In response to a request by the Department of Health and Human Services -- and as an added prudent measure to ensure the nation is ready to respond quickly, effectively, and safely in the event of additional Ebola cases in the United States -- Secretary Hagel today ordered his Northern Command Commander, Gen. Chuck Jacoby, to prepare and train a 30-person expeditionary medical support team that could, if required, provide short-notice assistance to civilian medical professionals in the United States.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby issued a statement saying Gen. Jacoby is now working with the military services to source and to form this joint team. It will consist of 20 critical care nurses, 5 doctors trained in infectious disease, and 5 trainers in infectious disease protocols.
Once formed, team members will be sent to Fort Sam Houston in Texas for up to seven days of specialized training in infection control and personal protective equipment (PPE). That training is expected to start within the next week or so and will be provided by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
Upon conclusion of training, team members will remain in a "prepare to deploy" status for 30 days, available to be sent to other CONUS locations as required. They will not be sent to West Africa or elsewhere overseas and will be called upon domestically only if deemed prudent by our public health professionals.
Identifying, training, and preparing forces in advance of potential requests ensures that we can respond quickly and is analogous to how we prepare DoD personnel in advance of other potential civil support missions, such as hurricane relief and wildland firefighting.
Secretary Hagel is committed to ensuring DoD is prepared to provide appropriate capabilities, as required, to support our government's response to this deadly disease. He is extraordinarily proud of the skill and professionalism of our servicemen and women and of the unique capabilities they bring to this important effort. As always, their safety and security will remain foremost on his mind.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, honored the USO and service members for their volunteerism and service at the 2014 USO Gala here.
“This time in which we live is as challenging and uncertain, and complicated, as I suspect, any time during our lifetimes,” Hagel said.
Particularly important, he said, is the strength of the USO, with its vibrancy, character and values which it provides as it helps bring comfort to our men and women in uniform and their families.
Hagel thanked the USO for representing “a certain certainty” during “uncertain times,” and congratulated their nominees for volunteer and service members of the year.
“I want to thank the enlisted men and women who are being honored tonight,” he said, “and everyone here who serves his or her country, and [or] has served his or her country.”
Hagel, who served as USO president from 1987 to 1990, praised the organization’s new leader, J.D. Crouch, and its previous, Sloan D. Gibson, who now serves as deputy secretary for the Department of Veteran Affairs.
“I’ve known J.D. for many years -- he will be a terrific leader for this institution,” he said. “You’ve had many good leaders in this institution.”
“Sloan Gibson went on and continues to make big contributions to his country,” Hagel said. “As I said … I’m very proud that I had a small part to play in helping continue to build this institution many years ago.”
“I have been a strong supporter [ever] since -- not just as secretary of defense -- but as a former soldier,” he said, “but probably more importantly, as an American. All of America recognizes you and what you do, and how important you are.”
Gen. Dempsey expressed his pride in serving with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and pointed to numerous challenges the military now faces around the world.
“We have a lot going on in case you haven’t noticed,” Dempsey said. “If I’d had this conversation with you … four months ago, we wouldn’t be talking about insecurity in Europe, we wouldn’t be talking about this thing -- [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], and we wouldn’t be talking about Ebola -- and here we are.”
“By the way,” he said, “the Joint Chiefs and the men and women who serve -- we’re going to figure it out.”
The chairman noted even as service members are deployed on missions “we already know about,” others are preparing to carry out others.
“We’ve got people packing their bags to go to Europe to reassure our allies or go to Iraq or Kuwait to make sure that this threat of ISIL doesn’t continue to expand, and to go to places like Senegal and Liberia to make sure that this disease is contained, and therefore, doesn’t become a threat to the homeland.”
The chairman lauded the USO for its commitment to service members and assured they would continue to have work to do in taking care of America’s troops and their families.
“So [to] the USO -- I hope you didn’t think we were going to put you out of work,” Dempsey said. “You’re going to have some work to do, and we’re proud to be partners with you in doing it.”
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallDoDNew
The fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists will be a “long-term campaign,” President Barack Obama said today.
Obama spoke here at a meeting hosted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey that featured participation by 21 foreign chiefs of defense. The purpose of the meeting was to coordinate strategies in the efforts against ISIL.
There are no “quick fixes” in the battle against ISIL, Obama said. But with some 60 nations contributing to the coalition, he added, the world is united against the terrorist group.
United ‘to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL’
“We are united in our goal to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL so that it's no longer a threat to Iraq, to the region, or the international community,” the president said.
