Monday, December 21, 2009

Mullen Updates, Changes Joint Guidance

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Dec. 21, 2009 - The Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy takes primacy in the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's guidance for 2010. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen signed the guidance, which goes to members of the Joint Staff and informs the joint force, on his plane after finishing a trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

The guidance builds on the document he issued when taking over as chairman in 2007: to improve stability and defend U.S. interests in the greater Middle East/Central Asia, improve the health of the DoD force and to balance strategic risks around the world.

The situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated in the past year, but President Barack Obama's new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy – which includes a surge of 30,000 American servicemembers – can reverse Taliban gains.

Al-Qaida and like terrorist groups remain the biggest threat to the United States, the admiral wrote in the guidance. "The threat is still real," he said. Defeating those groups will take more than military power, and the chairman called on the U.S. military to work with other national agencies and international allies to take on the threat.

The president's strategy has the goal of defeating Al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to prevent the group from threatening America and its allies.

"Our main effort now must be to push forces into the theater as quickly as possible – including shifting the balance of enablers from Iraq," the admiral wrote. The enablers include such things as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, engineers, military police and civil affairs personnel.

All aspects of the joint force need to act more quickly, he said. Far too many of our daily practices do not match the speed of war," Mullen wrote.

He called on the Defense Department and the combatant commands to send their very best people to fight the wars in Central Asia. "I will take gaps in manning the Joint Staff in order to support the war," the chairman said. "I expect combatant commanders and services outside of (U.S. Central Command) to consistently make choices, however painful, that fully support the fight."

The situation in Iraq continues to improve and American forces there are on the glidepath to end the combat mission on August 31, Mullen said. American forces in Iraq are set to drop from 110,000 today to about 50,000 in August.

"Drawing down must be closely managed (in Iraq)," the chairman wrote. "Lingering tensions could flash. But sustained security gains to date and Iraq's continued progress have placed it on a positive note for the future. We must finish well in Iraq."

Iran remains a source of problems in the greater Middle East, Mullen said. Iran funds terrorist groups in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, it trains and ships weapons to surrogates inside Iraq and it continues to work on developing a nuclear program.

"My belief remains that political means are the best tools to attain regional security and that military force will have limited results," the chairman wrote. "However, should the president call for military options, we must have them ready."

The people of the department are the nation's most precious asset, Mullen said. "Our core responsibility is to win wars while caring for our people and their families," he wrote in the guidance. Repeated deployments have stressed servicemembers and their families.

Those wounded in the fight must have world class care and all portions of government and the American people themselves must ensure they have the chance to live their American dreams. The families of those killed need the assistance and support of all Americans.

Mullen is calling for a study of the progress made in treating posttraumatic stress and traumatic brain injury – the signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The chairman is concerned that "we still do not have a holistic and clear way of measuring all the components of health-of-the-force, ranging from unit readiness, training and age of weapons systems to retention/recruiting and personnel challenges, like suicide or divorce." The department needs more clarity on dwell time – the time spent at home station between deployments – for individuals.

He said that in an era of constrained resources, people must be the paramount investment.

The wars in the Middle East and Central Asia are part of the global picture. America's interests in the Western Hemisphere, Africa and the Pacific Rim must also be guarded.

The nation must take under consideration attacks in cyberspace and the effects of natural disasters and global warming. "In the near term, we will maintain focus on regular and irregular threats to the vital national interests and to our forces directly in harm's way," Mullen wrote.

Global threats remain. "This means finding the right size, shape and posture to globally detect, deter and defeat current and future threats," the chairman wrote. Deterrence remains key in this new environment. But the nation needs to rethink what deterrence means in an era of terrorist groups looking for weapons of mass destruction and of other non-state actors who seek to take on nation states.

Guard Responds to Record Northeast Snowfall

By Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke

Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 21, 2009 - National Guardsmen in seven states were called to duty over the weekend after a record snowfall blanketed the Northeast. More than 1,200 Guardsmen in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia and North Carolina responded to requests for road clearance, evacuation and other related missions.

In Virginia, about 400 Guardsmen were initially mobilized, but Gov. Tim Kaine authorized another 600 Soldiers on Dec. 20. According to a press release from the state, more than 750 Soldiers and Airmen were expected to be on duty throughout the state by the afternoon of Dec. 20.

"The Virginia National Guard continues to assist state and local agencies across the commonwealth with rescuing stranded motorists, transporting critical supplies, assisting with sheltering operations and transporting patients and health care professionals," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, the adjutant general of Virginia.

Newman explained that the Virginia Guard receives missions through the state Department of Emergency Management based on requests from local emergency response organizations. Any citizens, who feel they need support from the Guard, should make their request through their local first responders, not directly to the Guard.

