, or CRCG, as well as implementation of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, which the council adopted in October 2000. That resolution involves the consideration of women as "agents of peace."

"Fifty percent of the population are women," Lanza said. "This particular Security Council resolution makes sure that we account for women in the environment - how do we bring them into the discussion of transition to governance? What can they do to help us transition to stability and security, and how can they help provide some of the key aspects we need to help the government transition, and be part of the transition process and the governance process? Women provide guidance, they provide mentorship to their country, and we need to account for that in the campaign."

The CRCG, made up of Australian civilians, was also new in Talisman Sabre 2015. Lanza said the group of citizens became part of the land component.

"They are embedded in the organization, they are part of our planning process, they are part of our assessment and analysis," Lanza said. "Their work really feeds our decision making and my decision making, so that we are making decisions with the best input from experts that really understand not only how to do stability operations, but more importantly the conditions that need to be set for successful transition, and how to restore government."

The CRCG was embedded with the land component from the beginning of Talisman Sabre, Lanza said, which he found to be more effective than bringing them in toward the end of the operation.

He also said that the CRCG was able to provide a perspective on stability operations and transition of government that was different, and more appropriate, than what the Americans brought with them from lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We have a lot of experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sometimes we look at this through the lens of what we have done here over the last 13 years," Lanza said. "Bringing in this interagency workgroup really helps us get an understanding of how to do this with a task force of professional civilians that work in the interagency, and get us a different perspective on how to look at complex problems and then solve them in a rapid manner that allows us to transition much more quickly."

Also unique to Talisman Sabre was the concurrent execution of a secondary operation, "Exercise Hamel," which also involved the Americans and the Australians. Exercise Hamel is part of the ongoing "Pacific Pathways" effort underway now in U.S. Pacific Command.

Exercise Hamel involved the 7th Australian Brigade and the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry. Talisman Sabre was a recertification for I Corps as a headquarters so it could serve as a Combined Force Land Component Command or a joint task force. Exercise Hamel also served in a similar way as a validation exercise for the 7th Australian Brigade.

After Australia, and as part of Pacific Pathways, the birgade will go to Indonesia as part of Garuda Shield, and then to Malaysia as part of the Keris Strike exercise, Lanza said.

"We are very excited about Pacific Pathways," he said. "It is a new concept that is both a deployment and operation; experimentation and innovation. And it has been very, very helpful in this theater. And Pathways contributes to unit readiness."

Also contributing to America's readiness and combat strength is the strong relationship between the U.S. military and the Australian army, Lanza said. That relationship has been ongoing and growing since World War I.

"They have been involved with us in every campaign, they are involved with us now in actions in the Middle East," said Lanza of the United States' Australian partners. "They are a tremendous ally and a tremendous partner. They are a professional, well-disciplined, well-motivated military that is highly trained. As I watch these guys work and operate, it is a privilege and honor to work with them. They are a highly capable force, and we have learned a lot from them in the last couple weeks."

As Talisman Sabre drew down, ending July 19, Lanza said he can already think of things that will make the next iteration of Talisman Sabre even better.

"There is more we can integrate in terms of live training, with the virtual training, within the integrated training environment," he said. "And I think there is an opportunity here to expand the scenario in terms of a near-peer competitor and hybrid threat. Certainly we [will] continue to build on the success here we have had with the interagency and the CRCG that is embedded in the exercise. And then, obviously, we can bring in more international organizations to increase the complexity of the exercise.

"It's a privilege and honor to work with the great Australian army, and the tremendous civilians here," Lanza said. "This has been a great opportunity for our Soldiers. We have learned so much from the Australian's military, from their civilians, as well as working with our great joint brothers and sisters."