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Yes, there are probably more important matters to discuss, but it is the weekend. So, take a second and watch the Marine Forces Reserve Band rock out in rural Mozambique.



Since July, monsoon rains have caused heavy flooding in many areas of Pakistan. The United Nations estimates more than 20 million people are affected. In response the disaster, the United States has launched a civilian and military relief effort in the country. As part of that effort, US military fixed and rotary wing aircraft are ferrying people and supplies to and from the flood zone. Below are thirteen photos from that military response.

Please consider donating to the NGO flood relief effort here or elsewhere.

Caption: Amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu and amphibious transport dock ship USS Dubuque steam off the coast of Pakistan in the early stages of supporting the Pakistani government and military with heavy lift capabilities to bring relief to those affected in flooded regions of Pakistan. Peleliu and Dubuque are a part of Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Dunlap.

Caption: A forklift with bags of humanitarian assistance is loaded by Pakistani workers into a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter that has arrived to take over the flight role from the U.S. Army in the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the flood victims as part of the disaster recovery effort in Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Pakistan, Aug. 13. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: Pakistani Air Force members help unload thousands of Halal meals from a U.S. Air Force C-130H at Peshawar, Pakistan, Aug. 1, 2010. The meals will go to Pakistanis affected by the floods that have devastated the region. The C-130H is assigned to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz.

Caption: Pakistani Air Force members help unload thousands of Halal meals from a U.S. Air Force C-130H at Peshawar, Pakistan, Aug. 1, 2010. The meals will go to Pakistanis affected by the floods that have devastated the region. The C-130H is assigned to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz.

Caption: Pakistan civilians from the town of Kalam are gathered inside a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter which has come to deliver humanitarian assistance and pick up victims of the flood, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly North West Frontier province), Pakistan, Aug. 9, 2010. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: A member of the Pakistan military points in the direction to where the passengers from the U.S. Army Chinook helicopter need to go after being delivered to the town of Khwazakhela from the flooding, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly North West Frontier province), Pakistan, Aug. 9, 2010. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: A Pakistani military member assists a man and child during the evacuation process to board a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter to the town of Khwazakhela, during the flood recovery effort in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, Aug. 11. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: Pakistan men from the town of Kalam form a chain to quickly unload a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter that has delivered humanitarian assistance and pick up victims of the flood, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly North West Frontier province), Pakistan, Aug. 9, 2010. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: Pakistan men from the town of Kalam carry a bags of flour, while they unload a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter which has come to deliver humanitarian assistance and pick up victims of the flood, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly North West Frontier province), Pakistan, Aug. 9, 2010. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: A little girl from who is evacuated from the town of Kalam wears a set of headphones to reduce the loud aircraft sound aboard a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter which has come to deliver humanitarian assistance and pick up victims of the flood, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly North West Frontier province), Pakistan, Aug. 9, 2010. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: U.S. Army Sgt. Kristopher Perkins, a Chinook crew chief with Company B, Task Force Raptor, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Falcon, holds a child in his lap after picking up 114 Pakistan victims during flood relief missions, Aug. 11, out of the Swat valley, Pakistan. Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Monica K. Smith.

Caption: A U.S. Army Chinook helicopter flies over the flood affected area in Pakistan on a return flight from delivering hummanitarin assistance and evacuating personnel to the town of Khwazakhela, as part of the flood recovery effort in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, Aug. 11. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.

Caption: A Chinook helicopter waits at the end of the hangar holding supplies for disaster relief due to flooding, Ghazi base, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, Aug. 7. Photo by Staff Sgt. Horace Murray.



For years, there has been one constant challenge for United States and coalition military operations in Afghanistan: insufficient rotary wing aircraft. Rotary assets ferry supplies, carry soldiers, and provide air support all over the country. Put bluntly, helicopters are the coin-of-the-realm: the more you have, the more you can do. And we do not have enough.