On Dec. 20, soldiers from the 116th Brigade Combat Team, based in Staunton, Va., helped state police wake stranded motorists along I-81 in an effort to get traffic moving, while Airmen from the 203rd Rapid Engineers Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers, or RED HORSE, Civil Engineering Squadron, based in Virginia Beach, Va., were scheduled to transport cots to a shelter in Wise County. Other missions included aerial reconnaissance, transporting food, water, blankets and other supplies, transporting stranded motorists and health care professionals and sheltering operations.

In West Virginia, 235 Guardsmen operating nine wreckers and two graders were used to clear the West Virginia Turnpike on Dec. 19. "They had plows moving down the toll road as well as trucks that could move vehicles stuck in the middle of the road out of the way to get things moving," Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Cadle, the public affairs officer for the West Virginia Guard, told local news outlets.

On Dec. 20, the Guard continued "wellness checks" throughout the state. "We have Humvees out in many of those effected communities," Cadle said. "And those Humvees have food and water. We're traversing some of the more rural, hard to get to areas.

Cadle said the West Virginia Guard gets its missions from the state's Office of Emergency Services, and their job isn't done until the governor releases them.

"We'll continue pressing," he said. "We don't have a timeline. We're going to be working until the county directors and the state officials tell us that we're finished."

In Kentucky, 170 Guardsmen were deployed to remove fallen trees from roads and help with evacuations in the eastern areas of the commonwealth. Thirteen counties in southeastern Kentucky had declared a state of emergency as of Dec. 20.

Army Brig. Gen. John Heltzel, deputy commander of the Kentucky National Guard, told local news outlets that about 87,000 homes were without power as of noon on Dec. 20. The Public Service Commission listed power outages in 26 counties, primarily in Eastern Kentucky.

Heltzel said the main power lines are up, but wires feeding power into many residential areas are down. He expects power to be restored to half the affected area by Wednesday, with the rest done by Sunday.

"We hope to make everybody happy and beat that," he said.

In Maryland, more than 140 Guardsmen were on duty over the weekend, but that number dropped to 19 today. About 46 Humvees and five ambulances were used throughout the state. A state of emergency was declared in the state.

"The majority of the requests we received during the snowstorm were to support local and state law enforcement agencies," said Army Brig. Gen. James A. Adkins, the adjutant general of Maryland. "Use of our Humvees ensured that first responders were able to get where they needed to go to provide critical services to the citizens of Maryland."

In Delaware, 61 Guardsmen operating 15 Humvees, five light medium tactical vehicles and four wreckers were on duty throughout the state to respond to emergency transportation and rescue requests. A state of emergency was declared in New Castle and Kent counties.

"People are strongly advised to stay off the roads in Kent and New Castle counties," Gov. Jack Markell told local news outlets. "Our state agencies have been working together to prepare for and combat the effects of this storm. Remaining off the roads helps them in this effort and is important to public safety."

Dubbed Operation Arctic Endeavor II, Delaware Guard officials said they are prepared to provide special needs sheltering, transportation support using highly mobile multi-wheeled vehicles and LMTVs, road clearing support and any other support as required by the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.

The Delaware Guard has also prepared three task forces pre-positioned at four Emergency Operation Centers throughout the state, Guard officials said. Task Force New Castle has locations in Belvedere and Wilmington, Task Force Sussex is in Georgetown and Task Force Kent is in Smyrna. Each EOC is staffed with Humvees, an LMTV, a large tow truck and two Guardsmen per vehicle.

In the District of Columbia, 27 Guardsmen and 10 Humvees are standing by to provide transportation support. A state of emergency has been declared in the district.

In North Carolina, 24 Guardsmen were called in Saturday morning to help the North Carolina Highway Patrol dig out and remove abandoned cars from the highway.

Wisconsin National Guard Transition Advisor Jeff Unger presented with a Joint Resolution from the Wisconsin legislature

Wisconsin National Guard Transition Advisor Jeff Unger, center, was recently presented with a Joint Resolution from the Wisconsin legislature for the support and assistance he provides to redeployed Reserve Component service members. Also pictured are Col. Kenneth Koon, left, director of manpower for the Wisconsin National Guard, and Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, adjutant general of Wisconsin.

Unger coordinates with county and tribal veteran service offices across the state, as well as the federal departments of Defense, Labor, and Veterans Affairs, the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve and veterans service organizations to facilitate a smooth transition from active duty to civilian life, particularly those service members returning with service-related special needs. "It is a distinct pleasure and high honor for me to have earned the opportunity to serve Wisconsin's military families," Unger said after receiving the resolution. "You have my commitment to ensure that you get my best effort every time."