Thursday, July 31, 2008

First-In-Class Freedom Begins Builder's Trials

The future USS Freedom (LCS 1), the first ship in the Navy's new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) class, is underway Monday, July 28, 2008 to begin Builder's Trials in Lake Michigan. Builder's Trials test propulsion, communications, navigation and mission systems. (Photo courtesy Lockheed-Martin/Released)

The first ship in the Navy's new Littoral Combat Ship class, the future USS Freedom (LCS 1), began Builder's Trials on Lake Michigan July 28.

LCS is a fast, agile, focused-mission ship designed to defeat asymmetric "anti-access" threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft. The 378-foot Freedom is being designed and built by a Lockheed Martin-led industry team.

"Getting Freedom underway is a significant step in the ship's steady progress toward entering the fleet," said LCS Program Manager Capt. James Murdoch. "Freedom has overcome many challenges to reach this important milestone. LCS 1 will add tremendous capabilities to the fleet for our Sailors."

Builder's trials test the vessel's propulsion, communications, navigation and mission systems, as well as all related support systems. Following the completion of builder's trials, Freedom will return to Marinette Marine to prepare for acceptance trials that will be conducted by the U.S. Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey.

The LCS 1 Freedom class consists of two different hullforms – a semiplaning monohull and an aluminum trimaran – designed and built by two industry teams, respectively led by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. The seaframes will be outfitted with reconfigurable payloads, called mission packages, which can be changed out quickly. These mission packages focus on three mission areas: mine counter measures, surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare.

LCS 1 is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy later this year and will be homeported in San Diego.

Jointness key to command afloat during JTFEX 08-4

by Capt. Nicholas J. Sabula
Combined Joint Task Force 950 Strategic Communication

7/31/2008 - USS BATAAN, Atlantic Ocean (AFPN) -- Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen exercised jointness aboard a Navy ship along the eastern U.S. coast from Virginia to Florida July 21-31 for Joint Task Force Exercise 08-4 "Operation Brimstone."

Aboard the USS Bataan, U.S. servicemembers and some coalition forces are working together in a Joint Task Force Capable Headquarters sustainment event, giving many onboard a first-hand look at warfighting afloat in a multiservice environment. The Bataan serves as the JTF commander's flagship for the exercise.

"This is a major staff sustainment exercise concerning our ability to operate as a JTF," said Army Lt. Col. Mark Murphy, civil-military operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 950.

"We do exercises like this since we are a U.S. Joint Forces Command-designated JTF-capable headquarters and we report as such through the Defense Readiness Reporting System, said Navy Capt. Steven Zaricor, CJTF 950 director of operations.

More than 150 command staff and 30 observer-trainers headed out to sea, where the JTF staff coordinated with different components taking part in the exercise and kept the JTF commander updated on operations. The exercise brought together more than 15,000 U.S. and allied servicemembers to serve as a ready-for-deployment certification event for the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TR CSG) and the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (IWO ESG).

"This was a pretty complex, ambitious exercise, considering this was a major certification exercise for the carrier strike group, expeditionary strike group and for Second Fleet," said Colonel Murphy, who admits this is his first time on a major naval ship participating in an exercise or deployment.

"At the operational level of war, it's important to fuse all effects; you have to pool all services and abilities to have a JTF with expertise and command and control to effectively fight a joint war," said Lt. Col. John Voorhees, Combined Forces Air Component Commander liaison officer for CJTF 950. "I was impressed with what they were able to do."

Colonel Voorhees represents the voice of the CFACC on the CJTF 950 staff. He is deployed aboard the USS Bataan from the Combined Air and Space Operations Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., where he serves as Air Force Southern Command Combat Operations Division chief.

Captain Zaricor, 2nd Fleet Command director of operations and plans, said having a headquarters afloat can be beneficial in dealing with an instant crisis anywhere around the world.

"If you need to get a staff forward with no footprint, you can reach back to your main support in the rear," he said. "I think we had a good, solid joint team, both here and back at Norfolk."

"An obvious advantage to this is the admiral can be here with a large part of his staff, while back in Virginia a large group is getting work done in support of expeditionary operations," said Marine Lt. Col. James Griffin, CJTF 950 and 2nd Fleet Joint Fires chief, who has spent much of his career working with the Air Force and Navy as an EA6B Prowler tactical warfare officer.

Conducting command and control out at sea isn't without challenges, with distance and communications across the joint operating area being just some of the issues to overcome.

"It's a challenge; definitely one of the big learning points is how to do distributive ops and we've demonstrated we can do it," Colonel Griffin said. "Working in a joint arena makes it more difficult, but once you get the processes and procedures it's easier. People brought a lot of experience to this exercise."

Not only were all services branches represented, but all types of components as well. The staff includes active duty, reservists, guardsmen, government civilians and contractors all playing a part.

One of the ways 2nd Fleet Command develops a joint construct for the JTF is through the Joint Manpower Exchange Program, which assigns Airmen and Soldiers to the Navy staff.

"Having these guys bring the expertise that a Navy-centric staff doesn't have pays big dividends," Capt. Zaricor said. "We have some very talented mid-grade officer - majors, lieutenant colonel types -- and we plug them into key billets in our staff."

Colonel Murphy said the joint team working together has some operational benefits.

"The biggest advantage of having interaction with the other services is seeing how other services operate," Colonel Murphy said. Goldwater-Nichols has taken about 20 years to take hold but I think the concept is valid and it's working very well."

The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 restructured the way service branches organize for warfighting, establishing centralized control and decentralized execution for operations, integrating services into warfighting components and streamlining how the U.S. force fights.

"It's very interesting seeing this from a joint perspective," said Capt. Gordon Bryant III, chief of personnel-services or J-1 forward on the Bataan. "The great part is everyone understands there are different cultures and works together to bridge that gap."

"I think it's a good thing," Colonel Murphy said. "Combined, Joint and interagency operations are here to stay. The more we can learn about each other's culture service and history, the better prepared we will be to defend American interests and freedom when required."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

San Antonio Preps for Deployment During JTFEX

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Brian Goodwin, Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group Public Affairs

USS SAN ANTONIO, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the amphibious transport dock USS San Antonio (LPD 17) are participating in Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 08-4 off the U.S. eastern seaboard July 21-31.

JTFEX 08-4 serves as a ready-for-deployment certification event for the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group. It evaluates how ships work together in different tactical situations and prepares Sailors for deployment.

"JTFEX is scenario driven," said Cmdr. Kurt Kastner, San Antonio commanding officer. "It is as close to live action as we can get in a training environment."

The scenarios during JTFEX are scripted and designed to test the responses by crew members and evaluate decisions made by their leadership.

"These scenarios range from small boat boardings to communications with unidentified ships; it tests our ability to respond," said Lt. j.g. Greg Smith, assistant operations officer.

Sailors aboard San Antonio completed fleet synthetic training and composite unit training exercise (COMPTUEX) prior to participating in JTFEX.

"COMPTUEX helped us prepare for JTFEX and because of fleet synthetic training, we were able to have pier-side exercises with the other ships in our strike group," said Fire Controlman 1st Class (SW/AW) Kevin Sanders, combat systems leading petty officer.

"We held classes for the crew so they could be trained for various duties, including standing watch and visit, board, search and seizure exercises."

