Military Summer Rotations Feature Command Changes in Key Positions

Last year, we welcomed to Hawaii Admiral Harry Harris, Jr. as Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, replacing Admiral Cecil Haney who assumed command of the U.S. Strategic Command, and General Vincent Brooks as the Commanding General of U.S. Army Pacific, replacing Lt. General Frank Wiercinski, who retired from active service and is now a resident of Hawaii. The Army upgraded the USARPAC position to the four-star level to meet enhanced security concerns for ground force operations in the Pacific.

We also welcomed Rear Admiral Phillip Sawyer as Commander of Submarine Forces Pacific, Rear Admiral Richard Williams as Commander, Navy Region Hawaii/Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, and Rear Admiral Brent Muilenburg, Commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command-Pacific.

The 2014 summer rotation period begins in earnest starting this Friday, 2 May, when Major General Kurt Fuller relinquishes command of the 25th Infantry Division on Schofield Barracks.   He will be replaced by Major General Charles Flynn who is coming in from Fort Bragg, North Carolina where he served as the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Readiness at U.S. Army Forces Command.

Later this summer, Lt. General Terry Robling, Commander, Marine Forces Pacific, will be retiring and Major General Richard Simcock, Deputy Commander, Marine Forces Pacific, will be moving to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Lt. General Thomas Conant, Deputy Commander, U.S. Pacific Command at Camp Smith, will be retiring, as will Lt. General Stanley Kresge, Vice Commander, Pacific Air Forces on Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam.

Major General Roger Mathews, Deputy Commanding General at U.S. Army Pacific on Ft Shafter will be retiring.  Also leaving Hawaii will be Major General James Walton, Commanding General, 311th Signal Command, and Brigadier General Daniel Karbler, Commanding General, 94th Army Air Missile Defense Command, both on Ft. Shafter.

Hawaii’s three base commanders for the Army, Navy/Air Force and Marine Corps will also be leaving. Colonel Daniel Whitney, Commander, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii on Wheeler AAF, will be replaced in May and Captain Jeffrey James, Commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, and Colonel Brian Annicharico, Commander of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, will leave later in the summer.

On Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, retiring from active service will be Captain Brian Osgood, Commander, Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Hawaii’s key industrial plant with 4,500 civilian engineers and skilled technicians.

President Obama Completes Visit to Pacific, Bolsters Alliances

President Obama completed state visits to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines to reaffirm U.S. commitments in the Asia Pacific.

Most notable was the signing of an agreement that grants greater U.S. military access to bases in the Philippines over the next 10 years. This agreement formalizes arrangements that would place rotational U.S. forces closer to the Southeast Asia region. This Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will give American forces temporary access to selected military camps in the Philippines and allow the prepositioning of fighter jets and ships. U.S. Ambassador Goldberg said the agreement will “promote peace and security in the region,” and allow U.S. and Philippine forces to respond faster to disasters and other contingencies. The agreement says the U.S. will “not establish a permanent military presence or base in the Philippines.”

The visit also solidified agreements with Japan and South Korea. President Obama reassured Japan’s Prime Minister Abe that the U.S. recognizes that the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and will oppose any attempts by China to undermine Japan’s rule. The Japanese also announced that they are establishing a small radar unit on Yonaguni Island, south of the Senkaku Islands, to demonstrate its strategic intent to defend against China’s intervention. On the relocation of U.S. Marines to Guam, the U.S. proposed to stretch-out the construction timeline on Guam from seven to a more manageable 13-year schedule. This proposal is welcomed by Guam and Japan.

In South Korea, President Obama addressed growing concerns over North Korea’s continued aggression on nuclear missile development, reassuring South Korean President Park Gen-Hye that “our alliance is as strong as it has ever been and as effective as it has ever been.”  However, a key proposal under consideration is delaying the transfer of wartime command to the South Korean government in December 2015. The decision to delay the transfer of authority is due to North Korea’s continued development of nuclear missiles. President Park said that it was too soon to decide on a new date for the transfer.

One of the key matters discussed with ministers in Japan was progress on the Trans Pacific Partnership to stimulate growth in commerce and trade. Mr. Obama had hoped to open markets for U.S. exports for rice, beef, poultry and pork, but met entrenched resistance from Japan’s farmers. Negotiations continue.

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