Amid crisp air and the aroma of pine needles, thousands gathered to lay remembrance wreaths on veterans’ headstones here to mark National Wreaths Across America Day, and in doing so drew one of the annual event’s largest turnouts in its 23 year history.
“We’re grateful for the sacrifice, bravery, courage and tenacity of members of our armed forces who currently serve in harms way; we’re grateful for the freedoms that we have as Americans,” Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, the senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told those gathered on a sun drenched but cold day in the shadow of the Pentagon.
How wreaths began
He said he’s particularly grateful to one couple, Morrill and Karen Worcester, who he said seek no fanfare as they continue to make a difference in society through Wreaths Across America, the non-profit organization they founded in 2007.
“Because of the great efforts of Morrill and Karen Worcester, we’re able to cover every eligible gravesite with a holiday wreath, symbolic because it’s a circle that never ends – so their service still continues as well.”
A Maine businessman, Morrill Worcester donated 5,000 wreaths in 1992 and arranged for trucks to carry them during their pilgrimage from his home state to Arlington National Cemetery. In 2005, Air Force photographer Jim Varhegyi snapped the iconic photo of wreaths in snow, bringing WAA unprecedented attention and acclaim.
Later, Congress proclaimed Dec. 13th as “Wreaths Across America Day” and at this year’s event, Morill Worcester placed the two-millionth wreath laid nationwide to honor U.S. Army Pvt. William Christman, the first soldier to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The organization has since expanded to include more than 1,000 fundraising groups in all 50 states representing more than 900 cemeteries, military memorials and other sites. More than 80 volunteer trucking companies have stepped up to help deliver the wreaths.
Thanks from the Chairman
“Throughout our country’s history, the men and women of the U.S. forces have served with the utmost patriotism and allegiance,” Battaglia read to the Worcesters in a personal letter from Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The hundreds of thousands of wreaths that volunteers across America place at the gravesites of our veterans were shining testimonies that freedom is not free.”
Battaglia explained what the diverse and robust turnout means to the military and the nation.
“It means the world; we are so fortunate to have not just a great community – but a great society that would come out here in droves to honor our veterans,” Battaglia said. “
As for the new generation, Battaglia said the event’s 2014 theme “Remember, Honor, Teach” personifies that message.
“Our youth are learning some valuable lessons about how great our country really is and how we as an armed forces respect and honor both our wounded and our killed in action. When these kids are grown up, they too will be bringing their children and grandchildren our here as well – it’s a tradition the Worcesters started, and it’s long-lasting.”
(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDODNews)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel thanked U.S. troops and their families yesterday on behalf of all Americans for their sacrifice during the holiday season, and for carrying out an essential mission at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
The defense secretary held a troop talk with U.S. service members during his stop in Kuwait as part of an unannounced trip to the Middle East.
Thanks to Troops and Families
“I wanted to come out here for a few minutes today to thank you and to tell you how much we appreciate everything you do for this country,” he said. “This is a tough business -- [a] tough job. You’ve got about as tough a job as anybody does in our business. We know that. The country knows it -- and we thank you for that.”
The defense secretary said he also wanted to note the sacrifice of troops’ families as they move into the holiday season away from their loved ones.
“Please give your families my thanks on behalf of all Americans,” he said. “Tell your families we appreciate what they do; the sacrifices they make along with you.”
Essential Mission in Kuwait
Hagel said he particularly wanted to visit Kuwait to thank the troops for their mission as a combined joint task force which serves as the centerpiece for everything that happens in the region.
“It is the pivot point,” he said. “It is absolutely critical to everything that happens as it moves out, and you know that.”
Though their efforts may sometimes seem undervalued or under-recognized, Hagel noted, what service members do in Kuwait is “absolutely essential to make it all work.”
Some 60 coalition partners have assembled to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the barbaric threats they, and other extremist groups, represent, Hagel said.
“That is really pretty impressive to be able to marshal that many countries, all participating, all contributing in their own way,” he added. “But it can’t happen without the United States’ leadership; it won’t happen without our leadership.
“It won’t happen without you,” he continued, “and it won’t happen without these kinds of efforts that are being made right here. So I wanted to make sure you knew that we know, in Washington, what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.”
Making History in Dangerous Times
A second point, Hagel said, is that the nation faces a dangerous and uncertain time unlike any other.
