REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY: Good afternoon, everybody.
Tomorrow, Secretary Hagel will depart on a three-day trip to Mexico and Guatemala to meet with allies and partners in the western hemisphere and affirm America's commitment to this region. Building partner capacity through military-to-military engagement is an important part of our regional security strategy.
With that in mind, Secretary Hagel will begin his trip with a stop at Fort Bragg, North Carolina to meet with some of our special operations personnel who lead these missions. And he'll also receive a briefing on their capabilities.
The secretary will then travel to Mexico City to attend the second U.S.-Canada-Mexico North American Defense Ministerial. This ministerial, which first met in 2012, provides an opportunity to expand our bilateral defense ties with Canada and with Mexico, to a trilateral framework for increased defense cooperation and coordination as we confront shared security challenges.
While in Mexico, Secretary Hagel will lay a wreath at the monument for the 201st Mexican Air Force Squadron that fought alongside the United States as part of the allied forces in the Pacific campaign during World War II, specifically the fight over the Philippines. Some 250,000 Mexican citizens served in the United States armed forces during World War II, with over 1,000 of them receiving Purple Hearts, three receiving the Medal of Honor.
Secretary Hagel will then visit Guatemala to convey U.S. support for a key partner in the region challenged by narcotics trafficking and trans-national crime. This will be the first visit to Guatemala by a secretary of defense since 2005 and the secretary looks forward to meeting with the country's leadership. While there, the secretary will visit with U.S. troops who are engaged in medical training and civil affairs exercises alongside the Guatemalan military.
Throughout the trip, Secretary Hagel will be mindful, though, of events in Ukraine. Russia's aggression in Ukraine has renewed our resolve to strengthening NATO's defense plans and capabilities, and to demonstrate our continued commitment to collective defense in reinforcing our NATO allies in Central and Eastern Europe.
I can announce today that a company sized contingent of paratroopers from the U.S. Army Europe's 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Airborne, which is based in Vicenza, Italy, will arrive in Poland tomorrow to begin exercises with Polish troops.
This new exercise is a first -- is the first in a series of expanded U.S. land force training activities in Poland and the Baltic region that are scheduled to take place for the next few months and beyond. Additional companies from the 173rd will move in the coming days to Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia for similar exercises.
And with that, I'll take your questions.
Q: Do you have any more specifics on the size, you said company size, but that can vary. Do you -- do you have any specific numbers? And then you say beyond, so what's beyond, what's the timeline? Indefinite?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yeah, what we're after here -- good questions. First of all, when I say "company size," that's about 150. But it will, as you rightly pointed out, Justin, it could vary based on the exercise itself. But it's about 150 soldiers. And what we're after here is a persistent presence, a persistent rotational presence in these exercises.
So, we're going to start, the troops will be in place in all four countries, probably by the end of this weekend, maybe Monday. As we -- as we get into all four countries, the exercises will last about a month or so. But then we will rotate fresh troops in for more exercises.
How far this will go? I can't give you a specific, you know, deadline or timeline on it, but we're looking at trying to keep this -- this rotational presence persistent throughout the rest of this year. But beyond that, it could go beyond the end of this year. We just don't know. We're just going to have to see how it goes.
Q: Are you saying about 600 personnel in total? Because if it's a company size for each country, is that what you're talking about?
And if you could just explain this persistent --
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Roughly 600.
Q: -- you explain this persistent kind of a rotating presence, is it going to expand to other countries beyond the four that you're just talking about right now?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: It very well could. And we're in discussions with -- with our NATO allies and partners right now. It every well could, but right now it's going to start with those four countries.
Q: Was this -- were these operations' planning or whatever accelerated because of the Ukraine situation?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think, look, we've been, since Russia's aggression in -- in Ukraine, we have been constantly looking at ways to reassure our allies and partners. And these exercises, they're -- two points. One, they're bilateral. They're between the United States and the country in question. And it's not -- it's not necessarily -- it's not a NATO exercise.
And number two, it's in response to that need, by Secretary Hagel reaching out and talking to General Breedlove, talking to General Dempsey, and looking for ways that we can constantly reassure our allies and partners of our commitment to article 5, to the alliance, but also to them and to their security. So it's all part of that.
