Military News

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

New Task Force Supports Countertrafficking in Europe


By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

STUTTGART, Germany, May 8, 2012 – A new task force at U.S. European Command is helping other U.S. government agencies and their international counterparts confront trafficking in illicit goods and services that officials call a major national security threat to the United States.

Eucom stood up the Joint Interagency Counter Trafficking Center here in September to focus on trafficking in drugs, weapons, humans and other illicit commodities, as well as their financing, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Scraba, the center’s director, told American Forces Press Service.

Its role is to marshal military resources to support a whole-of-government approach to a skyrocketing problem that extends far beyond European borders.

“Europe has become the illicit trafficking intersection of the world,” Scraba said, a transit zone for illicit shipments originating not only in Europe, but also in the Middle East, Asia, and increasingly, South and Central America.

Scraba noted a variety of factors: Europe’s central location, a lucrative cocaine market that pays four to five times the U.S. street value, and increasing challenges traffickers face getting drugs across the southern U.S. border.

“So there is an incredible incentive for drug organizations to expand and open up new franchises in Europe,” Scraba said.

Compounding the challenge, he explained, is the fact that traffickers who once operated independently have aligned their efforts. They see the value of working together as they use the same organized networks to traffic their materials.

The result, Scraba said, is far more sophisticated criminal networks able to operate across national borders. Among the greatest concerns, he said, has been the convergence of drug and terror networks.

All of this contributes to corruption of legitimate governments as well as global financial and trade networks, Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the Eucom commander, said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service. “It undermines fragile democracies. It has a real human cost.”

Scraba described the step-by-step process that occurs. “Trafficking feeds corruption. And if you have corruption, that leads to instability within the governing process of a country,” he said. “If you then have instability and corruption in the day-to-day governing of a country, then that spreads to regional instability. And regional instability … has the second- and third-order effects of impacting multiple regions, requiring a response by the international community.”

Particularly troubling, Stavridis recently told Congress, is the trafficking networks’ links to terrorism and insurgencies and their ability to undermine stability, security and sovereignty. The same networks that move narcotics, weapons and people also transport terrorist operatives, he said, and this trafficking, regardless of the commodity, bankrolls organized crime, terrorists and insurgents.

For example, drug trafficking through Europe has had a significant impact on security in Afghanistan. The Taliban made more than $150 million in 2009 alone through the sale of opium, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime estimated in its 2011 World Drug Report. That same year, the U.N. estimated that 75 to 80 metric tons of Afghan heroin reached Central and Western Europe, and another 90 metric tons transited through Central Asia to Russia.

Concerned about this growing threat, Stavridis took the lessons of U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force South in Florida that he previously commanded to create Eucom’s smaller-scale operation from existing resources.

With fewer than 40 staff members, including representatives of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency and other U.S. government agencies focused on trafficking, it serves as a “fusion organization” matrixed to other Defense Department and U.S. government agencies. This, Scraba said, leverages military capabilities to help them operate more effectively.

“We are the cog in the wheel” that reaches out to and helps connect the other spokes, he said. That runs from providing translators to monitor known trafficking networks and technology to help federal law enforcement officials to more efficiently inspect shipping containers to teaching police dogs to sniff out drugs or explosives.

Eucom shares intelligence and lessons the military has learned supporting U.S. interagency partners’ counternarcotics efforts in the United States, Scraba said. The command recently ran a conference for 14 partner nations, providing law enforcement communications training and sharing lessons learned in running an operations center.

“This gets at the center of gravity for why we exist: to support our U.S. agency efforts,” Scraba said.

“The bottom line,” he explained, “is that trafficking is a network of networks. And in order for us – the United States and international community – to have the best chance of disrupting and dismantling illicit trafficking, we, too, have to be a network of networks.

“That is the U.S. military, supporting the U.S. interagency and then collaborating with international organizations that share the same concern and have the same objectives with regards of disrupting and dismantling illicit trafficking,” he added.

Just eight months after it stood up, the new Eucom task force is getting a warm reception from interagency and international partners alike, who recognize the contribution it can make to their countertrafficking efforts.

All recognize the extent of the problem, Scraba said, and the need to work together to confront it.

“There is no question that it is a problem, and there is no question that this is a team sport and that it requires the international community working together to combat this,” he said.

