Brig. Gen. Brown: The Plan Is Zero US Forces in Iraq by 2012

The silhouettes of Soldiers from the Florida Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 111th Aviation Regiment, stand out against the open hangar door of the Aviation Support Facility in Jacksonville, Fla., Aug. 29, 2011. More then 240 Soldiers from the unit deployed in support of Operation New Dawn in Iraq. Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa.

More than 300 Florida National Guard aviators kissed their families goodbye earlier this week — then left for training — to be followed by a year deployment in support of missions in Iraq.

Brig. Gen. C.Q. Brown

You might be thinking:  weren’t US forces supposed to be heading in the other direction — away from Iraq — by the end of the year? That drawdown is true — of US ground troops.  But, Air Force missions will likely increase for tactical airlifts, surveillance, and reconnaissance according to Air Force Maj. Gen. Russell Handy – commander of the 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force and director of the Air Component Coordination Element in Iraq.

Brigadier General C. Q. Brown is the Deputy Director of Operations at U.S. Central Command which oversees operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He briefed me last week at the CENTCOM headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base on what to expect in the coming months. Here’s a transcript of our discussion.

BOBBIE O’BRIEN: What can we expect in the coming months as the U.S. military transitions out of Iraq?

BRIG. GEN. C.Q. BROWN: We had 165,000 troops in Iraq roughly about a year ago we started Operation New Dawn. With that transition, we’re now down to about under 50,000 and going to zero in accordance with that security agreement and that will be done by the end of December.

BOBBIE O’BRIEN: Zero, but those are combat troops, what about training troops?

CQB:  It’ll go to zero, but all that right now as you’re probably aware in the press the Iraqi government has come to the U.S. government and started those negotiations. And so, we’re going to zero in accordance to the security agreement because that’s what’s in place right now. I can’t really speak to what will happen after that.

BOB: You’re planning for zero, but you’re also aware of negotiations that are going on to possibly keep a force behind?

CQB: That’s really up to the government of Iraq and the U.S. government to determine what that will be.

BOB: Tactically how do you plan for something zero or 10,000 20,000?

CQB: I’d say we in the military are good at planning. That’s part of our goal is to be able to respond and so we will spend a period of time taking a look at getting ourselves to zero. For any military operation, we have to plan for any type of contingency. Our plan right now is zero, but we’ll continue to plan in case something changes depending on the outcome of the negotiations.

BOB: Step me through the transition. What will Iraq look like after Dec. 31st?

CQB: Part of this whole transition is to provide a long-term relationship with Iraq between the U.S. government and the government of Iraq. And the other piece of the transition that goes from kind of a military led U.S. Forces Iraq to a State Department led relationship. It’s a – kind of a whole government approach. So, it’s not just looking at security – security is an important part of that – but you also look at education, commerce, infra-structure and that’s where the Dept. of State and its expertise and other parts of the government come into play.

BOB: Without U.S. Troops there though, theoretically, who protects the State Department?

CQB: With the State Department, they have their own security apparatus to support them, but you also look at the great work that’s been done within Iraqi security force. It’s no small number when you take a look at it. There’s over 300,000 police, over 190,000 in the army, about 5,000 in the navy and air force.

BOB: You’re Air Force. Give me scenario – how many air force bases are there still under U.S. command in Iraq?

CQB: Let me talk just talk in general about bases in general. Right now there’s about 50 locations in Iraq where we have bases. We’ve gone from about 500 a couple of years ago down to about 50 a big transition in that regard.

BOB: Should the number come down to zero, there’s a huge concern about the north number one with the Kurds, but also too issues with Iran. What kind of tactical response – if we’re down to zero – are we prepared to go back in or are they capable?

CQB: We have worked really hard with the Iraqis and very closely with the Iraqis to build up their own security internally to the country. And so, I do believe they have the capability and we will continue that long-term relationship to provide them really – it’s what they request.

BOB: Describe to me then the impact where we had the 90 deaths (of Iraqis) in one day – 48 coordinated attacks. What does that tell you as a military member?

