Joint Task Force Lebanon consists of personnel from all military services and the Reserves, including approximately 30 embarked staff aboard the USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) from the KMC.
JTF Lebanon has two task forces coordinating air, land and maritime support to the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and providing security for humanitarian aid flowing in to rebuild strife-torn Lebanon. To date, joint interagency efforts of the Department of State and the Department of Defense resulted in the assisted departure of almost 15,000 American citizens from Lebanon and the distribution of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Lebanese people.
KMC Army and Air Force officers and NCOs were among the Command and Control staff led by Navy Vice Adm. J. “Boomer” Stufflebeem.
While working jointly involved a learning curve, leaders among the JTF Lebanon staff embraced the idea. “I had to learn a new language that involved Naval acronyms and Naval capabilities, but to a large degree these are similar to Air Force operations,” said Col. Scott Reed, JTF Lebanon’s J3 Director of Operations.
Normally assigned at Ramstein’s 16th Air Force as the A-5 Director of Plans, Reed saw unusual mission focus on the JTF. “The shipboard experience has really helped build us as a team, because everyone is right here; there’s nowhere else to go, so you’re able to focus more purely on the mission than you would back home.”
Working on the JTF Lebanon’s J1 Personnel Directorate, Tech. Sgt. Shawn Knight of 16th Air Force A1 said shipboard life took some getting used to. “There’s a place for everything on this deck,” he explained. “Because you’re working in the ship all the time, it’s really easy to lose track of time. I’ve learned a lot already. I’ve done briefings, sea pay letters, mustering reports,” he said, describing the Navy term for personnel accountability.
Other JTF Lebanon members worked similar functional areas as at home station but saw new facets to their efforts. Lt. Col. Kelli Pohlman is JTF Lebanon’s J4 Logistics Division Chief for supplies and services; at Ramstein she works in USAFE’s A-4 Directorate of Logistics as the Chief of Command Vehicles. “It’s totally different because in USAFE we are the management headquarters – we usually don’t get involved in the execution,” she said.
“This is tip-of-the-spear type of stuff: it’s working with a purpose and an end state in mind… it’s an awesome team effort,” Colonel Pohlman said. “I wish more people would have an opportunity like this to get out of our service-centric mindset.”
Army Colonel Thomas Roxberry is the G3 Director of Operations at his assignment in Kaiserslautern’s 21st Army Theater Support Command. He says recent partnering efforts made transitioning to working as JTF Lebanon’s J4 Logistics Director easier.
“Back at home station, the Army and the Air Force had partnered this summer for the World Cup games (in Kaiserslautern). That planning experience has enabled us to integrate quickly as an Army-Air Force team, which I think made it easier for us to integrate with our Navy and Marine shipmates for JTF Lebanon. Our whole team has deployed on very short notice and accepted the challenges of standing up a Joint Task Force.”
Just being part of the larger team effort was rewarding for many on the command and control staff. “The best part was working with sharp people from multiple service branches and organizations to accomplish the mission,” said Air Force Capt. Matt Pearson, who worked Intel collection management for the JTF and also performs related duties at the 24th Intelligence Squadron. “The contacts we made here will continue to be really helpful for us we get back to Ramstein.”