“It’s a time in history we’ve really never seen before,” he said. “That’s the result of many dynamics -- technology, a decentralization of power and capacity that we’ve never seen before -- ungoverned spaces in ways that we’ve really never seen before. And I think, sometimes, any of us, because we’re human beings, can tend to think that it’s a hopeless effort. Well, nothing’s ever hopeless.”
Hagel told the service members that they’re making history. “You are defining much of the history that’s being made now,” he added, “but more importantly, it’s for a purpose. You are defining a future. You are defining a new world order in everything you do every day. And every job’s important -- every component of every job is important, or we’ll fail.”
Reaffirming Leadership Support
It takes leadership, capability and capacity for success, Hagel said, reaffirming that Defense Department leaders are committed to understanding troops’ problems and concerns, and assuring they have everything needed to do their jobs.
“You can’t do your jobs that we expect you to do -- that you want to do -- if you’re bothered and worried about other things,” he said. “We’re here to make sure that, that doesn’t happen.”
The defense secretary again thanked the troops and their families for their service and sacrifice, and expressed his admiration for their holiday spirit.
“I, once upon a time, was away from home over a holiday period in a different kind of war,” he said, referring to his service in Vietnam, “so I have some understanding of what you and your families deal with when you have these important holidays. It means so much to families, so thank you very much.”
(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallDoDNews)
The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff joined the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore in recognizing the talents of military chefs and enlisted aides during a Salute to Military Chefs event here yesterday.
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. was joined by various Defense Department leaders, military spouses and USO officials, as eight military chefs and five enlisted aides were honored during the event.
Each of the military chefs, alongside Chef Robert Irvine of the Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible” series, showcased their skills preparing elaborate dishes for the audience. Each chef was introduced by a senior military leader before being honored.
Winnefeld said he was “thrilled” to be a part of the evening as he introduced Army Staff Sgt. Isaac Wilson and his own nominee, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Frida Karani.
Recognizing Extraordinary Talents
“It’s really my very great privilege and honor to introduce our first chef tonight,” he said. “There’s really nothing better than recognizing [these] extraordinary talents.”
Wilson, the admiral noted, works for the secretary of defense’s mess. “So you know the level of dignitary that he has to serve each and every day,” he added. Winnefeld said Wilson, a Logansport, Indiana, native, was led by his “competitive nature” to join the military as a way to expand his culinary talents.
“That’s why we call these guys chefs instead of cooks,” he said. “The military inculcates in these people ‘Got to get better; got to be the best.’ And so they become chefs not long after they get in the military.”
Before becoming a military chef, the vice chairman said, Wilson deployed to Iraq as a truck driver from December 2007 to March 2009.
“His competitive nature goes way beyond the kitchen,” Winnefeld said, pointing out that Wilson has earned the German proficiency badge.
The vice chairman’s second introduction was for Karani who serves on his own staff.
“At the Pentagon, we’re able to put our best foot forward welcoming our visiting dignitaries and counterparts from all over the world,” Winnefeld said. “And I know that I have frequent occasions in my home to entertain some pretty serious dignitaries, and you always want to show them the very best that you can as far as the culinary piece of it.”
That’s possible, Winnefeld said, only because of the extraordinary culinary talent represented at the event.
Karani, was born in Mombasa, Kenya, Winnefeld said, adding that he and his wife, Mary, are “very privileged” to have her on the staff.
Winnefeld said Karani developed her talents in diverse places, serving as saucier in Dubai from 2004 until 2006 before moving on to that position in Orlando, Florida.
In addition to being employed by several four- and five-star hotels, the vice chairman noted, Karani is a certified chef de cuisine by the American Culinary Federation and a winner of several gold and silver medals.
She enlisted in the Navy as a culinary specialist in January 2010 and graduated at the top of her class at the Navy’s advanced culinary school. She also received the accelerated advancement program award.
The vice chairman said as important as her culinary skills are, Karani is also known for her “infectious” personality, and is an “absolute delight” to have around.
Chefs and Aides Honored
Military chefs honored at the event, and the officials they serve, are:
-- Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Shemeka Anderson, chief of naval operations;
-- Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Justin Fedin, Marine Corps commandant;
-- Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Derek Johnson, Coast Guard commandant;
-- Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Frida Karani, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff;
-- Air Force Tech Sgt. Michael Leo, Air Force chief of staff;
-- Army Sgt. Sarah Proctor, Army chief of staff;
-- Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jacob Settle, president of the United States; and
-- Army Staff Sgt. Isaac Wilson, secretary of defense.
