Military News

Friday, February 23, 2018

Face of Defense: From Small Boats to an Amphibious Assault Ship

By Marine Corps Sgt. Ricky Gomez, 3rd Marine Division

ABOARD THE USS BONHOMME RICHARD, Feb. 22, 2018 — Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jeremiah Cunningham recalls that as he was growing up he would cruise the Delaware River with friends on a small, 25-foot fishing boat that carried no more than 10 people.

Today, Cunningham finds himself aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard, an 844-foot amphibious assault ship which holds thousands of Marines and sailors.

“Being on a fishing boat with my friends is great, but I feel like there is a sense of purpose being aboard a naval vessel,” he said. “I am excited to be on an amphibious assault ship and do what Marines do.”

Cunningham, 20, hails from Parkersburg, West Virginia. He enlisted on June 13, 2016.

Serving in the Marine Corps

“I [joined] the Marine Corps because I felt like it was my civic duty,” he said.

Cunningham serves as an infantry fire team leader assigned to Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. His Hawaii-based unit is underway aboard the Bonhomme Richard, heading to Thailand to participate in the Cobra Gold 2018 multinational training exercise.

Cobra Gold 2018, held Feb. 13-23, is an annual exercise conducted in Thailand with seven fully participating nations. It is the largest exercise in the Indo-Pacific region.

“I am excited to show other militaries things that I have learned and [to make] a stronger connection with the U.S. and our allies,” Cunningham said.

Pacific Partnership Enhances Regional Disaster Response Cooperation

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Micah Blechner, Logistics Group Western Pacific

SINGAPORE, Feb. 22, 2018 — PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 12, 2016) USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) steams in the Pacific Ocean after completing Pacific Partnership 2016 in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Mercy is sailing to her homeport of San Diego.

This annual maritime operation will help improve disaster response preparedness, resilience and capacity while enhancing partnerships with participating nations and civilian humanitarian organizations throughout the Indo-Pacific region, officials said.

Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral disaster response preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific region. This year's mission will be led by Destroyer Squadron 31 and staff embarked on the hospital ship USNS Mercy and the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Fall River, and will include more than 800 military and civilian personnel from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Peru and Japan.

Deepening Ties With Regional Partners

"Through Pacific Partnership we are deepening integral ties with our allies and partners across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," said Navy Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, commander of Task Force 73, the executive agent for Pacific Partnership 2018.

"The challenges we face with natural and man-made disasters do not respect borders or national sovereignty,” Gabrielson added. “This dynamic mission enables many nations and subject-matter experts to come together to pursue solutions to complex problems while enhancing preparations for disaster emergencies that reduce the severity of their impact. The foundation of trust created through Pacific Partnership engagement helps foster a cooperative environment that encourages collaborative approaches to improving the lives and conditions for the people of this region and beyond."

USNS Mercy will make mission stops in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Vietnam, while USNS Fall River will visit Yap, Palau, Malaysia and Thailand. Medical, dental, civil engineering and veterinary teams will partner with each host nation to conduct civic-action projects, community health exchanges, medical symposiums and disaster response training activities.

Engagements With Communities

Additional community relations engagements will occur in each mission stop to enhance relationships and camaraderie with citizens of the host nations. Following the mission stops, Mercy will also visit Japan during its return transit across the Pacific Ocean.

Engagements between Pacific Partnership 2018 participants and host nations are intended to improve capacity, enhance regional partnerships, and increase multilateral cooperation for preparedness.

“Our staff and team have come together to form a dynamic team of professionals, and we are ready to execute this mission and engage with our partners throughout the Indo-Pacific,” said Navy Capt. David Bretz, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 31. “We are excited about forging new friendships and deepening partnerships across the region.”

Pacific Partnership began in response to one of the world’s most catastrophic natural disasters: the December 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of South and Southeast Asia. The mission has evolved over the years from emphasis on direct care to an operation focused on enhancing partnerships through host nation subject matter expert and civil-military exchanges.

