FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii – Army leaders in the Pacific hail the inaugural use of floating prepositioned supplies and equipment for a pair of recently completed exercises in the Philippines as a significant step forward in strategic agility.
Vehicles and supplies were delivered aboard Military Sealift Command’s USNS Red Cloud and offloaded at Subic Bay for Hawaii-based soldiers participating in back-to-back Exercises Salaknib and Balikatan from March 5 through April 8.
This week the equipment was reloaded on the ship, which is now returning to Hawaii.
“I think the importance of using Army pre-positioned stocks to extend our operational and strategic reach in the region is tremendous,” U.S. Army Pacific Commander Gen. Charles Flynn said Wednesday during a briefing. an interview at his headquarters in Fort Shafter.
The use of pre-positioned shore stocks is common in Europe, the Middle East, Japan and South Korea, but pre-positioned “afloat” stocks have been underutilized, particularly in the Pacific, he said. declared.
“To be able to quickly unload that equipment, hand it over to a unit, get the unit out and conduct a formation, and then be able to pull that equipment back to, in this case, port, and then be able to reload it on these ships is truly a demonstration of our strategic agility,” Flynn said.
The Army will continue to adjust and refine the use of floating prepositioned stocks in this region, Maj. Gen. David Wilson, commander of 8th Theater Sustainment Command, said Tuesday at his headquarters at Fort Shafter.
“It’s an evolution,” said Wilson, who leads the army’s senior logistics command for the Indo-Pacific theater, tasked with enabling and extending the operational reach needed by combatant commanders.
“What we’ve discovered is that every operation we conduct west of the international deadline is an opportunity for us to conduct strategic rehearsal and strategic movement,” he said.
So if offloading prepositioned equipment was necessary in times of crisis or conflict, the military is figuring out the “time and pace” required for the task, Wilson said.
“And that’s priceless,” he said. “I mean, now you’re actually operating in the terrain that you may have to fight in.”
It can’t really be replicated even at the huge Army training centers at Fort Irwin, Calif., and Fort Polk, Louisiana, he said.
On the other hand, this inaugural unloading of pre-positioned afloat stock encountered no adversary attempting to prevent it, Wilson said.
“We need to be able to factor that into our planning,” he said. “As we can build exercises, simulations and later war games, we can do that and put a finer point to it.”
Wilson has been seeking to expand the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s logistical “toolkit” since taking the reins of sustainment command in June 2020.
Within weeks, he ordered a review of the theater’s sustainment posture, something he knew had never been done before.
“What led me to this was sitting down and looking at a map when I took my first advice from [then-commander of U.S. Army Pacific Gen. Joseph LaCamera] when I took command,” Wilson said. “He described how he saw operations taking place for periods [of conflict] here in the Pacific.
The Posture Review, completed in December 2020, concluded that while no single military service in the Indo-Pacific is advantaged to handle sustainment on its own, “collectively we have enough as a force. together to solve the problems,” Wilson said.
With the Indo-Pacific’s “tyranny of distance” dilemma, maintaining the joint force requires close collaboration with partner nations across the region, he said.
“This investment in our partners and allies is an investment in our ability to deliver on our demands west of the international deadline during a crisis or conflict,” he said.