Generations apart, threats are real
The September 11 attacks altered many aspects of American life. How we travel, how our military operates and our foreign policy. It was an attack that caught America and the world by surprise. The threat of terrorism and forward operations against terrorists are at the forefront of many of our operations today, but that was not always the case.
Today, the words “communism” and “threat” are hardly ever used in the same sentence, especially through an operational perspective. Many service members today were not even alive when the Soviet Union still stood, myself included. For others, it dominated the American zeitgeist.
My father, Thomas Arminio, served in the Navy for 23 years. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1977, two years after the Vietnam War, and retired two months before the September 11 attacks. He started his career as a pilot conducting antisubmarine operations in the Indian Ocean. He was then stationed at the Pentagon helping plan deployment cycles. He ended his career teaching at the Army War College in Carlisle, Penn., I spoke to him about the threat transition from the Soviet Union to combating terrorism globally and the mission focus of the Navy.
“It was pretty abrupt, there was no warning or inkling that it would happen.” Thomas said when I asked him about the collapse of the Soviet Union. “The biggest change was the threat.”
He explained the paradigm shift from Sovietdominated operations to numerous other operations including counter-narcotics, regional threats such as Somalia, the Balkans, and Desert Storm.
I asked my father about the threat of terrorism when he was in active duty. “They did happen, but they were few and far between,” he said. He mentioned the 1983 Beirut Marine Corps Barracks bombing in 1983, the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.
My father also spoke about Base Realignment and Closure after the fall of the USSR. “Closing bases was pretty unthinkable” he said.
BRAC was the process of a money saving and efficiency plan by the Department of Defense, which closed more than 350 instillations from 1989 to 2005.
Despite the changes in threat, my dad stressed “The mission of the Navy will always be force projection and forward deployment.”
The threat has also changed manning. He emphasized the increased operation tempo of Navy Special Warfare units and all special operations units in general, increased deployments of Navy Corpsman in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The threat determines the manning. This can be seen with linguists as well. The need for Russian linguists has drastically decreases yet the need for Arabic, Farsi and Pashto linguists has sharply increased. Despite changes in manning and operation tempos, the missions of the Navy remain to be flexible, forward deployed and protect the overseas interests of the United States.