Sunday, December 22, 2013

Obama Mulls Steps to Protect U.S. Personnel in South Sudan

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2013 – President Barack Obama wrote to Congress today that he’s considering taking additional steps to protect U.S. citizens, personnel, and property in South Sudan.

Yesterday, three CV-22 Osprey aircraft were approaching the town of Bor, South Sudan, when they were fired on by small-arms fire by unknown forces, according to a U.S. Africa Command statement.

All three aircraft sustained damage during the engagement, the statement said, and four U.S. service members onboard the aircraft were wounded during the engagement.

The damaged aircraft diverted to Entebbe, Uganda, where the wounded were transferred onboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 and flown to Nairobi, Kenya, for medical treatment, the Africom statement said.

All four service members were treated and are in stable condition, according to the statement.

The president, who is in Hawaii for his annual vacation, was updated today on the situation in South Sudan, according to a White House official.

The aircraft and U.S. service members that were fired on yesterday in South Sudan were on a mission “to protect U.S. citizens, personnel and property,” Obama wrote in a letter dated today that was forwarded to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

“As I monitor the situation in South Sudan, I may take further action to support the security of U.S. citizens, personnel, and property, including our Embassy, in South Sudan,” the president added.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is keeping a close watch on the situation in South Sudan and is reviewing options, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Adm. John Kirby said yesterday in a statement.

Whatever action the Pentagon takes, it will be conducted in coordination with the U.S. State Department, Kirby added.

Obama, Hagel Mark Passing of John S.D. Eisenhower

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2013 – President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sent statements of condolences to the family of soldier, author and diplomat John S.D. Eisenhower who died Dec. 21 at age 91 in Trappe, Md.

Eisenhower was the son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife Mamie. Like his father, the younger Eisenhower graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

President Obama’s statement reads as follows:

“Michelle and I send our condolences to the Eisenhower family on the passing of John S.D. Eisenhower. He grew up the son of an American hero, but emerged a great American in his own right - a brave soldier who served in World War II, the Korean War, and ultimately retired with the rank of Brigadier General, an accomplished writer and historian, a talented diplomat. His was a big and quintessentially American life - one of patriotism and character, learning and teaching, and a deep and abiding sense of service to his country. Our thoughts and prayers are with John's wife, Joanne, his son, David, his daughters Barbara Anne, Susan, and Mary, and his grandchildren - along with our gratitude for his extraordinary life.”

Hagel’s statement reads as follows:

“Today Lilibet and I join the American people in mourning the passing of John Eisenhower, a true patriot whom I was fortunate to call my friend. The son of one of our nation's greatest leaders, John was an accomplished soldier, diplomat, and author. He was the longtime patriarch of an extraordinary family, and Lilibet and my thoughts, prayers and sympathies are with them today as they celebrate his rich legacy and his contributions to the nation he loved. He will be missed by all of us.”

As a major, Eisenhower saw combat during his 1952-53 service in Korea and received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the Bronze Star.

Eisenhower departed the active-duty Army in 1963 and joined the Army Reserve, where he eventually attained the rank of brigadier general.

He became a historian and the author of several books on military history. Eisenhower received praise for his 1969 book, “The Bitter Woods,” a study of World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.

A list of his books can be found here: John S. D. Eisenhower

Fox Talks Readiness, Sexual Assault, Opportunity, ‘Top Gun’

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2013 – Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine H. Fox shared insights today into the upbringing that helped lead her to the Pentagon’s No. 2 post and said she’s using that same drive and determination to help the Defense Department tackle pressing issues ranging from sexual assault to fiscal challenges.

Fox, who become the highest-ranking female official in DOD history Dec. 5, never saw her gender as a barrier, she told National Public Radio Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin.

The only child of a nuclear engineer father, Fox said he encouraged her not to shy away from traditionally male pursuits -- such as majoring in mathematics at George Mason University in Virginia --- simply because she was a woman.

