Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

PACOM senior enlisted leader visits Okinawa, discusses key topics

by Senior Airman Maeson L. Elleman
18th Wing Public Affairs

3/4/2014 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The U.S. Pacific Command senior enlisted leader visited Kadena Airmen, as well as other U.S. and Japan Self Defense forces stationed here, Feb. 28 as part of a tour throughout the command.

Navy Command Master Chief Mark Rudes, PACOM senior enlisted leader, stressed the importance of service members and U.S. Department of Defense assets on Okinawa due to the strategic location and power projection capabilities.

"The fact that you're physically here gets after one of our biggest challenges in the PACOM area of responsibility, and that's distance," Rudes said. "The reality is, the vast oceans that make the Indio-Asia Pacific create a challenge of timely response to a casualty, incident or scenario. Having the forward-deployed team here allows us a timely response, such as the case with our recent natural disaster in the Philippines. You were able to mobilize, to get into the problem and to get after it, and it helps tremendously.

"The second is being imbedded with our partner nation of Japan helps us to continue to build trust, help us to build a capacity and interoperability, and so the engagements that we have while we're imbedded physically here enhance that as well," he added.
During his visit, Rudes met with enlisted members and outlined his expectations for Okinawa service members and why it's vital to recognize the importance of maintaining proficiency and professionalism.

"The expectation is that our service members continue to understand the important role that they play in our regional stability," Rudes said. "We have a number of missions out here in PACOM, and all of them kind of hinge around maintaining stability. Continue to hone (your) skills to the best that you can be so that, if it's ever called upon, you're able to instinctively do your job and do it well, so we can decisively win a conflict, save lives, and help reduce suffering in a natural disaster setting and help empower other nations and other militaries that are building up and looking at us as a role model."

Rudes also spoke about another growing concern for service members: force shaping initiatives in the Department of Defense and how they will affect U.S. forces in the Pacific.

"The force shaping initiatives are being looked at holistically across all the services," Rudes said. "The size of our forces that we have deployed in this (area of responsibility) is fairly well understood, so it's not very likely there's going to be a drastic change in our numbers. As our force structure continues to mature and get to an end state that everybody understands and can manage, there may be some adjustments. But as of now, there's not a lot of talk about changing the scope and the size of our forces that we have out here forward in our PACOM AOR. I think as we mature and continue to rotate and exercise our capabilities in the region, there may be a demand signal that looks to change them, but as of right now it's fairly stable."

Despite a currently unstable budget, Rudes said that Okinawa exercises and U.S. forces' training will remain a high strategic priority. With quick response capabilities like the ones demonstrated in support of the Philippines in late 2013, Rudes said it's easy to see why the training is essential.

"The missions that we have out here in Okinawa, in Japan and in the region are fairly well established," Rudes said. "We have worked very hard to scope those correctly and ensure that we have the right activities going on so that we can meet our goals and our end state. There are concerns on how we can do things more efficiently and how we can find possible waste and eliminate that. The goals of exercising in this region and specifically with the support of Okinawa are still in place for 2014 and are something that are constantly being looked at as a very high priority."

The command master chief also reminded service members that they are vital components to the peace, security and stability in the region and should therefore act accordingly and keep each other accountable.

"We recognize the importance of all of our service members in the AOR, and it's something that's on our mind that we have folks that are taking that additional bit of sacrifice to serve forward, to serve a little bit further away from maybe their home and their families and committing themselves to the missions at hand," Rudes said. "We do have a high expectation of their behavior because everything matters - words matter, and actions matter in the forward theater. As individuals you have the ability to positively shape all of the aspects of our approach to forward presence, to providing stability within the region, to enhancing our relationships with partner nations. If we are all working toward that end goal, then that would be the ideal situation. So check yourself, and check each other; look out for yourself, look out for each other, and prevent poor choices because that negative aspect does ripple through and creates an awful lot of challenge and makes us take a number of steps backwards, as we've seen in the past."

Rudes also said that he's honored to work as the senior enlisted leader along with the service members in the theater.

"I am extremely proud to be serving as your senior enlisted leader at PACOM and working alongside some incredible Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines and the families. The commitments and the sacrifices that they make are truly eye-watering, and it makes me very proud to be serving alongside all of you here. This is not easy. The job that we do is a challenge; it requires sacrifice. But at the end of the day, there's a reason we're one of the most recognized, honorable professions in our country, and that's because of our decision to serve something bigger than ourselves. We serve with honor; we serve with dignity; we have good moral values; we're of character."

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