Lt General Stephen R. Lanza Commanding General 1 Corps, US Army visited India this week. BharatShakti.in was the only media outfit that was granted an exclusive interview by the General.
The General interacted frankly with Nitin A Gokhale and Brig SK Chatterji of BSI putting forth his views on a wide range of issues of mutual concern, interests and areas for greater co-operation, with both nations having shared values.
He displayed a desire to enhance the inter-active relationship between the personnel of both armies, including junior levels in order to build a better understanding of each other as the relationship progresses.
Interview with Lt General Stephen R. Lanza Commanding General 1 Corps, US Army
Nitin A Gokhale (NG): So General, what brings you to India to begin with?
Lt General Stephan R. Lanza (Gen): Well, what brings me here is I’m representing General Brooks, the United States Army Commander for the ESG (Executive Steering Group) and I think you know that we do this once a year. I had the opportunity to host it last year, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), so I’m here to represent General Brooks on that. What I would say is because of the ESG last year I was able to come to India last year for a visit and I was able to see Lt General Bobby Matthews, GoC XII Corps and was able to go out. I think that this relationship is so much more than the ESG and what I’ve been able to see is the commonality of the professionalism of our militaries, the values that we have and the democracy that we have between our two countries. So it’s been very impressive for me to have the opportunity to come back here for a second time and to build on the relationships we have with the Indian military.
NG: So you’ve been meeting different officials here; who did you meet this time?
Gen: Well for the ESG, let me give you a little bit of context. The Executive Steering Group is designed to get the Indian military and the U.S. military to meet. Now from that we have an outcome called ‘Agreed to Actions’. These are actions as you all know that go out to the ministries that kind of frame our relationships with the Indian military. Some of the results from the ‘Agreed to Actions’ have been Yudh Abhyas, held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord; we were very proud to do that. We just had Vajra Prahar for a Special Forces Group, we’ve had some exchanges and we’ve had one of our Colonels right now who is going to a conference on UAVs today. So I think that’s the importance of doing that.
We have been able to meet with the Indian military staff, the DGMO in there on Monday – Lt General Ranbir Singh, who is my counterpart as the head of delegation. From there I took an excursion yesterday to Calcutta to the Eastern Army to meet with Lt General Praveen Bakshi. That was phenomenal – to get his perspective on the Eastern Army. Then the complexity of what the Eastern Army is doing with the five states that surround them. Just the amount of complexity and what they go through for counter-insurgency operations, counter-terrorism operations was tremendous.
I think the value of coming here to do that is what we learn from the Indians as well. I learnt a lot yesterday just in my engagement with General Bakshi and how they approach their operations there, in that very, very complex area. So we think operations like this or opportunities like this in the ESG really open up the aperture for a relationship with the Indian military for the future.
I won’t speak for all the services, but for the Army I think there are tremendous opportunities to build on the commonalities we have as two armies moving forward together.
NG: In fact your troops have been coming to our Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School for a long time. How has that experience been? Does it help in your engagements elsewhere?
Gen: He (one of our boys who went) came back, and I will be very honest here, he said he came back hungry. He went to your Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School and we talked to him, one of our soldiers from 1st Group – Bryan was in 1st Group as well, just so you know, back at JBLM. He said he came back hungry and tired but he was extremely challenged. Those are the opportunities we want to build on. We had a great discussion on Monday perhaps about some of your officers coming to Fort Leavenworth, where we have our Command and General Staff College (CGSC) or now ILE and then our SAMS programs, so I think there are opportunities there to do that. The more we have these relationships that are built on trust, the more we can do collectively together. We have a mutual respect for each other’s nation’s positions – in terms of what you are doing politically, strategically and what the United States is doing. There we have common purposes and that’s the most important thing I have as a take away.
Brig SK Chatterji (Brig): A little bit about your First Corps. From open source information – in the shift East of the United States, First Corps is also involved? What does it involve?”