Q: So this planning is, in fact, connected to the Ukraine crisis?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: These particular exercises were additive. Now -- now, I will say that these are countries that we routinely operate with. These are our units that the 173rd have worked with before in all four countries.
So they know each other. This isn't the first time that the 173rd has done exercises with these countries. So there's a relationship there. But, yes. These exercises were conceived and added on to the -- added on to the exercise regimen as a result of what's going on in Ukraine.
Q: Admiral Kirby, I have a question on Syria.
We have seen media reports lately that the Syrian regime has used again chemical weapons, sort of chlorine gas against some people. Have you seen those reports? Could you confirm them? What's the Pentagon reaction on that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We've seen reporting about this alleged chemical use. I have nothing today to announce or to confirm about it except to say that as we have said all along, the Assad regime needs to stop the violence against their own people, particularly throughout -- through the use of those kinds of weapons. But I can't confirm the specific use of those weapons from those reports.
Q: Could you confirm that Saudi Arabia and the United States have both delivered anti-tank missiles to part of Syrian opposition? (Inaudible).
REAR ADM. KIRBY: What I'll tell you is that we continue to support assisting a moderate opposition in Syria, but we're not going to detail all the manner in which we're going to deliver on that support, so I'm not going to confirm that.
Q: Back to the deployments in the Baltic countries and Poland, is this meant to be an explicit message to Russia, and how would you characterize the message to Russia? Obviously, you said it's reassurance, but is there an element of deterrence here as well, and how would you state that?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think the message is -- is to the people of Poland and Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, that the United States takes seriously our obligations under article 5 of the NATO alliance, even though these aren't NATO exercises. It's a very tangible representation of our commitment to our security obligations in Europe, and the message is to the people of those countries and to the alliance that we do take it seriously. And we encourage our NATO partners to likewise look for opportunities of their own to do this same kind of thing for one another.
And I think if there's a message to Moscow, it is -- it is the same exact message that we take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe.
Q: On that, with Russia -- did you inform Russia of this decision? Through diplomatic channels or through your -- or directly to the military?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I defer to the State Department on diplomacy between countries. There's no obligation to inform the Russians of these -- of these exercises, both in terms of their geography and their relative size. So I'm not aware of any military notification to Moscow. And again, I'd refer you to State on whether it was done diplomatically.
Q: And the other question is, I mean, and this is kind of a broader question, these are small numbers, but even still, is this necessary? I mean, is there -- does the Pentagon believe that Russia has designs on Poland and on Latvia and on Lithuania? Or is this just sort of, you know, a purely symbolic step that should be treated as such?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, any time you put troops on the ground and doing exercises, in this case for a month at a time, it's more than symbology. I mean, it's -- the kind of work that we're going to be doing is real infantry training. And that's not insignificant.
As for Russia and their intentions, I think, you know, you need to ask President Putin what his intentions are. What I'll tell you is that nothing we've seen out of Moscow, nothing we've seen out of Russia or their armed forces is deescalating the tension; is making things any more stable in Ukraine or on the continent of Europe.
And so, what would be very helpful is if they removed their forces off that border and took concrete actions to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine.
For our part, what we're going to do, as I said before, is we're going to constantly look for ways to reassure our NATO allies and our partners how seriously we take our obligations.
Q: It’s been previously reported that, I believe, NATO has an exercise scheduled in Ukraine. Is it NATO or the U.S.? One of the two. My question is, are U.S. troops going to be going to Ukraine in the next coming months as part of that previously scheduled exercise?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't -- yeah, David, I know what you're talking about. There is -- there was a -- there is a NATO exercise that I think it being -- being planned. And I don't believe the planning has been disrupted. I don't have anything on that. I'm going to have to get back to you.
But I do believe there is a -- there is a NATO exercise later this year, I want to say summer. I'll have to get back to you on that. I don't -- but I think the planning continues for it. But nothing has been moved, necessarily, for it, yet.
Q: Okay. Just one more.
Is this -- if the message it gives in terms of the deployment you just announced is that the U.S. takes seriously its article 5, chapter 5, obligations, why not do it through NATO? Why do it bilaterally?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, we are looking at ways to do more, to -- to work through NATO on other exercises and operations.
I mean, you might -- last week, General Breedlove and the secretary general, Rasmussen, got up and talked about additional measures that they are going to pursue to improve our readiness in the air, on sea, and on -- on the land, throughout the alliance.