The foreign nations represented at the meeting included Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
There have been “important successes” in the coalition’s efforts, Obama said, such as stopping ISIL’s advance on Irbil, saving civilians from massacres on Mount Sinjar, retaking the Mosul Dam, and destroying ISIL targets and fighters across Iraq and Syria.
"We’re also focused on the fighting that is taking place in Iraq's Anbar Province, and we're deeply concerned about the situation in and around the Syrian town of Kobani, which underscores the threat that ISIL poses in both Iraq and Syria," the president said.
Coalition airstrikes will continue in both these areas, he said.
“As with any military effort, there will be days of progress and there are going to be periods of setback, but our coalition is united behind this long-term effort,” Obama said.
The situation is not a “classic” conflict in which the enemy is defeated in the battlefield and surrenders, he said.
Coalition battling ‘an ideological strain of extremism’
“What we’re also fighting is an ideological strain of extremism that has taken root in too many parts of the region,” Obama said.
Other U.S. defense participants included Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command; Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel III, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command and Navy Vice Adm. Frank C. Pandolfe, the director for the Joint Staff’s Strategic Plans and Policy directorate at the, Pentagon.
“One of the interesting things to hear from our military leadership is the recognition that this cannot simply be a military campaign,” said Obama, noting the effort must include all the “dimensions of our power” that bolster economic and political stability in the region.
ISIL poses a “significant threat” to the people of Iraq and Syria and to the surrounding countries and beyond, including the United States and Europe, Obama said. Australia, he said, has already seen terrorist networks trying to “infiltrate and impact population centers.”
An important aspect in the campaign against ISIL is continuing humanitarian aid to all populations that have been impacted, Obama said. He pointed out that Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey have been bearing an “extraordinary burden” due to the situation with displaced persons that began with the civil war in Syria.
While some of the countries represented in the room are “really stepping up” and doing what is necessary to contain the Ebola epidemic, the “world as a whole is not doing enough,” Obama said.
Nations will have to do more, he said, because unless the disease is contained at the source, it will continue to threaten “hundreds of thousands of lives,” and could lead to economic and political destabilization down the road.
U.S. military assists Ebola fight in West Africa
He pledged that the United States will continue its efforts to fight Ebola. He said “enormous strides” have been made in standing up a U.S. military operation in Western Africa to build supply lines and bring supplies, equipment and workers into Liberia and Sierra Leone.
In the United States, the administration is “surging” resources into Dallas, he said, after a nurse contracted the disease after treating a man who had the disease and has since died.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with her and all the courageous health care workers around the country who put themselves in challenging situations in treating this disease,” Obama said.
The lessons learned in Dallas will be applied to hospitals and health care centers throughout the country, he said. He noted, however, that an outbreak in the United States is unlikely because of the nation's strong health care infrastructure.
The 2014 Warrior Games, bringing together more than 200 wounded, ill or injured U.S. service members and veterans opened here today, with a senior Defense Department official lauding all those competing as an inspiration to everyone who wears the uniform.
“Through these games we celebrate athletes -- the warriors -- and we recognize your service and your accomplishments and we applaud them,” said Jessica L. Garfola Wright, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness as she opened the six days of games.
The competition includes seven sports -- archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball.
“Athletes, I will tell you -- you inspire me,” Wright said. “And you inspire your fellow service members, and your families and your friends. Americans everywhere, she said, will use one word and that’s just awesome. You are awesome.”
Wright said she was honored to represent Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who she said sent his best wishes to all the athletes.
“Your courage, your strength and your perseverance -- it is awesome,” she said. “Thank you for your service in uniform to the United States of America. Thank you for your sustained excellence in the face of adversity.”
Wright said the warrior-athletes had so much to be proud of and “it just simply gave me chills to see you march in” to the opening ceremony.
The undersecretary also expressed her gratitude to the families and friends of the competitors.
“It comes down to the support you give them. The support, the love, the motivation that you give them to get them through the very hard times that they have.”
Wright also thanked the U.S. Olympic Committee for its commitment to the athletes, and specifically, Charlie Huebner, vice president of paralympic development for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation.
She also thanked the games’ sponsors, including Deloitte and the the USO. “You are partners not only with the U.S. Olympic Committee, but with [the Defense Department] and I appreciate your support.”
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallDoDNews)
U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Friday and today, using fighter and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct seven airstrikes. Separately, U.S. military forces used attack aircraft to conduct three airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq.
In Syria, an ISIL vehicle was destroyed south of Al-Hasakah. Also near Al-Hasakah several buildings that were part of an ISIL garrison were destroyed. An ISIL command and control facility near Manbij was damaged. An ISIL building and two armed vehicles at the Kobani border crossing were destroyed. An ISIL held airfield, an ISIL garrison and an ISIL training camp near Ar Raqqah were damaged.
