Monday, August 13, 2018

Mattis, Brazil’s Foreign Minister Meet to Reaffirm Bilateral Relationship

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes of Brazil met today at the Itamaraty Palace in Brazil to reaffirm the long-standing bilateral relationship between their nations, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said.

In a statement summarizing the meeting, White said the leaders discussed a broad range of defense issues, and the secretary thanked the minister for his country’s global leadership in peacekeeping missions around the world.

Common Values

“They agreed their countries’ common values of Inter-American principles of human rights, the rule of law and peace are a solid foundation for a long-term strategic partnership,” White said.

Mattis is in Brazil on the first stop of his first visit to South America since taking office. Officials said the trip – in which the secretary also will visit Argentina, Chile and Colombia -- underscores the department's strong defense ties that are critical to a collaborative, prosperous and secure Western Hemisphere.

Face of Defense: Vietnam Native Finds Success in U.S. Army

By Army Spc. Alleea Oliver, 49th Public Affairs Detachment

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Full of fear and anxiety, a 10-year-old Vietnamese boy sailed across the South China Sea for 10 days, in 1986, with the expectation that a better life awaited him across the ocean.

In his mind, the only way he could live a full and prosperous life was by coming to the United States.

“If it was not for America, I probably would be dead long ago,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Thinh Huynh, the senior enlisted advisor for the 1st Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment here. “If I didn’t escape, my life wouldn’t be like this.”

Born in a small village in Southern Vietnam, Huynh and his siblings spent most of their youth in poverty, fighting for their daily survival.

“We were so poor that we used to watch people eat,” he said. “We were barely eating. We would eat only two or three times a week.”

While recalling the struggles he faced growing up in post-war conditions, the infantryman relates to images of children suffering from chronic malnutrition.

“When I see those TV commercials where they show the kids that have bloated bellies, to me, that was how I grew up in Vietnam at that time,” he said.

War, Loss, Escape

Huynh believes the Vietnam War, along with other wars, determined the outcome of his family’s future.

Before the war, his family were rice farmers. After the war, they were forced to share their harvest with the communists, he said.

“Not only that, but they took away our home,” he said.

It was then that his family decided to escape Vietnam in hopes of a better life.

Packed like sardines in a tiny fishing boat, Huynh and his family sailed across the South China Sea.

“I looked at old slave-boat drawings and I would compare us to that,” he said. “We were all packed in tight with no space to spare.”

Being hungry, thirsty and tired for an extensive amount of time altered the other passengers’ character.

“When people think they are about to die, they will do just about anything to survive,” Huynh said. “This brought out some of the worst behavior from people that I ever witnessed.”

Huynh said he observed a lot of things that kids shouldn’t have seen.

“I saw greed, fear and anger,” he said. “Some people were so greedy they would drink as much water as they could while the rest of us had about a shot glass per day.”

After ten days of sharing the small space with 86 others, they arrived at a refugee camp on Pulau Bidong Island.

Huynh’s hope finally became his reality.

American, Soldier

”One of the happiest days of my life was the day I escaped out of Vietnam,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it or not, but I was happy and very excited.”

Huynh and his family lived in the camp for nearly two years before coming to the United States.

He spent his time learning how to read and write, and studying America’s culture.

On Sept. 28, 1989, Huynh and his family moved from the refugee camp to a small town in Iowa.

Being interested in the military throughout grade school, he chose to focus his first American homework project on the U.S. Army.

Huynh enlisted in 1996, at age 22, but waited to tell his loved ones because of his fear of disappointing his mother.

“When I joined the Army, I didn't tell my parents until two days before I went to basic,” he said.

“My mom was really upset, because I was in college at the time,” Huynh added. “Nobody wanted their kid to escape out of Vietnam and go through all that just to join the military.”

In spite of their fears, he believed there wasn’t anything better than serving the country he now calls home.

“Ever since I was in the refugee camp, I wanted to be a U.S soldier,” he said. “Every day I would say, ‘I need to be in the Army.’ So that’s what I did. I joined the Army. I don’t have any regrets.”

Twenty one years and six combat deployments later, the paratrooper says he’s gained resilience, honor and a profound love for the United States.

Caring for Soldiers

Although he has led many soldiers, Huynh never predicted he would become a command sergeant major in the 82nd Airborne Division.

“I never had the goal of being a command sergeant major,” he said. “My goals were to always take care of my soldiers. Now that I’m a command sergeant major of an airborne infantry battalion in the 82nd, I’m enjoying every minute of it. It is such an honor to be in a unit that is filled with so much history, pride, tradition and some of the best soldiers and leaders in the Army.”

According to his youngest sister, Thanh Huynh, he always possessed the qualities and had the desire to be a soldier.

“The characteristics that helped him become a command sergeant major are leadership, loyalty, initiative and courageousness,” she said. “Growing up, that’s all he ever wanted to be.”

At a young age, he demonstrated selfless service by putting Thanh first in every situation.

“When we would come across a river while going fishing, he would always make sure I got across safely by finding anything that would float because I can’t swim,” she said.

Huynh believes his experiences in Vietnam developed his appreciation for the freedoms he has as a U.S. citizen.

“I would never take America, or the freedom I have here, for granted,” he said. “I know what it's like growing up without freedom [and] fearing for your life on a daily basis.”

Nearly 30 years ago, Huynh left Vietnam and found a place he could call home.
“I realized once I set foot in this country, that this was now my country,” he said. “I was born in Vietnam, but I escaped. America is now my country.”

Mattis Begins South America Trip with Stop in Brazil

By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary James N. Mattis arrived in Brazil today for the first stop of a trip to assess the military-to-military relations between the United States and its South American partners.

The secretary told reporters traveling with him that the U.S. is looking to expand its partnerships with the nations of the region where it makes sense to do so. The secretary will visit two cities in Brazil before moving on to Argentina, Chile and Colombia.

The U.S. has good military-to-military partnerships in the region because of shared values, the secretary said, noting that while the United States does not have a large military footprint in Latin America, it does have strong partnerships.

“We are looking to expand partnerships where it's mutually beneficial,” Mattis said. “No hesitation at all. We see Latin America as our neighbor. Some people say we don't pay much attention to it. That is certainly not the case in the military. You don't see large military formations down there, because the nature of our relationship doesn't require that. And we work together across a wide number of issues, and military is simply one of many.”

Space Force

In answer to a reporter’s question, the secretary discussed his reasoning on establishing the Space Force. He said that in his first month as defense secretary he discussed with President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence how to organize the military for space operations. The department understood the importance of the space domain, and was looking for the best solution to the challenge of space, Mattis said.

But setting up the Space Force last year was too soon, he added. “I was not going against setting up a Space Force; what I was against was rushing to do that before we define those problems,” he said.

The defense secretary said Congress must pass legislation to establish a sixth armed service. “We'll get this reorganization as far as we can take it, based on solving, developing and defining the problem, and then they'll go to the Congress,” he said. “We've got to work up what the actual organization looks like. … And we have the White House's support on this.”