HONOLULU – America’s First Corps is evolving the way it fights in the Indo-Pacific region. But, it’s not with rifles or Strykers or HIMARs. It’s with a postured, data-driven force that assures its allies, partners, and friends they are ready to respond to any conflict or crisis.
I Corps Commanding General Lt. Gen. Xavier T. Brunson spoke to a crowd of U.S. allied, partnered and friendly nations at the Association of the United States Army, LANPAC 2023 symposium in Honolulu, May 16. Brunson highlighted three key areas in which I Corps is advancing: assurance to allies, partners and friends, agile divisions, and using pertinent data throughout the region.
Brunson emphasized that providing assurance to partner nations leads to deterrence.
“When we think about classic deterrence, we think about the entirety of the DIME [diplomacy, information, military, economic] being employed in an effort,” Brunson said. “What I like to tell folks in our Corps is we’ve got to do our part. In places from India to Thailand to the Philippines…we’re going to be present.”
Presence in the Indo-Pacific means that the I Corps will focus on human and procedural interoperability. This means that the I Corps does not necessarily provide allied countries with Strykers, but provides the experts that can work alongside them.
“Sometimes we’re solving problems that might be as simple as maintenance,” Brunson said. “To be able to be there with a partner and say, ‘hey, don’t spend any more money. We’ve already gotten this wrong before, here’s a new way to approach this problem.’”
Even small acts like these builds assurance and trust.
Brunson also touched on how looking out for cultural sensitivities is another aspect of human interoperability. Currently the Indo-Pacific region comprises 36 different nations each with different languages, religions, identities and cultures.
Brunson noted that embedding I Corps Soldiers with these host nations and learning about each other’s culture builds that assurance.
“They’ve been part of the effort, which ensures our friends, partners and allies that our presence is sound and will be there,” he said. “I think that when we look at human interoperability, it comes with a bit of understanding of what’s important in the nation. The Corps is able to provide that level of granularity that at higher levels like INDOPACOM and USARPAC may not be able to see, because we’re at the tactical edge.”
Brunson went on to say that when assurance is established, it allows divisions to be agile and fight free in the expansive region.
“We’re based largely in Joint Base Lewis-McChord,” Brunson said. “But, there’s this tyranny of circles that we have to deal with, you can only get so far, so fast to get to the places we need to be at. And that’s why posture becomes increasingly important.”
The way I Corps approaches this challenge is through distributed command and control via a nodal system. These nodes allow divisions to be more agile and can respond to a conflict or crisis faster and more efficiently. Allies and partners are also able to take advantage of the nodes should I Corps not have enough time or manpower to respond.
Each node is tailored to its respective region and takes advantage of both what the Corps and the host nation have to offer.
A good example is the partnership between the 7th Infantry Division and the Royal Thai Army. 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Inf. Div. established a node where I Corps Soldiers provided Thailand the knowledge of maintenance and training of the Strykers and, in turn, Thailand provided a crucial understanding of the environment of where they’re going to be employed.
Brunson added that experimenting with this kind of command and control requires a new level of communication and understanding data.
Resilient transport is required to move the correct data to the right place at the proper time to speed commander's decision making.
“We’ve got to start to shape the networks that are available,” Brunson said. “What we want to do is state a requirement for access today, our problems are largely from fort to port to the AOR. And we’ve got to have [the right] data that’s available to us all the way through that pathway.”
Brunson elaborated that the idea is that allied or partnered nations would provide I Corps with valuable data about the environment before they get there. And in turn, I Corps would do the same.
I Corps can then make more quality decisions, quicker.
“And that thing we’re giving is assurance that we’re going to be there when they need it,” Brunson said.
LANPAC 2023 was a three-day conference in Honolulu where government, military and industry representatives from across the region networked and discussed the needs and future of the Indo-Pacific
Brunson said the value of the Corps’ actions are worth far more than just words and rhetoric.
“Regardless of the challenges that we have in our own force, we’ve got to accomplish those human and procedural goals every time we step out.”