To conduct these strikes, the U.S. employed U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy attack and fighter aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. In addition, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates also participated in these strikes. All aircraft exited the strike areas safely.
In Iraq, three airstrikes southwest of Irbil destroyed four ISIL armed vehicles and destroyed an ISIL fighting position. All aircraft exited the strike areas safely.
The strikes were conducted as part of the President's comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.
U.S. military forces and partner nations, including Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, undertook military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria overnight, according to a U.S. Central Command news release.
A mix of fighters, bombers, remotely piloted aircraft and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles conducted 14 strikes against ISIL targets.
The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple ISIL targets in the vicinity of the towns of Ar Raqqah in north central Syria, Dayr az Zawr and Abu Kamal in eastern Syria and Al Hasakah in northeastern Syria. The targets included ISIL fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles, the news release said.
The United States employed 47 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea, which were operating from international waters in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf. In addition, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighters, bombers and remotely piloted aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations participated in the airstrikes.
Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates also participated in or supported the airstrikes against ISIL targets. All aircraft safely exited the strike areas.
Also, in Iraq yesterday, U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists, using attack aircraft to conduct four airstrikes. The airstrikes destroyed two ISIL Humvees, an ISIL armed vehicle and an ISIL fighting position southwest of Kirkuk. All aircraft exited the strike areas safely. To date, U.S. Central Command has conducted a total of 194 airstrikes across Iraq against ISIL.
The United States conducted these strikes as part of the President's comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL. Going forward, the U.S. military will continue to conduct targeted airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq as local forces go on the offensive against this terrorist group, the release said.
Separately, the United States also took action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al-Qaida veterans known as the Khorasan Group. The group has established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations, the release said. These strikes were undertaken only by U.S. assets.
In total, U.S. Central Command forces conducted eight strikes against Khorasan Group targets located west of Aleppo, to include training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.
The Navy today announced it has identified Lt. Nathan Poloski as the missing F/A-18C Hornet aviator and declared him presumed deceased.
Poloski, 26, hailed from Lake Arrowhead, California.
On Sept. 12, Poloski was involved in an apparent collision between the F/A-18C Hornet he was flying and another Hornet aircraft during routine flight operations in the western Pacific Ocean. The other pilot involved in the incident was rapidly located and received medical attention.
After an extensive search, the Navy yesterday ended search-and-rescue efforts for Poloski.
A 2009 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Poloski reported to Strike Fighter Squadron 94, based in Lemoore, California, in April, 2014.
"Nathan was an outstanding person, naval officer and aviator," said Navy Cmdr. Michael Langbehn, the commanding officer of Poloski’s squadron. "My personal thoughts and prayers are for his family, friends and shipmates as they endure this immeasurable loss."
Following the apparent collision the Navy conducted an extensive search for Poloski, covering more than 3,000 square miles using the USS Carl Vinson, guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, guided-missile destroyers USS Gridley, USS Sterett, USS Dewey, helicopters assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 15 and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 73, P-8 Poseidon aircraft from Guam, and satellite imagery.
The search was unable to locate or recover any remains of the missing aviator.
Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 94, Carrier Air Wing 17, and USS Carl Vinson will hold a memorial service on board USS Carl Vinson to honor the life and service of Lt. Poloski at a date and time to be determined.
The cause of the incident remains under investigation.
Visitors and special guests watched today as members of the U.S. Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), with the help of War of 1812 re-enactors, hoisted a 15-star, 15-stripe, full-size replica Star-Spangled Banner flag over Fort McHenry here at the “By Dawn’s Early Light” flag-raising ceremony.
Star-Spangled Banner replica
At precisely 9 a.m., guns blasted and the crowd of onlookers fell silent as service members raised a 30-foot by 42-foot replica of the flag that 200 years ago inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” which would later become America’s national anthem.
“It is a great pleasure for me to be here at this historic site and historic city of Baltimore as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of our Star-Spangle Banner,” said former Secretary of State and retired Army Gen. Colin L. Powell, the event’s guest speaker.
The American flag is “a piece of cloth I have loved all my life and have served under for over 40 years,’ Powell added.
The special ceremony capped a weeklong series of events at the fort for Baltimore’s Star-Spangled Spectacular, a celebration commemorating the bicentennial of the Battle of Baltimore and the national anthem.
The fort played host to a number of special events and activities including commemorative ceremonies, living history demonstrations and interpretive programs during the Star-Spangled Spectacular.
