At least for now, Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s senior-ranking officer says he isn’t worried that imminent cuts to Army forces will crimp the heavy emphasis on military operations in the Pacific that he has helped lead for nearly three years.
“I don’t think that’s really going to have a tremendous impact on operations,” I Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza said. “We’ll continue to sustain our training in the Pacific.”
Lanza is in Australia this month for Talisman Saber, a military exercise involving more than 30,000 U.S. troops from each branch of the military. It’s one of the larger training events for I Corps, the headquarters that oversees soldiers at JBLM, in Hawaii and in Alaska.
The Army announced last week that the region Lanza oversees will share in an Army drawdown over the next two years by shedding 1,250 soldiers from JBLM, 2,600 from Alaska and another 1,200 from Hawaii. Nationwide, the cuts are taking 40,000 positions for active-duty Army soldiers.
Some cuts are coming from units at the front of the Army’s “Pacific pivot,” which it has embraced since it began reducing its presence in Afghanistan three years ago.
Lanza said he is more concerned about Congress allowing forced federal budget cuts known as sequestration to trigger another level of Army force reductions. Those cuts, he said, would impact the Army’s ability to keep troops ready for emergencies.
In Australia, U.S. forces are participating in an exercise that simulates a response to a hostile invasion of two friendly countries. The Australian military would call on U.S. forces to help repel the invaders.
Lanza called it a complex exercise that helps different branches of the U.S. military learn how to work together while improving ties with Australian allies.
“Being out here with the Australians, this is one of the most professional, disciplined armies I’ve worked with. We could not be happier to be here,” he said.
About 250 I Corps soldiers are with him to build a ground force headquarters.
He was particularly excited about an element in the exercise that requires him and other military leaders to think about how they could win over influential female civilians after a conflict.
“Women have been active participants in peace resolution,” he said. “You’re dealing with cultures where women have been marginalized.”
For instance, the Army recruited its own female soldiers in the Afghanistan War to connect with Afghan women who would not communicate with American men.
The exercise in Australia asks military leaders to plan ahead so women are not ignored during or after chaotic fighting. It incorporates senior-ranking female advisers from the U.S. and Australian governments to shape those plans.
“Wouldn’t I have loved to have this (training) when I was a brigade commander” in the Iraq War, Lanza said.
After Talisman Saber, I Corps later this year expects to participate in large exercises in South Korea, Japan and North Carolina with Fort Bragg’s XVIII Corps.
Lanza thanked South Sound residents who spoke up earlier this year to raise concerns about the Army drawdown before the military released its force reduction plan. The cut of 1,250 military personnel at JBLM is smaller than many had expected.
“We’re going to be fine,” he said. “Our community has done a tremendous job supporting us. We have the greatest community in the Army. I don’t think they should be worried about the future of JBLM.”