Army’s Pacific Plans: Better Soldiers in the Cold, Better Ties With Asian Allies

October 12, 2022Noelle Wiehe
11th pacific

The shoulder patch of the 11th Airborne Division became active June 6, 2022, in Alaska. The name and emblem honor the history of the 11th Airborne Division, which fought in World War II and, as a test unit, developed both airborne parachuting and air assault tactics that the Army uses today. US Army Alaska photo.

WASHINGTON, DC — Army generals charged with developing plans and tactics around the Pacific, from Alaska to the Taiwan Strait, said soldiers in the command could expect new tactics, new allies, and new equipment soon.

In Alaska, the newly reactivated 11th Airborne Division was stood up in 2022 specifically to be the Army's first division-sized unit to focus on the Arctic and cold-weather combat. Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, the division's commanding general, said his troops trained on a different schedule than the rest of the Army did and would be studying and even visiting armies in some of the coldest countries on earth.

“If you've been in 30 below or colder weather, it's a life-changing experience,” Eifler said. “We train for that on a regular basis and operate in it without one fight in it. It takes a different type of soldier and takes unique equipment. And that's what we're developing up there in Alaska.”

CH-47 chinook helicopter Alaska

A CH-47 Chinook from 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, Alaska Army National Guard, prepares to land in Seward, Alaska, on May 18, 2021. US Army National Guard photo by Dana Rosso.

Eifler spoke at the Association of the US Army's annual meeting on a panel on land power and military deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.

Troops at both of the division's bases — Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage and Fort Wainwright near Fairbanks — begin their heaviest training cycles in the fall, train through Alaska's winter, and wrap up major exercises in the spring, Eifler said.

Also, some troops in the 11th can expect training trips to countries where armies specialize in cold-weather combat. Troops from the 11th will visit the Himalayas, northern Japan, and Finland this winter, Eifler said.


Gen. Charles Flynn, commanding general of US Army Pacific, speaks on Oct. 11, 2022, at AUSA during the Landpower and Integrated Deterrence in the Indo-Pacific forum in Washington, DC. Photo by Noelle Wiehe/ Coffee or Die Magazine.

In the wider Pacific, the generals charged with countering the growing threat of Chinese influence across Asia said on the same AUSA panel that a top priority remained strong relationships with allies.

Gen. Charles Flynn, the commanding general for US Army Pacific, said he was “very optimistic about our network of allies and partners that are coming together to unify and have a sense of collective commitment against the irresponsible behaviors of not just China but North Korea here in this last year as well.”

The US generals were joined onstage by Japanese defense officials, including Lt. Gen. Toshikazu Yamane, vice chief of staff for the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force; and by Dr. Mara Karlin, assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities.


Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, commanding general of the 11th Airborne Division speaks during an AUSA forum Oct. 11, 2022, in Washington, DC. Photo by Noelle Wiehe/ Coffee or Die Magazine.

Flynn recently said he intended to keep US rocket forces stationed at a new base in Japan. That includes at Camp Amami, one of several bases Japan is building on its southwest islands for anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile units.

The Army's 2nd Infantry Division also recently completed large-scale exercises with South Korean forces, the largest since COVID-19.

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Noelle Wiehe
Noelle Wiehe

Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.

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