Military News

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Hagel Meets with Defense Leaders at Munich Conference



By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Feb. 1, 2014 – On the sidelines of the 50th Munich Security Conference in Germany today, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with leaders from Germany, the United Kingdom, Israel, Georgia and India to discuss military relationships and common interests.

The MSC, held from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, is a key gathering for the international strategic community and an independent forum dedicated to promoting peaceful conflict resolution, international cooperation and dialogue in dealing with present and future security challenges.

The conference was called the Internationale Wehrkunde-Begegnung when it began in 1963. Wehrkunde, pronounced “verkunda,” literally translates as “military science,” and many attendees on both sides of the Atlantic still call the meeting the Wehrkunde.

As part of the MSC, Hagel had his first meeting with incoming German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby wrote in a readout of the discussion.

"The two leaders confirmed their strong commitment to the NATO alliance, and in particular to the mission in Afghanistan,” Kirby said. “Secretary Hagel thanked Minister von der Leyen for Germany's leadership in [the International Securiy Assistance Force] and for the service and sacrifice of Germany's troops.”

Both leaders noted the vital importance of securing a U.S.-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement to allowing proper planning for any international troop presence after the NATO mission ends this year, Kirby said.

Hagel made clear that without such an agreement the U.S. military soon would need to begin planning for the complete withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan, leaving none behind for a long-planned train, assist, advise and counterterrorism mission overseen by a limited number of NATO troops, including Americans, after 2014.

Hagel praised Germany's Framework Nation Initiative as a terrific example of how the alliance can capture lessons learned from the interoperability it has fostered over more than a decade of war, and the potential model for better burden-sharing moving forward.

The Framework Nations concept is one in which clusters of nations with some in the lead each are responsible for different defense areas of competence. Such a distribution of effort, the secretary said, also could help NATO plan and invest more efficiently.

"Secretary Hagel also thanked Minister van der Leyen for Germany's willingness to contribute to international missions in Africa,” Kirby said, adding that the secretary invited the minister to visit him in Washington and van der Leyen agreed to work a visit into her schedule.

Next Hagel met this morning with U.K. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond. Both leaders stressed their shared commitment to each other and to the two nations’ close and abiding military relationship, Kirby said.

"They talked about military capabilities most important to the future of the alliance and to U.S-U.K. bilateral cooperation,” he added, “including unmanned systems and the Joint Strike Fighter.”

The admiral said both men expressed their desire to stay in touch leading up to the NATO Summit in September."

This afternoon Hagel met with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and their conversation covered a wide array of regional security issues, including ongoing developments in Iran, Syria and Egypt, Kirby said.

Hagel reiterated the United States’ commitment to defend Israel, the admiral added, “and pledged to continue working closely with Minister Ya'alon as together our two militaries confront the common challenges of violent extremism, regional instability and declining defense spending.”

Also during the meeting, Hagel had productive discussions with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili and Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.

“Any time you can get a group of security leaders together, mainly on the European continent but really all over the world, I think the sharing of ideas and thoughts and information is important, Hagel told reporters traveling with him as the trip began.”

Of the Munich Security Conference itself, Hagel said, “It’s a pretty thorough scope and range of the big issues of our time. I suspect all these issues are going to be discussed and I think they should be because … every big challenge facing any nation in the world is a global challenge.”

USS Frank Cable Holds Change of Command Ceremony



By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jon Erickson, USS Frank Cable Public Affairs

POLARIS POINT, Guam (NNS) -- USS Frank Cable (AS 40) held a change of command ceremony pierside on Polaris Point, Jan. 31.

Capt. Mark Benjamin relieved Capt. Pete Hildreth as commanding officer.

Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer, commander, Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet, was the guest speaker at the ceremony where he congratulated Hildreth and the crew of Frank Cable on a job well done.

"Pete, you and your Frank Cable team, really hit the ball out of the park in each and every thing we've asked you all to do," said Sawyer.

Sawyer presented the Legion of Merit award to Hildreth for his accomplishments during his time as commanding officer.

During Hildreth's tenure as commanding officer, the ship completed more than 10,000 jobs in support of submarines and surface vessels in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleets area of responsibility and earned numerous awards.

Hildreth will be reporting to Commander, Strike Group 5 as chief of staff in Atsugi, Japan.

