Joint Forces Command Cases Its Colors

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2011 — The need for a joint force hasn’t gone away, but the need for a spe­cif­ic com­mand ded­i­cat­ed to “joint­ness” has, and the U.S. Joint Forces Com­mand furled its col­ors today.

The com­mand, estab­lished in 1995 to cham­pi­on get­ting all branch­es of the mil­i­tary to work togeth­er more close­ly, cased its col­ors at a cer­e­mo­ny in Nor­folk, Va.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, award­ed Army Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no, the organization’s last com­man­der, with the Defense Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Medal for his ser­vice in shut­ting down the com­mand. Odier­no will suc­ceed Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey — who will become Joint Chiefs chair­man upon Mullen’s retire­ment — as Army chief of staff.

Mullen acknowl­edged that many in the crowd may have had bit­ter­sweet feel­ings at today’s event. “You can take gen­uine pride in [Joint Forces Command’s] essen­tial role in trans­form­ing and guid­ing the sep­a­rate branch­es of our mil­i­tary into a tru­ly joint force,” he said.

The U.S. mil­i­tary has made tremen­dous strides since the ear­ly 1980s, when oper­a­tions in Grena­da and Lebanon point­ed to gaps among the ser­vices, Mullen not­ed.

Through the course of two wars, we have built an incred­i­bly joint force in ways that many of us could not have imag­ined,” he said. “In fact, your efforts have per­me­at­ed every lev­el of our mil­i­tary, and just two days ago in Bagh­dad, I field­ed not one, but two ques­tions from troops who are focused on earn­ing joint qual­i­fi­ca­tions and on the lessons we have learned from fight­ing and oper­at­ing joint­ly.”

Oper­at­ing joint­ly now is embed­ded in mil­i­tary think­ing, and the prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence that sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines gain from joint ser­vice in the wars returns to their ser­vices with dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, the chair­man said.

In Afghanistan, for exam­ple, the high­ways, byways and fly­ways are patrolled, pro­tect­ed and nur­tured by a joint and coali­tion team, includ­ing explo­sive ord­nance removal crews along the Ring Road, provin­cial recon­struc­tion teams from Hel­mand to Kun­duz to Khost, and per­sis­tent joint close air sup­port that is avail­able any­where at any time through­out the coun­try,” the admi­ral said. “These efforts and our evo­lu­tion as a joint force remind me of Hen­ry Ford’s words that ‘Com­ing togeth­er is a begin­ning, keep­ing togeth­er is progress, work­ing togeth­er is suc­cess.’ If that is so, then every­one here has indeed suc­ceed­ed as we post [Joint Forces Command’s] col­ors one last time.”

Joint Forces Com­mand put in place pro­ce­dures and tech­niques that help at the high­est lev­els of strat­e­gy as well, the chair­man said. This year, he not­ed, pro­ce­dures the com­mand put in place and test­ed allowed the Unit­ed States and allies to save count­less lives in Libya by quick­ly putting togeth­er the oper­a­tion to stop Moam­mar Gadhafi’s forces from dri­ving on Beng­hazi. The lessons learned also allowed the Unit­ed States to turn over oper­a­tions to NATO seam­less­ly, he added.

While I believe our expe­ri­ences in Libya and else­where val­i­date our past invest­ments, I believe they also speak to the nature of future joint oper­a­tions, for they will not be joint for the sake of joint­ness. They will be joint and com­bined because the inter­na­tion­al, eco­nom­ic and threat envi­ron­ments demand we work togeth­er in order to be suc­cess­ful,” Mullen said.

Indeed,” he added, “the world has become so flat, so fast and so inter­con­nect­ed that we can no longer draw neat lines between the sea and the shore, the hori­zon and the sky. When the space, cyber and infor­ma­tion domains are con­sid­ered, it becomes clear that our ser­vices tru­ly oper­ate in more bat­tle space col­lec­tive­ly than they can con­trol exclu­sive­ly.”

The push toward clos­er coop­er­a­tion will con­tin­ue, moved in part because of tight­en­ing defense bud­gets, Mullen said. “No one can do it alone,” he added, “and quite frankly, no one can afford to do it alone, either.”

Mullen cit­ed Air Force and Navy coop­er­a­tion on the air-sea bat­tle con­cept, set­ting aside parochial inter­ests to over­come emerg­ing 21st cen­tu­ry threats.

This and many oth­er joint approach­es would have been almost unthink­able a mere gen­er­a­tion ago,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)