Defending America's Vital National Interests in Africa
Commander, 17th Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Africa Maj. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward
Remarks at the Air Force Association's 2011 Air & Space Conference & Technology Exposition, National Harbor Md., Sept. 21, 2011
I'd like to thank the Air Force Association for this opportunity to speak today about the great work our Air Force and our Airmen are doing every day to defend America's vital national interests in Africa.
Recently, both Operation Odyssey Dawn and the fact that a woman initially led the Air Campaign against régime forces in Libya captured media attention about US military efforts in Africa. In my view, however, the story of the intersection of our vital national interests with the interests of the great people of Africa...is both far more interesting and far more historically significant.
This is a story that captures the natural richness of the continent and its people. It is a story that talks about turning great potential into great reality through relationships built around the common bonds that only Airmen share. It is a story that includes many challenges and also many successes. And it is a story that explains how joint and coalition airpower and professional Airmen can truly change the course of history when the world demands it.
Unfortunately, as we try and balance smaller budgets with growing challenges around the world today, it is also a story that must be told cautiously, because even though our Airmen make this story look as if it was easy and without risk...ladies and gentlemen...it is neither.
The story begins with an understanding of why peace and prosperity in Africa are inexorably linked with peace and prosperity in America. Africa is a continent loaded with natural resources. It has many of the world's largest reserves of minerals including diamonds, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper and silver. South Africa alone has more platinum, manganese and chromium than any other country in the world and as much as 80 percent of the world's coltan, an essential element in the production of electronic devices, is found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The United States imports 21 percent of its oil from African countries; 2 percent more than we import from the entire middle east...and in addition to other natural resources previously mentioned, US imports from Africa include large quantities of aluminum, silicon, organic chemicals and my personal favorites, macadamia nuts and cocoa.
The bottom line here is that Africa has many of the natural components required to sustain and grow even the world's largest economies.
Beyond that though, the African people are truly the continent's greatest resource. With few exceptions, they respect, admire, and deeply appreciate America and all it represents. In fact, one recent poll found that a majority of Africans have a more favorable view of America...than American's do. And while no one should paint Africa with one brush, I can tell you this much, I am confident that far more unites us with the people of Africa...than divides us.
That said...Africa also faces many challenges that threaten peace, prosperity and stability on the continent. Ideological differences coupled with long-standing tribal disputes, coupled with drought and famine, are destabilizing entire regions. In fact, 7 of 16 United Nations Peacekeeping missions worldwide and 21 of 55 US Government recognized international humanitarian disasters...all reside in Africa.
Coupled with large ungoverned or loosely governed spaces, this instability provides a fertile breeding ground for violent extremist organizations that threaten consequences well beyond the African continent.
These include three Al-Qaida affiliates, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Qaida in the Maghreb, and Al Shabaab in Somalia.
Also in Nigeria, a country that exports more oil to the United States than Saudi Arabia is the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which seeks to violently take control of the Delta's vast natural resources.
In addition, we deal with The Lord's Resistance Army in Central Africa, a brutal mercenary force guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and the enslavement of children as combatants.
To help us meet these challenges and also leverage the incredible opportunities available in Africa, AFRICOM was established in February 2007.
AFRICOM immediately began working to establish relationships and build trust on the continent, using the resources and perspectives of the interagency. And its work has already led to new and stronger military to military relationships with countries that share our interest in spreading peace and stability across the region.
On the 18th of September 2008, Air Forces Africa or AFAFRICA and Seventeenth Air Force were established at Ramstein AB, Germany, to serve as the Air Component to AFRICOM.
The incredible Airmen of Air Forces Africa...our Airmen, promote air safety, security and development on the African continent every day as they work with the State Department, the US Agency for International Development and many other organizations. They conduct Theater Security Cooperation events and work to build the types of partnership capacity that will inevitably lead to enduring relationships, Airmen to Airmen.
This is done in an environment ideally suited to benefit from secure air commerce and the many strengths of airpower.
With its 11.7 million square miles, Africa is three and a half times larger than the United States. In fact, as you can see, several large, recognizable countries fit inside the continent with plenty of room to spare.
The flexibility, versatility, responsiveness and persistence that Airpower provides, offers unique advantages in this type of environment. Our Airmen recognize this and so do the Airmen of Africa...and it is that bond...that rare perspective that comes from seeing the world differently through the eyes of an Airman that helps make our African partners see airpower and secure air commerce as parts of any solution to the most pressing challenges in Africa.
