Sunday, September 07, 2014

Hagel Visits U.S. Marines, Georgian Troops Near Tbilisi

By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took time today during his first official visit to Georgia to have lunch with U.S. Marines and afterward, alongside Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, talk with U.S. and Georgian service members at the Krtsanisi Training Area, or KTA, outside Tbilisi.

The visit is part of a six-day international trip, the secretary’s 16th, that included participation in the NATO summit hosted by the United Kingdom in Wales last week and meetings with government and military leaders in Georgia and Turkey.

Speaking through a translator, Alasania welcomed Hagel to Georgia.

A longstanding relationship

“The United States of America is the strongest and most reliable ally our country has that contributes greatly to the enhancement of Georgia's defense capabilities,” he told the assembled troops.

The KTA is one of the primary training areas for the Georgian armed forces and is the home of U.S. European Command’s Georgia Deployment Program. The GDP was piloted as a two-year training program of four six-month rotations of forces trained in infantry counterinsurgency tactics, techniques and procedures. Because of its success it was extended through this year.

Georgian Armed Forces units have trained at KTA with U.S. Marine Corps and Army trainers and advisors since 2004.

“I'm really proud to state that our military fights side by side with the American military, strengthening and supporting international peace,” Alasania said, adding, “We are especially proud that our guest … was a military man himself who was wounded in a combat operation and was awarded [medals as a result].”

Hagel thanked the defense minister, telling the troops that he and the minister have known each other since Hagel was a U.S. senator.

“I know his commitment to the country and people of Georgia and I know of his commitment to the American-Georgian friendship and partnership,” Hagel said, adding that the recent NATO summit accomplished a great deal to enhance and expand the relationship among the NATO countries with Georgia.

Three priorities

Before taking questions from the troops, Hagel offered greetings from President Barack Obama and described three priorities the president places on the United States and Hagel places on the Defense Department.

First, he said, “every institution is only as good as its people. You take care of your people. Second, capabilities: We can't ask our Marines and our Georgian soldiers to go into combat without the capability and the edge you must have. Third, an enhancement and enlargement and a focus on partner capability building.”

Hagel said he knows the Georgians share the same priorities -- people, capabilities and partners.

“I believe if there was ever a time in the world that partnerships are going to be important -- not just for the threats we face today but future threats, unknowns -- it is today,” the secretary added.

Strong ties

Hagel said he wanted to come to Georgia immediately after the NATO summit to emphasize to the people of Georgia how much the United States values their relationship.

“I very much appreciate my day here,” he said, “… to have the opportunities that President Obama wants to assure -- that we share our thinking and the continued reassurance and commitment of our partnership, and the expansion of that partnership.”

Questions from the troops involved the military capabilities Georgia would build as the result of its new partnership status with NATO, and whether other countries had received similar changes in partnership status at the summit.

Enhanced NATO status

“The enhanced partnership status that Georgia has just received at NATO is going to expand significantly defense capabilities -- training, equipping, partnership possibilities -- for Georgia with all of the NATO partners,” Hagel explained.

This status and relationship will give Georgia new abilities, he added.

“One of the things that the defense minister and I were discussing this morning are some of the specific areas that we can now take action on to … provide Georgia wider, deeper military capabilities to defend itself and continue to be an important and effective partner with the United States, as you have been and are in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan.”

Hagel said five countries were included in the special partnership -- Georgia, Australia, Finland, Sweden and Jordan.

“Each of those countries has played a significant role, an important role, in … different events and partnering with the United States, and many of the events have included Georgia as well as other NATO countries,” the secretary said.

“As we expand opportunities for more partners to participate with the United States and NATO, this will enhance Georgia and other countries,” Hagel added, “as we all focus on common interests, common threats, common challenges, and how we, as nations who value freedom and independence and respect for all opinions … how all of us can work together to achieve that objective worldwide.”

A model partnership

Hagel called the Georgia-U.S. partnership a model for other partnerships and relationships that will be established in the future.

“So we build on the relationships we have now, what we've accomplished together, as we expand and build out to bring in more countries, this relationship is particularly important for that reason, among many reasons,” he added.

Through a translator, Alasania said, “Briefly, I would like to add that every serviceman and woman in our country, including myself, defense minister, we are really proud to have a chance to train and fight side by side with the United States Marines.”

He added, “We are really proud to have this strategic relationship. And we truly value and appreciate greatly these special relations that exist here and the input you have and contribution you have to enhance our defense capabilities. This relationship has lasted for more than 10 years, and we hope that will be the case in future.”

