JTF Lebanon establishes air-land and sea task forces

  • Published
  • By Petty Officer 1st Class Eric Brown
  • Joint Task Force Lebanon Public Affairs
The commander of Joint Task Force Lebanon has assigned two task force commanders to lead critical elements of the newly formed organization as part of assuming authority for U.S. military operations here Aug. 23, officials announced.

Air Force Col. Brad Webb will command Task Force "Alpha," consisting of air and land components, while Navy Capt. John Nowell will lead Task Force "Bravo," consisting of maritime assets in the joint operating area.

"These task force commanders have responsibility for the air, land and sea support to the American Embassy in Beirut and will execute daily operations necessary to carry out our mission to assist Department of State-led efforts in the region," said Navy Vice Adm. Stufflebeem, commander of JTF Lebanon.

Since the current Middle East crisis began in mid-July, the Department of Defense and Department of State joint interagency team has helped nearly 15,000 U.S. citizens safely depart Lebanon, while strengthening hope for Lebanese people by providing millions of dollars in humanitarian aid, officials said.

As commander of the 352nd Special Operations Group, Colonel Webb arrived in the region July 19 with more than 180 members from his home station at Royal Air Force Mildenhall in the United Kingdom. Originally supporting U.S. Central Command-led operations, the 352nd SOG will remain in the area, continuing the mission now under the authority of U.S. European Command.

"On the surface, the shift from CENTCOM to EUCOM will cause some small changes," Colonel Webb said from his Cyprus-based headquarters. "But at the root of it all, the operations won't change because the air assets and ground assets are already in place."

Colonel Webb will continue using a group of MH-53M Pave Low heavy-lift helicopters as an "air bridge" to transport people in and out of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, where a JTF Lebanon Marine Corps Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team, or FAST, is located.

"The FAST platoon working security at the Beirut Embassy is from Rota, Spain," Colonel Webb said. "Task Force Alpha is also responsible for our Army CH-47 helicopters based out of Ingolstadt, Germany, our MC-130P Combat Shadow refuelers and a small logistics element."

While Task Force Alpha has more than 450 servicemembers, Captain Nowell's maritime Task Force Bravo has a heavier naval presence of nearly 1,800 Sailors, Marines, Air Force medical staff members and civilian mariners aboard USS Barry, USS Trenton, HSV Swift, USNS Kanawha and the JTF Lebanon flagship, USS Mount Whitney.

"Mount Whitney is a good platform for the 200-plus joint personnel manning the JTF Lebanon headquarters staff as well as for exercising command of Task Force Bravo," said Captain Nowell. "The ship's command and control suite is phenomenal and provides much needed capability."

Captain Nowell visited both the USS Trenton and USS Barry to tell crewmembers how much their work is appreciated. Both ships have been on station in the Eastern Mediterranean since mid-July and were instrumental in helping Americans leave Lebanon.

Both Captain Nowell and Colonel Webb said that while a lot of great work had already been accomplished, there is still a need for continued joint interagency presence in the area.

"There's certainly still work to do, be it helping Americans in peril or providing humanitarian assistance that helps contribute to stability in the region," Captain Nowell said.

"There's a significant number of Americans that are solely dependent on the ability of our forces to come and get them if the need should arise," Colonel Webb said. "Every one of our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen is proud to be here, and I expect it will stay that way until the time when the situation is stable and we can go home." 

(Courtesy of American Forces Press Service)