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U.S. Department of Defense Lead Photos Update

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Kunsan Guard
10/12/2017 07:00 PM CDT

Air Force Airman 1st Class Trevin Wharton guards his post during Exercise Beverly Pack 18-1 at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, Oct. 11, 2017. Wharton is a heavy gunner assigned to the 8th Security Forces Squadron. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Victoria H. Taylor

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Pacific Command Senior Enlisted Leader Discusses Region’s Network of Allies

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Pacific Command Senior Enlisted Leader Discusses Region’s Network of Allies
10/19/2017 04:06 PM CDT

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Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Anthony A. Spadaro is the senior enlisted leader for U.S. Pacific Command. Photo by U.S. Pacific Command

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Pacific Command Senior Enlisted Leader Discusses Region’s Network of Allies

By Jim Garamone

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2017 — North Korea’s actions have stressed the need for strong relationships with allies throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the senior enlisted leader of U.S. Pacific Command said here recently.

Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Anthony A. Spadaro said success against North Korea’s nuclear program requires allies in the region to be united in the face of the threat, and the command is working closely with nations throughout the region to rein in Kim Jong Un.

Kim’s intransigence and willingness to “fail in public” has united the region in a way not seen in many years, the sergeant major said. As soon as North Korea demonstrated the capability of launching intercontinental missiles, the need for strong ties and partnerships in the region became much more critical.

The United States will not allow a nuclear North Korea with the means to launch the warheads, U.S. officials have said numerous times. The United Nations placed extreme sanctions against the regime, and even China – North Korea’s lone ally – voted for the Security Council resolution. These sanctions will take time to be effective. Meanwhile, the United States has military options available, but diplomatic efforts continue.

Before North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, it was possible to imagine a war on the Korean Peninsula being confined to the region. “It isn’t like that now – [Kim] has the ability to strike Japan, Australia and others,” Spadaro said. “They have to defend their homelands, too. All nations are counting on the diplomatic processes to keep rolling.”

Strong Military Infrastructure

Still, the military infrastructure in the region must remain strong, the sergeant major said. “The success in Pacific Command – or any combatant command – is the network: that hub and spokes between partners and allies, and the need to maintain it,” he added.

Five of America’s treaty allies are in the region: South Korea, Japan, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand. Partners — including nations such as India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and others — also are in the area.

Working with those allies and partners is an ongoing process, Spadaro said, and military exercises, humanitarian efforts and meetings all are important to that process. “It can’t just be at the top level,” he said, noting that U.S. forces train with other nations’ units, partner ships maneuver with American fleets and allied aircraft work together.

Reassurance for Allies and Partners

Reassurance is a big part of the sergeant major’s job now, and he has noted that partnerships among nations in the region have become more robust than ever. Working closely with Japan and South Korea has never been more vital because of mutual threats we face, he said.

North Korea is not the only threat in the region. In the Philippines, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other extremist groups are trying to establish footholds on the island of Mindanao.

“It’s a tough fight against committed, violent extremist organizations,” the sergeant major said, and the Philippine armed forces are showing successes. “It is their fight, and they are demonstrating that they can annihilate ISIS, and that is sending a message to the whole region,” he said.

The partnerships with India, Vietnam and Sri Lanka are also growing and evolving, the sergeant major said.

Meanwhile, China building artificial islands in the South China Sea continues to cause concern in the area. “We will continue to sail, fly, navigate in international waters, period,” he added. ” These are areas where we are allowed to operate, and we will continue to do so. Right now the dealings with the Chinese have been professional, and we hope it stays that way.”

Enlisted Involvement

The ties that bind the militaries in the region are spreading to the enlisted force. During PACOM’s chiefs of defense meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, in May, the senior enlisted leaders from the various nations also met. The year before, there were six senior enlisted advisors that attended, and the meeting lacked a strong focus, Spadaro said.

“This year, we had 15 [senior enlisted leaders] in the room, and there was a lively discussion,” he said. “The idea was, ‘Let’s export global professionalism – and not just from the U.S. perspective.’ The U.S. is not always the lead sled dog.”

“The United States is a close ally of both Japan and the Republic of Korea, and an ironclad partner with many other countries throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific. Those ties rest on a foundation of shared interests and values. The individual partnerships are not just for the benefit of both countries – but for the entire region,” the sergeant major said.

It’s a two-way street, and leaders have to realize that the United States benefits from these alliances just as much as our international friends, he said. “Indonesians, Indians, Thais bring a world of military experience to a relationship with the U.S. We need to listen to them.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

Related Links

Special Report: DoD Focus on the Asia-Pacific

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170713-F-PM645-0956A.JPG Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Terrence Greene, right, U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Warrant Officer Toshiaki Miyamae, middle, and Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Anthony Spadaro, U.S. Pacific Command senior enlisted leader, listen to opening remarks during a senior enlisted leader symposium at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 13, 2017. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe
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Raqqa Close to Liberation as ISIS ‘Caliphate’ Crumbles

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Raqqa Close to Liberation as ISIS ‘Caliphate’ Crumbles
10/19/2017 05:43 PM CDT

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Dana W. White, chief Pentagon spokesperson, and Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the Joint Staff director, brief the press at the Pentagon in Washington, Oct. 19, 2017. DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

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Raqqa Close to Liberation as ISIS ‘Caliphate’ Crumbles

By Jim Garamone

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2017 — The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is on the run around the globe, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said today at news briefing.