There has been numerous attempts to rectify the dearth of rotary assets, including some rather shady ones. However, helicopters still remain one of the most needed military resources in Afghanistan.

In response to the deadly flooding in Pakistan, the Pakistani military reassigned some helicopters from combat operations to disaster relief. For its part, the US military provided six helicopters to the relief efforts, however it kept the bulk of its rotary wing assets in Afghanistan:

“It’s a question of risk mitigation,” the official said. “Helicopter lift is critical to the mission” in Afghanistan, where road transport is difficult and dangerous, he said. “It’s not like we have a great surplus of helicopters in theater that are not engaging.”

This answer has satisfied neither the Pakistanis or some pundits:

It would also be absurd to say that we can’t afford to divert resources from the war to emergency flood relief, when much of the story told on behalf of the war is 1) all about “winning hearts and minds” and 2) all about Pakistan; and when the press is reporting that Islamist militants in Pakistan are cleaning our clocks in the battle for flood relief.

However, it looks like the Marines are coming to the rescue. Today it was announced that USS Peleliu is waiting in international waters off the coast of Karachi with 19 Marine helicopters available for disaster relief missions. These aircraft will allow the six US helicopters mentioned above to return to combat operations.

This week’s row over the allocation of helicopters highlights a greater and largely undiscussed issue. In a world of finite resources, when the needs of hard power and soft power conflict over an asset, which takes priority?

The answer is not as straightforward as you think. Department Of Defense Instruction 6000.16 states:

“It is DoD policy that: a. MSOs [editor: Medical Stability Operations] are a core U.S. military mission that the DoD Military Health System (MHS) shall be prepared to conduct throughout all phases of conflict and across the range of military operations, including in combat and non-combat environments. MSOs shall be given priority comparable to combat operations and be explicitly addressed and integrated across all MHS activities including doctrine, organization, training, education, exercises, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities, and planning in accordance with Reference (b).” [Emphasis: Mine] (Department Of Defense 6000.16, 1)

Thus, under 6000.16, in at least one part of the US military, soft power should be given the same access to resources as hard power operations. The reality is that the allocation of resources must be a compromise between soft and hard power roles, balancing the benefits of having a resource in one role with the costs of lacking a resource in another. That is the very essence of strategy.

Editor’s note: I published the wrong version of this post for a few minutes. All fixed now. Apologies from my end.



Posted by Christopher Albon in Navy | 4 Comments

Every year since 1961, the Royal Navy has held a photography competition open to both members of the Navy’s Photographic branch and amateurs photogs in the service. This year’s competition attracted 480 entries showing various parts of Royal Navy life. Last week, the Royal Navy announced the winning entries for 2010. Enjoy.

P.S. Here are the entries for 2009.



Last week, Galrahn and I separately discussed the power of rumor in US warship movements. Specifically, how the rumor of an eleven warship American fleet passing through the Suez channel might affect the behavior of certain Mideast states. This week, we have a second example of this type of rumor. Two days ago a Global Post blog reported that 46 US Navy warships and 7,000 Marines were on their way to Costa Rica. Yep, you read that right, 46 ships.

The truth is more mundane. There are Marines on their way south, but not to fight. The 600 Marines are part of Operation Continuing Promise 2010, which set sail with USS Iwo Jima on July 12. USS Iwo Jima will be home to 1,600 personnel conducting medical assistance, construction, and other assistance programs in Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Panama, and Suriname. Why did the Global Post misreport the story? There are many possibilities: bad fact checking, sensational reporting, etc… However, my personal favorite comes from a commenter on Daniel Lamothe’s Marine Times Blog, Battle Rattle: “Well Dan,” the commenter says, “that’s because 1 marine is worth about 700 other military fighters”.



30th

Navy Life

June 2010

By

Being one of the resident civilians on this blog, I feel certain topics are off-limits. Put broadly, I do not write on internal Navy matters. Grand strategy, strategy, operations, tactics, and politics are fair game, but uniforms and Burger Kings on FOBs are not.

