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NEWS | May 16, 2024

8th TSC leaders on campaigning, sustaining, protecting joint force in Indo-Pacific theater

By Sgt. Maj. Nathan Hoskins 8th Theater Sustainment Command

The 8th Theater Sustainment Command commanding general and two of his subordinate commanders discussed how 8th TSC sustains and protects the joint force on May 15 at the Land Forces Pacific Symposium 2024 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Maj. Gen. Jered Helwig, 8th TSC, Col. Margaret McGunegle, commander, 130th Engineer Brigade, and Lt. Col. Shayne Lundy, deputy commanding officer, 8th Military Police Brigade, talked about 8th TSC’s contributions to campaigning in the Pacific as part of LANPAC 24’s commander’s corner series.

Helwig introduced the audience to the 8th TSC and its capabilities for the joint force, including bolstering joint interior lines, protecting the force, integrating and leveraging Reserve forces, and experimenting. Helwig emphasized that sustainment and protection are essential to a joint force’s ability to campaign in the Indo-Pacific theater.

LANPAC symposium attendees have heard a lot this week about U.S. Army Pacific priorities: Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, Operation Pathways, and joint interior lines. “The 8th TSC sits in all those spaces,” said Helwig.

Operation Pathways is a series of over 40 joint-multinational exercises and rehearsals used by U.S. Army Pacific forces to campaign throughout the Indo-Pacific theater.

“As part of Operation Pathways, what we’ve been really keen on doing is putting the sustainment warfighting function into position to rehearse those key opening capabilities that would be required in any phase of an operation from campaigning to crisis to conflict,” said Helwig. “Those things don’t just happen; those aren’t just arrows on a map that says we’re going to move equipment in here. That takes a lot of synchronization and coordination.”

The 8th TSC has used Operation Pathways as a proving ground to test and rehearse sustainment concepts with Reserve, joint, and multinational partners, he said. This mindset enables the 8th TSC to approach problems holistically.

Helwig said the reserve forces compound the 8th TSC’s strength in sustainment. In line with this mindset is the integration of the Reserve component, a critical asset enabling the 8th TSC to better synchronize and integrate sustainment operations and activities across the joint force and joint area of operations.

“Of all these units and all the branches these units represent, 75 percent of the capability that we have resides in the Reserve component,” said Helwig. “So, we continue to build that (capability) as part of Operation Pathways.”

Helwig submits that participating in Operation Pathways allows the organization to further build joint interior lines, a network of positions that create enduring advantages and extend operational reach for the joint force, according to Gen. Charles Flynn, the USARPAC commanding general.

“The big one for us is really building joint interior lines. So, as we use Operation Pathways to rehearse the key concepts, then we get into position, maintain position, and then build that positional advantage that General Flynn and others have talked about this week,” said Helwig.

To punctuate the necessity of rehearsing, Helwig discussed the 8th TSC’s Army watercraft capabilities and their use during exercise Talisman Sabre in Australia last year. Those watercraft rehearsed the very mission taking place in Gaza today.

“We were able to do a full joint logistics over the shore mission as part of Talisman Sabre,” he said. “Those Soldiers and Soldier mariners that were there are actually some of them conducting the mission over there in Gaza as we speak. So (Talisman Sabre) was a good opportunity to get that training rep and set in ahead of full military needs in that capability.”

Helwig also announced to the burgeoning crowd the Army’s newest watercraft, the maneuver support vessel – light, is charting a course to Honolulu later this year or early 2025, where the 8th TSC will put it through its paces in the environment for which it is designed – the littoral waters of the Indo-Pacific theater.

“The maneuver support vessel – light, the newest vessel that the Army is procuring, the prototype vessel will come out here probably at the end of this year or maybe early next to do its experimentation, its validation out here in the Hawaiian archipelago,” said Helwig. “So, we’re excited to be able to do that at the front end because from a sustainer’s perspective, if we’re able to have it here doing that activity – validating itself – in the environment it will operate, it will teach us a lot about what it takes to sustain it, to employ it, and to correctly integrate it into the joint force.”

The 8th TSC is also establishing joint theater distribution centers, which are nodes consisting of sustainment activities necessary to support operations in a specific area, such as multi-class warehouse storage and central receiving and shipping points augmented with motor transport and container management. These centers are anchored by a modular distribution hub, which is the standardized minimum requirement for a JTDC.

“How do we take a capability that we need for any variety of missions, from humanitarian assistance to full-up combat operations, because of the distances in this theater? (We) emplace (JTDCs) in key locations, build the capability not just in terms of storage of supplies, but also of equipment, and then of key maintenance capabilities,” said Helwig. “That’s been a huge part of what we’ve done as part of building joint interior lines – establishing joint theater distribution centers. Making sure they are open and available to the joint force.”

Equally important to the 8th TSC’s mission is the 130th Engineer Brigade, which takes the concept of a JTDC and physically brings it to life, said McGunegle. This is in addition to the brigade’s ability to provide the required insight into terrain and waterways for the modern warfighter.

“You heard the CG (Helwig) talk about the JTDCs. We’re the ones that are going to put them in the ground,” said McGunegle. “We are going to build them up; we’re going to augment them; we’re going to supplement them, and we’re going to connect those nodes together – really important out here, especially as we’re looking at 20,000 plus islands.”

In addition to their ability to build much-needed structures in austere environments, the 130th Engineer Brigade also brings to the fight a robust complement of Army divers who build and strengthen partnerships as they clear waterways and improve ports, said McGunegle. They experiment with each new mission and learn from partners and allies to enhance future capabilities.

Protecting all these operations is the Pacific theater’s only military police formation – the 8th Military Police Brigade, which consists of traditional combat-support MP Soldiers and a unique set of capabilities: military working dogs, explosive ordnance disposal experts, and a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear company.

Among many other opportunities to innovate, Lundy said the 8th MP is researching and rehearsing ways to address enemy prisoners of war problem sets unique to the expansive island chains.

“In Korea, we had 150,000 EPWs in Korea alone. So, what does that look like in a maritime domain? What does that look like in the first island chain with (brigade combat teams) jumping forward and everybody is collecting EPWs on the way?” said Lundy.

These are questions Lundy’s brigade is addressing and working through during Operation Pathways.

The 8th MP is also addressing how it can protect the joint force and the joint interior lines across a maritime environment by focusing on land-based and water-based equities. It is focusing on providing protection to everything from Army watercraft to the littorals to the ports.

Following Lundy’s brief, Helwig and McGunegle joined the corner and answered questions from the crowd.

LANPAC is the premier forum for Army partners and allies across the Indo-Pacific, academia and thought leaders, government officials, and industry representatives to gather and share ideas to enhance regional stability and security.