Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Navy Chief Seeks to Strengthen U.S. Alliances in Latin America

By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- The bedrock of America’s military advantage is the system of alliances the United States maintains around the world.

Navy Adm. John M. Richardson, the chief of naval operations, reached out to allies in South and Central America at the 28th Inter-American Naval Conference last week in Cartagena, Colombia.

In line with the National Defense Strategy, Richardson is looking to strengthen partnerships with like-minded nations.

Commitment to Regional, Global Institutions

"We are all Americans here; however, we are bound by more than simply our shared geography," Richardson said during an address to conference attendees. “We share inter-American values and a commitment to regional and global institutions that are designed to confront common security challenges.”

He added, “That we are here together is no coincidence. While military-to-military-relationships are important, I believe Navy-to-Navy partnerships are the 'first among equals.' These Navy relationships are so natural because we share backgrounds, cultures, knowledge, and a love and respect for the sea and what it can provide.”

That the conference was held in Cartagena was itself significant. The city was once the seat of a notorious drug cartel. Colombia was the scene of the longest-running civil war in the Western Hemisphere. But democratic institutions won out and last year, peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia bore fruit and FARC laid down its arms. Colombia is now an exporter of security, and a valued ally.

“Despite the challenges we face -- internal to our nations or common to all -- our regional security relationship forms the keel of our shared American ship,” the admiral said. “For me, this conference reaffirms that keel is as steady and as strong as it has ever been.”

Building, Strengthening Relationships

The United States, he said, is committed to building new relationships and strengthening old ones.

“The best thing to do is to be the best possible partner to our friends and allies, and that's why the majority of our efforts here in this region are focused on strengthening the partnerships that are backbone of the regional security network,” Richardson said.

The nations work together in many different areas. Chile, Colombia and Peru are all participating in the Rim of the Pacific exercise near Hawaii. Colombia is participating for the 12th time. It is a sign of the confidence the United States holds in its South American allies that Chilean Commodore Pablo Niemann serves as the Combined Force Maritime Component Commander; in effect, commanding all maneuvering afloat forces in a series of high-end warfare missions.

“This RIMPAC is a landmark -- partners achieving their maximum potential naval power, improving together,” Richardson said.

Exercise Unitas

Later this year, Colombia will host Exercise Unitas. Planning for the exercise -- held yearly since 1959 -- has begun with Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, United States, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, the United Kingdom and the Dominican Republic meeting to discuss scenarios. The purpose of the exercise is to improve coordination among naval forces.

“Our mutual participation in these exercises reflect the security interests and the prosperity interests of our respective countries,” Richardson said. “This is part of a broader, enduring effort to steam together with your navies so that through training, we can learn to communicate, navigate and operate together.”

But the deployments also serve a higher purpose, the admiral said.

“They enhance security. They maintain order. They preserve a system that is legal, transparent, and fair for all nations,” he said. “And they promote prosperity for all.”

Richardson will continue on and meet with officials in Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

California Air Guard Drone Helps Authorities Fight Carr Fire

By Army Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza, California National Guard

ANDERSON, Calif. -- A critical aspect of fighting a raging wildfire, such as the Carr Fire in Northern California, comes from the skies and onto a sheet of paper.

A team from the California Air National Guard‘s 195th Airlift Wing is being used as a reconnaissance and surveillance unit, providing the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection agency with up-to-date intelligence used to battle current wildfires.

“We’re able to provide real-time eyes on in any area where the fire’s at,” said Air Force Maj. Nicholas Edwards, intelligence analyst manager. “We can provide information to where CAL FIRE can direct resources. We give information to the decision makers in a timely manner.”

Working Together

The California Guard team works side by side with CAL FIRE analysts. In about a week the wildfires have affected nearly 90,000 acres, destroying more than 500 homes and buildings and killing at least six people. Thousands of Redding residents have been evacuated.

The Guard’s contributions are “seriously helping us,” said Capt. Robert DeCamp, CAL FIRE intelligence officer. “The knowledge they have and the information they provide are critical for us to fight the fire. They have equipment we don’t have, and that helps us tremendously.”

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew LeMaire, an imagery expert, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Marlon Ramos, an analyst, monitor the fire via an MQ-9 Reaper, a remotely piloted aircraft. The drone employs its wide-range sensors to collect and send precise data.

Providing Information

Twice daily, LeMaire and Ramos gather the drone’s information and provide printouts to CAL FIRE. The information is transcribed onto maps and other information products and are released to firefighters and emergency crews.

This information is used to track the fire’s movements so authorities can position defenses and notify the public if evacuations are necessary.
“This is one fire that’s very unpredictable, but we can track it with the capabilities the Guard provides us,” DeCamp said.

Agency Begins Process of Identifying Korean War Remains

By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- All Americans welcome the return of remains from the Korean War.
United Nations Command returned 55 cases of remains from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea, to Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 27, 2018.

The July 27 honorable carry ceremony at Osan Air Base, South Korea, transferred 55 boxes of remains covered by the United Nations flag. Now the work of identification begins.

These remains are presumed to be American, but many other nations fought in the Korean War, and it’s possible the remains may come from one of those nations.

The 1950-1953 Korean War was incredibly violent, with 36,940 Americans killed and another 92,134 wounded. Some 7,699 American service members are listed as unaccounted-for from the conflict.

Remains Examination

The remains will be examined at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, and experts there will be responsible for identifying the remains. The agency is relatively new -- coming into existence in 2015 after the merger of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.

Many of the fallen service members died in North Korea and were buried by their comrades where they fell. Other U.S. service members were captured and placed in prisoner-of-war camps, where many succumbed to starvation, exposure and torture. Outside those camps are graves of Americans.

The DPAA Laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, is the first U.S. stop for the recently returned remains. The lab is the largest and most diverse skeletal identification laboratory in the world and is staffed by more than 30 anthropologists, archaeologists and forensic odonatologists, United Nations Command release.

Those experts will sort and examine the remains. In the past, North Korea turned over commingled remains.

The lab experts are painstaking in their examination. The age of the remains -- at least 65 years old -- will complicate the process. The North Koreans collected the remains, and U.S. investigators will have to do the examination without the forensic information they normally would have, such as the approximate place of the burial and the conditions around it.

Examination of dental charts and mitochondrial DNA will be key technologies used to identifying the remains, and the process may take years to complete, DoD officials said.