Archive for May 2017

Counter-ISIS Campaign to Intensify, Mattis Says

May 9, 2017

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Yellow Ribbon America Breaking News!

By Terri Moon Cronk

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2017 — The U.S.-led coalition will accelerate its campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today in a joint press conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, with Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen.

“We will further accelerate this fight to free people from ISIS’ crushing occupation and [the] enemy’s terror threat to Europe and beyond,” Mattis said.

The secretary is on his first stop of a three-country trip to Europe. In Copenhagen, he and Fredericksen co-chaired a 15-country defense ministerial on defeating ISIS, officials said.

The Danish defense minister described the effort to defeat of ISIS as one of Denmark’s highest priorities. Denmark agreed during the ministerial to substantially increase its defense budget to aid in the counter-ISIS campaign.

“We are committed to working together — all of us — and that was reinforced today in our meeting with many partners: to defeat [ISIS] wherever it attempts to establish its roots,” Mattis said.

ISIS Won’t Escape

The secretary said the coalition in Raqqa, Syria, is getting into position to surround the city.

“The idea, ladies and gentlemen, is that the foreign fighters not be allowed to escape and return to constitute a threat against free and innocent people elsewhere, whether it be in the Arabian Gulf, North Africa, and certainly Europe,” he said.

ISIS has lost a significant amount of territory that it once held — more than half in Iraq and in Syria, Mattis said.

“ISIS has lost two-thirds of its strength in Afghanistan,” said the secretary, who also noted the death in Nangarhar province of the ISIS-Khorasan emir over the past weekend.

“In our anti-ISIS campaign, we are dealing that group one more significant blow with the loss of their leader,” Mattis said.

And the fight will go on, he emphasized.

“We continue to integrate our military and nonmilitary efforts,” Mattis said. “You have to remember the battlefield we are fighting on is also a humanitarian field where innocent people live [and] are sometimes forced to stay on a battlefield by ISIS. We’re doing everything humanly possible to limit the suffering and any casualties among those innocent people.”

Bilateral Meeting

Mattis said he and Frederiksen also conducted a “substantive” bilateral meeting in Copenhagen.

“Denmark has always been a stalwart ally and friend of the United States, and the close defense relationship between our two countries reflects the enduring strength of NATO’s transatlantic bond, [with us] having stood by each other in good times and in bad,” Mattis said.

“The American people are truly heartened by your government’s commitment to share the cost of the common defense through a substantial increase in defense spending,” Mattis said to Frederiksen. “Times have changed; 2014 was an eye-opener for all of us, minister, and we have to change with the times.”

Mattis said he and the Danish defense minister also recognized that Denmark occupies a “rather unique role” as a member of NATO, as a member of the European Union and as a member of the Arctic Council.

“In our NATO affiliation, I affirmed that the U.S. commitment to Article 5 [of the North Atlantic Treaty] is ironclad,” Mattis said. Article 5 established the alliance in 1949, and states that an attack on one allied country is an attack on all.

“We stand together, minister, visible and indivisible, in the face of any threats to international law or to a peaceful, international order,” the secretary said.

 

Picture: U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrives in Copenhagen to attend a ministerial with coalition countries to discuss the counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria campaign, May 8, 2017. Mattis also met with Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen. DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

U.S. Officials Studying Force Size in Afghanistan, Dunford Says

May 9, 2017

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By Jim Garamone

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

JERUSALEM, May 9, 2017 — No decisions on whether to increase U.S. forces in Afghanistan have been made yet, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters in Israel today.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said national security leaders have not gone to President Donald J. Trump yet with Afghanistan troop recommendations for 2017 and beyond.

“One of the key discussions we are going to have is what are the horizons for the mission in Afghanistan and how do we articulate it,” Dunford said in an interview. “I expect [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis and I, and others, will brief the president, soon.”

Any increase in the NATO and U.S. mission to Afghanistan must be viewed in context, the general said. In the past year, Afghan forces have taken a lot of casualties in battling the Taliban and other groups. Army Gen. John M. Nicholson, the commander of Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, described the situation in Afghanistan as a “stalemate” during testimony before Congress last month.

