Military News

Friday, August 03, 2018

NATO Using New Mission Set to Address Southern Flank


By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- Peace, stability and the rule of law are at the heart of security, and the NATO alliance is using a non-traditional effort called NATO Strategic Direction South to encourage this process.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared the organization, also known as the Hub for the South, fully operational following the Brussels Summit July 12. The commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, Navy Adm. James G. Foggo III, said the hub is a “totally different mission set” for the alliance.

The organization was formally established in September. “We are manned for 80 people at the headquarters … and the NATO goal for the Hub for the South is to complete the 360-degree comprehensive approach to security and stability operations,” the admiral said.

NATO has done an excellent job of security operations in Europe’s north and east, where Russia is the prime disturber of the peace, Foggo said.

“The area where we need to continue to work is in the strategic direction south,” he said.

NATO’s Southern Flank

NATO’s southern flank has a different set of dangers. Transnational threats such as terrorism, drug gangs, human traffickers and weapons smugglers take advantage of ungoverned or loosely governed areas in the Middle East, North Africa and the Sahel to threaten peace inside NATO allies.

Creating stability and security in those regions requires different tools than deterring Russia, and the Hub for the South is designed to provide those tools, officials said. It is the hub of a network of people and organizations dedicated to helping nations on NATO’s southern flank build the infrastructures needed to sustain security, promote the rule of law and encourage economic gains.

The migration of people from North Africa and the Middle East is not a problem in and of itself, Foggo said, but it is a symptom of larger problems throughout the region. Getting at those problems will change the migration dynamic, he said.

“There are other ways to get at this question of governance, rule of law and stability, and that is through the Hub sponsorship of connecting, consulting and coordinating,” the admiral said.

Maximizing Effectiveness

The hub aims to contribute to coordination, synchronization and deconfliction of NATO’s activities across the south, while optimizing resources and maximizing effectiveness, officials said.

Hub personnel examined the drivers of instability in the region and that pointed to what the organization can do to help with governance and rule of law, Foggo said.

“The nations struggling with training of police, military, border security, justice … we can provide them with a non-governmental organization or a state actor that can help build a stronger judiciary that can help provide equitable justice,” he said. “Also, we are trying to connect with a number of different organization on the continent, in Europe and America who want to help.”

Additionally the hub is building awareness of the extent of the problems in the area.

“There is a broad spectrum of think tanks and organizations that understand Africa better than we do, and we are leveraging that,” the admiral said. “Many of these organizations are helping us pro bono. They are interested in what NATO is trying to do.”

People and organizations are beginning to understand the resources of the hub, he said. Still there are some misconceptions.

“A lot of folks think the hub is just about migration: That’s incorrect,” Foggo said. “People migrate from their homes because they don’t feel safe. Our goal is to try to make people feel safer by helping nations, or people, or places have better governance, better rule of law so they can live in peace and have a family, educate their children and have economic prosperity. In some places, … they can’t do that right now because there is lawlessness.”

Rim of the Pacific Exercise Features Last Flight for RQ-7B Shadow


By Marine Corps Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres, Marine Corps Base Hawaii

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Hawaii -- After years of service to the armed services, the RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial system was retired after its final flight during the culmination event for the Rim of the Pacific exercise at Pyramid Rock Beach here July 29.

Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle 3 was the last squadron to use the Shadow. The other Marine Corps unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons already transitioned to the RQ-21 Blackjack.

Marine Corps Master Sgt. Madhur Sawhney, an air crew chief with operations and training for Marine Aircraft Group 24, said the Shadow’s support for Rimpac operations was vital.

“The Shadow provided real-time footage of the objective area for the Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander to guide his decisions,” Sawhney said. “Prior to any forces landing on the beach, we were up in the air gathering intelligence alongside our other air combat element aircraft.”

He added that while the Shadow has been a versatile system that makes a difference during missions, the transition to the new Blackjack makes the Marine Corps mission to be expeditionary even sharper.

Marine Corps Capt. Mathew Kramer, an unmanned aerial vehicle commander with VMU-3, said the last flight was the end of an era. “Variances of the RQ-7 have been flying since Operation Desert Storm, throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, right up until operations ceased,” he said. “It’s exciting to see how the Blackjack will perform.”

Return to Expeditionary Roots

Sawhney said the transition continues a long line of progress. “Serving for as long as I have, we have retired multiple platforms over the years to continuously be a more effective force to assist in operations,” he said. “The last flight of the Shadow is a positive direction towards returning to our expeditionary roots.”

