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    Okinawa’s Senior U.S. Army Officer Reflects on Two Years in Command, Part I of III

    Okinawa’s Senior U.S. Army Officer Reflects on Two Years in Command, Part I of III

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Nancy Lugo | AFN , OKINAWA, JAPAN – 10th Support Group Commander Col. Theodore White and Command...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    10th Support Group

    TORII STATION, YOMITAN, OKINAWA – With about a month remaining as the Senior Army Officer in Okinawa and Commander of the 10 Support Group here, Col. Theodore White reflected on his time in command.
    Part I of III: The U.S. Army in Okinawa
    On the Army presence:
    “Nobody owns everything on the island, it is broken into various responsibilities amongst the services. Because of that, there are a few things that we as the Army do, that no other service does. We have the Vet services here on the island, for example, that take care of all the military working dogs, regardless of service. They also provide services for many of the families that have pets here on island, at least to the maximum extent possible. There are simply too many pets on the island for them to see all of them, however, to get pets on or off of Okinawa they must go through Army Veterinary Services.
    “And we have some real world missions, that no one else performs on the island, other than the Japanese Self Defense Forces. The Army’s 1-1 Air Defense Artillery Battalion does provide the ballistic missile defense for the entire island. Not just for SOFA members, it protects every person on this island. That makes it a rather unique and extremely important mission. I take every opportunity to ensure that the joint force leadership understands that this service or protection is the Army’s responsibility to provide on the island. I do that by working through the Okinawa Area Coordination Committee (OACC), of which I am a member as the senior Army commander on the island.
    “Besides ballistic missile defense, our Army watercraft provide a lot of support, especially to the Marine Corps, with respect to moving equipment around or providing training platforms, or even participating in exercises. These unique capabilities that we bring to the island play a huge role in the Army not just fading into the background, although, there are some services, some missions that we perform that we prefer stay in the background. Between 78th Signal (Battalion) providing the communications backbone for the entire region, and the 53rd Signal (Company) that manages and operates our GPS constellation, all those services come from this island. All done by the Army, and they all play critical roles in supporting not just the Army but the Joint Force.”
    On the relationship between the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force on Okinawa:
    “It is extremely important to stay in tune with the other services here on the island, especially over the last 90 to 120 days. My observations, after being on the island for 60 days, were that this is the most joint non-joint environment I have ever operated in. Coming from the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, working amongst all the services in D.C., made it easy to recognize that. In light of everything we have had to do with respect to the COVID-19 challenge, it actually started a conversation that we probably need significant consideration given to having some sort of joint entity on the island. I think we all recognized it, but the more we worked on the COVID problem, the more apparent it became that we really are tied closely together.
    “Each service has its unique characteristics based on their mission and the assets available to execute that mission. So what might work for the Army, might not for the Marine Corps, may not work for the Air Force, and just may be way beyond the pale for the Navy. Either based on size, or guidance from higher headquarters. But what we have tried to do, to the best of our abilities, is to synchronize and ensure parallelism, to the restrictions that we have imposed. Some of the differences in the various orders are because of the responsibilities and assets that each service owns. I don’t own a Base Exchange, I don’t have a lot of restaurants, I don’t run tours, but I do focus on those things that I control or can influence, knowing that there is a lot that the Air Force or Marine Corps controls. But as far as timing of release, synchronization of restrictions, and, in the reverse as we relaxed many of those restrictions, is to stay as connected as much as we possibly can. We all realize it is extremely important to reducing or eliminate any confusion. There are some rules that the Air Force has imposed, that we have to abide by because many of us live inside an Air Force fence line. And the same with the Marine Corps, we have Soldiers and Family members who live on Marine Corps bases and camps.
    “We all have come to realize how essential that synchronization of effort is and working together to figure things out, for each of us, as the senior members of the OACC, to voice in a peer setting where we are comfortable, when we have reservations, why we have those reservations, and then we figure out how close we can get. And we all realize that there may be a little bit of misalignment, but that is not the goal, the goal is to align as closely as possible. And I think we have been rather successful, especially looking at some of the joint activities that have been initiated in response to the COVID crisis.”
    On whether the small size of the Army in Okinawa is good or bad:
    “It’s a plus and a minus. It’s a minus because we are smaller, most folks would think you don’t have a very loud voice so there aren’t as many resources that the Army has, compared to the 18th Wing or III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), based on pure size. However, because we are so nested within those various communities, we are able to leverage those assets without having to contribute a whole lot of money to it. The numbers are in the Army’s favor when it comes to acts of indiscipline, the Soldiers and the Family members here are very disciplined, we really just don’t have a lot of incidents. Sure we have had a few, nobody is fault free, but the raw numbers are certainly in our favor.”



    Date Taken: 07.09.2020
    Date Posted: 07.08.2020 23:33
    Story ID: 373588
    Location: YOMITAN, OKINAWA, JP

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