Operation’s Distinctions

Pacific Partnership 2018 will have several other distinctions:

-- A multinational command-and-control structure will be used to include a deputy mission commander from the United Kingdom and mission chief of staff from Australia;

-- The mission will visit Sri Lanka for a second consecutive year to enhance ties with the Indian Ocean nation;

-- Pacific Partnership will continue to leverage the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, a plan backed by Executive Order 13595 and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325. Officials said integration of WPS into Pacific Partnership yields opportunities to engage with partner nations on the topic of gender integration and perspectives, as well as preparedness in dealing with vulnerable populations -- women, children, elderly and disabled -- during and in the aftermath of crises; and
-- This year’s mission will return to Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, where the United States continues its legacy of strong cooperation and defense ties with these nations.

Officials Highlight German-American Partnership at Security Conference

By Christine June George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

MUNICH, Feb. 22, 2018 — Wolfgang Ischinger, the chairman of the Munich Security Conference, told members of the Loisach Group that the German-American partnership is the “backbone” of the transatlantic alliance and the conference, which was held here Feb. 16-18.

Each February, the Munich Security Conference brings together more than 450 senior decision-makers from around the world to engage in an intensive debate on current and future security challenges.

The Loisach Group is a collaboration between the Munich Security Conference and the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies that focuses on enhancing the security partnership between the U.S. and Germany while promoting an enduring strategic dialogue between these essential partners. The group met Feb. 19 after the Munich Security Conference wrapped up.

The Marshall Center, based in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, is a 25-year old German-American security partnership that has produced generations of global security professionals schooled in American and German security policies.

Key to Mutual Security

“Our [Loisach Group] guiding principle is the belief that the German-U.S. partnership is the key relationship in America’s security relationship with Europe beyond NATO,” said Keith W. Dayton, the Marshall Center’s director. “This transatlantic relationship is at the foundation of our group and is, we believe, the key to our mutual security.”

The group was formed last year to focus on enhancing the security partnership between the United States and Germany with a view toward establishing an enduring strategic dialogue platform.

The Loisach Group held a roundtable discussion engaging ambassadors, former White House officials and senior German and American military officers, academics and journalists to further strengthen the strategic dialogue by discussing the lessons identified by this year’s Munich Security Conference.

“I think it’s very important that we had this meeting immediately after the Munich Security Conference because it gave us the chance to reflect on what has been said, especially about how to foster the German-American relationship,” said German Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Jörg Vollmer. “What the Loisach Group bought together today was good and open discussions, exchange of thoughts, and gave all of us, I think, an idea on what we need to improve in the upcoming weeks and months.”

‘Most Important Relationship in the World’

Vollmer was a part of the panel discussion on the state of the German and U.S. strategic dialogue along with Frederick Benjamin "Ben" Hodges III, former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe.

“I believe that the relationship between Germany and the United States is the most important relationship in the world for the United States,” Hodges said. “Germany is a partner that we need to jealously guard and protect that relationship -- [it is] strategically important for us.”

Hodges added, “The Loisach Group is another line of effort to help achieve that.”

Strategic Dialogue

This is the first time that Loisach Group held a side event at the Munich Security Conference. The other panel discussion at this side event was on aligning U.S. and German security policy. Sharing their thoughts on this discussion were Karl-Heinz Kamp, president of the Federal Academy for Security Policy in Berlin, and Dan Hamilton, executive director of the Center of Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with the level of engagement and the level of interest,” said Andrew A. Michta, dean of the Marshall Center’s College of International and Security Studies. “I think we have taken a very significant step in building that network of people who are committed to the German-American security strategic dialogue that Secretary of Defense [James N.] Mattis mentioned when he was here.”

Mattis and German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited the Marshall Center for the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan commemoration ceremony in June last year.

“They inaugurated something they called a new ‘strategic dialogue’ between Germany and the United States,” Dayton said. ‘In my view, this was a recognition that the security bond between our two countries was extremely important and could not be allowed to fade.”

Loisach Group’s Past, Future

The name of the group refers to the Loisach River in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the fact that the water from that river flows into Munich. The first meeting of the Loisach Group was in May last year, and the second meeting was a few months later in December.

Michta said the next meeting for the Loisach Group is planned for this summer before the NATO Summit in Brussels.

“We will be able to generate some additional ideas and hopefully, send it to our stakeholders in Berlin and Washington, D.C.,” he said.