By Cheryl Pellerin
WASHINGTON, March 25, 2015 – U.S. and coalition military forces have begun operations in support of Iraqi security forces in Tikrit after a request from the Iraqi government, officials from Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve announced this afternoon.
According to a task force news release, the coalition is now providing direct support to Iraqi security forces conducting operations to expel the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant from the city. The joint, combined task force is providing air strikes, airborne intelligence capabilities, and advise and assist support to Iraqi security force headquarters elements to enhance their ability to defeat ISIL, officials said.
Destroying ISIL Strongholds
“These strikes are intended to destroy ISIL strongholds with precision, thereby saving innocent Iraqi lives while minimizing collateral damage to infrastructure,” said Army Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, task force commanding general. “This will further enable Iraqi forces under Iraqi command to maneuver and defeat ISIL in the vicinity of Tikrit.”
At the Pentagon this morning, Defense Department spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren confirmed that the United States is providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support over Tikrit, and from these operations providing intelligence to Iraqi security forces.
“At the request of the government of Iraq, coalition forces are providing support to Iraqi security forces as they combat ISIL in and around Tikrit,” said Col. Patrick Ryder, a U.S. Central Command spokesman. “To be clear, the coalition is only coordinating with the government of Iraq and the Iraqi security forces; we do not coordinate our operations in any way with Iran or Iranian-backed militias.”
Although there’s been significant media attention on the stalled Tikrit operation which began March 2, coalition forces have continued to actively make progress against ISIL throughout the area of operations in Iraq and Syria, according to Centcom officials, adding that coalition forces are completing these operations simultaneously and in close coordination with the Iraqis.
Destroying ISIL’s Combat Capability
“Since the beginning of March, coalition forces have conducted more than 300 airstrikes against ISIL targets in support of five separate Iraqi-led operations as well as counter-ISIL operations in Syria,” Ryder said. “We have destroyed a significant portion of ISIL’s combat capability during this period, to include the elimination of more than 800 ISIL fighters, two tanks, 15 armored personnel carriers, 11 indirect fire systems and 10 anti-aircraft systems from the battlefield.”
Centcom officials assess that the number of ISIL forces and amount of equipment destroyed over the last three weeks is much larger than what ISIL currently maintains in Tikrit. Through these operations, coalition forces have continued to degrade ISIL’s command and control capability, its ability to project combat power, and its ability to resource itself, officials said.
“Coalition airstrikes will provide a unique and decisive enabler for the Iraqi Security Forces as they have elsewhere in Iraq,” Ryder said. “We know that ISIL’s position in Tikrit is not going to improve.”
Critical Training for Iraqi Forces
In addition to airstrikes, coalition forces also continue to provide critical training to Iraqi security forces, according to Centcom officials. There are currently 4,800 Iraqi troops in training at four building partner capacity sites in Iraq, with 3,000 of those troops entering training three weeks ago.
“We are building their capacity while enabling and supporting their operations throughout the country,” Ryder said. “So we are doing a lot, especially in the past three weeks. And we are doing all of this simultaneously and in close coordination with our Iraqi partners.”
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews)
At Iraq Leader’s Request, Coalition Operations Begin in Tikrit
Special Report: Operation Inherent Resolve – Targeted Operations Against ISIL Terrorists
Coalition Operations Against ISIL
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By Nick Simeone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2015 – Funding cuts triggered by the 2011 Budget Control Act have negatively impacted Navy and Marine Corps readiness, leaving sailors and Marines inadequately prepared to fight and increasing the dangers to them if they do, the chief of naval operations told Congress today.
“This means longer timelines to arrive, less time to prevail, if we do, more ships and aircraft out of action when in battle, more sailors, Marines and merchant mariners killed,” Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert told the House Appropriations Committee as lawmakers took up the Pentagon’s $534 billion base budget request for fiscal year 2016.
Greenert, along with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, described the sequester-caused damage to readiness and warned of what could occur if it returns in the coming fiscal year.
U.S. Warfighting Advantages Decline
“The overall impact of budget shortfalls in the past three years has manifested in the continued decline of our relative warfighting advantages in many areas,” Greenert told the House panel. For example, he said, the Navy is now less able to satisfy contingency response requirements around the world.
“Our combatant commanders require three carrier strike groups and three amphibious ready groups ready to deploy within 30 days to respond to a major crisis,” he said. “However, on average, we have been able to keep only one carrier strike group and one amphibious ready group in this readiness posture.”
The Navy’s top uniformed officer said the administration’s 2016 budget request — which proposes defense spending above sequester limits — “represents the absolute minimum funding levels needed to execute our strategic guidance.”
More Cuts Would Damage National Security
Any further cuts, he said, would damage national security.
Also testifying was Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who described his service as having to make tough choices to deal with the effects of years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan in addition to reduced budgets.