That said, I do have some understanding of what comprises life in the Navy. Or, at least I thought I did until I read this.

Hat tip to Starbuck.



My jaw dropped when Iran boldly announced that it was sending a Red Crescent flotilla of its own to Gaza. This was going to be a high seas confrontation between Iran and Israel, two bitter enemies. However, the entire time I was thinking about the flotilla, a little voice in the back of my head kept saying: “This is Iran, the masters of inaction, beware”. But I did not listen. The Iranian flotilla was going to happen, and it was going to be a big freaking deal.

Now, it looks like I should have listened to that little voice. The Iranian Red Crescent quietly announced last week that two ships of the flotilla were being delayed due to lack of coordination and a change of cargo with “no definite” date of departure. The third ship of the flotilla seems to have to disappeared entirely, or at least is unworthy of mentioning. The real message is clear: the Iranian flotilla is not happening.

Lastly, there is one interesting sidebar to this story. On June 21st, media outlets reported a fleet of one Israeli and 11 American warships passing south through the Suez Canal. Later that day, Galrahn serendipitously discussed the phantom fleet reports and the power of fleets to change national behavior. Why serendipitously? Because Iran announced the delay of the Red Crescent flotilla on the same day as the phantom fleet’s Suez passage. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.



While most of the defense community’s attention is firmly fixed on McChrystal-gate, my focus is on the softer and often overlooked side of US Navy operations. Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in an annual series of humanitarian and civic assistance operations projecting US soft power in the Pacific Rim. This year, USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) is visiting six nations, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Timor-Leste. To give these servicemen the credit they deserve, below is a series of photos from Pacific Partnership 2010. Enjoy.

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Caption: The daughters of Cantorna, chief hospital corpsman, wave good-bye to their father aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy at Naval Base San Diego. Mercy’s mission is designed to enhance relationships through medical, dental and engineering outreach projects along with host and partner nations. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark August

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Caption: Maj. Brian Glodt, a doctor embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, treats a Cambodian child during a Pacific Partnership 2010 medical civic action event at Sihanoukville Hospital, Cambodia. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eddie Harrison

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Caption: A Cambodian child plays jump rope with a Sailor from the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy during a Pacific Partnership 2010 community service event at the Goodwill School. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Husman

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Caption: Lt. Brad Clove, embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, during a Pacific Partnership 2010 community service event at the Goodwill School. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Husman

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Caption: U.S. Pacific Fleet Band members play and dance with Vietnamese children during a concert at the Nha Van Hoa Lao Dong cultural center in Quy Nhon, Vietnam, supporting Pacific Partnership 2010. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Martin

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Caption: Royal Australian Navy Lt. Elizabeth Livingstone and Singapore army Maj. Paul Zhao, both doctors embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, perform cataract surgery on a Vietnamese patient aboard Mercy during a Pacific Partnership 2010 visit to Quy Nhon, Vietnam. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eddie Harrison

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Caption: Petty Officer 2nd Class Jennifer Hunt, hospital corpsman, embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, blows bubbles with children during a Pacific Partnership 2010 community service project at Starfish Primary School in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Joshua Martin

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Caption: Cmdr. Charlotte Yuen, a Navy doctor embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, paints with with children during a Pacific Partnership 2010 community service project at Starfish Primary School in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Joshua Martin

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Caption: A Cambodian child plays jump rope with Petty Officer 1st Class Yissel Castanon, embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, during a Pacific Partnership 2010 community service event at the Goodwill School. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Husman

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Caption: Cambodian children play games with Sailors and non-governmental organization volunteers embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy during a Pacific Partnership 2010 community service event at the Enfants du Cambodge orphanage. Photo by Seaman Jon Husman

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Caption: Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, holds a Vietnamese child during his visit to the pediatric ward aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eddie Harrison



At the end of May, IDF soldiers boarded a flotilla of activist ships attempting to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. During the boarding, nine activists on the largest ship, Mavi Marmara, died. In the wake of the deadly incident the arab street expressed outrage. Governments in the region were quick to exploit the anti-Israeli public sentiment. Turkey’s Prime Minister even suggested he might break the blockade himself, escorted by the Turkish military. However unlikely, the statement garnered him a surge in popularity amongst his countrymen and Palestinian supporters.