Smith said he is confident in the crew members' ability to do their jobs efficiently and set the standard for other ships in the fleet.

"The crew has trained long and hard for JTFEX, and we look forward to seeing positive results."

San Antonio is part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group, which also consists of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7); the dock-landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50); the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72); the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61); all homeported in Norfolk; the guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), homeported at Mayport, Fla.; and the fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768), homeported in Groton, Conn.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

International RIMPAC Observers Embark Bonhomme Richard

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Ryan Tabios, USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs Office

Naval officers from Russia, Mexico and Colombia visited the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) (BHR) July 25 as part of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2008 Foreign Observer Program.

"The intent of the visit was to provide them with information concerning RIMPAC as it pertains to coalition interaction," said Commodore, Amphibious Squadron 7 Capt. Rodney Clark. "Hopefully, this will give them confidence to participate in future coalition operations and future RIMPAC exercises."

The visitors toured BHR's bridge, medical facilities, aviation electronics shop, well deck and observed flight operations from vulture's row.

"The visit is a testament to the continuing international appeal that the RIMPAC exercise has to countries and their respective navies around the Pacific theater," said Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Petersen, visit coordinator. "RIMPAC provides an excellent opportunity for coalition partners to exercise and improve upon interoperability while operating in a multinational environment."

BHR is currently in the Hawaii operating region for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise. RIMPAC is the world's largest multinational exercise and is scheduled biennially by the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Participants include the United States, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, the Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group Arrives In Japan

SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- More than 5,500 Sailors of Carrier Strike Group 7 (CSG) and five ships arrived in Japan for a routine port visit July 28.

The strike group's flagship, the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), embarked Carrier Air Wing 14 (CVW), and the guided-missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) pulled into Sasebo, while the guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) stopped in Yokosuka, and the guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG 101) anchored in Fukuoka.

"Our Sailors are the face of America in the Western Pacific. In Japan, we are getting ready to go on what I consider to be a very, very important port visit," said Rear Adm. Phil Wisecup, commander, Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group.

More than 300 strike group Sailors will volunteer their time and efforts to help make a difference in various Japanese communities, by participating in volunteer projects at local schools, elderly care centers, and orphanages. Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) is offering Sailors a broad spectrum of opportunities for Sailors to enjoy their time off in Japan, including tours, hiking trips, sporting events and shopping excursions.

This marks the fourth port visit for CSG-7 during its 2008 Western Pacific deployment and the second visit to Japan by Ronald Reagan. The carrier last visited in February 2007.

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is in the U.S. 7th Fleet's area of responsibility as part of a routine deployment to promote peace, cooperation and stability in the region. Homeported in San Diego, Ronald Reagan is the Navy's newest Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

Brown Water Riverine Sailors Cruise through JTFEX

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Barrie Barber,
U.S. Fleet Forces Command Navy Reserve Public Affairs

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.C. (NNS) -- Riverine Squadron 1 Sailors honed their littoral warfighting skills along the Cape Fear River in North Carolina during Joint Task Force Exercise 8-04 (JTFEX 08-4) "Operation Brimstone" July 21-28.

The unit trained on the waterway near Elizabethtown in the kind of tactics it has used in past deployments and will use on future ones, said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Egan, RIVRON 1 executive officer.

The brown water expeditionary unit performs missions such as maritime interdiction operations and waterborne guard posts, among other tasks. Due to the nature of the unit's battlespace, these Sailors often interact with host nation populations.

"It's a rather unconventional force compared to big Navy, which is where most of my Sailors came from," Egan said.

The Navy revived the sea service's riverine mission in recent years for the first time since the Vietnam War. Last year, Navy Riverine squadrons deployed to the Euphrates River in Iraq with the primary task to guard the Haditha Dam.

"We're basically protecting high-value infrastructure."

The revival has caught the interest of foreign navies, Egan added, as well as Sailors who like being close to the action on the ground.

"I love the small unit," said Gunner's Mate 1st Class William Caviness, a River Patrol Boat (RPB) crew member. "It's something that nobody else in the Navy really gets the opportunity to do."

Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Joshua Williams gave up an assignment to a surface ship to become a Riverine Sailor on a riverine assault boat (RAB).

"It's met every expectation," he said after a trip through the densely forested, dark water of the Cape Fear River area, "something different every day versus the same old, same old."

The squadron, based at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va., operates three primary high-speed craft with multiple weapon mounts. They include: The 39-foot long RPB with up to five crewmen; the 33-foot-long RAB with seven crewmen; and the highly maneuverable and experimental 49-foot-long riverine command boat (RCB-X) that controls the operation of smaller patrol craft.

"The bottom line is the boats are fast, and they have a lot of firepower," Egan said.

The four-crew member RCB-X, for example, has 1,700 horsepower, whereas the RPB and RAB have approximately 600 horsepower. The new boat operated near the Wilmington, N.C., area along the Cape Fear River during the exercise.

"It's exceeded my expectations for such a big craft," said Lt. Cmdr. John Stahley, as he manned a machine gun aboard the boat. "She's really maneuverable, powerful, fast."

Riding at full speed is akin to flying in a jet fighter. The boat rockets through waves and tight turns with an occasional "thump, thump" as the cigar-shaped hull slams through the rolling waters.

"It's a really good, stable platform to drive," said Engineman 1st Class Jeremy Mayfield, an RCB-X crewman. "It seems like the Cadillac of boats."

The versatile craft, which has a bow door and ramp, can beach on shore.

Likewise, the Riverine boats promote teamwork among its small crew, Sailors said.

"The camaraderie you can't find anywhere," said Information Technician 2nd Class Ken Maher, an RPB bow gunner and communications technician. "You have their back and they have yours."

And in a related story about River 1:

U.S. Navy Riverine Squadron 1 Sailors teamed with U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopters above the Cape Fear River in North Carolina to spot hidden dangers during Joint Task Force Exercise 08-4 (JTFEX) Operation Brimstone July 21-28.

The airborne assist gave Sailors, who also worked in tandem with Navy F-18 Hornets, the ability to see what a pilot sees in real time with backpack-sized communication equipment, said Lt. John Seiter, assistant officer in charge of Detachment 1.

"Now you can see from kilometers, miles away what's going on. With this system, we can be removed from the target area and still prosecute it."

The technology gives patrol boats an edge when a river bend or dense foliage could hold a hidden danger, said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Egan, executive officer of Riverine Squadron 1.

"When you're on these rivers, you have no idea what might be ahead."

Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Bret Hand, a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC), talked with aviators in Hornets and Apaches during JTFEX while watching on a computer screen what the pilots were seeing above the boat crew.

"I can see exactly what the aircraft is seeing at the time to necessarily confirm and point out the targets. We're definitely breaking the barriers with that."

A JTAC can also call in naval gunfire or land-based artillery along with air power for close air-support, he said.

The Sailors have also trained with U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft.

The Riverine Sailors, based at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va., are among more than 500 service members who are part of a Naval Expeditionary Combat Task Group during the exercise which takes place off the southeastern coast of the United States. The exercise marks the first time Navy Expeditionary Combat Command forces are participating in an East Coast-based JTFEX working for an Navy expeditionary combat task group commander.