And so Secretary Hagel, he's said it himself right here, that he supports those recommendations, and he's got the Joint Staff and General Breedlove looking for ways that the United States can source those additional exercises and operations.
So I think you're going to see more coming through the alliance. But, as I also said the other day, you're also probably going to see more coming bilaterally, too.
It doesn't have to be either-or. I think we're looking for a broad swathe of ways that we can help reassure our allies and partners, and it doesn't all have to be through the alliance.
Q: But isn't one of the reasons this been done bilaterally in the past, many NATO partners are uncomfortable with putting ground forces in Eastern Europe?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, you'd have to talk to each of those NATO partners. I'm not going to speak for foreign governments. And look, NATO is a very strong alliance, more relevant now than it's ever been.
As the secretary said himself, what's happened in Ukraine has had the effect of -- of coalescing the alliance and really giving the alliance a sharper view of itself and of its future. So, I think there's a -- I think there's a strong, vibrant future for NATO. Secretary Hagel believes that, and -- and again, we're going to look for -- we're going to continue to look for ways through the alliance to improve our readiness, as well as bilaterally.
Q: Just to clarify on that. Is there an agreement? When NATO expanded to the Baltic states and the others, was there an agreement about limiting the number of NATO troops that were directly on Russia's border, and has -- was that in play here?
And related question, did the United States take these exercises to NATO, to the NAC [North Atlantic Council] and seek a consensus on it, or did you just determine to do this independently of NATO?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: On your first question, I'm going to have to get back to you. It's just a great technical question that I don't have an answer for right now.
On the second one, we certainly informed NATO leadership that we were doing this and pursuing this, and NATO leadership has been very supportive of our willingness and desire to pursue these bilateral exercises.
Do we need to seek specific approval? No. But we certainly did inform and consult with NATO leadership on that.
Q: On Yemen, what -- two things, what role did the U.S. military play in the operations in Yemen over the last couple of days, and how do you now see the threat to the United States that is posed by Al Qaida in Yemen?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, look, we have a long collaborative relationship with Yemeni armed forces. You know that. We continue to work with them on their counter-terror capabilities inside their own country. But I'm not going to speak to specific operations. The Yemeni government, as you saw in statements to the media, did confirm some air strikes carried out over the weekend. I would refer you to the Yemeni government for details about that.
Q: And the threat that you now see from Al Qaida in Yemen?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We've been watching the Al Qaida threat in Yemen for several years now. And we still believe it to be a credible threat. And that's why we are pursuing a good, strong military-to-military relationship with the Yemeni armed forces.
Q: Okay, but are they threatening the United States directly, or U.S. --
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think -- I mean, Al Qaida's made no secret of the fact that as an organization, as one of their philosophical planks, is to target, you know, the United States, Americans, and Westerners. I mean, so I think we have good reason to take -- to take that intention at face value.
Q: Do you believe, just to follow on that, do you believe any high-value targets were killed in the past few days?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm not going to get into the specifics of the operation.
Q: I know, but there are reports that Wuhayshi and Asiri, these are big names, were taken out. And there's been some pushback on that. I mean, is this something you're looking at or is this totally untrue?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm -- I'm -- you'll not be satisfied with my answer, but I'm going to refer you to the Yemeni government to speak to operations that they -- that they confirmed the media over the weekend. And I think I'd leave it right -- right at that.
Q: Could you just follow up on the Yemen thing? You said you're not going to get into the details. That means you are ruling out that the United States had a role in this operation?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: What I meant was I'm not going to speak to specifics of operations. We continue to work with the Yemeni government and the Yemeni armed forces to help them improve their counterterrorism capabilities inside their country. That work continues and it will continue.
I'll go to someone else. Bill?
Q: Admiral, on these Eastern European deployments, because they are training, as you described it, are these soldiers going to be taking real weapons and live ammo? Are they going to be using, you know, blanks and lasers and whatnot?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, it's a real infantry exercise, so I -- I'm -- I don't know how you do infantry training without being armed.
Now, what the rules of engagement are and whether they've -- how they -- whether they've locked and loaded their rifles, you'd have to talk to the European Command and the 173rd Brigade leadership. I don't have that level of specificity.
