Tuesday, September 25, 2018

U.S. Readiness in Korea Important to Diplomacy, Nominee Tells Senate Panel

By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- The North Korean military remains dangerous, and U.S., South Korean and allied forces on the Korean Peninsula “should remain clear-eyed about the situation on the ground and allow diplomacy to continue to work,” President Donald J. Trump’s nominee to be the next commander of U.S. forces in Korea told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing today.

Army Gen. Robert B. Abrams, now the commander of U.S. Army Forces Command,  is the president’s nominee to replace Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks as the commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea.

If confirmed, Abrams would go to a peninsula in a state of flux. The historic meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un changed the calculus, and this is a critical time. What happens in North Korea – will they indeed denuclearize – affects South Korea, Japan, China and all of Northeast Asia.

“The strategic importance of the Pacific region has grown over the past decade,” Abrams said. “The foundation for success in Northeast Asia is largely due to the extraordinary relationships we have built over time with United Nations sending states and our Indo-Pacific neighbors, particularly Japan and the Republic of Korea.”

Working with allies is key to what happens on the peninsula, and Abrams said he would continue that process. “Our strong combined military power with the Republic of Korea has sustained armistice conditions for 65 years and supported our diplomatic and economic efforts today,” he said.

Since the armistice of 1953, alliance forces have been ready “to fight tonight,” the general said, and the allies must maintain that credible deterrent “to preserve options for our elected leaders.”

Command Priorities

Abrams endorsed the four long-standing command priorities: sustaining and strengthening the alliance, maintaining the armistice, transforming the alliance, and sustaining the force. “I believe these priorities remain relevant, but if confirmed, I will … make my own assessment on the way forward, and I will keep this committee informed of my conclusions,” he said.

The general said he would describe the situation today as “a temporary pause and a general feeling of detente, if you will, on the peninsula.”

North Korea has not made a major provocation for more than 300 days, and dialogue has taken place on many levels among the United States, South Korea and North Korea. This includes military-to-military talks between the United Nations Command and the North Korean army at the senior officer level – the first in 11 years.

Given this encouraging news, the allies still need to maintain readiness, Abrams said. North Korea is a significant asymmetric and intercontinental threat, he told the Senate panel, noting that it still has the fourth-largest conventional army in the world.

Face of Defense: Airman Transforms Traumatic Experience Into Triumph

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- “Life comes in seasons,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nakisha Simon, the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group bioenvironmental engineering noncommissioned officer in charge. “If I didn’t get the help I needed, I don’t believe I would have seen the next one.”

Simon is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Whether she is testing base drinking water, identifying and reducing hazardous noise in the workplace, identifying the need for chemical-protective clothing or improving indoor air quality, her job is to help her fellow airmen keep the mission going.

However, at one point in her life, Simon, a former victim’s advocate and 15-year veteran from Pasco, Washington, was the one who needed assistance.

“I was at a very stressful point in my life,” she said. “When I was in my sophomore year of high school, I felt there was a lot of pressure on me to succeed. Looking back, I know I placed much of that pressure on myself. But to me, it was overwhelming. And that's the thing. What may not be a big deal to one person may be a big deal for someone else.”

Unfortunately, this combination of stress and anxiety resulted in Simon’s attempts to make an irrevocable decision. Upon waking in the hospital room and seeing her loved ones worried for her, she realized life had other plans in mind.

“I remember waking up and thinking, ‘What did I just do?’” she said. “That’s when I realized how precious life is and that this decision would not only affect me, but affect the people who loved me as well.”

Joining the Military

Simon progressed through school and eventually decided to join the military. While there was the opportunity to pursue her passion for dance, she said, the benefits the Air Force provided were more appealing. However, the most attractive facets were the structure, discipline, and guidance the military life would offer, which Simon said have given her a fulfilling Air Force career.

“There always seems to be a negative stigma that if someone goes to mental health and receives assistance, they might have issues with their career, or even be separated from the military,” she said. “However, I would like to think of myself as an example. You can get the help you need and still be successful. Getting help does not make you a liability.”

Simon, who is deployed from the 355th Aerospace Medicine Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, said her previous experience has not been a weakness during her tenure as an airman. She has actually transformed it into a way to help others, and is known as ‘Mom’ in her workplace.

Taking Care of Airmen

“I got the nickname because I am always asking how people are doing on a personal level and trying to care of them,” she said. “I just do my best to be there for the airmen, because while you may not always have the exact answer they need, you can at least listen to them. Sometimes venting an issue and just getting it into the open can be therapeutic.”

When she isn’t serving as her shop’s mom, Simon serves as an actual mother for her 2-year-old daughter, Alexis. She said Alexis and her husband, Byron, help keep her focused on her goal of eventually becoming a first sergeant. She said they also inspire her to be the best version of herself.
“Even though I am deployed, I am lucky to be here today,” she said. “Talking to them and video chatting every day reminds me of how beautiful life really is, and how lucky we are to have one another. As Alexis grows, I’ll give her the same advice I would give a younger version of myself: Life comes in seasons. There will be times where life seems too hard to go on, but know that you will make it through. Love yourself, know you matter, and never be ashamed if you need help.”

Mattis, Malaysian Counterpart Reaffirm Defense Relationship

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary James N. Mattis met with Malaysian Defense Minister Mohamad bin Sabu at the Pentagon yesterday to reaffirm the defense relationship between the United States and Malaysia, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said.

In a statement summarizing the meeting, White said the leaders discussed a broad range of defense issues. Mattis also thanked for the defense minister for Malaysia’s participation in the Tiger Strike, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, and Rim of the Pacific, she added.

“They also addressed ways to work more closely on maritime security, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” she said.
Mattis thanked his counterpart for the visit and noted that the Defense Department looks forward to building a close partnership with Malaysia's new government, White said.