Enlisted aides honored at the event are Army Master Sgt. Sophia Bulham, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alan Hess, Air Force Tech Sgt. Sarah Morgan, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Cesar Balmaceda and Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Sammy Paone.
(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallDoDNews)
Former Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore A. Giunta, who in 2010 became the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War, says he is not a hero.
"It makes me feel awkward. I struggled with it for a long time," Giunta said about being called a hero.
Giunta, who received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in Afghanistan, participated in a panel discussion at the Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library here yesterday.
"It's almost been four years since I've been out of the military and the fact that someone would call me personally a hero seems inappropriate," he said.
Discussion on Heroism, Valor
All the soldiers worked together and fought together, Giunta said during the panel discussion about military heroism and valor.
"Nothing I ever did, did I do alone. I followed what someone told me to do and someone followed me," he said.
"I've served with heroes. We can be heroes. I am no hero," he said.
Giunta’s received the Medal of Honor for his actions during a fierce battle following an enemy ambush in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley in October 2007. Two U.S. soldiers, Sgt. Joshua Brennan and Spc. Hugo Mendoza, were killed in the attack.
"Oct. 25, 2007, was my date of action that I would receive this award. My life didn’t change other than I lost two good friends," Giunta said.
He said his life did "change drastically" in 2010, when the recognition of what he did became public.
Medal of Honor is ‘Awesome Responsibility’
He said it is not a burden to have the Medal of Honor but rather an "awesome responsibility."
Giunta, then a specialist with Company B, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, exposed himself to heavy enemy fire to aid a fellow soldier he believed was injured during the ambush.
He engaged the enemy and advanced up a hill alone and under fire. Giunta saw two insurgents carrying away a gravely injured Brennan. Giunta killed one of the insurgents and prevented the enemy from taking Brennan.
"When I was told I was going to receive the Medal of Honor it hurt my feelings. I was so angry. I was so upset," he said.
"The fact that I did this with everyone and you want to put an award around my neck and slap me on the back and tell me 'congratulations' when I didn't do it alone," Giunta explained.
"Two of my buddies gave every single-one of their tomorrows so I could have a today, and you're going to put a medal around my neck? I struggled with that," he said.
Term 'Hero' Not Taken Lightly
The Army wants to know what makes a hero, according to Army Gen. David G. Perkins, the commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
"This term 'hero' we don't take lightly," Perkins said during the panel discussion. "We actually think about it quite a bit and try to figure out what is it that makes one."
A hero is someone, in the face of adversity or danger and from a position of weakness, displays a will for self-sacrifice for the betterment of others, he said.
Perkins said Giunta did all of that during the battle.
"Valor is really the strength of mind and will to face danger and stand firm in the face of it," he said. "You have to possess valor to act in a heroic manner."
Giunta is an example of that, Perkins said.
"The medal that Sergeant Giunta wears is not the 'Medal of Heroism,' it's called the Medal of Honor," Perkins said.
It is a great honor to be an officer who salutes a Medal of Honor recipient, retired Air Force Gen. Paul Hester said.
"A sergeant wearing the Medal of Honor no longer offers his salute to an officer; the officer offers his salute to the Medal of Honor recipient," Hester said.
"A prouder moment for me as a one-star was when I stood at the bottom of the ramp of an airplane and [Army] Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez came to my base, Medal of Honor recipient from Vietnam, for me to stand there and offer him the salute as he came down the stairs," he said.
"It is a true honor," Hester said.
In a keynote speech tonight at the 2014 Reagan National Defense Forum, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a plan to harness the brightest minds and cutting-edge technology to change the way the Department of Defense innovates and operates.
On the second day of a five-day trip nationwide to see some of the critical training the force receives to maintain readiness, Hagel addressed members of Congress, DoD officials, military leaders, and members of the defense industry during the annual forum held in Simi Valley, California.
Along with the new innovation initiative, the secretary also announced a project to reform the defense enterprise, preparing it to deal with dwindling budgets in an uncertain future.