By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Michael Starkey, Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group Public Affairs

USS IWO JIMA, At Sea (NNS) -- Rear Adm. Chris A. Snow, U.K. Royal Navy, Deputy Commander, Strike Force NATO (STRIKFORNATO), paid a visit to the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) July 22-24.

Rear Adm. Chris A. Snow, of the U.K. Royal Navy, observed Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 08-4 to determine how STRIKFORNATO can best be integrated into a future JTFEX.

"JTFEX is a fantastic opportunity, and there's a wonderful training ground here. It's a real opportunity for me to practice in a NATO context how to command at a two-star level in very complicated operations. Again, what a fantastic opportunity something like JTFEX provides."

During the visit, Snow observed the operations of both the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU). This afforded him the opportunity to observe how the ESG operates within the exercise Combined Forces Maritime Component Commander (CFMCC) structure.

STRIKFORNATO could be integrated into JTFEX as early as 2010.

"What I am focusing on, is trying to get ready to command in 2010," said nSnow. "Today I've got about 10 people embedded inside the JTFEX at the maritime component command organization. Next year, we'll do the same and work up to a full Joint Force Maritime Component Commander (JFMCC) with 120 people in the fall of 2010."

The STRIKFORNATO structure is flexible from one-star to three-star core commands to fill a variety of amphibious roles at sea or shore. Currently, there are 10 member nations of STRIKFORNATO, led by U.S. Vice Adm. James A. Winnefeld, who also command the U.S. 6th Fleet.

"We were eight nations for a long time and just recently we had France and Poland join in," said James Bergeron, political advisor to commander, Strike Force NATO. "It creates a great mix because those countries bring their national expertise and perspective."

"Let me emphasize, we have multi-national marines force representation as well, which is unique in NATO. In the force structure, that adds a great mix of countries, some with Mediterranean experience. We have blue water navies, amphibious navies and a lot of different complimentary skill sets come together."

Iwo Jima is participating in JTFEX 08-4 as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). The Iwo Jima ESG consists of Iwo Jima; the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50); the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17); the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72); the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61); all homeported at Norfolk, Va.; the guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), homeported at Mayport, Fla.; and the fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768), homeported at Groton, Conn.; and a Marine Landing Force from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Monday, July 28, 2008

New Ship Class Begins Operations in 7th Fleet

Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) entered the waters of the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet July 24, marking the first Lewis and Clark-class multi-product combat logistics support ship in service in the 52 million-square-mile region.

Byrd replaces MSC combat stores ship USNS Niagara Falls (T-AFS 3), which has been forward deployed supporting 7th Fleet since 1994.

Though the entry into the fleet's territorial waters was unceremonious, it signals a significant change for Logistics Group Western Pacific, also know as Commander Task Force 73, which will operationally control the ship while in theater.

"This ship will enable our command to provide the warfighter with a level of support that is unprecedented," said Rear Adm. Nora Tyson, CTF 73 commander. "It brings a much more robust capability to the fight."

The 689-foot-long underway replenishment vessel, known as a T-AKE, replaces the current capability of the Kilauea-class ammunition ships and Mars-class combat stores ships, and it also possesses the capability to refuel ships at sea.

"The combat stores ships are extremely capable and have developed a real 'can-do' culture for any mission in 7th Fleet. However, having the T-AKE as a one-stop logistics ship in the Navy's largest theater will significantly improve the flexibility of our operations," said Capt. Jim Smart, CTF 73 assistant chief of staff for logistics.

"While we say a sad farewell to Niagara Falls and honor her many years of fine service and her reputation for professional excellence, we welcome and are glad to have Byrd and its crew on the Navy team in the Western Pacific."

Byrd has a crew of 124 civil service mariners working for MSC as well as a military detachment of 11 Sailors who provide operational support and supply coordination. When needed, Byrd can also carry a supply detachment.

MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, merchant marine-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Army-Navy Team Conducting JLOTS

The Army Trident pier approaches Gold Beach at Camp Pendleton during Joint Logistics Over-The-Shore (JLOTS) 2008. JLOTS 2008 is an engineering, logistical training exercise between Army and Navy units under a joint force commander to load and unload ships without the benefit of deep draft-capable, fixed port facilities. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian P. Caracci

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cole Returns from Unique Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick Grieco, Fleet Public Affairs Center Atlantic

The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) returned to Naval Station Norfolk July 18 after a six-month deployment with the British Royal Navy's HMS Illustrious Carrier Strike Group, as part of Operation Orion 2008.

Cole's Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Michael Pfarrer explained it was a unique arrangement for an American warship to sail under a foreign country's battle group. During the deployment, both sides learned a great deal from each other.

"We worked well together in different areas of warfare. This has been a great opportunity for us, and we noticed that we have many common tactics. Great Britain is probably one of our closest allies right now."

Pfarrer noted there were slight operational differences between the Cole and the foreign nations.

"One of the biggest differences we had were our meal hours. The British like to eat at 1 p.m., and we ate at 11 a.m. You just have to work out the simple things, in the big scheme of things it's necessary for us. We have to know how to integrate ourselves into a foreign battle group."

While deployed, Cole's main role was air defense commander, but it also conducted maritime interception operations, took part in operations off the coast of Lebanon and participated in a joint Baltic nations exercise known as BALTOPS 08.

"BALTOPS is an event that most Baltic nations, as well as some others, participate in," said Pfarrer. "This was the first year in a very long time the Russians conducted amphibious landings supported by the British and Germans. We provided air defense and mine warfare."

He also said some Cole Sailors had the opportunity to cross deck to the other ships in the battle group.

"It was a learning experience understanding how the other ships' equipment operates," said Quartermaster 2nd Class(SW) Jesse Lui. "I found that English was predominant in pretty much every navy."

Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 2nd Class (SW) Erika Burrell had the unique opportunity for an over night embark aboard HMS Illustrious (R06), a British Royal Navy aircraft carrier.

"We were able to bring back a lot of knowledge, and knowledge is the key. They have different terms for different things than we do. I don't think it was necessarily better or worse, things were just arranged differently."

Burrell said she was able to bring those terms and procedures back to Cole so her shipmates could better understand how Illustrious operates. This also helped improve communication between the two ships.

Pfarrer said even though this cruise was a unique one, it didn't change the Navy's overall mission.

"Even though we were with a foreign battle group, we carried out the mission of the U.S. You just can't downplay the importance of our presence in various parts of the world. Not only are we out there to bring the sword, but we are also there to help."

The Cole also participated in several other international exercises, including Exercise Phoenix with the Royal Navy Trafalgar-class submarine HMS Trafalgar (S107).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Adaptive Force Packaging Staff Integral Part of NECC's RIMPAC Success

By Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/AW) Dave Nagle, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- As Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) units prepare for the tactical portion of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2008 exercise, its' headquarters staff is gearing up to coordinate the expeditionary forces' efforts for the first time during the biennial exercise.

An expeditionary adaptive force package (AFP) staff, manned primarily by personnel from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group (EODGRU) 1 in San Diego, stood up July 18 to provide command and control for all NECC forces participating in RIMPAC.

The AFP staff, designated Commander, Task Force 171 (CTF 171), oversees various task groups of expeditionary capabilities, including explosive ordnance disposal, expeditionary construction, expeditionary logistics, maritime civil affairs, maritime expeditionary security and expeditionary diving and salvage.

