Posts Tagged ‘United States Marine Corps’

Send in the Marines

March 15, 2011

I mentioned yesterday that Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked on the Essex Amphibious Ready Group would be part of U.S. forces responding to the disaster in Japan. Today I learned about what the rest of the Marines stationed in Japan will be doing to help. It mainly consists of repositioning rotary wing aircraft and cargo planes from Okinawa and Southern Japan to bases and locations closer to the disaster site. But it also involves the use of the High Speed Vessel (HSV), a catamaran hull ship operated by contractors and used to ferry Marines and gear around the theater. (I’ve never been aboard the HSV, but those that have had the pleasure of going for a ride no-so-affectionately refer to it as “the vomit comet”.)

From the press release:

Today, III MEF personnel and gear departed the Naha Military Port at 9 a.m. on the High Speed Vessel in route to mainland Japan. The HSV will deliver a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) for use in the assistance operations. A FARP is a temporary facility normally located close to the area of operations that allows aircraft to conduct continuous operations without having to return to an established airport to obtain fuel. This capability enables helicopters to fly rescue and transport missions almost non-stop.

The HSV is also transporting additional supplies, communications equipment and personnel that will be used in the relief operations. The FARP and other supplies will arrive at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni for further transportion to the identified FARP location.

Eight CH-46E transport helicopters of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265, MAG-36, 1st MAW, III MEF normally located at MCAS Futenma are now positioned at NAS Atsugi and available to conduct relief operations. The mission of the Marine Corps rotary wing aircraft in support of relief operations is survey, recovery and humanitarian assistance support.

Humanitarian assistance survey teams are in place and ready to begin assessing the damaged area and assisting the Government of Japan with providing accurate information to disaster relief planners, both military and civilian. The HASTs are capable of distributing supplies and providing basic medical care for those in immediate need of aid.

Read it all here. Check out all the slides here.

Conant to return to USPACOM

March 15, 2011

I just caught this news while trolling DoD news releases, even though it has been out on the street for almost a month. Major General Thomas L. Conant, USMC, currently Commanding General, 3d Marine Aircraft Wing in California, has been nominated to be the deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Command, the U.S. combatant command for this neck of the woods. This is fantastic news, for General Conant has been at PACOM before (as the Director of Strategic Policy Planning [J5]) and is well-versed in the significant issues of the region. Plus, from a service point of view, it gives us (Marines) one more highly-placed general officer in the various regional and functional commands. (Last time I posted on this topic, we were taking the deputy spot at U.S. Cyber Command.)

Links of Interest 02/19/2011

February 19, 2011
Typhoon Morakot (Kiko) was taken over Taiwan i...

Image via Wikipedia

  • My alma mater in the U.S. hosts one of these…though it wasn’t yet established when I was a student there.

    tags: China Confucius_Institute FC

    • Confucius Institutes have two, and only two, functions: one is propaganda, and the other is intelligence on the academic community.
  • tags: Guam Okinawa USMC FC

    • The Japanese government is considering freezing budget expenditures for the relocation of the Futenma military base, Japanese media reported.

      According to Asahi News, such a freeze would please Japan’s radical Social Democratic Party, but would raise the ire of Washington, resulting in a further delay in the transfer of 8,000 U.S. Marines to Guam.

    • If the budget for Futenma-related projects are frozen, this will further delay the Guam buildup which is already delayed up to 2020.
  • tags: Guam buildup USMC FC

    • The $3.7 trillion federal budget proposal for fiscal 2012 offers more than $367 million for military construction on Guam, including the foundation of a Marine base in Finegayan.
    • The proposed budget includes about $77 million to lay water infrastructure for the Finegayan base and another $78 million to install basic utilities at the Andersen North Ramp, where Marines will need a runway and a hangar for aviation training.
  • Taiwan is also interested in increasing its amphibious capabilities for the purpose of responding to humanitarian crises such as 2009′s Typhoon Morakot.

    tags: China amphibious power FC Taiwan

    • Just a decade ago, China had only a token amphibious force. Today, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has two new, large landing ships of the Type 071 class plus the ‘Ship 866’ hospital vessel all—of them optimized for over-the-beach operations. Lighterage boosts the ships’ ability to move supplies onto shore, and retrieve patients for medical treatment.
    • Some alarmists would point to these new amphibious capabilities as proof that Beijing intends to attack Taiwan. But the systems are equally useful for disaster relief and humanitarian operations.
  • Commentary on the new U.S. long-range strike bomber program.

