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News | Nov. 23, 2020

Virtual Conference Addresses Challenges to Indo-Pacific Armies in Urban Environments

By Staff Sgt. Ondirae H. Abdullah-Robinson USAPAC

Army leaders from 26 nations across five continents virtually joined the 44th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS XLIV) and the 6th Senior Enlisted Leaders Forum (SELF VI), Nov. 16-17.

U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) and the Philippine Army co-hosted this year’s event and agreed to conduct a virtual conference due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. USARPAC hosted from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and the Philippine Army hosted from its headquarters at Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila. Other participants connected from their respective countries.

“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we agreed that this conference must continue,” said Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, the U.S. Army Pacific commanding general. “It provides a critical venue to strengthen relationships and build trust throughout the region.”

“Addressing Challenges to Indo-Pacific Armies in Urban Environments,” was the theme for this year’s conference.

“The theme is but a fitting concept for our collective resolve in defeating hybrid threats amid an evolving security landscape,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the Philippine Army commanding general.

“May this also be an opportunity for us to foster mutual understanding and friendship,” said Sobejana. “For the past two days of discussions, we grasp new insights and best practices on how we can improve the relationships and core competencies among our land forces. This convergence demonstrated a new result to mutually improve our respective armies. On top of this, we have accomplished our shared interests and commitments to pursue peace and develop in the region.”

In addition to COVID-19 pandemic, the Indo-Pacific theater regularly experiences destructive natural disasters.

“As security practitioners, it’s critical for us to understand the challenges and mission requirements to successfully respond in the appropriate scope and scale in urban environments,” said LaCamera. “Our region has 21 megacities and other large urban areas that are exposed to severe earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding and other disasters.”

Separated into three plenaries, the conference featured various subject matter experts from around the world addressing a range of topics that supported the seminar’s urban focused theme: emerging technologies, such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and unmanned vehicles; interagency coordination, such as communication and coordination with civilian organizations; the after-effects of urban operations, such as the role of armies in the phase of urban recovery operations; and the importance of working with civilian authorities and interagency partners in dealing with the COVID crisis.

“We particularly deepened our understanding of the complexities of peacekeeping operations and operating in urban environments and humanitarian assistance and disaster response,” said Sobejana.

IPAMS is the preeminent land forces engagement that allows senior-level (lieutenant colonel to major general, or national equivalent) officers from regional ground forces and security services to meet and discuss professional military subjects.

This year, the Senior Enlisted Leaders Forum was integrated into the IPAMS virtual venue and participants attended the same plenaries.

Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Brzak, USARPAC command sergeant major, shared his thoughts on the importance of the conference by stating how the impact of COVID-19 affected major cities and urban environments.

“While officers shape what objectives they expect to be accomplished, as NCOs, it is our duty to ensure that the mission is executed to standard in order to meet our commander’s intent,” said Brzak. “Most importantly, let’s not let this conversation end when the event is over.”

“The military relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines is strong, important, and based on mutual respect and cooperation for decades,” said LaCamera. “IPAMS is very important and I look forward to the growth and continued improvement of this conference.”

“Each of you represents the culture, traditions, and history of your nation,” said LaCamera. “Your unique perspectives and experiences are most welcomed. Thank you all for your continued commitment to the security of this vital region. Together, we are united in preserving peace and stability, and ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific.”