Thursday, April 26, 2018

Foreign Ministers Setting Stage for NATO Summit, Secretary General Says

By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON --NATO foreign ministers are dealing with issues of Russia, Afghanistan and the Middle East during their meeting in Brussels this week, alliance Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this morning.

The meeting is also helping to set up the NATO summit, scheduled to take place in Brussels in July, the secretary general said.

The foreign ministers will begin the week with discussions on Russia, Stoltenberg said. Russia’s actions in Georgia, its annexation of Crimea and continuing interference in Ukraine, cyberattacks, and disinformation campaigns concern NATO and has caused the alliance to beef up its deterrence posture, he said.

“Russia also backs the brutal regime in Syria, which has repeatedly used chemical weapons, and it is also highly likely that Russia was behind the nerve agent attack in Salisbury,” the secretary general said. “NATO has responded with resolve and unity.” In the March 4 attack in Salisbury, England, a former Russian military intelligence officer and his daughter were poisoned.

Reinforcement of Collective Defense

Alliance members have undertaken the biggest reinforcement of collective defense since the end of the Cold War, Stoltenberg said. Alliance units are routinely operating in the Baltic republics, Poland, Romania and Hungary. The alliance has also enhanced cyber defenses and stepped up efforts to counter Russia’s hybrid activities, he added.

The alliance states are investing more in defense, he noted, with all NATO nations spending more on security, including a number at, or approaching, the alliance’s goal of member nations spending at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.

“But we continue to see attempts to intimidate and interfere in allied countries,” Stoltenberg said. “So we must continue to adapt to hybrid challenges, and ministers will examine what more we can do.”

The alliance remains open to talks with Russia, the secretary general said, and the channels must remain open especially when tensions on the continent are high. He noted that Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, recently spoke with the Russian chief of defense, Gen. Valery Gerasimov. “We continue to work towards the next meeting of the NATO-Russia Council,” the secretary general said.

The ministers will move on to the situation in the Middle East and North Africa. “I expect that ministers will address the situation in Syria, the Iran nuclear deal, as well as NATO’s plans to scale up training in Iraq,” he said. European Union High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini will join these discussions.

“Together we will discuss how NATO and the European Union could cooperate more closely to build stability,” Stoltenberg said. “We have seen too often how turmoil in this region can inspire terrorist attacks on our own soil, and drive desperate refugees and migrants to our shores.”

Training Mission

The ministers will discuss the NATO training mission and the alliance is scheduled to launch a new training mission for Iraq at the summit in July. “Ministers will agree further details on the mission tomorrow,” he said. “We are currently planning for a training mission of several hundred.” The NATO forces will train Iraqi instructors, and help build Iraqi military schools.

The ministers will also examine the NATO mission in Afghanistan, where the bywords are “peace and reconciliation,” Stoltenberg said, and the alliance welcomes Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s unprecedented offer of peace talks to the Taliban. “NATO has helped to create the environment for this to happen, with our practical and political support,” he said. “And we have renewed our commitment, including with significant troop increases and financial support.”

The ministers also will discuss the situation in the Balkans and NATO’s open door policy. “NATO remains committed to the vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace,” Stoltenberg said. “We will discuss the progress made by Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Georgia. Ukraine has also expressed its aspirations for membership.”

Face of Defense: Top Female Cadet Looks Forward to Serving in Infantry

By Sean Kimmons, Army News Service

WEST POINT, N.Y. -- As a young girl, U.S. Military Academy Cadet Taylor England daydreamed about being in the infantry long before the Army opened all of its combat arms positions to women.

She wanted to lead troops in combat, shoot weapons and execute missions -- aspirations similar to those of her male counterparts.

“I wanted to be the person out there doing those things,” said England, 22, of South Lebanon, Ohio. “I didn’t want to sit back and relax.”

Her drive and competitive spirit led her to be valedictorian at her high school and later to the U.S. Military Academy here, where she is a regimental command sergeant major.

She also is the top-ranked cadet out of 230 others who have branched infantry. Rankings are based on a cadet’s cumulative performance of military skills, physical training and academic standing.

In her most recent physical training test, she maxed out at 360 points on a 300-point scale. Her 2-mile run was clocked in at 13:09, just nine seconds shy of the men’s fastest standard.

“I want to do a job and I want to do it well. It doesn’t matter that I’m a female,” she said. “I can do the same things a guy can do.”


To broaden her leadership abilities, England volunteered to take charge of her company’s team in the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition last year.

The annual competition pits hundreds of cadets against each other in strenuous events over two days. While most cadets come from West Point, there are also teams from other service academies and ROTC detachments at universities across the country as well as several nations. Her squad ended up placing in the middle of the 60-squad field.

At this year’s competition, which ended April 14, she decided to go all in. She tried out and earned a spot on the Gold Team, which handpicks skilled competitors from across the academy. On a team of leaders, she had the opportunity to learn from others who were as ambitious as she is.

Throughout the competition, she said, there were times where she leaned on her teammates and vice versa for them to conduct all 11 events in a timely matter.

“It definitely prepares you to be an infantry officer because we’re doing infantry tactics,” she said of Sandhurst. “With the leading part, we all had to step up at different times and take the reins. We left it all out there.”