Gen: Yes. Sure, let me give you a bit of context on that. There are three Corps in the United States Army. You have First Corps that is where we’re positioned at JBLM. You have Three Corps, that’s at Fort Hood – they’re in Iraq right now as the JTF. Then you have the Eighteenth Airborne Corps and they’re the global responsible force. Our Corps is the only Corps in the United States Army that is assigned to a combatant command. So we as a Corps are assigned to Admiral Harris at PACOM (United States Pacific Command). We are the operational headquarters for General Brooks. So General Brooks commands United States Army Pacific and our Corps is his operational headquarters. So when you talk about the rebalance of the Pacific, the Corps does the operational engagements. Whether it be Pacific Pathways, whether it be, well all these different operations and exercises we do with other countries – the Corps becomes the operational arm to do that. We are also the war fighting arm in the Pacific. So let’s talk an example. If indeed we had to do combat operations in Korea, First Corps then would be the lead for the United States Army in terms of working with the South Koreans. So this really has given the rebalance some teeth.
We had this discussion earlier, when you ask the United States government about the rebalance – we have put an entire U.S. Corps against that rebalance in the Pacific. So from a military perspective, there are opportunities here to build on the professional capacity and capability of our militaries. The development of our militaries both tactically and technically because there’s obviously some technological things we can do together and then more importantly inter-operability between our militaries which is very important. There’s also a component of multi-lateralism. The Corps then helps lead that. We have to do that. So my ability to come out here as a 3-star and engage with your 3-star Army headquarters, your XII Corps. Tactical relationships really allow the strategic piece to move forward because it is enabled by the tactical relationships we build with the Indian military and I am very proud to say that I’ve met some of your great officers. I had a chance to meet General P.R. Kumar last year. I met General Krishna, your DGMI, General Singh the other day, your DGMO, of course General Matthews and now General Bakshi. This is very important because now our younger officers also have that relationship and that carries on for the next generation of leaders, which is very important to keep our militaries moving together. We do that, it is not the U.S. moving over India, it is us together parallel. We are on a parallel path moving together for a common purpose and I think that’s very, very important because we respect the sovereignty of India, we respect what the Indian government is about in terms of your approach here in this part of the world.
NG: And you do a range of exercises from Yudh Abhyas to an armoured component, Infantry to Special Operations, so does the Indian military also look at it like this? What is your feedback when they exercise with you?
Gen: Well, they’ve learned from us and we’ve learned from them. For example, for Yudh Abhyas we had your Mountain Corps. I mean we do not operate at those kinds of altitudes, so when the Indian soldiers were telling us the conditions they operate under and then every couple of months they have to come back, because it’s hard – we learned tremendous things from them. What I found from the Indian military first of all was that they are tremendously disciplined, tremendously well-trained and I had the opportunity of watching a combined arms live-fire exercise out in Jodhpur. What I watched is the synchronisation of military capabilities that we’re starting to go back to after a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, I think, you can appreciate this. We have spent the last ten years on counter-insurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and now what our army is doing is getting back to combined arms manoeuvres and learning how to fight collectively as a combined arms force. The Indian army has been doing that for years. You have been doing that for years. I watched General Matthews do that. I reflected back on some things we are learning as well with our junior leaders that we have not had the opportunity to do thus far. That’s been very helpful.
NG: That’s very great, yeah. Moving from army to army, I also wanted your views on DTTI (Defence Technology and Trade Initiative).
Gen: This is good.
NG: Where is it headed and how do you see it?”
Gen: Sure. I think first of all, let me give you some context. Ambassador Singh, your Ambassador came out to see the joint exercises at Fort Lewis-McChord as well as Vajra Prahar. We had a conversation, the DTTI issue came up and he talked about jet engines and he talked about where we’re going with carriers. But I think there’s another opportunity here for where we want to go from an army perspective. Is there the possibility of getting an Army Working Group together to look at technological solutions of what we can do as an army? Not at my level, but I think as an operational commander, I think we would benefit from perhaps a Working Group for army capabilities in terms of how we look at technologies. For example we had a UAV conference today, there are technologies in UAV. General Bakshi and I talked yesterday about cyber and electronic warfare as well as other opportunities to do that. Where do we want to go with that and can we add that as part of DTTI? I think again, with the Corps here positioned at JBLM we have forces here, in Japan, Hawaii and Alaska – there are opportunities at the tactical level to look at how we can enable DTTI in the future.
NG: That is I think one of the major components of the defense cooperation. Defense is a major component of the overall relationship.