    tags: China anti-access US US_military FC

    • War planners argued that the bomber is needed to fly deep inside China if Beijing were to begin firing salvos of anti-satellite missiles, first successfully tested in 2007, at U.S. satellites, which are used for everything from communications to weapons targeting. The new bomber would be called on to conduct rapid strikes against ASAT launchers before the Chinese could deal a potentially deadly blow to U.S. military capabilities.
    • Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said the bomber is a premier element of a “family” of long-range strike weapons that are “key to anti-access challenges that we expect to face in the future” — anti-access being Pentagon code for China in particular, which is building forces and weapons designed to prevent the U.S. military from supporting regional Asian allies such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
  • tags: China soft_power FC

    • As China becomes a global economic powerhouse, its cultural influence remains feeble, with the country’s culture industry only accounting for less than 4 percent of the world’s output, according to a blue book released on Friday.
    • However, the paper also acknowledged China’s cultural soft power development in the past years. This includes its reform of the cultural system, the development of the cultural industry, and the spread of Chinese culture overseas.

      As of November 2009, about 282 Confucius institutes, which are considered a channel and a brand name for spreading Chinese culture around the world, have been set up in higher educational institutions around the world. They are jointly held by Chinese and foreign universities.

  • tags: US China Pacific military AirSea USPACOM FC

    • The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said Thursday that the Pentagon is developing new battle plans for Asia that include adding Marines to better-coordinated naval and air forces in the region where China is expanding its military might.
    • Officials said the plan responds to China‘s “anti-access” strategy of using ballistic and cruise missiles, submarines and aircraft to drive U.S. forces out of the western Pacific or limit them in aiding U.S. allies.
    • The four-star admiral’s comments were unusual because the study’s details are highly classified. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered the study in 2009 amid concerns that U.S. forces, especially the Navy and the Air Force, were unable to operate closely in a wartime scenario.
  • tags: FC Taiwan US currency debt

    • Taiwan increased its holdings of U.S. Treasury securities by 0.6 percent to US$131.9 billion in December 2010, making it the ninth largest foreign owner of U.S. government debt, according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Treasury Department.
  • tags: FC US defense budget China

    • As for adversaries, there are none that pose a truly existential threat to the U.S. The closest any non-ally comes is China.
    • The U.S. spends many times more on defense than China. According to the Pentagon, the Middle Kingdom shells out between $105 and $150 billion a year for defense. The U.S. “base” budget – not including money spent in Iraq or Afghanistan or money spent by the Department of Energy on nuclear weapons – is $523 billion. China understands this dynamic. That’s why China is investing in asymmetric weapons such as the “carrier killer” missile. They know they can’t afford to keep up with the U.S. in terms of dollars spent, but they can build weapons to take out more expensive weapons such as aircraft carriers with systems that cost very little. The flipside, of course, is that China’s ability to project power, the thing Americans should really feel threatened by, is quite limited.
  • A pair of Australia’s leading defense intellectuals debate how to proceed in the face of a rising China.

    tags: FC Australia China defense

  • tags: asbm China FC

    • An article in the 18 February 20[1]1 English edition of Global Times quotes “a military source close to [ballistic missile] development” as stating that “‘the Chinese-made Dong Feng 21D missile, with firing range between 1800 and 2800 kilometers, is already deployed in the army.’” The article adds: “Foreign media have also speculated that the Dong Feng 21D is a ‘carrier killer’ and would prove to be a game-changer in the Asian security environment, where US Navy aircraft carrier battle groups have ruled the waves since the end of World War II, the AP reported.”
    • The bottom line: the era of “ASBM denial” is over. China’s ASBM is not science fiction. It is not a “smoke and mirrors” bluff. It is not an aspirational capability that the U.S. can ignore until some point in the future.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Review: The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat

January 28, 2011

The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in CombatThe Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat by Bob Drury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This gripping account of U.S. Marines in combat during the Korean War is a must-read! I was thoroughly engrossed by the storytelling. Despite the fact that it is a historical work, it reads like a novel.

The descriptions of bravery and selflessness of the Marines of Fox Company, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines fighting to defend Toktong Pass near the famous Chosin Reservoir in some of the most austere winter combat conditions imaginable (think alpine fighting where temperatures did not rise above minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks on end, with deep snow and howling winds) is truly remarkable. While the combat itself is old-fashioned, consisting mainly of static fighting positions and human-wave tactics by the Chinese volunteers, the lessons for dealing with the environment are still relevant for a possible new fight on the Korean Peninsula.

The commander of the company of Marines, William Barber, won the Medal of Honor for leading his troops through several days and nights of siege by Chinese forces that far outnumbered his forces, despite being seriously wounded himself early on. In all, “The Last Stand of Fox Company” is an inspiring account of leadership, comradeship, and perseverance in the face of severe adversity. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

On national service

January 3, 2011

We interrupt the regularly scheduled broadcast… to bring you this worthwhile (but not exactly related to the mainstay of this blog’s focus) video of Matt Pottinger, formerly a reporter for the Wall Street Journal in China, formerly a U.S. Marine Corps officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, now the Edwin R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations delivering an address to his high school last Veteran’s Day.