In many ways, our Airmen are diplomats as well as incredibly capable war-fighters. They understand that preventing a conflict is every bit as challenging and important as being able to prevail in one...and regardless of rank and experience, they draw on the legacies of Airmen statesmen who have gone before them, immersing themselves in the rich cultures, distinct histories, and great pride that are the fabric of Africa. They are smart, credible, professional, and represent the best our Air Force has to offer.
And using comprehensive Air, Space and Cyber Country Plans that define Air Force Objectives in Africa, our Airmen conduct Theater Security Cooperation efforts consistent with US foreign policy and focused on strengthening military to military relationships. Coupled with Senior Leader Engagements involving strategic level discussions with Air Chiefs and other senior leaders of influence, our Airmen are establishing a foundation of trust and confidence with Air Forces across the continent. These efforts lead to greater understanding between our Air Forces and produce friendships that often lead to enhanced interoperability, training, access, and potentially over-flight and basing options...should these be necessary.
Perhaps the best example of our commitment to building relationships with African Air Forces is found in the African Air Chief's conference we hosted in Addis Ababa Ethiopia earlier this year. Here...we brought together over 200 Air Power professionals including Air Chiefs from 24 African nations and our own Chief of Staff to build rapport and exchange ideas regarding the mutual challenges and opportunities we face as Airmen. General Schwartz's attendance is a clear indication of our Air Force's dedication to our African partners.
One Air Chief, thanking me privately for the conference, said that until we brought them together, he had never even met the Air Chiefs that border his country and that he hoped to build on the professional relationships we helped him start at the conference. And during the closing ceremony, all 24 Air Chiefs unanimously expressed their deep appreciation for bringing them all together as only the United States Air Force can do.
Like the African Air Chief's conference, the establishment of U.S. Air Force Air Advisor units reflects a commitment to building stronger partnerships in Africa. These units will provide trained, professional airmen with regional, cultural and technical expertise focused on building capacity with our partner Air Forces.
As you all know, our primary purpose is the protection of U.S. national interests and sometimes that requires more than engagement. We work in concert with our African partners to counter terrorism, provide humanitarian assistance, supply disaster relief and carry out non-combatant evacuations when necessary. In fact, in just a two-month span, our Airmen planned five Non-combatant Evacuation Operations for citizens in Tunisia, Cote D'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Egypt and Libya.
Now, every one of these efforts was a test for a very lean command of only 300 people...but nothing was a greater test than the Operation Odyssey Dawn Air Campaign, the Air Force-led effort in Libya.
On the 18th of December, political protests began in Tunisia that led to one of the most rapidly developing movements toward regional democracy in history. Dubbed the "Arab Spring," courageous citizens challenged established autocracies across North Africa and the Middle East. Over the next six weeks, we monitored the unfolding situation and primarily prepared to support the State Department with Non-Combatant Evacuations and Humanitarian Assistance.
On February 15th, armed protests spread to eastern Libya and three days later, protesters known as the "opposition" took control of the eastern city of Benghazi. Even as the opposition gained momentum, Colonel Qadafi and his regime continued to fight brutally to maintain and regain control of their country. On February 21st, our State Department ordered the evacuation of American citizens. Two days later, international concern grew after news reports of hundreds of protesters killed by Libyan air strikes in Tripoli and when Qadafi ordered his army to hunt down and execute protesters door to door following heavy fighting in Benghazi.
February 25th marked a significant turning point in our relationship with Libya; the U.S. chartered ferry, the Maria Dolores, departed Tripoli for Malta completing the evacuation of U.S. citizens. President Obama signed an executive order initiating U.S. sanctions that targeted at the Qadafi government and condemning the..."violation of human rights, brutalization of its people, and the outrageous threats (that) have rightly drawn the strong and broad condemnation of the international community."
On the 26th of February, the United Nations adopted Resolution 1970, which among other things, demanded an end to the violence in Libya, referred Libyan acts of aggression to the International Criminal Court, and called on all states to provide humanitarian assistance to the Libyan people. Almost simultaneously, we received our very first planning guidance, directing us to deliver plans for a No-Fly Zone to AFRICOM and the Joint Staff within 36 hours. As a result, 17th Air Force initiated 24/7 operations and began planning in earnest for what would ultimately become...Operation Odyssey Dawn.
