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DOD News Briefing with Lt. Gen. Mixon from Thailand

Presenters: Commanding General, U.S. Army Pacific Lt. Gen. Benjamin Mixon
February 04, 2010
                COLONEL DAVID LAPAN, USMC (Director, Press Operations): Good morning. We're privileged to have with us today Lieutenant General Benjamin Mixon, the commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific. General Mixon took command of USARPAC in February 2008, following his command of the 25th Infantry division. Many of you may remember him from his briefings as the Task Force Lightning and Multinational Division-North commander.   
 
                We are grateful that he has made himself available today, from Thailand, to discuss new developments in U.S. Army Pacific and Cobra Gold 2010, one of the largest multinational exercises in the world. General Mixon has a few comments. And then he will take your questions.   
 
                General, thank you again for joining us.  And with that, I'll turn things over to you.   
 
                GEN. MIXON: Thank you very much and hello from Thailand. I haven't done one of these briefings since I departed Iraq, so I hope it will be informative for all of you.   
 
                As was mentioned, we are participating in the Cobra Gold exercise. This is one of the largest multinational exercises that's conducted anywhere in the world, certainly here in the Pacific.   
 
                This is a particularly important exercise for us, because we have deployed our contingency command post from Fort Shafter, Hawaii, for the first time. This command post is designed specifically to address the need for command and control, during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations or when it's necessary to form a small combined joint task force, as we're doing in this exercise.   
 
                Some of the nations that are participating in the exercise include the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore.   
 
                On a smaller scale, we have observers from Italy, Bangladesh, France, Cambodia, Nepal and the Philippines. So as you can see, it's truly multinational. 
 
                The exercise consists principally of three phases: a command- post exercise, a series of tactical FTXs, and a whole host of humanitarian-assistance operations that occur throughout Thailand. In these particular humanitarian-assistance operations, we'll do seven medical missions and five engineering projects. 
 
                I alluded to the fact that our contingency command post is participating in this exercise. We've also deployed the I Corps Forward from Camp Zama Japan to augment our command post. This is a part of the ongoing transformation of the United States Army, Pacific, to move toward being the single Army service component in the Pacific. 
 
                We've been very active this year in many exercises, participating in exercises in Japan and India; and really, almost 250 exercises of various sizes throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Cobra Gold, however, is the capstone exercise for Pacific Command and United States Army, Pacific. It reinforces the close relationship that we have with the army of Thailand and the Thai government, and the exercise to date has proven to be very successful. 
 
                We're very excited about the first-time participation of the Republic of Korea marines and army forces, and we're excited about some of the observers that have come to observe this particular exercise. 
 
                These types of exercises are important because they hone our skills to work in a coalition environment and they, in fact, I believe, enhance peace and stability in the Pacific region; especially given the fact that the scenario is based on a United Nations peacekeeping mission and some of the tactical FTXs include United Nations type lanes to train forces in how to conduct United Nations type missions. 
 
                Our mission in U.S. Army, Pacific, of course, is principally focused on providing those forces to Iraq and Afghanistan for those particular missions, but it's essential that we stay engaged in the Asia-Pacific region because of its importance to U.S. national security. 
 
                So Cobra Gold highlights that participation and the importance of the Asia-Pacific region, as far as we're concerned.   
 
                So having said that, I will pause at this point, and I'll be glad to take your questions on Cobra Gold or anything else that we're doing out in the Asia-Pacific region. 
 
                Q     Thank you. I'm Satoshi Ogawa with Yomiuri Shimbun. And my question is in regard to U.S. Army's presence in Asia. So first question is, what kind of role does I Corps Forward command in Zama play in the Cobra Gold or the real mission -- real humanitarian assistance mission in Asia? 
 
                And my second question is, are you going to move I Corps headquarters to Zama? I understand last autumn you moved the forward command. However, the U.S.-Japan -- U.S. force-in-Japan agreement asks that all I Corps command should move to Zama. So what's your view on that? 
 
                GEN. MIXON: Okay, well, you ask a number of questions there. First of all, I Corps Forward's primary mission is to work with the Ground Self-Defense Force in the defense of Japan. That's first and foremost.   
 
                But it is a deployable headquarters, and it is participating here in Cobra Gold as a part of our contingency command post. We would see in the future that it could depart from Japan on humanitarian assistance-type missions, particularly if your central readiness force were to deploy and we needed to put that command post with the central readiness force. 
 
                At this time, as you know and I have stated during my time in Japan, that I Corps Forward and its organization, we believe, meets the obligations that have been specified in the various agreements. So we do not see much difference in the way I Corps Forward is formed up now and how to be organized in the future. 
 
                COL. LAPAN: Barbara. 
 