The city’s celebration, which concludes Sept. 16, also includes visits by more than 30 ships from the U.S. and foreign nations, as well as an airshow performance by U.S. Navy's Blue Angels.
President Barack Obama is slated to visit U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Sept. 17.
Centcom’s area of responsibility includes 20 countries in the Middle East and Central and South Asia, including Iraq and Syria.
At Centcom, the president will receive a briefing from his top commanders, and thank the men and women who will partner with others in the region to carry out the counterterror strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL.
Following the president’s meetings, he will deliver a statement to the press.
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, traveled to London to cheer on Team USA athletes as they compete in the 2014 Invictus Games.
More than 400 competitors from 14 nations are participating in the inaugural Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded warriors to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their countries.
Games named after English poet’s work
The games are named after William Earnest Henley’s 1875 poem titled “Invictus,” which he wrote while recovering from an intensive surgery that saved his second leg from being amputated. The games, which are taking place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Lee Valley Athletics Centre, began Sept. 10 and run through tomorrow.
The United States is one of 14 teams participating, and includes 98 military athletes: 22 from the Army, 20 from the Marine Corps, 22 from the Navy, 22 from the Air Force and 12 from U.S. Special Operations Command. Of the service members, 53 are active duty and 45 are veterans.
Praising athletes’ energy, spirit, resilience
Team USA’s athletes “are incredible,” Dr. Biden told NBC “Today” show host Lester Holt this morning.
She praised the athletes’ “energy, and their positive spirit and their resilience.”
“They make Americans so proud,” she added.
Meeting Prince Harry
Dr. Biden watched some basketball at the Invictus Games today with Britain’s Prince Harry.
After attending the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Prince Harry was inspired to host an international adaptive sports event in the United Kingdom. The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, who holds the rank of captain and continues to serve in Britain's armed forces, announced the 2014 Invictus Games in March.
Dr. Biden commented on Prince Harry's role in founding the Invictus Games. The prince, she said, “saw our Warrior Games in Colorado, and so now he's brought it to a global scale, and we have 14 countries and 400 athletes competing and it's been great.”
Pre-games barbecue for USA athletes
Last week, Dr. Biden and the Vice President hosted a barbecue for Team USA athletes at their Naval Observatory home in Washington, D.C. In her welcoming remarks, Dr. Biden told the athletes that the barbecue “is not just a way to celebrate your achievements in making the U.S. Team; it is also a small way of saying thank you -- to our heroes -- thank you for your service and your sacrifice.”
“You inspire me ... you inspire all Americans,” she added.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden launched the “Joining Forces” initiative that supports U.S. service members, military veterans, and their families.
After an extensive search, the Navy today has ended search-and-rescue efforts for the pilot of one of the F/A-18C Hornet aircraft that crashed Sept. 12 approximately 250 nautical miles off the coast of Wake Island.
The pilot assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 94 has been presumed deceased.
"This is an exceptionally difficult time for the friends and family of the missing pilot and the Navy community," said Navy Rear Adm. Christopher Grady, commander of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group. "We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support from the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy."
The identity of the pilot will not be released until the family notification process is complete.
Navy units involved in the search-and-rescue efforts included USS Carl Vinson, USS Bunker Hill, USS Gridley, USS Sterett, and USS Dewey, along with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 15 and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 73 and P-8s from Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron 5 in Guam.
The two F/A-18C aircraft, one assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 94 and the other assigned to VFA 113, had launched from the flight deck and were in the process of proceeding to their initial stations when they apparently collided approximately seven miles from the ship.
One pilot was recovered by helicopter shortly after the crash and transported to USS Carl Vinson for medical care. The rescued pilot has since been released from medical facilities aboard the ship.
VFA 94 and VFA 113, both based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, are part of Carrier Air Wing 17, assigned to the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group.
The cause of the accident remains under investigation.
U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Iraq, employing attack aircraft to conduct two airstrikes yesterday in support of Iraqi security forces near the Mosul Dam.
In total, the strikes destroyed an ISIL mortar emplacement and an ISIL armed vehicle. All aircraft exited the strike areas safely.
These strikes were conducted under authority to protect U.S. personnel and facilities, support humanitarian efforts, and support Iraqi forces acting in furtherance of these objectives while defending their country against ISIL terrorists.
U.S. Central Command has conducted a total of 160 airstrikes across Iraq.
In his weekly address issued today, President Barack Obama discussed the strategy of his “targeted, relentless counterterrorism campaign against ISIL that combines American air power, contributions from allies and partners, and more support to forces that are fighting these terrorists on the ground.”