CQB: Well, it does tell me that there’s still a threat there and there’s concern for security. But, if you look historically over time particularly over the past five or six years, we’ve seen the number of violent attacks actually go down. To me, that tells me there’s progress. Are we completely out of the woods where you can go and walk and it will be zero? That’s not the case.

BOB: Is there concern that there could be civil war?

CQB: I’d be probably speaking out of turn to kind of characterize civil war. But I do – actually – the way I would describe it is there’s great progress in Iraq and I think the Iraqis, our service members that have served can be very proud of their accomplishments to get us to that vision of that long-term relationship and a stable and sovereign Iraq.

BOB: Will it look like a Korea? Will it look like Germany? Will it look like Italy – you were – the U.S. still has bases in Italy.

CQB: I don’t know how will play out and it’s really – the real decision on that will be left to Iraq to help determine that.

BOB: What is the drop-dead date that the military would have to know there maybe has been a request by Iraq to keep troops – so that you don’t have to then end up bringing people back in?

CQB: There’s not a publicized drop-dead date – sooner rather than later is better for us because it just makes it easier, just like you described.

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Poor Conditions at Schools on Military Bases Assessed

A deteriorating roof at Clarkmoor Elementary at Fort Lewis, Washington. Emma Schwartz/iWatch News

In June, reporter Kristen Lombard found cockroach infestations, peeling paint, overcrowded class rooms and reported that three out of four public schools on military bases were  in disrepair or beyond renovation.

You can read Lombardi’s full story HERE.

You can access the list of Pentagon rated schools HERE.

Tuesday, the Department of Defense released its facilities assessment which is part of an overall review of public schools on military installations. Conditions were assessed at 157 out of 160 public schools on bases. The three not included were built in the last year.

The schools were graded on condition and capacity and ranked from worse to best. Condition is weighted slightly heavier than capacity. You can find the DoD’s assessment priority list HERE.

Based on the Defense Department’s priority list, public schools on military installations with the greatest need will be invited by the Office of Economic Adjustment to apply for grants to be used towards construction, renovation, repair, or expansion of current facilities.

For more information on the school facility assessment, methodology and grant process, click here .

A Look at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Now Closed

A Walter Reed Hospital postcard, ca. 1930s Courtesy of Moody Medical Library, UTMB

PLEASE NOTE THERE HAVE BEEN SOME UPDATES FROM THE ORIGINAL POST.

The last doctors, nurses and patients are now gone from Walter Reed Medical Center. The flag was lowered this weekend ahead of time due to Hurricane Irene.

National Public Radio is paying tribute to the 102-year old institution with a series of stories this week. You can read more about the history in a Timeline of Walter Reed Medical Center provided by NPR.

PART 1:

Where Generations of Wounded Soldiers Healed and Moved On

by Steven Inskeep

Maj. Reed’s Medical Innovations

Walking into Walter Reed’s old hospital building feels like going back in time, as the building changes from concrete and glass to brick and radiators.

Atop one fireplace in the hospital sits a bust of an Army doctor, Maj. Walter Reed. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Reed served as a troubleshooter for the surgeon general.

Part 2:

Walter Reed Center’s Closure May Be A Boon to D.C.

By Sabri Ben-Achour

 

Neighborhood Businesses Face Change

Just after the midday rush at Ledo’s Pizza on Georgia Avenue in Northwest D.C., Tim and Kelly Shuy sit down at a table.

“We get a lot of military families, people who are visiting, folks who are in the hospital. We get a lot of contractors,” Kelly says.

Their pizzeria is across the street from the sprawling Walter Reed campus. Lush with trees and a hilly landscape, the campus includes several iconic 100-year-old buildings with red tile roofs where patients, their families and staff were able to wander and just look out on the rest of the neighborhood from a distance.

There’s also a link with some historical background at  Walter Reed at U.S. National Library of Medicine website.

Dual Commanders Named for Hurricane Irene Response

Image of Hurricane Irene from Saturday. Photo courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory.

Hurricane Irene is the first natural disaster that the Department of Defense is implementing its “dual commander concept.” The idea is to ensure that state and federal military forces work effectively together to avoid duplication of effort, and provide the life-saving capabilities that governors request according to a DoD news release.