From the start of crisis action planning to our first strikes in Libya was only 21 days. Further complicating the brief planning timeline was the fact that Libya had not been viewed as a potential adversary by most defense and intelligence agencies for years, making operational data and intelligence one of our earliest and most critical limiting factors.
In addition, given the enormous risks associated with conducting military operations of any kind in Libya...and the complex and competing national interests at stake during this time of spreading revolution in North Africa, almost no one in Washington publicly seemed to believe we would actually execute this operation. As a result, almost every day brought new planning guidance with new objectives, approaches and priorities.
All this and much more made the 21-days immediately preceeding to Odyssey Dawn...immensely challenging. This challenging environment had a significant impact on how we developed plans, obtained resources, and ultimately employed airpower in Libya.
Would we have liked more time to plan? Yes. Would we have liked a more refined end-state? Certainly. But we understood why all these things weren't forthcoming and regardless, history is clear...the operation was a great success. It was a success because the entire joint and coalition team was flexible, disciplined, professional, and highly responsive to rapidly changing guidance and conditions. And it was a success because when all was said and done...airpower decisively stopped the Libyan régime from massacring tens of thousands of Libyan citizens in Benghazi without the loss of a single coalition Airman, service man or woman. The bottom line is that Odyssey Dawn, once again, proved that airpower provides our leaders sovereign options that they simply can't get anywhere else.
Almost immediately, it was evident to our planners that any course of action involving a No-Fly Zone would require establishing Air Superiority and freedom of maneuver.
To achieve these things, we needed to eliminate the threats posed by a fairly robust Libyan Integrated Air Defense System and a relatively incapable but still lethal Libyan Air Force. In addition, our view of the mission led us to believe that sustained precision engagement with régime ground forces as well as counter air operations would be required. This fundamental perspective and our subsequent analysis of objectives were the foundations for our first Course of Action; the one we eventually executed. However, this Course of Action and all that it meant in terms of resources and operations also became the source of tremendous debate.
For example, the first tasking that we received called for us to establish and maintain a No-Fly Zone without any kinetic strikes in Libya. That meant we were planning to enforce a No-Fly Zone where a majority of missions would operate within range of multiple highly capable Surface to Air Missile systems. Obviously, we developed this plan as directed, but assessed it as extremely high risk and offered our original COA as an alternative.
As planning continued, there still appeared to be no public appetite from the Administration for military intervention in Libya.
For example, while explaining the challenges associated with intervention, Secretary Gates during testimony before the House Appropriations Committee said "Let's call a spade a spade...A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses," emphasizing this would be a "big operation in a big country."
These words indicated that even though military operations were viewed as improbable, the debate regarding potential Courses of Action was already beginning to shift toward our perspective.
On that same day, we submitted our first and only request for forces to establish and enforce a No-Fly Zone consistent with our operational approach. Despite being almost immediately validated by AFRICOM and the Joint Staff, the approval for these resources simply did not occur in time for operations.
Concurrent with our efforts to plan for combat operations in Libya, we also developed options to provide humanitarian relief for the tens of thousands of refugees who were fleeing Libya and who had fled Egypt earlier in the spring. On March 3rd, the State Department formally requested assistance to support USAID in delivering aid to Tunisia to help with both these humanitarian crises. On March 5th, 86th Air Wing Airmen flying C-130Js from Ramstein combined with members of the 435th Contingency Response Group to deliver 18 thousand pounds of vital aid to the growing camps in Tunisia. Joining our Air Force C-130s were Marine KC-130s which during the next 11 days returned over 1,100 displaced Egyptians to their homeland.
These operations were important not only because they helped provide relief for the people of North Africa, but also because they provided a very visible reminder of American resolve and concern. Ladies and Gentlemen, representing the hundreds of Airmen who contributed to humanitarian relief during the first days of Odyssey Dawn is Master Sergeant Alex Garrett, one of the C-130J Loadmasters who helped bring displaced Egyptians home.
Well, while humanitarian missions were underway, planning directives for the No-Fly Zone continued to evolve. Following the public statement from Secretary Gates that strikes in Libya would be required, we received new planning guidance directing development of a COA that would keep all Libyan régime aircraft from flying, using just one initial strike executed with limited Defensive Counter Air and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses.
In addition to these efforts, our staff was also working closely with AFRICOM and the Joint Staff to develop other plans for a full spectrum of operations.