Gen: Then where can we enable you in ‘Make in India’… is another matter. We’ve had a discussion and your Prime Minister has done a magnificent campaign on this Make in India and other opportunities for us to enable that in your country.
NG: I think the policies are also changing even in defense. In fact I just came off a briefing to our Members of Parliaments (MP), there were 10 MPs. I mean, we were pleasantly surprised that they were interested. I was briefing them on the defense procurement procedure – the new one that is coming in, and we were pleasantly surprised at the way they were asking questions, so we thought at least the future is in good hands as far as legislators are concerned.
Brig: The exercises we have been doing at the lower levels such as house clearing drills, it is interesting. At a higher level, should we not have war gaming with the two Corps (One of your and one of ours operating together against an enemy force) put together? Wouldn’t that give greater dividends than just these current activities?
Gen: From my perspective, yes. I think we can move as fast as you would like to move. One of the things we discussed is, when we do the ESG and come up with these ‘Agree to Actions’ where we could use your help to ensure that these ‘AtA’ (Agree to Actions) get approved. We can go as far as you want. General Bakshi and I discussed yesterday about working in simulation. So you’re discussion about how to do war gaming – we have what’s called the Integrated Training Environment. We do live, virtual, construction and gaming. There’s a lot we could share in terms of how to do that so we can actually do the war gaming together and the planning together. It’s a function though of what we would like to do together and of course the approval of the MoD to make that happen. We are open, we are ready to go and again it’s just a function of how fast collectively we want to move.
NG: Our Minister was in the U.S. recently and I think he also came back with a lot of positive vibes from there. We are hoping Secretary Defense should be coming to visit Secretary Carter. That would be something. As I see it, the rebalance will of course involve India in a big way. (Gen: It has to.) You know, the inevitable question which many of our friends in the media would have asked you, so I would sort of play that media role and ask you – the Chinese see this as ganging up against them?
Gen: I think if I was to speak for the Chinese or speak for the Indians, I think what we want in this part of the world is economic security. I don’t think anybody in this part of the world wants to have conflict. I think the whole point of the rebalance is to do two things. One is you want to avoid any kind of conflict and then you want to de-escalate if conflict occurs. The rebalance allows us to, in this part of the world, avoid any miscalculation. That’s very important because of the economic viability of this region. Nobody wants to get to Phase III combat operations and Admiral Lockleer, the former PACOM Commander used to say, ‘If we get to that part, we have failed.’ If we get to that part then the rebalance of the Pacific has failed.
The other thing I would share with you is that the rebalance is so much more than just military. There’s an economic component to this which is extremely important. There’s a diplomatic component that you all know about. Ambassador Verma I’m sure has talked about this in numerous forms and of course the information piece of this as well. Collectively working together, I think you’re seeing a shift of resources now that have gone to the Pacific on this. I think so far as China goes, we should embrace the collective security we want in this part of the region. I have heard and learned things from your officers, where in some cases the Chinese make it difficult on India. So where can we learn from each other about China’s role both in terms of how they operate internally and also how they operate externally? Gen Bakshi and I talked about this yesterday, where can we share information? Where can the knowledge be exchanged? They have their own understanding and their own concerns. General Bakshi was aware of their concerns and I think collectively we can learn from each other.
NG: That’s a positive because I think that’s where South China Sea of course remains in focus, but India has its own issues on the land border with the Chinese and we’ve learned to deal with them for almost 60 years now, or 45 years now. I think that’s where the tactical operations will come in handy. I think now they’ve started doing something with the Chinese military recently. They’ve started to transform their military. I listened to Admiral Harris in APCS when I was there. He came to talk on the 20th Anniversary and then Admiral Swift was here. We met twice, once in APCS and then once here.
So I’m saying that interaction has increased quite a lot between the militaries and I think it’s all always good from both countries’ perspectives. I remember asking this question about two years ago. Military education could be one area where the Indian and U.S. militaries’ junior officers could learn from one another.
Gen: We talked about that on Monday. We talked about exchanges and we talked about increasing the amount of exchanges at a lower level. We talked about the ability for Indian officers to attend US schools such as our SAMS (School of Advanced Military Studies) course, which I think you are familiar with at Fort Leavenworth. I think the more possibilities we have to do that, the better it is and then you know IMS you know is a part of the Embassy. But I think the more opportunities for these exchanges at the lower level would be helpful. As you know just in our headquarters and I talked to your DGMO about this on Monday, we have a Korean officer, we have a Japanese officer, Canadian officers – wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a young Indian major (very young) in our Corps major headquarters for a year, just as a liaison working with us and then we send him back? Alternatively, wouldn’t it be great to have an army officer embedded here? I think there are opportunities here and I think we’re just constrained by our imaginations and our ability just to say yes. But I think at my level, we would say yes to a lot of these things and to the opportunity. I see the value of having these tactical discussions because sometimes they get constrained by the political piece of it. I think there’s so much commonality between our militaries and again it is about the values we have together the way we value the profession, of course the way we’re trained.
NG: I come across many of your officers in NDC. I teach at NDC, so it’s always a good opportunity. Well, you see, I do a workshop on military and media. Then of course, all kinds of experiences come in. We have a different experience, they have a different experience. But the Indian media is difficult to understand.
Brig: So about a model of training. You know we send our officers to you, you send your officers to us. Now that’s an exposure for a very limited number of officers. How can we accommodate hundreds of our officers? Is there a possibility of pushing an option of posting American instructors to staff over here and Indian instructors to staff over there?
Gen: Again, I think that’s a great initiative.
Brig: Then the outreach is much more extensive.
Gen: Let me give you a suggestion, I’m not giving you policy but let me give you some examples perhaps at my level of what we can do. We have courses for non-commissioned officers, just as you have courses for your officers. We have the Warrior Leader course which develops our young non-commissioned officers. Wouldn’t it be great to take an Indian young specialist and NCO and put him in a Warrior Leader’s course? Wouldn’t it be great to take some of our young non-commissioned officers and bring them here? It doesn’t always have to be a senior Colonel, a younger CO would do because that’s what breeds professionalism, capability, it increases capacity – so the more we can do that, it would be very, very helpful. We have tremendous courses in Hawaii, we have our Jungle School in Hawaii, we have our Adaptive Leader Course in Hawaii – you know all this, with our 25th Division. It would be very easy to send a couple of young Indian NCOs and soldiers to embed them in our Division and it’s the same way here. I think the more we can take advantage of that, it would be better. I hope we see some of that today in our ‘Agreed to Actions’, so where we need your help is we’re probably going to have some of your suggestions put in the ‘Agreed to Actions’ today. I’m sure when General Singh and I sit down today there will be a variety of these points. Getting them through and getting them approved is a political point. I think it’s not just political though, I think we can do it at a lower level.
Brig: I think if we have to prepare for a threat to the region the inter-operability op must go on. We don’t have a lot. Possibly the war gaming at higher level, as you were saying and sending instructors. The outreach has to be much more…
NG: Imagination is the constraint, that’s what he said.
Gen: Right, but the war gaming is easy in fact, the more we can embrace the virtual, we can actually tie our centres together. General Matthews showed me one of your centres in Jodhpur. We had a simulation centre there. One of the points brought up was that wouldn’t it be interesting to tie your simulation centre out in Jodhpur, to ours back in the United States. That doesn’t cost anything.
Brig: You exercise the headquarters, you have a scenario built, and then you plan your operations together. (Gen: I think that would be wonderful.) On ground, if this operation is to be launched together we will not have interaction at the company level, there will be at best, let’s say a division level interaction.
Gen: We talked about this with General Matthews so let’s talk about air-ground integration. Let’s talk about how you would do that? How would you clear fires? How would you implement control measures? All those things will be planned together. I offer that and I agree with you sir, a hundred percent. We would love the opportunity to do that.
NG: I’m sure. I know the Indian military is now learning to inter-operate between the services. You know the synergy between them is also improving.”
Gen: We have some of the same issues.
I hope I answered all your questions.
NG: You did and very well. This gives an insight actually, to a lot of people who don’t know what is happening. They all think it’s at the highest level only – such as Obama and Modi. They don’t know what’s happening here, so this is a great insight. I think we’ll put this up as soon as possible. We’ll do that. It was great meeting you.
Gen: I hope I get a chance to talk to you gentlemen again.
NG: Of course, whenever you’re here, we would love to meet up. It’s your call. Thank you so much!