Military News

Monday, May 02, 2011

Obama Declares 'Justice Has Been Done'

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2011 – “Justice has been done,” said President Barack Obama in announcing the death of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. military operation in Pakistan.

An American counterintelligence and counterterrorism team killed bin Laden yesterday during a firefight near Islamabad, the president said during a short statement from the White House late last night.

“Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaida, and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children,” the president said.

The attack ends a manhunt of almost 10 years. Bin Laden and his henchmen planned and executed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that killed 3,000 innocent Americans in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Obama thanked “the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who have worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome.”

“We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country,” he said. “They’re a part of the generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.”

He said Americans also were united to protect the nation and to bring those who committed the attack to justice.

“Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort,” the president said. “We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense.”

Soon after 9/11, American forces removed the Taliban government that had given bin Laden and al-Qaida safe haven and support. Around the globe, U.S. personnel worked with allies to capture or kill scores of al-Qaida terrorists.

“Yet, Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan,” Obama said. “Meanwhile, al-Qaida continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.”

Shortly after taking office in 2009, Obama ordered CIA Director Leon E. Panetta to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of the U.S. war against al-Qaida.

“Then last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden,” Obama said. “It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground.”

Obama met with the national security team as more information came in. The al-Qaida leader was hiding in a compound inside Pakistan, the president said, and last week he ordered the strike.

“Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan,” he said. “A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”

While his death marks the most significant achievement to date in America’s effort to defeat al-Qaida, it does not mean the end of U.S. efforts.

“There’s no doubt that al-Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against us,” the president said. “We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”

The president stressed again that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam.

“I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam, because bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims,” Obama said. “Indeed, al-Qaida has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”

Obama thanked Pakistan for its help in the operation. "It’s important to note our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped to lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding,” the president said. “Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.”

Obama said he spoke with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and that his team had spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. All agreed, he added, that this is a good and historic day for both nations. “Going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al-Qaida and its affiliates,” he said.

“The American people did not choose this fight,” the president said. “It came to our shores and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as commander in chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.”

But Americans will not tolerate being threatened, Obama said. “We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies,” he said. “We will be true to the values that make us who we are.”

Obama spoke to those who lost loved ones on 9/11, telling them that the country has never wavered in its determination to bring bin laden to justice.

“Tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed,” he said. “Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.”

The war is not over, he said, “but tonight we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens, our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.

“Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power," he said, "but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Sea Services Bid Farewell to Fleet Week Port Everglades

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sunday Williams, Navy Region Southeast Public Affairs

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (NNS) -- Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen bid farewell May 1 to the 21st annual Fleet Week Port Everglades, Fla.

Vice Adm. Daniel P. Holloway, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet and director, Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Centre of Excellence, said South Florida extended the finest hospitality he has seen in his career.

"I first arrived to Fort Lauderdale from the sea as an ensign in 1979. I can tell you that our Sailors still enjoy the best port call, liberty, community relation support and hospitality I have experienced over the last 32 years," said Holloway. "The spirit of excellence and enduring support for our seas services displayed at all levels this week are a living tribute to Joe Millsaps who always inspired others to raise the bar, making Fleet Week Port Everglades one of the best ever! I am so grateful for this strong support to America's finest."

Fleet Week Port Everglades provides an opportunity for citizens of South Florida to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness first-hand the latest capabilities of today's modern Navy and maritime services.

"I love that our community does this every year," said Mary Braddock, a resident of Hollywood, Fla. "My husband and I meet service members every year and bring them into our home for dinner because we just love them all so much for what they do. As old as we are at 70, the best way we can honor them is through our support and bringing them into our home like family."

Service members participated in many community events during fleet week, to include the annual All Hands on Deck Welcoming Party at Seminole Hard Rock and Casino, the damage control olympics, blood drives, school visits, hospital visits, not-for-profit community relations projects, Fleet Week Galley Wars and many other receptions and events throughout the week.

"This was a lot of fun, and I am really thankful for the things that I got to experience during this fleet week," said Electrical Technician 1st Class (SW) Alvin Larkins, from USS Ross (DDG 71). "South Florida really knows how to show us a good time."

Fleet Week Port Everglades featured four U.S. Navy ships, a submarine dock-side and 6 additional U.S. sea-going commands with more than 2,500 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.

"It is always such an honor to have the military here," said Mary Anne Grey, chairwoman for Broward Navy Days. "We always have so much fun and enjoy the time with everyone. It really is great to be able to show these men and women who do so much for our country the appreciation that they deserve."

Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011 was hosted by Broward Navy Days and Humana Military Healthcare Services.

Joe Millsaps, longtime Fort Lauderdale resident and one of South Florida's biggest supporters of the U.S. Navy, helped found Broward Navy Days and served as president and chairman of the board. Broward Navy Days organizes the annual fleet week celebration that brings Sailors and naval ships to Fort Lauderdale every spring. Millsaps passed away last year at the age of 70; Fleet Week Port Everglades 2011 was dedicated to him.

Vietnam Legacy Shapes Today’s Military Leaders

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2011 – Yesterday marked the 36th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War –- a conflict that claimed the lives of more than 58,000 Americans and continues to affect the United States, including its military leaders and current wartime operations.

The fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, marked the dramatic and painful culmination of the Vietnam War. The last of the dominos were laid when then-President Richard M. Nixon announced the end of offensive operations against North Vietnam after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords on Jan. 27, 1973. The accords called for a ceasefire in South Vietnam, but allowed North Vietnamese forces to retain the territory they had captured.

With nearly all U.S. forces gone, and Congress’ passage of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974 that cut off military aid to South Vietnam, North Vietnam became emboldened. Its forces began a steady march southward toward Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital.

As the North Vietnamese closed in on Saigon, Operation Frequent Wind, the largest helicopter evacuation operation in history, commenced, moving tens of thousands of American military and civilian personnel from the city, along with thousands of South Vietnamese civilians.

On April 29, 1975, the North Vietnamese launched a heavy artillery bombardment that would become their final attack on Saigon. The city fell the following afternoon when a North Vietnamese tank crashed the gates of the presidential palace, accepting South Vietnam’s unconditional surrender.

Ho Chi Minh’s dream of a unified, communist Vietnam was fulfilled, and the city once known as Saigon today bears his name. Vietnam now celebrates April 30 as Reunification Day.

The Vietnam War cost millions of lives, including 58,267 Americans, with more than 300,000 U.S. servicemembers wounded in action and 1,711 missing in action.

The Vietnam War had a profound impact on today’s American military leaders, including Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. And in many ways, the lessons learned during the Vietnam conflict have shaped the way U.S. forces operate today, particularly in conducting counterinsurgency operations like those under way in Afghanistan.

Mullen, the highest-ranking U.S. military officer, is among the few people still on active duty who experienced Vietnam firsthand. Fresh from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968, he reported aboard the destroyer USS Collett for duty as an anti-submarine officer and participated in combat operations off the Vietnam coast.

Mullen speaks frequently about how the Vietnam War affected the nation and shaped him both personally and professionally.

“The Vietnam conflict was a life-defining experience for every American who lived during that era, and it continues to impact us all: the pain, the conflict, the healing,” he said during last year’s Memorial Day observance at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington. “The lessons we learned in Vietnam were bought at a very great price. Acting on them is the best tribute we can pay to honor those who died” -- among them, some of Mullen’s own friends and Annapolis classmates.

While he was struck during that first assignment at the intensity of the conflict, Mullen said, he soon began to process just how divisive the war had become.

“What I take away from Vietnam is the detachment of the American people from the U.S. military -- the disconnect and the unpopularity of the war," he told U.S. News and World Report in April 2008.

Mullen frequently tells audiences he addresses that he had concerns during the early days of the war in Afghanistan that it would have the same polarizing effect. To his relief, he said at the Vietnam Memorial, Americans "are so incredibly supportive of our military men and women now."

The chairman said he attributes the changed attitudes to the lessons learned from Vietnam about supporting troops unconditionally.

“During that time, as a country, we were unable to separate the politics from the people," he said. "We must never allow America to become disconnected from her military. Never.”

Like most other current military leaders, Petraeus, commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, entered a military still healing from the Vietnam experience. Petraeus graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1974, a year before the fall of Saigon.

But Petraeus has studied the Vietnam experience thoroughly, even writing his doctoral dissertation at Princeton University on “The American Military and the Lessons of Vietnam.”

That dissertation, published in 1987, recognized the lasting impact the Vietnam experience would have.

“The legacy of Vietnam is unlikely to soon recede as an important influence on America’s senior military,” Petraeus wrote. “The frustrations of Vietnam are too deeply etched in the minds of those who now lead the services and the combatant commanders.

“Vietnam cost the military dearly,” he continued. “It left America’s military leaders confounded, dismayed and discouraged. Even worse, it devastated the armed forces, robbing them of dignity, money and qualified people for a decade.”

