HONOLULU, Hawaii -- More than 70 years ago, U.S. forces learned the importance of readiness and partner nation alliances during the Korean War, an Army leader said during the 2022 Land Forces Pacific (LANPAC) Symposium Wednesday.
Lt. Gen. Willard Burleson, Eighth Army Commander, said the U.S. forces’ inability to prevent North Korea’s recapture of Seoul stemmed from a lack of readiness.
“We failed. We did not stop the North Korean advance,” Burleson said during a LANPAC panel discussion. “We were not prepared. We didn't have the training. We didn't have the material. We didn't have the readiness.”
Burleson added that the alliance formed between U.S. forces and the South Korean Army helped avoid greater loss of life.
“What’s the answer? … alliances and partnerships,” Burleson said. “The alliance between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea (ROK), or United Nations has been around for a long time. And training and readiness is really important.”
Today the Army maintains a strong presence in the country with a major command, the Eighth Army, stationed at Camp Humphreys.
Burleson stressed building readiness and unit cohesion with multinational readiness exercises including the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center held in Alaska and Hawaii will be crucial. Army units including 25th Infantry Division practiced training in jungle and maritime environments on Oahu and on the Island of Hawaii last October.
Army units in Alaska took part in their rotation of training in March. Soldiers learned to operate in harsh arctic climates. The Army recently introduced its Arctic Strategy earlier this year to maintain regional stability and augment its ability to operate in colder weather.
“What they get from learning about interoperability, human procedures and technical [skills] out of these regional training experiences is tremendously important,” Burleson said. “So participation within southeast and northeast Asia in our training exercise not only builds readiness for our combined security, but it develops leaders for the future.”
During the Association of the U.S. Army Center of Leadership’s Junior Leader Solarium, participants from across the Army and ally nations took part in leadership discussions to share ideas on coalition building, multi-domain operations and leading Soldiers.
About 56 Soldiers and civilian leaders from across the Army and 24 members of U.S. ally nations participated in the program, where they discussed leadership challenges and developed solutions.
Retired Gen. Robert Brown, the former commander of U.S. Army Pacific, founded the Center of Leadership in October 2021 to connect leaders and help form unit cohesion across the service.
Burleson said the solarium will be critical in mentoring future leaders that could influence tactical decisions in the region for years to come.
Col. W. Bochat, who serves as the chief of staff of the 2nd Infantry Division/Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Division in Camp Humphreys, South Korea, said that her units build unity among its teams by training alongside South Korean troops as well as spending recreational time with their South Korean counterparts.
She added that American and South Korean troops share ideas and debates. Bochat said that time among her South Korean peers builds cohesion that can be critical to joint defense in the Indo-Pacific.
“Relationships start long before the first shots are fired,” said Bochat. “Serving next to my ROK counterparts at the division, brigade and battalion level builds that necessary trust for armistice and conflict. While we speak two different languages, our true interoperable language is tactical and operational competence at our assigned fields.”
Retired Korean Lt. Gen. In-Bum Chun witnessed the close bonds formed between U.S. Army commanders and non-commissioned officers while attending an international military meeting in Washington years ago. He said he saw a U.S. Army sergeant major talk about his commanders as “partners.”
He believes that type of relationship and camaraderie can be forged in the Indo-Pacific among U.S. ally forces.
“I have discovered the secret to the U.S. military’s ability to win wars,” Chun said. “And I don’t believe it is the F-35 [Lightning II] or the [aircraft] carriers. I believe it is your relationship between your officers and your NCOs. This is something that is doable right now.”