The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships that are part of amphibious ready groups and Marine expeditionary units will be able to launch the Blackjacks, Sawhney said. He noted that the new platform is lighter and smaller than its predecessor.

“The Blackjack has a smaller footprint with a 16-foot wing span and a lighter weight distribution at 135 pounds when wet, with an average flight time of 10 hours,” he added. “Before the Blackjack, a detachment to support the Shadow mission included around 70 Marines, but now it’s decreased to 21 personnel.”
Sawhney said as the mission continues, technology will also continue to advance and lead unmanned aircraft systems to return to their expeditionary roots.

Rex Goes Home: Military Working Dog to Receive Cancer Treatment


By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Rullo, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti -- In the sun-blasted, 100-degree heat here, a military working dog is being held on a short leash. Rex, a German shepherd, is a muscular 85 pounds and covered in thick, brown fur.

His partner and handler, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Fuentes, a master-at-arms, barks out commands, but Rex’s wagging tail signals that his mind is elsewhere.

An observer suggests that the humans take off their hats for comfort.

“I wouldn’t do that,” Fuentes said.

Why? Does Rex become aggressive with the removal of hats? Is it a signal to attack?

No. Rex loves to steal hats to play with, Fuentes said. Rex likes to play with a lot of things. He looks for fun wherever he is -- and of course does not know he has been diagnosed with cancer.

Rex, officially known as military working dog T-401, was diagnosed while being treated for an ear infection.

“I noticed dry spots on his ears,” Fuentes said. “I waited a little bit to mention it to the vet since I thought it was a reaction to the medicine.”

Fuentes said that ear infections are common in military working dogs that are deployed to desert areas because of the large amount of sand that gets into their ears, which, in Rex’s case, are prominent.

Testing, Diagnosis

Rex was first examined in March by the Camp Lemonnier veterinarian, Army Capt. Richard Blair. During a follow-up examination, Blair noticed other skin lesions that raised additional concerns.

“We had to dig deeper to determine what was really going on,” Blair said. Possible reason for the lesions included a reaction to the medication, a skin infection, or even allergies.

While the facilities at Camp Lemonnier are appropriate for the everyday care of working dogs, the base does have some limitations due to its remote location, Blair said. So, he worked with other vets in the area of operation to determine what caused the lesions.

“After some logistics challenges, we were able to get our samples submitted to a pathology lab in Germany,” Blair said. “After a few weeks, we got the results back.”

Fuentes said that he was working with Rex at the dog kennel on base when his kennel master got the call from Blair.

“Cancer was the last thing I would have thought of,” Fuentes said. “My heart sank when I heard the news.”

Getting Care, Beach Time

Rex has been a military working dog his entire life. He’s been deployed several times, including two tours here.

His behavior has not changed since the diagnosis, Fuentes said. He’s still a sweet dog who just wants to play tug of war.

Fuentes reached down and scratched Rex between his ears.

The bonds between service members can be strong. Serving in a combat zone, working long hours, getting through stressful situations and living together in small spaces has a way of making the bonds stronger.

Rex and Fuentes live together in a 7-by-20 container. Fuentes joked that Rex likes to take up all of it.

“He’s obnoxious,” Fuentes said. “He’s all up in your business, taking all of your space.”

The data on dogs with cancer is not as complete as it is on humans with cancer, Blair said. As a result, Rex’s prognosis isn’t certain, but getting him sent back to the U.S. is vital to his treatment.

At home, “he can get to more definitive care,” Blair said.

Rex will be redeployed in early August. His retirement paperwork has also been started.

After retirement, Rex “won’t have to work and can enjoy the rest of his life -- just chilling,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes is scheduled to redeploy with Rex and said he hopes to adopt him -- but he isn’t the only person trying. A former handler is also interested.

“It’s a race to the end to see who gets him,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes will be returning to Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. Rex has never been to the beach, he said, and he’d like to take him there.

Honorable Service

Navy Capt. Charles J. DeGilio, Camp Lemonnier’s commander, presented Rex with a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal at a ceremony here July 27.

DeGilio said that military working dogs, including Rex, fill an important role.
“Rex has served honorably to help keep the men and women of Camp Lemonnier safe,” DeGilio said. “I want to personally thank him for his service and wish him fair winds and following seas.”