Throughout this planning cycle, the situation in Libya continued to deteriorate. It appeared that unless the world acted, nothing would prevent Colonel Qadafi and his Lieutenants from committing mass murder in Benghazi.
Then, on the 16th of March, just one day before it passed, we received a draft version of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. Under this resolution, our potential mission grew in both scope and urgency. Not only did the resolution call for a sustained No-Fly Zone, it also had a mandate to "protect civilians." Tactically speaking, this meant many things over the long term, but once the resolution passed, there was no doubt that our immediate concern would be to prevent régime forces from entering Benghazi. With just hours to develop a concept of operations and plan using whatever resources were most readily available, I began to understand Nelson Mandela's perspective when he said, "It always seems impossible until it's done."
Perhaps the most challenging constraints we dealt with in the development of our strategy were related to resources. While we requested forces as early as possible in the planning cycle...we only received a small portion of the validated requirement, mostly after execution began. For example, critical enablers like AWACS, JSTARS, and additional tankers arrived well after combat operations were initiated. In addition, while full motion video platforms were approved, they were not available until after NATO took over the mission.
Fortunately for us, we were in USAFE's backyard and because AMC's backyard is global, we were also in theirs. As a result, two days before execution, General Welsh and the USAFE staff facilitated EUCOM support and General Johns and the AMC staff facilitated TRANSCOM support to ensure AFRICOM and US Air Forces Africa had the Airmen and equipment necessary for combat operations. While this approach still limited our ability to execute as planned, this loaning of forces did provide the essential capabilities required for success.
During the early morning of 19 March, Operation Odyssey Dawn began when TLAMs from coalition naval forces were launched against a variety of targets in Libya. As you would expect, the challenges we faced throughout combat operations were enormous and would require our Airmen to perform nearly flawlessly in complex, high stress and exceptionally demanding circumstances. And as you would expect from the greatest Airmen in the world, they did just that. In the course of 13 days of combat, those Airmen would successfully use every one of our six distinctive war-fighting capabilities. I'd like to give you just a few examples today.
Because we had no viable basing options in Africa, we chose Aviano as one of our primary staging bases. Almost immediately, over fifteen hundred Airmen and Sailors converged on the base, stretching Force Support, Civil Engineering, Communications and Security Forces to incredible lengths. Within days, the base fitness center was converted into a lodging hall accommodating hundreds of new arrivals, and buildings mothballed and awaiting demolition were furnished and brought to standards necessary to meet operational requirements.
Aviano's food service team expanded operations by 400%, tailoring service to meet the unique dietary requirements of our coalition partners and increasing flight meals made from around 28 to over 3200 per day, all from bare base facilities constructed by the civil engineers.
Transportation shuttles began supporting 24/7 requirements and the operations center and flight line roared to life. A decommissioned runway and parking apron were restored sufficiently to accommodate aircraft parking and a huge influx of cargo and supplies...all within days and without a single augmentee.
This was truly an extraordinary effort by an extraordinary team. Ladies and Gentlemen, representing the very finest in Agile Combat Support and the hundreds of Airmen who contributed to this critical Air Force capability during Operation Odyssey Dawn is Staff Sergeant Purvang Kalani of the 31st Civil Engineering Squadron at Aviano. Please join me in thanking him for a job well done.
While the base at Aviano was ramping up, AMC and USAFE were developing creative ways to provide tanker support for Odyssey Dawn. To give you an idea of the distances we were dealing with, flying a sortie against targets in Libya would be the equivalent to launching F-16 missions from Ellsworth, South Dakota to fly Close Air Support over Laughlin, Texas, supported by tankers launched from McChord, Washington. Fighter sorties against Libyan targets averaged eight hours and required five air refuelings to generate just one hour on station.
Although we asked for tankers in our initial request for forces, they were not yet approved. As a result, both TRANSCOM and EUCOM supported by AMC and USAFE stepped up by holding tankers in Europe that were scheduled to transition to the United States, by loaning us additional theater forces, and by establishing the tanker bridge critical for logistics support and Global Strike missions
Under the leadership of the Air National Guard, KC-10 and KC-135 operations from 34 units were consolidated at one location, giving the 313th Air Expeditionary Wing the nickname...the "Calico Wing." More than 50 "Calico" crews rapidly coalesced into one incredible team, flying day and night flawlessly supporting Odyssey Dawn. This was an operation of thinkers and doers, with each Airman displaying great professionalism and flexibility on every sortie. Collectively, these Airmen offloaded 17 million pounds of fuel in support of air operations against Libya.
