The Pacific region, full of island nations, perils and promise has always been an area of interest to the Marine Corps and other branches of the Department of Defense.
Brig. Gen. Richard Simcock, the Marine Corps Forces, Pacific deputy commander, talks about the re-focus and future of the Corps in the Pacific. Simcock began his career as an infantry officer and served the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Asia and Pacific Affairs as the Principal Director, South and South East Asia before assuming his current command.
Q: What do we provide to the nations of the Pacific?
A: “One of the number one problems the region faces today is Mother Nature. We have been providing crisis response and security throughout the region since World War II. The capability provided by the Marine Corps has benefitted the entire region, not just the United States. We now want them to learn what we have been doing for them for more than half a century.”
The Marine Corps is no newcomer to this region having fought Japanese forces during the island-hopping campaigns of World War II. Since those times, the Marine Corps has never ceased humanitarian and multi-lateral military exercises with the peoples of the Pacific.
Q: With the posturing in the Pacific will there be any new infrastructure needed?
A: “A lot of our legacy equipment we have used for years still works today. However, we have a lot of new equipment coming aboard that gives us even more capabilities.
The MV-22B, is probably the best example of new equipment we have to give us even more reach and capability. It allows us to get to areas faster from greater distances away, and it actually provides us the capability of staying longer in a crisis situation.”
The Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey is a tilt-rotor, game changer for the Corps. The Osprey’s rotors allow it to have the option of taking off or landing like a helicopter or on a runway like any large fixed-wing aircraft. The function allows the aircraft to be able to get to and land any place Marines may need to go quickly. The MV-22B Osprey is expediently expeditionary.
Q: Why is supporting security operations in the Pacific so important?
A: “Seven of the largest militaries in the world reside in the Western Pacific, along with many of the world’s largest economies. It is important that our nation stay engaged in the Pacific and develop other countries, so they can have the same military capabilities that we enjoy today.”
According to The World Bank, The East Asia and Pacific region continues to be an engine of global growth, contributing nearly 40 percent of global growth in 2012. Driven by strong domestic demand, the region grew at 7.5 percent in 2012 — higher than any other region in the world.
Q: How will the reorientation to the Pacific affect Marines?
A: “We are going to see a return to the way we used to do business prior to September 11. What you are going to start seeing is a return to the unit deployment program, something that I grew up in the Corps with and got very used to. It is very important to the region to have Marines forward deployed, showing their presence and commitment throughout the region”
The unit deployment program will send units stationed all over the world to the Pacific region to train with other nations, and provide security and humanitarian aide, all while reinforcing skills and providing hands-on-training to keep Marines and allied nations ready.
Q: Does the Marine Corps’ doctrine make them more capable of accomplishing the mission in the Pacific?
A: “In the Pacific, we don’t need a land force. They need someone who can come in from the sea and can move out and move on to other places throughout the region. The Marine Corps is uniquely qualified to accomplish that mission, because of our naval roots and heritage. We bring all the equipment that we need in order to engage throughout the entire war-fighting spectrum. We can come into a country for a limited period of time and conduct training with other countries or provide crisis response that countries need.”
The Corps’ in-and-out capability was demonstrated during its support of Operation Tomadachi. Marines were able to move in, respond and back load to provide aid to other nations. Operation Tomadachi was the United States military’s response following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Q: Why is the movement to the Pacific important to our allies?
A: “A lot of our treaty allies are coming and asking us to engage with them, train and instruct them in amphibious capabilities. What they are asking for is to develop organically our capabilities, so they can deal with issues themselves throughout the region. These countries want to contribute. They want to participate to learn the capabilities they need to take care of themselves, vice the way it has been in the past with us taking care of them.”
The Marine Corps currently takes part in more than 50 multi-national exercises throughout the Pacific region. The exercises create a common language, increase interoperability between nations and increase force efficiency within each nation’s military.
Q: How will the nations of the Pacific having similar capabilities help the United States?
A: “The current environment is forcing us to make resource constraints. We are looking for the opportunity to create allies who are compatible with us, so we can do more for the region while reducing the demand on our own resources.”
Q: How is the Marine Corps meeting the new requirements mandated for the Pacific?
A: “The new defense policy affects 22,000 Marines positioned west of the International Dateline, The Marine Corps is moving to new positions throughout the region in order to provide the security and engagement our country requires. One thing we are doing in Australia is providing a rotational force in order to better address the region from that position. Marine rotational force Darwin in Australia provides the ability for us to engage an area of the Pacific that before we did not have the ability to impact.”
The Marine Corps will answer the call in any clime or place — luckily we are heading to the Pacific’s sunny tropic scene. The Corps’ role in region is not new, just growing.