That’s essential to disrupting trafficking and making Europe inhospitable to traffickers, he said. Americans should care that it succeeds, he added, because it’s a matter of “invest now, save later.”

“It is clear and documented that trafficking distorts economies. It erodes sovereignties. It corrupts democracies. It accelerates extremism. It weakens allies and feeds terrorism,” he said.

“All that adds up to a threat to the U.S. homeland,” he continued. “And that, from a national security perspective, is the ‘So what?’ as far as why trafficking is such a significant issue here in Europe.”

Phoenix Express 2012 Begins in Souda Bay


By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Caitlin Conroy, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

SOUDA BAY, Crete (NNS) -- Phoenix Express 2012 (PE12), a multi-national exercise between Southern European, North African and U.S. naval forces, officially kicked off at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operation Training Center (NMIOTC) in Souda Bay, May 7.

Phoenix Express is an at-sea maritime exercise designed to improve cooperation among participating nations to help increase maritime safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.

"This is the seventh year for Phoenix Express, and it is one of four African regional ´Express´ series exercises that are designed to test skills obtained from participating in bilateral and Africa Partnership Station (APS) training in a regional maritime exercise," said Lt. Chase Ackerman, PE12 exercise planner. "One of the goals of PE12 is to build communication between North African and European partners so that there is a stronger united force in the Mediterranean Sea. At the same time, the training provided will help enhance maritime security."

Exercise events during PE12 will be held in-port at the NMITOC and aboard the Hellenic navy training ship Aris, while the at-sea training will be conducted aboard various ships. During the in-port portion of training the focus will be on medical and maritime interdiction operations (MIO) training at NMIOTC, while combined maritime forces located pier-side will conduct workshops in helicopter operations and safety, damage control and firefighting, deck seamanship, navigation, search and rescue (SAR), small boat operations and a leadership course. After in-port training is complete, the at-sea portion of PE12 will commence in the Mediterranean Sea.

At sea, ships and their Sailors will focus on maritime domain awareness (MDA) using the Automatic Identification System (AIS), and include interaction between forces afloat and the combined maritime operations center (CMOC) ashore. Combined maritime forces will also execute a series of scenarios exercising force protection measures, MIO - to include visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) and helicopter VBSS (HVBSS) - SAR, replenishment at sea and helicopter operations.

"Our purpose in the NMIOTC, besides hosting the exercise, is to provide all the necessary training, and with U.S. assistance, we can help make the command boarding teams better for their maritime interdiction operations," said Hellenic air force Lt. Col. Lampinos Lamprinakis, deputy education training director for the NMIOTC. "I believe we have had a smooth start to everything and I see that everyone is ready and willing to work together."

Participating and observing countries in PE12 include Algeria, Canada, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States.

Chairman’s Corner: Sexual Assault Prevention, Response


By Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2012 – Commanders and Leaders of the Armed Forces:

Sexual assault crimes strike at the health, welfare and dignity of our service members and undermine the readiness of our Force. As military professionals we must fully understand the destructive nature of these acts, lead our focused efforts to prevent them, and promote positive command climates and environments that reinforce mutual respect, trust and confidence.

Sexual assault among Servicemembers is a problem we face together, one that can only be solved together. In doing so, we will Keep Faith with Our Military Family — they should expect nothing less, and Renew Our Commitment to the Profession of Arms — we should demand nothing less.

Strategic Direction released today is written for commanders and leaders to improve awareness of sexual assaults, operationalize our commitment, and facilitate dialogue and open communications across our formations.

The Joint Chiefs and Commandant of the Coast Guard, together with our DoD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program (SAPR) professionals, penned this guidance to synchronize those efforts. Together, we will operationalize the concerted efforts of the DoD SAPR Office and our Service programs with renewed commitment to eliminate sexual assault crimes within our ranks.

Commanders and leaders at every level must integrate the intent, lines of effort and tenets of this Strategic Direction as a part of our daily command routines and activities. We must take conscious steps to understand, identify and reduce environmental risks, predatory and high-risk behaviors and personal vulnerabilities associated with sexual assaults or other abuse crimes.

It is up to you, as commanders and leaders, to safeguard our core values and Service cultures by promoting a climate and environment that incorporates SAPR principles as habitual and inherent characteristics of our commands.

