About Isle Guard Troops Going To Indonesia
|November 17th, 2006||#1|
| || |
Isle Guard Troops Going To Indonesia info
November 16, 2006
By William Cole, Advertiser Military Writer
Hawai'i National Guard troops will be heading to Indonesia in early 2007 as U.S. Pacific Command increasingly reaches out to the region, and a year after full military-to-military ties were re-established with the world's largest Muslim nation.
State Adjutant Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee, who heads the Hawai'i National Guard, yesterday said negotiations are still under way with the Indonesian armed forces and Pentagon as to how the engagement will occur.
"We need to basically follow up on all the good (U.S.) deeds following the (2004) tsunami and earthquake," Lee said. "Now, it's our Guard medical units and squadrons going to the remote areas of Indonesia, not necessarily training with the Indonesian army with guns, but doing medical assistance, civil action assistance and bringing in the chamber of commerce and all of that into Indonesia."
The state-to-country partnership — a model used by other National Guard units with other countries — is emblematic of a larger Asia-Pacific role the Hawai'i National Guard is taking on in concert with U.S. Pacific Command.
Adm. William Fallon, who heads the Camp Smith-based command, has reached out to countries including China, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines to stabilize the region and prevent terrorism.
Lee yesterday said the size of the contingent to be sent to Indonesia still has to be determined. Asked if other U.S. units have done anything similar, Lee said, "on a smaller scale, I think, but not in a formal nature like the state of Hawai'i and the Hawai'i Army National Guard."
National Guard units in other states have developed partnerships with other countries. Alaska is partnered with Mongolia, for example, Lee said.
But if the Hawai'i Guard develops a relationship with the Indonesian military, other states' Guard units or other military assets could be brought in to help.
Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, "is looking for Hawai'i to be the lead in other countries around the Pacific to bring in state partnerships, so we will be kind of like the seed to do this," Lee said.
In the past, many such relationships were Euro-centric, but focus is shifting to Asia and the Pacific, where the world's six largest armed forces are found.
Lee also isn't sure yet of the duration of the mission to Indonesia. "All I know is we're going to be there," he said. He added that the Hawai'i Guard will take a "local style" approach that won't be pushy, and the two militaries will decide together what's best for the partnership.
The U.S. cut all military ties to Indonesia in 1999 over government-backed anti-independence actions in East Timor, but lifted the ban in November 2005.
Lee talked about the Indonesia mission yesterday at the KR-5 Infantry Battle Course at Schofield Barracks, where 177 soldiers from the Japanese ground self-defense force have been training with 350 Hawai'i National Guard soldiers as part of the exercise Rising Warrior.
The 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks originally was scheduled to take part in the exercise, but with Stryker brigade training and a deployment to Iraq, the Hawai'i Guard's 1st Cavalry Squadron, 299th Infantry, and other units stepped in.
The Hawai'i Guard sent citizen soldiers to the Philippines as recently as September, with medical teams spending 10 days in Cebu.
In February, an artillery battery from the 1st Battalion, 487th Field Artillery is slated to participate in the exercise Balikatan in the Philippines.
Spc. Takumi Abe, 23, who lives in McCully, served in Kuwait with the unit and is looking forward to training in the Philippines, but said, "I hope it's not too crazy up there." The rebel group Abu Sayyaf continues to operate in the southern Philippines.
Lee said elements of the Hawai'i Guard's 29th brigade will head to Singapore for exercise Tiger Balm for the first time in years and to Japan for exercise Yama Sakura.