Monday, October 30, 2017

Dunford Hosts Trilateral Meeting With South Korean, Japanese Military Leaders

CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii, Oct. 30, 2017 — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hosted a trilateral conference with South Korean and Japanese military leaders here yesterday.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford and his counterparts, South Korean Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, met at the U.S. Pacific Command headquarters.

The leaders focused on trilateral cooperation in Northeast Asia to respond to increasingly provocative actions from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The North Korean leader is persisting in developing nuclear weapons and the missile systems to deliver them. He is continuing this effort in the face of nearly universal condemnation and in defiance of a number of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

This was the fifth trilateral meeting among the leaders since July 2014. The military defense chiefs were joined by Navy Adm. Harry Harris Jr., the Pacom commander; Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the United Nations Command; and Air Force Lt. Gen. Jerry P. Martinez, the commander of U.S. Forces Japan.

Violations of International Norms

The chiefs of defense exchanged views and information on the North Korean violations of international norms. These include testing a nuclear device on Sept. 3 and missile launches that overflew Japan's Hokkaido island in July. The men "agreed to firmly respond to the acts in full coordination with each other," according to a Joint Staff statement describing the meeting.

In addition, the statement said, the three chiefs also discussed multilateral and trilateral initiatives designed to improve interoperability and readiness. Both Japan and South Korea have mutual defense treaties with the United States, and each country has excellent military-to-military relations with the U.S. military, officials added in the statement.

"They agreed to explore their collective capabilities in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as well as leveraging their unique competencies in the cyber domain" through the 2016 General Security of Military Information Agreement, the statement said.

'Ironclad Commitment'

The three chiefs called on Kim to stop his provocative behavior, and "walk away from its destructive and reckless path of [weapons of mass destruction] development," the Joint Staff statement said.

For his part, Dunford stressed America's "ironclad" commitment to defend South Korea and Japan, and he reaffirmed the extended deterrence guaranteed by the full spectrum of U.S. military capabilities, including conventional, nuclear and missile defense assets.

The senior leaders vowed to continue to work together on mutual security concerns to enhance peace and stability in the region, the statement said.

Face of Defense: Hurricane Maria Hits Home for Nimitz Sailor

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Elesia K. Patten, Carrier Strike Group 11

ABOARD USS NIMITZ AT SEA, Oct. 30, 2017 — For many sailors aboard the deployed aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, Hurricane Maria hit close to home. But for one Nimitz sailor, it literally hit home.

Last month, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Josue Cordero-Fernandez, an aviation machinist's mate, was working in the jet shop aboard the Navy's oldest active aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf as Hurricane Maria was gaining momentum, churning in the Atlantic Ocean and barreling toward Puerto Rico.

After hearing that the Category 4 hurricane was projected to hit his homeland, Cordero-Fernandez contacted his family back in Quebradillas -- a small rural town located on the Puerto Rico's northwest shore. Confident that the storm would miss, as many storms had done in the past, his experiences kept him from worrying. But as the storm grew closer to Puerto Rico, he said, his fears grew and he agonized in his rack, unable to sleep for almost a week.

"I lost contact with them the night before it actually hit because communications started going down," he said. "The next day when I started seeing pictures, I felt so useless in that moment because I knew I couldn't do anything. I'm here on deployment."

Unable to Contact Family

Over the next few days, Cordero-Fernandez tried over and over to contact his family, but he was unable to establish communication. He kept his eyes glued to the TV and computer in his shop, taking in reports about conditions in Puerto Rico.

"Seeing so much devastation around the island and not be able to get ahold of them, I was just thinking the worst," he said. "There's no way I can send money, because I don't have their bank information, can't call them, can't do anything."

Cordero-Fernandez said one report told of an emergency evacuation because the Lake Guajataca dam was about to collapse. Lake Guajataca is significant to him, he explained, because it connects three major towns: Isabela, San Sebastian, and Quebradillas.

"That was one of my biggest fears," he said. "They had to evacuate around 70,000 people in case the dam collapsed. Even though my family lives far away from it, if the collapse happened, I knew they would not have water services for months."

Finding a Way to Help

Most services on the hurricane-ravaged island were down immediately following the storm. Unable to physically go to the aid of his family, Cordero-Fernandez said, he wanted to find a way to help. So that's what he did. He got online and began buying essentials such as food and water for his mother, siblings and nephew in Quebradillas.

"My first reaction, my first thought was, 'I have to make sure they have food,'" he said. "Even though I don't know anything about what's happening with my family, I'm just going to start buying food and water and sending it back home."

Communications services were extremely limited, as Hurricane Maria had destroyed Puerto Rico's energy grid, leaving nearly 3.5 million people without power. But some phone and internet companies had service and offered free hotspots to help people reach their loved ones.

Making Contact

After nearly a week of tormenting thoughts, desperately checking Facebook, and frantically calling home, Cordero-Fernandez said, he got good news from his family.

"I finally heard from them through Facebook," he added. "It took me around five days to get ahold of them. It was the greatest feeling ever. I felt relief knowing they were OK, that they didn't suffer any property damage, and they were alive, which was the most important thing."

The island began receiving first aid and support from several organizations shortly after the storm hit, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. military, including the Navy.
"I feel good that the Navy is providing the help we need," Cordero-Fernandez said. "Within the first week, Navy vessels were sent to my island to help out. I think that was a good thing.

Sailors Bring Smiles to Children at Sri Lanka Hospital

By Navy Lt. j.g. Michelle Tucker, Carrier Strike Group 11

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Oct. 30, 2017 — Sailors from the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and members of the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka visited children at Lady Ridgeway Hospital here during a port visit yesterday.

Volunteers from the cruiser USS Princeton and the destroyers USS Howard, USS Pinckney and USS Kidd gave some of their liberty time to help out.

"This was great opportunity to really interact with some folks out in the community," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Scott Mehaffey from Norfolk, Virginia, USS Princeton's air warfare officer. "We got to play with kids. That was the best part -- seeing little kids and to be here for them. This is what it's really about. This is what we value as Americans -- to be part of a bigger world, not just us."

The group split up and visited four children's wards during the visit. They talked with children and parents, passed out fruit and drinks, did crafts, and sang with children.

"It was good time, painting pumpkins and just interacting with the children," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Landon Menard, a fire controlman. "I wanted to set a positive example for the sick children and let them know that it can and will get better."

Hospital Director Dr. W.K. Wickramasinghe said this is the first time U.S. Navy sailors have visited the hospital.

"I think it's a change," the director said. "Everybody sees the sailors as military people, but there's a human side to them also."

In Operation Since 1895

Open since 1895, Lady Ridgeway is a teaching hospital that receives patients from across the country. The hospital treats about 1,000 children in the outpatient ward along with around 300 in the inpatient ward and is one of the largest children's hospitals in the world. All services at the hospital are free of charge in keeping with the Sri Lankan government's free health care policy.

Patient care is a priority at the hospital, said Wickramasinghe, which often limits the amount of time staff can spend interacting on a personal level with children. That made the sailors' visit even more special.

"I think every parent would welcome somebody to come talk to them [the children] from the heart," Wickramasinghe said. "People are busy, and there's not much time for [staff] to interact, other than the patient care. Having other well-wishers come in and interact helps to get [patients] cured."
This is the first time a U.S. Navy carrier strike group has pulled into Sri Lanka since 1985. The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a regularly scheduled deployment in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.