- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An Australian army general next month will become the first foreign officer to assume a senior role in the U.S. Army’s Pacific command, as the Pentagon shifts its focus to Asia and builds alliances in the region.

On Nov. 4, Maj. Gen. Rick Burns will become deputy commanding general for operations, said Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, commander of Army Pacific.

Gen. Wiercinski was visiting Washington this week from his Hawaii headquarters.

Other U.S. military commands, such as those in Europe and Afghanistan, have foreign officers in senior posts, but Gen. Burns will be the first in Army Pacific.

“Seven of the top ten militaries in the world are in the [Asia-Pacific] region,” Gen. Wiercinski said in a conference call with journalists, adding that most of those militaries are “army dominant.”

Army-to-army relationships are key to existing and new U.S. alliances, he said, noting that “we have doing this for 60 years” with South Korea.

“Relationships matter,” said Gen. Wiercinski. “It’s very easy to say ‘No’ over a computer. It’s very different to say ‘No’ in person, especially to someone you know.”