When Gen. Charles Flynn scans about half the globe to keep his Army forces ready in the Pacific, there are three key areas that pull his attention.
Those are the southeast, western and northern areas surrounding Singapore.
That’s what the four-star told a Singapore military officer who asked him about specific challenges in the Pacific when Flynn gave his Tuesday presentation on Multi-Domain Operations in the Pacific during the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting.
“It gives me concern not because of the adversaries, but because of our strategic reach, our operational reach,” said Flynn, commander of U.S. Army Pacific. “It is that great distance — the geometry of that geography out there — [that] matters.”
The concerns are not only relevant for classic combat, but also for natural disasters and other response-requiring events.
Flynn has other considerations, too. He is concerned about whether Army forces working with partners in the region are doing the work those countries and their leaders want, “not what we want to be working on.”
He provided the example of Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands. There, local leaders want to create their own type of combat training centers.
That’s where the Army can help. And Army leaders are currently working with Indonesia, helping their military build three centers, one on Sumatra, Java and Borneo.
“They’ve asked us to help them create those training centers,” Flynn said.
In a talk with reporters on Oct. 5, Flynn gave an overview of U.S. Army Pacific command, noting many moves and areas of concern regarding China in the region.
He pointed to China and India fortifying positions along their shared border; China seizing and arming terrain in the South China Sea that hasn’t stopped since it started in 2013; and escalation of pressure by China on its “soft underbelly” of neighboring countries, such as Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
And China’s not the only threat.
Violent extremist groups, especially in the Philippines, Russia in the northern area and the perennial problem of North Korean nuclear testing all must be considered by planners.
But there are forces ready for any scenario that might arise, Flynn noted, pointing to recent exercises that have exhibited joint military and partner work in the region.
In a span of eight months, the Army led, provided soldiers or support exercises like Defender Pacific, Orient Shield, Talisman Sabre, Cobra Gold, Garuda Shield and Balikatan.
During Orient Shield, the Army brought in soldiers stationed in Japan and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Guam. From there, they were dispatched to Tinian, Saipan, Palau and other countries.
That’s one way in which U.S. Army Pacific showed the flow of forces from the U.S. homeland to the third, then second, then first island chains and onto the Asian continent, Flynn said.
“It’s a great illustration of what we’re trying to do out in the Pacific, it denies key terrain, increases joint readiness [and] increases confidence of allies and partners that we’re going to be there when a typhoon or something worse happens,” Flynn said.
There are key weapons in development that could make some of those forces even more threatening to adversaries.
Flynn mentioned that the advances the Army has made recently with long-range precision fires — especially the recent initial operational capability announcement for the first hypersonic battery — are having “significant deterrent effects” on China.
He did not disclose further details.
Work in the theater with the Multi-Domain Task Force has also helped set that stage, he said.
“When you have to apply a capability like long-range precision fires, you’re doing it where you are confident in the targeting and the process that we have to use those capabilities as a joint asset,” he said.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.