The American public, the president said in his address, “can be proud of our men and women in uniform who are serving in this effort.”
Here is the text of the president’s address:
As Commander in Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. And I’ve made it clear that those who threaten the United States will find no safe haven. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, we took out Osama bin Laden, much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and leaders of al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia. We’ve prevented terrorist attacks, saved American lives and made our homeland more secure.
Today, the terrorist threat is more diffuse, from al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists -- like ISIL in Syria and Iraq. As I said this week, our intelligence community has not yet detected specific ISIL plots against our homeland. But its leaders have repeatedly threatened the United States. And, if left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States. So we’re staying vigilant. And we’re moving ahead with our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist organization.
To meet a threat like this, we have to be smart. We have to use our power wisely. And we have to avoid the mistakes of the past. American military power is unmatched, but this can’t be America’s fight alone. And the best way to defeat a group like ISIL isn’t by sending large numbers of American combat forces to wage a ground war in the heart of the Middle East. That wouldn’t serve our interests. In fact, it would only risk fueling extremism even more.
What’s needed now is a targeted, relentless counterterrorism campaign against ISIL that combines American air power, contributions from allies and partners, and more support to forces that are fighting these terrorists on the ground. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.
We’re moving ahead with our campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists, and we’re prepared to take action against ISIL in Syria as well. The additional American forces I’ve ordered to Iraq will help Iraqi and Kurdish forces with the training, intelligence and equipment they need to take the fight to these terrorists on the ground. We’re working with Congress to expand our efforts to train and equip the Syrian opposition. We’ll continue to strengthen our defenses here at home. And we’ll keep providing the humanitarian relief to help Iraqi civilians who have been driven from their homes and who remain in extreme danger.
Because we’re leading the right way, more nations are joining our coalition. This week, Arab nations agreed to strengthen their support for the new Iraqi government and to do their part in the fight against ISIL, including aspects of the military campaign. Saudi Arabia will join the effort to help train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces. And retired Marine general John Allen -- who during the Iraq war worked with Sunnis in Iraq as they fought to reclaim their communities from terrorists -- will serve as our special envoy to help build and coordinate our growing coalition.
Today, every American can be proud of our men and women in uniform who are serving in this effort. When our airstrikes helped break the siege of the Iraqi town of Amerli [Ah-MER-lee], one Kurdish fighter on the ground said, “It would have been absolutely impossible without the American planes.” One resident of that city said -- “Thank you, America.”
Today we’re showing the world the best of American leadership. We will protect our people. We will stand with partners who defend their countries and rally other nations to meet a common threat. And here at home -- thirteen years after our country was attacked -- we continue to stand tall and proud. Because we’re Americans. We don’t give in to fear. We carry on. And we will never waver in the defense of the country we love.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed many issues during his third Facebook Town Hall today.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey logged onto his account from his E-Ring office in the Pentagon and answered questions from a wide spectrum of Americans and discussed several topics, including Russia, Iraq, Syria, the Asia-Pacific region, and why Americans should serve in the military.
Dempsey said he enjoys the opportunity to speak directly to people via Facebook.
Helpful interaction on Facebook
“It’s always helpful to me to gauge what Americans are concerned about and to get a sense of what they feel is important,” the general said during a pause in the action.
Afghanistan led off the Town Hall. The chairman returned from one of his periodic visits to the country last month and said there is progress in Afghanistan, especially with the Afghan national security forces.
“During each visit, I see growing confidence among the ANSF, our coalition, and an incredible willingness to sustain gains and mature institutions,” he said.
Resilient and capable Afghan forces
Afghan forces have proven to be resilient and capable, the chairman said.
Yet, “while Afghanistan is headed in the right direction toward a fully-functioning inclusive government, the path is neither a straight line nor is it short,” Dempsey said.
U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, he said, include disrupting al-Qaida, supporting Afghan forces, and giving the Afghan people the opportunity to succeed on their own.
Radical, brutal ISIL terrorists
Many people asked the chairman about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The terror group’s avowed goal is to recreate the ancient kingdom of Sham, which once ruled the land that now makes up Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Kuwait.
“ISIL is radical in its ideology, brutal in its tactics, and closed to all but those who adhere to their narrow and exclusive world view,” Dempsey said. “Freedom is antithetical to ISIL and that’s what makes them dangerous. The U.S. military considers ISIL an immediate threat initially to the region, our partners, and to the United States of America in the longer term.”
