Military News

Sunday, February 12, 2012

New Policies Reflect Realities of Modern Warfare, Officials Say

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – Defense Department policy changes announced today reflect both women’s increased roles in and out of combat and the fact that war is no longer linear, senior officials said.

The department notified Congress today it will abolish the restriction on assigning women to locations where ground combat troops operate, and selectively lift the policy barring women from assignments to ground combat units below the brigade level.

Those changes will result in more than 14,000 new jobs or assignment opportunities for military women.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta “is making these changes because he recognizes that over the last decade of war, women have contributed in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission,” George Little, Pentagon press secretary, told reporters during a briefing here today.

Women service members have put their lives on the line and demonstrated courage, patriotism and skill in defending the nation, Little said.

“But even as we make this announcement, I would like to stress that Secretary Panetta knows this is the beginning, not the end, of a process,” he added.

The services will continue to review positions and requirements to determine what additional positions may be opened to women, the press secretary added.

“Our goal is to ensure that the mission is met with the best qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender,” he said.

Little noted while preparing the report took longer than expected, Panetta and the service leaders “wanted this done right, not done quickly.”

The delay allowed the reviewers to gather additional views on the issues, and resulted in more positions open to women than would have been the case with an earlier report, he added.

The report follows a departmentwide review of policies affecting women’s job assignments in the military.

Two people who led the review -- Virginia “Vee” Penrod, deputy assistant secretary for military personnel policy, and Army Maj. Gen. Gary Patton, principal director for military personnel policy -- discussed the new policies at today’s briefing.

“Opening these positions implements lessons from over a decade at war, where women were proven exceptionally capable and indispensible to mission accomplishment,” Penrod said.

She said the review offered an opportunity to examine all gender-restrictive laws, policies and regulations “with all services’ senior leaders at the table.”

The review panel worked to identify “changes … needed to ensure female members have an equitable opportunity to compete and excel in the U.S. armed forces,” she said.

The report, Penrod said, “reflects the secretary of defense’s vision of removing barriers that prevent service members from rising to the highest level of potential and responsibility that their talents and capabilities warrant.”

The policy limiting women’s military assignments dates to 1994 and lists four factors that ban women from assignments or jobs: prohibitive costs for berthing and privacy; the requirement to locate and remain with direct ground combat units; units engaged in long range reconnaissance and special operations forces missions; and job-related physical requirements that “exclude the vast majority of women service members.”

Department leaders agreed the provision against locating with combat units no longer applies, Penrod noted.

Before 2001, war typically involved front-lines combat and protected “rear” areas where support functions like maintenance and medical care took place, she said.

“The battlespace we have experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan is quite different,” Penrod added.

Highly mobile enemies now travel among the civilian population, while counterinsurgency and stability missions to combat such enemies require U.S. forces to disperse across the country in large and small bases, she said.

“There is no rear area that exists in this battlespace. Forces of all types and missions are required to be in close proximity and flow between locations,” she said.

Penrod said lifting the location-based prohibition opens 13,139 new Army jobs to women, because the Army is the only service that identified positions that had been closed solely because of where they took place.

The change will expand career opportunities for women and give combatant commanders more options in deploying forces, she said.

The report noted Army officer career fields with the greatest number of restricted positions include logistics, signal, intelligence and special operations. Enlisted occupations with the largest number of restrictions include radio operator, signal support systems specialist, radar repairer, electronic warfare specialist and construction equipment repairer.

The second change is not a new policy but may lead to one, Penrod said. DOD has granted the Army, Navy and Marines a policy exception to selectively assign women to battalion-level combat units.

The services will gain experience through those assignments that will help department leaders assess the current prohibition’s relevance and “inform potential future policy changes,” Penrod said.

The report also takes aim at the provision excluding women from jobs because of physical requirements, she noted.

The services are working to develop gender-neutral physical standards based on the tasks troops perform on the job, Penrod said.

“This is an area of emphasis for us as we move forward beyond the initial steps reported as part of this review,” she added.

According to the report, DOD will evaluate gender-restricted, physically demanding jobs once gender-neutral physical standards are developed.

Penrod said when she began her 35 years in the Air Force, women were 2 percent of the force, and were restricted from some assignments based on the temperature – Minot, N.D., was “too cold.”

Over the past 10 years, she said, women have had the opportunity to prove themselves in new ways while training and equipment have improved. Service leaders are now actively seeking ways to expand opportunities for women, she added.

“This is very exciting to me … [that] commanders were coming to us and saying ‘we need to change these policies,’” she said.

Patton said based on his career as an infantry officer and through the lens of 45 months of combat over the past several years, the changes announced today are the right thing to do.

“The way I look at it, as a former infantry battalion commander, I wish I’d had the opportunity to bring women into my battalion,” he said. “It expands the talent pool.”

Patton said the opportunities announced today are a first step toward the question of combat arms and special operations jobs ultimately opening to women.

As Panetta told the service chiefs, he said, “This is the beginning, not the end.”

Policy changes will take effect later this spring after 30 days of continuous session of Congress, as the law requires, Penrod said.

Historian Explains War of 1812’s Impact on National Defense

By Bradley Cantor
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON  – The War of 1812 was a watershed moment in the nation’s development of a strong national defense system, a military historian said this week, as it provided justification for building up the Navy and changed the nation’s attitude toward strengthening the central government.

Michael Crawford, a senior historian at the Naval History and Heritage Command, made that observation Feb. 7 during a “DOD Live” bloggers roundtable.

Crawford said the United States declared war against the United Kingdom because “It wanted to end impressments of its citizens into the Royal Navy.”

“[The United States] wanted to obtain recognition of the maritime rights of its merchantmen against illegal blockades, searches and seizures, and it wanted to stop British support of hostile Native Americans against the United States,” he said.

