Thursday, January 31, 2013

Carter to Discuss Mali with French Leaders

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

PARIS, Jan. 31, 2013 – On his first trip to France as deputy defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter will meet with military leaders and advisers here tomorrow for talks on topics that include the French-led fight against terrorists in the West African nation of Mali.

France is Carter’s first stop on a six-day trip that will include the Munich Security Conference and the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and afterward visits to military and government leaders in Turkey and Jordan.

Traveling with the deputy defense secretary are several senior defense officials, among them James J. Townsend Jr., deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy.

“The French are putting together their own forces,” Townsend told American Forces Press Service, “but with contributions from a lot of other nations, including the Untied States, to help the Mali government bring about some stability and deal with terrorism to the north.”

French forces began military operations in Mali on Jan. 11 when they entered the country to help Mali’s struggling forces fight back against what one senior defense official described as a “coalescing” over the past year of Islamic extremists in Mali.

Seeking to make the former French colony a sanctuary for their kind, the official said, extremists in Mali form a complex picture of shifting alliances that includes a mix of members of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, along with an offshoot called MUJAO, a French acronym that stands for the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, another group called Ansar al-Din, and “numerous different traffickers of all kinds who have aligned themselves” with AQIM.

“As we go see the French,” Townsend said, “the most immediate issues we’ll talk about [will include] what’s happening in Mali, what French planning is, what their goals are, how it’s actually going, and our [and other nations’] participation in helping the French.”

Among African nations, Togo, Niger and Chad are contributing to the fight in Mali, as is the African-led International Support Mission to Mali, called AFISMA. The Economic Community of West African States organized this military mission to support Mali, which is an ECOWAS member nation.

Other European nations are helping the French in Mali by airlifting supplies into the country. They include Sweden, Belgium, Spain and others, Townsend said.

This week, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little summarized U.S. contributions to efforts in Mali.

Since Jan. 11 the United States has shared intelligence with the French, he said. On Jan. 21 the U.S. began providing airlift support to the French army and on Jan. 27 began refueling support for French air operations, Little added.

As of Jan. 27, the U.S. Air Force had flown 17 C-17 sorties, moving more than 391 tons of equipment and supplies and nearly 500 French personnel into Bamako, Mali’s capital, the press secretary said.

Several refueling missions also have been conducted so far, he added, noting that the United States is in constant consultation with France on their operations in Mali.

The United Nations is also engaged, Townsend said, so the French are working with the U.N Security Council.

And the senior defense official said the European Union has a “quite robust force commitment” -- up to 460 troops at the moment -- to deploy to Bamako for an initial training cycle for Malian forces that will run from April to September.

The goal, both officials say, is to help Malian forces gain the ability to control their own nation and keep it from becoming a safe haven for extremists.

During Carter’s meetings here tomorrow, Townsend added, “I think we’ll also talk about the broader issues, too, in terms of the implications of all of this,” including recent events in Algeria, where Islamist extremists this month stormed a BP gas facility and caused the deaths of hostages and their own militants, ultimately releasing many hundreds of workers and foreigners.

Townsend said he thinks the United States and France will have to discuss how the trans-Atlantic community deals with such events.

“The French are dealing with Mali,” he said, “but how will we deal with Syria, with whatever the future might hold there?”

Much instability has arisen from the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States and now from the Arab Spring unrest, the deputy assistant secretary said.

“I think Mali and our French visit shows that we’re all in this together,” Townsend said, “and we’re trying as best we can to help one another deal with this instability, this threat to our security.”

The senior defense official said circumstances necessitated a jump-start in Mali by France, but that both countries are keenly concerned about getting to the point of transition there.

“One of the most important points going forward -- and this is also a conversation with the French -- is the point at which there is some kind of handoff back to the African-led force,” the official added.

“I think that will be an important transition point as events unfold,” she said. “They and we agree this needs to be an African-led process and an African-led approach.”

‘Small-footprint’ Operations Effective, Official Says

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2013 – Counterterrorism operations in Somalia and Yemen demonstrate the value of “small-footprint” approaches and building partner capacity, the Pentagon’s special operations chief said yesterday.

Michael A. Sheehan, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, spoke here about the threat of terror in those and other countries during remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 24th Annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium, which ended yesterday.

Sheehan pointed out the defense strategy released in January 2012 called for “innovative, low-cost approaches” in widely distributed counterterrorism efforts. In the year since that guidance was issued, such approaches have brought good results, he added.

“A year ago in Yemen, al-Qaida had taken over vast swaths of territory … and was really threatening the state in Yemen, and also threatening to re-establish some capabilities that were very problematic,” he said. “Over the past year, we’ve made great progress in Yemen.”

With the support of U.S. special operations forces, he said, counterterror efforts there have “turned the corner.”

Somalia also shows progress over the past year, he said, with al-Shabaab, a terrorist group that controlled large parts of the country, pushed out of the major cities.

“They haven’t gone away,” he added. “They’re a persistent group. … [But] you can see in our strategies, our policies and programs in Yemen and Somalia, some of the components of how our strategy might look in the months and years ahead.”

Sheehan said while terror groups are known to spread and metastasize, the three traditional areas where al-Qaida is an entrenched threat are the mountainous area between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Yemen, and in East Africa.

“Those three traditional areas … have been and will continue to be areas of al-Qaida persistence,” he said. “Fortunately for us, we’ve been able to batter them in all of those three areas over the last 10 or 11 years with a great deal of success.”

The measure of success against terror groups is their inability to mount strategic attacks, Sheehan said. He credits constant pressure on al-Qaida with diminishing that organization’s ability to train and equip terrorists.
“Some people say we’ve been a little bit lucky, with the underwear bomber and other incidents that haven’t quite gone right for al-Qaida, but I’d say it’s more than luck,” he said. “Because we put more pressure on them around the world, because it’s more difficult for them to train and deploy operatives, they make more mistakes.”

Sheehan said the failed May 1 bombing in New York’s Times Square demonstrated his point. Faizal Shazad, an American citizen later sentenced to life in prison for the bombing attempt, failed, Sheehan said, because “he was trained by the Pakistan Taliban. He couldn’t get to al-Qaida.”

The bomb Shazad created didn’t work, and he had no network to support him, Sheehan said. “He also wasn’t a suicide bomber,” the special operations chief noted. “Why? Because he wasn’t in those camps long enough to be indoctrinated.”

The factors that caused the attack to fail weren’t just luck, Sheehan said, but “the result of enormous pressure put on the organization, that prevents them from planning, training and launching skilled operatives.”
Maintaining that pressure against al-Qaida and similar groups is a task U.S. special operations forces and partner militaries are focused on around the world, he said. If such groups find sanctuary and a place where they can act with impunity, he warned, they can rebuild their strategic capability.

New and evolving terrorist threats are emerging in Syria and North Africa, Sheehan noted.

In Syria, where Bashar Assad’s government forces and the people have battled for two years, Sheehan said, the al-Nusra Front is “very closely associated with al-Qaida … and we believe they are trying to hijack [the] struggles of the Syrian people … and perhaps put their own agenda on a post-Assad Syria.”

In Africa, the Maghreb region along the Mediterranean Sea and the Saharan area of the Sahel “are of major concern to us,” he said.

Libya, he added, is “awash with weapons,” while Mali was the scene of a Tuareg tribal rebellion that was hijacked by al-Qaida and other affiliates, who gained control of an area about the size of Texas in the country’s north.

The French have had great initial success in pushing back al-Qaida advances in Mali, Sheehan noted, but the whole northern part of the continent is seeing increased terrorist presence and involvement.

“All these groups share a similar al-Qaida narrative. … In many ways, al-Qaida is seeking to rebrand itself and diversify into Africa, because they’re able to find, in those ungoverned spaces, the sanctuary they need … to become strategic,” he said.

Northern Africa has the four elements al-Qaida needs to do just that, Sheehan said: ungoverned space, terrorist groups, weapons and funding. Countering al-Qaida requires both direct action and security force assistance, Sheehan said.

“In the long term, we recognize that we can’t solely rely on precision strikes to defeat enemy networks and foster the kind of stability we need in these regions,” he said. Such stability can best be established by aiding friends, partners and allies, he added.

