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The Navy Is Already Implementing Mattis' Unpredictable New Aircraft Carrier Strategy
Thousands of sailors assigned to the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group will return to Naval Station Norfolk this week just three months after deploying – part of a defense strategy intended to infuse more unpredictability into how the military operates.
In a statement released Monday to The Virginian-Pilot, Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, announced the Truman’s return. While the aircraft carrier, its air wing and a number of other ships in its strike group are returning to its homeport, it is not exactly a homecoming, Grady indicated.
“Let me be clear – all returning units are 100 percent mission-capable and will remain in the sustainment phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan, which means they will sustain warfighting readiness and be ready to surge forward or redeploy when called upon,” Grady said in the statement.
The Truman deployed April 11. The Optimized Fleet Response Plan, which the Navy put in action in 2016, seeks to keep carriers to one seven-month deployment every three years. That would have put the Truman’s homecoming date around November if it were to remain underway continuously. But Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on April 12, signaled a greater desire for the ability to surprise U.S. adversaries.
“The way you do this is we ensure that preparation for great power competition drives us, not simply a rotation schedule that allows me to tell you three years from now which aircraft carrier will be where in the world,” Mattis testified. “That’s one way to run a shipping line. It’s no way to run a Navy.”
Instead, while a ship and its crew is in the window during which it could deploy, Mattis said they may operate off the coast, perform joint operations or simply stay ashore “and then when we send them out, it may be for a shorter deployment.”
“There’ll be three carriers in the South China Sea today and then two weeks from now, there’s only one there and two of them are in the Indian Ocean,” Mattis testified. “They’ll be home at the end of a 90-day deployment. They will not have spent eight months at sea and we are going to have a force more ready to surge and deal with the high-end warfare as a result without breaking the families, the maintenance cycles or reducing – it will actually enhance the training time.”
Grady acknowledged that the Truman’s return is a “direct reflection of the dynamic force employment concept, and the inherent maneuverability and flexibility of the U.S. Navy.”
The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) transits the Strait of Gibraltar June 28, 2018.U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Goole
Norfolk-based ships that will return this week include the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy and the guided missile destroyers USS Forrest Sherman and Arleigh Burke.
Guided missile destroyers USS Bulkeley and the Mayport, Fla.-based USS Farragut will remain at sea.
Fleet Forces spokesman Capt. Scott Miller said he could not provide an exact date for the ships’ return, nor could he predict whether they might again leave, citing operational security.
Miller also added that the Truman’s leadership, Family Readiness Group and ombudsman will work to support families and sailors who may need it.
“It will be a little bit of an adjustment,” he said.
Bryan McGrath, who commanded the Bulkeley from 2004 to 2006 and directs The FerryBridge Group, a Maryland-based defense and national security consultancy, called Truman’s shift from an established seven-month deployment, as outlined by the OFRP, an excellent move.
“We turned around and brought it back,” he said. “That is operationally unpredictable.”
Grady said the Truman’s three months operating in the 6th Fleet, which includes much of Africa and Europe as well as the Mediterranean Sea, were “incredibly successful.”
“The ship accomplished every objective established for its crew, from striking ISIS in Syria to expanding partnerships and exercising with our friends and allies,” Grady said.
Photos on social media and military websites showed Truman and the German frigate FGS Hessen, which accompanied the strike group, transiting the Strait of Gibraltar on June 28. More recently, the Truman wrapped up a week in early July training with French naval aircraft in the Atlantic Ocean, according to a Navy news release.
The Truman’s most-recent deployment ended in July 2016 after being extended by a month.
©2018 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Gold Star family members might finally see an end to the so-called "Widows Tax" thanks to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020.
The top Pentagon watchdog has announced it would be investigating all deaths of recruits during initial military training over the past five years, the agency said in a statement last week.
In a Dec. 4 memo, the DoD Inspector General said it was changing the scope of an investigation it had opened on Nov. 18 that was titled Evaluation of Medical Resources and Guidance to Trainers at Recruit Training Centers in the DoD. Its new title, the IG said, would be Evaluation of Medical Protocols and Deaths of Recruits in the DoD.
While its original objective of looking into the medical resources available to recruits would remain the same, the IG said it would now also review all deaths of recruits at military basic training facilities between Jan. 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2019.
The move comes in the wake of several deaths at basic training facilities over the past year. In April, the Navy announced a safety review after two prospective sailors died at its recruit training facility in Great Lakes, Illinois. Seaman Recruit Kelsey Nobles died after a fitness test that month; Seaman Recruit Kierra Evans also died after the run portion of the fitness test.
In September, an 18-year-old soldier died following a "medical emergency" before a training drill at Fort Jackson, S.C.
Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has disciplined more than 20 Marines over misconduct at its San Diego boot camp since 2017, according to The Washington Post. The action came in the wake of a scandal involving the death of a 20-year-old Muslim recruit named Raheel Siddiqui, who fell 40 feet to his death at the Parris Island training facility, where he and other Muslims were targeted for abuse by their drill instructor (the instructor was later sentenced to 10 years in prison at court-martial).
According to the IG, Pentagon investigators will visit all DoD recruit training facilities and interview personnel from each service's education and training commands. They will also speak with personnel at military medical facilities, the Defense Health Agency, and those assigned at the Military Entrance Processing Command, which does the initial intake for civilians going into military service.
The number of substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct against senior Army officials increased this year, according to an Army Inspector General report recently presented to service leaders and obtained by Task & Purpose.
The document, which lays out broad details of IG investigations undertaken in fiscal year 2019, looks at investigations specific to senior Army officials, which includes "promotable colonels, general officers and senior executives," according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortiz.
Marine Corps senior leaders have begun to express cautious openness to the idea of making the service's boot camps fully co-ed. But if Congress has its way, the service may be pushed toward full integration sooner than expected.
The final conference version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act includes a provision that would require the service to integrate both its East Coast and West Coast entry-level training facilities within the next eight years.
An Indiana National Guard soldier died Saturday at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, located about 75 miles southeast of Indianapolis.
Cpl. Larry Litton Jr., of Martinsville, was 30 years old and an assistant squad leader with the 384th Military Police Company when he was found unresponsive at the facility.