An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : Media : News : News Article View
NEWS | May 22, 2020

New Normal for Indo-Pacific Partners May Include Larger Virtual Presence

By Sean Kimmons Army News Service

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- Virtual meetings between key leaders may be more frequent and create even closer partnerships after the pandemic, U.S. and foreign military officials across the Indo-Pacific region said during an online forum this week.

The Indo-Pacific Landpower Conference 2020 -- held online by U.S. Army Pacific after the Association of the U.S. Army canceled its Land Forces Pacific Symposium in Hawaii -- allowed many of the same leaders to engage virtually from halfway around the world.

“A lot has changed in a very short time,” Gen. James C. McConville, the Army’s chief of staff, told his online audience. “And I can imagine, in many ways … we’re not going to go back to the way things were before COVID-19.”

McConville said Wednesday the two-day conference was one example where the Army has turned to technology to continue its mission.

Army recruiters, for instance, have recently embraced virtual recruiting to mine for prospects on social media sites. Installation commanders have held virtual town halls to ease concerns in their communities, and chaplains have provided online services so followers can stay home.

And when Soldiers need to work face-to-face, the Army has rolled out safety measures, such as mask requirements, physical distancing, screening and testing for the virus.

“I have been very encouraged over the last few months by the incredible flexibility and ingenuity of our armed forces,” he said. “We’ve adapted all across the Army, putting new processes in place to ensure the health and safety of our people.”

The conference brought in some of Indo-Pacific’s top army leaders to discuss how their formations have dealt with the pandemic, while ensuring a free and open strategy in the region.

“It is a challenge that reinforces what we already know: working together as partners matters and sharing what we know makes a difference,” said Gen. Paul LaCamera, commander of USARPAC.

After years of leading troops in past conflicts, LaCamera said there is no doubt the next fight will involve combined, joint and interagency efforts.

“There’s an old proverb that is very evident today, which states: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’

“That’s what this landpower conference is about, and that’s why we’re here today. This network of allies and partners does business according to a rules-based international order that benefits all of us. We have relied on trust, built among our militaries, to navigate our way through this crisis and beyond.”

With partners stretched all over the U.S. Army’s largest theater of operations, some leaders suggested that more trust can be sown through virtual interactions.

Indian Army Lt. Gen. A Arun, director general of perspective planning, mentioned they are also budget friendly and can help governments cut on travel costs.

“My view is that we must reenergize and exploit this inability to travel in these COVID times to enhance our interactions,” he said. “And it is our belief that these increased interactions will actually pave the way for further regional cooperation.”

LaCamera agreed, and gave two thumbs up to his counterpart through the video teleconference.

Marine Maj. Gen. Stephen Sklenka, director of strategic planning and policy at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said he was not sure how much good meeting a counterpart only once or twice a year in-person does for developing relationships.

“There is something to be said for the quantity of interactions,” Sklenka said. “When I pick up the phone or can go on a video teleconference to speak and meet with my counterpart on a pretty regular basis, I think that actually strengthens the partnerships. It strengthens the friendships.”

While face-to-face encounters should still be valued, he said, militaries have also learned the value of technology while living in the current environment.

The U.S. military, though, has not yet taken full advantage of the virtual presence that is out there, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner, director of command, control, communications and cyber for INDOPACOM.

“I would say there is a new normal, and that new normal is a hybrid of what we used to have of where we may not be 90 percent in-person discussions. It may be more 50-50,” he said.

“There are many tools and many capabilities available that we can leverage to the fullest to continue that presence,” he added, “and continue to ensure our allies and partners understand that we are in it together across the theater, whether it’s physical or virtual.”

Like Us
Follow Us



CNO Hosts Full-Honors Welcoming Ceremony for Singapore’s Chief of Defense Rear Adm. Aaron Beng
Singapore’s Chief of Defense Rear Adm. Aaron Beng receives a full-honors welcoming ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard, May 25. Beng, who earlier this month became the first naval officer to lead Singapore’s armed forces, reaffirmed with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday the enduring U.S.-Singapore bilateral defense relationship during his visit to Washington. (U.S. Navy photo Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro)
May 26, 2023 - WASHINGTON -- Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday hosted Singapore’s Chief of Defense Rear Adm. Aaron Beng in Washington, D.C., for a full-honors welcoming ceremony, May 25.At the ceremony, CNO presented Beng with a...

Vietnam Vets Honored during 50th Anniversary Celebration
Visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. walk the length of the wall March 11 and observe the more than 58,000 names engraved on the wall. The memorial is the most visited memorial on the Washington, D.C. Mall with more than 5 million visitors every year. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Sarah Sangster, Army News Service)
May 26, 2023 - WASHINGTON -- The Vietnam War Commemoration hosted Welcome Home, a three-day event in Washington, D.C. on May 11-13 to celebrate 50 years since the last Soldier, Master Sgt. Max Beilke, left Vietnam, and to honor Vietnam...

Washington Guard Prepares for Hanuman Guardian 23
Vehicles from 2nd Battalion, 146th Field Artillery Regiment, Washington National Guard, sit in the loading bay of a cargo ship as it is being loaded for travel to the Kingdom of Thailand prior to Hanuman Guardian 23 on May 23, 2023, at the Port of Tacoma, Wash. (Joseph Siemandel)
May 26, 2023 - TACOMA, Wash. -- This summer, more than 500 Washington National Guard members will take part in Hanuman Guardian 23, an annual, bilateral exercise hosted by the Royal Thai Army at the Cavalry Center in Saraburi, Thailand...

PACAF RQ-4 Global Hawks Arrive at Yokota Air Base
An RQ-4 Global Hawk, assigned to the 4th Reconnaissance Squadron, 319th Operation Group, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, sits on the flightline at Yokota Air Base, Japan, May 2, 2023. U.S. Pacific Air Forces began positioning RQ-4 Global Hawks at Yokota Air Base, Japan, from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on May 15 to provide theater-wide enduring operations in support of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S, Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)
May 25, 2023 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. Pacific Air Forces began positioning RQ-4 Global Hawks at Yokota Air Base, Japan, from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on May 15 to provide theater-wide enduring operations in support of...

U.S. Partnership with U.K., Australia Enhances Security
U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Ground Combat Element, Marine Rotational Force-Darwin 22, establish defensive positions as MV-22 Ospreys approach for landing during an airfield seizure event as part of exercise Koolendong 22 at Royal Australian Air Force Base Curtin, WA, Australia, July 18, 2022. Exercise Koolendong 22 is a combined and joint force exercise focused on expeditionary advanced base operations conducted by U.S. Marines, U.S. Soldiers, U.S. Airmen, and Australian Defence Force personnel. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Cedar Barnes)
May 25, 2023 - WASHINGTON -- In September 2021, the U.S., Australia and the U.K. announced a new partnership, AUKUS, meant to strengthen alliances and security, especially in the Indo-Pacific. In March, plans for moving forward on the first...