“As a result,” Dunford said, “approximately half of our non-deployed units — and those are the ones that provide the bench to respond to unforeseen contingencies — are suffering personnel, equipment and training shortfalls.” This situation, he added, will delay response times and put American lives at risk unnecessarily.
“Perhaps more concerning, it will result in fewer Marines and sailors being forward-deployed and in a position to immediately respond to a crisis involving diplomatic posts, American citizens or U.S. interests,” Dunford said.
The effects of the automatic across-the-board cuts known as the sequester — imposed after the White House and Congress failed in 2011 to agree on a plan to reduce the budget deficit — were mitigated by legislation last year that restored some military spending, but without congressional action the sequester law is set to take effect again Oct. 1.
(Follow Nick Simeone on Twitter: @simeoneDoDNews)
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced yesterday that the remains of U.S. servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been accounted for and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
Army Air Forces 1st Lts. William D. Bernier of Augusta, Montana; Bryant E. Poulsen of Salt Lake City, Utah; Herbert V. Young Jr. of Clarkdale, Arizona and Tech Sgts. Charles L. Johnston of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Hugh F. Moore of Elkton, Maryland and Staff Sgts. John E. Copeland of Dearing, Kansas; Charles J. Jones of Athens, Georgia; and Sgt. Charles A. Gardner of San Francisco, California, have been accounted for and buried with full military honors. Jones will be buried Feb. 28 in Athens, Georgia and Johnston will be buried March 2 in Arlington National Cemetery. On March 18, there will be a group burial service at Arlington National Cemetery honoring Poulsen, Copeland and the other crew members. Bernier was buried Sept. 19, 2014, in his hometown. Young was buried Oct. 15, 2014, in Prescott, Arizona Moore was buried on Nov. 11, 2014, in his hometown. Gardner was buried on Dec. 4, 2014 in Arlington National Cemetery.
On April 10, 1944, 12 B-24D Liberator crew members took off from Texter Strip, Nazdab Air Field, New Guinea, on a mission to attack an anti-aircraft site at Hansa Bay. The aircraft was shot down by enemy anti-aircraft fire over the Madang Province, New Guinea. Four of the crewmen were able to parachute from the aircraft, but were reported to have died in captivity.
Following World War II, the Army Graves Registration Service (AGRS) conducted investigations and recovered the remains of three of the missing airmen. In May 1949, AGRS concluded the remaining nine crew members were unrecoverable.
In 2001, a U.S.-led team located wreckage of a B-24D that bore the tail number of this aircraft. After several surveys, DoD teams excavated the site and recovered human remains and non-biological material evidence.
To identify Jones’ remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including, mitochondrial DNA, which matched Jones’ maternal niece.
To identify Johnston’s remains, scientists from DPAA and AFDIL used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including, mitochondrial DNA, which matched Johnston’s maternal cousins.
To identify Gardner’s remains, scientists from DPAA and AFDIL used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including, mitochondrial DNA, which matched Gardner’s maternal niece and nephew.
To identify Young’s remains, scientists from DPAA and AFDIL used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including, mitochondrial DNA, which matched Young’s sister.
To identify Moore’s remains, scientists from DPAA and AFDIL used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including, mitochondrial DNA, which matched Moore’s niece and grand-niece.
To identify Bernier’s remains, scientists from DPAA and AFDIL used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including, mitochondrial DNA, which matched Bernier’s cousins.
To account for Poulsen and Copeland, scientists from DPAA used circumstantial evidence that placed them on the aircraft and accounted for as them as part of the group.
For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil or call 703-699-1169.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2014 – 2014 Year is Photos is a special report featuring some of the best images captured by Defense Department photographers during the year as they provided a rich visual record of U.S. troop activities around the world. View the special report here.
By Sgt. 1st Class Abram Pinnington
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 24, 2014 – For deployed service members, Christmas can be a time of loneliness and missed opportunity. However, many people and organizations unite to prevent those who are deployed from feeling left out during this time of the year.
Christmas 2014 in Baghdad is a prime example of what can happen when many gather in a common goal, bringing the holidays to everyone.
The 1st Infantry Division, the United States Department of State, the United Service Organizations, the New York Yankees and many other organizations gathered more than 7,000 presents to show their support for service members in Iraq.
Presents for the Troops
“The donations come from people who want to let our military members know they support them,” said Priya Butler, director of operations, USO Southwest Asia. “We’re very fortunate to have a large number of Americans who love to contribute to these events and they do it every year.”
One of the many gifts service members received were bags filled with items gathered, sorted and compiled by the players and families of the New York Yankees.
“The team stuffed care packages for us in Yankee Stadium around Veterans Day,” Butler said. “This year they put together 6,000 packages and shipped them over to us. It is a great tradition we have with the Yankees and we’re very thankful for their support.”
The Major League Baseball powerhouse wasn’t the only well-known organization wanting to give to those supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq.
“Sony donated a lot of PlayStation 4s and the military appreciation bundle packs,” Butler said. “The Xbox came from the NFL, which is a huge supporter of the USO and our troops.”
