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U.S. Army Major experiences life in Australia

U.S. Army Maj. Trent Upton at the Battle of the Coral Sea Memorial in Townsville, Australia. The Battle of the Coral Sea was fought from May 4 through 8, 1942,  and was a major naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and Allied naval and air forces from the United States and Australia.

U.S. Army Maj. Trent Upton at the Battle of the Coral Sea Memorial in Townsville, Australia. The Battle of the Coral Sea was fought from May 4 through 8, 1942, and was a major naval battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II between the Imperial Japanese Navy and Allied naval and air forces from the United States and Australia. (courtesy photo)

FORT EUSTIS, Va. -- Australia has long been known for its beautiful landscapes, diverse wildlife and rich history.

While the opportunity to travel abroad and experience foreign cultures may only be a dream for some, it was a life-changing reality for Maj. Trent Upton, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's liaison officer to the Australian Army's Forces Command Headquarters. For the last eight months, he and his family were able to live and work in Paddington, Australia.

"My wife and I jumped at the chance to give our children the experience of living in another country," said Upton. "It's something some may take for granted, but not something the average American gets the chance to do."

Upton admits he enjoys life overseas, but also understands he has an important mission. As a liaison officer, he works closely with his Australian counterparts to build dynamic relationships which provide the familiarity paramount during joint missions and training.

His mission currently includes initiatives such as brigade redesign, force generation cycle refinement, and Human Dimension. These topics are not only important to TRADOC's efforts to design the "Army of 2020", but also to aid Australia's modernization missions.

"It's all about establishing and maintaining trust. Trust is the underlying strength of any Army, from the buddy team to the strategic level. It's the same with our allies and partners," Upton said. "We a have to understand each other and be confident in each other's capabilities. Building and maintaining trust is critically fundamental to what we do as members of the Army profession."

According to the 2012 Army Posture Statement, building partnerships capacity is a concept for developing future forces while creating stronger relationships with foreign armies. BPC contributes to strengthening international security capacities to deter potential adversaries and prepare for wartime efforts.

"One of the great things about my job is I get to observe how different organizations approach problem solving," Upton said. "I get to see different perspectives on how to tackle the same problem across its subordinate units and other governmental agencies."

Upton, a career Infantry officer, is no stranger to living abroad. His previous duty assignments include a tour in South Korea and four combat tours in Iraq.

Upton's experience, as a career Infantry officer, made him an ideal choice to represent the U.S. Army. Randy Heitman, chief of the Liaison and Exchange Division for the International Army Programs Directorate, said that combat and operational experience plays a large role when selecting an individual for an LNO position.

"In the case of Australia, we wanted to fill the position with a combat arms officer who has had two or three deployments with operational experience," said Heitman. "This helps build credibility with the host nation."

Upton said as an LNO, establishing and maintaining credibility is key.

"You have to make it a point to demonstrate [relevancy and credibility] on a regular basis," he said. "My combat experience helped establish initial credibility with the Australian Army. I've since expanded it through active engagement across a wide variety of activities, such as battle rhythm events, training events and unit functions."

As an American Soldier working alongside Australian forces, Upton shared his surprise at discovering the shared challenges each country faces regarding future operations.

As an LNO, it is critical to impart the current initiatives and guidance as directed by TRADOC. Attending a TRADOC sponsored LNO conference June 11 - 16 at Fort Eustis, Va., provided Upton the most recent initiatives and the chance to talk with other LNO's about their challenges and experiences.

Upton said that living in Australia is better than he thought it would be, and he and his family have taken trips to explore Sydney, Cairns in Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef, and even toured one of its many rain forests.

"The kids really get a kick out of it," Upton said. "My kids love to see the wildlife there. Some areas you can go to where the animals are out in the wild running around."

Upton has also been forever changed by his experiences on the "sunlit plains and mangrove strands."

"For me, it's kind of an experience of a lifetime. I've wanted to go to Australia ever since I was a little kid," said Upton as he described what he likes most about living in Australia. "I've seen things here that, at times, make me have to pinch myself - 'like wow, I'm really here.'"