Thursday, July 21, 2011

Odierno: Army Must Remain Force of Decisive Action

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2011 – The United States must ensure the Army remains “our national force of decisive action” for the security of the nation, President Barack Obama’s choice to be the next Army chief of staff said during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

If the Senate confirms the nomination, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno would succeed Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, whom Obama has nominated to succeed Navy Adm. Mike Mullen as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Odierno, a 1976 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., is commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command.

Over the past decade, the Army has reinvented itself while facing one of the most difficult combat environments imaginable, Odierno said.

“Our leaders at every level have displayed unparalleled ingenuity, flexibility and adaptability,” he said. “Our soldiers have displayed mental and physical toughness and courage under fire. They have transformed the Army into the most versatile, agile, rapidly deployable and sustainable strategic land force in the world today.”

America faces numerous threats in a world going through historic change, the general told the committee. “We face a multitude of security challenges, such as transnational and regional terrorism in places like Yemen, Somalia, North Africa and Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas,” he said. “We have uncertainty surrounding the Arab Spring and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and we face the challenges of rising powers.”

U.S. financial problems undergird any response, Odierno told the senators.

“I know that, if confirmed, we will face some very difficult resource decisions within the Department of Defense, and as we determine those essential characteristics and capabilities which we need in our joint force to meet our future security challenges,” Odierno said. “I pledge that I will work with everyone to make sure we come up with the right answer and mitigate the risk associated with such.”

Odierno warned the senators not to draw down the Army too fast. Historically, he said, U.S. officials have cut the force too fast and too much. America has not been particularly good at predicting threats or attacks, he added.

“As we make difficult resource decisions,” Odierno said, “we must be thoughtful in understanding the risk we incur to our nation's future security.”

The Army’s priority is providing trained and ready forces to prevail in Iraq and Afghanistan, the general told the panel, but the force needs to do more, such as providing troops in South Korea and Special Forces personnel to work with local people in Africa or South America.

“To do this, we must sustain our all-volunteer Army today and in the future, providing depth and versatility to the joint force,” Odierno said. “An Army that is more efficient in its employment provides greater flexibility for national security decision-makers in defense of our interests at home and abroad.”

But the Army absolutely comes down to soldiers and their families, the general said.

“It’s their dedication and sacrifice that has earned the respect and confidence of the American people as they continue to put their lives in harm’s way for our nation’s security,” he said.

Military World Games Foster Friendship, Peace

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

RIO DE JANEIRO, July 21, 2011 – Retired Italian Army Maj. Gen. Gianni Gola cannot recall how many times he has traveled to this famous party city.

Sitting in a hotel overlooking the iconic Copacabana Beach, he laughs about it.

"I'm thinking of becoming an honorary citizen now," he jokes.

Along the sandy stretch outside, vendors peddle souvenirs, small huts sell cold beer, children build sand castles, and young and old jog along the winding trail as cool winter breezes sweep in from the coast.

It seems an unlikely venue for 7,000 military troops from around the world to descend upon and face their opponents toe-to-toe. But, by facing off here first, Gola said he believes the troops will not eventually see each other on opposite sides of a battlefield.

"Through sports we can bring together the soldiers of our nations [who otherwise would not meet]. And this is the only way. There is no other parallel organization," Gola said.

The 5th International Military Sports Council's World Games kicked off here July 16 in Olympic fashion, with more than 100 countries represented on the tracks, mats and courts.

Gola now serves as the honorary president of the council, after serving three four-year terms as its president and boasting a 45-year affiliation with the organization, first as an athlete.

On the surface, the games are a casual display of what actually is serious business in the political process of building cooperative relationships among some of the world's top militaries.

The United States, China, India, Iran, North Korea and others compete alongside much smaller militaries such as those of Suriname, Uzbekistan and Sri Lanka.

The United States has 141 troops from all of the services, including the Coast Guard, competing here. Officials here don't break the athletes down by service, but the Army and Navy make up the largest contingent of the group. Of the U.S. athletes, 79 are men and 62 are women.

The games offer more than 20 venues, including track and field, boxing, swimming, volleyball and basketball. It also features equestrian events, sailing, parachuting and orienteering. For the United States, the largest participation is in volleyball, with 23 athletes competing, followed by track and field and soccer, with 18 each. Fifteen U.S. troops are competing in swimming, 12 in basketball, 11 in the triathlon, nine each in parachuting and sailing, eight each in beach volleyball, taekwondo and judo, and two in the modern pentathlon.

On these playing fields, unlikely friendships will form between troops who, in other situations, would find themselves on the opposing sides of a demilitarized zone or, worse, on the battlefield.

Gola said he has seen it happen.

When he was in India in 2007 during the previous World Games, he said, the women’s soccer tournament final was between North Korea and Germany. North Korea won the match, and their counterparts from South Korea shared the sidelines and cheered the team on.

"They were there, and they were excited, and they were together," Gola said.

Later in the athlete villages, the troops would eat together because they spoke the same language, he said.

"When they go back, some of them will never have the [same] possibility in the future, because they are not allowed," Gola said. "I am sure that those guys will remember forever the possibility they had to have relations with athletes coming from other countries."

Brazil has opened its arms to the athletes competing in what officials here have dubbed the "Peace Games." Signs welcome them at the airport. Billboards promote the games along major highways. Thousands of local people have volunteered to serve as support staff, and the Brazilian military has dedicated much of its ranks to supporting the games.

The games are using the venues built for the 2007 Pan American games, but Brazil built new athlete villages specifically for these games.

This is the first time a South American country has hosted the traditionally European-sponsored games. In fact, Gola learned Spanish just so he could travel to South America in search of a host. Gola and other organization officials thought Brazil would be an ideal host because of its revitalized role as a leader on the continent.