Secure, Stable Afghanistan

Dunford said the situation is clearly not moving in the direction Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wants it to. Last year, Ghani announced a four-year plan, which looked at what was possible for the future of his country. It included a listing of the goals for a secure and stable Afghanistan.

Nicholson took this plan and reviewed the campaign to identify what he would need to assist the Afghan government in realizing Ghani’s plan. His recommendations are in the Pentagon and are being discussed among high-level officials across the U.S. government.

“It is fair to say that we have looked at all the potential ways to accelerate the campaign and meet President Ghani’s objective outlined in his four-year plan,” Dunford said.

The president has spoken with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and the organization has begun conversations with troops contributing nations. The chairman will be in Brussels next week to speak with fellow NATO chiefs of defense. And on his three-day trip, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has been meeting with the ministers of defense for the counter-ISIS coalition.

Besides force levels, new authorities, new capabilities, economic reforms and political aspects must also be addressed, Dunford said.

“It’s all of those things being reviewed” and they all have to be looked at holistically, he said.

Regional Threats

ISIS-Khorasan is active in Afghanistan, as well as almost 20 other designated terror groups in the Central Asia/South Asia region.

“I know from personal experience that the pressure we put on al-Qaida and those terror groups every day for the last 16 years is the reason they have not regenerated and conducted attacks,” he said. “I also know they have aspirations to conduct attacks, and an ungoverned space in Afghanistan or South Asia would be contrary to our interests.”

Meanwhile, the fight against global terrorism continues, Dunford said.

“We can be tired, but war is a clash of wills,” the chairman said. “Who wins and who loses? Who loses is [he] whose will is lost first. What we need to be mindful of is not low long we’ve been there, but what is the remaining threat to the United States and coalition partners.”

The American presence in South Asia is necessary to stop Afghanistan from becoming an ungoverned space again, Dunford said.

“It’s pretty clear to me that Afghanistan could possibly be a place where there are proxy wars with various regional actors, as well,” he said.

Counterterrorism Mission

The Afghanistan campaign is a counterterrorism mission under U.S. auspices, Dunford said. That mission must continue “as long as there is a threat — and I am not going to put a timeline on that,” he said.

It will end, he said, when the underlying conditions that give rise to terrorism are addressed. “That doesn’t reflect the size of the mission, but I would expect some influence, some presence is going to be necessary for an extended period of time,” Dunford said. “Some people call this a generational war. If that’s the case, we need to be prepared as a nation to deal with it.”

Still, the form of the American presence in Afghanistan will change, the chairman said. “We have a ‘by, with and through’ strategy meaning what we’re trying to do is enable local forces, in this case Afghans, to provide security inside Afghanistan,” he said. “I do believe Afghan forces are making progress.”

He noted that when he took over as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul four years ago, there were 120,000 American service members in the country. When he left, there were 28,000. Now there are around 9,000 Americans in-country.

“The first two seasons the Afghans have been providing security on their own, it has been a pretty tough fight,” Dunford said.

If the Taliban think all they have to do is hold out one more year and then the international forces leave and the capabilities that the coalition gives the Afghan forces will be gone, then they will hang on, the chairman said.

“But if there is an extended commitment by the international community that says we are prepared to do what has to be done as long as it takes to get the Afghans where they need to be … that’s a different story,” he said.

Helping Hands

May 5, 2017

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Face of our Defense: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Omar Perez receives help from fellow Marines over a double bar during the obstacle course portion of the Martial Arts Instructor Course at U.S. Marine Corps Base Hawaii, May 1, 2017. The Marines are assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Zachary Orr

Today We Pray for America!

May 4, 2017

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Today is the National Day of Prayer!

The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. Our Task Force is a privately funded organization whose purpose is to encourage participation on the National Day of Prayer. It exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, to create appropriate materials, and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families. The Task Force represents a Judeo-Christian expression of the national observance, based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.

“Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the time for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and right can never be safer than in their hands, where the Constitution has deposited it.” 

—Thomas Jefferson, 1808

For more information visit the website: http://www.nationaldayofprayer.org

 

Soldier Shares Story of Support, Gratitude

May 4, 2017

South Carolina National Guard Soldier shares story of support and gratitude

Breaking Yellow Ribbon America News!

By U.S. Army Capt. Joshua Chastain

South Carolina National Guard

FORT STEWART, Ga., May 4, 2017 — The ranks of the South Carolina Army National Guard are filled with soldiers who have inspirational stories of personal sacrifice in balancing military service and family responsibilities. One of these soldiers is Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Hoffhaus, a squad leader in Alpha Company, 4th Combined Arms Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment.

While participating in annual training here recently, Hoffhaus reflected on his nearly 12 years of service with Alpha Company, which includes deployments to Japan, Kuwait and Afghanistan, as well as support to the state during a 2015 flood and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Hoffhaus is married to another South Carolina Army National Guardsman: Sgt. Cecilia Hoffhaus, a member of the 151st Expeditionary Signal Battalion in Greenwood, South Carolina. Throughout their time together, they said, have learned to manage their civilian careers, their National Guard schedules, deployments, and family time.

When the Hoffhaus family welcomed a baby girl into their lives in November, the challenges continued. Kennedy Hoffhaus was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, or HLHS, a condition that occurs in fewer than 1,000 births in the United States each year. Now, the couple is working to balance their schedules as well as appointments and surgeries for their young daughter, who already has had two operations. Despite it all, they said, they remain committed and steadfast to the guard.

Hoffhaus said he has stayed in the National Guard for the opportunities, professional development and seeing his soldiers succeed. Being a member of the organization has made him a better civilian employer and a better man overall, he added. He noted that certain aspects of being a soldier have made him more marketable to his employer, with leadership experiences and discipline that prepared him for a promotion to operations supervisor at Eaton Corp. in Duncan, South Carolina.

Military Duty Magnifies Challenges

Caring for an infant with HLHS can be hard for any parent, but serving away from the family can magnify the challenges. However, the Hoffhauses said, the bond with their fellow soldiers makes overcoming these challenges possible.

“We’ve received nothing but support from the National Guard, from the State Chaplain all the way down to my Platoon Sergeant and everyone in between,” Jeffrey Hoffhaus said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more from the National Guard. The support and encouragement have been amazing.”

His unit’s first sergeant, Army 1st Sgt. Eric Gallman, was especially supportive, he noted.

“Hoffhaus is a fantastic manager who cares a lot about his guys,” Gallman said. “He is an excellent trainer and well-rounded leader who is a servient leader who puts his people first.”

He and his wife have an understanding that whatever the circumstances, soldiers stand ready to help him fight against any enemy, Hoffhaus said. They are the reasons to belong and stay in the organization, he added, because they are “more than just soldiers to me.”

Picture: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Hoffhaus, with the South Carolina National Guard’s Alpha Company, 4th Combined Arms Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment, inspects his Bradley fighting vehicle before a gunnery exercise at Fort Stewart, Ga., April 10, 2017. South Carolina Army National Guard photo by Capt. Brian Hare

Mother, Son Serve Deployment Together

May 3, 2017

Between mother, son: A shared mission

Yellow Ribbon America Breaking News!

By U.S. Army Staff Sgt, Leah Kilpatrick

3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait, May 2, 2017 — One of the most challenging parts of deployment for many soldiers is being away from friends and family. Soldiers and family members alike often lean on others who share a similar experience during long periods apart.

But one family in the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team is sharing an experience here to make deployment just a little bit easier.

Army Capt. Andrea Wolfe and her son, Army Spc. Kameron Wideman, both assigned to Brigade Support Medical Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, deployed here recently from Fort Hood, Texas, for nine months in support of U.S. Army Central.

Wolfe, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, began her Army career as an enlisted lab technician 24 years ago.

“I had two sisters who were in the Army,” she said. “I followed them in. In a family of nine, we couldn’t afford college, so I had to do something to be able to get some kind of college education, and that was the way.”

As far back as she can remember, she said, she wanted to be a nurse. “It’s just something I wanted to get into to help people,” she added.

Educational Opportunities

That aspiration propelled her through her career, taking advantage of educational opportunities in an effort to make her dream a reality. “I tried to get into the nursing program,” she said. “When I was a lab tech instructor in San Antonio, I put in my packet three times for the nursing program.”

After 17 years of enlisted service and multiple attempts, the frustrated sergeant first class decided to try something different.

“So I put in a packet to the [physician assistant] program, got picked up the first time, so I figured that was my calling, and I’ve been doing that since 2009,” she said.

Meanwhile, Wolfe was raising a family. Her son, Kameron Wideman, was born in 1996 at her first duty station in Fort Lewis, Washington. Brought up in a devoted military household, it was no surprise when he enlisted in the Army, Wolfe said.

“I was good in school, but I didn’t take it seriously enough, but the Army was always my fallback plan,” said Wideman, a behavioral health technician. “I initially wanted to join just so I could help people. That’s why I got into the medical field.”

What started out as just a potential option won his heart, Wideman said, and now he plans on taking classes and completing the prerequisites to submit a packet for the Army Medical Department Enlisted Commissioning Program, as his mother did.

Meanwhile, Wolfe and Wideman are tending to the physical and mental well-being of the soldiers deployed here. Wolfe said that while her focus is on her job and taking care of the soldiers, the mom in her can’t help but feel some of the same concerns stateside parents feel about having a child deployed.

Important Mission

“As a mother, you still have that deep-down concern of ‘What if something happens to my baby? What am I going to do?’” she said. “But I can’t let him see that, because I need him to focus on his job and what I need him to do, and that’s to provide mental health, which is something that is very much needed in this day and age.”

Wideman said he enjoys having his mother right down the road. “I’m blessed,” he said. “I’m blessed to have her with me.”

Although Wideman has served only two years in the Army, he is no stranger to the deployment experience from a family member’s perspective. His mother, father and stepfather all serve on active duty.

“All three of my parents have deployed at some point,” he said. “It was tough as a little kid saying goodbye to your parents. When you’re little, you tend to have a big imagination. You’re thinking, ‘Oh no! I’m probably never going to see my parents again,’ because you’re little, and you’re in your own head about it.”

But the experience of being the kid who was left behind didn’t prepare him to actually be deployed himself, he said.

“I still didn’t really know what deployment was,” he said. “It was like this random place that my parents were going to for like a year and then coming back. I didn’t really know how to picture where they were.”

Thankfully, he said, he had a source close to home to answer his questions.

“I had the normal questions like, ‘How are we going to be living?” and me being a millennial, ‘Is there going to be Internet?’ and things like that,” he said.

Wolfe and her husband, Army 1st Sgt. Andrew Wolfe, a company first sergeant at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas, help mentor Wideman through his Army career with advice and guidance.

Drive, Motivation, Discipline

Echoes of the same drive, motivation, dedication and discipline that exemplify Wolfe’s career path are evident in Wideman’s.

“We cross paths every now and then,” she said. “I don’t see him all the time. I let Kameron be Kameron. We are passionate about the military. This is our Army. My husband is a first sergeant, and I used to be an E-7 before I switched over, so that leadership is instilled in both of us, and that comes out in the way we raise our kids – the leadership, the discipline, the morale, the ethics, everything. This is the way you’re supposed to live.”

Wolfe said she often finds herself giving the same advice to her soldiers that she gives to her son.

“Get all you can out of the military, because it’s going to get all it can out of you, and that was my insight coming up,” Wolfe said. “I don’t know how many colleges I went to, because I needed classes. I went to school all the time, and I was just taking advantage of the opportunities that were out there. That’s what I tell all my soldiers coming up in the military. You have to take advantage of it. No one’s going to give it to you. You have to go and get it.”

Picture: U.S. Army Capt. Andrea Wolfe, senior brigade physician assistant, and her son, Army Spc. Kameron Wideman, a behavioral health technician, both assigned to the Brigade Support Medical Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, are deployed for nine months to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Leah R. Kilpatrick

Oklahoma Soldiers Come Home!

May 3, 2017

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Family members welcome Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen at the U.S. Armed Forces Reserve Center in Norman, Okla., April 29, 2017, as the Soldiers return from a nearly yearlong deployment to the Middle East.
 
U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch
 

Welcome Home!

Anchor’s Away!

May 3, 2017

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PACIFIC OCEAN (April 30, 2017) The U.S. Aircraft Carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) transits the Pacific Ocean while conducting a tailored ship training availability off the coast of Southern California.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Paul L. Archer/Released)