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Behind naming of the military operation in Libya

Defence secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday that United States military operations in Libya are expected to wind down in the coming days, marking the eventual end of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

world Updated: Mar 23, 2011 23:39 IST

Defence secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday that United States military operations in Libya are expected to wind down in the coming days, marking the eventual end of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

The name assigned to the air campaign might sound like the title of a rock album or a video game, and the moniker has no specific meaning and nothing to do with Libya, its people or the country’s leader, Moammar Gadhafi, according to Eric Elliott, a spokesman for US Africa Command, or AFRICOM.

“You have operational names like Desert Storm or Iraqi Freedom that convey a message” and are chosen by the White House or senior Pentagon officials, Elliott said in an interview. “Others, like Operation African Lion (an exercise in Morocco in 2009), are symbolic of the location. Odyssey Dawn is neither of those.”

The Pentagon permits military commanders to assign two-word nicknames to military exercises or operations using instructions laid out in a carefully crafted Defence Department naming policy. The instructions assign each military command a certain set of words that must be used to select the name’s first word.

AFRICOM is assigned to use pairings of words that start with JS to JZ, NS to NZ and OA to OS, according to Elliott. A recent headquarters exercise was called Judicious Response, and another recent operation used the NS to NZ range, leaving OA to OS as the only option, he said. A group of lieutenant colonels and majors met several weeks ago and agreed that on Odyssey. Then “they sat around and brainstormed for a random word that went well with it,” Elliott said.

Commanders are prohibited from using “project,” “exercise” or “operation” as one of the two words and cannot use words that may be used as a single word or two words, such as “moonlight.” The policy also bars “exotic words,” “trite expressions” and “well-known commercial trademarks.”

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