Major General Richard “Rick” Maxwell Burr of the Australian Defense Force has been appointed a joint deputy commander of US Army Pacific, scheduled to take up his post in November. A career special forces soldier and veteran of both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Major General Burr’s responsibilities include contingency operations for 60,000 US soldiers deployed throughout the Asia Pacific. In addition, he will oversee the development of annual training and exercise plans and coordinate engagement within South Asia and Oceania on civil military relations and humanitarian disaster relief operations. US Army Pacific (USARPAC) is responsible for US soldiers in the Asia Pacific region with the exception of South Korea, and this appointment is the first time the US Army has hosted a coalition partner general in a strategic command position.
The announcement was made by US Army Secretary John McHugh in Hawai‘i on August 20, and is another indication of the close relationship between the US and Australian militaries. McHugh told reporters, “The Australians have been one of, if not the most, critical partners in places like Afghanistan. We’ve got a lot of great allies, but clearly Australia has been chief amongst them.” Major General Roger Matthews, who will also share deputy commanding responsibilities, explained that Burr, a two-star general, “is very familiar with US formations and how we train, so we can really capitalize on him as a regional expert and somebody who can understand the training and the intricacies of dealing with allies in the region, so it's a huge win and a huge plus for us." Burr and Matthews will both report to Lieutenant General Francis J. Wiercinski, a three-star general, and commander of US Army Pacific, which is headquartered at Fort Shafter, Hawai‘i.
The US and Australian militaries have a long history of cooperation and engagement in every major US action since the end of WWII. Major General Burr’s appointment is seen as an extension of this close cooperation and another component of the US military rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific, which includes a rotational deployment of US Marines, aircraft and ships in Australia's Northern Territory.