Benjamin, a native of Florida, received his commission in 1989 from the NROTC at the George Institute of Technology and most recently served as Commanding Officer of USS Key West (SSN 722).

Benjamin said he is excited to command Frank Cable, and hopes to exemplify the significance of the Navy's submarine tender force during his time aboard.

"We must highlight to those outside our submarine lifelines, that the tenders are not only indispensable repair platforms, but also viable platforms for international humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, theater security cooperation, and for critical war fighting support," said Benjamin.

Frank Cable, forward-deployed to the island of Guam, conducts maintenance and support of submarines and surface vessels deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet's Area of Responsibility.

Koa Kai Prepares the Minds and Bodies of Sailors aboard USS Halsey



By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Johans Chavarro, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Detachment Hawaii

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) is slated to return to its homeport of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Jan. 31 from a six-day underway.

Halsey left for the underway to take part in Koa Kai 14-1, a semiannual exercise that prepares independent deployers in multiple warfare areas, while also providing training in a multi-ship environment.

"In the last three months we've had about three or four opportunities to do week-long evolutions," said Cmdr. Gary L. Cave, commanding officer of Halsey. "But that doesn't always allow someone to get into the rhythm of doing their job or get used to the sleep cycle. So, it's a great opportunity for these guys who have never been out to sea to see what their job is and, more importantly, getting around and seeing what everyone else is doing on the ship."

During the underway Halsey conducted flight operations, anti surface and anti-submarine training and dynamic ship maneuvers, but most importantly, Cmdr. Linda Seymour, executive officer of Halsey, said, it allowed many of the new Sailors aboard Halsey a chance to perform their job at sea.

"We've had a big turnover in our crew just from the last year alone, so we have a lot of new faces," said Seymour. "The last deployment this crew did was almost two years ago. So, a lot of Sailors just haven't been on deployment and gotten used to how much better it is to be at out at sea working on their rates and doing their job."

While ships in port routinely run scenario based exercises to maintain the crew's warfighting readiness, according to Seymour, the experience of Sailors doing their job at sea in a multi-ship exercise like Koa Kai is invaluable in preparing them to perform their rate.

"Koa Kai gives us the opportunity to work with a lot of other ships at the same time," said Seymour. "During the inter-deployment training cycle we don't have the opportunity to. We'll go out and work on whatever specific certification we're working on, whether it's engineering drills or navigation certifications. Also, in the Hawaiian operational area there just isn't a lot of other traffic around, and our bridge watch standers don't really get that experience in really seeing all those different lights out on the horizon and reporting them in. It just builds their confidence up a lot better than any simulation can."

According to Capt. Chris Bushnell, commander of Destroyer Squadron 31, exercises like Koa Kai are geared toward building the confidence of the crew by certifying the crew in a multitude of different warfighting scenarios.

"Our ships are nothing without the people," said Bushnell. "Koa Kai is used to certify the crew by familiarizing the watch standers, operation specialists, fire controlmen, or gunner's mates on the types of events and procedures they will have to do when preparing to take their ship away from their homeport, whether to go perform theatre security operations, disaster response, or just patrolling on the scene in 5th or 7th fleet areas of operation."

Bushnell also said Koa Kai helps expose a Sailor to life at sea, allowing them to gain an understanding and mentally prepare for the daily routine one might encounter during longer periods of operation.

"Exercises like Koa Kai can also just be exposure to any day of the life of a Sailor on a ship underway," said Bushnell. "And that means getting used to routine. Starting with the boatswains whistles, reveille in the morning, to 'Hey what time do meals start and stop?' And then all the various things that happen like morning quarters. They have to learn whether they're going to get sea sick, or if they're a father, a mother, a sister, or a brother they have to learn how to keep in touch with those loved ones, what do they need to bring with them so they have a little piece of 'home' with them. To some of our junior Sailors that's very new and that routine is not something they normally do. So, a lot of it can be summed up as conditioning and practice, like an athlete training for a race. This is practice so they can be ready to go do the race, the competition, the deployment."

According to Master Chief Kenneth Nist, command master chief of Halsey, time spent at sea also helps bring the crew together and build the cohesion and community necessary for the ship to accomplish its mission successfully.

