Pearl Harbor … A Front Row Seat to Pacific Rebalance

Dec. 23, 2013 | By scnewsltr
     Readers might recall a remark made earlier this year in Singapore by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in which he referred to the coming decades as “the Pacific century,” a century in which America will need to increase the ability of its militaries to respond rapidly and seamlessly to a range of contingencies in the Pacific region. [caption id="attachment_1711" align="alignright" width="300"]
Photo By: Al Unger
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During RIMPAC 2012, FLC Pearl Harbor Supply Officers designed a plan that blended logistics representatives from participating nations into one Multinational Support Element (MSE). Although they arrived as separate entities with their own agendas and objectives, it took little time before the MSE participants had melded into one unit with one purpose - support to the fleet. (Photo by Lt. Cmdr. Al Unger)      It is no secret that our nation’s military is shifting its focus to the Pacific, and, in the years to come, logistics officers who are serve at Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Fleet Logistics Center (FLC) Pearl Harbor will find themselves at the forefront of this exciting transition.      The United States is by no means alone in this Asia-Pacific buildup.  In August, Japan unveiled its largest warship since World War II, an 810-foot helicopter carrier.  India has just completed its first indigenously-built aircraft carrier and is well on its way to completing its first nuclear submarine.  The Philippines is sending overtures to encourage the U.S. military to return to its soil; Indonesia is buying advanced Apache helicopters from the United States; and South Korea has used its vaunted manufacturing might to markedly strengthen its fleet, above and below the water.  The list goes on and on.      As the nations of the Pacific reinvigorate their naval forces, it is essential that the United States forge staunch multinational alliances with these same countries.  The importance of multinational relationships, particularly with regions bordering the Pacific, cannot be downplayed, as it is by working with these partner nations that relationships of trust and cooperation are built.  As Franklin Roosevelt observed many years ago, “We have learned that our well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations, far, far away.”      If an ambitious young logistics officer wished to participate in the Pacific’s new dawn, he or she could find no better assignment than one with FLC Pearl Harbor, particularly during a year when the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise is held.      The mission of FLC Pearl Harbor is to provide quality and timely logistics and supply support services to our Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Joint and Allied Forces throughout the mid-Pacific.  The fulfillment of FLC Pearl Harbor’s mission is a “24-7” job that takes place on sun-baked piers and air fields, and even hundreds of feet below ground in Red Hill’s fuel tunnels.  However, it is during the RIMPAC Exercise when the command’s role as a logistics provider is shown in its best light, and Supply Officers find themselves at the proverbial “tip of the spear.” [caption id="attachment_1710" align="alignleft" width="300"]
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Aided by an interpreter aboard the Russian destroyer Admiral Panteleyev (BPK 548), Lt. Cmdr. Bran Sherman, formerly the FLC Pearl Harbor Logistics Support Officer, provides a brief on logistical capabilities to the Panteleyev’s CO, XO, Operations Officer and Supply Officer.      Held in Hawaiian waters every two years by Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, RIMPAC is the world's largest international maritime exercise.  The exercise dates back four decades and provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants hone the cooperative international relationships critical to ensuring the safety of the world’s sea lanes.      With 22 nations, 42 ships, 200 aircraft and 6 submarines participating, the 2012 RIMPAC was the largest ever held, illustrating the Navy’s shifting focus from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Among the 25,000 participants were representatives from a litany of Asian-Pacific nations, including Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.      Long before RIMPAC 2012 began, FLC Pearl Harbor’s Logistics Officers were working closely with the multinational RIMPAC force, designing a plan that blended logistics representatives from participating nations into one Multinational Support Element (MSE).  Although they arrived as separate entities with their own agendas and objectives, it took little time before the MSE participants had melded into one unit with one purpose - support to the fleet.      For the duration of RIMPAC, FLC Pearl Harbor plays the lead logistics role.  Working at a hectic, non-stop pace that would normally be experienced only during a time of war, logistics officers find themselves scurrying to provide the “beans, bullets and black oil” for the participating Fleet and air wings.  The hours are long and frustrations exist around every corner, but when the day’s task is done, their sense of satisfaction is enormous.  As the sun sinks over Pearl Harbor, you can sometimes see a small complement of logistics officers from all corners of the Pacific gathered on the pier; and, as they watch the longshoremen swing the day’s final pallets onto a RIMPAC vessel, they are all quietly aware that one day they might meet again, this time as steadfast allies in the event of a Pacific war or a humanitarian disaster.      The beauty of seeing the close working relationship and the unity of trust among members of the participating RIMPAC nations was not lost on Adm. Cecil Haney, Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet.  “The partnerships, cooperation and camaraderie forged during this exercise are essential to the promotion of peace in the Pacific region and will be invaluable during future contingencies, wherever and whenever they might be,” Adm. Haney emphasized.      The next RIMPAC will be held in 2014 . . . and the United States has invited China to participate.      Aside from the opportunities for Pearl Harbor logistics officers to forge lifelong relationships with counterparts from foreign military forces, there also exists another compelling reason for logistics officers to opt for a Hawaii assignment, and that is the opportunity to enhance their Supply Corps toolboxes while working with some of our nation’s most advanced war fighting equipment.      As part of its rebalance to the Pacific, the Navy has announced it will not only homeport 60 percent of its ships in the Pacific by 2020, it is also committed to sending its newest and most capable assets to the Asia-Pacific region.  We have already seen this when our nation’s first littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) slipped into Pearl Harbor earlier this year, bound for a lengthy deployment in Singapore.  The Boeing P-8 Poseidon, the Joint Strike Fighter, and possibly our first aircraft carrier-capable unmanned aerial vehicles will also make their operational debut in the Pacific.  These are the war engines of the future, and the opportunity to logistically support them is one that should be sought by all ambitious Logistics Officers.      One of Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Adm. Jonathan Greenert’s Core Responsibilities of his Sailing Directions is … “With global partners, protect the maritime freedom that is the basis for global prosperity.  Foster and sustain cooperative relationships with an expanding set of allies and international partners to enhance global security.” [caption id="attachment_1712" align="alignleft" width="280"]
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During RIMPAC 2012, an American Marine and two Mexican Sailors from the Arm Usumacinta are framed by the Sea-Based X-Band Radar. (Photo by Jim Murray)      Due to the Navy’s rebalance to the Pacific and the rich diversity of international navies that ply Hawaii’s waters – particularly during RIMPAC – there is, perhaps, no port in the world that is better positioned to strive for the CNO’s goals than Pearl Harbor.  For young logistics officers, the future begins here! By Jim Murray; Office of Corporate Communications, NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor