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Australian general gets key US Army post

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 1, 2013 at 8:26 am •  Published: February 1, 2013

"This is quite unique. You're sort of letting someone in to look in your undies drawer. You want to have trust," he said.

So far, Burr has been to Japan where he partnered with a Japanese general to run an annual U.S.-Japan exercise called Yama Sakura. Soon he'll go to Thailand to do similarly for the Cobra Gold exercise involving six nations: Thailand, the U.S., Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia. Australia will send an observer.

Burr said it's good to have people from different militaries work together daily so they're already used to each other when they have to respond to a natural disaster or go into combat. Nations tend to act as a multinational coalition, whether to deliver humanitarian assistance or send troops to fight, he said.

"My personal view is the more you can organize and practice that in a day-to-day sense, the better you will be at responding to those challenges, which usually happen at short notice," he said.

Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank, said putting a foreign officer in the direct line of command shows "unprecedented closeness."

Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, said Australia has long partnered with major powers holding similar values — first Britain and now the U.S. — to influence the much more populous, sometimes dangerous, economically larger world to its north.

Burr's appointment shows Australia is firmly in the inner circle of U.S. allies. Being there helps Australia influence its partnership with the U.S. and get its voice heard. It also gives Australia access to the latest intelligence, and helps it understand how the U.S. thinks and acts.

"Australia is in," Roy said. "Australia ought to take this as a very positive vote of confidence and signal of strong partnership between the U.S. and Australia," he said.

Burr said he looks forward to taking in Hawaii's water sports during the couple of years he expects to be in Hawaii, like diving, kayaking and surfing. He's already tried stand-up paddle-boarding.

"Despite coming from Australia, I'm not a surfer. But I will be by the time I leave," he said.