"Whenever a new Sailor checks aboard the ship, I always tell them what they do is just as important as what everyone else does, regardless of what rank they are, regardless of what rate they are," said Nist. "On this type of platform we all rely on each other. It's not just 'our rate' or 'our job,' we're expected to do many other things and participating in exercises like Koa Kai lets the Sailors experience that. It's all intertwined and each Sailor here brings a piece of that success."

It's an experience that many Sailors are anxious for and find exciting, said Seaman Marczon Estrella.

"Being underway is more engaging with our ratings," said Estrella. "We get more practice and we actually get to do what we have to, instead of reading what we have to do on powerpoints. It's a lot more fun when we actually get to go hands-on and do our job."

According to Aviation Electrician 2nd Class Michelle Robbins, a Sailor attached to Halsey from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 37 (HSM 37) at Marine Corp Base Kaneohe, Hawaii, being aboard Halsey for Koa Kai has helped the crew of HSM 37 gain insight into life on a ship and what it takes to perform their job at sea.

"My team is fairly new and fairly young with going to sea," said Robbins. "So, just the exercise itself has taught us a lot about the ship and working together in a different environment, in more ways than one. Like knowing how to work together and communicate in berthing to out on the flight deck. We also now have a better understanding of what extra tools and parts we'll need for the aircraft when we get attached to a ship for deployments and what personal items you're going to need for the long term."

Cave said opportunities to go on underway allow for the crew to build the bonds and relationships necessary to be successful during longer times at sea.

"It's where the heart of a ship comes in," said Cave. "I talk a lot to my crew about life aboard a ship as being family oriented. Right now we're sitting at about 290 Sailors and especially when you do a deployment, you're going to depend on every one of them and it does become very family like. And like any family you're going to butt heads with some and others you're going to become tight with others. And having these chances to get underway for time allows you to see how that interaction will be like and to build those bonds."

Frank Cable Honors World War II Chaplain



By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jon Erickson, USS Frank Cable Public Affairs

POLARIS POINT, Guam (NNS) -- A Ship's Chapel Dedication and Naming Ceremony took place aboard the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) in the ship's chapel Jan. 30.

The ship's chapel was named in honor of Lt. j.g. Anthony James Conway, a U.S. Navy Reserve chaplain, who was attached to the Third Marine Division during World War II and was the only Navy chaplain killed in the liberation of Guam.

"The importance of dedicating our ship's chapel is to remember Chaplain Anthony James Conway who loved God and his country and gave his life in their service," said Lt. Matthew Prince, a chaplain assigned to Frank Cable. "Since the Frank Cable is homeported in Guam, we wanted our ship's chapel to be named after a chaplain who had served in Guam."

"Naming the chapel also gives our chapel a sense of identity," said Lt. Cmdr. John Miyahara, Frank Cable's command chaplain. "There has been confusion about the location of chapel events between the ship's chapel and Naval Base Guam's chapel."

Miyahara also said naming the chapel after Conway helps connect the ship to the history of Guam and the sacrifices service members made during the liberation of Guam.

"By remembering and modeling such love and service, Frank Cable Sailors continue Conway's legacy here on Guam and the Navy's traditions," added Prince.

Frank Cable, forward-deployed to the island of Guam, conducts maintenance and support of submarines and surface vessels deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility.

Hagel: Future Requires a Renewed Era of Partnership



By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

MUNICH, Feb. 1, 2014 – In a changing security and fiscal environment, the Defense Department will seek to collaborate more closely with European allies, especially to help build the capabilities of other global partners, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said this morning.

He and State Department Secretary John Kerry formed a panel here at the Munich Security Conference, which ends Feb. 2. The conference, a key gathering for the international strategic community, was called the Internationale Wehrkunde-Begegnung when it began in 1963. Wehrkunde, pronounced “verkunda,” literally translates as “military science.”

The afternoon panel addressed the need for a transatlantic renaissance that will tune defense partnerships, investments and international relationships to common threats that have become persistent, pressing and global.

Such threats, Hagel said in his opening remarks, “emanate from political instability and violent extremism in the Middle East and North Africa, dangerous nonstate actors, rogue nations such as North Korea, cyber warfare, demographic changes, economic disparity, poverty and hunger.”

China and Russia are modernizing their militaries and global defense industries, challenging the U.S. technological edge and its international defense partnerships, the secretary added, and the world will continue to grow more interconnected, complicated and in many cases combustible.