“‘You’re good at it, so you should,’” Fox said her father told her. “‘If you can do math, you can do anything.’”

“When I was starting out [in my career], I actually had that attitude,” Fox said. “I still have that attitude.”

Not everyone saw things the same way, especially early in her career. “Things were said and done … that would not be acceptable today,” she acknowledged. “But what I found is that if I was capable and I could make a contribution and I approached it as, ‘I want to help solve a problem and help you be better,’ very quickly, in my experience, the gender stuff just fell away.”

Fox went on to amass three decades of experience as an analyst and research manager focusing on defense issues, with a special emphasis on operations.

While serving at the Center for Naval Analyses in the mid-1980s, Fox gained a bit of unexpected notoriety when she served as the inspiration for Kelly McGillis’ character in the blockbuster “Top Gun” movie.

“The truth is, I had no choice in it, and I wasn’t thrilled. That was the truth,” Fox said of the movie’s portrayal of her as a sexy Top Gun pilot instructor and love interest to “Maverick,” a student played by Tom Cruise.

“The producers were looking for some way to cast a female role that both Kelly McGillis would accept and the admiral I worked for … would accept,” Fox explained. The producer threw out the idea of an aerobics instructor. Fox’s commander wouldn’t allow that character to be a naval officer. He recommended what he called “the perfect solution” for the female role, a civilian contractor serving as a Top Gun pilot instructor modeled after the tall, blonde and highly respected Fox.

Fox said she was able to provide some input into the character, spending a day with McGillis to explain her work and how she operated. Hollywood “really sensationalized the position,” she said, particularly the part about Cruise’s romance with McGillis -- “which was different, obviously, than what I was doing there.”

McGillis recognized how different the character she was playing was from the real Fox.

“I remember being called over to the set,” Fox said. “She stomped up to me and stuck her leg out, and she was wearing black seamed stockings for the initial scene,” when the “Charlie” character dramatically walks into a room full of Top Gun student pilots.

“I’ll bet you would never wear these to work here,” McGillis said, according to Fox.

Fox said she looked at McGillis and said, “You know what? Seamed stockings are not part of my daily attire. You are right.”

Fox said McGillis looked at the crew on the set and said, “See, I told you.” And the crew, Fox said, all said, “Too bad.”

In her far-more serious role today as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s deputy defense secretary, Fox has the real-life responsibility of advancing, among other issues, Hagel’s crackdown on sexual assault in the military.

The recently passed 2014 Defense Authorization Act includes provisions that require DOD to strengthen protections for victims of sexual assault, and President Barack Obama recently announced a year-long review of the progress made to eliminate sexual assault in the military.

“Sexual assault is obviously an egregious and complex problem,” Fox said, but emphasized DOD’s commitment to confronting it.

“I learned when I was first in the Pentagon working for Secretary [Robert M.] Gates that if you really want to tackle very, very tough things in this behemoth organization, it takes the secretary to take it on personally,” she said. “Secretary Hagel has done that with sexual assault. He owns this problem. He has required all kind of things of the force.

“The service chiefs are doing the same thing,” Fox continued. “They see it. They are concerned about it and they are owning the problem.”

The challenge for the service leadership, she said, is figuring out how to solve it within their services.

Fox said she regrets that she can’t simply rattle off a list of the top three things they should be doing but aren’t.

“I wish I could, because if I could, they would do them,” she said. “But I am confident that we are going to keep tackling it until we find those things and we do them.”

Budget reductions represent another big challenge Fox is focusing on in her new post. The reductions impact “all aspects of defense,” she said, and require every service branch to come up with the best way to maintain their readiness posture.

Fox used the analogy of a parent whose teenage son plans to set out for a long drive in the middle of the winter. After making sure the teenager knows how to drive, the next step in preparation is to tune up the car so it wouldn’t break down along the way.

“It is the same thing for flying planes or operating ships,” Fox said. “So ultimately, all the services need to find a level where they can keep that balance. And that is what we are trying to figure out right now.”