Brazilian officials liked the idea of hosting the games because they wanted to be seen as a major contributor to the international peace process, Gola said.

"[By belonging to the International Military Sports Council] you demonstrate that you are sharing with 131 countries’ armed forces a common idea that through sport we can promote peace," he said.

In addition to these games held every four years, the organization also hosts as many as 20 championship games for individual sports annually around the world.

The current organization president, Col. Hamad Kalkaba Malboum, of Cameroon, said that while these games are operating at an Olympic level, it is not necessarily the athletes' talents that are the focus of the games.

"I think the spirit is the most important thing," he said. "If they have the talent, it can be discovered in other national competitions. We don't need to bring them necessarily here to discover the talent."

It is in the friendships that develop and the ideals that are perpetuated as the athletes return to their native countries, he said.

These games are different from more traditional military-to-military exercises, he noted, because there is the common bond of the sport. In warfighting games, an enemy always is in the scenario.

Here, he said, "we don't think enemy."

And the games provide a more intimate setting for the troops, who can share their experiences on training and competing, Malboum said. Relationships are forged at the start, he added, because in sports you must get close to the opponent to shake hands and compete. It is at this level that the friendships begin and then grow beyond July 24, when the games come to an end, he said.

"Then we spread that spirit, and it could bring understanding. It could bring tolerance. Then it could [lead to] accepting each other despite our differences of culture, of color, of environment," the colonel said.

And that is the path to true peace, he said.

"I think peace is not just the fact there is no war," Kalkaba said. "Peace is the individual feeling -- to agree with someone, to have goodwill, to share good spirit and brotherhood with someone. This is the start of peace."

Navy Pilot Completes 1,000th Trap

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jessica Echerri, USS George H.W. Bush Public Affairs

USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH, At Sea (NNS) -- Deputy Commander (DCAG), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8, completed his 1,000th career trap July 18, landing an F/A-18 Hornet on the flight deck of USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

"It was my honor to reach 1,000 traps on board this great ship," said Capt. Daniel W. Dwyer. "It takes a lot to get to 1,000 traps. It doesn't go unseen by me what the crew does to make this happen."

Dwyer thanked Aviation Electrician's Mate Airman (AW) Elizabeth Jackson, the plane captain for the launch and trap, and Aviation Machinist's Mate 2nd Class (AW) Chirag Parikh, who has worked with Dwyer for the past six years. Parikh was Dwyer's plane captain at their previous command, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27, assigned to USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63).

"We were forward deployed, so I saw him finish countless traps on Kitty Hawk," Parikh said. "I was honored that he asked me to see this. It was amazing to see his 1000th."

Each of the five fighter and attack squadrons of CVW 8, VFA 31, Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 141, VFA 213, VFA 15 and VFA 87 played a role in making Dwyer's 1,000th trap possible. He completed traps 996 through 1,000 flying an aircraft that belonged to each one.

"When I knew I was going to be part of the newest and most capable carrier, I had an inclination I'd be able to do 1,000 traps," said Dwyer, who has served as DCAG, CVW 8 since December 2010. "I can't think of another air wing I'd rather do this with."

George H.W. Bush is on its first operational deployment in support of Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

Africa Partnership Station Strengthening Relationships with Kenya

By Lt. Cmdr. Suzanna Brugler, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

MOMBASA, Kenya (NNS) -- USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) commanding officer, and the deputy commodore of Destroyer Squadron Six Zero met with local Kenyan senior officials, July 19, marking the ship´s arrival as part of the training hub during Africa Partnership Station (APS) 2011.

Capt. John Esposito, deputy commodore of Destroyer Squadron Six Zero, and Robert's Commanding Officer Cmdr. Angel Cruz, met with Kenya Navy Commander Maj. Gen. Ngewa Mukala at the Mombasa Kenyan Naval Base, participating in the time-honored Kenyan tradition of having afternoon tea. The tradition dates back to Kenya´s past as a former British colony. The international leaders discussed APS and the educational impact the training initiative has provided for both countries.

"We really appreciate what the U.S. is doing with APS here in Kenya, and it´s important that we keep the relationship going from generation to generation," said Mukala.

Mukula also expressed appreciation of the U.S. government´s training of young Kenyan sailors, specifically citing the Special Boat Unit and Naval Leadership hub classes.

"Not only is APS beneficial to our African partners, it is also educational for our Sailors, especially in the area of cultural exchange and understanding," said Esposito.

Cruz returned the favor, hosting the Kenyan Navy Commander for lunch in the ship´s wardroom and a personal ship tour of Samuel B. Roberts. During the tour Mukala was introduced to two Kenyan midshipmen embarked on board as part of the APS at-sea training.

The following day, the U.S. Navy leaders made morning office calls to the Deputy Provincial Commissioner, Coast Province, Mr. Khamasi Shivogo, and the Mombasa City Council Town Clerk, Mr. Tubmun Otieno. Discussion during the official visits focused on maritime safety and security in Africa, a fundamental tenant of APS. In addition to military training, Samuel B. Roberts will participate in community relations (COMREL) projects at a local hospital and school.

APS Kenyan Hub began July 11 with classes including Humanitarian Relief, Small Boat Operations and Basic Instructor Training. The courses are taught jointly by both African partners and U.S. Navy Sailors from Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training Command (MCAST), based out of Dam Neck, Va., and Samuel B. Roberts.

The Kenyan hub brings more than 85 maritime professionals from seven partner nations together for training designed to improve capacity and capability in the region. Samuel B. Roberts provides APS with a platform to give hands-on experience in a real, working environment.

APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.