President Barack Obama on Monday nominated a four-star general to take command of the U.S. Army Pacific, an appointment with far-reaching implications for the nation’s military posture in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Pentagon announced that Lt. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, currently commanding general of the Third Army with headquarters in South Carolina, had been nominated for promotion to full general and assignment to the Pacific Army headquarters at Fort Shafter.

Brooks, whose nomination must be confirmed by the Senate, would replace Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, who plans to retire after 34 years of service, the last two as the U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) commander. A spokesman at Fort Shafter said the change of command had been scheduled for June 5.

Replacing the three-star general with a four-star general means:

  • Bringing the Army’s Pacific command up to the same level as that of the Navy and Air Force, where four-star admirals and generals have long served. The Army has not had a four-star general assigned here since 1974, just after the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam. The service commanders all report to the Pacific Command, led by Admiral Samuel Locklear.
  • Underscoring an enhanced role for the Army in the Obama Administration’s “pivot” or “rebalancing” of U.S. forces to the Asia-Pacific region. While some shift of forces to this area is underway, the pivot calls for more high level attention being directed to issues in Asia such as the rise of China. Army leaders have said that budget priority is being given to forces in Asia.
  • Strengthening U.S. representation in Asia where armies are the predominant military service in most nations. In cultures where “face,” rank, and position count for much, a four star American general has, subtly, more influence than a three-star, no matter his record or competence. A key responsibility of American officers today is forging relations with the forces of other nations.
  • Trimming the U.S. force structure in South Korea and proceeding with a gradual effort to bring U.S. Forces Korea under the Pacific Command and its components, including USARPAC. The Army has had a full general in Seoul since the Korean War ended in 1953; that post may be downgraded now that a four star general has been named at Fort Shafter.

Making the USARPAC commander a full general follows the recent naming of an Australian major general, Richard Burr, as a deputy commanding general of USARPAC. That rare appointment, in which Burr has become to all intents and purposes an American major general, is aimed at bringing another set of eyes and experiences to the U.S. Army in this region.

Brooks, 54, has had a swift rise in the Army. At West Point, he was the first captain of cadets, the highest ranking cadet, and the first African-American to attain that rank. When he was promoted to brigadier general, he was the youngest general in the Army. He was a senior operations officer in the Gulf war and later was chief of public affairs for the Army.

About the Author

  • Richard Halloran
    Richard Halloran, who writes the weekly column called “The Rising East,” contributes articles on Asia and US relations with Asia to publications in America and Asia. His career can be divided into thirds: One third studying and reporting on Asia, another third writing about national security, and the last third on investigative reporting or general assignment. He did three tours in Asia as a correspondent, for Business Week, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, and was a military correspondent for The New York Times for ten years. He is the author of Japan: Images and Realities and To Arm a Nation: Rebuilding America’s Endangered Defenses, and four other books. As a paratrooper, Halloran served in the US, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. He has been awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting, the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense, the U.S. Army’s Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, and Japan’s Order of the Sacred Treasure. He holds an AB from Dartmouth