Pottinger graduated from the Milton Academy in 1991 and was invited back to speak nearly 20 years later.  It’s funny and a little bit interesting to see the emphasis he puts on how he was less than totally dedicated to his studies while a student there, particularly in light of his subsequent professional success both as a reporter for one of the world’s premier newspapers and as a military officer.

It’s an interesting speech to me on a number of levels – first, it’s clear that his story is not typical.  Rarely in the modern day do you see people leave behind rewarding positions like the one Matt had with the WSJ in Beijing to do selfless things like join the Marine Corps to fight, though Matt’s story is not the only one like this – even more well-known was pro-footballer turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman; and there are many more who are relatively more obscure, like the investment banker from San Francisco I personally know who, like Matt, joined the Corps for a single tour in wartime, but in his case it was as a “conscience-clearing” to justify in his own mind the ridiculous amounts of money he was making (he has since returned to investment banking after four years of honorable service that included a tour in Iraq).  We need more people like Matt and my investment banker friend who are willing to step up and serve their countries.

It is also interesting because of the outsize success that Matt enjoyed during his time in the Corps.  He served only 5 years, but accomplished more during that time than many officers can claim in a whole career.  For instance, he innovated the first Marine Corps female engagement teams (FET) in Afghanistan that took advantage of local perceptions about women that allowed female Marines greater access and trust in the local society than the male Marines they served with.  Unlike the male Marines, the female Marines were seen as OK to enter local households without necessitating revenge in the Pashtun honor society system.  Since the FETs were able to get inside the homes of locals, they could better collect information and also tell the locals about what the coalition forces were trying to accomplish, an information operations (IO) bonanza of the first order. (For more on FETs and IO, this recent piece in The Nation discusses the difficulties the Marines and now the Army are having in sourcing personnel for the FETs and more importantly discusses some of the limitations and problems in their use.  This master’s thesis (PDF) from a student at Marine Corps University discusses the need for improved intelligence support to information operations in the types of fighting and nation-building that the US is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Probably largely on the strength of innovating the FETs he was named the 2009 Marine Corps Intelligence Officer of the Year.  He followed that up by deploying to Afghanistan for a second time, and this time around he co-authored (with two high-level intelligence officials also serving in Afghanistan at the time) an influential critique of American intelligence efforts there.  Entitled Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan (recommended reading here at Facing China about a year ago) that advocated, among other things, establishing positions for officers whose jobs would be not unlike that of a newspaper reporter – traveling widely around Afghanistan to speak face-to-face with people on the ground, then taking the information they gleaned at the tactical level back to the headquarters to fuse it together to provide the “real” picture that was getting lost in all the layers of bureaucracy and in the overdependence on technical intelligence collection (no doubt his background as a reporter in China informed this recommendation).

I think Matt makes a good argument for the importance and value of performing national service of some nature – it by no means has to be in the military.  I wonder if through his appearance at his alma mater Matt was able to convince any young Americans of the significance and virtue of seeking service to the point that they resolve to take action.  Only time will tell.

As he says in the speech, Matt has now completed his service and is back at his first love – writing.  I know I am looking forward to what I am sure will be relevant and insightful contributions from him at CFR.

The video is about 40 minutes long, so if that’s too long, you can at least read the “Cliffs Notes” version of it here, in a news release from the Milton Academy.

Still in business

December 17, 2010

R.O.C. Marine band members

Since my last post, I’ve been busy pursuing my hobby (triathlons / triathlon training), made a quick trip back to the U.S., and as of late, been burdened quite heavily writing papers and presenting on them at grad school.  First, I’d like to talk a little bit about this last point, sharing a little bit of what I’ve been researching, writing about, and presenting on.  I’ll also share what remains “in the hopper” – requirements left to be satisfied before the end of the semester about a month from now.  Be warned: there will also be a fair amount of miscellany tossed in for good measure!

