Military News

Friday, January 08, 2016

Outgoing Southcom Commander Outlines Mission



By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, January 8, 2016 — The role of U.S. Southern Command is unique among the combatant commands, Southcom’s outgoing commander said at a Pentagon news conference today.

Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, who is retiring after more than four decades of service, shared his thoughts on Southcom’s mission.

Southcom is responsible for all Defense Department security cooperation in the 45 nations and territories of Central and South America and the Caribbean Sea, an area of 16 million square miles.

"It's all about broadening and deepening partnerships down there, to say the least," Kelly said. "I will tell you that the partners we have in Latin America and the Caribbean like the United States and want to be associated with the United States."

Kelly added there are few countries that "didn’t get the memo" about democracy and human rights, but added that "some of that is even turning around."

Southcom works with allies in the region to deliver advice, education and assistance, Kelly said. Other priorities are countering transnational organized crime, counterterrorism, drug interdiction, building partner capacity response, and detainee operations.

Drug Interdiction Important Mission

"We've had a tremendous year of interdiction of cocaine," the general said. "The way we've partnered with various nations has allowed us to interdict ...191 metric tons of cocaine, and that's after it left Latin America."

The No. 1 partner in fighting drug trafficking is Colombia, Kelly told reporters. He said Colombia interdicted hundreds of metric tons of cocaine before the drugs left the country, and eradicated tens of thousands of coca plantation bushes and hundreds of cocaine labs.

The United States needs to stay involved in the process of helping Colombia, he said.

"Let's not throw away a success story,” he added. “We have to stand and continue Plan Colombia, in my opinion, for another 10 years."

Proud of Service Members Serving at Guantanamo

Kelly also outlined detainee operations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, another Southcom mission.

"My mandate from the president, through the secretary of defense, is to make sure that we're in accordance with all laws and regulations that the detainees as long as they are down there are treated well, treated humanely, and well taken care of medically and otherwise," he said.

"We do that superbly. I'm very, very, very proud of my soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that are at Guantanamo that execute this mission as well as they do," he said.

Gold Star Father

The sacrifices of his own service are not the only ones Kelly has endured. His son, Marine Corps 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed in action in 2010 in Afghanistan.

"It doesn’t matter how they die,” he said. “To lose a child, ... I can't imagine anything worse than that. When you lose one in combat, in my opinion, there's a pride that goes with it. … He didn’t have to be there doing what he was doing. He wanted to be there. He volunteered."

When Gold Star families ask him if it was worth it, the general said, he tells them that what is important is that the person who died thought it was worth it. "That's the only opinion that counts," he said.

Those who choose to serve, whether in the military or as police or federal agents, are "special people" who are doing what they wanted to do, and are with the people they wanted to be with when they lost their lives, Kelly said.

"Gold Star families are special, to say the least," he said.

The one thing the families would ask, he said, is that "the cause for which their son or daughter fell be carried through to a successful end."

Navy Vice Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, will receive his fourth star and succeed Kelly as Southcom commander Jan. 14.

Military Academies Making Progress in Efforts to Address Sexual Assault



Today, the Department of Defense released its Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the United States Military Service Academies (MSA) for academic program year (APY) 2014 - 2015.  As part of a comprehensive review, DoD officials conducted site visits at the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and the U.S. Air Force Academy, held focus groups with cadets and midshipmen, and reviewed academy policies, training, and procedures.

“We are encouraged by the steps the academies have taken to eliminate sexual assault,” said Maj. Gen. Camille Nichols, the director of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.  “All three academies are taking innovative approaches to improve both respect and safety of cadets and midshipmen.  These future leaders are being armed with the knowledge that military units operate best in climates of dignity and respect – where sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other inappropriate behaviors and attitudes are not tolerated.”

The MSAs received a total of 91 reports for allegations of sexual assault that involve cadets or midshipmen as either victims or subjects in APY 14-15, compared to a total of 59 reports in the prior APY.  When a crime like sexual assault is underreported, it is a strategic objective to encourage reporting as a way to connect victims with support and to hold offenders appropriately accountable.

Official crime reports only represent a portion of the incidents that occur.  Every two years, the department conducts scientific surveys to estimate how many cadets and midshipmen experience sexual assault in a given year.  The 2014 survey of cadets and midshipmen showed that rates of sexual assault had decreased significantly for women and trended downward for men.  The next Congressionally-required survey will be conducted in the spring of 2016. 

