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Joint Maritime Forces Take Action
When Joint Force Maritime Component Commander, Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., embarked on his flagship, the USS Mount Whitney last March 10th, he was not certain what shape the international coalition - or the Libya crisis itself for that matter -
When Joint Force Maritime Component Commander, Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., embarked on his flagship, the USS Mount Whitney last March 10th, he was not certain what shape the international coalition - or the Libya crisis itself for that matter - would take. The U.S. Navy had already positioned destroyers, submarines and Marines on amphibious ships in the Mediterranean as part of the Secretary of Defense's measures to provide the President with a wide range of options. In less than a week, this force would expand significantly as nations from Europe, North America and the Middle East contributed robust air and maritime forces.

"I've been both amazed and encouraged as nations joined this coalition, to see it grow in capacity and capability," Harris said. "We all want the same thing: to compel the Qadhafi regime to stop its campaign of violence against civilians in Libya."

When U.S. Africa Command ordered the establishment of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn on Mar. 3, Harris - the U.S. Sixth Fleet commander - was designated as the Joint Force Maritime Component Commander (JFMCC), responsible for all U.S. Naval and Marine forces operating off Libya.

Initially comprised of 11 ships to include the flagship, 3 Military Sealift Command ships, 3 submarines, 2 guided missile destroyers, 2 amphibious ships, and a small number of attack and reconnaissance aircraft, this international maritime coalition grew to over 38 ships and submarines.

When it became clear that Qadhafi's forces were still advancing on Benghazi and attacking the Libyan population with armor and air strikes, the United Nations passed Security Council Resolution 1973 on Mar. 17, authorizing all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populations from attack. By Mar. 18, the Secretary of Defense had ordered the use of U.S. military forces in graduated and sequenced strike operations against regime forces in Libya to achieve these objectives.

"UNSCR 1973 underpins the commitment of this broad coalition of nations to use all means authorized by the UN against pro-Qadhafi forces who continue to kill Libyan civilians," said Harris. Today the coalition includes Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the USA.

The first Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) were launched in rapid succession during the night of Mar. 19 from the guided-missile destroyers USS Stout and USS Barry, and from submarines USS Scranton, USS Florida, USS Providence and British submarine HMS Triumph. By dawn the next morning, much of Qadhafi's air defense systems and command and control facilities across northern Libya lay in ruin.

"On Night-1, we executed approximately 70 TLAM strikes," Harris said. "As of today we have conducted almost 200 TLAM strikes. Tomahawk is a terrific weapon system and, as we pound military targets across Libya, we're using it to great effect."

One of JFMCC's commands, Expeditionary Strike Group Five, commanded by Rear Adm. Peg Klein, was quick to react during the early hours of Mar. 21 when a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle went down in eastern Libya due to mechanical failure. Elements from the 26th MEU aboard USS Kearsarge with their own loadout of AV-8B Harriers, MV-22 Ospreys, MH-60 Knight Hawks and CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters, in conjunction with an EP-3 from Task Force 67 and US Air Force fighter combat air patrols were able to rescue one of the downed aviators while the other was safely recovered later in the day by Libyan citizens. Both are doing well.

Harris is humbled by what has been accomplished in this first week of no-fly zone operations, "I'm proud of our Sailors and Marines," Harris said. "They join our sister services and coalition partner navies in making a real difference at ending the attacks on Libya's civilians and pressurizing those responsible."

Joint Force Maritime Component Command is the maritime component of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. Africa Command task force established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces supporting the international response to protect civilians, alleviate human suffering, preserve critical infrastructure and enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973 which authorizes all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya under threat of attack by Qadhafi regime forces.

For additional information, please contact Joint Task Force-Odyssey Dawn Public Affairs at: E-mail:JTF.PAO@lcc20.navy.mil Phone: 39-081-568-9000 EX: 4725/4722/4721
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