Special operations forces play a major role in security force assistance as well as in direct action, Sheehan noted. Security force assistance takes two approaches, he explained: training local forces to control border areas and deny space and sanctuary to terrorists, and training specialized counterterror forces.

U.S. special operations forces have, throughout their history, focused largely on training host-nation militaries, Sheehan said.

In Somalia, he noted, “the African Union and a multinational force led by the Ugandans … did a darn good job, and we helped them. Their job was to control space … and push al-Shabaab off.” Meanwhile, he added, other units focused on high-value targets and other leaders of the organization.

“Coupled together, we had a strategy that worked,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan acknowledged that a partnered strategy holds risks. Other countries may embarrass the United States, or U.S. forces could get pulled into other conflicts, he said. But the risk of inaction is greater, he added, as it holds the danger of al-Qaida or other groups developing a strategic attack capability.

Special operations troops understand those risks and have the experience and maturity to manage them, Sheehan said. He noted security force assistance is a “classic” role for special operations forces.
They can deploy to far-flung places in small numbers to protect U.S. national interests and to work with partners “to continue to crush al-Qaida,” he said.

DOD Identifies Units for Upcoming Afghanistan Rotation

 The Department of Defense today identified three major units to deploy as part of the upcoming rotation of forces operating in Afghanistan.  The scheduled rotation involves one Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) with roughly 2,250 personnel; a Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) with roughly 2,200 personnel; and a corps headquarters with roughly 500 personnel to rotate in spring 2013. The deploying units include: 

Brigade Combat Teams:
4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

Corps Headquarters:
 III Corps Headquarters, Fort Hood, Texas.

DoD will continue to announce major deployments as they are approved.  For information on the respective deployments, contact the following:  4th IBCT, 3rd Inf. Div., contact the Fort Stewart, Ga., public affairs office at 912-435-9879 or 912-435-9870; 10th CAB, 10th Mtn. Div., contact the 10thMtn. Div. public affairs officer at 315-772-7634; and III Corps Hq., contact the Fort Hood public affairs office at 254-286-5139.

Commission Tackles Complex Pretrial Issues in 9/11 Case

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

FORT MEADE, Md., Jan. 31, 2013 – The judge presiding over pretrial hearings for five defendants charged with orchestrating the 9/11 terrorist attacks ruled today at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that only he will have the authority to block audio feeds believed to contain classified information.

Army Col. James Pohl, wrapping up the latest round of hearings for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind behind the attacks, and four co-defendants admonished the unnamed "original classification authority" that had activated a censor button in the courtroom earlier this week.

The button sets off a flashing warning light and blocks the audio for anyone observing the proceedings via closed-circuit TV, as well as media who sit behind soundproof glass in the courtroom.

The Jan. 28 incident caught Pohl and others by surprise, and he subsequently ordered that information disclosed during about two minutes of static be admitted to the court record. He also ordered the government to disconnect technology that enables anyone but him and his security officer to activate the mute button.

“This is the last time an [original classification authority] or any third party can decide if it can be unilaterally decided,” Pohl decreed. “The pubic has no unfettered right to access classified information. However, the only person who is authorized to close the courtroom is the judge.”

Activation of the warning light prompted the defense team to question who may be listening in on and presumably censoring the proceedings, as well as their confidential discussions with their clients. David Nevin, Mohammed’s lead defense attorney, submitted an emergency motion to halt the proceedings until the matter is resolved.

He expressed concern that confidential discussions between the defense team and defendants could be jeopardized. During a news conference following today’s proceedings, Nevin, as an example of his concern, questioned why guards at the detention facility ask what language defense attorneys will use during meetings with their clients.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions, explained during the news conference that court feeds are used by court reporters to provide accurate records of the proceedings.

“The prosecution never listens to any confidential communications between the accused and their counsel,” he said in a statement. “To do so would be a blatant violation of our professional responsibilities and our oaths to serve justice and would also implicate the court reporters in a breach of their oaths and neutral responsibilities. And let me be clear that there has never been any substantive or credible allegation that the prosecution listens to such conversations.”

Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, one of the defense attorneys, called the “invisible hand” that activated the mute button emblematic of the flawed commission system. Ruiz called it a “counterfeit system” that defies America’s values, ideals and legal principles.

Much of the week’s hearing -- which ran Jan. 28 and 29, recessed during Jan. 30 and wrapped up today -- involved complicated legal issues regarding procedures for the government to provide classified information to the defense team. Before receiving it, the defense must sign a memorandum of understanding agreeing to how that information will be handled.

The defense team also objected to requirements that they submit information about their witnesses in advance, telling Pohl it will disadvantage their cases by giving the prosecution advance notice of the approach they are taking.

Pohl acknowledged that nobody wants “trial by surprise,” but ruled that the defense must articulate why they want any particular witness to testify.

In an unusual twist during this week’s hearing, the defense attorneys asked Pohl to allow them to spend two nights in Camp 7, where the defendants are detained. They told the judge they hope to get a better sense of the conditions their clients are living under. Pohl did not rule on the request.

In addition to Mohammed, the other defendants are Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi. All five defendants were captured in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003 and have been confined at Guantanamo Bay since 2006.

They were charged during their arraignment in May 2012 with terrorism, conspiracy, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, murder in violation of the law of war, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft.
The prosecution has since requested that the conspiracy charge be dropped.

Exercising a right clarified earlier this week, all of the defendants opted to skip today’s court proceedings. Pohl ruled, however, that they must attend the opening day of their next pretrial hearing Feb. 11.

A trial date has not been set. “Jury selection will take many months,” as will the trial itself, Martins told reporters today. That’s to be expected in complex criminal prosecutions, “particularly one with this much at stake,” he added.

Defense attorney James Connell condemned what he called an uncharacteristically long and cumbersome commission process. He complained to reporters that this week’s pretrial hearings, and those before them, had consumed “so much time and so much money,” while “accomplishing so little.”

Nevin defended the defense team’s challenges to the commission system. Doing so, he said, ensures the process remains true to the spirit of U.S. law, seeks to “honor, rather than disrespect” the memory of those killed in the 9/11 attacks.
Family members who lost loved ones during 9/11 were mixed in their impressions of the system. Phyllis Rodriguez, who lost her son Greg on 9/11, told reporters that the case should be tried in U.S. federal court. This would make the process more open and transparent and allow more Americans to see the process, she said.
Rodriguez added that she opposes the death penalty and doesn’t want any of the defendants to receive it.
Matthew Selitto, whose son Matthew was killed on 9/11, disagreed, calling Guantanamo Bay the appropriate venue for the commissions. Selitto told reporters he believes the defendants are getting a fair shot at justice. “There are not too many countries in the world today where they would get the chances they are being given,” he said.
His wife, Loreen Selitto, said delays in the commission process are hurtful to families. She urged the legal teams to “do your jobs” and “get justice moving.”
She said she felt pride seeing the men and women who serve at Guantanamo Bay. It demonstrated “the strength of my country and all you do to serve us,” she said.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Deployment preparation starts now

by Gary S. Rudman
U.S. Air Forces Central, Safety Deputy Director

1/30/2013 - SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- It's Thursday at 1615. The squadron just received a short-notice tasking for a safety professional to deploy to an air expeditionary wing in Afghanistan. The reporting date is in 18 days.

How could this happen? Who do I contact? How can I prepare? Tick tock, tick tock ...

How could this happen? Reclamas. While the reclama rate for safety professionals has improved significantly, there is much more we can do. The Air Force uses the Air Expeditionary Force Reporting Tool (ART) to assign safety professionals to varied positions at deployed bases. However, the data in ART isn't always accurate. It's not uncommon to have a member described as "green" or good-to-go for a deployment only to find out that the member is in 5-level upgrade training or on a medical- limiting profile. So, how can accurate information be communicated to ensure there isn't a safety reclama? Leadership involvement ensures the most current information is available and reduces the possibility of someone getting a short-notice deployment.

The clock is still ticking. When will my currencies expire? What about my check ride? Is my ancillary training up to date? As soon as the short-notice tasking is received, the member enters "go mode". There's a lot to do and learn, with little time to accomplish the required training.

Preparation is key. A call to the U.S. Air Forces Central Safety Office can help make your short preparation time effective. The office manages air expeditionary wing and group safety programs spread across 15,000 nautical miles in support of 22,000 people and more than $900 billion in assets. Through an eyes-on focus at all AEWs and AEGs, the USAFCENT safety team can guide the deploying member in preparation for a successful deployment.

Next? Training ... what courses are needed and is there time to get them? If you haven't already attended the Board President's Course, you probably will not have time for a TDY now. Bottom line: Don't wait for a deployment tasking to schedule training. Determine what safety training you'll benefit from now; talk with your wing safety office and schedule training now.

Now, visit public health to ensure your immunizations are current. Read the USAFCENT Supplement to Air Force Pamphlet 91-202, The U.S. Air Force Mishap Prevention Program, located on the Air Force Safety Center's publications page, and Air Force Pamphlet 91-216, USAF Safety Deployment and Contingency Pamphlet. Obtain mobility gear and get current in your primary weapon. Finally, if you're the home station chief of safety, make sure there's a plan to keep the office running smoothly while you're deployed. Remember, there are no backfills for the home station safety office.

Fast forward 18 days. The Boeing 767 is nearing touchdown at your deployed location. What is my game plan? What should I do first? First thing ... go everywhere, see everything and meet everybody. Every AEW and AEG has an end-of-tour report. Use that for your starting point to glean strengths, weaknesses, and areas that need improvement. Realize you can't fix everything during your tour, but you might be able to complete a few selected items.

Schedule an appointment with the AEW or AEG commander to discuss critical items like commander priorities and battle rhythm. Talk about the mishap response plan. Don't assume all mishaps will be aviation-related. Determine if you'll be able to fly and at what frequency.

Work with civil engineering readiness to develop a major accident response exercise (MARE). A real-world incident is often the first time a new staff has to work together. A MARE allows key leadership to know and understand others' roles to ensure success.

The fire hose is now in full effect. How long is a typical workday? Be prepared for longer hours than a typical workday at home station. Where is my office? The answer is 'everywhere'. You can't execute a wing safety program from only a computer. Remember ... go everywhere, see everything, meet everybody. Find out what's different ... fire danger, infrastructure, flightline driving issues, explosives storage, confined space programs. How much risk is accepted? What risks are still out there? How can I deep dive to mitigate future risks?

Consider the aviation mishaps from a single deployed rotation at one AEW - nine Class A's and nine Class B's. Those are the big ones. Don't forget 25 Class C's and countless Hazardous Air Traffic Reports (HATR) and Bird-Wildlife Strike Hazard (BASH) reports. And, there are no more than two flight safety officers at an air expeditionary wing to investigate the HATR/BASH incidents.

What about interim safety boards? Imagine an aircraft just landed gear-up on your single runway. How long will it take to get the runway open? What will the interim safety board (ISB) need to do to preserve evidence? How long will it take to select a permanent safety investigation board (SIB) and when will those members arrive? It may take a week or more for the SIB to arrive, so be prepared to take control. What are the critical factors? In this case, it's single-runway operations. When can we resume operations? When will we move the aircraft? Are airbags available? Is there a crane? Is this reflected in the wing's mishap response plan? Tick ... tock ...

What is your safety discipline? Ground safety? Do you know flight and weapons? If the answer is "No", it's time to learn! Are you a flight safety officer? Can you speak Weapons 101? Do you know these acronyms: IBD, PTR and IMD? Have you looked at a weapons site plan? What if you need to present this critical information to the commander? You could very well be the chief of safety. You're expected to know.

Get ready ... NOW! The better you're educated, the better you will perform in the deployed environment. Don't wait for the tasking.

Contact the USAFCENT Safety Office at 803-895-3179, DSN 965-3179, or by email at:, for an overview of deployed safety position duties and contact information for deployed base safety offices

Officials to Study More Roles for Women in Special Ops

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2013 – With women already providing direct support in special operations, officials are studying how to open more positions that currently are open only to men, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said here today.

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven touched on the future of women in special operations during remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 24th Annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced last week that the 1994 policy that excluded women from serving in direct ground combat positions is rescinded.

“We have had women supporting direct special operations for quite some time,” McRaven noted today. “So I am fully supportive of Secretary Panetta and the chairman’s decision to do this -- and frankly, so were all the service chiefs and combatant commanders.”

Special operations forces include a number of women with specialized language, cultural and special skills training, but McRaven acknowledged that Army Rangers, Navy SEALs and other “door-kicking” special operations units have never included women. Socom leaders have an opportunity over the next few years to assess how to open the command’s ranks to women, McRaven said.

“I’m required to report back to the secretary, by the first quarter of [fiscal 2016], a plan on how to integrate them,” he added.

The new guidance requires that standards be gender-neutral, the admiral noted. “We never had gender standards, … because we had no female population. … We had an all-male population that was going to become Rangers, or SEALs, or infantrymen,” he said. “So that was the standard.”

McRaven said he and his staff are looking forward to figuring out ways to integrate women into direct special operations roles.

“I guarantee you, there will be females out there that will come to [basic underwater demolition/SEAL] training or be Rangers … and will do a phenomenal job,” he said.

Combined Force Arrests Taliban Leaders in Helmand Province

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 30, 2013 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested two Taliban leaders today in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province, military officials reported.
One is believed to be directly responsible for orchestrating assassinations of Afghan national security force members, overseeing attacks on police checkpoints and directing attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also is accused of having organized the acquisition and transfer of heavy weapons and improvised explosive devices to Taliban fighters.

The other is believed to be directly responsible for the transport and financing of IED-making materials, planting IEDs and executing IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

The security force also detained four other suspected insurgents.

In other Afghanistan operations today:
-- A combined force in Kunduz province’s Khanabad district arrested a Taliban leader accused of planning and executing IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and Afghan government officials. He also is believed to have provided financial and logistical support to Taliban and suicide-bomber operations throughout Kunduz province. The security force also detained two other suspected insurgents and seized several firearms.
-- In Nangarhar province’s Khugyani district, a combined force killed two insurgents and detained nine others after being fired upon while searching for a man suspected of providing logistical support to Taliban leaders. The security force also seized several firearms and associated ammunition. No civilians were harmed during the operation, officials said.

Special Ops Command South Presses for Increased Engagement

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2013 – Despite dwindling resources and a national defense focus on the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, the commander of Special Operations Command South is committed to not only maintaining, but increasing engagements in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command South, right, chats with Colombians whom his special operators are mentoring at the Tolemaida national training base in Colombia, Nov. 4, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Edward Lauer

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Regular, sustained engagement is key to SOC South’s core mission: building partner capacity so regional nations can address their own challenges, Army Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland told American Forces Press Service while here for an annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium and Exhibition.
“On any given day, I have over 300 people deployed downrange to Central and South America, including members of every service’s special operations force and their civil affairs and military information support teams,” he said. “SOC South is engaged 365 [days a year], 24/7.”

A Green Beret who has served most of his career within Latin America, Mulholland said he’s convinced that persistent engagement establishes a level of credibility and trust simply not possible through traditional training and exercise programs. “Building partner capacity is planting seeds” that require nurturing over time, he said.

“It’s really not rocket science. It’s about personal relationships and what we do as we build partner capacity,” he said. “It is always letting your partners know that you are there, inside their country, helping them out -- whether it is one guy or 50 guys and gals. It is all about contact.”

Since assuming command in October, Mulholland has made a concerted effort to promote these contacts, all governed by the host nation’s requests, in collaboration with the U.S. embassy country team and at the direction of U.S. Southern Command.

“We don’t do anything [the host nation] doesn’t ask for. And we don’t do anything the embassy hasn’t approved that we do,” he explained. “There is nothing spooky or under-the-table about what we do. It is all above-board, and it is all about building partner capacity.”

That capacity is vital to stemming the challenges in the region: drug traffickers and other transnational criminals and terrorist elements seeking footholds in ungoverned spaces, among them. These groups use these areas to flow drugs and other illicit shipments through Central America and Mexico and, ultimately, to the United States.

“The best way to go after a threat is to have that partner nation develop a security capacity and diminish that threat,” Mulholland said. “I can affect this bridge coming up north through Mexico to the United States. I can do that by helping build partner capacity with [host nation] units that are actually going to go out there and do something about it. And that is happening.”

Mulholland cited Colombia as the shining example of what capacity building can achieve.
Historically, the FARC -- Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia -- ran rampant in Colombia, terrorizing citizens with a spate of murders, kidnapping and other activities associated with narcotics trafficking. But 25 years ago, the Colombian police force was corrupt and the military forces were in disarray.

Today, thanks to strong Colombian leadership and persistent U.S. support and engagement, Colombia has capable, highly respected security forces. In addition to securing their own country, they are now training other regional militaries.

“They have become exporters of [force integration training],” Mulholland said, taking what they have learned and sharing it with their neighbors. “This is Latins training Latins, and that is a beautiful story,” Mulholland said. “It’s poetry.”

Other success stories can be found in Brazil, which has long stood as a strong example in the region, and increasingly in Panama, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Mulholland acknowledged concerns about Honduras, where constrained resources limit its special operators’ ability to reach ungoverned sections of the country that offer traffickers safe havens.
Training exercises in these “dark areas” have had a temporary effect of diverting traffickers, but they consistently return after the operations there end, he said.

“The problem is that the activity is not persistent,” Mulholland said, noting that’s a problem SOC South alone can’t fix.

“Mobility is a big challenge in Honduras, and if you can’t get to the show in these ungoverned spaces, then that is a big issue,” he said.

Mulholland recognized that no matter how much he tries to expand engagements, he’ll never have the assets to keep up with demand. So he seeks out opportunities to partner in countries interested in “training, not just for training’s sake, but to go operational.”

SOC South’s special operators help partner military and police forces improve their counterdrug capabilities, then embed with them to help them plan and conduct actual missions.

“We can’t go out on the objective, patrol or do combat operations with them” due to U.S. legal restrictions, Mulholland explained.

“But we can go to the last base and provide planning and medical support,” he said, “and once a mission is completed, help assess what went right and what needs improvement.”

This forms a bond simply not possible through traditional schoolhouse training and short-duration exercises, he said.

“We are practitioners, not visitors. … This deepens our commitment to them, and they know it,” Mulholland said. “They know we are there for them, so I think it builds partnership capacity faster.”
It’s a formula that’s been tested and proven over time, even while wartime requirements in Iraq and Afghanistan tapped some of SOC South’s personnel and equipment. At one point, for example, Mulholland was serving as commander of the 7th Special Forces Group that focused on Latin America and the Caribbean when he was deployed for a year to Regional Command North in Afghanistan.

“SOC South, the ‘quiet little store,’ has been doing this forever. … So even after 9/11, the little store stayed open, continually grinding away, building partner capacity,” he said.

Now, as defense budgets get tightened, he said he’ll do everything he can to increase engagement in the region. That, Mulholland recognized, is likely to require scrapping the “nice to have” activities and concentrating on what’s essential.

“If I have to tighten my belt, I will,” he said. “I am willing to strip away everything else, but I would be hard-pressed to cut engagements, because that is where we make our money.

“So I am going to try to force the envelope and do more,” he continued. “I want to be sure my soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are engaging, because the priority is contact -- flesh to flesh, training and advising with our partners. And that will not suffer on my watch.”

Meanwhile, Mulholland has made a concerted effort to rebuild capabilities that have eroded during the past decade of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s pressing to increase Spanish-language proficiency across the command, speaking only in Spanish to his staff and offering Spanish classes for spouses.

In addition, he’s limiting the time SOC South members spend at their headquarters at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida.

“I’m pushing them out to Honduras, to Colombia, to Peru, and increasing their level of engagement without breaking their backs,” Mulholland said.

“In these times of reducing resources, we need to push out as much as we can,” he said. “We can’t take on this protracted tortoise mentality, saying we don’t have enough money or resources.
Instead, I am going to do everything I can to get more people out there.

“If we do the tortoise in the shell game, I think we are going to miss something,” Mulholland added. “And I don’t want to be the guy on watch who missed something.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Special Operators Depend on Good Partners, Commander Says

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2013 – Close partnership with U.S. geographic combatant commanders will be crucial to keeping the nation’s special operations forces effective as budgets and formations dwindle, U.S. Special Operations Command’s leader said here today.

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven talked about special operations support to national strategy during a speech at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 24th Annual Special Operations and Low-intensity Conflict Symposium.

Socom troops around the world, McRaven said, are “doing exceedingly well, operating as an integral part of the geographic combatant commanders’ strategy.”

The admiral said while his forces operate in more than 70 countries around the world, Afghanistan remains a key focus. U.S. Central Command is the geographic combatant command responsible for Afghanistan, with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in charge of operations there.

McRaven noted all coalition special operations forces in Afghanistan now are united under one special operations joint task force, commanded by Army Maj. Gen. Tony Thomas.

“His headquarters, which reached its full operational capability on 1 January, has done a phenomenal job,” the admiral said. “During my most recent visit there, I was impressed to see [the headquarters] integrating, coordinating and fully synchronizing all [special operations activities] -- not only with each other, but with ISAF.”

Village stability operations and support to Afghan local police –- both programs aimed at growing security and extending governance in rural areas -- are among the “most compelling success stories” special operations forces are logging in Afghanistan, McRaven said.

“These programs have been game-changers to our efforts,” he noted.

McRaven said he recently visited some of the places where Afghan local police groups have established outposts. “I was amazed at the relationships forged with our Afghan counterparts,” he told the symposium audience. “These relationships, built on trust, have clearly paved the way for greater security in the remote areas of the country. They have also helped bridge the gap between the local, district and provincial governments.”

The thinning of U.S. conventional forces in Afghanistan this year and in 2014, McRaven said, will give special operations troops “more opportunity to do more in places that we have neglected.”

While he doesn’t yet know the number of special operations forces that will be needed in Afghanistan beyond 2014, he said, one approach now under way to bridge the anticipated gap is a “surge” in Afghan local police.

The local police program across Afghanistan now numbers close to 19,000 “guardians,” he said, which Afghan leaders want to build to 45,000. Around 60 Special Forces or SEAL units, working with Afghan counterparts, support the program as trainers, he added.

McRaven said Thomas has a plan to sustain the program, with coalition special operations forces shifting to a “train the trainer focus,” helping the Afghan uniformed police and Afghan special operations forces to take over training local forces.

“I think [the program is] on a good glide path right now,” he said. The post-2014 special operations contribution in Afghanistan isn’t yet known, he added, but officials are making plans to enable helping the Afghans continue to build the local police program even if special operations forces draw down to a small number.

Special operators also are achieving “similar positive results” around the world, their commander said. He noted that in the Philippines, “our Green Berets and [Navy] SEALs are doing a terrific job with our Filipino partners.”

McRaven said on a recent visit to the Philippines, he stopped in two places that “10 years ago … were safe havens for Abu Sayyaf and other extremist organizations.” A decade ago, security for the people in such places depended on “how well they knew the enemy,” McRaven said.

“Beheadings, bombings, and families fleeing their homes were a constant part of life,” he said. “Today, largely through the magnificent efforts of our [special operations forces] advisory teams and their Filipino counterparts, the threat is contained. Security has greatly improved.”

McRaven said improvement in the Philippines, where economic progress and stable local government have followed security gains, rivals similar success in Colombia, where U.S. special operators have worked for decades. Such special efforts are also taking place now in Africa, he added, where U.S. special operations troops are “working with our African counterparts to end the [Lord’s Resistance Army] tyranny in Central Africa.”

All of these efforts, he said, demonstrate the ability special operators bring geographic combatant commanders: to “counter regional challenges before they become global problems.”

Those 70-plus countries where his troops operate, McRaven said, often are “places we don’t hear about on the news.”
“[Socom’s missions in such places] are not secretive. They are not sexy,” he said. “Nor do they involve low-flying black helicopters in the dead of night.” Socom troops work at the invitation of the host government, are approved by the appropriate U.S. embassy, and are commanded by the U.S. geographic combatant commander for the region, he explained.

“These missions involve supporting an embassy country team, building partner capacity, or increasing [special operations forces] interoperability,” he said. “It is hard, slow and methodical work that does not lend itself to a quick win. Instead, it is about patience, persistence, and building trust with our partners -- a trust that cannot be achieved through episodic deployments or chance contacts.”

Special operations leaders always have known that “you can’t surge trust,” said McRaven, noting trust “is developed over years by personal one-on-one interaction.”

Socom troops’ ability to build such trust, along with language and cultural expertise and the “ability to think through ambiguity,” he said, increases both the command’s credibility and the demand for its capability.

The past year, the admiral said, has offered a glimpse of the future that includes reduced defense budgets, a drawdown in Afghanistan troop levels and ongoing demands for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

“Socom is prepared to deliver properly organized, trained and equipped forces to the combatant commanders,” he said. “Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are ready to address these and other challenges that our nation will face.”

McRaven noted that current defense strategy “directs us to rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.” Special operations forces have maintained a persistent presence in the region that will benefit conventional-force commanders who “fall in” on long-established partnerships, he said.

“We have always been there, in a quiet and persistent way,” McRaven said. “Whether capacity building in Thailand, advising in the Philippines, training with our Aussie and Kiwi [special operations] counterparts, or rendering assistance in the time of natural disaster, our efforts have been consistently focused on the region, our partners and our allies.”

The future of special operations in Asia and elsewhere lies in how well Socom supports the geographic combatant commanders, McRaven reiterated. His suggestion for how best to improve regional support is to bolster theater special operations commands, which he calls TSOCs.

“As a sub-unified command under the [combatant command], they, the TSOCs, work for the combatant commander and serve as their primary command-and-control node for special operations in theaters,” he explained. “Simply put, the TSOCs are the center of gravity for [special operations forces] in theater. And if we want to adequately address current and emerging challenges with a SOF solution, we need to increase their capability.”

Socom is now rebalancing its manpower -- without increasing its budget -- to better support the TSOCs, McRaven said.

Regionally focused special operations commands are an adaptation to the changing world, he added, and will position Socom forces to meet global challenges.

Socom also has to consider, he said, how to move Special Forces “A” teams, Marine special operations teams, Navy SEAL platoons and the platforms that support them in and out of theater quickly. That requires working closely with each of the services, he noted.

“The relationship between the services and Socom is at an all-time high. … We cannot do the job without the services,” McRaven said.

The nation’s special operations forces, he said, “are the sum of the parts of the greatest military in history. It is the services’ people, their traditions, their culture that makes SOF what it is.”

Socom also relies on interagency partners -- “all the three-letter agencies” -- on every mission, McRaven said.
Interagency partners stand right beside special operators as they “secure a target, treat an injured child, or provide a much-needed water well or school,” he said. “They are always there to provide expert analysis, the authority to arrest a criminal, or a new capability.”

That level of cooperation would have been thought impossible before 9/11, but is commonplace today, he said. Work with coalition partner nations has progressed in a like way, McRaven noted.

“The level of trust and friendship has so greatly expanded our network,” he said. “It has given our nation a tangible edge over those who would threaten us. These partnerships give us our strength, based on a trust forged of mutual hardships, common cause, and shared ties. This is what will provide the best defense for the homeland and for our partners abroad.”

Responding to audience questions, McRaven underscored his emphasis on engaged partnership. One lesson he draws from his experience, he said, applies to Mali, where U.S. forces are supporting French-led efforts against insurgent groups. The United States was never able to establish a persistent presence for its special operations forces in Mali, he observed.

“We had an episodic presence in Mali,” the admiral said. “And while I don’t know whether or not a persistent presence would have changed our relationship with the Malian forces, … one lesson we’ve learned from years of doing this is … to work with the host country, you really have to have that persistent presence.”

Air Force Continues Support to France in Mali

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2013 – The U.S. Air Force continues to back French air operations in Mali through refueling efforts, logistical movements, troop transport and information sharing, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little briefs reporters at the Pentagon, Jan. 29, 2013. During the press event, Little provided an update on the U.S. role in supporting France's military operations in Mali. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“Since French operations began Jan. 11, the U.S. has been sharing intelligence with the French,” Little told reporters. The United States has provided airlift support to the French army since Jan. 21, he added, and began refueling support for French air operations Jan. 27.

As of Jan. 27, the U.S. Air Force had flown 17 C-17 sorties, moving more than 391 tons of equipment and supplies and nearly 500 French personnel into Bamako, Little said.

One refueling mission has been conducted so far, Little said, when a KC-135 Stratotanker provided about 33,000 pounds of fuel to French fighter aircraft. More refueling missions are expected to take place today, he added, noting that the United States is in constant consultation with France on their operations in Mali.

Following a phone call between Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and his French counterpart, the United States also has agreed to support the international effort by providing airlift to countries in the region, including Chad and Togo, Little said.

Further French requests for assistance will be reviewed, Little said, noting that the U.S. strongly supports French operations in Mali against al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

“AQIM and other terrorist groups have threatened to establish a safe haven in Mali, and the French have done absolutely the right thing,” Little said. “We will continue to assess their needs and what our support might be in the future.”

Panetta has stressed the need to go after al-Qaida wherever they are, Little said, including its various branches in south Asia and Africa.

“AQIM poses a threat in the region, and I can't rule out the possibility that AQIM poses a threat to U.S. interests,” he said. “This is a group that has shown its ability to demonstrate brutality and to conduct attacks. And it's very important that we work with our partners in the region and our allies to thwart them.”

Former Iraqi Terrorists Living in Kentucky Sentenced for Terrorist Activities

Defendants Attempted to Ship Weapons and Money from U.S. to Iraqi Insurgents Defendants Admitted to Extensive Terrorist Activities Against U.S. Soldiers in Iraq
Two Iraqi citizens living in Bowling Green, Ky., who admitted using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and who attempted to send weapons and money to Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) for the purpose of killing U.S. soldiers, were sentenced today to serve federal prison terms by Senior Judge Thomas B. Russell in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.

The sentences was announced Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; David J. Hale, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky; and Perrye K. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Louisville Division.

Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 25, a former resident of Iraq, was sentenced to life in federal prison, and Waad Ramadan Alwan, 31, a former resident of Iraq, was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison, followed by a life term of supervised release. Both defendants had pleaded guilty to federal terrorism charges.
“These two former Iraqi insurgents participated in terrorist activities overseas and attempted to continue providing material support to terrorists while they lived here in the United States. With today’s sentences, both men are being held accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco. “I thank the dedicated professionals in the law enforcement and intelligence communities who were responsible for this successful outcome.”

“These are experienced terrorists who willingly and enthusiastically participated in what they believed were insurgent support operations designed to harm American soldiers in Iraq,” stated U.S. Attorney Hale. “The serious crimes of both men merit lengthy punishment, and only the value of Alwan’s immediate and extensive cooperation with law enforcement justifies our recommendation of a reduced sentence for him.  Bringing these men to justice is the result of a comprehensive law enforcement effort.  The FBI agents of the Louisville Division, along with the federal and local law enforcement members of the Joint Terrorism Task Forces here in Kentucky, including the Bowling Green Police Department, and our many other partners, are to be commended.”

“Protecting the United States from terrorist attacks remains the FBI's top priority,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Turner. “Using our growing suite of investigative and intelligence capabilities, FBI agents and analysts assigned to our Bowling Green office were able to neutralize a potential threat.  Our local Joint Terrorism Task Force, comprised of FBI Agents and other local, state and federal agencies from across the Commonwealth, remains committed to dismantling extremist networks and cutting off financing and other forms of support provided by terrorist sympathizers, whether they are operating in Kentucky or worldwide.”

“Today, the sentencing of Alwan and Hammadi represents the culmination of the extensive, effective and focused efforts of the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Kentucky Division of the FBI for their roles in the investigation and prosecution of these would-be terrorists.  I want to thank U.S. Attorney David Hale, the Kentucky Division of the FBI and the members of the FBI Bowling Green local office for their individual and collective efforts in bringing Alwan and Hammadi to justice for their crimes against the people of Kentucky and the United States,” stated Chief Doug Hawkins, Bowling Green Police Department.

