Trump Calls Commanders of Ships That Executed Syrian Strike
President Donald J. Trump yesterday made congratulatory calls to the commanding officers of the two Navy destroyers whose personnel executed the April 6 missile strike against the Shayrat Air Base in Syria, according to a White House statement.
Trump thanked Cmdr. Andria Slough of the USS Porter and Cmdr. Russell Caldwell of the USS Ross and their crews for their speed, precision and effectiveness in carrying out the operation against the airfield from which U.S. Central Command said was directly tied to the April 4 chemical weapons attack launched against civilians by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The strike was conducted using Tomahawk missiles launched from the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
"The success of this mission hinged upon our sailors' excellent training, technical knowledge, and dedication to their work," Caldwell, the commander of the USS Ross, said in a U.S. European Command news release. "It was a distinct honor to hear firsthand from our commander in chief that these operations had a direct impact in support of his national objectives."
The USS Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, departed on its third forward-deployed patrol Nov. 30, 2016, and is conducting routine patrols in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe, according to the Eucom release. Slough took command of the USS Porter on Jan. 28, 2016. In February, the USS Porter went to the Black Sea and participated in the Romanian led exercise Sea Shield.
In March, the USS Porter participated in the multilateral Allied Maritime Command anti-submarine, anti-surface warfare Exercise Dynamic Manta 2017. Also in March, the Porter was awarded the 2016 Atlantic Fleet "Bloodhound" award, signifying the best ship in the fleet at anti-submarine warfare.
"In general, the president said he was impressed with Porter's precision and lethality,” Slough said. “It was obvious he was extremely pleased with our performance, and is glad we're out here patrolling in U.S. 6th Fleet.”
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.
During a briefing today at the Pentagon, Centcom spokesman Army Col. John Thomas said that 59 missiles targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems and radars.
“We didn't crater the runway; we were not trying to make the airfield long-term inoperable. What we did was degrade the Syrians' ability to carry out chemical weapons attacks from that base in the short term,” Thomas told reporters.
He said the strike blew up “tens of thousands of gallons of fuel” and “destroyed or rendered inoperable” more than 20 aircraft.
“What we didn't strike were any areas that we believed Russian soldiers were operating out of,” Thomas added, “and we didn't strike what we believe was the munitions area where there may have been chemical weapons so we wouldn't create a plume [of toxic gases] or any further damage or harm to personnel.”
After the strike, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve commander Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend positioned and called-in resources needed for force protection “in case anybody wanted to take retaliatory actions,” Thomas said.
Also in Syria, coalition forces and partnered vetted Syrian opposition forces repelled an attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria of a partnered military base in southern Syria on April 8, according to a CJTF-OIR news release.
ISIS initiated the attack on the Tanf garrison near the Syria-Jordan border with a vehicle bomb, and that 20 to 30 ISIS fighters, some wearing suicide vests, followed with a ground assault, the release said.
Coalition and partnered forces defended against the attack with direct fire before multiple coalition airstrikes destroyed enemy assault vehicles and killed fighters with multiple coalition airstrikes.
Along with close air support, the coalition provided ground and medevac support, Thomas said.
“The vetted Syrian opposition repulsed a coordinated, complex attack,” he added. “Three partner-force soldiers were killed in that engagement, but it was successful in defeating dozens of attackers in that area.”
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)