Ladies and gentlemen, I know you've heard the motto, "nobody kicks ass without tanker gas"; and that was definitely true for Odyssey Dawn.
With us today, representing the finest in Global Mobility and the hundreds of Airmen who contributed to this critical Air Force capability during Operation Odyssey Dawn is Technical Sergeant Robert Winovich from the 146th Air Refueling Squadron. Please join me in thanking him for a job well done.
As with every combat operation since Martins, Spads and Fokkers were first employed in the skies of Europe, our ability to dominate Libyan ground, sea, and air battle space was a fundamental part of our strategic plan. This meant we had to render both the Libyan Integrated Air Defense System and the Libyan Air Force operationally irrelevant. Every subsequent campaign objective demanded it...and every Airman flying into combat deserved it.
Having now had the privilege of serving as a JFACC, I can tell you domination of the enemy's Air Force was never optional in any plan we produced...and it is impossible for me to imagine a scenario where any Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, or Coast Guardsman engaged in combat operations...would believe it should be.
To successfully strike just one target from thousands of feet traveling at hundreds of knots in all types of weather...and without unnecessary risk...and without loss of an Airman...and while minimizing collateral damage...and without appearing to seek régime change...and in accordance with the rules of engagement...and consistent with the law of armed conflict...is like trying to pull a rope through the eye of a needle. Of course, trying to render an enemy Air Force irrelevant without striking precisely the right targets in precisely the right sequence is impossible, so fortunately, our Air Operations Center Team coupled with the incredible professionals of the Air Force Targeting Center, pulled a rope through the eye of a needle over 700 times.
During the course of Odyssey Dawn, the Targeting Center developed approximately 75percent of our targets, 90 percent of our weaponeering solutions and over 90 percent of our TLAM targets. But that's not all...
Since minimizing collateral damage was a primary objective, pre-strike collateral damage estimates and post-strike battle damage assessments were critical to making effective operational decisions. Literally re-writing their own job description on the fly, the Targeting Center combined Airmen from multiple targeting related disciplines into a single support cell, using newly created procedures and sensitive intelligence to provide rapid, accurate assessments on both sides of the kill chain. All told, the Targeting Center provided approximately three-quarters of our collateral damage and virtually all our battle damage assessments. In my estimation, our ability to rapidly find, fix and target the enemy was a game changer in Odyssey Dawn, and is perhaps every bit as distinctive an Air Force Capability...as the six we currently claim.
With us today representing the Airmen from the Air Force Targeting Center who were absolutely essential to the success of Operation Odyssey Dawn is Master Sergeant Shaun Rooney. Please join me in thanking him for a job well done.
To execute initial strikes against Libyan régime aircraft, we tasked three B-2 bombers from Whiteman for Global Strike missions. This permitted us to ensure operational security and execute combat sorties without concern for potential host nation restrictions, allowing time for the political landscape to gel. Even then, in order to ensure they met time over target requirements, we had to launch all three aircraft without an execution order. Some six hours into that flight and following their first of 4 air refuelings, the order finally came...and 13 hours after departure, our B2s engaged régime targets in Libya.
This was a complex mission. Besides the great distances involved, it required concurrent and fully integrated operations with Strike Eagles from Lakenheath, CJ's from Spangdahlem, 135's from Mildenhall and CONUS based tankers from the Northeast Tanker Task Force and Growlers from Aviano. But once again, our Airmen made the complex look easy. As you can see from these photos, they perfectly executed Global Strike missions helped us establish the conditions required to sustain a No-Fly Zone and protect the people of Libya from slaughter.
With us today representing the very finest in Global Strike and the hundreds of Airmen who contributed to this critical Air Force capability during Operation Odyssey Dawn is Major "Bigs" Ganski, one of the B-2 pilots from the night-one mission. Please join me in thanking him for a job well done.
As you would expect, nearly concurrent with these Global Strike missions, our plan called for us to protect Libyan citizens in earnest. In a very real sense, this meant we immediately had to engage the enemy where the threat was greatest...in Benghazi. Because we needed to virtually eliminate the chance of collateral damage, we used Dynamic Targeting and Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance or SCAR tactics to search for and destroy enemy forces.