  1. I wrote a paper and made a presentation this week entitled “China’s Rise and the South China Sea.”  I find China’s recent aggressiveness over its claims in the South China Sea to be part of their overall trend toward consolidation of territorial claims, both maritime and land-based (for example, the September 2010 row with Japan over the Chinese fishing boat which rammed Japanese patrol vessels near the Senkaku / Diaoyutai Islands not far from Taiwan in the East China Sea is another example of aggressive behavior over a disputed maritime claim).  While China’s claim of “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea made just after the July ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi made headlines, in fact China has been making the same types of claims about the South China Sea for decades, going back to not long after the establishment of the People’s Republic.  What was significant in China’s rhetoric about the South China Sea this year was the elevation of the area to “core national interest” status, something that heretofore only long-standing PRC irredentist claims such as those involving Taiwan or Tibet were assigned.  Looks to me like China is positioning itself to be more aggressive about the South China Sea, not less.   There is a chance that the paper might be accepted for publication next year in an edited book on topics related to China’s foreign policy produced by my school, National Sun Yat-sen University (NSYSU), so I will refrain from posting it until that situation is sorted out.
  2. I also participated in the creation and delivery of a presentation this week about Japan’s national security strategy under Koizumi (2001 – 2006).  There was no paper for this project, just the presentation.  It was interesting to me to learn about how much the U.S. has pressured Japan to assume a greater and greater security role as the decades passed after World War II, and to see how changes in Japan’s laws governing overseas deployment of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) marching in lock-step with U.S. overseas wars since 1990.  Today, Japan is assuming more and more of a “normal” role in terms of its own security, though a there is still a long way to go until the process is complete.  It will be interesting to see how far the process goes, and whether or not at some point perhaps in the next decade Japan’s people reach enough of a consensus to make changes to or perhaps eliminate altogether Article 9 of their American-authored post-WWII constitution that currently outlaws Japan from possessing “military” forces and bans aggression as a policy choice.  You can see the presentation here. (Google Docs)
  3. Papers I am still working on this semester include an examination of the continuing utility of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act that established the current non-official relationship between the United States and Taiwan when the U.S. decided to switch official recognition to the PRC, another on non-traditional security issues in Southeast Asia (probably focusing on pandemic disease threats and response preparation, since this [East Asia]  is the region that suffered the most in the SARS outbreak back in the early 2000s and has also been subject to not a few bird flu scares).  The final paper will deal in with national security / crisis management, and will likely revolve around a case study of one or both of the Quemoy crises in the 1950s.
  4. I talked in a recent post about deliberations over selecting a thesis topic.  I decided that the anti-access/area denial (A2AD) realm is the one I am truly interested in with regard to China’s military modernization, so that will be what my thesis will be on – the effect of China’s development of A2AD capabilities like the anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) and associated systems on Taiwan Strait security.  At the very least, the Navy guys should be interested in it.
  5. We continue to benefit from NSYSU professors “mining their Rolodexes” when they will be unable to give classes due to international travel or other conflicts.  This week Ambassador Feng Tai (酆邰), formerly Taiwan’s ambassador in Tuvalu and 37-year veteran of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered a talk on crisis management and negotiating skills.  By far the best parts of the talk were when he leavened it with personal anecdotes from some of his own experiences, from hosting the Saudis here in Taiwan in 1990 when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was weighing switching its recognition of Taiwan to the PRC (it ultimately did so) to stories about preparing to negotiate with meticulous and well-prepared Japanese and Chinese delegations on various issues.  Ambassador Feng mentioned that he is weighing retiring from the MOFA next year and going into academia, teaching foreign affairs at a university in Taipei.
  6. Not really related to academic affairs as the rest of this post has been, but interesting nonetheless: last month I traveled to Taipei to attend the U.S. Marine Corps birthday celebration.  The U.S. Marine Corps was established 10 November 1775, and every year about that time Marines pause to remember fondly those who have gone before us.  The interesting part about this year’s celebration here in Taiwan was that it was the first official celebration of any size since the late 1970s when the above-mentioned Taiwan Relations Act was passed.  For decades after the TRA, there were no active-duty U.S. military officers stationed as attaché with AIT.  It was only in 2005 that the first active-duty military folks returned to AIT.  A couple years later, the first post-TRA U.S. Marine attaché came to Taiwan.  Since that time, every year the celebration of the Marine birthday grew a little bit, and now, in 2010, the celebration of the U.S. Marine birthday here in Taiwan (235 years young!) was on par with celebrations held at places with very robust U.S. Marine presences (like Marine bases in the U.S. or Okinawa).  There was one key difference, though – here we were able to celebrate hand-in-hand with out R.O.C. Marine counterparts, who attended in force this year, led by their Commandant, Lieutenant General Hsia Fu-Hwa.  The Taiwan Marines were even gracious enough to offer up their band’s jazz ensemble to provide the music for the event – that’s them in the photo at the top of this post. (Good thing, because we couldn’t make much of a U.S. Marine band here with the two of us, no matter how talented we are!)  I have no doubt that in the future these birthday celebrations will only become more and more like the finer Marine Corps Birthday Balls put on by embassies and equivalent worldwide each November.
  7. Blogroll update: I’m adding the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank that put out a fine report on the future of security in Asia this year, and also China SignPost, an effort by Dr. Andrew Erickson of the U.S. Naval War College and Gabe Collins.  They publish periodic analytical briefs on various aspects of China and the world.  I’ve found especially their report on how China’s dependence on oil imported by sea will only continue to increase, despite efforts at developing overland pipelines.

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