Thursday, January 04, 2018

Mattis Discusses U.S.-South Korean Exercises, Iran Protests

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 2018 — Joint South Korean-U.S. military exercises have been “deconflicted” with the Winter Olympics, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said here today.

The secretary also discussed the demonstrations in Iran during an impromptu news conference with Pentagon reporters.

The military exercises in South Korea are needed to ensure U.S. and South Korean troops can work together in the event North Korea comes across the 39th parallel again. Still, the Olympics in Pyeongchang are the biggest event that South Korea will host this year. The games are Feb. 9-25, and are followed by the Paralympic Games, March 8-18.

“Exercises are not just done on military bases in defense of [South Korea],” Mattis told reporters. “So we worked with [the South Koreans] on it and [the exercises] will start sometime … after the Paralympics.”

Mattis said the proposed talks between North and South Korea, “are clearly the result of the amount of international pressure, and they are a way for North Korea to start talking while keeping it contained to a benign issue.”

Sanctions Working

The three unanimous U.N. Security Council votes that imposed sanctions on North Korea are having an effect, the secretary said. South Korea impounded two ships that were attempting to trade with North Korea, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is increasingly isolated. The secretary said he does not know if Kim’s offer to speak with South Korean leaders is a sincere olive branch or just a dodge.

“It shows the democracies and the nations that are trying to stop this from going to war, and stopping the provocations of nuclear weapons development and ballistic missile launches are united in trying to find a diplomatic solution,” Mattis said.

All of the cautions, all of the attempts at logic with the regime, all of the efforts to halt the regime from its dangerous course did not work until the Security Council imposed its sanctions, Mattis said. North Korea’s longtime allies -- China and Russia -- voted for the resolutions, which sends its own message.

Iran Protests

The secretary also addressed the demonstrations and unrest in Iran. Tens of thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets across the country protesting policies that led to a stagnating economy and price rises. These demonstrations morphed into anti-government protests in some areas, according to news reports.

The demonstrations are the largest public protests since the Green Movement arose out of the disputed 2009 presidential election. Those protests were crushed when the government deployed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

“We all remember what happened to the Greens when they came out and the merciless way they were treated by the regime there,” the secretary said. “We -- the American people -- do not have an issue with the Iranian people. We’ve got a big issue with the Iranian authoritarian regime and it appears there are an awful lot of Iranian people who have an issue with it as well. Because even after squashing the Green Revolution years ago, they obviously didn’t remove the irritants and dissatisfaction.”

‘First Navy Jack’ Flies in Hawaii to Honor 17 Sailors Lost in Collisions

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Corwin Colbert, Navy Region Hawaii

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii, Jan. 3, 2018 — As sailors hoisted the colors here Jan. 1 to start out the new year, the “First Navy Jack” rose under Old Glory, as it will throughout 2018 in honor of the 17 sailors lost when the guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain collided with merchant ships in separate incidents last year.

The First Navy Jack is a flag consisting of a rattlesnake superimposed across 13 horizontal alternating red and white stripes with the motto, “Don't Tread On Me.” Commodore Esek Hopkins first employed it in 1775 as he readied the Continental Navy in the Delaware River during the Revolutionary War.

In recent years, the Navy has used the flag during difficult times to signify resolve.

Navy Rear Adm. Brian P. Fort, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, said the First Navy Jack is a reminder that the Navy’s warfighting edge not only is back, but also is renewed and forged with purpose.

“Here in Pearl Harbor, we rose to the challenge 76 years ago, as ‘Remember Pearl Harbor’ sharpened our warfighting culture,” he said. “In the wake of 9/11, when our culture was tested, we rose to the challenge once more. At the direction of the Secretary of the Navy Gordon England, we returned to our First Navy Jack, ‘Don’t Tread on Me,’ on the jack staffs of all Navy warships as a historic reminder of the nation’s and Navy’s origins and our will to persevere and triumph.”

Symbol of Resolve

Navy Command Master Chief Petty Officer Allen Keller, the base’s command master chief, said flying of the First Navy Jack is a symbol of resolve. He challenged the joint base family, service members and civilians alike, to move forward and build on the history and legacy of the country and the Navy.