“The challenges and choices before us will demand leadership that reaches into the future without stumbling over the present,” Hagel said, adding that the United States and Europe must together meet this “challenge of change.”

With the U.S. transitioning off of a 13-year war footing, it’s clear to the president and the nation that the future demands an enhanced era of partnership with U.S. friends and allies, especially in Europe, the secretary added.

U.S. and European budget constraints make it necessary for both partners to invest more strategically, protecting military capability and readiness, Hagel said, to share burdens and opportunities.

“The Defense Department’s strategy and defense investments will make clear that the United States sees Europe as its indispensable partner” in addressing the new threats, challenges and opportunities, he added, and NATO is the centerpiece of the transatlantic defense partnership.

A key theme of the upcoming DOD Quadrennial Defense Review will be the need for the military to place even greater strategic emphasis on working with allies and partners around the world in a changing security and fiscal environment, the secretary said.

“The Department of Defense will work closely with our allies’ different and individual strengths and capabilities, from the training of indigenous forces to more advanced combat missions,” Hagel said.

Promising new initiatives include Germany’s Framework Nations concept, in which clusters of nations are responsible for different defense areas of competence. Such a distribution of effort, the secretary said, could help NATO plan and invest more efficiently.

In Africa, the U.S. military and European allies are partners in combating violent extremism and working alongside U.S. diplomats to avert humanitarian catastrophes, he added.

“In Mali and the Central African Republic, U.S. and European partners are providing specialized enablers such as air transport and refueling. We’re there to support a leading operational role for French forces,” Hagel said.

“The United States has supported France’s leadership and efforts,” he added, “and we welcome German Minister [Ursula] von der Leyen’s recent proposal to increase German participation in both [African] countries.”

The United States and its allies must work more closely with African nations to help them build their own security forces and institutions, Hagel noted.

A more collaborative approach to global security challenges calls for U.S. and allied defense establishments to cooperate on operational and strategic levels, he said.

“We are working with … the United Kingdom and Australia, building closer collaboration between our militaries across a range of areas, from force development to force posture, the secretary said. He noted as an example the United States’ assistance to the United Kingdom as they regenerate their aircraft carrier capability to enable more integrated operation of U.S. advanced F-35 fighters and enhance both nations’ shared ability to project power.

Last year, he added, an Australian Army officer became deputy commanding general of U.S. Army forces in the Pacific, helping connect U.S. and Australian forces more strategically with other allies and partners in the region.

Hagel said such collaboration offers a model for closer integration with other allies and partners, including NATO as a whole, and will influence U.S. strategic planning and future investments.

“Sustaining and enhancing these cooperative efforts will require shared commitment and shared investment on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said. “That includes the United States’ commitment to a strong military posture in Europe.”

As the U.S. force structure draws down after the long war in Afghanistan, posture adjustments to meet new challenges include efforts such as responding to elevated threats to U.S. diplomatic facilities in North Africa and the Middle East, the secretary said.

“We have partnered with Spain to position U.S. Marines in MorĂ³n, and we have put other forces throughout the region on heightened alert status. These forces not only enable us to respond to crises or support ongoing operations but they also expand our diplomatic options,” he added.

And amid recent violence in South Sudan, Hagel said, the rapid availability of nearby forces allowed American diplomats to remain on the ground and help broker a ceasefire.

Another important posture enhancement is European missile defense in response to ballistic missile threats from Iran, he added.

“Over the last two days I’ve been in Poland, where I affirmed the United States’ commitment to deploying missile defense architecture there as part of Phase Three of our European Phased Adaptive Approach,” the secretary said.

Yesterday afternoon the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook left the United States for Rota, Spain, he added, where over the next two years three more missile-defense capable destroyers will join the Cook.

“Despite fiscal constraints, the budget we will release next month fully protects our investment in European missile defense. Our commitment to Europe is unwavering. Our values and our interests remain aligned,” Hagel said.”

In his State of the Union address this week, President Barack Obama called the U.S. alliance with Europe “the strongest the world has ever known.”

Still, the most successful and effective collective security alliance in history requires continued strong and visionary leadership, attention, resources and commitment, the secretary said, adding that 50 years from now, in 2064, there will still be a Wehrkunde, “and there will still be a strong and enduring transatlantic alliance.”