With about 24 hours notice, our first SCAR missions consisting of a package of Strike Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing and CJs from the 52nd Fighter Wing, were airborne. While the majority of Libya's integrated air defensive system had been disabled, at this point, a tactical threat still remained. In fact, as the SCAR package approached Benghazi, an SA-8 tactical Surface to Air Missile system went active. And of course, as soon as this system went active, so did our CJs and as you can see from this video, things did not go well for the SAM. In addition, the location of the SAM provided a superb "mark" for our sniper pods, helping our Strike Eagles locate and slam Qadafi's elite 32nd Brigade with over 12 thousand pounds of munitions. In my view, this was the turning point in our initial efforts to save the people of Benghazi because it stopped Qadafi's ground forces in their tracks and allowed subsequent targeting of régime forces where collateral damage could be minimized. Once our initial SCAR package completed its mission, Harriers launched from the USS Kearsarge took over and continued to pound régime forces in the area.
With us today representing the finest in Air Superiority and Precision Engagement and the hundreds of Airmen who contributed to these critical Air Force capabilities during Operation Odyssey Dawn are two Airmen who helped save Benghazi and flew multiple SCAR missions enforcing UNSCR 1973, Major "Flint" Hicok, a F-16CJ flight lead and Major "Shack" Teel an F-15E flight lead. Please join me in thanking them for a job well done.
The execution of dynamic targeting required a clear operational picture, uninterrupted communications, and responsive and flexible command and control. These key enablers were provided principally by AWACs and JSTARs, which contributed to the common operating picture that extended from the AOC to our tactical aircraft. Their job was to orient shooters, pair shooters with targets, solve battle-space problems, speed accurate decision making...and bring order to what could easily become chaos. They did precisely that.
For example, near the end of the first week, our JSTARs crews detected an abnormal surface track and determined that it was likely an armored convoy. They relayed this information to the AOC floor and I authorized investigation. Within three minutes of detection, the JSTARs paired shooters to the suspect surface track and obtained visual confirmation that it was a convoy. The shooters then engaged and destroyed a column of tanks and mobile artillery that were moving into firing positions against civilians near a pro-rebel town. In short, they saved hundreds of civilian lives consistent with the UN Mandate and our objectives.
In another example toward the end of Odyssey Dawn, we received reliable intelligence that régime forces were massing and moving North toward the opposition held town of Brega. Our AOC Senior Offensive Duty Officer coordinated with JSTARs and confirmed the enemy was preparing for offensive action. As a result, we drafted a 10-line tasking order and passed it to the JSTARs for execution.
A two-ship of Strike Eagles patrolling near Brega responded and struck the convoy, destroying between 20 and 25 vehicles, multiple artillery and triple A pieces, and killing numerous enemy forces. The total time between receipt of the intelligence inside the AOC and completion of the strike was 22 minutes. No other Air Force on the planet can do that.
With us today representing the finest in Information Superiority and the hundreds of Airmen who contributed to this critical Air Force capability during Operation Odyssey Dawn, are Captain "Maggott" Gow-Stad, one of our JSTAR LNOs and Major "Sammy" Breffitt, one of our Senior Offensive Duty Officers. Please join me in thanking them for a job well done.
Of course, not everything went as planned. On the night of Monday, 21 March while engaging a surface to air missile site, one of our Strike Eagles crashed. With two Airmen down behind enemy lines, the next several hours were probably the most stressful of any during Odyssey Dawn.
While Vipers, Harriers and additional Strike Eagles circled the crash site, we established radio contact with the pilot and searched for the weapons systems officer. Using techniques learned years before in survival training and continuously updated since, the pilot managed to evade suspected enemy soldiers on foot and in vehicles for more than an hour. At times, they were so close that we heard their dogs and voices in the background of our pilot's transmissions.
While the pilot clung to his freedom, CAP aircraft in the vicinity with support from ISR platforms had to interpret the situation and provide supporting fire...sometimes just a few hundred feet from our Airman. And with another downed Airman in the area but not yet in contact with the coalition, the need for balance between caution and kinetics was paramount.
Almost immediately after we received word of the crash and confirmed our Airman was evading, our Marine TRAP team launched from the Kearsarge. Flying at maximum speed into enemy held territory in their Osprey, they flawlessly located the downed pilot who had managed to make his way to a suitable pick-up point. Executing an absolutely textbook combat recovery, the TRAP team took the pilot to the Kearsarge where he was treated for minor injuries.
