Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Great article on General Sacolick's recent visit to the Letterkenny Army Depot

Here is a great article on the Letterkenny Army Depot's recent Business Showcase and the keynote speech delivered at the showcase by Brigadier General Bennet Sacolick, Deputy Commanding General of the JFK Special Warfare Center and School. It is definitely worth a read.

USASOC general visits Letterkenny Army Depot, lauds support to Army Special Operations forces

By Benjamin Abel
USAJFKSWCS Public Affairs

CHAMBERSGURG, Pa. (USASOC News Service, June 2, 2009) - In April 2008, a team of Green Berets from the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) was called upon to immediately assist Iraqi military forces who had met stiff resistance during an effort to clear the southern Iraqi city of Basrah of insurgent and terrorist forces. In the process of planning for their new task, the team concluded their current armored vehicles would not survive the punishing attacks lodged against their beleaguered Iraqi counterparts.

With a fraction of normal time mandated to become familiar with the newly fielded Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected, or MRAP, vehicle, the team set out to kill or capture a known terrorist leader. Almost immediately after entering Basrah, the Green Berets were met by a massive improvised explosive device, estimated to be three 155mm artillery rounds, detonating directly under their new vehicle.

The team not only survived the attack but proceeded to complete their mission, capturing the insurgent leader and eliminating a number of his followers, suffering only ringing ears and a smoke-filled crew compartment.

When asked by Brig. Gen. Bennet S. Sacolick, the deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, what would have happened if the team had employed the up-armored HMMWVs used before getting the MRAP, the team leader’s answer was concise: “You wouldn’t be talking to me, sir.”

With this story of Green Berets being saved from certain harm, Sacolick traveled May 27 to the Letterkenny Army Depot to get first-hand experience with the MRAP and personally extend thanks to the men and women who produce the armored vehicle.

Letterkenny Army Depot, or LEAD, situated in south-central Pennsylvania, is the only Army depot that manufactures a variant of the MRAP specifically designed for use by members of the U.S. Special Operations Command. LEAD is similarly unique in being the only depot to build the MRAP from the ground up, said Michael Gossard, LEAD Deputy Director of Maintenance.

The manufacturing team at LEAD is predominantly civilian, with decades of experience supporting the ever-changing demands of the nation’s war fighters. The depot commander, Col. Steven A. Shapiro, stressed the dedication to providing the best possible product to deployed forces; ready to use immediately upon arrival in theater.

“When a piece of equipment rolls off a CH-47, there won’t be a Letterkenny Depot forward,” Shapiro said.

In a speech the Letterkenny Business Opportunity Showcase in Chambersburg, Pa., May 27, Sacolick spoke of his appreciation for the support provided by LEAD to the members of the U.S. Special Operations community deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and around the globe and addressed the importance of balance between conventional and unconventional threats.

Sacolick spoke of previous divisions between the Army’s expeditionary forces and institutional structure, relationships that have been nurtured though dedication to the common cause of fighting terrorism in recent years, and that LEAD employees’ value “cannot be measured by your proximity to the battlefield.”

The agility displayed by LEAD in producing the MRAP and other armored vehicles to meet an emerging threat is both inspiring, and disquieting, Sacolick said, noting the military’s lack of foresight in predicting the lethality of improvised explosive devices to U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“About 4 or 5 years ago, there were two separate entities, two armies,” Sacolick said. “We have to rely on the institution Army. You guys have come to our rescue.”

Sacolick noted the challenge the U.S. Army now faces to the balance planning for conventional and irregular threats, each with unique operational, training and equipment requirements. While direct conflict with the Russian or Chinese militaries is not anticipated, Sacolick stressed to the LEAD members that advanced military capabilities and weapons of competitor nations are a factor for military planning.

“We will fight their equipment, don’t get me wrong,” Sacolick said.

Speaking about a third challenge, a severe natural disaster akin to Hurricane Katrina or a catastrophic attack on the homeland, Sacolick was blunt is his assessment of the military’s responsibility.

“I don’t think the American people would forgive us if we weren’t able to respond,” Sacolick said.

Sacolick added that the United States is a great nation and with that greatness comes great responsibility. The mantle of leadership, he said, has been thrust upon us.

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