USA — Navy Serves Traditional, Changing Roles, Officials Say

WASHINGTON — For the sec­ond straight year, more sailors are serv­ing on the ground with U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand than are serv­ing at sea in the Cent­com area of oper­a­tions, Navy offi­cials told a Sen­ate sub­com­mit­tee yes­ter­day.

Assis­tant Navy Sec­re­tary Sean J. Stack­ley tes­ti­fied before the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Committee’s seapow­er sub­com­mit­tee about the chang­ing Navy force struc­ture. He was accom­pa­nied by Vice Adm. John Ter­ence Blake, deputy chief of naval oper­a­tions for inte­gra­tion of capa­bil­i­ties and resources, and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. George J. Fly­nn, deputy com­man­dant for com­bat devel­op­ment and inte­gra­tion.

The Navy has more than 12,000 active and reserve sailors sup­port­ing com­bat­ant com­mand oper­a­tions cov­er­ing Iraq and Afghanistan, com­pared to 9,000 at sea on an air­craft car­ri­er and air wing sup­port­ing Cent­com oper­a­tions, Stack­ley said in a pre­pared joint state­ment.

The sea forces pro­vide 24/7 air sup­port to Marines and oth­er ground forces heav­i­ly engaged in Afghanistan, Stack­ley said. Since July, the 2nd Marine Expe­di­tionary Brigade has con­duct­ed “Oper­a­tion Khan­jar” in south­ern Afghanistan in what he called the most sig­nif­i­cant Marine Corps oper­a­tion since the 2004 bat­tle of Fal­lu­jah in Iraq, and the largest heli­copter inser­tion since the Viet­nam War.

“There is now a robust Marine air-ground task force of 19,400 per­son­nel with equip­ment, com­mand­ed by a Marine two-star gen­er­al in Afghanistan,” Stack­ley said. “Your Marines and sailors have already had suc­cess and have made a dif­fer­ence in some of the tough­est regions of Afghanistan, pri­mar­i­ly Hel­mand province.”

Mean­while, the Navy has dou­bled its pres­ence of Seabee con­struc­tion bat­tal­ions in Afghanistan, and Navy com­man­ders lead six of 12 U.S.-led provin­cial recon­struc­tion teams there, Stack­ley said. Naval spe­cial war­fare forces are in direct com­bat oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, and its explo­sive ord­nance dis­pos­al teams counter impro­vised explo­sive devices there. And, even as the draw­down in Iraq con­tin­ues, Navy river­ine forces are on their sixth deploy­ment patrolling water­ways and train­ing forces in Iraq, Stack­ley said.

“While Iraq and Afghanistan con­tin­ue to be the pri­ma­ry focus of our nation’s mil­i­tary efforts,” Stack­ley said, “our Navy remains glob­al­ly present and engaged to pro­tect our part­ners and advance our nation’s inter­ests around the world.”

Bal­lis­tic mis­sile sub­marines pro­vide nuclear deter­rence year-round, Stack­ley said, while Aegis cruis­ers and destroy­ers pro­vide deter­rence for allies in Europe, the Mediter­ranean and West­ern Pacif­ic; and car­ri­er strike groups and amphibi­ous ready groups pre­vent con­flicts in the West­ern Pacif­ic, Ara­bi­an Gulf, and Indi­an Ocean.

“Our Navy con­tin­ues to con­front irreg­u­lar chal­lenges asso­ci­at­ed with region­al insta­bil­i­ty, insur­gency, crime, and vio­lent extrem­ism at sea, in the lit­torals, and on shore as we have done through­out our his­to­ry,” Stack­ley said. As exam­ples, he not­ed the Navy’s work with the Coast Guard on drug inter­dic­tion in the Caribbean, anti-pira­cy efforts off Africa, and human­i­tar­i­an mis­sions in Haiti and else­where.

“Glob­al demand for Navy forces remains high and con­tin­ues to rise because of the abil­i­ty of our mar­itime forces to over­come diplo­mat­ic, geo­graph­ic, and mil­i­tary imped­i­ments to access while bring­ing the per­sis­tence, flex­i­bil­i­ty and agili­ty to con­duct oper­a­tions from the sea,” he said.

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