KABUL, Afghanistan, July 9, 2011 – At the end of his first week as defense secretary, Leon E. Panetta boarded an E-4B airborne command post aircraft for the trip here.
While refueling, the plane hit some air pockets. The secretary said his first week at Defense was a lot like the plane ride.
“It’s big, it’s complicated, it’s filled with sophisticated technology, it’s bumpy, but in the end it’s the best in the world,” he said.
Panetta is trying to get a handle on all elements of a huge federal department, he told reporters traveling with him. He used the informal news conference to speak about his goals for the department.
“We have the strongest military force in the world and I want to ensure that it is the best trained, best-equipped and that it is agile and efficient in meeting the threats not only of today but down the road,” he said.
The secretary said he wants to create a vision of what the Defense Department will look like in five to 10 years. “I think that’s important to do particularly in light of the budget issues I’ll be confronting this year as well,” he said.
The U.S. military will prevail in the three conflicts it is involved with now, he said. U.S. military personnel will help Iraqi and Afghan security forces establish sufficient stability in Iraq and Afghanistan so al-Qaida and its allies cannot find safe havens. In Libya, “the objective is to do what we can to bring down the regime of [Libyan leader Muammar] Gaddafi,” he said.
Panetta will continue to work to counter nuclear proliferation, especially with Iran and North Korea, and at the same time maintain a strong U.S. nuclear deterrent, he said. And the secretary will stress defending the cyber grid, he said.
“Given the cyber threats we’re facing, we really need to strengthen our cyber capabilities,” he said. “I really do view this as an area in which we are going to confront increasing threats in the future and I think we’re going to need to be prepared for that.”
The secretary said he wants to do everything he can to support American troops and their families. Part of the trip to Afghanistan is to meet with the men and women on the front lines.
“One of the things I’ve already had to do is sign condolence letters to the families, and it makes me that much more aware of the responsibility we have to support these men and women and to do everything we can to support their families,” he said.
The secretary spoke about some of the practical changes he is making at the Pentagon. He has reached out to the civilian and military leadership of the department. He has met with the senior enlisted advisers. And he initiated a staff meeting each morning.
“It’s something that I’ve always used, so we will have the staff meeting each morning with the chairman, the vice chairman and the key undersecretaries to talk through the issues of the day and see if we can work together to confront whatever challenges we are facing that particular day,” Panetta said.
He said he used these meetings when he was the White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration and as the director of the Office of Management and Budget. In addition, the secretary will meet with the service secretaries and service chiefs weekly.
The defense budget will, of course, be among the top issues discussed and the secretary said he is quite worried about funding.
“I recognize … the importance of confronting the challenge that faces the country,” he said. “I understand the tremendous responsibility on the part of the president and the leadership to try to come to the tough decisions that have to be made regarding the deficit.”
He also understands that DOD will play a role in cutting the deficit, Panetta said. But, he added, “I do not believe that you have to choose between fiscal responsibility and a strong national defense. I think we can achieve savings and be able to have a strong defense force at the same time.”
Panetta said he is concerned if budget negotiators “suddenly pick a number and throw it at the Defense Department without really looking at policy or what makes sense.” This will lead to a hollow force, Panetta said.
He wants any budget decisions tied to good policy – not only because it makes the best sense for the nation's defense, but also because it is enforceable. “If savings are tied to good policy then it can be enforced. If it’s tied to bad policy then it could be a real problem,” he said.
Panetta is continuing with the review within the Defense Department, he added.
“I’ve also directed our people to engage with [Office of Management and Budget] with regards to the approach that would make the most sense in terms of protecting our national defense and achieving savings at the same time,” he said.
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin J. Steinberg, USS Truxtun (DDG 103) Public Affairs
USS TRUXTUN, At Sea (NNS) -- A group of Sailors aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun (DDG 103) completed their first college course while on deployment through the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE) July 5.
NCPACE courses provide Sailors with a distance learning process that allows them to continue their educational pursuit while at sea through classes taught on board ships.
