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American Forces Press Service

Chairman Observes Chinese Land Combat Exercise

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

DALIAN, China, March 24, 2007 – Artillery and mortar fire poured in on one impact area, while attack helicopters launched strikes that absolutely pulverized another.

Tanks and armored personnel carriers raced down tank trails, firing main guns and disgorging soldiers who immediately went on the attack with small arms.

All this – and more – went on under the watchful eyes of Gen. Peter Pace. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a Marine for 40 years, Pace has participated in countless exercises like this one.

But this one was different for the chairman. The troops, tanks, aircraft and armored vehicles were Chinese. Pace observed the exercise at the Dalian Training Area here at the invitation of the leaders of the People’s Liberation Army.

Pace came here to increase understanding and military-to-military cooperation between the United States and China. He met with senior Chinese defense and foreign affairs leaders in Beijing March 22 and 23. After the meetings, he flew to Shenyang, China and was hosted by soldiers of the Military Region. Today, he visited airmen of the 1st Air Division at Anshan Air Base and then flew in a PLA Air Force Boeing 737-300 here to observe the exercise conducted by soldiers of the 39th Army Corps.

Fog on the peninsula jutting out into the Yellow Sea almost cancelled the trip. But it cleared enough to continue. Pace and his staff ate lunch with the leaders of the unit and then climbed a steep hill to observe the exercise. A Chinese senior colonel described what would take place through an interpreter.

And then the crack of artillery began.

The Chinese military ran the exercise without mistake or mishap, even though banks of fog sometimes obscured the terrain. Pace watched as state-of-the-art T-99 tanks rumbled into view and he could hear the squeal of the tracks as they went over the roadwheels.

Chinese soldiers ran out of BMPs – armored personnel carriers – to open lanes through simulated minefields. Some vehicles were “hit” and large clouds of red smoke billowed from them. The follow on forces drove on to the battlefield in older T-80 tanks.

The sights, the noise, the smells, the orders pouring over the radio net were familiar to seasoned U.S. military professionals observing the exercise. Even the feeling as the overpressure of an explosion a mile away reaches the observation point seemed normal. One difference was that in the United States, the friendly forces are called the “blue forces.” In China, the friendly forces are called “red forces.”

Following the exercise, Pace spoke with PLA leaders and then met with the soldiers who put on the demonstration. Pace thanked the soldiers for the extra work they had to put in to make the demonstration so successful. He told them he was honored to be with them, and said the free and truthful exchange of ideas by military professionals can make the world a safer place.

After a group photo, Pace and Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey shook hands with each of the soldiers involved.

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