DoD Experiencing a Time of Transition
“The Department of Defense is undergoing a defining time of transition,” Hagel said. “We [face] a reshaping of our enterprise by a fiscal environment plagued by … budget uncertainty and a large decline in resources, and by an historic realignment of interests and influences around the world.”
As these dynamics unfold, he added, the U.S. military is engaged in crises and security challenges around the world -– degrading the terrorist organization the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, helping to stop the spread of Ebola virus disease, and reinforcing NATO allies.
“Few would have predicted these missions a year ago,” the secretary said, adding that DoD is responsible for addressing a range of contingencies and crises.
New, Old Threats, Challenges
“We face the rise of new technologies, national powers and non-state actors,” as well as “sophisticated, deadly and often asymmetric emerging threats ranging from cyberattacks to transnational criminal networks, [and] persistent, volatile threats we have faced for years,” Hagel said.
The nation’s long-term security, he added, depends on whether the department can address today’s crises while preparing for tomorrow’s threats.
Hagel described the department’s two most-important investments as bolstering the United States’ unrivaled capacity for innovation and reforming the defense enterprise to ensure that the military foundation is reliable, agile, accountable and worthy of the men and women who serve.
While the United States and its allies spent more than a decade at war, he said, countries like Russia and China have heavily invested in military modernization programs to blunt the U.S. military’s technological edge, fielding advanced aircraft, submarines and longer-range and more accurate missiles, and developing new anti-ship and air-to-air missiles, and counter-space, cyber, electronic warfare, undersea and air-attack capabilities.
New Defense Innovation Initiative
“Today I am announcing a new Defense Innovation Initiative,” Hagel told the audience, describing the effort as an ambitious, departmentwide effort to identify and invest in innovative ways to sustain and advance America’s military dominance for the 21st century.
“Continued fiscal pressure will likely limit our military’s ability to respond to long-term challenges … so to overcome challenges to our military superiority we must change the way we innovate, operate and do business,” the secretary explained.
The innovation initiative, he said, will ensure that U.S. power-projection capabilities continue to sustain a competitive advantage over the coming decades.
Identifying, Developing Cutting-edge Technologies
As part of the initiative, Hagel said, a new Long-Range Research and Development Planning Program will help identify, develop and field breakthroughs from the most cutting-edge technologies and systems, especially in robotics, autonomous systems, miniaturization, big data and advanced manufacturing, including 3-D printing.
“The program will look toward the next decade and beyond,” he said, “[but] in the near-term it will invite some of the brightest minds from inside and outside government to … assess the technologies and systems DoD [should] develop over the next three to five years and beyond.”
The innovation initiative will explore and develop new operational concepts, including new approaches to warfighting, and balancing DoD’s investments between platforms and payloads, Hagel said.
People Are DoD’s Premier Asset
New approaches to war-gaming and professional military education already are in development, the secretary added, “and [the initiative] will focus on the department’s most-important asset -- people -- by pursuing time-honored leadership development practices and emerging opportunities to reimagine how we develop managers and leaders.”
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work will guide the innovation initiative’s development and lead a new Advanced Capability and Deterrence Panel to drive it forward, Hagel said.
“The panel will integrate DoD’s senior leadership across the entire enterprise -- its policy and intelligence communities, the armed services, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and research, development and acquisition authorities,” he said.
Hagel said he expects the panel to propose changes to the way DoD diagnoses and plans for challenges to the military’s competitive edge, and to face a new challenge head-on -- the fact that many breakthrough technologies are no longer in the domain of DoD development pipelines or traditional defense contractors.
Seeking Private-sector Proposals
“We all know that DoD no longer has exclusive access to the most cutting-edge technology or the ability to spur or control the development of new technologies the way we once did,” the defense secretary said. “So we will actively seek proposals from the private sector, including firms and academic institutions outside DoD’s traditional orbit.”
The Defense Innovation Initiative will shape the department’s programs, plans and budgets, Hagel said, adding that as the initiative matures over time he expects its impact on the defense budget to scale up as well.
“As the world in which we operate changes, we must change too,” the defense secretary said, adding that he has ordered full reviews of the department’s business and management systems.
“The first reviews are underway now, starting with the Office of the Secretary of Defense,” Hagel said. “DoD must embrace better business practices that are core to any modern enterprise, private or public.”
