Army exports Hawaii ‘combat training center’ exercise for the first time

An Air Force C-130 delivered U.S. Army Pacific soldiers to the newly refurbished Angaur Airfield for training in the Republic of Palau last year. (Mr. Gamble See / US Army)

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) – Schofield Barracks, until now, sent around 5,000 troops a year to Fort Polk, Louisiana, to complete training to certify the combat readiness of an infantry brigade for war.

The 240,000-acre Joint Readiness Training Center is one of the Army’s primary testing grounds, but Fort Polk is not a jungle and an ocean like is Hawaii, or part of it. Pacific where the 25th Infantry Division would fight for its next fight.

With that logic in mind – and cost savings that will likely run into the millions of dollars – the military intends to break the paradigm and set a new precedent by hosting the very first evolution of the training center at the fight from the dock, in this case in Hawaii.

For Exercise 2022, which began Oct. 1, the military as a whole is planning 20 combat center rotations for brigade-sized formations, but for the first time it will have one focused on jungles and seas in Hawaii, and another in Alaska to build Arctic capacity.

The Pacific Multinational Joint Training Center will take place Tuesday through October 28 on the island of Oahu and Hawaii, focusing on training the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team at Schofield, which has around 4,000 soldiers, alongside around 200 Indonesian and Thai soldiers.

All of Hawaii’s active-duty forces are now focused on training to deter China from invading Taiwan or expanding militarily elsewhere in the western Pacific. The army is retooling to become a missile fire force.

Training staff from the Joint Readiness Training Center will travel to Hawaii to participate in the full-scale exercise.

“We will be the first – and we will learn a lot from this iteration,” said Lt. Col. Jamie Dobson, spokesman for the 25th Division, adding that the model would likely be repeated in the future.

“I think we’re going to try to do it again because I think we’re going to find out that having this realistic training environment, having the amphibious assault exercise, being able to work with our partners and the joint force here in this environment, we’re gonna see a lot of benefits, ”said Dobson.

60% of the approximately 12,000 soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division are expected to participate in some way between the force receiving the training – the 3rd Brigade – and the opposing force and additional tools. such as helicopters, logistics and artillery.

Last fall, the division deployed 5,500 troops, 37 helicopters, 346 containers and 1,671 vehicles to Louisiana for the culminating training of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the military said.

A much more phased approach is taken for the next large-scale training in Hawaii to minimize the impact on the community.

The exercise’s approach is part of the Army’s New Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model, or ReARMM, which seeks to better balance the need to project power with planned schedules for modernization and training, which is supposed to give soldiers and families more predictability.

“In the future, rotating a unit into a combat training center may not be the only requirement for mission readiness, as leaders have recognized the value of specialized training,” he said. declared the service in March.

Hawaii’s experience also comes with the military release in May of a $ 173 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2022, reflecting a $ 3.6 billion cut from budget. adopted last year.

The military said its budget “would ensure readiness by funding the training of home stations and 20 rotations of combat training centers.”

These combat training centers are located at Fort Polk, the Fort Irwin National Training Center in California and the Hohenfels training area in Germany.

“We haven’t reduced any (JRTC rotations) – two have gone exportable,” Major General Sean Swindell, deputy deputy chief of staff, said in a June military statement. “We recently released our Arctic Strategy and will be proposing an Arctic Rotation in FY2022. We are also considering an Exportable Rotation (US Indo-Pacific Command) to Hawaii.”

The US Army Association has said arctic training will take place in Alaska.

The 25th Division said in a statement that the docking station’s new combat training center in Hawaii “will save significant time and resources while maximizing training in the harsh jungle and maritime environment.”

The big exercise also replaces Lightning Forge in Hawaii, an annual brigade-level precursor of rotations through the Joint Readiness Training Center, officials said.

The training will include the use of blank ammunition and explosives simulators during day and night hours at Dillingham Military Airfield, Kahuku Training Area, Kawailoa Training Area and at Helemano and Schofield Barracks East Range.

In addition, the Pohakuloa training area on the island of Hawaii will be used. The military was unwilling to reveal the amphibious components of the exercise to ensure the soldiers fully benefit from the training, but one possibility is the use of army logistics support ships at Joint Base Pearl. Harbor-Hickam.

Large transport ships are used to make equipment trips to the island of Hawaii and have been increasingly tested in Hawaii and the Pacific to unload missile launch trucks that could strike enemy ships at sea in the event of conflict in the Western Pacific.

In a throwback to World War II, the Army and Marines train in Hawaii to become the island-hopping forces of the 21st century. Long-range precision missiles and artillery are the Army’s No.1 modernization priority.

Between 1943 and 1947, the military acquired 2,545 acres in the Kahana and Punaluu valleys for training, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Part of the push came after Guadalcanal – where the 25th Division got its nickname “Tropic Lightning” – demonstrated the need for jungle training. A large camp has been set up in Kaaawa.

The basic jungle warfare was fought in the “red” and “blue” courses. The advanced jungle warfare training and instructor training took place in the “green” course. The army corps said Japanese villages and pillboxes had been built with temporary barracks, a dining hall, a bakery and showers.

The State Department of Lands and Natural Resources said more than 300,000 soldiers had learned to live off the land and build rope bridges to cross waterways. Live-fire training included rockets, machine guns, flamethrowers, rifles and grenades.

The facility was so large that comedian Bob Hope visited it in 1944, firing a hip belt machine gun.

Most recently, an Air Force C-130 cargo plane landed in 2020 at a newly refurbished airfield on Angaur Island in Palau and unloaded U.S. Army Pacific soldiers for training.

Two days later, the LTG Army logistics support ship William B. Bunker from Hawaii stopped on the beach, carrying two trucks of the high mobility artillery rocket system for training in “Force projection and expeditionary sustainment,” the military said.

The people of Hawaii can expect an increase in helicopter and unmanned aircraft flights and convoy traffic in the coming fiscal year, the military said.

“The 25th Infantry Division appreciates the community’s understanding and continued support for local military training,” the service said in a statement. “Although at times loud, the sounds of training represent how the military is ensuring that the country’s military are ready to accomplish the mission and to return home safely.”

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Milton S. Rodgers

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