White, speaking to the Pentagon press corps with Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frank McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said that the so-called caliphate in the Middle East is on its last legs and that indigenous troops aided by coalition capabilities are taking the battle to the terror group worldwide.

Raqqa, the so-called capital of the caliphate, is almost totally cleared of the terror group, she said. The Syrian Democratic Forces have taken the battle to ISIS and just a few last remaining holdouts must be cleared out. News reports from the battle say that ISIS fighters — once the scourge of the region — are surrendering to SDF personnel.

In Iraq, life is returning to normal in Mosul — captured by ISIS in 2014 and cleared by Iraqi forces earlier this year. Iraqi forces have also liberated Hawija and are taking the battle to the remaining ISIS fighters in the Euphrates River Valley.

Worldwide Ambitions

But ISIS has worldwide ambitions, and success in one region — such as the Middle East — means ISIS adherents scurry to other areas of the globe. “In the Philippines, the purported ISIS emir of Southeast Asia and the Philippines was killed along with several other militants in a firefight with the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” White said.

She congratulated the Philippine forces for their success and vowed the United States and the coalition to defeat ISIS will continue to provide aid to Philippine forces as they battle the terrorists on the island of Mindanao. “We will continue to cooperate with our Philippine partners providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as advice and training.”

Earlier this week, a U.S. strike in Yemen against ISIS decimated many of its senior leaders, she said.

“These events show that our fight against ISIS is global and that other groups that align with them or adopt their brand will face the same bad end,” she said. “ISIS is on the run; it is losing credibility, resources and influence everywhere.”

The struggle against global terrorism does not end with ISIS, White said. American forces continue to fight against al-Qaida in Afghanistan, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan and al-Shabab in Somalia.

It also continues in West Africa. In Niger, four American soldiers were killed and two wounded while accompanying a Nigerien patrol. “These service members were providing advice and assistance to Nigerian security forces’ counterterrorism operations when they came under fire from hostile fighters,” she said.

DoD is investigating the incident, defense officials said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)

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Mattis Discusses Niger Operation, Asks Media to Stop Second-Guessing

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Mattis Discusses Niger Operation, Asks Media to Stop Second-Guessing
10/19/2017 04:39 PM CDT

Mattis Discusses Niger Operation, Asks Media to Stop Second-Guessing

By Jim Garamone

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2017 — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the Defense Department will make a report on the recent deaths of U.S. soldiers in Niger when it is appropriate and asked the media to not second-guess the leaders of the operation on the ground.

Mattis, speaking just before a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, expressed his condolences to the families of the four soldiers.

“I just say we honor the troops, every one of them,” he said. “Every life is critical. These young people look past the hot political rhetoric and sign up, volunteer for the armed forces. They’re part of the 1 percent that are willing to do so in our country, these young men and women.”

The secretary said the United States has been working to improve the combat capabilities and capacities of nations in West Africa to defeat the terrorist threats represented by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other terror groups who “foment instability and murder and mayhem.”

The United States has about 1,000 troops in the region who work with about 4,000 French service members. “We’re providing refueling support, intelligence support, surveillance support,” he said. “But also we have troops on the ground. Their job is to help the people in the region learn how to defend themselves. We call it foreign internal defense training, and we actually do these kinds of missions by, with and through our allies.”

Under Investigation

Mattis said the soldiers’ deaths are under investigation. “We in the Department of Defense like to know what we’re talking about before we talk, and so we do not have all the accurate information yet,” he said. “We will release it as rapidly as we get it because we are very proud of our troops.”

The department investigates whenever there is a death or serious accident.

“At the same time, war is war, and these terrorists are conducting war on innocent people of all religions,” the secretary said. “They’re conducting war on innocent people who have no way to defend themselves. And I would just tell you that in this specific case, contact was considered unlikely.”

The possibility of contact with the enemy a consideration when training allied troops, the secretary said. “It is often dangerous; we recognize that,” he said. “We have been unapologetic about standing by our allies and certainly, the French, with 4,000 troops [in the region], have been engaged down there for years and have lost many, many more troops.”

Mattis only recommends placing troops in such situations if it is in the best interests of the American people.

“One point I would make having seen some of the news reports — the U.S. military does not leave its troops behind, and I would just ask that you not question the actions of the troops who were caught in the firefight and [not] question whether or not they did everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once,” the secretary said. “And I would also ask — don’t confuse your need for accurate information with our ability to provide it immediately in a situation like this.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)

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Remarks by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister of Israel, at the Pentagon

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Remarks by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and His Excellency Avigdor Liebe rman, Minister of Defense of Israel, during an honor cordon at the Pentagon

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Remarks by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and His Excellency Avigdor Lieberman, Minister of Defense of Israel, during an honor cordon at the Pentagon
10/19/2017 04:45 PM CDT