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Around the Force

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A spot check of events happening in the military

Asia mission grows more complex, riskier
American Forces Press Service
The top U.S. military commander for the Asia-Pacific region told Congress March 5 that growing challenges posed by China’s rising military power, an increasingly dangerous and unpredictable North Korea, escalating territorial disputes and humanitarian aid efforts after natural disasters are putting the U.S. military in Asia at greater risk.
Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee the challenges all are part of Pacom’s efforts to defend U.S. interests in a region that spans more than half the globe.
A day after North Korea tested a long-range rocket and China reported plans to increase military spending by 12 percent, Locklear testified that “those things all make a security environment that’s more complex,” and he called North Korea “very unpredictable and increasingly dangerous.”
The added responsibilities come at a time when Asian nations are building “ever more aggressive” and high-end military capabilities, while regional disputes are on the rise, Locklear told the panel. At the same time, he said, the United States has no plans to build new bases overseas, but will instead look to partner with allies such as the Philippines to reach base access agreements.
Locklear said China’s expanding military budget should not come as a surprise, but a lack of transparency regarding what the increased spending is being used for concerns him. He also wonders whether the world will see China as a net provider of security or Beijing will use its muscle to pursue regional claims, he added.
U.S. helping search effort for missing jet
American Forces Press Service
The U.S. Navy is contributing to the international search effort for a Malaysia Airlines jet that dropped off the radar of Subang, Indonesia, traffic controllers early Saturday morning while over the South China Sea, according to a statement from the U.S. Seventh Fleet public affairs office.
Flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200 aircraft, departed Kuala Lumpur at 12:41 a.m. Saturday local time and was scheduled to land at Beijing International Airport at 6:30am Beijing time. The flight has 227 passengers from 14 nations, mainly China, and 12 crewmembers. According to the Malaysia Airlines website, three Americans, including one infant, were also aboard.
The USS Pinckney, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer homeported in San Diego, was dispatched Saturday to the southern coast of Vietnam to join teams from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam in search and rescue efforts already underway, according to the Malaysia Airlines website.
Pinckney was conducting training and maritime security operations in international waters of the South China Sea. The ship could be in vicinity of the missing jet within 24 hours and carries two MH-60R helicopters that can be equipped for search and rescue.
The Seventh Fleet PAO said a P-3C Orion aircraft would also depart from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, bringing long-range search, radar and communications capabilities to the efforts.
Coalition bonds demonstrated by recovery
American Forces Press Service
The strength of coalition bonds in Afghanistan can be demonstrated by a recent helicopter recovery effort that involved four of the eight countries deployed to Regional Command Southwest, said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Walter Lee Miller Jr., former commander of the regional command and the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).
A mechanical failure caused a British Apache AH-64 helicopter pilot to jettison his fuel pods and make a forced landing near the Nawzad district of Helmand province, Miller said in an interview with the Pentagon Channel.
A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Chinook returning from a mission heard the mayday call from the British crew and picked them up, he said. At the same time, an Estonian patrol secured the jettisoned fuel pods and a Georgian patrol secured the downed aircraft until a joint U.S. and British recovery team arrived and transported the helicopter back to friendly lines.
“It doesn’t get more coalition than that,” the general said. “The only decision I had to make was who was in charge of the total mission.”
The eight countries that represent the International Security Assistance Force in Regional Command Southwest—the United States, the United Kingdom, Georgia, Jordan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Tonga, Estonia and Bahrain—come from three different continents, Miller said. Operational meeting can require five different interpreters.
“And it works,” he added.