“2017 was a challenging year for the Navy,” Keller said. “We as an installation will fly the Navy First Jack as a reminder to every airman, sailor, civilian and family member to get back to basics, honor our country and remember our history.”

Task Force Couple Delivers ‘Inseparable’ Disaster Support

By Gerald Rogers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Jan. 3, 2018 — Evan and Leah Morgan have been inseparable since 2010, their freshman year at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

The husband-and-wife team from Huntington District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, knew they wanted to support the recovery mission in Puerto Rico. The only consideration was timing -- would the stars align so this couple could deploy together?

The answer came Nov. 14, when Leah, a district contract purchasing agent, deployed to Puerto Rico to support the Task Force Power Restoration mission. Evan, a civil engineer, wouldn’t join her until Dec. 22.

Leah is an administrative support assistant for TF Power. Her position became available first. Once she arrived and settled into the job, a light clicked on in her head one day. “I create the tasker requests to bring people down here, so I said, ‘Evan is an engineer; he can do this work.’ So I alerted him when civil engineers were needed here,” she said.

The Morgans are native West Virginians. In fact, Leah was born in Cabell Huntington Hospital, just eight blocks away from the district office. Evan hails from Clarksburg, about a three-hour drive from Huntington. Leah began working at the district in 2010, as a student employee at age 18. She became a permanent employee in 2014.

“We were married Dec. 13, 2014, in the same church where my parents exchanged their vows,” Leah said. Evan graduated the next day with an undergraduate degree in civil engineering. Leah had graduated seven months earlier with an undergraduate degree in biology.

“We agreed that it would be easier for my family to travel here for our wedding, since my graduation ceremony was the same weekend and they only had to travel once,” Evan said.

Motivation Straight From the Heart

Their reason for volunteering to deploy to Puerto Rico is clear: their motivation is straight from the heart.

“Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I wanted to step out of my comfort zone,” Evan said. “I had family that wanted me to spend the Christmas holidays with them, but they were understanding. I really wanted to be with my wife and to help my fellow Americans.”

“I yearn for adventure, so I like to take those giant steps,” Leah said. “Where I come from, families are close-knit and not spread out. Most people are content with that -- why would you want anything more? But, for me, I want to go out and experience the world and, of course, I want to contribute and help people who are suffering.

“So I saw deployment here as a golden opportunity to develop professionally and personally; not only because it is a good stepping stone for my career, but I love Spanish,” she continued. “I’m not fluent, but I did study for four years in college. I wanted to take hold of the opportunity to experience the one-on-one personal conversation.”

Leah said her Spanish has improved, although she’s still a bit rusty speaking it.

“I’ve always been good at reading and writing Spanish, almost fluently,” she said. “I’m picking up more from listening to the language. I struggle because most citizens here want to speak English and show you they can speak it well. Practically no one I know or come across in public back home speaks Spanish, so I never get the opportunity.”

Evan said he’s thinking about extending his deployment, and that means he’ll have to give up a sweet project that he’s been working on back home involving hydraulic modeling of two major river systems. “The models help the Corps plan for major storm events by identifying structures in the floodplain that would be affected should the water rise to a certain level,” he explained.

Both Leah and Evan have been here over the holidays, with Leah even missing Thanksgiving Day at home.

An Instinct to Act

“I often hear people say, ‘Somebody else will take care of that.’ I’m very much the opposite,” Leah said. “If I see a need, I have this instinct to act. I saw the need for volunteers to come down here, especially over the holidays, a time when it’s most inconvenient. So I thought, ‘If no one else is going to step up at this time and support this critical mission, I want to be the one to do it, and be able to say that I did it.’”

Evan is an usher at First Missionary Baptist Church in Culloden, West Virginia, and Leah serves as a Sunday school teacher.

“I teach a great group of girls, ages 7 to 11,” she said. “I usually have five or six on Sunday mornings. … They sent me a package, and it contained a hand-drawn Christmas tree with ornaments and notes and messages on it, and a big star on top. It was about 3 feet wide and 4 feet long, and it made me tear up. When I opened it, it had hand cut-out paper snowflakes.” Leah is set to return home Jan. 12. She said this deployment has been one of the most challenging experiences of her life and, by far, the most rewarding.