Alwan, whose fingerprints were found on an unexploded IED found in Iraq, pleaded guilty earlier in the case on Dec. 16, 2011, to all counts of a 23-count federal indictment.  He pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill U.S. nationals abroad; conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against U.S. nationals abroad; distributing information on the manufacture and use of IEDs; attempting to provide material support to terrorists and to AQI and conspiring to transfer, possess and export Stinger missiles.

Hammadi pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2012, to a 12-count superseding indictment.  Charges against him included attempting to provide material support to terrorists and to AQI; conspiring to transfer, possess and export Stinger missiles; and making a false statement in an immigration application.  At today’s sentencing, at the request of the United States, Alwan received a reduced sentence due to his cooperation with federal law enforcement.  The United States asked for no reduction of Hammadi’s sentence.

According to information presented by the United States in connection with today’s sentencings, Hammadi and Alwan both admitted, in FBI interviews that followed waiver of their Miranda rights, to participation in the purported material support operations in Kentucky, and both provided the FBI details of their prior involvement in insurgent activities while living in Iraq.  Both men believed their activities in Kentucky were supporting AQI.  Alwan admitted participating in IED attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and Hammadi admitted to participating in 10 to 11 IED attacks as well as shooting at a U.S. soldier in an observation tower. 

Court documents filed in this case reveal that the Bowling Green office of the FBI’s Louisville Division initiated an investigation of Alwan in which they used a confidential human source (CHS).  The CHS met with Alwan and recorded their meetings and conversations beginning in August 2010.   The CHS represented to Alwan that he was working with a group to ship money and weapons to Mujahadeen in Iraq.  From September 2010 through May 2011, Alwan participated in ten separate operations to send weapons and money that he believed were destined for terrorists in Iraq.  Between October 2010 and January 2011, Alwan drew diagrams of multiple types of IEDs and instructed the CHS how to make them.  In January 2011, Alwan recruited Hammadi, a fellow Iraqi national living in Bowling Green, to assist in these material support operations.  Beginning in January 2011 and continuing until his arrest in late May 2011, Hammadi participated with Alwan in helping load money and weapons that he believed were destined for terrorists in Iraq.

Documents filed by the United States describe in detail the material support activities of the men in Bowling Green.  Without Hammadi present, Alwan loaded money and weapons he believed were being sent to Iraq on five occasions from September 2010 through February 2011, handling five rocket-propelled grenade launchers, five machine guns, two sniper rifles, two cases of C4 explosive and what he believed to be $375,000.  After Hammadi joined Alwan in January 2011, the two men loaded money and weapons together on five occasions from January to May 2011.  Together, on these five occasions, they loaded five rocket-propelled grenade launchers, five machine guns, five cases of C4 explosive, two sniper rifles, one box of 12 hand grenades, two Stinger surface-to-air missile launchers and what they believed to be a total of $565,000.  Alwan and Hammadi were recorded by video during these operations.

In speaking with the CHS, Alwan spoke of his efforts to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq, stating “lunch and dinner would be an American.”  Hammadi told the CHS that he had experience in Iraq with “Strelas” (a Russian made, portable, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile launcher) and discussed shipping “Strelas” in future operations.

According to the charging documents, Hammadi entered the United States in July 2009, and, after first residing in Las Vegas, moved to Bowling Green.  Hammadi and Alwan were arrested on May 25, 2011, in Bowling Green on criminal complaints.  Both defendants were closely monitored by federal law enforcement authorities in the months leading up to their arrests.  Neither was charged with plotting attacks within the United States.  All of the weapons, including Stinger missiles, had been rendered inert before being handled by Hammadi and Alwan.  The weapons and money handled by the men in the United States were never provided to AQI, but instead were carefully controlled by law enforcement as part of the undercover operation.

This case was investigated by the Louisville Division of the FBI.  Assisting in the investigation were members of the Louisville and Lexington Joint Terrorism Task Forces, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Bowling Green Police Department.

The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Bennett and Bryan Calhoun from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky and Trial Attorney Larry Schneider from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

Combined Force Arrests Taliban IED Attack Leader

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 29, 2013 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader in the Arghandab district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province today, military officials reported.

The leader was responsible for planning and executing improvised explosive device attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, and was planning an IED attack against Afghan civilians when he was arrested, officials said.

The security force also detained a suspected insurgent and seized ammunition in the operation.
Also today, a combined force in Baghlan province’s Burkah district arrested an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader who conducted assassinations directed by insurgent leadership and coordinated the acquisition and delivery of weapons for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force also seized an assault rifle with associated gear and ammunition.

In Kandahar province’s Spin Boldak district yesterday, a combined force arrested a Taliban leader responsible for building, planting and distributing IEDs. He also conducted surveillance of Afghan and coalition forces in preparation for IED attacks and organized the transfer and delivery of IEDs to other insurgents.

Face of Defense: Sailor Starts Band, Amps Up Morale

By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Ruth Adams
Task Force Trident/Task Force Titan

CAMP SABALU-HARRISON, Afghanistan, Jan. 29, 2013 – “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Braun, lead singer for Controlled Det, performs for the Task Force Titan New Year’s dinner at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 1, 2013. Braun put the band together to boost troop morale. DOD photo by Army Sgt. Katie D. Summerhill

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Throughout his 10 years in the Navy, Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Braun said, he has found motivation in those words, spoken by President Theodore Roosevelt.
For many of those years, he explained, Braun has traveled around the world and made the best of all circumstances for himself and his shipmates.

Braun is a singer, and he decided early in his career that he would use his talent to boost the spirits of his fellow sailors. Wherever he was, he said, he would do his best to put together a command band.

This endeavor proved logistically challenging at some far-flung destinations, he said. But instead of letting roadblocks stop him, he added, he followed Roosevelt’s advice and did what he could.

“Having musical instruments, speakers and microphones shipped and finding locations to practice have always been challenges, but there’s nothing that can’t be overcome with a little creativity,” Braun said.
One challenge that never arose, Braun said, was finding band members.

“Wherever I’m stationed, there is so much hidden talent that it is never a problem finding band members,” he said. “Everyone loves music. That is what I want to bring to everyone, that feeling music brings: home.”

Bringing “home” to his shipmates has meant singing in dining halls, USOs, fire barns and even on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic. Now, it means singing in Afghanistan.

Recently, Braun left Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Upon arrival, he said, he knew he wanted to continue his tradition of starting a command band. In a combat zone, morale and welfare always are on leaders’ minds, Braun noted, so when he presented the idea to Navy Cmdr. Stanfield Chien, commander of Task Group Trident, Chien was enthusiastic about the idea.

“Our deployed sailors sacrifice so much that the idea of a band to boost spirits was a fantastic initiative,” Chien said.

With Chien’s blessing and Braun’s enthusiastic efforts, the idea came to fruition in a band called Controlled Det.

Forming a band in a combat zone is not easy. Task Group Trident is a mix of sailors from across the United States and is not a single deployed unit. With such a variety of personalities and backgrounds, the talent pool was deep, but a little cloudy, Braun said. However, through his guidance and the other five members’ raw talent, they put together a band that "tours" all over Bagram Airfield.

Controlled Det is the fifth command band Braun has organized. The band has seven performances under its belt so far. Most recently, they played for the Army National Guard’s birthday celebration and the Army National Guard advisor for U.S. Forces Afghanistan, Army Col. Larry Howl, said they were a hit.

“Controlled Det was phenomenal. They rocked,” Howl said. “Lead singer Michael Braun’s poise, charisma and humor on stage connected well with their new fans. Their unique style and energy, coupled with their musical talent, captivated all of us. I salute Controlled Det’s commitment to entertain. They were the highlight of the National Guard’s 376th birthday celebration.”

The amount of good that Controlled Det has done for deployed service members is immeasurable, Chien said. “The National Guard birthday is yet another example of Controlled Det providing service members with a sense of normalcy in a war zone, which is hard to accomplish.”

Braun, whose time in Afghanistan is drawing to an end, said the first thing he will do at his next duty station is to start asking around for talented musicians so he can once again do what he can with what he has.

Monday, January 28, 2013

People Provide Foundation for NORAD, Northcom Homeland Defense

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Jan. 28, 2013 – Ask the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, and he’ll tell you that beyond the technology, systems and processes that drive the dual commands, it’s people who form the foundation of their homeland defense mission.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
The 9/11 memorial on the grounds of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., provides a daily reminder to members of the dual commands of the importance of their mission. The memorial includes a steel beam from the World Trade Center in New York, rubble from the Pentagon and soil from the crash site in Shanksville, Pa. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. calls his diverse, highly integrated command team the strength of an enterprise entrusted to maintain the watch to safeguard North America. The command team here includes more than 1,700 full-time service members and Defense Department civilians, about 300 reserve-component members, more than 100 Canadian military forces, two Mexican liaison officers and representatives of more than 60 federal mission partner organizations.

“We have the watch,” Jacoby says of the two separate, but inextricably linked, commands he leads. Together, they fulfill what he calls “a sacred trust” in protecting the homeland.

Nowhere is the magnitude of that mission -- and the close personal and organizational cooperation required to fulfill it -- more evident than in the NORAD and Northcom Current Operations Center.

When terrorists struck the United States on 9/11, which led to the standup of Northcom the following year, the NORAD command center was located deep within nearby Cheyenne Mountain. Its focus was aimed outward, on missile launches and enemy aircraft approaching the United States and Canada.

“We were standing with our backs to the fire, looking out against the threat,” explained Army Col. Joseph Southcott, a command center director. “But now we are in the fire, looking 360 degrees, because it is all around us. In fact, we are looking in more ways than anybody could ever have thought of.”

Located in the lower level of the Eberhart-Findley Building that houses the NORAD and Northcom headquarters, the “N2C2” is a bustling operation that maintains an around-the-clock watch, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

It’s the hub where every spoke in the two commands’ missions converge: NORAD’s mission of maintaining aerospace warning and control and maritime warning for North America and Northcom’s mission of conducting homeland defense, civil support and security cooperation in defense of the United States and its interests.

Twenty-seven to 30 people man the center during every eight-hour shift, each studying as many as three computer monitors at a time while listening to the chatter of air traffic control feeds.

Each staff member is selected for expertise in specific domains -- air, missile and space, land, maritime and cyber -- or in integrating these perspectives into a “big picture” for command decision-makers, Southcott explained.

Serving as NORAD’s and Northcom’s eyes and ears, they ensure the command leadership is prepared for what Southcott calls a “quick-twitch mission” that demands an immediate, decisive response, such as a missile attack or menacing or suspicious aircraft than need to be intercepted.

“These are the ‘no-kidding’ events, the things that you have to be ready for the second they happen,” Southcott said.

To keep on top of events that could affect North America, the N2C2 staff monitors satellite and sensor feeds to detect missile launches, such as the one North Korea conducted last month. They track space junk to identify items that could threaten the United States or are in jeopardy of falling out of orbit and crashing back to Earth. They follow Federal Aviation Administration reports to identify an errant aircraft among an estimated 60,000 daily civilian flights.

In support of the maritime mission NORAD adopted in 2006, they keep tabs on suspicious ships approaching the U.S. and Canadian coasts or operating in their sovereign waters.

Since the standup of Northcom, they also keep watch over Washington, D.C., and anywhere the president travels. They keep tabs on U.S. military operations along the Mexican border or in support of Mexican troops as part of U.S.-Mexican theater security cooperation agreements.

They also now watch for hurricanes, earthquakes and severe storms that could affect U.S. security or could cause civil authorities to call for military assistance.

Southcott calls these “slow-twitch missions” -- ones Northcom tracks closely to be ready to respond to, but typically gets called on only when and if local and state first responders need military help or capabilities. “You can prepare for those, but you have to wait for them to happen, then wait to be asked to help,” Southcott said. “So that means we have to always be watching.”

A domestic events network, created after 9/11, enhances these efforts by tying together the myriad agency partners that would play a role in an air-related problem or incident. The network, operated by the Federal Aviation Administration, provides a 24/7 open phone line that links all of the air traffic control centers in the United States and other governmental agencies.

Southcott said he’s been amazed at the close collaboration across the staff and mission partners, all recognizing their role in painting the most complete situational awareness picture possible.

“The integration of the domains is really what drives what we do. It’s the linkage, the interaction,” Southcott said. “When events happen, it amazes even me how much cross-talk is happening between action officers on the floor, each making sure the other knows what is going on.”

Southcott called the collective capability they bring a combat multiplier that far exceeds the sum of their individual contributions.

“That’s what makes this place so strong,” he said. “It’s all of us coming together, bringing their varied backgrounds and expertise to the effort. And when the stuff hits the fan, it’s everyone pulling hard, rowing hard together and sharing the common goal of defending the homeland.”

Afghan, Coalition Troops Arrest Taliban IED Expert

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2013 – A combined Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader in the Baghlan-e Jadid district of Afghanistan’s Baghlan province today, military officials reported.

The leader built and distributed IEDs and acquired bomb components for insurgents. The security force also detained a suspected insurgent in the operation.

In other Afghanistan operations today:
-- In Kandahar province’s Kandahar district, Kandahar province, a combined force arrested a Taliban leader who planned and executed IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and assisted in the transfer and delivery of IEDs, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. The security force also detained two suspected insurgents and seized nearly $3,000 in the operation.

-- A combined force in Helmand province’s Nad-e Ali district arrested a Taliban leader who equipped insurgents with weapons and supplies for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He directed the distribution of heavy machine guns and rockets to his insurgent fighters. The security force also detained a suspected insurgent.

-- In Logar province’s Pul-e Alam district, a combined force arrested a Haqqani network financier who funded Haqqani insurgents operating in the district and coordinated the purchase and transfer of weapons with insurgent leaders.

In operations yesterday:
-- An Afghan-led security force in Khost province’s Khost district, supported by coalition troops, arrested a Taliban facilitator who acquired and transferred weapons and ammunition to Taliban and Haqqani network cells operating in Logar province and sold and delivered machine guns, rockets and IEDs to insurgents throughout the Kabul, Pul-e Alam and Baraki Barak districts.

-- In Nangarhar province’s Khugyani district, a combined force detained two insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader who executes attacks on Afghan and coalition forces.

In Jan. 26 operations:
-- A combined force in Helmand province’s Lashkar Gah district arrested a Taliban leader who facilitated the movement of weapons, ammunition, fighters and equipment into Washer district for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also directed the emplacement of IEDs and targeted Afghan army officers for assassination. The security force also detained three suspected insurgents.

-- In Pakyia province’s Zurmat district, a combined force arrested a Taliban leader who planted IEDs and conducted attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also oversaw the movement of suicide bombers in the district.

In other news, Afghan and coalition forces searching a vehicle during a partnered drug-interdiction mission Jan. 25 in Helmand province’s Garm Ser district seized and destroyed more than 1,600 pounds of dry opium.

More Pretrial Hearings Kick Off for 9/11 Suspects

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

FORT MEADE, Md., Jan. 28, 2013 – Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, along with four co-defendants charged with planning and carrying out the attacks, acknowledged to the judge today that they understand and have no questions about their rights.

Army Col. James Pohl, the judge, opened four days of pretrial hearings at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, affirming that the defendants understand they have the right to attend the proceedings and may voluntarily skip most proceedings. In outlining the rights, Pohl also made clear that opting out of court could hurt the defense, while recognizing that the accused could be compelled to come to court when specific issues are discussed.

Pohl asked each defendant -- Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi -- to affirm that they understand these rights.
Bin Attash, the only defendant to offer more than a simple “Yes,” told Pohl he and his fellow defendants have “no motivating factors to come to court.” He complained that the prosecution does not want the defendants to hear or understand what is going on or to speak during the proceedings.

Bin Attash also expressed frustration that after a year and a half of association, the defendants have not established trust in the attorneys involved. “The attorneys are bound, but we are bound also,” he told the court.

Much of today’s discussions involved whether the prosecution and defense teams need to go into a closed session to discuss what issues they can address in open court. That includes one of the most controversial aspects of the hearing: information about the defendants’ detention at so-called “black sites” operated by the CIA before they were transferred to the Guantanamo Bay facility.

Portions of the proceedings were blocked out by loud static to keep the statements out of the public record. This also prevented the audio from being heard by families of 9/11 victims at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and watching via closed-circuit television here and at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; Fort Hamilton, N.Y.; and Fort Devens, Mass.