The U.S. military has developed a strategy with a series of options on how to initially contain, continue to disrupt, and ultimately defeat ISIL, the chairman said.
“While the military will certainly be part of this fight, there is no military-only solution, and it cannot be accomplished unilaterally,” he said. “ISIL will be defeated when the populations on which they have imposed themselves reject them. Our actions are intended to move in that direction.”
Russian actions in Ukraine
There was much interest about Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and many questioners wanted to know if Dempsey regards Russia as a partner or an adversary.
“Russia is competing with the NATO alliance for influence in Europe, and they have chosen to compete with force,” Dempsey said. “They are on a dangerous and provocative path. We have many areas where we should partner with Russia -- for the good of our two countries and the good of the world. The months ahead will reveal the answer to your question.”
Dempsey also fielded questions on concerns about an erroneous report on service members on food stamps.
“I very much understand that some American families, both civilian and military, continue to face financial hardships,” he said. “That said, our service members are not the new face of poverty, and the recently reported estimates of military households served by food assistance programs are inaccurate.”
Troops are most-valued asset
Service members are the department’s most-valued asset, the chairman said.
“I remain committed to caring for them and ensuring they are adequately compensated for their jobs and sacrifices,” Dempsey said. “In addition to our broad pay and compensation package, quality of life programs and services and non-pay benefits, we have numerous programs in place to assist those whose family situation places them in extraordinary need.”
Dempsey placed a website for one of these programs -- the Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance Program -- into his answer. Military families can find additional information at https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/fssa/home.do .
Recommends military service
A questioner asked Dempsey if he believes military service is a good career option for young Americans.
“I’ve actually commissioned all three of my children into the Army, so your question resonates with me,” Dempsey said.
Military service means “a sense of belonging, meaning, and variety,” the chairman said.
Dempsey added, “Military friendships are lifetime friendships, and the experiences are lifetime experiences.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)
The NATO summit that began today in Wales will be one of the most important summits in the alliance’s history, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today.
The summit is taking place at a crucial time, he said, adding that the alliance is faced with a dramatically changed security environment.
“To the east, Russia is attacking Ukraine,” Rasmussen said. To the southeast, we see the rise of a terrorist organization -- the so-called Islamic State -- that has committed horrific atrocities. To the south, we see violence, insecurity, instability. Here at the summit we will take important steps to counter these threats and to strengthen the defense of our allies.”
Readiness action plan
The secretary general said that during the summit he expects NATO member states will agree to a readiness action plan aimed at speeding NATO’s response in defense of its allies.
“On defense investment, we will turn the corner and reverse the trend of declining defense budgets,” he said.
Also planned are discussions on what individual allies and NATO can do to counter the threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
NATO hasn’t yet received a request from the Iraqi government for assistance in battling ISIL, the secretary general said. “In that respect let me remind you that NATO has assisted Iraq in the past,” he added. “We had a training mission in Iraq until 2011, and if the Iraqi government were to request resumption of such training activities I think NATO allies would consider such a request seriously.”
Rasmussen said NATO member states also will take steps to enhance cooperation with Ukraine and other partner nations. NATO welcomes all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis there, he noted.
“Having said that, I also have to say that what counts is what is actually happening on the ground,” he said. “And we are still witnessing, unfortunately, Russian involvement in destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine. So we continue to call on Russia to pull back its troops from Ukrainian borders, stop the flow of weapons and fighters into Ukraine, stop the support for armed militants in Ukraine and engage in a constructive political process. That would be a genuine effort to facilitate a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will meet with NATO leaders today to adopt a joint declaration that will outline concrete steps to enhance the NATO-Ukraine partnership, Rasmussen said.
NATO members also will discuss what the future relationship with Afghanistan will look like after the International Security Assistance Force mission ends this year, he added.
“This summit will shape future NATO,” Rasmussen said. “It will demonstrate our resolve, our unity, our solidarity.
“Surrounded by an arc of crises,” he continued, “our alliance, our transatlantic community, represents an island of security, stability and prosperity. And here at the summit we will strengthen our transatlantic bond as the bedrock of security in Europe and North America.”
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)
American military planes along with Australian, French and British aircraft airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amirli in Iraq, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement issued today.
U.S. aircraft also conducted airstrikes against nearby ISIL terrorists in order to support the humanitarian mission, Kirby said in his statement.
Kirby’s statement reads as follows:
“At the request of the Government of Iraq, the United States military today airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amirli, home to thousands of Shia Turkomen who have been cut off from receiving food, water, and medical supplies for two months by ISIL. The United States Air Force delivered this aid alongside aircraft from Australia, France and the United Kingdom who also dropped much needed supplies.