                Q     General, Barbara Starr from CNN. A different topic. Now that the secretary and the chairman have publicly stated they would like to see the "don't ask, don't tell" law repealed, and they have said they want to hear from the troops in the field about what they think and what the challenges to implementing that would be, my question to you is, what is your sense at this point of how you and your units will find out -- how will you ping the troops to find out what they are honestly thinking? How will you do that?   
 
                And what -- now that the secretary and the chairman have said what they said, what's your sense of what pressure both you, as the commander, and the troops may feel to simply say, "Okay, we agree," even if in their hearts and minds they may have some differing views? How candidly can you and the troops talk now about this, now that the chairman and the secretary have said they want it repealed? 
 
                GEN. MIXON: Well, frankly, I'm a little uncomfortable talking about it now, given the statements that have been made. And I've reviewed some of the current public affairs guidance, and I'm going to have to get additional clarity on what we can say. 
 
                But I'm comfortable in stating the following. America's military is based on a set of core values. These values underpin our regulations and rules that we follow. Our values don't always necessarily mesh with those of society. We deal with things such as infidelity, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual harassment and -- in the workplace, and other things different than civil society. This is necessary in order for good order and discipline to be maintained within the military force. 
 
                So the central question that has to be asked -- if homosexual activity is in accordance with those values of not only the military but those in America. 
 
                That's not a question for me to answer. When I am asked in an official capacity to state my opinion about the specific policy, I will certainly render my opinion. And that opinion will be given as a professional soldier with over 34 years of service. 
 
                Q     If I may follow up, General, the question, I guess, goes to how comfortable do you feel and do your troops feel in now offering their candid opinion, since the president, the secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs have already stated their view? Is there any option for you and your troops other than to, say, salute smartly and agree with them? Do you have any other option? 
 
                GEN. MIXON: I will offer my candid opinion when asked by anybody in the chain of command and anybody in Congress. 
 
                Q     Are you hearing anything -- 
 
                GEN. MIXON: And I think our soldiers will do the same. 
 
                Q     (Off mike) -- hearing from your troops on this matter?  
 
                GEN. MIXON: I have not spoken to any of my soldiers specifically. I would be concerned that if I were to begin to question them myself, that they may perceive that I'm trying to apply pressure on them. I would rather that they speak to the elected officials independently or any organization that'll be formulating whatever the future policy might be. 
 
                Q     Hi, General, this is John Kruzel with American Forces Press Service. You mentioned this is the first time -- 
 
                GEN. MIXON: I hope that answered the question. 
 
                Q     Sorry. General, you mentioned this is the first time that South Korea has participated in Cobra Gold. I'm wondering if there was any concern that this could increase tensions with North Korea. There are reports that Pyongyang has referred to this as a provocation. I'm wondering if you could comment on that. 
 
                GEN. MIXON: I don't have the specific knowledge, other than what you all know, about what's happened in Korea. It really doesn't have any direct relation to Cobra Gold, other than the fact that the South Korean military is participating in this particular exercise. 
 
                Q     Hi, General. This is Courtney Kube from NBC News. Is there anything that you've learned so far from Cobra Gold that you can apply specifically to the disaster relief in Haiti, any lessons learned that you think in the future, when there's another natural disaster -- or man-made disaster, I guess -- and the U.S. military has to respond in an international fashion, that you can now specifically apply that you've learned in the past several days? 
 
                GEN. MIXON: Yeah. We're watching the operations in Haiti very closely because, as I mentioned, the contingency command post is being stood up to have an on-ground capability to command and control humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, just like what's occurring in Haiti.   
 
                And so we're watching that close. And right now as we train here with our multinational partners, we're learning a lot about operating in a multinational environment. Naturally the Haiti situation is extremely difficult and challenging. So I think we'll learn a lot of lessons here about how we'll organize my contingency command post for those types of operations. 
 
                Q     Anything specific that you can share that you've learned or that any of your colleagues in Haiti have shared with you that you can share with us today? 
 
                GEN. MIXON: Not from Haiti. I haven't picked up anything in particular. But here in Cobra Gold, the most obvious thing is, is the ability for the nations to come together and form a command post like we have formed has been easier than it might have been had we not had Cobra Golds in the past. These nations that we're working with, like Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore, we fell in very quickly on the command post and began our operations. 
 
                COL. LAPAN: General, we've exhausted the questions here at the Pentagon, so I'll send it back to you for any final remarks you'd like to make. 
 
                GEN. MIXON: No, I just would like to emphasize the fact that we are fully engaged in the Asia-Pacific region. Obviously, job one for us is to make sure our Asia-Pacific base forces are ready for the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. But even with all of that, we are fully engaged and intend to stay engaged. 
 
                COL. LAPAN: (Audio break) -- again for joining us. I know the hour there is late.   
 
                GEN. MIXON: Thank you very much. And I greatly appreciate all the questions.
 
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