Commanders and leaders must personally read, understand and implement this strategy. We are fully committed to supporting your efforts to put this Strategic Direction into action and operationalize SAPR within your commands across the Joint Force. We will set the conditions for you to take positive actions that reinvigorate our military culture and create command climates and environments based on mutual respect, trust and confidence.

You have our respect, trust and confidence.

Chiefs Issue Strategic Direction to Combat Sexual Assault


By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2012 – Despite years of concerted effort, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commandant of the Coast Guard are dissatisfied with progress made in reducing sexual assault in the military, and have released strategic direction to increase the emphasis on combating the crime.

The chiefs released a “32-star” letter to commanders and leaders, titled “Strategic Direction to the Joint Force on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.” In the past two years, service members have reported 6,350 cases of sexual assault.

In what is mandatory reading for all commanders and leaders, the letter says the mission is to reduce and ultimately eliminate incidences of sexual assault, and establish an environment of mutual respect and trust, and a work place where the act is not tolerated.

Sexual assault is a crime that erodes the bonds of trust essential for military units to succeed and puts all members of the military team at risk. The chiefs stressed that prevention and response must be emphasized in all aspects of planning, training and mission execution -- requiring actual leadership, not just a “checking-the-box” mentality.

The chiefs have been working diligently for months on the strategic direction, officials said.

“Sexual assaults endanger our own, violate our professional culture and core values, erode readiness and team cohesion and violate the sacred trust and faith of those who serve and whom we serve,” the document’s introduction says.

“As military professionals we must fully understand the destructive nature of these acts, lead our focused efforts to prevent them, and promote positive command climates and environments that reinforce mutual respect, trust and confidence,” the letter reads.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld, the vice chairman; Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff; Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations; Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff; Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau and Adm. Robert Papp Jr., commandant of the Coast Guard, signed the letter.

Officials said they wrote the guidance to synchronize efforts to combat sexual assault.

“Commanders and leaders must personally read, understand and implement this strategy, the chiefs wrote. “We are fully committed to supporting your efforts to put this strategic direction into action and operationalize [sexual assault prevention and response] within your commands across the joint force.”

Evidence clearly shows gaps remain between the precepts of the Defense Department Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program and full implementation at all levels of command. The strategic direction calls on commanders to close these gaps, “by exercising the full measure of their authorities, options and resources.”

The direction looks to “imbue a culture and cultivate a climate and environment that is resilient to the risks and vulnerabilities associated with sexual assault,” the document says.

Service members need to understand that sexual assault is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Four distinct offenses -- rape, sexual assault, aggravated sexual contact and abusive sexual contact -- are contained in Article 120. These and two other offenses -- forcible sodomy and attempts to commit these offenses – are sexual assault crimes within DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program.

Commanders need to work with military lawyers to understand the legal ramifications of these crimes, the chiefs wrote, and need to communicate them to members of their units.

The letter emphasizes that prevention always is better than prosecution. “Commanders must train service members to ensure they understand, for example, that consumption of alcohol can impair the judgment of both parties and the consequences of an alcohol-related sex crime can have a significant and long-lasting impact on the victim, offender, unit cohesion and ultimately the readiness of the joint force,” the chiefs wrote.

The chiefs look to instill this call to action at all levels of professional military education, from recruits entering the service to general and flag officers, officials said.

The chiefs set out five lines of effort: prevention, investigation, accountability, advocacy and assessment. The lines of effort will be governed by overarching tenets – leadership, communication, culture, integration and resourcing – that will guide how the lines of effort will be implemented.

Sexual assault in the military is a problem that all service members must face, the chiefs said. The top uniformed leaders have set goals for themselves, too, and spelled out their tasks in the strategic direction.

The chiefs will engage commanders, leaders and service communities worldwide to promote the health and discipline of the force. They will work with the combatant commanders to identify additional requirements that may be needed and examine how to improve sexual assault prevention in forward-deployed locations.

Also, the chiefs will work closely with the Office of the Secretary of Defense to resource the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program and will establish a quarterly executive council “dedicated to a candid and enduring dialogue designed to assess the effectiveness of operationalizing [Sexual Assault Prevention and Response] into commands across the joint force.”