Rear Adm. Bullard fashions a force for a wide array of naval missions
As commander of the new Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), Rear Adm. Donald K.
Bullard provides trained and equipped forces to the nation’s nine combatant commands, such as the
Central and Southern commands.
Some of his units are tailored for the Navy’s new emphasis on riverine and coastal warfare, force protection and nation-building. Others perform traditional roles such as naval construction and explosive ordnance
disposal (EOD). Bullard’s 40,000 active and reserve sailors include
Riverines, naval coastal warfare crews, Seabees, diving and salvage
specialists and experts in maritime civil action.
Since Bullard assumed command in January 2006, his staff has grown
from 13 to 160 as it absorbed many of the Navy’s special-purpose units.
A naval aviator, Bullard has served in four attack squadrons and commanded a strike fighter squadron, an amphibious assault ship, an aircraft
carrier and a carrier strike group. Included in his staff assignments is a
tour in 2002-2003 as deputy commander of the Combined Joint Task
Force, Horn of Africa, when the Navy provided the command staff for
the antiterrorist and civic action activities in East Africa and Yemen.
D. KEVIN ELLIOTT
Bullard said his goals there included helping other countries improve their
performance in the war on terrorism and denying sanctuary and freedom
of movement to terrorists in the Horn of Africa. His tenure in East Africa
helped him prepare for his present post. In an interview at his office in
Norfolk, Va., with Managing Editor Richard R. Burgess, Bullard discussed
the creation of the NECC and the challenges ahead. Excerpts follow.
What was the main challenge in establishing
BULLARD: The bringing together of this existing
force, which has a high operational tempo on deployment, while standing up new commands, as well as
standing up a new headquarters staff, all simultaneously, was challenging for our people. It’s been challenging
but not overwhelming.
How did your service in the Horn of Africa affect
your understanding of your role with NECC?
BULLARD: My time in the Horn of Africa has helped
mold the vision of NECC as well as the chief of naval
operations’ vision of what he asked us to accomplish.
Basically, it was a naval mission in the joint environment. We came from the sea and we established a presence. It involved maritime security training and theater
security cooperation to help improve other countries’
participation in the war on terrorism. We gathered intelligence and denied sanctuary and freedom of movement
to terrorists in the Horn of Africa. It involved improving
force protection in the ports. It gave me a good background and a feeling of a large portion of what NECC’s
contribution to the maritime mission can be.