Friday, August 24, 2012

Marines Remain America’s Crisis Response Force, Amos Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – The Marine Corps will remain America’s crisis response force for the foreseeable future, the service’s top officer said today.

This covers everything from humanitarian missions to military operations, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos told reporters during a roundtable discussion.

Amos also spoke about what the transition of U.S. strategy toward the Asia-Pacific region means to the Corps.

“The Marine Corps doesn’t have a domain,” he said. “The Navy has the water, the Army has ground and the Air Force has air and space. As I talk to my fellow service chiefs, I tell them, ‘The Marine Corps is not interested in poaching in your domain, but we have a lane that appears as a result of a crisis.”

The attributes the Marine Corps brings are a high-state of readiness, the ability to operate in austere environments and the ability to move quickly from the sea or via air, Amos said. “We appear, we do our nation’s bidding, and then our lane disappears and we cooperate and operate well with our joint partners,” he added.

Some issues that Amos said keep him awake at night are the drawdown in Afghanistan, the pending reduction of the Corps from 202,000 to 182,000 Marines, resetting and reconstituting the force, and the new defense strategy transition.

Part of that strategy calls for 22,000 Marines to be west of the International Date Line. “The agreement is a little over 10,000 Marines on Okinawa,” Amos said. “We’re comfortable with that.”

The number of Marines in Iwakuni, Japan, will grow as C-130s, command and control assets and other units transfer. “Guam right now is looking at probably 4,500 Marines,” he said. “Predominately, those forces will be rotational forces.”

An agreement between the United States and Australia calls for a rotational force of about 2,500 Marines operating out of Darwin, he said. “Our two nations will set the pace on that,” he added. “Right now, we have about 200 Marines, in Darwin and they will come out next month.”

A significant portion of the Marine presence west of the date line will be on amphibious warfare ships, Amos said.

The Marines are interested in building deeper relations with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region including India, Vietnam and Indonesia, Amos said. During a recent trip to the Philippines, he told reporters, he explored expanding Marine exercises with the Philippine armed forces.

Marines currently train in Thailand, Singapore, Korea and other nations. “My hope would be as a service chief that somewhere down the road we have an opportunity to train alongside those nations’ forces,” Amos said.

Family Matters Blog: Sailor Transitions to Sonar After Navy

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – When First Lady Michelle Obama and her "Joining Forces’" partners talk about service members needing transitioning into commercial work, they’re talking about people like Paul Michael Andrews.

Andrews joined the military young and without a college degree. The Navy sent him to school to be a sonar technician, and he spent most of his six-year military career operating the world’s most sophisticated equipment to detect and track foreign submarines from the USS Roosevelt guided missile destroyer.

Andrews had two deployments: one to Somalia, and another to eastern Afghanistan to serve nine months working intelligence for a provincial reconstruction team.

The former petty officer knew he’d had “some awesome experiences” in the Navy, but when he decided to separate, he said, the thought of a civilian job search was filled with anxiety. Like many of his shipmates, he had never written a resume and didn’t know where to begin.

“We don’t spend time tweaking our resumes and building our professional networks,” he said. “Our network consists of the men and women we serve next to.

“I knew that I had the skills to be successful,” Andrews added. “But I also knew that I couldn’t say that my strengths were finding foreign submarines in the ocean or tracking down the Taliban in Afghanistan. I didn’t think American businesses were looking for those skills, and I couldn’t imagine a job outside the military that would require those skills.”

That’s where Joining Forces and one of its partners, Orion International, came in. Andrews attended a job fair sponsored by the two and quickly garnered Orion’s help for making the transition.

“They clearly got it,” he said of the company’s ability to translate his military experience into a civilian resume. “What they helped me understand is that American businesses do value those skills.”

After some coaching, Orion helped Andrews gain an interview with Sonardyne International. Pretty soon, the Texas native was on his way to Houston for his new job working with sonar.

“I didn’t have to go a single day unemployed,” he said. “So, Joining Forces is real; it has an impact.”

Yesterday, Andrews introduced the first lady to a crowd at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla., where she announced that Joining Forces’ had exceeded its goal of helping private industry hire or train 100,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2013. To date, she said, the program has partnered with 2,000 companies that have hired or trained 125,000 veterans and military spouses.

North Dakota National Guard, local civilian first responders react during no-notice training exercise

Courtesy Story
North Dakota National Guard

FARGO, N.D. - The call came in to the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department. A civilian cargo transport plane had crashed, spewing its contents before bursting into flames.

Firefighters from various agencies responded and once the fire was out, a hazardous materials team arrived in response to hazardous cargo listed on the flight manifest. In the meantime, the North Dakota National Guard’s 81st Civil Support Team was activated from its Bismarck location.

The plane crash, burning wreckage and hazardous cargo weren’t real. Rather, it was all part of a no-notice training exercise at the North Dakota Air Guard’s Regional Training  Site here that brought together civilian first responders and members of the North Dakota Guard to test their skills, as well as their abilities to work side-by-side, in response to a potential threat.

“We need to know what the civilian hazmat procedures are, what their equipment is, and how it operates,” said Maj. Lila Teunissen, with the 81st CST, who helped coordinate the response. “They need to know what assets we have. We have a lot of commercial, off-the-shelf different types of equipment that will detect things the standard hazmat team cannot.

We are also a good back-reach resource; we don’t necessarily have to come on scene to help out. This is one of those times where we are trying to put all the pieces together, to see what resources they’ve got, to see what resources we have, and see how quickly we can identify what’s out there.”

As an exercise coordinator Teunissen knew what would play out in the scenario, but for others involved the call came as a surprise. It’s part of regular real-world type training scenarios the teams use to test and refine their response, said Teunissen.

“Neither (team) knew the debris field was going to be out there, so it was surprising,” said Joe Svir, a firefighter with the Fargo-Morehead Fire Department, about the situation he encountered.

Even as the simulated radioactive elements were being discovered near the burned jet at the training site, two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were on the way from Bismarck loaded with equipment and personnel ready to respond. All of that combined to add to the realism of the exercise.

“I think we should do this all the time,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Miller, a firefighter with the 119th Wing. “Because, if an incident does happen, it’s not just going to be us (responding). It’s not just going to be Fargo Fire (department).  It’s not just going to be Moorhead Fire (department). We are all going to be working together as a team. As much of this training as we can get, I think we should do it within our resource capabilities.”

The exercise took most of the day, giving Guard members and first responders a chance to get to know each other’s capabilities. The exercise ended with a firefighter simulating a heat stroke and a review of the events from which everyone could learn and make adjustments.

 “It’s a lot of fun,” miller said. “They have the same viewpoints, the same ideal that we do as firefighters. They’re all great guys out here. (I) love working with them and getting to meet them. We don’t get a lot of opportunity to work with Fargo Fire or Moorhead Fire, so the big thing is getting to know the guys, getting to work with them and seeing how their attitudes are. It was awesome. Anytime they want me to work with them again, sign me up.”