Q: Admiral, I wanted to ask you about the North Korean prospective nuclear test. The South Korean foreign minister said yesterday that a fourth nuclear test would be quote, "a game-changer." Have they explained to the U.S. government what that "game-changer" actually means? And also has the U.S. repositioned any assets or responded to any other requests from the South Korean government?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes, we've seen the reports about the -- this alleged pending nuclear test. I have nothing to announce or confirm here today. That aside, we continue to call on North Korea to meet obligations -- international obligations, and to stop provocative actions, whatever they are, that only further destabilize the situation on the peninsula.
But I don't have anything specific. I mean, I've seen the South Korean statements. If they've shared -- you know -- I'm not aware of anything they've shared specifically with the United States military. That said, I mean, there could be something through State channels, but regardless, it's way past time for North Korea to meet its international obligations and stop the kind of behavior that does nothing but foster and foment instability on the peninsula.
Q: Two questions on Asia. One, as president prepares to travel to Asia, are we expecting any more exercises in Asia like with the U.S. and India military-to-military and the exercises in the region?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We routinely operate with our partners throughout the Asia-Pacific. I'm not aware of any specific exercise that's being timed to the president's trip. I'd refer you to Pacific Command for details about their exercise program, but it's pretty robust and it's year round.
I mean, we operate with allies and partners all over the region.
Q: Concerning the region in South Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, even the Pakistani government was trying to talk with Al Qaida, but those talks are not going well and they're failing and attacks are still going on inside Pakistan, including the TV journalist and among others. That will bring the instability in the region, including in Afghanistan.
So where do we go from here? Are we still -- are you still talking with the Pakistani government and what to do about those terrorists inside Pakistan?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We still have, I mean, look, Pakistan is an -- it's an important country in an important place in the world. And nothing has changed about our desire to continue to work with Pakistan on what is very much a common threat.
As you pointed out, innocent people in Pakistan are being killed by the Taliban, and instability and insecurity results from that. This is a threat that we share with Pakistan, and continue to want to work with Pakistan to try to eradicate it.
Q: And finally, quickly, about the elections in Afghanistan. Where do we stand now, as far as the stability in Afghanistan is concerned?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: The elections? Well, look, I mean, I'd make a couple of points.
One, I think the way the elections were conducted is a real testament to how far the Afghan National Security Forces have come. They performed very well. And I mean General Dunford has said that himself. So I think we should all take a measure of pride and pleasure in that, that -- that they did as well as they did.
It's -- it also shouldn't be lost on anybody, just the fact that they had these elections, and the Afghan people had a chance to put in -- to place their second president now. I mean, that's not insignificant all by itself. Democracy is hard stuff. And they're proving their mettle at it.
Now, the results are still not complete. As I understand it, we don't even have half the votes counted yet. So we're in no position right now to -- you know, to call this election, I mean. But it's -- but we -- General Dunford and our ambassador there continue to work with the Afghan government and the election monitors to work their way through that. And we'll see what the result is.
We look forward to working with the next Afghan administration on the future of Afghanistan, the future of our security relationship and our military-to-military relations.
Q: One the last one.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: And then I'm going to get to back. He's been very patient.
Q: The White House is reportedly looking to keep a number well beyond 10,000 past 2014. How confident are you that the Afghan security forces can -- can secure the country with just a small U.S. contingent there, that probably wouldn't be trainers? If it's just a small number, it would probably be counter-terror alone.
So, how far ahead have they come? Can they secure the country on their own?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, they've come -- they've come a long way. I mean, I've been watching Afghanistan for a long time, too. They've come a long way. And, again, I think you point back to the elections, and you can see the competence, the confidence that they have.
But they continue to need help and support. And that's -- that's why NATO has signed up for this resolute support mission, which is, you know, the post-2014 mission of train, advise and assist. And we've said, long said, that, you know, we want to contribute to that mission.
What would be enormously helpful in being able to plan for that mission is to get a bilateral security agreement that gives our troops the legal protections they need to be -- to be there, in the country, post 2014.
Q: And how many troops do you want there post 2014?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I mean, there's an ongoing discussion now about what -- what the force posture in Afghanistan would or could look like post-2014, and I'm not going to get ahead of that discussion.
Q: Admiral, Mexico has purchased 18 Black Hawks. Could you tell us something about this purchase and if you think this is going to be approved by Congress, maybe?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm never -- I am not going to speak for the Congress of the United States or what they -- what they may or may not do.