While some of these capabilities have participated in RIMPAC in the past, the AFP staff element is a new addition, providing unity of command and unity of effort for the expeditionary forces.

"What the AFP staff element brings to a warfighting commander, whether Navy or joint, is a single point that can synchronize a broad spectrum of expeditionary capabilities, many of which are geographically dispersed," said Capt. Barry Coceano, Commander, CTF 171.

During RIMPAC, in addition to the units on Oahu, the AFP staff is overseeing distributed operations by Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 in Guam.

To aid in the ability of the AFP staff to manage these diverse expeditionary assets, many of which have not operated together in the past, liaison officers (LNOs) from the various task groups are integrated into the AFP staff.

"These LNOs bring subject matter expertise from each of the task groups, which gives us the ability to speak the same language as the various task groups," said Lt. Cmdr. Chad Houllis, operations officer for CTF 171. "We have officers from Maritime Civil Affairs, Maritime Expeditionary Security, Expeditionary Logistics and the Seabees integrated into our battle rhythm."

EODGRU 1 exercised the AFP concept during a command post exercise as part of a Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) in January. Houllis said that many of the lessons learned in that initial exercise are being applied at RIMPAC.

"During the JTFEX in January, it was just the AFP staff and we pretty much started from scratch as a command staff," Houllise said. "We developed and refined the processes and products at the staff level and have taken it to the next level during RIMPAC, where we've got actual forces in the field. Those lessons learned enhanced our ability to provide command and control during RIMPAC."

Another factor that has enhanced the AFP staff's effectiveness is that the LNOs on the staff at RIMPAC are the same people that participated in January's JTFEX.

"That's given the staff continuity and provided a seamless transition from JTFEX to RIMPAC.

Riverine Group 1 is also exercising a similar AFP with NECC forces as part of JTFEX "Operation Brimstone" in North Carolina and off the U.S. east coast.

Port Royal Shoots Missiles, Hunts Submarines, Fires Guns During RIMPAC

By Lt. j.g. Cassidy Rasmussen, Rim of the Pacific Public Affairs

USS PORT ROYAL, At Sea (NNS) -- During Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2008, which runs from June 29 through July 31, USS Port Royal (CG 73) fired nearly every weapon system aboard and tested every sensor in operations with ships, submarines and aircraft from the U.S. and seven other countries.

The Port Royal crew gained valuable experience conducting both surface and anti-submarine warfare operations. During one training opportunity, the cruiser worked with units from Chile and the Republic of Korea to track an Australian diesel submarine.

"It's really important for us to get real-world experience searching for and tracking diesel submarines," said Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SW) Tara Kerrin. "We have simulators, but nothing can simulate actually working in a realistic [operational] environment. The U.S. doesn't have diesel subs anymore, so exercises like RIMPAC give us a great training opportunity with other navies."

In another training evolution, the ship had the opportunity to fire an SM-2 standard air-attack missile.

"We have practiced it so much, but there's a point in the launch sequence where we can't simulate anymore – we only see it when it's the real thing," said Lt. j.g. Corry Lougee, Port Royal fire control officer. "We got to that point, and it was intense."

"The training is invaluable," said Capt. David Adler, Port Royal commanding officer. "The opportunities we have during these few weeks to see our equipment and people operate in real-world environments can't be replicated in scenarios. It's also a chance for us to see how well we can integrate with our partner navies and try new methods and tactics. RIMPAC is an exciting event, and I embrace this opportunity for Port Royal to represent the U.S."

Combined and joint military exercises like RIMPAC demonstrate the Navy's commitment to working with global partners to protect the maritime freedom that is the basis for global prosperity.

"I'm excited and really looking forward to this cruise," said Midshipman 1st Class Samantha Greco, who is from the Northwestern University's recruit officer training command unit in Evanston, Ill. Greco is underway with Port Royal for the four-week RIMPAC at-sea phase.

"I want to be a surface warfare officer, and this month is going to give me a snapshot of everything the surface Navy does."

RIMPAC, hosted by Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, is the world's largest biennial maritime exercise. It demonstrates the Navy's commitment to working with our global partners in protecting the maritime freedom as a basis for global prosperity and to ensure stability throughout the Pacific. Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, Vice Adm. Samuel J. Locklear is the Combined Task Force commander responsible for overall exercise coordination.

RIMPAC has been conducted since 1971. This year's exercise consists of 10 nations, 35 ships, six submarines, over 150 aircraft and 20,000 Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Soldiers and Coast Guardsmen. Participants include Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore, United Kingdom and the United States.

TR Sails with the French Navy - Conducts CQ

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John Suits, USS Theodore Roosevelt Public Affairs
A French F-2 Rafale fighter lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during combined French and American carrier qualifications.

USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, At sea (NNS) -- USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) departed Naval Station Norfolk July 18 for a historic collaboration between the U.S. and French navies.

French E2C Hawkeye early warning aircraft assigned to the 4th Squadron began flight operations with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 aboard Roosevelt, marking the first integrated U.S. and French carrier qualifications aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier. French Rafale fighter aircraft assigned to the 12th Squadron also joined.

"Operations with our friends and allies are the cornerstone of the U.S. Navy's current maritime strategy," said Capt. Ladd Wheeler, Roosevelt's commanding officer. "These combined operations will certainly pay dividends into the future as our navies continue to work together to increase global security."

Combined flight operations was scheduled to run through July 22.

A French E-2C Hawkeye early warning aircraft, assigned to the 4th Squadron, lands during a historic joint French and American collaborated carrier qualification aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71).

NAS Kingsville Gives "All Clear" for Hurricane Dolly

By Jon Gagne, Naval Air Station Kingsville Public Affairs

Mine countermeasures ships are in a modified Mediterranean moor at homeport Naval Station Ingleside.

The year's second named hurricane made landfall around noon July 23 north of Brownsville, Texas, about 125 miles southeast of Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville.

Hurricane Dolly was upgraded to a category 2 hurricane just prior to making landfall, bringing heavy rain, strong tropical storm force winds and tornado warnings as far north as Corpus Christi and Portland. South Padre Island took the brunt of the storm.

NAS Kingsville began preparing for the storm July 18 as Emergency Management Director Chief Air Traffic Controller (AW) Mike Garcia began coordinating the air station's post-storm preparations.

"We were watching the storm very closely as it developed in the Gulf of Mexico. We didn't know until mid-day on [July 22] that we would not be in the direct path of the storm, so we had to take our normal precautionary measures. As it turned out, the storm was upgraded to a [category] 2 and moved a bit to the north of Brownsville just before making landfall, so we ended up getting a lot of rain and heavy wind from the outer bands of the storm."

Garcia said the base was able to escape any major damage due to the joint preparation efforts of all base commands and activities.

"Every command, activity and department followed their requirements for pre-storm prep. Air operations placed sandbags around the entrance to buildings and put window shutters on the main building. Public works put plywood over the windows at the Branch Health Clinic, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation personnel and Navy housing officials put out sand bags and stowed away equipment and potential missile hazards."