“In conjunction with this airdrop, U.S. aircraft conducted coordinated airstrikes against nearby ISIL terrorists in order to support this humanitarian assistance operation.
“These military operations were conducted under authorization from the Commander-in-Chief to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and to prevent an ISIL attack on the civilians of Amirli. The operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli.
“The U.S. military will continue to assess the effectiveness of these operations and work with the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as international partners including the Government of Iraq, the United Nations, and non-government organizations to provide humanitarian assistance in Iraq as needed.”
U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in support of Iraqi Security Force operations, using fighter and attack aircraft to conduct six airstrikes in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam, according to a U.S. Central Command news release issued today.
The strikes destroyed or damaged three ISIL Humvees, one ISIL vehicle, and multiple IED emplacements. All aircraft exited the strike area safely.
These strikes were conducted under authority to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense force operations, as well as to protect critical infrastructure, U.S. personnel and facilities, and support humanitarian efforts.
Since Aug. 8, U.S. Central Command has conducted a total of 90 airstrikes across Iraq. Of those 90 strikes, 57 have been in support of Iraqi forces near the Mosul Dam.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today spoke via telephone with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Valeriy Heletey and discussed Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s recent remarks noting that the Russian aid convoy to Ukraine was not a military intervention, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.
Kirby’s statement reads as follows:
“Secretary Hagel spoke today by phone with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Valeriy Heletey.
“Secretary Hagel relayed Minister Shoygu’s recent remarks on the Russian aid convoy, and Minister Shoygu’s “guarantee” that the aid convoy was not a military intervention. Secretary Hagel conveyed that he told Minister Shoygu Russia’s vehicles and forces along the border continued to escalate tensions and stressed that any discussions about potential ceasefire agreements must include Ukraine.
“Minister Heletey reported increased violence in Ukraine’s east as a result of Russia’s ongoing supply of weapons and personnel into Ukraine, and spoke about recent attacks in which innocent civilians were killed and wounded.
“Finally, Secretary Hagel and Minister Heletey discussed the status of ongoing deliveries of United States military assistance to Ukraine. Minister Heletey thanked the secretary for the continued assistance of the United States.”
The U.S. Postal Service’s Atlanta-based Mail Recovery Center processes nearly 100 million pieces of lost mail a year.
As service members learn more about the center’s efforts to return belongings to their owners, success stories such as that of one veteran sailor’s experience in retrieving his mail will, perhaps, become more widespread.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class James Stilipec, a mass communications specialist who serves as an American Forces Radio and Television Service radio liaison at the Defense Media Activity here, shared his story of discovering the Mail Recovery Center and how the committed professionals there assisted him in finding a box he had mailed while he was serving in Afghanistan.
“It was a fantastic experience for me after what I went through,” he said. “I had literally just given up on it. I made one more stab at contacting Kabul, and they said they hadn’t seen it. Nobody from my unit had seen it, and they had moved on to Qatar.”
Stilipec, initially deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, before transferring to Kabul and eventually redeploying home, said he had virtually given up hope of seeing his belongings after a frustrating and fruitless search.
“I mailed it from Kandahar to Kabul in late October [or] early November ,” he said. “Then I went to Kabul, and my other boxes all showed up in four or five days -- maybe a week. So I called back to Kandahar, and they said, ‘Oh it came back.’ I think I had the wrong ZIP code on it or something like that, because the ZIP codes are really close together and [I have] bad handwriting.”
After providing his address again, Stilipec said, he waited and it was getting close to Christmas with no sign of his box. Then it was time to redeploy.
“I got back to the [United States] around Jan. 3 or 4,” he said. “So I’m home and I tried reaching back in late January, and I think I tried again in February.
“It was late March that I tried to reach back to Kandahar for the last time,” he continued. “I actually talked to the guy again who had spoken to me the first time.”
After making those calls, the veteran sailor said, he was just ready to give up when he received an email from the Mail Recovery Center. The sender wrote that she had a package that might belong to him and asked him to contact her.
“It was almost like it was going to be an April Fool’s joke or something,” Stilipec said. Because the email had no distinctive markings or information on it, he added, he was a little suspicious at first.
Stilipec said he found the Mail Recovery Center online and confirmed it did exist, although he noticed the email had provided a different phone number. “Neither number worked,” he said. “I tried calling both of these numbers and it wouldn’t connect, so now I’m really suspicious. I went, ‘OK, this is kind of weird.’ The next day, I did a little more research online. My wife and I are like, ‘It has to be it. What else could it possibly be?’”