Upgrade Business, Information Technology Systems
The department will upgrade business and information technology systems and processes, striking the right balance between civil service and contractor support and avoiding duplication of support functions in OSD and the services, he said, adding that after years of postponement and delay the department is making progress in moving toward greater financial accountability.
Hagel said the department has been making hard choices and mustering the flexibility required by new geopolitical and fiscal realities.
“But to succeed,” he said, “we need the support and partnership of Congress, especially at a time when demands on our military are surging and our resources are shrinking and our ability to manage our institution is being more and more limited.”
The continuation of sequestration could impose nearly $1 trillion in cuts to the defense budget over 10 years, the defense secretary said, in a department that has already begun taking deep cuts over the last few years.
Sequestration ‘Would Devastate’ Military Readiness
Sequestration, he said, “would devastate our military readiness and threaten our ability to execute our nation’s defense strategy. Congress has an opportunity this year to help the Defense Department, and I and all the leaders of DoD look forward to working with Congress on this challenge.”
Hagel added, “If we make the right investments in our partnerships around the world in innovation and in our defense enterprise we will continue to keep our nation’s military and our nation’s global leadership on a strong and sustainable path for the 21st century.”
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital city, today in an unannounced visit for talks with U.S. and Iraqi officials on the way ahead in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, according to the Voice of America and other news reports.
Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testified before the House Armed Service Committee Nov. 13 on the progress of the campaign. Dempsey told the House panel that the effort against ISIL is “Iraq first,” not “Iraq only.”
“Broadly, our strategy is to reinforce a credible partner in the Iraqi government and assist regional stakeholders to address the 20 million disenfranchised Sunnis who live between Damascus and Baghdad,” Dempsey told committee. “They have to reject ISIL’s radical ideology from within.”
Dempsey also urged Congress and the American people to develop the strategic patience needed to see the effort through.
The campaign calls on Iraqis and the anti-ISIL coalition to squeeze the extremists from multiple directions, Dempsey told the House committee. The coalition must take on ISIL inside Iraq. It must deny the group safe haven inside Syria.
“We need to take a long view,” the chairman told the House panel.
Many lines of effort must proceed apace including “counter-financing, counter-foreign fighter flow, counter-messaging, humanitarian aid, economic progress, the air campaign, restoring an offensive capability within the Iraqi Security Forces, and a ground campaign managed by the Iraqi Security Forces from the south and the Peshmerga from the north, with contribution from the tribes in particular in al-Anbar and Nineveh,” Dempsey said.
You don’t get to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff without learning something about leadership along the way.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey has been a leader at every military level throughout his 40-year career and he shared some of his insights with civilian and military students at Syracuse University in Central New York on Friday.
Leadship is More Than Giving Orders
Leadership is more than simply ordering people to do something. “You might try to bludgeon your way through, but it doesn’t work well,” the chairman said.
Dempsey gave the students a couple of tools to place in their toolboxes as they prepare for service in national security.
Leaders, he said, must get used to the fact that they are going to be asked to do more than one thing at a time. Leaders have to prioritize and junior leaders cannot rely on senior leaders to always set the agenda. “What is a priority today may not be tomorrow, and you have to be prepared for that,” Dempsey said.
He noted that if he had visited Syracuse last year, no one would be talking about Ebola or Crimea or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Leaders Present Solutions To Problems
He told the students to not simply pass a problem up the chain to the boss, but to pass it with a recommendation. This is just another way to say that leaders have to agile in their thinking and actions.
The chairman discussed risk. “Making decisions as a leader involves risk, and that risk is either manageable or not depending on how you deal with it,” he said. “It’s not a leader’s job to prevent risk, rather it is the leader’s job to enable subordinates to take risks.”
Every action has risk and there is no way to drive risk to zero, he said. Risk should not paralyze action.
Candor is a trait all must have. “If there’s more truth in the hallway, than in the meeting room, you’ve got problems,” Dempsey said.
He urged them to speak truth to power, and for leaders to not be afraid of disagreements.
Dempsey stated that competence and character are needed in equal measure. Leaders can’t have one without the other. “Competence will get you to the table, but character is what keeps you at the table,” he said.
The chairman also discussed humility. He quoted an old saying that “you can get a lot done in Washington if you don’t care who gets credit.” He called it a truism of life in government. “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking less about yourself,” he said. “You should be optimistic, you should be ambitious, you should be self-confident.”