Reporters covering the proceedings at Guantanamo Bay and from a media center at Fort Meade also heard the static.

This led Pohl to question during the hearing who has a right to turn on a light that generates the static sound and also institutes a 40-second delay in the audio feed. After closing today’s opening session, he brought together the prosecution and defense teams to work through these issues.

All five defendants at today’s hearing were captured in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003 and have been confined at Guantanamo Bay since 2006. They were charged during their arraignment in May 2012 with terrorism, conspiracy, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, murder in violation of the law of war, destruction of property in violation of the law of war, hijacking or hazarding a vessel or aircraft.

This round of commission hearings will continue through Jan. 31, with the next slated for Feb. 11 to 14.
Today’s hearings began three days after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the conviction of Ali Hamza Ahmad Suliman al Bahlul of Yemen. The court ruled that the charges of conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism and soliciting murder did not qualify as war crimes when Bahlul committed them.

A military commission found him guilty of conspiracy with Osama bin Laden and others to commit murder of protected persons, attacking civilians and other crimes in November 2008. He was also found guilty of solicitation to commit murder of protected persons, to attack civilian objects, and to commit acts of terrorism.

In addition, the commission found him guilty of providing material support for terrorism by supporting al-Qaida through meeting with the highest-ranking members of the organization and creating al-Qaida propaganda, including a widely distributed propaganda video, “The Destruction of the American Destroyer U.S.S. Cole.” All offenses were in violation of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

He was sentenced to life in prison.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Carter Honors Defense Threat Reduction Agency

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2013 – In an auditorium filled with nearly 400 Defense Threat Reduction Agency employees and other defense officials, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter presented the Joint Meritorious Unit Award to agency representatives yesterday.

It was the fourth time DTRA received the award, and Carter called it a great testament to those who have served the organization, past and present.

“In all your work you have aggressively pursued the president’s vision for countering [weapons of mass destruction] around the world,” the deputy secretary told the audience.

“You’ve kept WMD out of the hands of terrorists by locking down dangerous nuclear and biological materials, destroying legacy weapons and developing technologies to prevent, defend against and counter a WMD attack,” he added.

Joining Carter at the ceremony were Frank Kendall III, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; Andrew C. Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs; and Kenneth A. Myers, director of DTRA and the U.S. Strategic Command Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction.

DTRA’s mission is to safeguard the nation and its allies from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive weapons of mass destruction by providing the capabilities needed to reduce, eliminate and counter the threat such weapons pose and to mitigate its effect.

The Joint Meritorious Unit Award, established in 1981, is the only ribbon award granted by the Defense Department and is the organizational equivalent of the Defense Superior Service Medal.
It’s presented in the name of the defense secretary, and Leon E. Panetta signed a congratulatory statement that appeared on the award certificates.

“DTRA distinguished itself by exceptionally meritorious service from October 2009 thru September 2011,” he wrote, “by their exemplary performance of duty, the members of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency have brought great credit upon themselves and the Department of Defense.”
During the ceremony, Carter described the work performed around the world by DTRA scientists and specialists, and the kind of work the nation will need from the agency in the years ahead.

In March 2011 DTRA directly supported the crisis response in Libya through Operations Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector, he said.

DTRA staff worked with U.S. Africa Command and the Joint Staff to generate more than 100 targeting support products to assess the effects of striking WMD targets in Libya.

The products were used to determine how WMD sites would be addressed during the crisis, the deputy secretary added, and now the United States is working with the Libyan authorities to secure and destroy chemical weapons.

In the same month, nearly 7,000 miles away in Japan, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake generated a 70-foot tsunami, devastating communities along Japan's coast and causing one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.

“You responded immediately from both the United States and Japan in Operation Tomodachi,” Carter said.

“The United States has had a permanent presence at Yokota Air Base for arms control purposes, and that provided on-scene capability with all the backup consequence management capability of this great agency,” he added, noting that a DTRA consequence management advisory team arrived in Japan within two days of the disaster.

There, DTRA experts provided technical assistance, modeling and simulation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with rotational liaison, planning and technical personnel on scene until the crisis was under control. They advised on radiation, monitoring and safety issues, and with Navy experts modified a software model to visualize the extent and trajectory of contaminated water around the damaged nuclear power plants in Japan.

“Your effective response was facilitated by the close relationships you had built with U.S. Forces Japan, with Japan's own Self Defense Forces, with our State Department colleagues prior to the disaster,” Carter said.

Several DTRA personnel provided direct assistance at the U.S. Embassy and the Japanese Ministry of Defense, he said, and the work continues today, strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance and improving crisis response capability with U.S. partners and allies.

Describing other ways DTRA has fulfilled its core counter-WMD mission, Carter said the agency has become a premier government entity for research and a key partner for the Department of Homeland Security.

Specifically, he said, DTRA has continued to develop new capabilities to counter biological threats, including producing new candidate vaccines for deadly viral diseases like Ebola and Marburg.
DTRA personnel have played a technical role in New START Treaty negotiations, Carter added, and since the treaty entered into force DTRA teams have conducted 35 inspection missions at Russian strategic sites to verify weapon limits and locations.

“Going back all the way to the Manhattan Project, DTRA and its predecessors have performed a strong supporting role in preserving, protecting, understanding and advising the department on our overall nuclear stockpile and on the continuing need for a safe, secure and reliable nuclear deterrent for the United States,” the deputy secretary said.

Today DTRA performs critical functions, among them helping the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Air Force and the Navy conduct nuclear safety and security inspections; providing people, procedures and tools to perform U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile accounting and tracking; and serving as the DOD executive agent for sustaining emphasis on nuclear weapons training expertise, and response protocols, procedures and practices for potential nuclear weapons accidents and incidents.

DTRA is also part of the 20-year-old Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, Carter said, and its contributions to preventing the spread of loose nukes in the former Soviet Union.
“And in the past two decades … DTRA personnel –- scientists, weapons specialists, inspectors, program managers, action officers, interpreters -- have assisted former Soviet states in deactivating and properly disposing of over 13,000 warheads,” the deputy secretary said.

“Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus [are] all denuclearized,” he added. “And DTRA assisted the Albanian government in becoming the first nation to completely eliminate a chemical weapons stockpile.”

DTRA is an important protection against the increasing sophistication of terrorist organizations and leaps in technology that reduce barriers to WMD acquisition, Carter said. The agency also increasingly works with other government agencies and international partners to build capacity for among other things countering the threat of biological and chemical weapons.

“So we find ourselves today at an inflection point in our thinking and our strategy and wherever you look in that strategy you find a role for and a need for the work of DTRA,” the deputy secretary said.

And as DOD resources and global security interests shift, Carter added, “the department will continue to depend on you for the core intellectual, technical and operational support to counter the threat of weapons of mass destruction.”

Friday, January 25, 2013

U.S. Air Force aiding France's Mali operations

18th Air Force Public Affairs

1/25/2013 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Air Mobility Command contingency response, maintenance and support personnel, and air crews continue to support the movement of French troops and cargo to Mali.

To date Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft have flown 18 missions delivering 574 passengers and 477 short tons of French cargo as part of U.S. Africa Command's effort to support French operations in Mali.

"Our Airmen are working around the clock with the French to prepare their equipment for shipment," said Col. Kevin Oliver, commander of the 818th Contingency Response Group, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., whose forces were among the earliest to arrive in France to set up the airlift stage. "Our Airmen started deployment preparations within an hour of getting the call from our headquarters, and we haven't stopped since."

France requested U.S. and international support for their efforts to halt the advance of Islamist rebels into territory held by Mali's interim government.

"I commend France for taking the steps that it has, and what we have promised them is that we will work with them, to cooperate with them, and to provide whatever assistance we can to try to help them in that effort," said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

Planners at Headquarters, 18th Air Force and the 618th Air and Space Operations Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center) at Scott AFB, Ill.; contingency response forces from the 621st Contingency Response Wing at Joint Base MDL, N.J.; and Airmen at Dover AFB, Del., and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., worked through the holiday weekend and have not stopped since supporting the international effort, officials said.