The Best Defense

Tales from the C2 crypt: The American structure for Libya was pretty confusing

The new issue of Prism has a fascinating article about American command arrangements for the Libya operation earlier this year.

The authors, three souls who toiled in the lower depths of the Joint Staff's J-7, write that, "the decision was made to retain AFRICOM as the supported command, with USEUCOM, USCENTCOM, USTRANSCOM and U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) in support."

Sounds simple, but wait: AFRICOM doesn't have any forces, so EUCOM became "de facto force provider." It is almost as if EUCOM were acting like a service. (Which would make it our sixth service, after the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and SOCOM, which already effectively has its own civilian-led secretariat, in the SO/LIC bureaucracy.)  

It gets even more complicated.  Many aircraft were flying from bases in EUCOM's area of responsibility, so EUCOM "retained OPCON of these forces." What's more, EUCOM had other fish to fry, so reported Adm. Locklear, "We were responding to OPCON pleas of the provider to make his life easier rather than the OPCON needs of the commander." It's like a waterfall running in reverse.   

Also, it turned out that AFRICOM lacked the ability to actually run an operation. (Interesting side fact: Half its staff is civilian, and it had never rehearsed to run anything.)

Final bonus fact: The U.S. military has apparently come up with the worst acronym I have heard in a long time: "VOCO." The article's authors quote an Army brigadier as stating that in the Libyan operation, there was "Lots of VOCO between all levels of command." It stands for "verbal orders of the commander." But hold on: Aren't all  orders are verbal, unless the guy is pointing or something? What the poor general meant was "oral orders of the commander." That would be "OOCO." I'd prefer "Unwritten orders of the commander," which would be "UOCO," but that is too hard to pronounce. It could make you poco loco in the coco.   

And remember at this point we haven't even gotten into the command arrangements with the other 14 nations in the anti-Qaddafi coalition (AQC).


The Best Defense

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: Jeremy and Imi reunited at last

By Rebecca Frankel

Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

This week U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jeremy Vanhoose welcomed home, officially, his former partner, MWD Imi -- or as she's otherwise described by Jeremy's mother, "the missing piece to Jeremy's puzzle of recovery."

While on patrol in Sangin Afghanistan last August, Vanhoose and his unit encountered not one but three IEDs. Imi alerted to the danger, but setting off the devices couldn't be helped. In the explosion Vanhoose lost his left foot and sustained "shrapnel wounds to the right leg, back, and head" and was medevaced from the scene. As soon as he was able, Vanhoose was quick to let others know that he didn't blame Imi for what happened saying, "she was onto something and I just took one more step."

Reported stories about this team are so far scarce, but the pair is said to have been a close one. Vanhoose was a steadfast handler who spent long hours training with Imi, a German shepherd, before their deployment to ensure they were as ready as possible. In almost three months of service the team is said to have had approximately two-dozen finds. It is a dedication and commitment that Vanhoose has applied to his recovery.

From what I gather from the personal and emotional account that Ms. Vanhoose gave in January to Silent Rank Sisterhood (a nonprofit organization devoted to offering resources and support to military families), after sustaining his injury Jeremy was told that he would be able to adopt Imi. It turned out to be a promise of support that was more complicated to secure than the family had anticipated. The question of whether or not Imi might have to redeploy surfaced after Jeremy returned to the States in September and the adoption became uncertain. 

But Vanhoose's mother, Leisa, a self-described "proud Marine mom" led the charge, what appears to have been a tireless campaign of letter writing and rallying Internet support, to get Imi home to Jeremy. Efforts no doubt, which did not go unnoticed. Today, Mama Vanhoose thanked Jeremy and Imi's Facebook supporters -- she estimates the page has reached some 247,574 users -- for their well wishes, concern, and now the shared celebration.

It is indeed a happy reunion for the family with perhaps even deeper meaning. When Jeremy joined the Marines after graduating from high school, he was following in the footsteps of his older brother, Joseph, who had also enlisted in the Marine Corps but was diagnosed with cancer just before he received deployment orders to Iraq. He succumbed to his illness and passed away in 2007. Adopting Imi may have been a long and fraught-filled journey for the Vanhooses, but now there are two Marines in their household once again.

Side note: As it stands now the MWD adoption process, especially for those canines still considered viable for active duty, can be painstakingly slow and arduous. However, I've heard accounts from both sides of the table; devoted handlers and their families who are keen to bring their former partners home and from program managers who deal with the requests and are bound not only by regulations but the high demand and continuing need for these dogs downrange. I have yet to encounter anyone involved in this process who isn't trying to do what's best for the handlers, dogs, and for the troops on the ground. There is legislation in the works that addresses the retirement and adoption process of MWDs, something we'll address in an upcoming post.

Hat Tip: MWD Facebook page.