Thousands of service members from around the globe participating in Hawaii exercise
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Through Nov. 10, U.S. Army Pacific is hosting a large-scale exercise on Oahu and Hawaii Island with more than 5,000 soldiers, sailors and air force personnel from across the world.
The Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team are being evaluated by observers on their preparedness for real world combat in the Indo-Pacific.
“We can really replicate the rigorous combat scenarios and situations we think we’ll see out here in the Pacific,” said Col. R.J. Garcia, deputy commander for support with the Army’s 25th Infantry Division.
The war games includes forces from the U.S., United Kingdom, Indonesia, Thailand, and New Zealand, and is part of the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center (JPMRC), headquartered at Fort Shafter, the Army’s newest combat training center.
This is the third year of the JPMRC exercise, which the Army says saves taxpayers the cost of sending personnel and equipment to training centers in Louisiana and California.
The goal -- get troops familiar with modern warfare equipment and systems on islands separated by miles of ocean and practice fighting alongside forces from partner countries — what the military calls readiness and interoperability.
The Army says staging it in Hawaii is critical, because it allows soldiers to train in unique Pacific environments with other U.S. military branches and foreign allies.
“We pride ourselves here in the 25th Infantry Division as being the jungle light fighters of the Army, being the experts of it,” Garcia said. “In some cases, we work with partners that are better than us in the jungle. And so we learn from them.”
“We drive into planning, we drive them to make decisions so that they’re more agile, more flexible, more lethal warfighting force.”
In one war scenario, soldiers in an artillery unit are being tested on their split second decisions after being told they were hit by the enemy.
“We’re able to train soldiers in very complex, austere jungle environment,” said Maj. Ryan Yamaguchi, 25th Division artillery executive officer, “which really challenges us and challenges leaders and soldiers to really think and how we will provide that fire capability.”
Among the fire power being used — a M777 Howitzer, a lightweight, towed gun that’s durable enough for a helicopter to transport it to any site under tough weather conditions.
Supporting ground forces, Black Hawks to transport troops and injured soldiers, Chinooks for heavy lifting, Apache attack helicopters and drones used in surveillance and targeting threats.
“We get the actual real world training value of operating in between island chains. So actually having to deal with fuel issues, weather issues,” said Zachary Francis, a Blackhawk pilot with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade.
The exercise takes place at Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii Island and at various sites on Oahu, including Dillingham Airfield, Wheeler Airfield, Bellows Air Force Station, Kahuku Training Area, Kawailoa Mountain Ranges, Helemanu Plantation and Schofield Barracks East and South Ranges.
It also includes a live-fire mission to Palau in Micronesia.
While the experience is invaluable for soldiers, it has been disruptive for some residents. Army leaders put in mitigation measures like limiting the size of convoys and restricting flight times.
“We continue to take feedback from the community, we answer every complaint or or certainly constructive criticism we get back from neighbors,” Garcia said. “We answer every one of those with either a phone call or an email, we address their concerns, and we work very hard to do it.”
One example: The Army initially planned to train on Dillingham Airfield for the entire event, but cut it down to a few days to allow local businesses to reopen.
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