During the past year, Region Legal Service Office Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia (RLSO EURAFSWA) played a critical support role in the contingency operations in Libya.
What began as Operation Odyssey Dawn became Operation Unified Protector under NATO, and finally concluded as Operation Odyssey Guard in October 2011. The operations were a coalition effort by both NATO and non-NATO forces who deployed to three different installations in the area of operations. The goal of coalition forces was to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 by upholding a no-fly zone over Libya and protecting Libyan civilians from attack by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. RLSO EURAFSWA became part of the operations with almost no lead time.
Staff and detachments were called upon immediately to provide advice on complex issues of international law and to support an extraordinary increase in deployed units. Region deputy staff judge advocate, Cmdr. Tim Stone, advised the Region Commander and served as the go-to source for other judge advocates. Based out of Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, Stone worked with and provided legal opinions to coalition judge advocates regarding the use of the Region’s bases to plan and launch military operations in support of the first phase of Operation Odyssey Dawn. He also trained Region leadership and subordinate installation judge advocates on the implementation of Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreements (ACSAs) as the preferred method to capture reimbursable support from coalition partners. This training resulted in the successful region-wide use of ACSA implementing agreements to provide critical mission support. Across the Tyrrhenian Sea, Naval Air Station Sigonella (NASSIG) was the primary host to deployed elements from each branch of the U.S. armed forces and seven coalition nations. This buildup represented a 70 percent increase in military personnel along with more than 70 additional fighter, reconnaissance, and support aircraft assigned to support the contingency operations. With this increase in personnel, including historic deployments by forces from Sweden and the United Arab Emirates, RLSO EURAFSWA detachment Sigonella, led by Lt. Cmdr. Justin McEwen and Lt. Jeff Pearson, successfully met and exceeded mission requirements despite a corresponding increased need for legal advice in areas such as military justice, foreign criminal jurisdiction, and international law. “Supporting Operation Unified Protector was definitely a challenge for our detachment,” opined McEwen. “The massive increase in personnel and operational tempo presented a significant increase in the support services required from our Sailors. That said, our team rose to the challenge and achieved great results.” The variety of work completed by Sigonella’s legal staff was extensive. It ranged from providing advice on international law in response to an emergency involving the crash of a coalition F-16, to assisting coalition partners with an international homicide case. The Sigonella detachment was instrumental in building and advising the NASSIG ACSA team, which provided critical advice on mission support and coalition nations by using existing international agreements. The Sigonella staff drafted new implementing agreements, which developed cost schedules and captured reimbursable costs for services ranging from aircraft fuel to temporary lodging. In total, NASSIG processed more than 96 ACSA orders from foreign nations, resulting in the recovery of more than $5 million worth of support to NASSIG and the Region. As Lt. Pearson noted, "traditional legal issues became more interesting with the added international and operational element. Tools we did not use much before, like ACSA, suddenly became our most important ones.” Similar to their shipmates in Sigonella, RLSO EURAFSWA’s detachment in Souda Bay, Greece and Rota, Spain were instrumental in supporting the mission.
Utilizing the ACSA, Lt. Mark Rasmussen from Souda Bay and Lt. Cmdr. Robert Kline and Lt. Cmdr. Jared Edgar from Rota expertly addressed the warfighters’ needs by resolving critical berthing shortages and providing sound advice on criminal investigations. Souda Bay saw a 31 percent increase in overall legal assistance services provided. In Rota, personnel served as integral members of the Phase II Reintegration team during real-time operations, and helped organize realistic training evolutions to ensure military readiness. Reintegration is a detailed, three-phased plan for returning isolated, missing, detained or captured individuals back to duty. The first phase is the initial reception. In Phase II, theater transition, returnees receive medical and psychological care, tactical and intelligence debriefings, legal services, public affairs guidance and spiritual support. The last phase is considered service reintegration where the returnee returns to duty. “It was a unique and rewarding experience supporting our local commands, fellow service members, and coalition partners during these historic operations.
The unity of effort was amazing,” said Rasmussen. Accomplishing the mission and supporting the warfighters were the paramount concerns of RLSO EURAFSWA during operations in Libya. Despite a vast area of responsibility and a dramatic increase in workload, RLSO EURAFSWA succeeded due to hard work, constant mission focus, and a willingness to adapt and overcome. Though their efforts were largely behind the scenes, the team at RLSO EURAFSWA is proud to have done their part in support of these operations.