Q: Would this purchase be something to be approved by Congress, right?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: That's right. So -- so the government of Mexico has requested a possible sale of 18 Black Hawk helicopters along with associated support equipment. The State Department has approved that possible sale and the notice of that sale as required by law.
It does not mean the sale is being concluded. The proper certification notifying Congress of this was done on the 17th of April. And we believe that -- that this proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy national security of the United States by helping improve the security of a strong, strategic partner in Mexico, both in terms of combating organized crime and drug trafficking.
I won't go beyond that right now. Congress has been notified, but I mean, there's a process here that needs to be followed.
Q: Do you know if there was any more equipment requested maybe in another -- I don't know, armored vehicles or some -- something else?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: This is the only one that I'm aware of.
Q: You said it's not an either-or question whether it's U.S. exercises or NATO.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Bilateral -- bilateral, through the alliance. Yes.
Q: Bilateral or multilateral. The United States is by far the most powerful military in NATO. It's by far the largest financial contributor to NATO. So I would argue that there's a big difference between U.S. bilateral exercises and other countries' bilateral exercises.
When -- when the Ukraine aggression first started almost two months ago, the U.S. response was part of NATO. They sent -- they sent more -- more planes flying over the Baltics as part of NATO exercises. They sent planes to Poland to train with Polish aviators, again, as part of NATO -- NATO exercises.
It does seem to me that there is a big difference between bilateral exercises involving U.S. forces and multilateral exercises as part of NATO training. So I would like to ask one more time, why is this not part of a NATO exercise? I'm still not completely clear on that.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Because Secretary Hagel was pretty clear with the military leadership that he wanted to look for a wide range of opportunities through which we could continue to reassure our partners in Europe. And he didn't -- he did not want for them to bound themselves as they looked at these opportunities through any one particular means -- through just alliance-sponsored activity.
And the military leadership came back with -- with some good recommendations which he's accepted, at the first tranche, these bilateral exercises. I -- I think, as I -- so, two more points I'd like to make. One is, we continue to work through the alliance on other reassurance measures.
And there will be -- I suspect there will be -- in fact, I know there will be more activity to announce from here on things we will do through the alliance, whether it's actual operations or exercises, to continue to demonstrate our commitment to article five and to NATO itself.
So, back to what I said before, it's not either-or. And then the second point I'd like to make is, I mean, I take your point. Yeah, we're a large country with a very large military, but our -- our NATO allies have capabilities and capacities, too. Sometimes, they have capabilities and capacities that are deeper and richer than what we have.
And so as I said at the outset, we very much encourage our NATO partners to look for opportunities as well, whether they're bilaterally arranged or through the alliance. I mean, this is a time for all of us -- all of NATO countries to come together, to take a hard look at ourselves, our readiness, our plans, and to sharpen them and to -- and to reexamine them, and to find new ways to work together.
So I -- again, I don't mean to be redundant here, but it -- not only is it not either-or, it shouldn't be either-or, not only for us, but for any of our NATO partners. This is a time to be working together. And as the Secretary said, what's happened in Ukraine is -- has really fostered an opportunity here for the alliance to reexamine itself, but also to coalesce in ways that, quite frankly, we haven't had to do before.
I mean, you know, I'd remind you that NATO has been a significant factor in Afghanistan for now, going on 13 years, and just like the United States, our NATO partners are taking a look at how they want to re-posture themselves for the future. A future which -- which now you can see is nowhere near certain from a conventional capability perspective.
Q: A quick follow-up. Given the special relationship of the Baltics and Poland to Russian history and Soviet history, the U.S. exercises do -- do not reflect in any way a NATO reluctance to participate in these same sorts of exercises?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: We're doing this because we believe -- Secretary Hagel believes this is the right thing to do. And we're going to continue to look for other opportunities to do the same thing. It's not -- it's not at all designed to indicate unwillingness by any other NATO partners. As I said before, we encourage our NATO partners to look for like opportunities. We're going to continue to do that.
And as I said, you know, back to Justin's question right at the outset, I mean this will be a -- what we're doing here bilaterally, we very much want this to be a persistent rotational presence. So, it starts with these -- with these first four exercises and these first four countries over the next month or so, but we're going to look for ways to refresh that and keep them going.