SUPSHIP Bath Change of Command Held

From Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Bath public affairs office

BATH, Maine (NNS) -- Capt. Michael Taylor relieved Capt. Robert Crowe as commanding officer, Supervisor of Shipbuilding (SUPSHIP), Bath, during a ceremony today at Bath Waterfront Park.

As the 30th commanding officer, Taylor reports to SUPSHIP Bath after serving most recently as the test and evaluation director for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program Office.

Over the course of his 21-year career, he also served assignments with the Programming Division of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV N80), the Arleigh Burke-class Program Office, and the Personnel Exchange Program in Ottawa, Canada.

A graduate of the University of South Carolina, he has also served aboard USS Anzio (CG 68). Taylor obtained dual master's degrees of naval engineer and mechanical engineering in 2000 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"I have full confidence that we've picked the right person for this critically important job," said Vice Adm. William Hilarides, Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command, during the event's keynote address. "Mike comes to us from the LCS Program Office...where he demonstrated that he's a leader who knows how to get the job done."

Following the change of command, Vice Adm. Hilarides, presented Crowe with a Legion of Merit Medal for his professional accomplishment since assuming command of SUPSHIP Bath in July 2011.

Crowe is retiring after a 27-year career serving the Navy. As the Supervisor of Shipbuilding, he oversaw the delivery of seven ships to the Navy, including one Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, three Lewis & Clark-class auxiliary support ships, one Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship, and two Mobile Landing Platforms.

"All told, Rob accepted delivery of seven ships across four classes and in three time zones during his three years as commander," said Hilarides.

He commended Crowe by adding, "Your ability to support the Navy of today, while looking forward and planning for the Navy of tomorrow has been superb."

SUPSHIP Bath is a field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command. SUPSHIP Bath oversees the design and construction of five Navy ship classes at private shipyards in Bath, Maine, San Diego, California, Marinette, Wisconsin, and Anacortes, Washington.

Enabling Partnerships: Navy and Marine Corps partner with Malaysia for Amphibious Operations

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stacy M. Atkins Ricks, USS San Diego Public Affairs

SULU SEA (NNS) -- The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45) and the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit concluded the 2014 Malaysia - United States Amphibious Exercise in Malaysia, Sept. 2.

The nine-day long exercise, code-named MALUS AMPHEX, spanned from the Sulu Sea to the eastern beaches of Malaysia, aiming to help fortify the relationship between Malaysia and U.S. forces.

Leaders aboard San Diego emphasized the importance of building and enabling partnerships with nations such as Malaysia.

"Anytime you work with a foreign navy, whether it's right next door in Canada or over in the Sulu Sea, you are going to learn things from them that you wouldn't normally know," said Capt. John Menoni, San Diego's commanding officer. "We got to see how they do business and they see how we do business."

The integrated operation also provided Malaysian and U.S. forces an opportunity for bilateral training with a focus on amphibious force development.

"The Malaysians are interested in a Marine Corps like the U.S. and the development of a rapid response system," said Lt. j.g. Joshua Paulaitis, MALUS AMPHEX Navy Liaison for Commander, Amphibious Squadron Five.

MALUS AMPHEX consisted of combined security force training, civil engineering and construction, and humanitarian services such as the Medical and Dental Civic Action Program. Both teams trained side-by-side in an effort to enrich the local community and reinforce regional and international security.

Additionally, San Diego and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) showcased their land and sea capabilities during ship-to-shore amphibious demonstrations. San Diego's landing craft air cushion (LCAC) and rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs), offered the transportation of personnel and supplies while the MEU provided expertise on construction, engineering and force protection.

"This is the Marines' first time in a long time being on this side of Malaysia," said Paulaitis. "It provided great sustainment and ground training for the 11th MEU in a different environment."

Throughout MALUS AMPHEX the focal point remained on strengthening partnerships between the nations for a lasting effect. According to senior leaders, both Malaysian and U.S forces gained enhanced training capabilities, a strengthened security partnership and a better rapport between the two nations.

"This was a true example of Navy and Marine Corps amphibious capabilities and I believe it set the tone for future exercises with Malaysia," said Paulaitis. "I can see us doing a lot more exercises with the Malaysians and from the responses I received after the final demonstration they also had a positive experience."

San Diego, Comstock and the 11th MEU are currently on a deployment with the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group to promote peace and freedom of the seas by providing security and stability in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.