Others may be appointed in the coming days, but the initial list of dual-status commanders appointed by the state governors and the Department of Defense is:

Brig. Gen. James Trogden III, North Carolina Army National Guard;

Brig. Gen. Carolyn Protzmann, New Hampshire Air National Guard;

Brig. Gen. Michael Swezey, New York Army National Guard; and

Col. Donald Lagor, Rhode Island Air National Guard.

The dual-status commanders – with the agreement of the DoD and governors – can direct both federal active-duty forces and state National Guard forces in response to domestic incidents.

The dual-status commander concept was formulated in 2009. In March 2011, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the bipartisan 10-member Council of Governors adopted the “Joint Action Plan for Unity of Effort,” strengthening support to governors when they request military assistance for disaster response.

Panetta Puts Troops on Standby for Hurricane Irene

 

With about 101,000 National Guard members ready to assist eastern seaboard states in Hurricane Irene’s path, the National Guard Command Center in Arlington, Va., seen here Aug. 26, 2011, is monitoring the storm and National Guard support to civilian authorities around the clock. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has issued a prepare-to-deploy order for 6,500 active-duty service members from all of the services to support hurricane relief efforts if ordered, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Saturday.

On requests from states for the department to provide hurricane relief assistance, Little added, it has taken the secretary an average of five to seven minutes to approve them.

U.S. Northern Command is coordinating the Defense Department’s support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and to state and local hurricane response efforts along the East Coast.

Northcom is now supporting 16 FEMA-requested mission assignments, command officials said.

Over the past 24 hours, the command has designated Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia as a FEMA federal staging facility for support to hurricane disaster operations in Virginia.

You can read the full American Forces Press Service story by Cheryl Pellerin HERE.

Flag Lowered at Walter Reed Early Due to Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene pushed up the closing of Walter Reed Medical Center. The last remaining patients were transferred to Bethesda today. The Navy Facebook reports that more than 100 patients were moved without incident and the flag was lowered for good at the 102-year-old Army hospital earlier Saturday.

VA Emergency Response for Hurricane Irene information is available at VA Emergency website.

Veterans and their families may call 800-507-4571 for information and assistance about VA facilities.

For additional information regarding specific VA facilities, visit the local VA Medical Center website, or the Facilities Locator, and/or sign-up for email updates.

Additional information may be found on VA’s blog – VAntage Point.

Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed.  Visit ready.gov to learn about preparedness kits, family emergency plans, and more.

VA Employee Emergency Information

VA employees may call 1-866-233-0152 for assistance and information about VA facilities.

During an emergency, please use the Employee Emergency Information Form to post information about you and your status.

East Coast Military Bases Prepare for Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene via satellite.

Instead of being the focus of Hurricane Irene, Florida and Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base is playing a support role.

The airbase is home to NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters that routinely fly into the storms collecting data and observations.

MacDill’s 6th Air Mobility Wing also is preparing to welcome evacuated aircraft from coastal bases in the path of Hurricane Irene:

  • McGuire Air Force Base, N.J.
  • Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass.
  • Dover Air Force Base, Del.

Tampa’s skies, over the next day or two, will be filled with the site of C-17 Globemasters, C-5 Glaxys and Navy E-6 Mercury.

Cheryl Pellerin of the American Forces Press Service has more on the Department of Defense preparations.

The Defense Department is providing air and ground transportation experts and defense coordinating officers to work with state, local and other federal agencies, process mission assignments and coordinate DOD resources in support of FEMA, the lead federal agency.DOD facilities in and near Irene’s forecast path are taking actions to alert, prepare and secure for the storm, officials said.

The storm was in the northwest Bahamas this (Thursday) morning, National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read said during a telephone briefing, moving over the Abaco Islands with sustained winds of 115 mph.

“The next area of concern as [Irene] exits the Bahamas is what the impact will be in North Carolina,” he said. “We have a hurricane watch up now for most of the North Carolina coast [and a] tropical storm watch through most of the South Carolina coast,” Read added.

The storm is expected to maintain major hurricane status — winds of at least 115 mph — as it approaches the coast of North Carolina the morning of Aug. 27, he said.

You can read the full story HERE.

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