Other donated items included Beats by Dre headphones, Apple iPads and iPods, Samsung Galaxy tablets, Christmas stockings filled with treats and many more items.
Planning Pays Off
“It took a lot of effort from the 1st Infantry Division,” Butler said. “This was a month’s worth of planning.”
Partnered with the division and other American agencies, the USO hosted the Dec. 21 event where the gifts were distributed. More than 200 service members participated.
“With the help of the American Employees of Baghdad Association and the USO, we were able to put this all together,” said Staff Sgt. Dianne Hoffmann, human resources administrator, 1st Inf. Div., who is deployed as part of the Combined Forces Land Component Command-Iraq.
Hoffmann, along with several other soldiers, teamed up with Butler to help bring Christmas to Baghdad.
“This is a joy,” Hoffman said. “I enjoy it immensely because it’s about giving back to the community we all work with, to pay it forward to the troops who don’t have the support from home.”
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2014 – While the combat mission in Afghanistan is ending, the U.S. commitment to the nation will continue, President Barack Obama told U.S. troops today during a visit to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
“In just two weeks, the transition that we’re making in Afghanistan will be complete,” he said. “Afghans will take full responsibility for their security.”
“This month,” he said, “after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over. This month America’s war will come to a responsible end.”
Still a Dangerous Place
However, Obama cautioned that Afghanistan is still a “very dangerous place.”
“But I want you, and every American who has served in Afghanistan, to be proud of what you’ve accomplished there,” he said, “because your generation — the 9/11 generation — has met every mission that’s been given to you.”
“You helped decimate the core al-Qaida leadership and deliver justice to Osama bin Laden,” Obama said. “He will not be attacking here anymore.”
The president listed a range of U.S. military accomplishments, including pushing back the Taliban, training Afghan forces to take the lead and making possible a historic election this year along with the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history.
“Despite all of their challenges,” Obama said, “Afghans are now looking to the future, and that’s because of you. That makes us safer; it gives them a chance for a better future.”
Obama said when he took office there were nearly 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but by month’s end, there will be fewer than 15,000 remaining.
“We’ve now brought home about 90 percent of our troops,” he said. The time of deploying large ground forces with large military footprints to engage in overseas nation-building is coming to an end, Obama added.
And despite the military becoming leaner, Obama said, he will ensure it remains “the best-trained, the best-led, the best-equipped military in the history of the world, because the world will still be calling.”
Commitment to Afghanistan Endures
Obama said even as the combat mission ends, the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan will endure through a limited U.S. military presence there and the training and advising of Afghan forces.
“And we’ve got to conduct counterterrorism missions,” Obama said, “because there’s still remnants of al-Qaida there. After all the sacrifices you’ve made, we want to preserve the gains you’ve made.”
The president said in addition to a “stable and secure” Afghanistan, American leaders want to make sure that country is never again used to launch attacks against the U.S.
More broadly, Obama said there are still challenges to U.S. security around the globe and in times of crisis, people around the world — even America’s critics — look to one nation to lead and that is the United States.
“When the world calls on America,” he said, “we call on you, our men and women in uniform, because nobody can do what you can do.”
Obama said “nobody in history has been able to do what you’ve done.” He noted the U.S. military has led a global coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Iraq and Syria.
“Because of you,” he said, “we have blunted their momentum, and we have put them on the defensive.”
“These terrorists are learning the same thing that the leaders of al-Qaida have learned the hard way. They may think that they can chalk up some quick victories, but our reach is long. We do not give up.”
“You threaten America, you will have no safe haven,” he said. “We will find you, and like petty tyrants and terrorists before you, the world is going to leave you behind and keep moving on without you, because we will get you. That’s thanks to you [service members].”
Life-saving Work in West Africa
Obama also noted the U.S. military has saved lives through its efforts in leading the fight against Ebola in West Africa.
“None of that would be possible without you,” he said. “That’s American leadership. That’s the difference you make.”
“Other countries are now willing to come in, because you laid the foundation,” Obama said.
“Ultimately,” he said, “we will have saved thousands of lives because of you. That’s the difference you’re making. There are people who are alive today because of what you guys are doing.”
Obama, “on behalf of more than 300 million Americans,” thanked all U.S. service members for their “extraordinary service” and “send me” attitude.
“What makes us the best is all of you,” he said. “It’s your character and your willingness to say, ‘send me'; your dedication to duty and your courage, and your readiness to defend our values and our ideals of freedom and liberty, not just for us, but for people all around the world.”
“You are the backbone of the greatest nation on earth and you will always be that,” Obama said.
“For that, America is eternally grateful,” he said, “and I am incredibly proud to serve as your commander-in-chief.”
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallDoDNews)
DoD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
They died Dec. 12, in Parwan Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when the enemy attacked their vehicle with an improvised explosive device. These soldiers were assigned to 3rd Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.