Saturday, July 28, 2018

Communications Key in Solving International Disputes, Mattis Says

By Terri Moon Cronk, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- Reopening communications at the top line between the United States and nations such as Russia is essential in solving disagreements, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told Pentagon reporters today.

“Based on my long-standing stance on protecting America -- whether it be from a conventional attack, nuclear attack, cyberattack -- I have always been in favor, and in fact, promoted the idea that we talk with one another … even when [the United States and Russia] had nuclear missiles pointed at each other,” the secretary said.

“Even in the worse days of the Cold War, we had heads-of-state discussions and I believe we’ve been way overdue for that,” he added. “And this isn’t about this administration; this goes back years, many years.”

Mattis said such communications might not be easy or short term, “but I find nothing inconsistent in protecting this country by engaging diplomatically,” he said. “I’ve always said diplomacy leads our foreign policy. This is diplomacy in action.”

The secretary confirmed that he is considering meeting with his Russian counterpart, but added no decision has yet been made.


Mattis also talked about the Iranian government’s malign influence in the Middle East, and its threats to close the Strait of Hormuz.

“They’ve done that in years past; they saw the international community put dozens of nations’ naval forces in for exercises to clear the strait,” the secretary said. “Clearly, this [closure] would be an attack on international shipping and could have an international response to reopen the shipping lanes … because the world’s economy depends on those energy supplies flowing out of there.”

Iran, he noted, must start living by international rules.

“They are the exporter of instability across the region,” the secretary said.

Korean War Remains Repatriation

With 55 cases of reported U.S. service members’ remains being returned to the United States today from North Korea, Mattis emphasized the importance of giving the families of the fallen a sense of closure.

“When [the families] got the telegram, they have never had closure. They’ve never had the bodies returned,” he said. “So, what we’re seeing here is an opportunity to give those families closure, to make certain that we continue to look for those remaining.”

Mattis said each of the boxes of remains returned today bore a blue U.N. flag.

“Many of the U.N. nations also have missing [service members] -- we don’t know who’s in those boxes. As we discover it, they’ll be returned,” the secretary said, adding that nations such as Australia and France also have missing service members in Korea.

“This is an international effort to bring closure to those families,” Mattis said. “Obviously, we want to continue this sort of humanitarian effort.”

He added, “We also look at [the return of remains] as a first step of a restarted process, so we want to explore additional efforts to bring others home; perhaps have our own teams go in [to North Korea]. So we’re looking at all [opportunities].”

Mattis: U.S. Troop Remains Repatriation ‘Sets a Positive Environment’

By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said he’s pleased North Korea has turned over 55 cases of remains of fallen U.S. service members from the Korean War, and looks forward to further negotiations to repatriate the remains of more fallen service members.

The secretary spoke to reporters this morning at the Pentagon before he welcomed Yusuf bin Alawi, Oman's minister responsible for foreign affairs, to the Pentagon.

Mattis said the North Korean gesture indicates the relationship between North Korea and the United States is thawing.

“The remains were turned over … as initiated during the summit that President [Donald J.] Trump had with Chairman Kim [Jong Un],” Mattis said. “It was a coordination effort over the past month to determine where they would deliver the remains to, and where our plane would fly in, where we would take them to for the initial review.”

‘A Step in the Right Direction’

The secretary added, “All of that went well. I think when you have that sort of communication going on it sets a positive environment and tone for other things in terms of international diplomacy. This humanitarian act is a step in the right direction.”

The secretary said negotiations are underway to have U.S. teams come to North Korea to search for more fallen U.S. service members’ remains.

Mattis said he is in constant contact with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on this matter and more. DoD is in a support role to the State Department in negotiations with North Korea, but all levels are informed and DoD personnel are integral to the team, he said.

Face of Defense: Airman From Togo Takes Pride in U.S. Citizenship

By Air Force Senior Airman Jourdan Barrons, 86th Airlift Wing

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Air Force Senior Airman Pascal Nyowatchon’s co-workers describe him in a few short words: positive, strong and lively.

“I come to work happy every day,” Nyowatchon said “I smile. I laugh.”

Nyowatchon said his decision to keep smiling is a goal he set at a young age. Nyowatchon grew up in Togo, a small tropical country in western Africa and the site of political turmoil for more than 50 years, forcing families like Nyowatchon’s to be uprooted from their homes and seek refuge in neighboring countries.

“I remember being a little kid not knowing what’s going on.” Nyowatchon said “We just left everything behind. It was tough.”

That hardship is what motivated him to keep his head up, work hard and influence others to maintain their resilience.

“I learned from a young age that when things come your way, embrace it,” Nyowatchon said “Stop complaining. Life is not meant to be easy, so just take one step at a time.”

Coming to the U.S.

In early 2005, Nyowatchon and his family found themselves fleeing the country again. This time, while in Ghana, they applied for a visa to come to the United States.

“Nyowatchon said he’d always wanted to go to the United States to “have a better life.”

After two years of waiting and filing out documents, his family was approved to come to the U.S. In 2013 he became a U.S. citizen.

“I can recall it, yes. It was really nice,” Nyowatchon said of his citizenship ceremony. “I made sure I dressed up. I was looking sharp and holding the U.S. flag. And, I remember singing the national anthem. It was like I was an original American.”

He planned to go to school and further his education but something else was at the back of his mind.

Joining the Air Force

“It always came back to me,” Nyowatchon said “I promised something to an immigration officer that I would defend the U.S. Constitution.”

Today, he serves as a client system technician in the Air Force with the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing here, where he brings his positive personality and motivation to his peers and leaders.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Twan Jennings, Nyowatchon’s supervisor, described him as someone who likes to go above and beyond.

“He wants to be the one to do everything,” Jennings said “He’s like a ray of sunshine. And, his trust in God, knowing he’ll never fail him, makes him who he is so nothing can defeat him.”

Nyowatchon’s faith is something he wants to share with more people. He has aspirations to become a chaplain's assistant and possibly become an Air Force chaplain one day.

He is grateful for all the opportunities given to him, and is especially thankful his family will not have to endure the same hardships as he did.

“I’m very happy for my son,” Nyowatchon said. “He has a U.S. passport. It’s a privilege being a U.S. citizen and having access to things other people don’t have access to. I have a house I’ve never had before. I have a family, and the Air Force is taking care of us. And, I will not take that for granted.”