He urged the students to be approachable. “The best of our leaders are extremely approachable,” he said. Put people at ease and listen to what they have to say.
And he urged the students to never stop learning. Abraham Lincoln wrote long before he became president “I will study and prepare, and perhaps my day will come.”
“Commit to be a life-long learner, and if history calls on you, you will be prepared,” he said.
Dempsey ended with a quote from William Butler Yeats: “Talent perceives differences. Genius perceives unity.”
He said that right now the people of the United States perceive the differences among us all too easily. “You can’t miss the differences that separate us,” he said. “Genius perceives unity. Genius is what allows us to come together. That’s what this country does. That’s what sets us apart.”
He told the students to look around the room and note the differences. “I travel all around the world and I would never see an audience like this – men and women, different races, different religions – sitting here. You would never see an audience like this anywhere else in the world,” he said.
“That’s the genius of the American Dream,” he said. “You need to see genius, meaning you need to find unity. And if you do that, this country will be fine.”
President Barack Obama has spoken with service personnel working to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa to offer his profound gratitude for their role in Operation United Assistance.
Here is the statement released by the White House:
The President spoke by phone on Saturday afternoon with U.S. service members in Liberia and Senegal taking part in Operation United Assistance, the U.S. military mission to contain the Ebola outbreak at its source.
The President, on behalf of the American people, offered his profound gratitude to the dedicated men and women providing logistics support, engineering expertise, construction services, and other elements needed to bring the epidemic under control. The President underscored that the civilian-led, whole of government strategy to tackle Ebola on the frontlines is the most effective way to prevent further spread of the disease and protect the American people from additional cases at home. He concluded the call by noting that, while we must not relent in this campaign, initial signs of progress in Liberia were a testament to the skill and determination of these service members and their civilian counterparts. Their service embodies American leadership at its finest.
The world has always faced challenges, but the difference today is many strategy and policy decisions are made in public, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday at Syracuse University in Central New York.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told the University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families that the shift to public decision-making for him has been evolutionary. But, “in your lifetime in public service … you will find increasingly that you are constantly under scrutiny for the decisions you make.”
Because of that scrutiny, decision-makers often find that they change decisions almost as soon as they have made them, he said. Policymakers make decisions under the observation of 330 million fellow citizens.
Complicated v. Complex
Ever the wordsmith, Dempsey also took policy makers to task for confusing the words complicated and complex. “Think of complicated as something you can disaggregate, deal with its component parts, put it back together and the problem is largely solved,” he said.
Complex issues have at the starting point the fact that as soon as they are touched they change things. “It’s the Heisenberg principle – there is no such thing as a pure experiment because when you … touch it, you change it,” he said. “That’s what we’re facing today across the globe.”
The chairman used his favorite mnemonic device – 222 and 1 – to talk about the state of the world.
The device means two heavyweights, two middleweights, two networks and a domain.
China and Russia are the heavyweights and the chairman is acutely aware that whatever the United States does around the world affects the security relationship with those two heavyweights.
North Korea and Iran are the two middleweights: North Korea for the instability it brings to Northeast Asia and potentially the globe. With Iran “we’re on a path to resolve the nuclear issues” that mar that country’s relations with the rest of the world, he said. But the nuclear issues are just the tip of the iceberg with Iran. There are also problems with Iran sponsoring terrorism, launching a cyberwar and much else, he said.
The first of the two networks is the al-Qaida affiliate network. This is the fanatical religious network that runs from Central Asia across the Middle East into North Africa. From Pakistan to Nigeria, the network is a problem, he said.
The other network is transnational organized crime and doesn’t get the notoriety it should, the chairman said. “It makes more money in a year than most countries on the planet … and that money gets turned into weapons and into the hands of the terror networks,” he said.
Danger of Cyber
The domain is cyber. “It’s manmade, and we can understand it, but it’s becoming increasingly dangerous because of the ability of someone with a laptop to do more with that device than many can do with bullets,” he said.
Cyber is an emotional issue, but Americans need to have the conversation about the domain. “We’ve got to … find a way to collaborate on standards and information sharing and what is the role of the government in the cyber domain,” he said. America is most vulnerable to a cyber attack, the chairman said.
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.