Cole Commission Focuses On Force Protection Measures
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2000 DoD’s Cole Commission will review and evaluate current force protection policies and procedures for troops traveling to and from the Middle East, and possibly recommend changes, the commission co- chairmen said.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen appointed retired Army Gen. William W. Crouch and retired Navy Adm. Harold W. Gehman Jr. as co-chairs on Oct. 19. The FBI and Navy are also conducting separate investigations into the Oct. 12 terrorist bombing of the destroyer USS Cole as it was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen sailors died as a result of the attack and 39 were wounded.
The USS Cole (DDG 67) (left) waits for the Norwegian heavy transport ship M/V Blue Marlin to maneuver under the destroyer off the coast of Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 30, 2000. The Cole will be placed aboard the Blue Marlin and transported back to the United States for repair. The Arleigh Burke class destroyer was the target of a suspected terrorist attack in the port of Aden on Oct. 12, 2000, during a scheduled refueling. The attack killed 17 crew members and injured 39 others. DoD photo by Sgt. Don L. Maes, U.S. Marine Corps.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“Our review … is to find out if there are any improvements in what we call ‘the system’ -- any improvements that can act to more effectively and efficiently add to the force protection of transiting forces,” Gehman told reporters at a Nov. 2 Pentagon press briefing
. “The USS Cole was out there doing its mission. We are going to look for ways that we can improve the performance of the rest of DoD to support them."
“We were able to spend a few hours aboard the USS Cole,” Crouch said. "The impressions that both of us have are vivid. The action of the captain and crew following the attack saved the ship and several of those injured shipmates aboard. … It was an inspired performance, and one which every American should be very, very proud."
Crouch said he and Gehman have also visited U.S. Naval Forces Central Command headquarters in Bahrain, U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., and the Cole’s sister ship, the USS Ramage, in Norfolk, Va.
DoD officials said the Cole Commission will examine intelligence support, logistics and contracting procedures, training preparations and force protection. Crouch noted the panel will look at force protection for transiting units such as the Cole, and also aircraft and other small, independent units.
“We will look at policies, procedures, manpower, resources, and practices in all these areas. Our review may lead us into additional areas. We will be aggressive in looking at anything and following any lead that our review takes us,” Gehman said.
The commission has a roster of about 18 members, including active-duty military and civilians, Crouch said. The panel has no deadline in which to report to Cohen, he noted.
“The secretary has been very clear that what he’s interested in is a thorough, complete investigation. … There are no artificial limits that have been placed on us,” he said. “We have people’s lives tied up in this at the same time, and so we’re interested in moving through it just as quickly as we can.”
Crouch and Gehman noted they would share information they gather with the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The FBI is trying to identify those responsible for the attack, DoD officials noted. The Navy inquiry focuses on what happened aboard the Cole before, during and after the attack.
In other developments, about 250 members of the Cole’s crew arrived in Norfolk by air Nov. 3 for a reunion with families and other loved ones hosted by Navy Secretary Richard Danzig.
The Cole itself has been loaded piggyback aboard the Norwegian ship Blue Marlin for a month-long trans-Atlantic trip. The Navy has not announced where the ship will be repaired. The Cole’s captain and some crew remain with their ship aboard the Blue Marlin.