Andrew Block, an instructor from Central Texas College, taught English 1301 to Truxtun Sailors.
"It's amazing how the Sailors find the energy and motivation to study, write essays and participate in class, while completing their responsibilities on the ship," said Block.
Although the Sailors had to purchase the required textbooks, NCPACE classes are free of charge.
"This was an opportunity that I'm really glad I took advantage of," said Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd Class Isaac Henry.
All 17 Sailors who are students successfully completed the course.
NCPACE courses are offered free of tuition to deployed and overseas service members in geographically isolated locations.
Truxtun is assigned to Combined Task Force 151, supporting counter-piracy and maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
With the addition of Specialst-5 Noah B. Dillion, Military-Writers.com now lists 1258 servicembers who haved authored 3976 books. Additionally, Dillion's book is the 138th former military member to write about the Vietnam War.
Noah B. Dillion was drafted into the United States Army in January 1968. His active service includes “13 months in IV Corps serving with two historical aviation companies: As a school trained 67B20 Bird Dog Crew Chief for 9 months at Soc Trang Army Airfield, 221st Recon Airplane Company; and, having been promoted in July 1969 to SP-5 in an OJT slot with the infamous 114th AHC located at Vinh Long Army Airfield as NCOIC of the Electrical hangar crew PMOS 68F20 until December 1969.”
In 1973, Noah B. Dillion “enlisted in the Kentucky National Guard in Sept 1973 and spent five days in the tornado zones around Frankfort in April 1974 earning an active duty ribbon.” According to Dillion, he “proudly wear the Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with four Bronze Stars, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry w/palm device and Kentucky National Guard Active Duty Ribbon;. Air Crewman’s Badge, Expert Marksman’s Badge w/M-14 & M-16 bars, Presidential Unit Citation and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation.” Noah B. Dillion is the author of Surviving Viet Nam Tales of a Narcoleptic Hangar Rat.
Noah B. Dillion said about Surviving Viet Nam Tales of a Narcoleptic Hangar Rat, “This is not purely a book of war stories, it is a testimonial about my life long struggle with severe Narcolepsy/Cataplexy. I call Narcolepsy the "sleeping monster" because it knows no master. It has dominated my life since early childhood. The impact on my social life is nothing compared to the many who have become victims without knowing what was causing their incredible feelings of fatigue and sleepiness. I hope that this book will help one person find their way out of the "fog of Narcolepsy and into the sunlight of a new life". This is possible through professional diagnosis and treatment.”
Greetings to all military writers. First time here. Just wanted to alert you my new link: http://www.marcpyablonka.com/ and my new book, Distant War: Recollections of Vietnam, Laos andCambodia (published by Navigator Books). It's available through my web site, via Amazon.com, and is a compilation of 20 years of my own freelance reportage about the war since the fall of Saigon. The book, profiling people who were in Vietnam, runs the gamut from Hanoi Hilton POW V-ADM James Stockdale, "Wheel of Fortune" game show host Pat Sajak, to pilots who flew for Air America, AP photographer Nick Ut, dog handlers, and Vietnamese actress Kieu Chinh originally ran in the likes of Stars and Stripes, Army Times, Vietnam magazine, American Veteran (the quarterly publication of AMVETS, for which I was a contributing writer for 15 years), Military Heritage, Soldier of Fortune and many other publications. Hope you'll stop by the web site and say hello.
WASHINGTON, July 8, 2011 – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen begins a visit to China today, a Defense Department official announced.
Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said Mullen is the first chairman to visit that nation since Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace did so in 2007.
Mullen travels to China at the invitation of Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of the general staff of the Chinese army, Lapan said.
“Admiral Mullen looks forward to continuing the engagement and dialogue that began during General Chen’s visit to the United States in May,” Lapan said.
The chairman’s trip will include a wide range of meetings with top Chinese military officials, as well as visits to Chinese army units, the colonel said. The chairman also is scheduled to speak to students at Renmin University in Beijing, he added.