L-3 Vertex personnel moved 77 of Training Air Wing 2's 105 T-45 Goshawks into hangars to prevent damage from heavy winds and rain and secured in place an additional 13 aircraft under the protective canopies on the NAS Kingsville tarmac. The other 15 aircraft departed the base early July 22 on a scheduled weapons detachment in El Centro, Calif.

NAS Kingsville Commanding Officer Capt. Phil Waddingham set the air station in modified condition of readiness (COR) 3 early July 22 and kept the base in that condition throughout the storm. The next day was designated as essential personnel and command-directed only, and all base facilities were closed.

"Even though we were not in the projected direct path of Hurricane Dolly, I thought it was prudent to proceed with caution. With landfall near Brownsville, we knew we would still be on the outer band of the storm and would see strong tropical storm-force winds, heavy rain, and possible flooding. My main concern was for our people.

"I didn't want our folks, especially those who reside in Corpus Christi and other remote locations, to be on the roadways until the storm threat has passed and the roads have been cleared for safe passage."

Base personnel returned to work July 24, and the command's assessment team made a visual tour of the base to evaluate any damage. When they found nothing noteworthy to report, they checked back in with the emergency operations center and Waddingham issued the "all clear." The base moved back to COR 5, the normal COR during hurricane season, early July 24.

As far as storm damage was concerned, some flooding was reported in low-lying areas in Kingsville, Corpus Christi and South Padre Island suffered damages to buildings and hotels. Two tornadoes were reported in San Patricia county. Fortunately, Dolly proved only to be a reality check for NAS Kingsville this time around. The storm, however, also served as a wake-up call.

"With three months left to go in the 2008 hurricane season I hope that all base personnel will take a hard look at their hurricane plans and procedures," Waddingham said. "Preparation is the key, [not to mention] the very best way to prevent personal injuries and property damage. My advice to all is to be prepared."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Military Tracks Hurricane Dolly, Readies Relief Support

Blog Editor Note: The cover story in the August issue of Monitoring Times magazine has an extensive article on monitoring the hurricane hunters. Issue is on sale now on newstands or is available from Grove Enterprises at

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2008 - "Hurricane Hunters" from the Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flew through Hurricane Dolly last night and this morning as it headed toward the Texas coast, relaying critical data to National Weather Service forecasters in Miami.

Six-person crews from the squadron have been tracking the storm since July 16, when it was a tropical disturbance over St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, reported Air Force 1st Lt. Douglas Gautrau, a squadron aerial reconnaissance weather officer aboard last night's mission.

Since then, the squadron has been flying its C-130J aircraft 24/7 out of its base at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., delivering near-real-time data to the National Weather Service.

Gautrau and his fellow crewmembers took off from Keesler at about 7 last night for a 10-hour mission, crisscrossing Dolly in what Gautrau described as an "alpha pattern." They used sophisticated onboard instruments and small "dropsonde" canisters dropped by parachute to collect the most accurate measurements of the hurricane's location and intensity. The canisters relay details about barometric pressure, wind speed and direction and other measurements to the aircraft during their descent until they hit the water, Gautrau explained.

After a quick quality-control check on the data collected, the crew forwarded it every 10 minutes to the National Hurricane Center.

The aircrews, which consist of an aircraft commander and copilot, flight engineer, navigator, weather officer and dropsonde operator, fly through rough turbulence and heavy rains during the missions. The heaviest turbulence occurs in the "eye wall," the circular area directly around the hurricane's eye.

Gautrau described last night's turbulence as "moderate," but "nothing too bad" as the aircraft encountered 75-knot wind speeds. "It can get pretty bumpy," he said.

Toward the end of the mission, Hurricane Dolly had strengthened, and its leading edge was approaching the Gulf Coast near the Texas-Mexico border. Heavy rain and sustained 95 mph winds pounded the coast as Dolly's eye headed toward Brownsville, Texas.

For Gautrau, last night's flight through Hurricane Dolly was a rite of passage: his first hurricane mission without the benefit of an instructor watching over his shoulder.

"At some points, I'd think, 'Holy cow. I'm in a hurricane,'" he said. "Other times, I'd think, 'Holy cow. I still have to do my job.'"

But with that mission now complete, Gautrau said, he's thrilled to have "the best weather job out there." A native of New Orleans, he said he understands the impact of severe weather and knows he and his fellow crewmembers are giving the National Weather Service the best data possible so it can make accurate forecasts.

"I get a lot of joy out of this job, and I feel that what we are doing is a great benefit to the public," he said.

As the Hurricane Hunters continued their missions, some 600 Texas National Guard members were on the ground, preparing to offer assistance after Hurricane Dolly makes landfall, reported Air Force Tech. Sgt. Gregory Ripps, a Texas Guard spokesman.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry authorized the call for up to 1,200 Texas Guardsmen, to assist civilian emergency responders preparing for the first storm to threaten the United States this hurricane season.

Troops were fanning out across the region, poised to provide search-and-rescue support and emergency relief as required, Ripps said. Shelter management teams were standing by in Brownsville and McAllen, and the Guardsmen set up distribution points in the towns of Alice and Weslaco.

Meanwhile, the Texas Guard's Joint Operations Center is maintaining contact with the State Operations Center, as both monitor the hurricane.

Officials predict rain accumulations of four to eight inches, with isolated deluges of 15 inches, over much of southern Texas during the next few days. Coastal flooding of four to six feet above normal tide levels, with dangerous battering waves, was predicted north of the storm's landfall.

U.S., Indonesian Navies Begin Naval Engagement Activity

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dan Meaney

Members of the Indonesian navy stand pierside as the amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) pulls into port at the Tanjung Perak commercial pier in Surabaya.

SURABAYA, Indonesia (NNS) -- The U.S. and Indonesian navies kicked off an annual bilateral Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) with an opening ceremony at Indonesia Eastern Fleet Command in Surabaya July 21.

Rear Adm. Nora W. Tyson, commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific, and Capt. Mike Selby, commander, Destroyer Squadron 1, ushered in the NEA with Indonesian Navy Commodore Slamet Yulistiyono.

Yulistiyono said that while the focus of the planned events is training, the underlying theme of the NEA is relationship building.

"This event is one of the positive implementations of the bilateral relations between the two countries, based on a mutual respect and understanding," Yulistiyono said.

During the week-long series of training exercises, the two countries will seek to improve the professionalism of their naval forces and build relationships between the participating personnel.

Scheduled NEA events include ship tours for students, combined military operations symposia, a medical symposium, an aviation seminar, a military law enforcement symposium and force protection training.

Additionally, several teams will pair up for joint specialty training. Divers from both countries will conduct a diving and salvage exercise in Surabaya harbor; Naval Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 will team with Indonesian counterparts on a joint construction project, and U.S and Indonesian Marines will engage in a joint amphibious exercise.

USS Tortuga, (LSD 46), USS Ford (FFG 54), USS Jarrett (FFG 33) and USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) are in Indonesia to participate in the NEA exercises.

The NEA is part of an annual series of bilateral maritime training exercises between the United States and several Southeast Asian nations designed to build relationships and enhance the operational readiness of the participating forces.

US Navy and Other Nations Participate in Operation Brimstone

Headlines from around the fleet: The U.S. Navy participates in Operation Brimstone at

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

French Navy Pilots CQ aboard the Roosevelt

Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Biggs shoots a French F-2 Rafale off the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during combined French and American carrier qualifications. This event marks the first integrated U.S. and French carrier qualifications aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Snyder

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)(TR) is conducting carrier qualifications with members of the French Navy during Operation Brimstone July 21-31.

Pilots from the "Tomcatters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31 and French navy pilots are learning the value of camaraderie and the true meaning of the term 'shipmate.'

"Every day we have close air support and air defense missions preparing us for carrier qualifications," said French Lt. Lebars "Barzy" Stephan, a Rafale pilot assigned to the 12th Fighter Squadron.

"It's very nice being aboard TR because we are learning to work together as allies so we can fight more efficiently and effectively. For me, it's also nice to compare the specifics between the F/A-18E Super Hornets and the French Rafale aircraft."

While working together, the pilots of both navies recognize their similarities.

"It's been a real treat to have them [the French pilots] around because of the camaraderie and to see the different aspects of their coalition capabilities," said Lt. Christopher "Buttercup" Jones, a pilot assigned to VFA 31.

"Learning about each other's cultures helps us with our teamwork. They're just like us, because at the end of the day, we're still pilots and we share a lot of things in common, such as terminology, hobbies, and motivational skills."

Other similarities include how flight operations are controlled and the importance of communications during flight deck operations and carrier qualifications.

"I was called this year to participate in carrier qualifications aboard TR," said Lt. Cmdr. Yann Beaufils, French Air Boss. "Being an air boss is the same on an American or French aircraft carrier. In the tower, I have direct contact with all the French pilots as they're flying. Everything is pretty much the same on French and U.S. aircraft carriers. Both our navies are the only ones to operate with these catapults and arresting gear systems on the flight deck."

During their training, French and U.S. Navy pilots train every day to ensure that TR carrier qualifications run smoothly. It's good for camaraderie, and also helps instill a sense of pride and teamwork, strengthening allied relationships in training and war-time environments.

Commanded by Capt. Ladd Wheeler, Theodore Roosevelt is the flagship of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRSCG). The TRSCG is preparing for a scheduled deployment later this year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

NCTAMS PAC Improve Warfighters' Comms

By MC2 John W. Ciccarelli

Sailors assigned to Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific install the first of three new state-of-the-art Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite dishes. The MUOS is a next-generation narrowband tactical satellite communications system intended to significantly improve ground communications for U.S. forces on the move. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John W Ciccarelli Jr.

WAHIAWA, Hawaii (NNS) -- Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station, Pacific (NCTAMS PAC), installed the first of three new state-of-the-art Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite dishes.

The MUOS is a next-generation narrowband tactical satellite communications system intended to extensively improve ground communications for U.S. forces during operations on the move.

"MUOS is a Department of Defense (DOD) Ultra High Frequency Satellite Communications system(UHFSC) that provides the warfighter with modern worldwide mobile communication services," said James Cairns, NCTAMS PAC, project manager.

"MUOS adapts commercial cellular phone architecture for use in a military system using satellites in place of cell towers."

Technicians raised the 34-ton dish up over 80 feet to its permanent spot where it will point to one of the five highly sophisticated satellites scheduled to be deployed into space starting in 2012.

"The General Dynamics Satellite Communications (SATCOM) team doing the assembly of the MUOS antennas are true professionals," said Cairns. "There was lots of planning that went into this evolution behind the scenes, but once we got all the pieces in place everything went off like clockwork."

Construction on the site began July 5, 2007 and will change the way the Navy transmits information into the 21st Century.

"MUOS will use technological innovations to provide service to more military users and offer a truly effective communication capability tool in accomplishing the Navy's maritime strategy mission."

"The great thing about MUOS is that it's smart technology but from the user's perspective it's simple and just plain works. The network is being designed to handle lots of users so units that don't have a SATCOM capability today will be able to have it in the near future with MUOS."

Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Sunnyvale, Calif., is the prime contractor and systems integrator for the MUOS program. On Sept. 24, 2004, the company was awarded a $2.1 billion contract to build the first two satellites and associated ground control elements for the MUOS system. The contract also provides for options on three additional spacecraft. With all options exercised, the contract for up to five satellites has a total potential value of $3.26 billion.

Capt. Janet Stewart, commanding officer, NCTAMS PAC was thrilled about the installation of the MUOS system and all the hard work the Navy and its partners did.

"A lot of folks and a lot of parties have come together to be able to make this installation, and this capability come to fruition. We have folks around the world and around the United States that have worked together for years and who will continue to work together for years until all the MUOS satellites are in fact launched and fully operational."

Commander, Strike Force Training Atlantic Evaluates COMPTUEX Performance

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason Zalasky and Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Michael Starkey, Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group Public Affairs

The Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group steams through the Atlantic Ocean in formation during the strike group's composite unit training exercise (COMPTUEX). COMPTUEX provides a realistic training environment to ensure the strike group is capable and ready for its upcoming scheduled deployment. U.S. Navy photo by Fire Controlman 1st Class Nathan Rathjen

The Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) completed the blue phase of Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) July 17.

COMPTUEX is a series of graded exercise scenarios intended to evaluate and prepare the strike group for its upcoming deployment. Rear Adm. Donald P. Quinn, commander, Strike Force Training Atlantic, who led the exercise, toured the ships in the strike group and visited with Sailors who will deploy this fall.

"Its nice to see that an admiral is taking the time to come out to sea and look at what a hard job we are doing here on the ship," said Yeoman 3rd Class John Stevens, a Sailor assigned to USS Ramage (DDG 61).

"It makes me feel like we have a reason for working harder, knowing that the people in charge of the training missions are seeing our efforts."

This exercise is key in the strike group's work-up cycle.

"COMPTUEX is the last part of the integrated training for every strike group. In the case of ESGs, they get synthetic training pierside where they work up and develop some teamwork. They work on communications and information systems. We come to see and validate those procedures that we develop synthetically," said Quinn.

"The ESG is on track to qualify. Like every strike group, there are strengths and weaknesses. This group is doing very well. There are some things they'll want to work on or improve on before going on cruise, but in general they're doing very well in all of the seven primary mission areas."

Ramage's Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Gerald Coulson explained why the admiral took the time to visit the Sailors in the strike group.

"This was a chance for the Sailors to see that the leaders who conduct these training exercises care about them and know the long hours spent are for a greater cause. It has let the Sailors know that the leaders care about what they are doing and how they are doing."

Quinn attributed much of the success of COMPTUEX to the attitudes of Sailors.

"This ESG has been particularly strong in attitude when working through some tough problems. There are challenges always in the schedules and maintenance of the various ships and units that come here. Getting your people where they need to be in time and then getting all of the complex computers, radios and systems together, the group has been very good at working through this."

With the completion of the Blue Phase, the Iwo Jima ESG will now participate in the Green Phase of COMPTUEX, followed by participation in the USS Theodore Roosevelt's (CVN 71) upcoming Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 08-4.

The Iwo Jima ESG consists of Ramage; the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) with the embarked 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU); the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50); the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17); the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72); all homeported at Norfolk; the guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), homeported at Mayport, Fla.; and the fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768), homeported at Groton, Conn.

Monday, July 21, 2008

USS De Wert and Colombian Navy Interdict Two Drug-Carrying Vessels

While on patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, USS De Wert (FFG 45) with embarked detachments, Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 46 Det. 1 (HSL-46 Det. 1), Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 103, and Colombian Navy ship Buenaventura interdicted two go-fast vessels July 11, each carrying over one ton of cocaine.

The two suspect vessels were tracked and interdicted by the joint efforts of De Wert, HSL-46 Det. 1, LEDET 103, and Buenaventura. De Wert recovered several jettisoned bales from one of the suspect vessels. These bales were later confirmed to be cocaine. Five alleged traffickers from the second go-fast were detained on board De Wert by the crew and LEDET 103. The suspects were later transferred to another U.S. Naval vessel in the vicinity.

The six alleged traffickers from the first go-fast vessel, two tons of contraband, and both go-fast vessels were transferred to the Colombian Navy.

The coordinated actions of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S) in partnership with the Colombian Navy were instrumental to the successful interdiction of over two tons of narcotics.

De Wert, homeported in Mayport, Fla., is currently deployed in Latin America under the operational control of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO)/U.S. 4th Fleet, conducting counter illicit trafficking operations in support of JIATF-South, U.S. law enforcement and U.S. and participating nations drug control policy.

De Wert is also supporting the U.S. Maritime Strategy by conducting Theater Security Cooperation events, such as community relations projects and Project Handclasp distributions, in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pililaau Underway with 3rd Brigade-25th ID

The Military Sealift Command medium, large roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Pililaau (T-AKR 304) passes Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu, Hawaii. Pililaau is transporting the U.S. Army 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division and 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command equipment from Hawaii to Camp Pendleton, Calif. To support Joint Logistics Over the Shore (JLOTS) 2008 exercise Pacific Strike, a joint exercise of the U.S. military's ability to transfer war fighting and humanitarian equipment to shore from ships at sea. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hurricane Hunters deploy to U.S. Virgin Islands

Blog Editor Note: My monthly Milcom column in the August issue of Monitoring Times will feature an indepth article on monitoring the NOAA/USAF Hurricane Hunters. Loaded with the latest callsigns and frequencies, it hits the newstands and subscribers mailboxes just in time for the peak of the hurricane season in the next two months. If you aren't a subscriber and you read this blog, it is an issue you don't want to miss.

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFPN) -- Hurricane Hunters have deployed from the Air Force Reserve Command's 403rd Wing here to a forward operating location on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands to be in position for storm flights.

After Citizen Airmen of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flew missions into Hurricane Bertha recently, the National Hurricane Center again has called on them to provide critical data on a new storm system brewing just east of the windward islands.

The C-130J Hercules aircrews are investigating the strong tropical wave which is a westward-moving disturbance gaining a significant amount of convection in the past 24 hours. Heavy showers and gusty winds are sweeping over Barbados as the system approaches. Other windward island locations can expect similar conditions soon.

Satellite images and surface data indicated that the area of low pressure located 225 miles east of the islands had become better organized and that it could become a tropical depression.

The Hurricane Hunters will be flying a mission into the disturbance to provide information to NHC forecasters. Data gathered through aerial reconnaissance is more accurate and gives forecasters a better picture of what is going in inside the disturbance.

Follow-on flights may be scheduled depending on the needs of the NHC.

Russian Submarine Raised

Military divers are working around the clock to bring a Russian submarine to the surface.

If you would like to use a pop up media player click here Submarine raised

Raptors set to deploy to Guam

F-22 Raptors from the 90th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, will be deploying to Andersen AFB, Guam, July 18 - Aug. 2 to participate in Exercise Jungle Shield and to conduct additional training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Mikal Canfield)

Six F-22 Raptors from the 90th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, are set to deploy to Andersen AFB, Guam, July 18 to Aug. 2.

The F-22s, along with associated maintenance and support personnel, will deploy to Guam to participate in the Jungle Shield exercise and conduct Cope Thaw training.

Jungle Shield will exercise 13th Air Force's air defense mission in Guam and validate the area air defense commander's ability to command and control such missions from the 613th Air and Space Operations Center here.

Following the exercise, the F-22 personnel will take part in Cope Thaw, one in a series of regularly occurring training events in which aircraft and personnel have an opportunity to conduct training in environments different from those at their home station.

This is the first deployment of Pacific Air Forces-assigned F-22s. It also marks the second deployment of the F-22 to the Pacific theater. In February 2007, F-22s and personnel from the 27th FS at Langley AFB, Va., deployed to Kadena Air Base, Japan.

F-15E Strike Eagles and B-52 Stratofortresses and their aircrews already deployed to Andersen also will participate in Jungle Shield. Other participants include 13th AF and 613th AOC personnel here and 36th Wing personnel assigned to Andersen.

The United States routinely evaluates readiness and repositions forces as needed to ensure capabilities necessary to meet obligations in the Asia-Pacific region. These deployments demonstrate the continued U.S. commitment to fulfill security responsibilities throughout the Western Pacific and to maintain peace in the region.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Milcom Monitoring on the Florida Gulf Coast

T-2 Buckeye aircraft formation over Pensacola. (US Navy Photo)

Nashville area monitor Joe Cobb travelled down to the western Florida Gulf Coast last week and did quite a bit of Milcom monitoring. Joe posted has report to the Milcom newsgroup and has given the Milcom Monitoring Post permission to post his intercepts here on the MMP Blog.

Thanks Joe for sharing your intercepts with our readers here on MMP.

Monitored on the Florida Gulf Coast during the period 7/9/2008 to 7/12/2008

Pensacola Area Callsigns:

BUCK 1xx (T-1A, VT-4/TAW-6, Pensacola) USAF borrowed aircraft
BUCK 3xx (T-6A, VT-4/TAW-6, Pensacola)
KATT 1xx (T-1A, VT-10/TAW-6, Pensacola) USAF borrowed aircraft
KATT 6xx (T-6A, VT-10/TAW-6, Pensacola)
ROCKET 2xx (T-2C, VT-86/TAW-6, Pensacola) yup, they still use 'em
ROCKET 5xx (T-39N/G, VT-86/TAW-5, Pensacola)
BLACKBIRD xxx (T-34C, VT-2/TAW-5, Whiting Field)
RED KNIGHT xxx (T-34C, VT-3/TAW-5, Whiting Field)
SHOOTER xxx (T-34C, VT-6/TAW-5, Whiting Field)
ROCKET 404 x4 (T-45C, ???) lands NAS Pensacola, visual over the hotel
FOXY 48 (T-38C, 90th FTS/80th FTW, Sheppard) shoots app at NAS Pensacola then heads toward Eglin
BENGAL 41 x 3 (F/A-18D, VMFA(AW)-224, Beaufort) working offshore using SEABREEZE TAC freq of 275.600 then lands NAS Pensacola for RON then departs Saturday morning (A/A: 250.300)
RED DOG 31 (?AH-1W/UH-1N?, HMLA-773, Atlanta) lands NAS Pensacola
RED DOG 32 (AH-1W, HMLA-773, Atlanta) lands NAS Pensacola, visual as he flies down the beach enroute
RAVEN 21 "flight" (???) lands NAS Pensacola, calls helo pad 2 in sight


Eglin/Tyndall related callsigns (AWACS):

THUMPER (front end: SCOUT 12)