This experience, Petraeus wrote, left many military leaders overly cautious. Specifically, he said, many felt “they should advise against involvement in counterinsurgencies unless specific, perhaps unlikely circumstances” ensure domestic public support, the promise of a quick campaign and the freedom to use whatever force is needed to achieve rapid victory.

Later in his career, as he oversaw the revision of the military’s counterinsurgency field manual, Petraeus applied some of the lessons learned through the Vietnam experience.

That manual has become the guide for counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. It emphasizes that military power alone can’t succeed against an insurgency, and the importance of public diplomacy as part of a “comprehensive strategy employing all instruments of national power.”

Informed by the Vietnam experience, the strategy also recognizes that clearing and keeping the enemy from an area alone does not spell success. A critical third tenet, it notes, is the establishment of a legitimate government supported by the people and infrastructure development that empowers them.

After applying those principles -- first while commanding U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and now as the top commander in Afghanistan -- Petraeus said he is seeing this strategy bear fruit.

Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee last month the coalition in Afghanistan continues to face tough days against insurgents, but is making steady progress in improving security and helping the Afghan government improve governance, economic development and the provision of basic services.

“These are essential elements of the effort to shift delivery of basic services from provincial reconstruction teams and international organizations to Afghan government elements,” he told the panel.

As the transition approaches for Afghan forces to begin taking security responsibility for their country, Petraeus emphasized that actions being taken now in Afghanistan will have consequences for years to come –- just as those in Vietnam more than three decades ago.

“We’ll get one shot at transition, and we need to get it right,” he said.

Leap Frogs Get a Jump on Drake Relays, Des Moines Community

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (PJ) Michelle Turner, U.S. Navy Parachute Team Public Affairs

DES MOINES, Iowa (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy parachute demonstration team, the Leap Frogs, performed for nearly 22,000 track and field enthusiasts during the opening ceremonies of the 102nd Drake Relays, America's Athletic Classic, at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, April 29 and 30.

More than 7,000 high school, college and professional athletes competed in a full spectrum of track and field disciplines during the three-day event, including 2010 World Indoor Champion and 2010 U.S. Outdoors Champion hurdler Lolo Jones, a Des Moines native.

"This is in many ways the biggest event of the year," said David Maxwell, the president of Drake University.

The crowd clapped and cheered as the Leap Frogs jumped from the ramp of a Minnesota Air National Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft almost a mile away. The crowd got even louder as each jumper landed.

"It creates such excitement to see something that dramatic, that awe inspiring," said Maxwell. "It has a powerful impact on the adrenaline level of the stadium."

Special Warfare Operator 1st Class (SEAL) Justin Gonzales honored Drake University April 29 by flying a Drake University flag. Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Thomas Kinn flew a large American flag, touching down shortly after the national anthem. Gonzales presented the Drake flag to Sandy Hatfield Clubb, Drake University's athletic director, after the performance.

"It was extraordinary," said Clubb. "It added such a special touch to the event. Having the national anthem sung at the same time as the flag was coming down was pretty emotional."

The Leap Frogs stacked their parachutes in the air to form tri-planes and swirled colored smoke high above the stadium. Three jumpers linked together in a drag-plane formation. One jumper then separated and the remaining two transitioned to a down-plane maneuver.

"Parachuting in high wind is always a challenge," said Chief Warrant Officer (SEAL) Keith Pritchett, a member of the Leap Frogs. "But that's what we train for. Like these athletes here today a lot of preparation goes into what we do. We're happy the clouds cleared out in time for us to perform both days so we could showcase what Naval Special Warfare has to offer."

The Leap Frogs didn't end their duties in Des Moines with just skydiving.

Several members of the team also volunteered for "Rock the Block" after their performance April 30, a Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity community initiative to renovate homes in the area. Started in December 2010, the project is almost complete, said Tami Kreykes, an AmeriCorps volunteer at the Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity.

"We couldn't do it without them [volunteers]," said Kreykes. "It would be so much work for us. Volunteers come in and save the day, like you guys did."

The Leap Frogs removed a retaining wall that had collapsed and worked with community volunteers to put the finishing touches on another home by laying several palettes of turf.

"Our homeowners couldn't afford a home without Habitat," said Kreykes. "Volunteers come out and make an affordable home an option for them. It's really big."

The Leap Frogs are based in San Diego and perform aerial parachute demonstrations across the United States in support of Naval Special Warfare and Navy recruiting.

For more information about the Leap Frogs, visit www.leapfrogs.navy.mil. For more information about Naval Special Warfare, visit www.sealswcc.com.