In his fourth Sandhurst competition, Cadet Eric Savini said England helped keep the team motivated when grueling tasks sapped the energy out of them.

England is typically the first-line supervisor to Savini, who is a battalion command sergeant major in the Corps of Cadets. But because of his past knowledge of Sandhurst, he was chosen as the team’s squad leader. He described England as a cadet who is physically fit and willing to put in the extra effort to get the job done. “We have been friends for over a year now,” said Savini, 22, of West Chester, Pennsylvania. “It’s good working with her.”

While their squad failed to win this year’s competition, it still had an impressive showing with a fifth-place finish out of 64 teams. It also gave England and her squad a useful lesson on teamwork.

“Working together in a team-oriented [competition] is the best thing you can experience,” England said afterward. “At the end of the day, that’s why I do it -- because of the people who I’m with.”

Italy Bound

England’s time at West Point almost did not happen. Initially, she thought about attending the U.S. Naval Academy until her strong interest in land warfare eventually sunk that idea.

“I decided to come here, because I would rather be about leading people than a boat,” she said, smiling.

In her sophomore year, her interest in joining the infantry grew even more when Capt. Kristen Griest, who later became the Army’s first female infantry officer, visited the academy. It was 2015, and Griest, along with Army 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, had just become the first women to earn the coveted Ranger tab.

A dozen women have now since graduated from the notoriously difficult Army Ranger School. In fiscal year 2016, for example, more than 4,000 personnel attended the school and only 36 percent of them graduated, according to Army statistics.

“It definitely lifted your spirits,” England recalled when both women passed the course.

One day, she said, she hopes to add a Ranger tab to her uniform, which already has Army parachutist and air assault badges sewn onto it. If the opportunity to attend the course does come up, she added, it should not matter that she is a woman.

“I don’t like focusing on that,” she said. “Overall, you go out there and do what you need to do, and if you’re prepared, you’ll get through it.”

Until then, England said, she expects to face other challenges. First, she needs to graduate from the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course. Then, she will be a young lieutenant in the prestigious 173rd Airborne Brigade based at Vicenza, Italy, which is the Army’s contingency response force in Europe.

As the best Infantry cadet at the academy, she had the first pick for her duty station. While she sought to receive a posting at the 173rd brigade, the unit was not yet available to female Infantry officers. Then, in January, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley visited the academy.

As Milley greeted cadets at a dinner, he asked England where she hoped to be posted. She replied, “Italy, sir.” Shortly after, she said, Italy was opened up to female infantry officers.

“It was pretty awesome,” she said. “The best lieutenants end up in Italy. It’s definitely going to be a challenge, even if I wasn’t a female, because of the competition.”

With her dream of being an infantry leader drawing closer, England said, she remains aware of the difficult road ahead in a male-dominated career field.

Her competitive nature, though, looks forward to it.

“You just overcome it by being competent and being physical and showing them that you can do what they can do,” England said. “You’re not going to shy away from their resistance. You’re going to show them, ‘Hey, I’m here, and I’m ready to lead soldiers.’
She added, “Once they see enough females who can set the standard and keep the standard, it will just become like anything else.”

U.S., Thailand Commence Guardian Sea Exercise

ANDAMAN SEA -- The U.S. Navy and Royal Thai Navy began exercise Guardian Sea here yesterday.

The five-day antisubmarine and maritime domain awareness exercise will involve cooperative evolutions designed to enhance mutual capabilities in antisubmarine warfare while also improving information sharing between the two navies, officials said.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey, a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine and a P-8 Poseidon aircraft will be participating from the U.S. Navy. Participating Thai assets include helicopter carrier HTMS Chakri Naruebet, Khamronsin-class corvette HTMS Long Lom, Naresuan-class frigates HTMS Taksin and HTMS Naresuan, and an S-70B Seahawk helicopter.

‘Sophisticated, Robust Exercise’

“Guardian Sea is an increasingly sophisticated and robust exercise that enables the U.S. Navy and Royal Thai Navy to continue working closely together and learning from each other,” said Navy Capt. Lex Walker, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7. “Each year, as allies, our two nations are becoming increasingly capable in mutually conducting antisubmarine warfare that ensures security and stability in the maritime domain.”

The two navies will conduct subject matter expert exchanges in every aspect of antisubmarine warfare focusing on tracking submarines in a variety of conditions and concludes with evolutions designed to incorporate learned techniques shared throughout Guardian Sea.

“The Royal Thai Navy and U.S. Navy continue to demonstrate a strong relationship in every aspect of maritime operations,” Royal Thai Navy Capt Anupong Taprasob said. “We are fully committed to further strengthening this partnership well into the future with even greater and more complex naval tactic as well as maritime security exercises each year.”

The U.S. Navy and the Royal Thai Navy conduct numerous annual engagements, including the bilateral and multilateral Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, which began in 1995, Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training, and Cobra Gold, the Indo-Pacific region’s largest multinational exercise.
“The P-8 Poseidon brings an unmatched maritime surveillance capability to a wide spectrum of operations, including antisubmarine warfare,” said Navy Cmdr Bryan Hager, commanding officer of Patrol Squadron 4. “We will be working side by side with our Royal Thai Navy counterparts through each mission and look forward to gaining and sharing knowledge.”