Replying to the center’s email, Stilipec said, he asked for a description of the box’s contents, and he got an answer saying the box contained a Rubik’s Cube and a digital camera.
“I said, ‘That’s my stuff,’” he added. “I was just so thrilled.”
It was then that the North Pole, Alaska, native learned tips from the Mail Recovery Center staff member for preventing mail and packages from being lost from the MRC staff.
“She told me about … the little things that the military could to do to try and ensure that their stuff doesn’t get lost in the mail, like putting a better tag on it [and] putting contact or location information inside,” he said. “What they’ve got to do is crack these things open and try to figure out some information or where the information is from.”
Fortunately, Stilipec noted, he included his personal email address on his customs form, which the Mail Recovery Center used to get in touch with him.
“It was just thrilling to get the stuff back,” he said. “They repackaged it, so there’s this really nice box sitting on my porch when I got home. I brought it inside and cracked it open. There’s this box that has been to heck and back. I mean, it was so torn up.”
Nothing was missing, and nothing was broken, Stilipec said, and everything was in great condition.
Following his experience, Stilipec offered his own advice to assist other service members in avoiding the same situation.
“Make sure you write clearly on the exterior of the box,” he said. “Use a ballpoint pen so it gets through all those multiple copies. But have another address inside the box. My wife used to do that. I would get boxes in Afghanistan, and I’d be like, ‘Why did she put the address in here again?’ Now I know why.”
In addition, he said, make sure to include a good return address and have an awareness of where the box is being sent in case it does get sent back.
“Realize the military postal system is an extension of the U.S. postal system,” Stilipec said. People should be sure to include some identifying information with the package, he added, and should do the same if putting items in storage.
Stilipec expressed his gratitude to the Mail Recovery Center staff for their efforts to find him and return his personal belongings.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “This was my first digital SLR camera, which I purchased in Iceland. And my Rubik’s Cube -- it was my sister’s, She gave it to me. I’ve carted that thing all over the world throughout my career. I re-did the stickers on it one year. I’ve put some heart and soul into that Rubik’s Cube. I was so happy to get it back. They were some nice people.”
Stilipec said the center’s staff was “thrilled” to find him and get his items back to him.
“It’s just great to know that there’s these people dedicated to trying to get the mail where it needs to be,” he said. “They’re still trying to do their job, and they still care. They’ll do what they can to get the mail where it needs to be.”
(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallDoDNews)
Transparency has to be a watchword for the intelligence community if it is to retain the public’s trust, Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said here yesterday.
“What transparency does is, transparency breeds trust,” Flynn told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum. And the intelligence community cannot afford to lose the trust of the American people, he added.
“When it happened in the past, this community got gutted and we failed the country again,” Flynn said.
The damage done by Edward Snowden was terrible, the director said. "This country can sustain big body blows, we will sustain this one, but … there will be risk,” Flynn said.
Since the leaks by Snowden, he said, the intelligence community has worked to correct itself.
“This is about transparency, security, civil liberties, our ability to protect this nation and trust. And I think the most [important] of all those is trust,” Flynn said.
The American public will regain its trust in the intelligence community if they know the community is abiding by laws approved by Congress, the executive branch and the judiciary, he said. There needs to be a national conversation about the role of intelligence, the general added.
Many of the threats and issues the intelligence community deals with every day are likely to be around for a long time, the director said. The nation is not safer for having been at war for the past 13 years, Flynn added.
“We have a whole gang of new actors out there that are far more extreme than al-Qaida,” he said, and they are involved in increasingly complex regional conflicts in places like Syria and Iraq.
And it is a mistake to underestimate these groups, Flynn noted.
"We look at some of these people as if they were in shower shoes and bathrobes, but twice they were defeating the most sophisticated military in the world -- in 2006 in Iraq and 2009 in Afghanistan,” he said. “And they're watching everything that's going on in Iraq as we transition out of Afghanistan."
These individuals have every intention to come to the United States and do damage, the general said.
One of the most dangerous threats that the U.S. faces, Flynn said, is the possibility of a group like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant getting their hands on chemical weapons in Syria.
“So, we're worried about foreign fighters coming out of there, doing attacks here in this country or maybe against our partners, but actually, there's still chemical capabilities in that part of the world and in the hands of people who I know have the intent to use them and we need to be concerned about that,” he said.
Nation-states around the world are being challenged, Flynn said. The world is in a period of prolonged societal conflict, the general continued, and the United States needs to recognize that it cannot win alone.
And while the U.S. will always play an important international role in addressing these failures, he said, it may not always be a deciding one.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)