US Army exports multinational combat training center to Philippines

US Army exports multinational combat training center to Philippines

MANILA and HONOLULU – The U.S. Army is exporting its Joint Pacific Multinational Combat Training Center to the Philippines as the Southeast Asia country seeks to enhance and modernize its defense strategy.

The Philippines’ “concept of operations is shifting into one of more territorial defense operations and they’re beginning to train with that,” Gen. Charles Flynn, U.S. Army Pacific commander, told Defense News in an interview at the Association of the U.S. Army’s LANPAC conference in Honolulu.

The U.S. Army is bringing its JPMRC Exportable to Fort Magsaysay located in central Luzon where jungle training and even special operations training takes place and can accommodate a larger scale collective training event. Even so, the Philippines Armed Forces lack a training center at the scale of the JPMRC.

The center set up is nearly complete and the JPMRC rotation will begin this month, according to leaders in charge of the effort.

U.S. joint forces and the Philippines Armed Forces recently completed major exercises together – the first phase of Salaknib as well as Balikatan. Balikatan wrapped up on May 9 and a second phase of Salaknib is beginning with JPMRC X as a focus.

During Balikatan, “we executed long-range air assaults off the northern portion of Luzon with our 3rd Brigade Combat Team, and across the joint force projecting force into the islands in the Luzon Strait,” Maj. Gen. Marcus Evans, U.S. Army commander of the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii, told Defense News at LANPAC.

“What that provided us is an opportunity to work with the joint force, work with the Philippines Army and our experience with their 5th Infantry Division and 7th Infantry Division over the course of these last three months has really been exceptional. We will culminate this at the end of May, beginning of June with a Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center rotation forward in the Philippines, which will be the first one west of the International Date Line,” Evans said.

Herculean effort

The 25th ID, which runs the JPMRC rotations in Hawaii, will have the full complement of instrumentation which allows the Army to collect data and “allows us to see ourselves and our Philippine army teammates and grow from lessons learned that we’re experiencing in a jungle environment,” he said.

The U.S. Army took an exportable version of JPMRC “to a lesser degree” out to Australia for Talisman Sabre in 2023 as well as in Indonesia for Super Garuda Shield, Evans said.

“What is different about this year is that we are going to take our full suite of instrumentation capabilities,” Evans explained.

“As an example, we’re going to be able to monitor our forces as well as the Philippines Armed Forces as they are executing operations that simulate a combat environment,” he said. “We will be able to assess indirect fires employment, we will be able to assess how quickly they are able to treat their casualties, how quickly they are able to move and sustain the force, what their water consumption is, what their power generation capability is, how effective they are with using their mission command.”

The Army has spent the last 45 days at Fort Magsaysay to prepare the center for the training, Evans said. “I personally flew and … went through the terrain, went with our aviation brigade looking at different helicopter landing zones,” he noted.

Because there is not an infrastructure for such training in the Philippines, Evans said, the Army is bringing in towers with sensors and other technology from Hawaii, flying it to the Philippines and using helicopters to set them on top of a mountain to be able to emit signals and collect training data. “It’s a Herculean effort,” he said.

Over a period of about two weeks, observer controllers will be able to provide after action reviews using real-time data collected through instrumentation and technology and fed into a model to help understand how to act, learn and adapt, according to Evans.

The Army’s 25th Infantry Division headquarters, through Balikatan, is already integrated and combined with the Philippines 7th ID headquarters, Brig. Gen. David Zinn, told Defense News at the division’s camp at Fort Magsaysay earlier this month.

“That may lend itself to introduce some of those capabilities” during the JPMRC X event, he said. “There is a variety of expertise that we learned from our [Filipino] partners.

“One, they understand the environment and they certainly understand the human terrain very will in the country. They conduct civil affairs operations very well, integrated into their operations as part of their planning,” Zinn said. “They modify the load plans and travel light and they’re able to move pretty quickly, tactically, in the terrain in the environment.”

The JPMRC X will continue to participate in exercises down the road in the Pacific.

“I think there is opportunities across Operation Pathways that we could look forward to in the future,” Evans said. Operation Pathways is a series of exercises conducted throughout the year between the U.S. Army and its partners and allies throughout the Indo-Pacific theater.

But first, the 25th ID will have its own annual JPMRC rotation which will occur on Oahu and also in Palau, according to Evans.

The Army is likely to take JPMRC to Thailand for the Cobra Gold exercise next year and also back to the Philippines during next year’s Balikatan and Salaknib, Flynn said.

“We’re getting to the point where it’s being asked for so much that we have to moderate and kind of do proper scheduling because of the requests for that capability,” he added.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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