With us today are two of the Marines who rescued our pilot. They represent the finest in Marine Aviation and the hundreds of joint personnel recovery forces who fought in Odyssey Dawn. Please join me in thanking Marine Osprey crewmembers Sergeant Michael d'Mars and Sergeant Jeremy Gilbertson for a job well done.
As you know, this was not just a joint operation; it was also a coalition operation and one of the most challenging aspects of Odyssey Dawn involved coalition integration. Despite the fact that UN resolution 1973 authorized unilateral action by any country, senior international military representatives began arriving on our doorstep almost immediately.
On the first day of operations, the French and British joined us, making us a loose coalition using three de-conflicted but different Air Tasking Orders. In the next 96 hours we grew to eight coalition partners, all tasked on a single ATO operating with common ROE, Airspace Coordination Plans, and SPINS. By day ten, the US Air Force was providing command and control of combat operations involving twelve coalition partners.
The speed with which this coalition grew was extraordinary and presented a major integration challenge, since each partner came with unique employment caveats. However, each partner also came with unique capabilities that made us much stronger than we would have been as individuals.
For example, from a dynamic targeting perspective, the UK, in particular, brought a very unique capability to our coalition - the dual-mode seeker Brimstone. This missile is designed to be a low collateral damage weapon, using a shape charge producing little or no fragmentation. Because the UK had relatively little operational experience with this weapon in an urban environment, we initially used it on the outskirts of populated areas. Once our confidence grew, the Brittish began using the weapon on tanks and military vehicles in areas where other weapons could not be employed. For example, in one Brimstone engagement, our RAF partners found a tank parked near an intersection located inside a virtual urban canyon, with multi-story buildings on all sides. The Brimstone allowed our UK pilots to literally thread the needle between buildings and destroy the tank with no collateral damage.
Overall, the coalition coalesced extremely well. Each partner respected the capabilities others brought to the fight. Each partner understood the need for unity of command. Each partner understood the need for a single Joint Force Air Component Commander. And each partner deferred to the United States Air Force to fill this roll...because each partner knew that only the United States Air Force had the capacity to command and control this fight.
None-the-less, almost as quickly as it began, our mandate ended, and we initiated transfer of control to NATO. In general, the transfer was adequately accomplished in the time we were given, but our inability to communicate with NATO using classified systems was a major limiting factor.
I must admit, that during this time...during the waning hours of Odyssey Dawn...it was impossible to avoid reflecting on what our team had accomplished. Collectively, in just 13 days, we flew well over 2000 sorties, launched more than 200 TLAMs, released thousands of pounds of munitions, saved thousands of Libyan civilians from massacre, eliminated the Libyan Air Force as a threat...and met every other objective we were given...all without a single coalition loss. Collectively...this coalition was a success because it was composed of professional Airmen led by the world's greatest Air Force.
Despite near exhaustion, these Airmen met the demands and challenges of our mission, whenever and wherever called. And as the President said when he addressed the Nation, "I want to begin by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform who, once again, have acted with courage, professionalism and patriotism. They have moved with incredible speed and strength."
In my view, these and many other attributes define the Airmen who fought during Odyssey Dawn. I honestly don't know if there is a hero among them, but I do know that taken collectively, their efforts were heroic. They saved countless lives, they made America justifiably proud, and in so doing, they changed the course of history.
As significant as Odyssey Dawn was, it pales in comparison however, to the impact a long-term commitment to the Airmen of Africa can have. Africa is home to some of the world's oldest civilizations, and it is also home to the world's newest democracy. Africa is home to the Nation that first recognized America as a country in 1777, and it is also home to our newest F-16 partner. Africa is rich in natural resources and richer still, in human resources. And the Airmen of Africa largely want for their countries what we want for America; security, peace, and the hope for a better tomorrow.
The work your Air Force is doing everyday to establish and strengthen ties with African Air Forces proves our commitment is alive and well today. It is absolutely critical to the relationships we've built over the last several years that our commitment remains strong, for there is probably no place on the planet where more Nations stand at political, diplomatic, and military crossroads...than in Africa.From here, they can travel a path toward democracy and freedom...or they can select another course.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished members of the Air Force Association, the time remains now to help Africans lead their continent toward what President Mandela surly felt was the greatest hope for any civilization when he said, "Let Freedom reign. The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement."