Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tactical airlift initiatives further Air Force's Total Force Integration

C-130s on the Dobbins flightline (USAF Photo)

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, announced four proposed initiatives concerning C-130 tactical airlift today, each of which furthers the service's vision for a seamless Total Force.

The initiatives, which would impact communities in Tennessee, New York, Georgia and Arkansas, are part of the Total Force Integration effort to create innovative organizational arrangements among Regular Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve components. The effort strives to leverage the strengths inherent within each of the three components.

The Tennessee Air National Guard's 118th Airlift Wing has been selected for the proposed standup of a Formal Training Unit at Nashville International Airport. The unit's day-to-day peacetime mission will be training allied Airmen from strategic partner nations to safely fly and effectively employ C-130s, which will simultaneously prepare the wing for its federal wartime mission of surge training additional U.S. Airmen.

This arrangement will fill a critical need for international training that has gone unmet in recent years. To meet the need, the Tennessee Air National Guard will acquire WC-130Hs, well-suited for the unit's newfound training mission, while its current C-130H aircraft are scheduled for disbursement as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, process.

The Chief of Staff also formally announced the strategy for Airmen in the New York Air National Guard to partner with the Air Force Reserve Command's 914th Airlift Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, as directed by the 2005 BRAC. Based on four decades of experience associating Regular Air Force and Reserve airlift wings, this Reserve/Guard association will be only the second such associate model ever established and the first-ever in combat delivery.

The 914th AW will continue to have primary responsibility for the unit's C-130H airlifters, but will partner with the 107th Air National Guard Wing Airmen in employing these aircraft.

Such associations generate efficiencies by sharing resources and reducing duplication of effort, providing contingency surge capability, preserving a corporate body of knowledge and enhancing retention and recruitment for the Total Force through personnel cross-flow. They also help maintain aircrew and maintenance expertise and experience levels, and reduce peacetime training hours, thus saving money.

Also announced today, the 94th Airlift Wing, Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga., will convert from a domestic C-130 Formal Training Unit to a combat-coded unit, transitioning its C-130 crews into the Air Expeditionary Force rotation. The conversion will provide additional in-theater airlift while simultaneously reducing the deployment frequency of other Total Force C-130 units.

Finally, Little Rock Air Force Base, the Tactical Airlift Center of Excellence, will not only absorb the domestic training formerly done by the 94th AW, but will also expand its C-130J training responsibilities, including training international partners on the C-130J. The center will continue to grow in aircraft numbers and manpower over the next four years.

"Because today's strategic landscape is dynamic and threatening, we have to ensure that, as a Total Air Force, we continuously search for and find innovative ways to leverage the limited resources we have available to increase our combat and homeland defense capabilities," said Gen. Moseley. "These initiatives will strengthen an already powerful partnership, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of our collective efforts."

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

USS Ohio Departs for Maiden Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW) Maebel Tinoko, Fleet Public Affairs Center Det. Northwest

USS Ohio (SSGN 726) departed from Naval Base (NB) Kitsap, Bremerton delta pier for her maiden deployment as a guided-missile submarine, Oct. 14.

Ohio was recently converted from a ballistic missile submarine to a guided-missile submarine and was the first of four in its class to undergo the conversion.

"Today is a very special day for the Sailors on board the USS Ohio and this marks a major installment for the nation," said Rear Adm. Frank M. Drennan, commander Submarine Group TRIDENT. "We took a covert platform with immense volume and created a base at sea for special operations forces."

In December, Ohio completed its conversion to a guided-missile submarine and is now capable of hauling more than 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles and more than 60 special operations force members for extended periods of time. This conversion is a colossal step forward in the Navy's ability to continue to provide a forward deployed presence.

"We made a pledge to the nation five years ago and today, we proved our promise to revolutionize an old platform and transform it to something that's more relevant with more capabilities and additional striking power," said Drennan.

"I feel great to be part of the newest and greatest submarine in the fleet," said Fire Control Technician 3rd Class (SS) Nathanial Couch. "This is an amazing submarine and a very valuable tool for the Navy."

The new and improved submarine platform provides national decision makers with robust conventional missile strike capabilities and the ability to embark, deploy and provide command and control functions for special operations forces.

Ohio was the first Trident submarine ever built. The ship entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Nov. 15, 2002.

USS Michigan (SSGN 727) and USS Florida (SSGN 728) have also completed their conversion process and are in the testing and certification phase. USS Georgia (SSGN 729) is scheduled to complete its conversion later this year.

"This submarine was the first SSBN submarine in our fleet years ago and she's always been number one," said Drennan. "Today, once again, she is back to being number one."

VP-1 Aircrew Trains with Sub to Promote Op Readiness

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (NAC) Jason Beckjord, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Public Affairs

Sailors from the Patrol Squadron (VP) 1 "Screaming Eagles," P-3C squadron, of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, conducted anti-submarine warfare training, Oct. 18.

They began their preflight inspections of their equipment before taking off, early in the morning. The combat aircrew (CAC) flew for nearly an hour before arriving at their on station point and began the hunt for the submarine.

In order to ensure CAC's are prepared to track in a real world environment, crews are trained with the use of real submarines.

"There are certain things you can't simulate," said Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class (AW/NAC) Brian Wing, VP-1 CAC 12. "Things like the water environment and the weather can have an affect on both the aircrew and the sensors we use to hunt and track submarines. We train like we fight, so, there are early morning hours as well as night flights."

Tracking and hunting submarines is one of the many capabilities of the P-3C Orion, making flights like these very important in terms of operational readiness.

"Operational readiness helps keep everyone proficient," said Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class (NAC) Raymond Perez, VP-1 CAC 7.

Due to aircraft maintenance, weather conditions, runway availability, and other variables, VP-1 aircrews often work long hours to make sure the mission is accomplished. Even though the hours are unusual, VP-1 aircrews are committed to the business of being a part of the Navy's frontline antisubmarine force.

"The squadron can get pretty hectic," said Information Systems Technician Seaman Josh Burke, VP-1. "There's always a bunch of flights, simulators and training days. We are always busy, especially as we ramp up for deployment."

VP-1 aircrew and maintenance personnel work long and arduous hours to maintain peak readiness for deployment to areas of operation all over the world. Since their return in 2006 from a Western-Pacific deployment, the Screaming Eagles have consistently trained in preparation for their next deployment.

Though anti-submarine warfare is only one aspect of the P-3C mission, all of VP-1's 12 aircrews maintain operational currency in this qualification as well as many other P-3C capabilities.

Air Force to fly elephant from Alaska to California

Blog Editors Note: Now here is an interesting monitoring challenge. I wonder which milair monitoring enthusiast will catch this flight on their radios?

Air Force members will fly Maggie, a 25-year-old African elephant at the Alaska Zoo, on a C-17 Globemaster IIIs cargo aircraft to her new home in California Nov. 1.

Maggie will fly from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, to Travis AFB, Calif., aboard the Alaskan-based C-17.

Officials with the Alaska Zoo and the Performing Animals Welfare Society, or PAWS, the sanctuary where Maggie will call home, contacted the Air Force because no commercial options existed to safely move the elephant. The PAWS organization is reimbursing the Air Force for all costs incurred from moving Maggie.

The 10,000 pound crate designed to move Maggie arrived last week at the Alaska Zoo. The crate is 10'1" high, 8'3" wide and 18' long. The entire trip is expected to take approximately 12 hours from the time when Maggie leaves the Alaska Zoo to her arrival at PAWS.

"In addition to providing flexible airlift capability for the Department of Defense, the Air Force can provide selective assistance when commercial options aren't available. We look forward to flying Maggie to her new home in California on an Alaska based C-17's," said Lt. Gen. Douglas M. Fraser, the 11th Air Force commander.

Maggie arrived at the Alaska Zoo in 1983 when she was just a year old. The board of directors of the zoo voted to relocate Maggie to PAWS last month after determining it was in the best interest to her health and well-being to be with other elephants in a milder climate. Elephants can live up to 70 years.

7th Space Warning Squadron successfully guides interceptor

by 1st Lt. Michael Trett and 1st Lt. Matt Innes, 7th Space Warning Squadron

7th Space Warning Squadron has a primary mission of missile warning, a corollary mission of missile defense, and secondary mission of space surveillance in support of space superiority. 7th SWS is a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson AFB, Colo. (U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif -- The 7th Space Warning Squadron's Upgraded Early Warning Radar recently guided an interceptor to track and destroy a test missile 230 kilometers above the Earth's surface.

The missile was launched from the Kodiak launch complex in Alaska and flew over the Pacific while the UEWR tracked its every move by sending information to the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Fire Control and Communications element in Colorado Springs, Colo., Sept. 28.

"The missile warning and defense capability demonstrated by the 7th SWS and mission partners was a huge success displaying our ability to defend America," said Lt. Col. Joey Hinson, 21st Operations Group deputy commander.

Approximately 17 minutes after the missile was launched, military operators launched an interceptor toward the missile from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., which received live updates on the missile flight path from UEWR and other sensors. As the two objects flew closer, the interceptor released the final weapon, an exoatmospheric kill vehicle, which locked in on the target until it was destroyed.

"Now instead of just warning about incoming missiles, 7th SWS has the capability to cue interceptors to take out missiles before they reach the United States," said Lt. Col. Keith Skinner, 7th SWS commander.

7th SWS has a primary mission of missile warning, a corollary mission of missile defense, and secondary mission of space surveillance in support of space superiority. 7th SWS is a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson AFB, Colo.

The "Eyes to the West" team consists of U.S. Air Force, Canadian Air Force, government civilians, and BAE Systems contractors responsible for the day-to-day operations and maintenance of the radar.

UEWR was the primary sensor in a large complex mission involving about 1,000 government and contractor personnel and more than 50 assets worldwide.

AF launches Delta II/GPS mission

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- The U.S. Air Force successfully launched a United Launch Alliance Delta II booster carrying the fourth modernized GPS satellite into space Oct. 17 8:23 a.m. (EDT) from Space Launch Complex 17A here.

The satellite will join the constellation of 30 operational satellites on orbit providing global coverage and increased performance of the GPS services to users worldwide.

"The 45th Space Wing and its mission partners have again accomplished another major milestone in our national quest to improve and maintain our space capabilities," said Col. Stephen Butler, 45th Space Wing vice commander. "The GPS constellation has worldwide significance and all of the satellites are launched from right here at the world's premier gateway to space."

GPS is the world's foremost space-based positioning and navigation system. Endeavors such as mapping, aerial refueling, rendezvous operations, geodetic surveying and search and rescue operations have all benefited from GPS's accuracy.

"GPS is not only a military asset, but a national asset due to its civil applications," said Capt. Bill Bakker, GPS IIR field program manager, 45th Launch Support Squadron. "This mission is vital to the sustainment of our GPS constellation. Our team takes a great deal of satisfaction and pride in replenishing a constellation that is so critical to our warfighters."

Canadian Snowbirds end season on high note

by Senior Airman Eydie Sakura, 341st Space Wing Public Affairs Office

MOOSE JAW, Saskatchewan -- The Canadian Forces Snowbirds aerial demonstration team celebrated their end-of-season show with special guests, family and friends in Moosejaw Oct. 12.

The 15th Wing commander, Col. R.D. Foster, and the Snowbirds team invited a small group from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., and the Montana Air National Guard, up to Canada to thank them for their efforts in the crash recovery May 18, 2007, when Snowbirds 2 pilot, Capt. Shawn McCaughey died during a practice flight at Malmstrom prior to the team's two scheduled shows at the base's open house.

The celebratory end-of-season events kicked off with a 40-minute aerial acrobatics show, demonstrating the Snowbirds' precision movements and choreographed teamwork.

"Today's show was great, because just yesterday we were in those planes flying some of those exact same routines," said Col. Steve Asher, 341st Security Forces Group commander. "I appreciated the show much more today because we saw first-hand how much goes into each of the performances."

Colonel Asher and eight other Airmen received incentive flights Oct. 11 in the Snowbirds' signature plane, the CT-114 Tutor, in appreciation of all their efforts in May during the Snowbirds' season-opener event.

"The idea of flying in a Snowbird sounds far-fetched, and I'm still in disbelief that I took part in something of that magnitude," said Airman 1st Class Kenvin Keophakdy, 341st Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician. "I'm very thankful I had the opportunity to honor a fallen pilot and to represent my country. In retrospect, tragedy is the soil that births many triumphs."

Maj. Robert Mitchell, Snowbirds commanding officer, said the year-end show is a culmination of the team's season and it's the opportunity to share the good experiences and bad experiences, but most importantly, it's about a celebration.

The festivities rolled into the evening hours, and roughly 180 people attended the Snowbirds' formal dining-in celebration here. The dinner featured several guest speakers and award presentations, as well as formal farewells to out-going teammates. Throughout the day of celebration, however, there was time for remembrance and reflection for fallen comrades. Major Mitchell said even though the team endured a great loss, the experience brought them closer together.

"We started out our season on a sad note; from day one, man, what a kick in the head for a team. Our very first day of the show season and we lost a great guy and a good friend," the major said. "That [experience] has changed every one of us. The team rose out of this and rose to greatness this year. Shawn's last gift to us was tightening our team."

The word "thank you" was brought up several times during the day, spoken from the mouths of people from Moose Jaw and the 15th Wing, and landed in the direction of the Airmen from Malmstrom and MANG during their visit with their Canadian counterparts.

Major Mitchell echoed those words of thanks and said he hopes to continue the friendship that has blossomed over the course of the spring and summer months.

"I cannot thank you enough for what you folks provided to us when we were down [at Malmstrom]," the Snowbirds commanding officer said. "It was obviously a difficult time, and what we saw has left a wonderful feeling of humanity for most of the people on the team; the way you rose up and provided everything, and a genuine concern for our team and our welfare. It's become an indelible part of the Snowbird experience, and we are connected to Malmstrom, and I hope it continues for many, many years."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Taking the Weekend Off!

Unless an event of major portions breaks, I won't be here on the blog this weekend. Instead you can catch me hanging around this event, see my personal blog post on this page at

Good luck to one and all.
73 and CU on the dials.


USAF CV-22 Osprey flies first SAR mission

by Lia Martin, 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFPN) -- A CV-22 Osprey assigned to the 58th Special Operations Wing here participated in the aircraft's first search and recovery mission, responding to the fatal crash of a medical aircraft in the mountains of southern Colorado.

Airport officials lost contact with the Arizona-based Beechcraft King airplane at 11:22 p.m. Oct. 4 as the air ambulance headed toward San Luis Regional Medical Center while responding to a medical call.

At about 9:15 a.m. Oct. 5, the Air Force Rescue Center contacted Kirtland Air Force Base with a call to help at the request of civil authorities. Initially, the mission was considered search and rescue because the condition of those aboard the downed aircraft was unknown.

The response team quickly prepared to take off. Aircraft included the CV-22, a pair of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, and a MC-130P Combat Shadow to provide aerial refueling and serve as air mission control for the operation. Capt. Scott Gwin, aircraft commander on the Osprey, credited the maintenance crew for preparing the aircraft for the speedy search and rescue effort.

The Osprey took off between 11:35 and 11:40 a.m.

"We knew our piece of this was to get up there as quickly as we could and find the crash site," Captain Gwin said.

The captain pointed out that an advantage of the Osprey is that it can take off and land just about anywhere -- saving minutes and hopefully lives.

The Airmen knew weather and altitude would be major obstacles in the rescue effort. The last known radar of the air-ambulance placed it near the top of a huge mountain. The altitude of the crash was expected to be higher than 11,000 feet. Helicopters of any kind have challenges in higher altitudes.

Captain Gwin searched the west and then the east side of the mountain as high as the Osprey could go before clouds made it impossible to see. By then, the MC-130P was orbiting above the site and above the cloud cover and was able to find the crash site with its sensors.

The MC-130P passed the crash location coordinates to the Osprey crew so they could make visual contact and determine if there was evidence of survivors.

Seeing no such evidence, Captain Gwin gave the coordinates to the HH-60G crews so they could land at the crash site and search the area.

Capt. James Grigson, also of the 58th Special Operations Wing, was co-pilot for the HH-60G that landed near the crash site. He said the crew took out some of the fuel tanks from his helicopter to make the aircraft lighter. This would allow the helicopter greater flexibility in landing in a higher altitude but it also meant they would need to refuel in the air at some point during the operation.

"We were on the ragged edge of performance with minimal fuel," Captain Grigson said. "We had 30 minutes to work with."

Captain Grigson said they flew to the ranch where civilians were monitoring the rescue operation at a lower elevation. They picked up a local paramedic to help the crew decide which medical facility was appropriate after seeing the injuries of any survivors. The HH-60G then flew to the crash site.

The helicopter landed on the mountain at nearly 12,000 feet. The second HH-60G was too heavy to land. The civilian paramedic and a pararescueman searched for survivors but found none.

The crews called in civilian rescue workers to retrieve the three bodies of the crash victims: a nurse, a paramedic and the pilot of the fallen aircraft.

Though the Osprey was primarily built to be an amphibious assault transport of troops, equipment and supplies from assault ships and land bases, it has proved it can be versatile on search and rescue missions. The Osprey incorporates features of a helicopter and a fixed-wing plane.

The Osprey is a tilt-rotor aircraft which can operate as a helicopter when taking off and landing vertically. Once airborne, the CV-22 converts to a high-speed, fuel-efficient turboprop airplane.

The Osprey can fly at 316 miles per hour in airplane mode and 115 miles per hour in helicopter mode. The aircraft's ceiling is 26,000 feet and it can hold 60,000 pounds of cargo. The aircraft is used by the Air Force, Marines and the Navy.

Kirtland Air Force Base has four CV-22 Ospreys, with plans to add two more by fiscal 2010.

Altus supports California firefighting

by Michael Fletcher, 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (AFPN) -- A C-17 Globemaster III crew from the 97th Air Mobility Wing here mobilized Oct. 24 to airlift firefighting equipment and personnel to California in support of ongoing efforts to control the wildfires there.

"We flew to San Antonio to pick up (Army) Maj. Gen. Thomas Matthews, commander of Operations Command Post 2 with U.S. Army North at Fort Sam Houston, Texas," said Col. Keith Tobin, the 97th Operations Group commander and command pilot on the flight.

General Matthews is leading a command assessment team with emergency response vehicles and equipment. The 15-person team of civilian, active duty and Reserve members is part of a command and control structure for the firefighting relief effort.

Colonel Tobin described his "bird's eye view" of the Southern California fires as he piloted the C-17 to its landing.

"Coming into (Los Angeles International Airport) I could clearly see the fire line to the south toward San Diego," the colonel said. "To the north, the whole skyline was blotted out by rippled layers of smoke. I couldn't see the actual flames, but the extent of the fire line was obvious."

Air Force active duty and Reserve units are providing airlift of teams and equipment into central California and other incident command post locations.

The Air Force team returned to Altus Air Force Base late Oct. 24 after completing the mission.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

NATO Fighters Intercept Russian Aircraft

The following extract taken from Russian MOD website, translated and submitted for information and interest by Old Crow. Date of article 25th October 2007.

NATO fighter aircraft escort our "strategic chaps"

Six TU-95MS (Bear H), two TU-22M3 (Backfire), four TU-160 (Blackjack) and two IL-78 (Tanker??) aircraft in the course of carrying out tactical exercises under the direction of CinC Air Forces, Colonel-General Aleksandr Zelin, today carried out patrols over the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans and over the Black Sea. These flights are being flown at night as well as during the day.

The "strategic exercises" are being accomplished in accordance with the plan for combat training and carried out strictly in accordance with International regulations covering the use of air-space over neutral/International waters and make no incursions into other countries' air space.

The Strategic TU-160 and TU-95MS carrying out the patrol flights were escorted during their flights over International waters by NATO fighters - "F-16" and "Tornado" - for more than 8 hours. The fighter aircraft flew along parallel headings but did not interfere with the assigned missions of (our) "strategic" crews.

Details of what the Russians are doing can be found at on this blog in an article posted yesterday at:

"High Rollers" continue fighting California wildfires

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman (SW) Sarah E. Bitter, Fleet Public Affairs Center, Pacific
Crew members aboard a MH-60S Seahawk helicopter activate a release button, dumping 420 gallons of water below them on a burning target. HSC-85 has teamed up with the San Diego California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to help put out the wild fires blazing across Southern California. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Kelling)

Navy firefighting helicopters from the "High Rollers" of Helicopter Sea Combat Support (HSC) 85 based at Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) continued their second day of missions Oct. 23, as they attacked wildfires in San Diego County, supporting the California Department of Forestry (CalFire).

Two MH-60S helicopters were sent up to battle the Harris Ranch Fires in San Diego. Forty other helicopters from NASNI were also on standby to support other mission areas.

"We began our second day of sorties at 8 a.m. this morning and the guys will not stop until sunset," said Capt. Matthew Pringle, commodore of HSC-85. "We are working in conjunction with CalFire and coordinating under Navy Region Southwest. We have met all requests; as soon as there is a call we are there to put out the fire."

Pringle stood up the Helo Coordination Center (HCC) as the single point of contact for operations related to evacuations, search and rescue, bucket brigade, fire-spotting and fire-mapping operations Oct. 22.

"This is a complicated airspace. We are having to coordinate our mission with all of the other helicopter flying," added Pringle. "HSC-85 is very capable of being where it needs to be."

The squadron is the only one in the San Diego area trained to provide firefighting support to military installations and trains for this mission regularly. That training was proven valuable in the California Cedar Fires of 2003, detailing operating procedures and the type of support the Navy could provide in fire emergencies.

"It is tough out there, but by us being out here we are adding another dimension by providing air support," said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Wilderman, operations officer at HSC-85.

The helicopters each carry 420 gallons of water, a four-member aircrew team and were launched to help with firefighting efforts Oct 22.

"My job is to sit in the back of the helicopter and direct the pilots on when and where to drop the bucket; as well as where they need to put the water onto to the fire," said Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 1st Class Ryan Grant, helicopter crew chief of HSC-85. "I really love being out here. I am having the chance to help out the community by just doing my job."

A hotline number for evacuation housing referrals and general assistance was established at: 619-556-9399.

Key and essential personnel including all Naval Medical Center San Diego personnel should report for duty as directed by their respective commands.

Emergency shelter and evacuation centers for military personnel are available at Naval Base San Diego Prout Field House (Dry Side of Naval Base SD), and at Naval Base Coronado.

The following frequencies are from the Teak Publishing Military Communications Guide. The material is copyright 2007 by Teak Publishing, and is for the personal use of the Milcom Monitoring Post blog readers. This list may not be reposted, published, or reprinted in any form, but links to this story and frequencies are permitted.

NAS North Island, California
233.7000 Ground Controlled Approach
233.8000 National Guard (CA) Operations
238.8000 HSL-43 Air-to-Air
246.8000 MH-60S Helicopter Air-to-Air
250.4000 ASW Operations Net
255.0000 Naval Air Repair Depot
256.4000 HSL-45 Air-to-Air
263.4000 Flight Support
273.7000 Miscellaneous Net
275.6000 ASW Operations Net
275.7000 Air-to-Ground
281.3000 LAMPS MK III Tactics
285.1000 VR-57/VRC-30 Squadron Common
288.2500 Clearance Delivery
291.2000 LAMPS MK III Control
297.5000 Flight International
305.8000 Miscellaneous Net
307.6000 ASW Operations Net
310.0000 NADEP Flight Operations
310.3000 ASW Operations Net
313.2000 Ground Controlled Approach
317.5500 Approach/Departure Control
317.8000 ATIS
319.9000 Ground Controlled Approach
320.2000 HS-4 Air-to-Air
324.9000 HS Squadrons Common
325.1000 ASW Helicopter Operations Net
326.9000 ASW Operations Net
328.5000 Helicopter Common
335.7500 Flight International
336.4000 Tower
339.0000 Flight International
340.2000 Tower
342.3500 Metro
342.7000 ASW Operations Net
346.7000 TSCC ASW Operations Net
346.8000 Air-to-Air/Air-to-Ground
347.9000 ASW Operations Net
349.9000 Miscellaneous Net
350.8000 Ground Controlled Approach
350.9000 Fleet HS Squadrons Base/Maintenance
352.5000 ASW Operations Net
353.5000 Ground Controlled Approach
355.1000 Air Operations
355.5000 Base Operations
357.8250 Flight International
360.6750 Ground Control
382.0000 Ground Controlled Approach
384.4000 Fleet HSL Squadrons: HSL-41/43/47 Base/Maintenance Squadrons Common
385.0500 Aircraft Ground Support
385.5000 Ground Controlled Approach
389.9000 Ground Controlled Approach
Other frequencies to watch for activity: 238.0000 238.0500 238.1000 238.1500 238.2000 253.9000 253.9500 266.7000 280.2000 285.1000 309.0000 311.7000 324.6000 328.5000 344.0000 350.3500 352.4000 356.8000 MHz

US Navy San Diego Regional TRS
System: Motorola Type II Smartnet
Motorola System ID: 270f
Connect Tone: 83.72 Hz
Base Frequency: 406.000 MHz, Spacing: 25-kHz; Offset: 380
Frequencies: 406.3500 406.7500 407.1500 407.5500 407.9500 408.3500 408.9500c 409.1500c 409.5500c 409.9500c
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Air Force Reserve unit activated to fight California fires

by Maj. James R. Wilson, 302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFPN) -- Two Air Force Reserve Command firefighting C-130 Hercules aircraft left Oct. 23 to help battle the raging wildfires in Southern California.

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, requested Department of Defense assistance in fighting the fires which put the wheels in motion for the mobilization of about 30 reservists from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

The aircraft arrived at Point Mugu Naval Air Station, Calif., where they joined other military aircraft providing additional firefighting capabilities.

"The Air Force Reserve has had this mission for roughly 15 years," said Capt. Brian McReynolds, a C-130 pilot and member of the Colorado Springs-based unit. "We have the right people and the safest equipment available for this mission. This is what we love to do."

The planes departed with the Modular Airborne Firefighting System in place. When loaded inside the cargo bay, MAFFS units convert the aircraft from a transporter to an aerial tanker capable of dispersing fire-retardant slurry to extinguish wildfires. The Airmen said they hoped to begin flying missions in California early Oct. 24.

"We'll hit the ground right away," said Lt. Col. Dave Condit, the AFRC MAFFS program coordinator at Peterson AFB. "We may have to wait until the winds die down just a little bit. As soon as the winds permit us to get in close to the fire, (we'll start flying our missions.)"

Crewmembers certified on the MAFFS equipment said their objective is not to put the fire out, but to follow the lead of aviators from the Forest Service to lay lines of containment.

"We have a host of support specialists on the ground to help keep us flying," said the colonel. "It's sort of like a NASCAR pit stop. When we roll into the pits, we'll stop our engines. (The ground crew) will run up, refill the aircraft with fuel, slurry and compressed air, which we need to pump the retardant out. Then we'll get back in the air as quickly as we can."

The process for replenishing the aircraft can be performed in 8 to 12 minutes, according to officials from Peterson. It is repeated as often as necessary to sustain firefighting operations throughout daylight hours.

All of the MAFFS equipped-flying units are currently in the Air Force's air reserve components -- three in the Air National Guard and one in AFRC. By law, MAFFS only can be activated when all other resources have been exhausted.

"We let the civilian tanker fleet take care of the issues first," said Colonel Condit. "If they need assistance, that's when the Department of Defense will roll in. We don't compete for business with civilian (aerial firefighting) companies. Usually if you see us taking off, you know the situation is pretty critical."

The typical aerial firefighting mission is inherently dangerous, which is why the Reserve unit at Peterson AFB only selects the most experienced aviators for the duty.

"We've got people that wait for years to get an opportunity to get certified for this mission," said the colonel. "The unit only takes the most experienced aircrewmembers, and we go through a lot of training and preparation for this.

"Our target altitude is 150 feet above the ground, which is very low for an aircraft this size," he said. "It's a hazardous mission, but we train for it and we're (definitely)prepared. We have a long and proud history of supporting contingencies overseas, but it's always great to be able to support the United States in the United States."

Last year, the 302nd Operations Group's MAFFS mission was activated by the Forest Service to fight wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. The unit flew 18 sorties against fires in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon, dropping 48,600 gallons of retardant.

AFNORTH deploys air coordination team to California

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) -- Air Forces Northern officials are deploying an air component coordination element to support firefighting operations in Southern California.

The air component coordination element, or ACCE, is an Air Force team designed to perform the command and control function for Air Force assets supporting the efforts.

When the Federal Emergency Management Agency requested Defense Department resources to help with the relief operations in Southern California, AFNORTH officials sent the eight-person element to coordinate any airlift, aeromedical evacuation, medical support, aerial assessment and civil engineering capabilities as needed.

"Like all citizens, we are saddened by the loss of life and property," said Maj. Gen. Henry C. "Hank" Morrow, the AFNORTH commander. "America's Air Force has answered the call for assistance to the California wildfire crisis. Our folks are working long hours to help Americans in need."

"Defense support to civil authorities is a total team and interagency effort," said Brig. Gen. Robert O. Tarter, the ACCE team commander. "We coordinate all Air Force capabilities for the task force, and work directly with civilian experts to support their operations. Due to the cooperation of military and civil authorities we will be able to save lives and mitigate property damage."

The ACCE is helping to provide critical Air Force assistance in areas needing it most; delivering essential supplies, conducting vital command and control of rescues and evacuation of survivors from the disaster area.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Russian Long Range Bomber Missions Are Spiking Again

The following is a translation from Russian into English by the Old Crow taken off the Russian Ministry of Defense website. The article was dated 24 October 2007. It appears that the spike in the number of missions for the Russian Long Range Aviation units continues.

Long Range Aviaition activities continue...within the framework of Command-Staff training by units of Long Range Aviation. The training is scheduled to run from 16th to 30th October under the direction of CinC Air Forces - Colonel-General Aleksandr Zelin. Today, 24th October and tomorrow 25th October, as many as 10 aircraft: TU-160 (Blackjack), TU-95MS (Bear H) and IL-78 Tankers will carry out flights over the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans and also the Black Sea. The flights will occur at night and during the day and will include in-flight refuelling.

The Russian Strategic Aviation flights will be accomplished in observance of the schedule for combat training and will be carried out strictly in accordance with International rules governing military flights over international waters and will not violate the airspace of other nations.

Previous articles on this subject here on the Milcom blog include:

Blog Editor's Note: Recently reported Russian Long Range Air Force frequencies from REA4 Moscow 1000/50 include: 2721.0 4179.0 4706.0 5157.0 7018.0 9193.0 11408.0 23961.0 kHz.

Military Personnel, Assets Help to Battle California Fires

By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service
An MH-60S Seahawk assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 85, lifts a full 420-gallon extinguishing trough from a local reservoir near the raging wildfires in San Diego County. The trough is used to dump water to help fend off the fires that have already forced more than 250,000 people from their homes. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris Fahey)

Military personnel and assets are helping out in the most serious outbreak of wildfires in California in years.

California National Guard and California-based active-duty personnel are providing some of the muscle needed to contain the fires, which have driven more than 300,000 people from their homes in 12 counties.

Officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, are working with representatives from U.S. Northern Command to coordinate requests for DoD personnel and assets. Northern Command also has personnel working in Southern California directly with local authorities.

With 11 fires burning out of control from Los Angeles to the Mexican border, some DoD installations are themselves in danger from the wildfires. Camp Pendleton, the San Diego Marine Recruit Depot and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar are among the installations asking only essential personnel to come in to work.

A total of 17,031 California National Guardsmen are available for employment if the situation calls for it, said officials at U.S. Northern Command. Some 33 active duty, 79 Defense civilian personnel and 1,500 California National Guardsmen are actively engaged or directly supporting firefighting response, security and relief operations.

Another 550 Marines from Camp Pendleton have volunteered to help local authorities fight the fires in San Diego County.

California authorities have requested and the DoD has sent significant firefighting assets to the area. Helicopters are the most effective airborne asset, as the Santa Ana winds -- which are driving the fire -- make flying fixed-wing aircraft dangerous. California Guardsmen are flying a CH-47 and five UH-60 helicopters in the effort.

Navy pilots are flying two MH-60 aircraft in support of local firefighting efforts. The Marine Corps have a CH-46 and three CH-53 helicopters on standby at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, and one additional helicopter on standby at Camp Pendleton. All of the choppers can drop water using buckets.

On Oct. 22, the National Interagency Fire Center requested six C-130 Hercules aircraft fitted with modular air firefighting systems.

The Air National Guard will deploy four of these aircraft to Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif. They should arrive today. In addition, two C-130s from the 153rd Airlift Wing of the Wyoming Air National Guard, and two from the 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina Air National Guard, are on alert.

Two C-130s from the Air Force Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., also will arrive at Point Mugu Oct 23.

On the ground, the Marine Corps and Navy have deployed six fire trucks each to support local fire fighting efforts. The Navy has also provided a brush truck. All these moves are under mutual aid agreements signed with local authorities.

San Diego has a significantly large Navy population, and an Aegis cruiser, a guided-missile destroyer and two fast frigates will remain in port to support evacuation and movement of family members if necessary.

Officials also have set up the Naval Base San Diego gymnasium as an evacuation center, with room for about 500 people. Sailors also are setting up a 500-person tent city at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, and space for 442 persons is being prepared at Naval Air Station El Centro.

Commanders have issued orders that all sailors ashore in barracks will move aboard ships to provide room for evacuees. The Navy also also providing 500 cots for a shelter at Qualcomm Stadium, home of the National Football League's San Diego Chargers.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has asked the Defense Department to identify a military installation in Southern California to be the forward staging area for supplies flowing south from the FEMA logistics center at Moffitt Field, Calif.

The California National Guard is doing heavy lifting in the effort. The 40th Special Troops Battalion, 40th Brigade Support Battalion and a military police battalion headquarters are providing command and control and logistics support at the Qualcomm Stadium shelter.

The 40th Infantry Brigade Combat Team has alerted two 500-person rapid reaction battalions and two 100-person quick reaction companies. About 100 National Guard medical personnel are augmenting the staff at the San Diego Veteran's Center, which is experiencing critical staffing shortfalls resulting from voluntary and mandatory evacuation.

As the sun begins to rise over Naval Base San Diego, the smoke from the fires hangs overhead. Currently, the numerous fires in San Diego County threaten no Navy facilities. However, Navy Region Southwest has established several Military Evacuation Centers for Navy families (and their pets) who have been forced to evacuate their homes. (U.S. Navy photo by CDR Jane Campbell)

Airmen support STS-120 space shuttle launch

by Ken Warren, 45th Space Wing Public Affairs

Members of the 45th Space Wing here supported NASA's successful launch of Space Shuttle Discovery Oct. 23 from Space Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center on the 23rd mission to the International Space Station.

The wing's support included providing weather forecasts, helping organize and train Department of Defense contingency response forces and assuring a safe launch by tracking the vehicle with an array of radar, telemetry, communications and optical instrumentation via its Eastern Range.

"The Air Force's Eastern Range is a national treasure," said Brig. Gen. Susan J. Helms, the 45th SW commander. "It serves as our East Coast flightline for assuring safe access to space for the shuttle and our expendable vehicles.

The general said the shuttle launch is the third major space launch within 13 days.

"The Air Force/NASA partnership continues to reap huge benefits for our nation" she said. "Nobody does space better."

The Eastern Range supported the launches of an Atlas V carrying the first Wideband Global SATCOM satellite Oct. 10 and a Delta II carrying a Global Positioning Satellite Oct. 17. Discovery will deliver a connecting module that will increase the space station's interior space. Retired Air Force Col. Pamela Melroy is commanding the shuttle mission.

Reserve C-130s helping fight California fires

Two Air Force Reserve Command C-130 Hercules aircraft, equipped with Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems like this C-130 dropping water during annual MAFFS training in New Mexico, have been dispatched to help battle wildfires in California. The aircraft are from the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. (U.S Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Rick Sforza)

Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing here has launched two firefighting C-130 Hercules aircraft to battle the raging wildfires in southern California.

Two additional C-130s also are going to support the operation.

National Interagency Fire Center officials in Boise, Idaho, requested Department of Defense assistance in fighting the fires which put the wheels in motion for mobilization of the reservists from Peterson.

Crews from the 302nd AW loaded the Modular Airborne Firefighting System equipment onto two of their C-130 cargo aircraft. The unit will furnish enough crews to sustain its two firefighting aircraft throughout each daylight hour to help battle wildland fires currently ravaging national forest and private properties in California.

Last year, the 302nd's MAFFS mission at Peterson was activated by the U.S. Forest Service to fight wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. The 302nd flew 18 sorties against fires in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon, dropping 48,600 gallons of retardant.

Navy Supports Firefighting Efforts and Families

A specially equipped MH-60S Seahawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 85 launches from Naval Air Station North Island to conduct operations supporting the California Department of Forestry's efforts in combating the San Diego wildfires. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ahron Arendes)

Navy firefighting efforts in support of CalFire (California Department of Forestry) continued into their second day for ground crews battling the Witch and Harris Ranch Fires in San Diego County Oct. 22, while Navy firefighting helicopters from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 85 based at North Island Naval Air Station began flying missions today once requested by CalFire.

As firefighting efforts continued, many of the 165,000 Navy, Navy civilian and family members that live in San Diego County became subject to evacuation orders as Santa Ana wind conditions drove eight separate fires across the county.

All Navy personnel were directed to muster through their parent commands and online at:

Additionally, a hotline number for evacuation housing referrals and general assistance was established at: 619-556-9399.

Key and essential personnel including all Naval Medical Center San Diego personnel should report for duty as directed by their respective commands.

Emergency shelter and evacuation centers for military personnel are available at Naval Base San Diego Prout Field House (Dry Side of Naval Base SD), and at Naval Base Coronado.

USS Whidbey Island Arrives in 5th Fleet

USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41) entered the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations Oct. 21 to conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in regional waters.

Cmdr. Michael Junge, commanding officer of Whidbey Island, said he and his crew look forward to helping maintain security and stability in the region.

“These Sailors are ready and prepared for any task our commanders assign to us,” he said.

“This area is important to the new maritime strategy. Security in the maritime environment helps maintain continued global commerce and a secure future for other nations,” Junge said.

Whidbey Island, homeported in Norfolk, is on a regularly scheduled deployment.

U.S. 5th Fleet, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, is responsible for an area encompassing approximately 2.5 million square miles of water including the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.

MSO help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations seek to disrupt violent extremists’ use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

NASSG Completes Two Exercises

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Wyscaver, Nassau Strike Group Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- With the Expeditionary Strike Group Integration exercise completed, the Nassau Strike Group (NASSG) continued its training and readiness operations by successfully completing the Fleet Synthetic Training-Joint (FST-J) 08-2 exercise from Oct. 9-19.

With oversight by Commander, 2nd Fleet, FST-J was a distribution training exercise that utilized the Navy’s continuous training environment to provide realistic operational and tactical-level training in a synthetic environment simultaneously at different fleet concentration areas including Mayport, Fla. and Norfolk.

The exercise provided the NASSG a dedicated opportunity to train its decision makers, promote coordination between warfare commanders, execute battle force operations, and familiarize its crews with real-time operations and terminology, all while in an inport training environment.

While FST-J marked the 12th time one or more Atlantic Fleet strike groups trained via a network, it was the first time that an Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) conducted the training from aboard their respective ships. In the past, ESG’s had conducted all or some of the scenario from classrooms at Tactical Training Group Atlantic (TTGL) at Naval Air Station Oceana’s Dam Neck Annex. Here, the scenario was facilitated aboard the strike group ships pierside at Naval Station Norfolk.

"Sailors and Marines had completed their ESG integrated training event and immediately prepared to begin two weeks of a Fleet Synthetic Training scenario," said Capt. Robert G. Lineberry, Commander, Nassau Strike Group.

"Nassau Strike Group was the first Expeditionary Strike Group to conduct this training from aboard their own ships simulating at-sea conditions. The Sailors and Marines looked forward to this challenging and realistic simulation training that provided a wide range of scenarios to train our Blue/Green team in a coalition partnership environment," Lineberry explained.

The exercise was an evolution encompassing classroom instruction, tactical and operational planning, and scenario execution using Joint Semi-Automated Forces and Battle Force Team Trainer architecture. It was comprised of both scripted and dynamic events driven by participant actions. Training events were also leveraged to realize efficiencies during advanced phase training increasing the quality of underway time.

Additionally, conducting training in-port, provides high quality training at low cost. Inport simulation allows the Navy to train with much less stress on equipment while balancing employability/deployability requirements for Sailors. It also allows trainers the opportunity to apply more variety to an exercise. Adversary activity can be added as well as additional aircraft, ships, and submarines without burning fuel or adding wear and tear to ships and equipment.

The NASSG also benefited from mentoring from members of Commander, Strike Force Training, Atlantic; TTGL, and Expeditionary Warfare Training Group, Atlantic staffs, particularly for joint and coalition operations.

Lineberry noted exercises like FST-J are crucial to the readiness of an overall naval force.

"FST-J is an important part of the Fleet Response Program which is designed to provide a naval force that can maintain meaningful forward presence while generating the ability to surge additional combat power as needed to meet regional combatant commander requirements," he explained. "Along with ensuring and testing our overall readiness, also provided some training opportunities throughout the strike group."

"The purpose of any of these training evolutions is to make the Navy and Marine Corps function as one well-oiled machine," said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Bargallo, USS Nassau (LHA 4) combat cargo operations officer. "The reason we train is so we can learn each other’s standard operating procedures while preparing for deployment."

From NASSG, Nassau, USS Nashville (LPD 13), USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), USS Ashland (LSD 48), USS Ross (DDG 71), USS Albany (SSN 753), Amphibious Squadron 6 and 24 Marine Expeditionary Unit all participated in FST-J 08-2, along with coalition crews from ship simulators in the United Kingdom and Germany.

Currently preparing for its regularly scheduled 2008 deployment, the NASSG is made up of more than 5,000 Sailors and Marines.

NAVSUP Announces 2007 Holiday Season Mailing Dates

For all my military friends and thir families, don't forget to remember your soldier, salior, marine or airmen this holiday season. Our hearts and prayers go out to each and everyone of them.

The Naval Supply Systems Command's (NAVSUP) Postal Policy Division recommends mailing 2007 holiday cards, letters, and packages early to ensure delivery by Dec. 25.

Suggested mailing dates for military mail addressed "to" APO/FPO addresses [APO/FPO AE zip codes 090-098 (except 093); AA zip codes 340; AP zip codes 962-966]:
Express Mail Military Service (EMMS): Dec. 18
First-class and priority mail, letters, cards: Dec. 11
Parcel Airlift Mail (PAL): Dec. 4
Space Available Mail (SAM): Nov. 27
Parcel Post: Nov. 13

Suggested mailing dates for military mail addressed "to" APO/FPO AE zip codes 093:
First-class and priority mail, letters, cards: Dec. 4
PAL: Dec. 1
SAM: Nov. 27
Parcel Post: Nov. 13

Suggested mailing dates for military mail "from" APO and FPO addresses:
EMMS: Dec. 18
First-class and priority mail, letters, cards: Dec. 11
PAL: Dec. 4
SAM: Nov. 27

EMMS is available from selected military post offices. If mailing to an APO/FPO address check with your local post office to determine if this service is available.

PAL is a service that provides air transportation for parcels on a space available basis. It is available for parcel post items not exceeding 30 pounds in weight or 60 inches in length and girth combined. The applicable PAL fee must be paid in addition to the regular surface rate of postage for each addressed piece sent by PAL service.

SAM refers to parcels mailed to APO/FPO addresses at parcel post rates that are first transported domestically by surface and then to overseas destinations by air on a space available basis. The maximum weight and size limits are 15 pounds and 60 inches in length and girth combined. From overseas locations, items mailed at parcel post rates are sent to CONUS by air on a space available basis. The maximum weight and size limit are 70 pounds and 130 inches in length and girth combined.

It is also recommended that customers check with their local civilian or military post office for information on size restrictions and possible need for customs declaration forms.

Additionally, customers are advised that certain mail restrictions apply and some items are non-mailable. Examples are: switchblade knives, pornography, controlled substances, and explosive or incendiary devices. If in doubt as to what can or cannot be sent through the mail, contact your local post office or military post office.

Customers are cautioned that packages must not be mailed in boxes that have markings related to any type of hazardous material, such as bleach, alcohol, or cleaning fluids. Parcels found by the U.S. Postal Service with such markings or labels on the outside of the box will not be processed. Instead, they will be handled as "non-mailable matter," regardless of the contents or what is listed on the U.S. Customs form.

RIVRON 1 Sailors Return Home

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John Suits, Fleet Public Affairs Center Atlantic

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Approximately 150 Sailors from Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) 1 returned to Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek (NABLC), Oct. 22, following a seven-month deployment to Iraq.

RIVRON 1 deployed there earlier this year to conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO). The squadron's primary mission was to deny the use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or as a haven for insurgent activities or illegal transportation of weapons, people or material.

This also marks RIVRON 1’s first deployment since Vietnam.

RIVRON 1, led by Commanding Officer Cmdr. William Guarini, worked with Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) to conduct MSO in Iraq.

“Our squadron’s mission was successful because we made a huge impact on the war in Iraq,” said Guarini. “We were very effective in our mission. We operated with the Marines, Army and Iraqis. As we come off this deployment, I believe the Navy Riverines have a bright future ahead of them. Riverines have a unique capability to operate with foreign navies who don’t have large ships, but have a large navy based off patrol boats.”

Sailors shared their experiences while mobilized in a combat environment.

“I’m glad to get back from this deployment,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class(SW/AW/EXW) Erik Kenchin. “I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it. Once we got out there, we knew what we had to do. We worked with the Marines, Army and Special Forces and everybody worked well together, in my opinion. Every mission we set out for, we achieved.”

Information Systems Technician 3rd Class (EXW) Lamar Gordon expressed his thoughts on what he felt he learned while deployed.

“I gained a lot of in-rate knowledge and the fact that we performed a lot in combat situations,” said Gordon. “We had a lot of training on how to talk to the citizens and react with them in certain ways.”

RIVRON 1 is part of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), a global force provider of adaptive force packages of expeditionary capabilities to joint war-fighting commanders.

Bonhomme Richard ESG Departs Australia

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jefferey Gabriel, Commander, Amphibious Force U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs

PERTH, Australia (NNS) -- Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), which includes USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Denver (LPD 9) and USS Rushmore (LSD 47) completed a scheduled port visit to Fremantle and Perth on Oct. 21.

During the five-day visit, Sailors and Marines were involved in friendship-building activities, met local citizens, experienced local customs and traditions, and enjoyed recreational activities offered in Perth.

“This was a great opportunity for our Sailors and Marines to enjoy the rewards of a long and successful deployment,” said Capt. Neil Parrott, commanding officer of Bonhomme Richard. “Australia is a favorite place for us to visit. The crew always enjoys opportunities to visit cities such as Perth and Fremantle. This port visit offered our Sailors and Marines the opportunity to experience the culture of this wonderful city.”

Sailors and Marines participated in various Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) and community relations events, allowing the Sailors and Marines a chance to journey through shopping malls and mingle with locals.

“I feel that the Australian locals were very pleased with our visit to Perth,” said Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class (SW/AW) Horace Reid. “Going the extra mile is an understatement in this case. You could see it in their smiles that they wanted to make an everlasting impression on us as tourists.”

Sailors and Marines met with members of local civic organizations, including the Western Australian Tourism Commission, Fremantle’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Australian-American Association, at a welcoming reception at a local restaurant in Fremantle.

“We got the warmest welcome from the Australians,” said Air Traffic Controller 2nd Class (AW/SW) Christopher Ollinger. “While being served food and drinks, we also entertained each other with questions about our lifestyles. The hospitality was second to none.”

MWR events also opened the door to the region’s culture. According to Chief Yeoman Lovie Rush, the MWR-sponsored Sun Valley Wine, Cheese and Chocolate tour was a good way to learn about Australia’s oldest wine growing region.

“I’m not a wine drinker, but I still attended this tour and ended up having the time of my life,” said Rush. “We visited five wineries and with each wine, we got a sample to go along with the synopsis of them. We also got to sample a variety of chocolates and enjoy[ed] a gourmet platter lunch.”

According to Ship’s Serviceman Seaman Timothy Long, the koalas, kangaroos and sharks tour gave everyone a chance to experience a pleasant side of wildlife.

“Once you see a shark in person, you will immediately notice that they are larger than the television makes them out to be,” said Long. “I also got a chance to feed and touch koalas. Still, my highlight of the tour was when I saw what I think is the fastest kangaroo in the world.”

Sailors and Marines also volunteered time to show their appreciation to their hosts through a variety of community outreach projects benefiting the local community and environment, including assisting the elders at the Perth Hebrew Congregation; planting trees and shrubs to regenerate wetlands with the Conservation Volunteers Australia, Bushland Project; gardening and painting for Valued Independent People, Inc.; and visiting children at the Princess Margaret Hospital.

“I really enjoyed myself,” said Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 2nd Class Corey Willis, who volunteered to help at WEST Australian, Care, Accommodation, Rehabilitation, and Employment, an organization that helps disabled individuals to be independent. “This is a very constructive and rewarding way to spend your day.”

USS Porter Visits Mombassa

The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) stands watch in the Indian Ocean. Porter is conducting Maritime Operations (MO) in the 5th Fleet area of operations with the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Gearhiser)

By Lt. Jim Hoeft, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

MOMBASSA, Kenya (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) departed Mombassa Oct. 19 after a port visit that aimed to continue developing a bilateral partnership.

Porter's port call to Mombasa is the first visit of a U.S. Navy ship to the port city since guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) in 2005 and only the third ship visit since 1999.

“I couldn’t be more pleased over the visit to the port of Mombassa,” said Porter’s Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Robert Hall. “I spent several days meeting key leadership and discussed our ongoing cooperation to improve stability in the region. Our entire crew enjoyed Mombasa’s rich culture.”

Based in Norfolk, Porter has been supporting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the region since arriving in early September. Coalition maritime forces operate throughout international waters in the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

Coalition forces conduct MSO under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that commercial shipping and fishing can occur safely.

USS Miami Completes Undersea Exercise with UK Submarine

By Lt. Cmdr. Greg A. Kuntz, Task Force 54 Public Affairs

NORTH ARABIAN SEA (NNS) -- USS Miami (SSN 755) and HMS Talent (S92) participated in a submarine exercise in the North Arabian Sea Oct. 6-11.

Exercise Sandstone, a bilateral exercise focused on boosting operator confidence with sonar systems, tested the capabilities and tactics of U.S. and U.K. submarines. The navies trained together in a series of exercises designed to provide both units with experience in detecting, tracking and engaging hostile submarines while conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO).

Miami’s Engineer Officer, Lt. Cmdr. Todd Santala, said the exercise was mutually beneficial.

“This exercise was very even—we got as much free play as they did,” Santala said. “While we were running the points for them to test their sonar system, we were able to maneuver and develop our own solutions in the process. This exercise really provided the maximum benefit to both navies.”

The six-day event presented both crews the opportunity to test the operational performance of sonar systems in a warm-water environment. During the exercise, the submarines practiced numerous tactics, taking turns as both hunter and target submarine. In the simulated combat environment, each crew worked to hone the skills necessary to track and evade enemies.

“We don’t often get an opportunity to do these things,” Santala said. “It was very helpful in that respect.”

MSO help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment and complement the counterterrorism and security efforts in regional nations’ littoral waters. Coalition forces also conduct MSO under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that commercial shipping and fishing can occur safely in the region.

Essex Wraps Successful SRA

SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- Amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) finished its Selected Restricted Availability period Oct. 10.

Essex's summer-long SRA improved operational readiness in every department on the ship.

“It was an absolute success,” said SRA Administrative Assistant Lt. John P. Richerson. “This yard period gave us the time we needed to overhaul a number of key systems and make some quality of life upgrades to the crew’s accommodations.”

Some of the major work included several hardware and software upgrades to Essex’s combat systems, a complete resurfacing of the flight deck, replacement of the wood planking in the well deck, repairs to the air conditioning units, crew berthing refurbishing and the installation of the Navy Cash Card system throughout the ship.

Contractors and SRA personnel were not the only ones working diligently to complete the repairs. Essex Sailors worked long hours cleaning and preserving spaces to improve the materiel readiness of the ship. Engineering personnel worked day and night in the main spaces to ensure the success of an all important Light Off Assessment (LOA).

LOA, a major check of the ship’s engineering plant, is a thorough demonstration of everything the ship needs to get underway, from main engines to evaporators, as well as the ship’s ability to fight a main space fire.

“The overall success of the assessment is one more example of the hard work and devotion Essex Sailors display as they perform their jobs,” said Damage Control Assistant Lt. Cmdr. Chris Van Avery.

Essex’s forward-deployed status creates a high level of operational commitments, which is why the command took this SRA as an opportunity to send their Sailors to school.

“The 11 week [SRA] provided Essex the opportunity to raise our operational excellence through NECs, schools and shipboard training,” said Essex Training Officer Lt. Cmdr. Dianne Quattrone. “At the completion of FY07, our school's percentage was the highest out of all LHDs, [at] 97 percent. That is a significant accomplishment for a forward deployed ship.”

Knowing that Essex would remain in port for an extended period of time enabled their school's coordinator and assistant school's coordinator, to send Sailors to stateside schools and plan for watch teams to attend stateside based trainers.

“We sent 536 Sailors to 88 schools,” said Quattrone.
Sea trials mark the beginning of a busy fall underway period for Essex Sailors. Now they have new combat systems to test, a new way to use money onboard and new racks to sleep in heading to Fall Patrol 2007. Essex Sailors will continue their mission of forward-deployed presence and engagement while getting familiar with all the new tools in their arsenal.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

STS-120 Countdown Underway - Intercepts Update

The countdown for the launch of STS-120 continues. Here is a summary of the latest intercepts.

5.711 NASA Cape Radio w Liberty Star - working frequency(USB)
10.780 NASA Cape Radio w Liberty Star (USB)
118.625 USAF CCAFS Tower
123.475 Civilian Contractor Air Scan Inc Bat##
126.650 NASA Tower / STA
133.750 USAF Patrick AFB Tower
138.150 CCAFS Radio Maintenance (AM mode)
138.450 USAF Jolly aircraft
138.450 DoD CAPE (AM mode)
141.300 VARIETY (AM mode)
143.150 USAF CCAFS Tower (AM mode)
149.500 Radio Maintenance(AM mode)
156.800 USCG Channel 16
157.175 USCG and CG Auxiliary
239.050 USAF CCAFS Tower
243.000 Guard
252.000 NORAD Combat Air Patrol: Arrow ## 33FW/58FS Eglin AFB, FL
259.700 NASA KSC Shuttle A-G 1
270.000 CCAFS Projects
282.800 SAR Common
285.000 USN NAS Jacksonville TSC Fiddle
294.600 VARIETY
321.000 USAF Patrick AFB King Ops
344.600 CAPE METRO
348.700 FAA ARTCC Miami - Melbourne RCAG
349.600 DoD CAPE
381.800 USCG
416.500 USAF CCAFS Command destruct testing
463.125 Med 6
463.175 Med 8

Sunday, October 21, 2007

STS-120 Countdown Underway - UHF Milsat Up

At 1800 UTC on 10-20-2007, the countdown for the STS-120 mission was begun. STS-120 using the shuttle Discovery is scheduled for liftoff from Pad 39A at 1538 UTC on 10-23-2007. The crew is expected to return 11-6-2007 at approximately 1045 UTC at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility.

Courtesy of Ronald Rensen in Holland, the Hearsat newsgroup and Nils in Germany:
The Space Shuttle Support network is up on 261.575 MHz (FM). Wolfs Den, Cape Osbourne, and Herky 624 have all been heard this morning Eastern daylight Time.

More on this mission and frequencies as we move down the timeline.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

NORAD exercise planned for Washington D.C.

Courtesy of Alan Henney and the Scan-DC newsgroup. Possbile frequencies to monitor are listed at the end of this article.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command and its geographical component, the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), will conduct Exercise Falcon Virgo 08-01 from Tuesday through Thursday (October 23-25, 2007) in the National Capital Region (Washington, D.C.).

This exercise comprises a series of training flights held in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Capital Region Command Center, the Joint Air Defense Operations Center, Civil Air Patrol, and NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector.

Exercise Falcon Virgo 08-01 is designed to test NORAD’s intercept and identification operations, as well as procedural tests of the NCR Visual Warning System. Civil Air Patrol aircraft, Air Force F-16s and C-38s, and Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopters, will participate in the exercise. Residents in the area can expect flights to occur throughout the day, including late night and early morning hours, on
scheduled exercise dates.

In the event of inclement weather, the exercise will push to the next day. Further weather delays will result in rescheduling or cancellation of the exercise.

These exercises are carefully planned and closely controlled to ensure NORAD’s rapid response capability. NORAD has conducted exercise flights of this nature throughout the U.S. and Canada since the start of Operation Noble Eagle, the command’s response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

As the Continental United States (CONUS) geographical component of the bi-national command NORAD, CONR provides airspace surveillance and control, and directs air sovereignty activities for the CONUS region. CONR and its assigned Air Force assets throughout the country ensure air safety and security against potential air threats.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, NORAD fighters have responded to more than 2,300 possible air threats in the United States, Canada and Alaska, and have flown more than 46,780 sorties with the support of Airborne Warning and Control System and air-to-air-refueling aircraft.

Eastern Air Defense Sector (Callsign: Huntress)
Aircraft Air-to-Air 138.000 138.025 138.200 138.225 138.425 138.475 139.150
NORAD CAP/Scramble Discrete 138.200 139.700
NORAD Air Defense Alert/Air-to-Ground 148.125

AICC 364.200
Alert/Air Defense Tactical 276.400 276.650 279.400 285.900 298.300
AWACS/ACM 278.400 288.400 293.600
AWACS/SOCC Coordination/Calling Frequency 277.600
CAP Refueling 295.800
--DC CAP 293.600 318.400 320.600
CAP Tactical
-- Boston Patriot CAP 259.600 260.900 271.000 282.800
-- Chicago 282.800
-- Detroit/Kennebunkport/Twin Cities 260.900 360.150
-- New York 260.900 282.800 320.600 320.900 324.000 358.850 360.150 364.800 386.000 387.000 387.800
-- Philadelphia CAP 235.900 260.900
-- SE US CAPs 252.000 265.400 (Primary) 282.800 328.000
-- Washington DC CAP Guard Dog (ZDC) 350.250
-- Washington DC/Mid Atlantic CAP - AWACS 234.600 254.200 255.800 260.900 262.150 271.000 362.300
Command and Control Common 387.800
Tactical All Sectors
--Autocat Tac-1 228.800
--Autocat Tac-2 306.400
Worldwide Emergency and Calling: 243.000

Possible Additional NORAD Tacticals (any and all current intercept reports on these frequencies are requested, please no older list):
225.000 225.600 225.800 227.600 228.000 228.400 228.700 229.100 233.600 234.700 235.800 238.500 239.200 239.400 250.800 251.000 251.250 251.800 256.600 258.000 263.200 263.600 264.400 270.200 273.400 274.400 275.000 278.300 278.600 282.400 282.500 284.800 287.800 288.000 288.700 288.900 292.400 292.700 282.800 297.700 298.500 298.800 300.125 302.400 303.900 309.500 312.000 312.800 316.200 316.300 318.100 325.500 326.400 327.200 327.900 338.400 338.800 342.100 342.600 344.000 347.400 348.800 351.600 356.000 357.100 357.200 369.000 369.900 371.000 375.100 376.200 379.000 379.800 384.000 386.200 392.800

Air Force releases B-52 munitions transfer investigation results

by Staff Sgt. Monique Randolph, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

A senior Air Force official released results of the command-directed investigation stemming from a weapons transfer incident that occurred Aug. 30 when cruise missiles were loaded onto a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and transported to Barksdale AFB, La.

The Barksdale-assigned B-52 was prepared to transport 12 cruise missiles to Louisiana as part of a tactical ferry mission; however, six of the 12 missiles were not properly prepared for transport, said Maj. Gen. Richard Newton III, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements at the Pentagon.

General Newton attributed the loading and transport of the weapons to "a series of procedural breakdowns and human errors," stating that the six cruise missiles on that particular pylon "were not supposed to be moved."

"The extensive, six-week investigation found that this was an isolated event and the weapons never left the custody of Airmen and were never unsecured," General Newton said. "However, this incident is unacceptable to the people of the United States and to the United States Air Force."

Following the incident, Gen. Ronald Keys, Air Combat Command commander, ordered an immediate investigation to be conducted by Maj. Gen. Douglas Raaberg, ACC director of Air and Space Operations. The investigation lasted six weeks.

Immediately following the incident, one ACC commander was relieved of command, and the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot was decertified from specific missions and suspended from performing tactical ferry operations.

Since the investigation, several other officers have received administrative action and were relieved of command. Additionally, the Air Force conducted a service-wide stockpile inventory to verify there were no additional discrepancies, and enhanced management directives regarding the storage, tracking and labeling of all weapons.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne also directed nuclear security inspections for nuclear-capable units with oversight from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

As a result of the investigation, Air Combat Command officials will recertify the tactical ferry program prior to reinitiating B-52 ferry operations, General Newton said.

"We are aggressively examining and implementing corrective measures to our weapons handling and transfer process," he said. "Corrective action will ensure our munitions are handled precisely and safely 100 percent of the time.

"This was a serious error caused by a breakdown of procedural discipline by our Airmen," General Newton added. "We're accountable and we reassure the American people that the Air Force standards they expect are being met."

Milcom editorial comment from the blog editor: My question to the Air Force and General Newton: How did this story get into the public domain in the first place? Did you bother to investigate the leak and who has been disciplined for this obvious violation of security? When I was associated with the nuc program back in the day, we could neither confirm or deny the existence of nucs on any platform. If the people conducting this investigation didn't investigate the leak, then these people are no better than those who messed up the weapon ferry mission. The investigators of this incident now need to be disciplined for their incompetence.

HSL-43 Returns from 6-month Deployment

By Lt. j.g. Brendan O’Dea Negle, Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light 43 & Naval Air Forces Public Affairs

“Los Gatos Locos” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Light (HSL) 43, Det. 2, returned to San Diego, Oct. 6, following a successful six-month Western Pacific deployment.

Attached to the Pearl Harbor-based USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyer, with the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 5, HSL-43 conducted maritime security operations in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

"The logistical hurdles of a San Diego-based detachment and a Pearl Harbor-based ship presented unique challenges,” said HSL-43 Det. 2 Maintenance Officer Lt. Greg Lembo. “Through an exceptionally long workup cycle, a pre-cruise maintenance inspection away from our home unit and the cross-deck of aircraft on the USS Bonhomme Richard, Det. 2’s maintainers and aircrew performed exceptionally."

Det. 2 departed San Diego for deployment April 10. Once off the coast of Hawaii, the strike group conducted anti-submarine exercises before Chung-Hoon and HSL-43 detached from ESG-5 and chopped into the Persian Gulf.

Upon arrival, Chung-Hoon and Los Gatos Locos locked arms with Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 – a multinational naval coalition established near the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom and comprised of naval ships from Canada, France, Germany, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the U.S. Together they conducted maritime security operations in the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Operations with theater CTFs allow better coverage of the geographical area. In addition, communications are streamlined leading to enhanced cooperation with coalition nations, said Lembo.

HSL-43 aided CTF-150 with anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia by gathering intelligence, flying armed surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and providing humanitarian relief.

During this time, Los Gatos Locos were asked by Somalia’s Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi to provide assistance to a commercial cargo vessel in distress. Despite a high sea state, the vessel’s inability to maneuver, and several large hazards scattered along the length of the ship, the aircrew successfully lowered several weeks’ worth of food, water and supplies, giving the stranded crew the time it needed to eventually return to port under its own power.

“[Aiding the Somalian vessel was] a great opportunity to help others in need as well as put my training and skills to good use,” said HSL-43 Aircrew Member, Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Brock.

The squadron soon detached from CTF-150 to join CTF-158 – the task force responsible for training Iraq’s Navy and Marines to safeguard their territorial waters and protect two off-shore oil platforms, the Al Basra and Khawr al Amaya oil terminals – in the Northern Arabian Gulf.

The aircrews monitored maritime traffic and supported 31 boardings performed by Chung-Hoon’s visit, board, search and seizure teams, while logging a total of 350 flight hours.

“We were only a few hundred yards from those oil platforms,” said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Herr, Det. 2 officer in charge. “Every member of the detachment could see what we were defending and put forth an incredible effort to accomplish the mission.”

According to Lembo, the work accomplished on the deployment could be described in two words, “truly inspiring.”

“The Sailors of HSL-43 Det. 2 endured a demanding deployment schedule, a multitude of aircraft and equipment challenges, and prolonged operations in the extreme conditions of the Northern Arabian Gulf,” Lembo said. "Their combined efforts and teamwork allowed for the execution of 930 mishap-free flight hours in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.”

AFIT students conduct payload testing for space shuttle

by Kim Curry, Air Force Institute of Technology Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFPN) -- Air Force Institute of Technology students from the graduate school of engineering and management's department of aeronautics and astronautics recently completed testing of their flight hardware experiment in preparation for an upcoming space shuttle mission, STS-123.

Rigidizable Inflatable Get-Away-Special Experiment, or RIGEX, is a space shuttle experiment that will study the behavior of structures built using rigidizable/inflatable technology.

The structural characteristics of three test specimens when deployed in a zero-gravity space environment will be investigated.

The overall goal is to demonstrate the feasibility of using rigidizable/inflatable materials to create lightweight space structures, which can then be used for a variety of Defense Department remote sensing applications. Current payloads are often limited in size due to limited launch vehicle dimensions. Success of this technology would help alleviate size limitations for future missions.

The RIGEX program is being accomplished by combining the efforts of student research theses completed as part of their Master of Science programs at AFIT. Participants included students from a variety of programs offered, including astronautics, space systems, aeronautics, systems engineering, and electrical engineering.

The project began in 2001 with a single student and a handful of experiment objectives, and it slowly developed into a set of preliminary designs and test plans.

With each year, the students involved refined the designs, built and tested prototypes, and settled on a final design. A unique aspect of the experiment, according to primary research advisor Dr. Richard Cobb, is that each student was fully responsible for his or her contribution to the overall design, including all phases of the design, build, test and qualification process. The students led the design reviews and presented to the DOD Space Experiment Review Board to get manifested for launch, and presented to the NASA Flight Safety Review Board to qualify the design.

As a result, the effects of every engineering decision, both good and some not so good, became apparent as the build and testing proceeded. For a space-qualified design suitable for manned spaceflight, every last detail needed to be worked out, documented, and then presented to the NASA engineering team during flight safety reviews.

This process provided the students with invaluable hands-on engineering experience they will undoubtedly put to good use in their future jobs.

Testing RIGEX at the Johnson Space Center represents the transition from the design/prototype/test phase of RIGEX to the flight qualify and launch readiness phase.

To date, 13 AFIT students, plus the work of several summer intern students and laboratory support technicians including members from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Wright State University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the Ohio State University, were involved in the project.

RIGEX represents the first-ever designed, built and qualified space flight experiment for AFIT. Along the way, AFIT has developed in-house expertise and implemented facility upgrades for development and flight qualification testing for future AFIT space payloads, enhancing both space research and space curriculum development.

The testing at the Johnson Space Center involved random vibration and electromagnetic testing designed to verify that the flight hardware will survive the trip to and from orbit and that it will function properly in the space environment. According to Capt. Jeremy Owens, a current AFIT student in the astronautical engineering program, all scheduled testing at Johnson was successfully completed. Final testing of the RIGEX payload has now been completed at AFIT, and the hardware will now be delivered to the Kennedy Space Center for a launch on the shuttle in February.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sixth Fleet JFMCC Ready for Action

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dave Holmes, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

The 6th Fleet flagship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) arrives in Souda harbor for a brief port visit on Greece's largest island. The Blue Ridge-class amphibious command ship is homeported in Gaeta, Italy. U.S. Navy photo by Mr. Paul Farley

USS MOUNT WHITNEY, At Sea (NNS) -- The U.S. 6th Fleet Joint Forces Maritime Component Command (JFMCC) staff wrapped up a two-week training evolution while embarked aboard USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20) Oct. 14.

The purpose of the training was to maintain JFMCC staff proficiency and capability to respond effectively to possible contingencies within the U.S. European Command area of responsibility. The training applies real-time, quick-action scenarios to gauge the teams’ readiness and organization.

JFMCC personnel ran through a myriad of scenarios ranging from an oil spill to an Avian influenza outbreak. The scenarios were designed to force the JFMCC staff to reach beyond their normal comfort zones as military professionals and deal with issues not normally confronted on the traditional battlefield.

“Within this broad range of military operations, we must be prepared to respond effectively to terrorist attacks as well as natural or man-made disasters affecting U.S. forces and interests,” said JFMCC Doctrine, Training and Lessons Learned Cell Chief, Craig Linderman, a retired U.S. Army major.

“Most are no-notice, ‘bolt-out-of-the-blue’ events where hours can make the difference between life and death for those caught in the affected area," said Linderman. "To save lives and mitigate damage, we must act with agility and speed. This doesn’t happen without well thought out plans and lots of practice.”

The JFMCC staff’s training has prepared them for Joint Task Force recertification that will commence next summer with exercise Austere Challenge 2008.

“In order to maintain our sharp edge and readiness to respond in a crisis, we must take the time to train rigorously under realistic conditions. This embarked training period has given us an opportunity to realize this goal and sustain our readiness,” said Linderman.

Air Force armada all about the ammo

by Staff Sgt. Matthew Bates, Air Force News Agency
The MV Capt. Steven L. Bennett, one of the Air Force's Afloat Pre-positioned Fleet ships, sits at one of the docks Oct. 16 at the Military Ocean Terminal-Sunny Point, N.C. The APF ships are loaded with thousands of tons of munitions and then sail to a predetermined point in the Pacific or Indian Ocean where they wait to offload their cargo when needed. The Bennett is one of four ships belonging to the APF. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Matthew Bates)

Not many people know the Air Force has a navy. Ask the typical Airman if he can name even one of the service's ships and he would most likely shrug and say, "Ship? We don't have ships. We fly airplanes."

But the fact is the Air Force does have ships. Called the Afloat Pre-positioned Fleet, the program consists of four freighter-style ships that sail around the world loaded with various types of ammunition.

"These ships carry anything from bombs to missiles to high-caliber rounds and fuzes," said 2nd Lt. Marc Meier, the APF program manager.

The program is based out of the Military Ocean Terminal-Sunny Point, an Army-run port located near Southport. The 16,000-acre site is a key shipping port for military operations and is the only of its kind that can handle such a large distribution of ammunition.

Most of the ammunition arrives at Sunny Point via rail. Boxcars carrying tons of ordnance are offloaded and packaged in large, side-opening containers that are marked with radio frequency bar code scanners. These high-tech gadgets track the containers as they journey across the globe and maintain strict accountability of the weapons systems inside.

Once the containers are loaded and labeled, they are stored in climate-controlled cargo holds on one of the APF's ships, each of which is named for fallen heroes. These are the Capt. Steven L. Bennett, the Maj. Bernard F. Fisher and the Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger, all three are Medal of Honor awardees. The other ship, the Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman, is named after an NCO who died supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and an Air Force Cross recipient.

"Once a ship is full, it will sail to a predetermined area, where it will sail until it's called upon to dock or offload its cargo," Lieutenant Meier said.

The ships do this for five years at a time.

"A lot of people ask 'Why ships?'" Lieutenant Meier said. "The answer is that ships can carry more, do it cheaper and free up our cargo planes for other missions."

This theory is the basis of the three-tiered "swing stock" system the APF is part of. The first tier, bomber fly-away packages, is where munitions are delivered to a target directly from bombers. The second tier, standardized-air-munitions packages, are rapid-air-munitions packages that can be placed on pallets and loaded onto airlift aircraft for deployment to areas where the munitions are needed. The third tier, the pre-positioned fleet, allows large munitions packages to be quickly available to a theater commander.

For instance, during the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Fisher downloaded nearly 400 containers of munitions that were used to sustain bombing sorties over Afghanistan.

"These ships carry a lot of munitions," said Staff Sgt. Juan Guadalupe, an APF team member from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. "And when needed, they can offload them pretty fast."

The ships carry a combined total of 42,900 short tons of munitions, with a net explosive weight of 24 million pounds. The munitions recently loaded onto the Bennett alone are worth an estimated $266 million.

But, none of these munitions would make it to the ships without the aid of the Airmen assigned to the pre-positioned fleet. Ammunition experts by trade, these Airmen are brought to Sunny Point from all across the globe for several months.

"It's kind of like a deployment for us," said Airman 1st Class David Lowery, an APF crewmember from Andersen AFB, Guam. "We get here when the ship does and we leave when it does, which is usually three or four months."

While the sheer magnitude of the operation is awe-inspiring to some, for others on the APF team simply working around a ship is the highlight of the tour.

"I never thought I'd be working on a ship in the Air Force," said Senior Airman Joseph Fitchett, an APF team member from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. "But it's definitely a new experience."