Q: Admiral the -- the aid package announced by the White House today for Ukraine to include military assistance, vehicles, radios and DOD equipment. Any U.S. troops? Any private contractors going with this equipment to help the Ukrainians fall in on it?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm not aware of any -- of any U.S. presence, whether it's contractors or troops as a result of this, but you're right, the White House did announce another non-lethal package of assistance to the tune of about $8 million for both the Ukrainian armed forces and their state border guard service.
As I said earlier, and I'll continue to say -- to say this, this is an ongoing process of looking at military assistance and security assistance items. And you -- you know, again, you saw that last week we announced $6.5 million of aid and assistance, and then last night, we've got, you know, another $8 million.
So, I think the process will continue to be ongoing. We'll continue to look at what the needs are and -- and to examine what, if anything, more we can provide.
I'm not aware of any U.S. personnel going with any of this, whether it's the tranche that was announced last night or last week.
Q: Is the position, the standard position, is that on lethal aid requested by -- requested by the government in Kiev, that the U.S. still has that under review?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: And what I would say is that our focus continues to be on non-lethal assistance items. Luis?
Q: The USS Donald Cook. Have there been any new incidents involving that ship and Russian aircraft since the initial event two weeks ago?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No.
Q: And there was a Russian media report that the U.S. Navy was going to be sending some of its dolphins, I guess its DOD-trained dolphins to the Black Sea to train with Ukrainian forces, and in the coming future.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: This was a Russian media report? (Laughter.)
Q: Yeah, and it actually had quotes from a Navy official.
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I have not -- I'll have to check with the Navy, or you can. I'm not aware of that. I'm not aware of that.
What I can tell you is that we are, and I think the Navy has announced this, we are going to put another warship in the Black Sea, the USS Taylor, in the coming days. [USS] Donald Cook will be wrapping up her time in the Black Sea here shortly, but you can expect the U.S. Navy to put another warship in the Black Sea.
Q: This is to replace -- replace each other? The Taylor would replace the Donald Cook?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, it's not about replacing. I mean, the Black Sea is not -- not a body of water where we keep a constant -- typically have not kept a constant presence. So, I don't know that I would say it's "replacing," but we are going to -- we are going to put another warship in the Black Sea.
Q: You will not have two at once, though?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No -- I don't -- I don't think the -- no, I don't think the schedules will -- I don't think the schedules are going to support that. One will be leaving; one will be coming in.
Q: Is the Taylor the one that had run aground?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes.
Q: It's fixed?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Yes. Yes.
Q: How are you going try to avoid the same fate that developed the last time it entered the Black Sea?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I -- I'm -- I'm sure that the crew -- the officers and crew of the Taylor are well up to the task. (Laughter.)
All right. Anything else? Oh, one more.
Q: One more. The deployment of -- I mean, the purchase of helicopters imply somehow the deployment of personnel to train the Mexican -- (inaudible)?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't -- I don't see anything right now here about personnel going with the -- with this. This is a potential sale. I would remind you of that -- potential sale. It hasn't gone through the whole process yet for the helicopters and associated equipment and parts. Beyond that, I simply don't have any more information.
Q: Just a quick clarification. On the 600 forces that are rotational–- going to require reinforcement to Europe to, given the fact that the 600 now troops going to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: Reinforcement to Europe?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: You mean, like, from stateside?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: No. No. No. And actually, that's a great question. These exercises will all be done with assets and resources intrinsic to EUCOM already. The 173rd is out of Italy. Actually, I think they're based in both Italy and Germany, but the headquarters is in Italy, and the troops will all come from Europe.
So these are all troops that already belong to General Breedlove.
Q: Can you describe what kind of exercises they're going to be doing and in a little more detail?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I'm not an infantry expert. I'm told they're -- they're infantry-level -- infantry training exercises that I mean -- I'd refer you to EUCOM [U.S. European Command] for the specifics of exactly what they're going to be doing.
Q: Any plans to use the NATO response force of the 1st Brigade or the 1st Cav., or any exercises at this point?
REAR ADM. KIRBY: I haven't seen anything specific to that, but we have talked about trying to make sure that we -- we take a look at the NATO response force. In this case, the first look at their readiness, and review their readiness. So, I know that process is ongoing. I'm not aware of any pending deployments for them.
But you know, obviously if we have anything like that to announce, we will.
Okay. Thanks, everybody.