Iran has also attempted to use the media attention to boost its popularity. Initially, Iran hinted at sending the Revolutionary Guard to escort convoys, but after that was rejected by Hamas the idea was dropped. Now, Iran has taken a different approach. Over the last few days, two Iranian ships carrying food, construction supplies, and toys left port in the latest attempt to run the blockade of Gaza. The flotilla was organized by the Iranian Red Crescent Society. Iranian officials have confirmed that the Revolutionary Guard will not be escorting the blockade runners.

This is not the first time Iran has sent an aid ship to Gaza. In 2009, an Iranian ship carrying food and medical supplies was blocked from docking in Gaza by the Israeli Navy and from docking in el-Arish by the Egyptian Navy. However, given new political climate after the last flotilla raid, these new blockade runners will in all likelihood make a more concerted effort to make it to Gaza’s shores, forcing Israel to again use a heavy hand.



After the IDF raid on the Mavi Marmara, accusations and rumors flew fast and thick. Highly edited videos released by the IDF and activist supporters did little to inform what actually happened that night. Now, a one hour long, high definition, and unedited video has been released (also available here). The footage was taken by Cultures of Resistance director Lara Lee.

I am not a surface warfare expert and I have not watched the video all the way through yet, so I will refrain from making uneducated comments. There is plenty of room for USNI readers to do that in the comments section. To get what I suspect will be a vibrant discussion started, here are the time codes for some moments of interest:

10:00 Al Jazeera reporter summarizes what has happened to the flotilla up until that time. Namely, that the Mavi Marmara was being tracked by the IDF and that the organizers changed the flotilla’s course to avoid a nighttime confrontation.

16:00 On being asked will happen when the IDF comes, a man off-camera says that the IDF soldiers will be thrown off the ship. Pressed further by the interviewer, he mentions that there is a group of people “not like us, [they don't] come from an easy life… they are always ready for these things” and that they are ready to fight.

36:00 IDF small boat attack is repelled. Despite earlier reports to the contrary soldiers did not fire live rounds, they are indisputably firing paintball guns (shown in the screen capture below, I have adjusted the contrast and brightness to get a clear picture).

36:17 Something (firearm, flaregun, firework) appears to be fired from the Mavi Marmara towards the IDF small boat. A screen capture is provided below. It looks like fireworks to me, but I encourage you to watch it and decide for yourself.

39:00 That infamous red “blood” on the ladder is shown, used as proof the IDF fired live rounds before boarding. However, when asked a passenger says that they are from IDF paintballs and not blood (his comments are suspiciously absent from an earlier edited video made from the same footage by Lara Lee).

40:00 IDF Fast-roping from helicopter onto top deck.

42:00 Slingshots shot at helicopter, screen capture is below.

43:00 Gunshots can be heard from off-camera. Wounded man shown carried down staircase into what appears to be the medical area. Passenger mentions that two wounded IDF soldiers had been carried down just before.

50:00 Activists armed with pipes and other weapons make a stand at what looks like the top of the staircase shown before. IDF gunshots can be heard close by (maybe at one activist near the top of the stairs).

52:00 Activists on the staircase shows a helmet, presumably from a wounded IDF soldier.

53:00 Wounded activists, with what appears to be gun wounds, are shown.

55:40 Captain (I am assuming) makes an announcement of the PA system.

58:00 IDF small boat team appears to board. Captain makes an appeal in English for the passengers to stop fighting and go back to their cabins, warning that the IDF is using live ammunition.

60:00 Mavi Marmara is no longer moving. Announcement from female voice makes appeal to the IDF.



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