Department officials found that all academy programs met the requirements of existing DoD policies and public law, based on information obtained during site visits. This year’s assessment identifies suggested program enhancements and action items for each academy to further prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault at the MSAs.

The Annual Report for APY 2014 – 2015 is available online at www.sapr.mil/index.php/annual-reports.  Additional information about the department’s sexual assault prevention efforts can be found at www.sapr.mil.

Members of the DoD community who have been affected by sexual assault can access 24/7, confidential, anonymous support through the DoD Safe Helpline at safehelpline.org, or by calling 877-995-5247.

More Sexual Assault Reports Show Growing Trust in System



By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, January 8, 2016 — More military service academy cadets and midshipmen this year reported instances of sexual assault and harassment, indicating growing trust in the reporting system, a Defense Department official said Jan. 7.

Dr. Nathan W. Galbreath, senior executive advisor for the Defense Department Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, or SAPRO, said that the increase in reporting suggests growing confidence in the response system.

Speaking on via teleconference and joined by Dr. Elizabeth P. Van Winkle of the Defense Manpower Data Center, or DMDC, Galbreath said the department’s assessment teams found “good indicators of progress” in the DoD Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies for academic program year 2014-2015.

The academies received 91 sexual assault reports this year, an increase of 32 reports over last year, Galbreath said.

Reports of sexual assault do not reflect how often the crime actually occurs, he added. Instead, he said, the department and many civilian agencies use scientific surveys to estimate how many people experienced a sexual assault.

Last year’s academy survey results indicated that fewer cadets and midshipmen experienced a sexual assault over the 12-month period preceding the survey.

Direct Supervision

“We’ve seen a lot of the progress we expected to see when [then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel] last year ordered the superintendents to take sexual assault prevention and response programs under their direct supervision,” Galbreath said.

Some elements of the report change from year to year, but this one contains the results of on-site assessments by DoD SAPRO officials and the DoD Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity, he said.

It also includes statistical data on sexual harassment complaints and sexual assault reports, and results of on-site focus groups with academy cadets or midshipmen, faculty and staff, which were conducted by DMDC officials and documented in DMDC’s 2015 Service Academy Gender Relations Focus Group Report.

Galbreath said the academies also received 28 complaints of sexual harassment this year.

Preventing Sexual Harassment

“The service academies have done quite a bit to emphasize sexual assault prevention and response, but sexual harassment prevention and response has not received equal time and attention,” he said, adding that SAPRO encourages the academies further to incorporate sexual harassment into training, programming and prevention work.

The reason, Galbreath explained, is that sexual harassment is highly correlated with the occurrence of sexual assault in the military, and the Rand Military Workplace Study confirmed this in 2014.

“We believe that by working to prevent sexual harassment we'll also be preventing sexual assault,” he said.

The report contains commendations for notable practices, suggested program enhancements and action items for recommended fixes, Galbreath said.

Notable Practices

“One of the things we saw at the Naval Academy that all could benefit from was a contract that each sports team member signs with the academy,” he said, “basically agreeing to a standard of conduct that … applies not only to the sports team members but also to the coaches.”

Galbreath said the SAPRO office thought that was a great way to set expectations and they’re encouraging West Point and the Air Force Academy to take a look at the practice.

In her comments, Van Winkle discussed the focus groups that DMDC conducted across the academies.

One thing the study found is that the emphasis on and engagement by academy leadership has been effective in getting students to take more responsibility for sexual assault and sexual harassment, she said.

Decreasing Tolerance

“It's not just that cadets and midshipmen understand what sexual assault and sexual harassment are or how to report these behaviors,” Van Winkle said, “but they're starting to understand how they can play a more active role in prevention and response … it's not only an increased awareness but a decreased tolerance for these types of behaviors.”

Social media also plays a role in students’ perspective about the issue, she said.

“We heard a lot about Yik Yak, which seems to be a common platform for posting comments and opinions,” Van Winkle explained.

The smartphone app lets users anonymously post comments, she said, so some have engaged in behaviors like sexual harassment, victim blaming or inappropriate sexist comments.

Social Media Accountability

Van Winkle said focus group results show that students are starting to take more accountability on the site by self-policing posts, “often because of the way leadership has [discussed] how inappropriate comments … impact the reputation of the school, the military and the department as a whole.”