At the time, President James Madison and his war planners developed a strategy to achieve these goals. That strategy largely focused on a land-troop invasion of British-owned Canada, ignoring a naval strategy. It was expected to be a quick and decisive victory for the Americans, Crawford said, as British attention was focused on engagements with Napoleon.

But as the Canadian campaign began, it became clear that it wouldn’t go as Madison and his war planners had hoped it would. By 1815, two and a half years after the initial engagement, all attempts to invade and occupy Canada had failed.

During that time, Crawford said, the United States adopted a largely defensive posture against the British. The U.S. military had repulsed major invasions at Plattsburgh, N.Y, and in New Orleans.

But the United States suffered a “ravaging of the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, a major agricultural region, and the capture and burning of our capital,” Crawford said.

“Furthermore,” he added, “a tight British blockade of the American coast had brought the U.S. government to the brink of financial collapse.”

The war eventually ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, which restored America to its prewar conditions with no loss or gain, Crawford said, and the conversation turned toward the role The War of 1812 played in strengthening the Navy.

At the onset of the war, he said, the Navy had a small fleet and focused largely on harbor defense. However, he added, it became increasingly apparent that the United States needed to develop naval power to avoid defeat.

“Early in the war, we lost an army,” Crawford said. “And so the people in Washington -- the war planners -- quickly came to understand that the conquest of Canada depended on control of the waterways, especially Lake Ontario.”

The result was a build-up of Navy vessels on the Great Lakes. By late 1814, the Navy had 400 men on ships at sea and 10,000 men on ships on the Great Lakes.

This buildup allowed for some important victories during the war, Crawford said, but those victories also drew attention to losses that that resulted from insufficient naval power. He cited conflicts at Lake Champlain and along the Chesapeake Bay as examples.

The British had an army of 10,000 invading upstate New York. An American naval victory in Lake Champlain threw that army back into Canada, Crawford said, because without control of Lake Champlain, British supply lines were vulnerable. But a lack of U.S. naval power allowed the British to wreak destruction up and down the Chesapeake Bay, he added.

“All of these events convinced the nation's leaders, as well as the nation's people, that we needed both an adequate navy and an adequate army if we wanted to be an adequate nation,” he said.

But before the end of the war, congressional Republicans didn’t support building a strong Navy, Crawford said, believing that an ocean-going Navy would draw the United States into war unnecessarily and require high taxes that would corrupt the political system, benefit mainly financiers, and hurt the common people.

But by the end of the war, he said, people of all political stripes witnessed the importance of having a strong, centrally controlled military.

“Many Republicans and all Federalists were committed to a strong Navy, an adequate, professional Army, and the financial reforms necessary to support them,” Crawford said.

“After the war, Congress … approved an ambitious naval expansion program and a regular Army of 10,000 men,” he continued. “They raised taxes to pay for these, and they created the Second National Bank as a tool for government financing.”

The War of 1812 also changed the U.S. position on the global stage, Crawford said.

“Before the war,” he explained, “the United Kingdom considered the United States to be a commercial rival and potential enemy, to be thwarted through confrontation wherever possible. After the war, the United Kingdom sought accommodation with the United States, considering the friendship of the United States as something to be curried as an asset.”

This change in thinking, Crawford said, was a direct result of the British recognizing that the United States had newfound political unity, a strong Army and Navy, and sound fiscal underpinnings.

USS Springfield Sailor Receives Proclamation from Ledyard Mayor for Act of Heroism

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- A USS Springfield (SSN 761) Sailor received a proclamation from the mayor of Ledyard in Groton Feb. 10 for his brave actions in rescuing a man from a burning vehicle after a two-car collision.

Mayor John Rodolico presented Chief Culinary Specialist Daniel Spencer, a native of Saegertown, Penn., with a proclamation and added that his actions that day were an act of extreme volunteerism, which is heroism.

"We always think of the Navy base in terms of the defense of our nation, but what we are seeing here today is another important role that the Navy provides and that is volunteers in our community, volunteers that make our community work," said Rodolico.

In addition, Spencer also received a certificate of heroism from the Gales Ferry Fire Company, which also named him an honorary Gales Ferry firefighter.

Spencer saved the life of a Ledyard citizen by rescuing him from a burning vehicle Jan. 18. Spencer witnessed a car driving northbound on Route 12 that swerved into the oncoming lane and resulted in a head-on collision, that ignited one of the vehicles. Spencer also assisted the other injured driver to safety despite her two broken legs until first responders from the Gales Ferry Fire Company arrived.

Spencer added that his training in the Navy, in particular the submarine force, prepared him to take action.

"Submariners are trained to take charge and take action in any sort of situation," said Spencer. "My training and instincts kicked in, and I did what needed to be done to help those in need."

Cmdr. Chris Williams, Springfield's commanding officer, reflected on Spencer's actions.

"Chief Spencer is a great Sailor and his actions are indicative of his character and commitment," said Williams. "He is an example of the high quality Sailors serving in our Navy."

Williams added that submariners are some of the most highly trained and skilled people serving in the U.S. Navy.

Spencer thanked everyone for attending the ceremony.

"I'm extremely honored that the town of Ledyard, Naval Submarine Base New London, and USS Springfield are taking the time for this occasion," said Spencer.

Springfield was built by General Dynamics Electric Boat Division and is the 50th Los Angeles-class submarine delivered to the Navy. The submarine's crew includes 15 officers and 110 enlisted Sailors.

Since its commission in 1993, Springfield has conducted eight deployments and has been awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation, along with numerous accolades for excellence in operations, engineering, navigation, weapons, retention, logistics and food service.