The ICAS Lectures


Remarks on the Liberty Award for Admiral Dennis Blair

David S. Maxwell

ICAS Annual Liberty Award Dinner

December 14, 2016, 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Cannon Caucus Room
United States Congress
Washington, DC

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

Biographic sketch & Links: David S. Maxwell

Remarks on the Liberty Award for Admiral Dennis Blair

David S. Maxwell
Colonel, US Army Special Forces (Retired),
Associate Director, Center for Security Studies and Security Studies Program,
the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

I first met Admiral Blair when he was the Commander-in ĖChief of the Pacific Command otherwise known as CINCPAC. Yes we used to call our Geographic Combatant Commanderís Commanders-in-Chiefs or "CINCís" until Donald Rumsfeld banned the use of the name for our senior military leaders.

As CINCPAC he was responsible for all land, sea, air, and special operations in the entire Asia-Pacific region, the largest and most diverse area of responsibility of all the US regional commands.

Admiral Blair may not remember me because I was a few levels down the chain of command on Okinawa though he knew my bosses well: then Major General and now retired US Air Force Lieutenant General Donny Wurster, the Commander of the Special Operations Command Pacific and then Colonel and now retired US Army Lieutenant General David Fridovich, Commander of the 1st Special Forces Group.

The reason why I am privileged to be able to contribute to honoring Admiral Blair is because although he had the complex responsibilities as CINCPAC from dealing with the EP-3 shootdown by China, preparing for war and contingencies on the Korean peninsula, ensuring the sea lines of communications remained open for our commerce, to ensuring access and influence for US forces, he was never too busy or distracted to look out for his smallest component in the Pacific, his special operations command and entrust its members with some very sensitive missions.

I first met Admiral Blair in Manila in September 2000 when he gave us the mission to establish a national counter terrorism force for the Philippine government. Terrorism in the Asia-Pacific region was a threat long before 9-11 and Admiral Blair and the State Department took action to try to help our friends, partners, and allies to develop the capabilities to defend themselves against lawlessness, subversion, insurgency, and terrorism. Under Admiral Blairís direction we organized, trained, and equipped the Philippine Light Reaction Company in 2001 and this formation has evolved into the Light Reaction Regiment since 9-11.

When the tragic events of 9-11 happened, Admiral Blair recognized the need to employ his Pacific Command forces to help the Philippines defend against the Al Qaeda linked terrorists, the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemmah Islamiyah. We met again after then Colonel Fridovich led a strategic assessment of the entire Philippine terrorist threat and developed a campaign plan to advise and assist the Philippine security forces to address the terrorist threat in Mindanao in what became known as Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines.

As you can see from the photographs Admiral Blair came to inspect our operations on Basilan Island as we were assisting the Philippine military to rescue American hostages, Gracia and Martin Burnham, Guillermo Sobero, and Filipina nurse Deborah Yap from the Abu Sayyaf as we tried to deny terrorist sanctuary, deny mobility, deny access to resources and separate the population from the terrorists. Although this effort was led by Special Forces it included units from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps as well as civilian organizations from the intelligence community, State Department, and the US Agency for International Development. It included a large engineering task force of US Navy SEABEES and Marine Engineers who constructed 84 kilometers of road in a matter of days to improve the welfare of the Philippine people on Basilan. It is only through the leadership of a CINC like Admiral Blair that we could bring to bear the joint forces and interagency capabilities necessary to conduct complex operations.

Although a career naval officer, an intelligence professional, a Rhodes Scholar, and many other accolades to numerous to mention there is a connection of Admiral Blair to the ICAS Liberty Award and US Army Special Forces. The motto of Special Forces is "de oppresso liber "Ė to liberate the oppressed. Admiral Blair had the foresight, wisdom, and experience to recognize the threat of terrorism in the Asia Pacific and he sought to liberate the Philippine people from the scourge of terrorism and oppression caused by these terrorist groups. He truly embodies the American and the ICAS commitment to liberty.

Thank you.

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