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FSI scholars visit US Pacific Command Headquarters


A Stanford delegation of 17 faculty members and researchers visited U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) Headquarters in Hawaii, Feb. 4-5, 2016.

Seventeen faculty members and researchers from Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies were hosted at U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) Headquarters in Hawaii for an intensive orientation on Feb. 4-5. The visit aimed to advance collaboration and to offer a deeper understanding of USPACOM’s operations to Stanford scholars who study international security and Asia.

Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., Commander of USPACOM, together with his commanders and staff, welcomed the delegation. Harris’s meeting with Stanford faculty is the second in recent months. The USPACOM visit and earlier speech at Stanford Center at Peking University are part of a series of activities driven by the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative. Led by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the Initiative seeks to provide constructive interaction between academic and governmental experts on the many and diverse security challenges facing the Asia-Pacific region.

“Engaging deeply in conversations with those who are on the frontlines is incredibly valuable,” said trip participant Coit Blacker, FSI senior fellow and professor of international studies. “This is especially true for academics who focus much of their attention thinking about the prospects for international peace and security but not necessarily considering their direct application on a military-level.”

Top: (Left) The Stanford delegation watches a demonstration of a 2-minute drill. / (Right) Karen Eggleston boards a UH-60 Blackhawk helpcopter enroute to the Lightning Academy with her colleagues. Bottom: The delegation takes a group photo on-site.

On the first day, FSI scholars spoke with military officers about the command’s strategies and challenges it faces, such as population aging and sovereignty disputes over the South China Sea. Discussions were followed with a tour of USS Michael Murphy, a guided missile destroyer which routinely conducts operations in the Western Pacific including the South China Sea.

Karen Eggleston, FSI senior fellow and director of the Asia Health Policy Program, was one of the discussants on the USPACOM trip. Her research focuses on health policy in Asia, specifically the effects of demographic change and urbanization.

“As a health economist, the visit yielded for me a behind-the-scenes sense of how members of the military respond to pandemics and humanitarian situations, and of the ongoing dialogue with their counterparts in Asian nations,” Eggleston said. “I think that kind of military-to-military engagement provides an area rich with questions and best practices that could in some ways be shared as a model among other nations.”

Other activities on the first day included a briefing by the U.S. Pacific Fleet command, informal presentations and dialogue between the Stanford participants and the USPACOM staff, and working with senior leaders of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces command.

On the second day, the group visited the U.S. Army’s installation at Schofield Barracks. There, they observed a command post simulation and field exercise including units of the 25th Infantry Division. Graduates from the U.S. Army’s jungle survival training school also shared their impressions of applying lessons in the field. Researchers from the Asia-Pacific Center for Strategic Studies (APCSS) joined the Stanford delegation later in the day. Both sides discussed research outcomes and avenues for future exchanges. The day concluded with an extensive tour of USS Mississippi, a Virginia-class attack submarine.


The Stanford delegation takes a tour of USS Mississippi, a Virginia-class attack submarine.

FSI has long engaged military officers through a senior military fellows program. Started in 2009 by the Center for International Security and Cooperation, the program remains active today with five fellows conducting research at Stanford.

Lt. Col. Jose Sumangil, a 2015-16 U.S. Air Force Senior Military Fellow, participated in the Stanford delegation at USPACOM.

“The trip was an excellent opportunity to showcase how the U.S. ‘rebalance to Asia’ strategy is implemented on a day-to-day basis – for example, providing a look into the decision-making process that could occur should a situation arise in the South China Sea,” Sumangil said. “It’s incredibly important to build this kind of understanding among experts studying Asia, and I think we helped do that here.”

USPACOM is one of the largest U.S. military commands with four major service components (U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Army Pacific, U.S. Marine Forces); it is tasked with protecting U.S. people and interests, and enhancing stability in the Asia-Pacific Region.