NEWS | Aug. 14, 2019

Indo-Pacific Community Comes together for USARPAC Protection Symposium

By Staff Sgt. Justin Silvers

HONOLULU, Hawaii -- U.S. Army Pacific hosted the 2019 USARPAC Protection Symposium at the Hale Koa Hotel, August 5-8. The Symposium brought more than 280 leaders from across the Pacific to discuss protection related topics and best practices across the Indo-Pacific.
Previously, the symposium was known as the USARPAC Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear symposium, or CBRN, but was expanded this year to address other protection related challenges.

Col. Chad Goyette, director of USARPAC's operational protection section and the coordinator for the event, provided a brief overview of the 2019 Protection Symposium and what attendees could expect during the event.

"I would like to welcome everyone, especially our inter-agency counterparts as well as our partners and allies," said Goyette. "We have 10 countries represented in this room today and 18 different organizations from across the U.S. and that's tremendous."

"This year's symposium will highlight how our joint, intergovernmental, multinational communities of interest work together to achieve a unity of effort," Goyette continued. "Topics as substantial as weapons of mass destruction, improvised explosive devices, and unmanned aerial systems are not solved independently, it takes the full weight of military and civilian enterprises working together toward a common end to achieve comprehensive solutions."

Goyette was followed by Maj. Gen. Timothy Mckeithen, USARPAC Chief of Staff and Deputy Commanding General -- Army National Guard. Mckeithen was the guest speaker for the event and provided the opening remarks.

"On behalf of General Brown, Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be here today to take part in this opening ceremony," said McKeithen. "This is a great unity of effort here today to solve protection issues; DOD can't do it alone, it's going to take allies and partners to get at these issues; it's tough to do, but how do we get after it."

Mckeithen went on to speak about the different roles each person and organization as a whole had to play, how intricate the scope of protection capabilities are, and how different organizations must come together in order for the USARPAC to be successful.

During the four-day symposium, participants had the opportunity to hear from many guest speakers discussing a wide range of protection related topics and capabilities. These topics ranged from countering improvised threats and weapons of mass destruction, to unmanned aerial systems (UAS), force health protection, physical security and building partner capacity.

Australian Brig. Jonathon Beesley, Commander, Australian Defence Force's Joint Counter Improvised Threat Task Force, discussed countering improvised threats during the symposium. Beesley highlighted how security events like the protection symposium help shape the Indo-Pacific.

"Events such as the symposium support the identification and alignment of key shared security issues within the region, and creates shared understanding of how these challenges are perceived by countries within the region," said Beesley. Through collaboration, we can shape the response to these challenges and issues in an appropriate and effective manner."

In addition to briefs by guest speakers, participants also broke out into small group discussions, allowing groups to focus discussions on specific topics and collaborate more effectively in a small group setting.

Maj. Kyle Brown with the Asymmetrical Warfare Group out of Fort Meade, found the symposium informative, but felt the small group discussions benefitted him the most.

"I thought the symposium was an excellent opportunity to engage members of the community of interest, particularly in the counter UAS community in Indo-PACOM," said Brown. "I thought the entire symposium was very informative, but in particular I found the counter-UAS breakout to be very valuable."

Counter-UAS wasn't the only topic attendees found worthwhile at the symposium. For New Zealand Capt. Gareth Collings, project manager with the New Zealand Defence Force, Capabilities Branch, felt that out of all the topics discussed, CBRN discussions proved to be of the most benefit for him.

"The symposium was definitely a worthwhile event for me," said Collings. "From my perspective as a project manager, I'm looking after CBRN capabilities project at home, and the opportunity to interact with the agencies that are potentially going provide equipment and training opportunity was really good."

The symposium wrapped up with small groups conducting a review of how the symposium went, and what could be done better next year, and followed with closing remarks from USARPAC's Deputy Commanding General-North, Maj. Gen. Daniel F. McDaniel.

"If there was a field that ever demanded networking, it's this one," said McDaniel. "Often our relationships are very informal and there are a lot and issues to be worked around between organizations. That relies on people to people contact which is one of the key reasons we wanted to have this symposium."

"My challenge to you as you all walk out here is to continue to build the network; there are a thousand reasons why it's difficult, but my challenge to you is to continue to look for opportunities to collaborate," McDaniel continued. "It's this group, and the broader network that keeps us ahead of the threats, so please keep us ahead."