By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (April 07, 2017) -- The outgoing commander of I Corps said work on Pacific Pathways and a strong relationship with the Air Force have been highlights of his tenure at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza spent the last five years in the Pacific Northwest, first as commander of the 7th Infantry Division there, and then as the commander of both I Corps and JBLM. He'll retire from the Army in June, after 37 years of service.
A primary effort of the Army while Lanza has been in command of I Corps has been the development of relationships with partner nations in the Pacific region. For I Corps, the Pacific Pathways series of exercise-based deployments has been a central part of that effort.
"Pacific Pathways first started out as a rehearsal, as reconnaissance, as an ability to look at deployments and conduct reconnaissance in theater," Lanza said. "It has morphed to where it is actually building readiness of our brigades and also in the countries that we work with."
Today, Lanza said, Pacific Pathways involves Soldiers from I Corps and other U.S. Army units embarking on multi-month deployments to participate in exercises with partner-nations in the Pacific. Among those exercises are Cobra Gold and Hanuman Guardian with Thailand; Foal Eagle with South Korea; Balikatan with the Philippines; Garuda Shield with Indonesia; and Keris Strike with Malaysia.
"Pathways has expanded into three or four-month deployments," Lanza said.
Those deployments, he said, have enhanced readiness for the U.S. Army as well as for partner nations.
"We have seen considerable readiness being built in these countries doing live-fire exercises that is additive to what we are doing at home-station training," he said.
Partnering on exercises with Thailand, the Philippines, Korea, he said, not only builds readiness for the U.S. Army, which is the No. 1 priority for Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, but also builds readiness for partner nations, Lanza said.
"It evolves the readiness of the militaries in these different countries, it increases their leader development and proficiency, and then it continues to help us work together," Lanza said. "These are our coalition partners that we have to continue to train and potentially work with in the future for different operations. So there are tremendous benefits here to what we have learned here in Pathways that will continue to move us forward."
While early on, Pacific Pathways involved the U.S. military traveling to other nations to participate in exercises, the relatively new "reverse" Pacific Pathways concept involves partner nations traveling to the United States. Examples of that include Singapore service members coming to Hawaii for Tiger Balm, the Canadian military in Alaska for Arctic Anvil, and the Japanese military in Washington State for Rising Thunder.
Lanza said he's seen that more nations are asking to partner with the United States in Pacific Pathways operations. Additionally, he said, there will be more "total force" participation in Pacific Pathways. He cited the 76th Infantry Brigade from the Indiana National Guard as one example of that.
"I'm very proud of the work that's been done, and I think with future initiatives, we'll see Pathways continue to expand as part of PACOM's engagement strategy in the Pacific," Lanza said. "I'm very proud of the fact that it's also built readiness for our home-station training with our brigades and our task forces that are conducting those operations."
Lanza arrived at JBLM in 2012, just two years after Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base merged into a joint base. He said today the relationship between the two partners on the installation is exceptional.
"We could not ask for better partners than the U.S. Air Force on this base," he said. "As I tell senior leaders ... that come to visit, I think we are the model here at JBLM for what 'right' looks like as a joint base, and what a team of teams can do when we all work together."
Lanza said the joint construct has helped facilitate increased training opportunities between I Corps and the Air Force's 62nd Airlift Wing.
"We have been able to actually become one team and not a bifurcated organization," he said.
Lanza described JBLM as both "America's premier joint base," and one of "the military's premier power-projection platforms."
JBLM features both air capabilities with the Air Force wing, four airstrips, easy access to ports in Tacoma and Seattle, and rail connections.
"Our location allows us to get anywhere, not just in the Pacific, but globally," he said. "I think we are well-positioned to do that. And JBLM has a tremendous capability to deploy Soldiers and to deploy equipment. And we have taken advantage of that a lot. We have deployed Soldiers out of here all over the world."
Right now, Lanza said, I Corps has 3,500 Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq. In the Pacific, he said, there are Soldiers deployed now supporting Pacific Pathways. He said Cobra Gold and Foal Eagle just wrapped up. The Balikatan exercise in the Philippines will wrap up in May.
There are also Soldiers deployed to support other combatant commands as well, including U.S. European Command, U.S. Northern Command, Southern Operations Command, and U.S. Africa Command.
After he retires in June, Lanza said, he hopes that leadership at JBLM will continue to sustain the relationship the base has with the local community, will continue to look for new and innovative ways to train at home station, as well as off-post training for aviation, and will continue to develop joint relationships with the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.