Eglin/Tyndall related callsigns (tankers):

BOLT 04, 05 (KC-135R, 91st ARS/6th AMW, MacDill)
SODA 81, 82 (KC-135R, 151st ARS/134th ARW, Knoxville)
JAKE 11 (KC-135R, 153rd ARS/186th ARW, Meridian)


Eglin/Tyndall related callsigns (fighters):

HOSER 61 x 2 (F-15, 33rd FW, Eglin)
CLAW 01 x 3 (F-22A, 43rd FS/325th FW, Tyndall)
HOTDOG 01 x 3 (F-15E, 40th FLTS/46th TW, Eglin) HOTDOG 01 self id'd as an F-15E when he declared an IFE due to left engine overtemp. Passed tail number of 87-0180, 2 SOB on 7-11-08.
MOZAM 01 x 2 (F-15, 33rd FW, Eglin)
NITRO 01 x 2 (F-15, 33rd FW, Eglin)
BARON 31 x 3 (F-15, 33rd FW, Eglin)
RACER 01 x 2 (F-16, 113th FS/181st FW, Terra Haute) A/A: 142.95
RACER 03 x 2 (F-16, 113th FS/181st FW, Terra Haute) A/A: 142.275
SPOOKY 41 (AC-130U, 4th SOS/16th SOW, Hurlburt)
SUPER 01 (????)
NOMAD 61 x 2 (F-15, 33rd FW, Eglin)
RINGO 51 x 2 (F-15C, 33rd FW, Eglin) On 7-11-08 on the tanker RINGO 51 passed tail number of 82-0034 and RINGO 52 passed number of 82-0033
RINGO 71 x 2 (F-15, 33rd FW, Eglin)
GRIZZLY 51 x 2 (F-15, 33rd FW, Eglin)
CHECKER 01 x 2 (F-22A, 43rd FS/325th FW, Tyndall)
RAPTOR 01 x 2 (F-22A, 43rd FS/325th FW, Tyndall)
SPECTRE 61 (AC-130H, 16th SOS/16th SOW, Hurlburt)
SKYRAY 01 x 3 (????)
SPAD 78 (C-130 type, Hurlburt)
DISCO 21 x ? (F-15, 33rd FW, Eglin)
CHOSEN xx (????)
BURNER 01 (????)
SCARY xx (????)
VEGAS 11 (????)
SHADOW 92 (MC-130P, 9th SOS/16th SOW, Hurlburt)
SPUR 42 (C-130 type, ???, Hurlburt) Reported going hot in Alpha-78 on 259.2 (7-11-08)


Frequencies (Pensacola Area):

136.675------T-34 A/A
239.050------Pensacola A/D
251.300------Unknown user/usage
252.525------T-34 A/A
257.975------T-34 A/A
270.800------Pensacola A/D
274.200------Working TAC freq assigned by SEABREEZE
275.600------Working TAC freq assigned by SEABREEZE
280.700------Working TAC freq assigned by SEABREEZE
290.000------Unknown user/A/A (poss VMFA-251 F-18's)
291.625------Pensacola A/D
303.050------Local Common A/A
303.150------Gator MOA (used like an A/A common for position reporting)
303.400------SEABREEZE Controller
306.925------North Whiting Field Tower
309.800------Unknown user/A/A
318.800------Unknown user/A/A
340.200------Sherman Tower (KNPA)
351.825------Pensacola A/D


Frequencies (Eglin, Hurlburt, Tyndall area):

227.075-------Tyndall working freq (W-470?)
228.900-------BANDSAW KILO working HUNTRESS passing tracks (7-11-08)
251.250-------Hurlburt CP
257.500-------Tyndall working freq (HYDRA)
266.500-------Air Refueling
269.150-------Eglin Approach
281.450-------Eglin A/D
288.900-------Tyndall working freq
290.900-------Eglin Mission
292.700-------Hornet Ops (43rd FS/325th FW)
298.400-------CHOSEN "flight" A/A
320.950-------Unid Approach/Departure Control
341.700-------Tyndall A/D
342.500-------Eglin Metro (BANDSAW checking on approaching weather)
353.650-------Eglin Tower (KVPS)
357.500-------Air Refueling
360.600-------Eglin A/D
363.400-------Eglin Mission/Air Refueling
369.150-------CROW A/A
384.400-------Tyndall Tower (KPAM)
392.100-------Tyndall A/D


Frequencies (TAC working freqs assigned by Eglin Mission on 290.9):

245.450-------RACER working freq later in the week
258.100-------DARKSTAR (E-3) working RACERS (F-16)
259.750-------THUMPER (E-3) working CROWS (F-15) on 7-9-08 and NOMAD 01 x 2 (F-15) working DEMON on 7-10-08



157.075-------US Coast Guard Ch 81A
157.100-------US Coast Guard Ch 22A
157.150-------US Coast Guard Ch 23A
276.800-------BAMA Ops (also BANDSAW checking status of PYTHON and VENOM flights)
280.100-------Pine Hill MOA (DIXIE Vipers playing)
288.150-------Houston Center
318.050-------SENTRY 50 (E-3) up with either RAYMOND 11 or RAVEN 11
323.050-------Jacksonville Center
345.000-------US Coast Guard Air (unid helo)
346.400-------Jacksonville Center


I also tried some of the new 380MHz trunked freqs for the area and this is what i come up with.

Control Channel: 385.3125 (assigned to NAS Pensacola according to

Freqs asociated with the system:

388.8000 388.6000 388.0625 386.5125 386.2500 388.3375 388.2375

Talk groups that came up and i never identitified except maybe one.

29473 (they kept saying quarterdeck to so and so and responders came back with such and such secured)

Other control channels in the area i found in search mode:

386.2625 386.8500 386.8875 388.2375

End of report from Joe.

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JTFEX 08-4 "Operation Brimstone" Flexes Allied Force Training

VRC-40 C-2A readies for launch onboard the Roosevelt. (U.S. Navy Photo)

Blog Editor Note: For east coast milcom monitors here is another chance for an excellent monitoring opportunity. I already have one report of 8204.0 kHz USB being used by the Iwo Jima ESG for CWC net comms.

More than 15,000 service members from four countries will participate in Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 08-4 "Operation Brimstone", July 21-31 in North Carolina and off the eastern U.S. coast from Virginia to Florida.

JTFEX 08-4 serves as a ready-for-deployment certification event for the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TR CSG) and the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (IWO ESG). The exercise will also serve as a Joint Task Force Capable Headquarters sustainment event. In addition, JTFEX 08-4 will offer preliminary accreditation for 2nd Fleet's Maritime Headquarters with Maritime Operations Center (MHQ with MOC)). MHQ with MOC is a new approach to command and control for fleet commanders.

"This exercise is a tremendous opportunity to train; not only as the Navy and Marine Corps team, but with our joint and coalition partners as well," said Commander, 2nd Fleet Vice Adm. Marty Chanik.

"JTFEX 08-4 will flex our warfighting capabilities from the operational level through expeditionary strike force and strike group operations with several of our coalition partners – France, Brazil and the United Kingdom."

The exercise also marks the first time that forces from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command are participating in an East-Coast JTFEX. NECC forces operating in the littorals and riverine environment are supporting integrated operations.

"Navy Expeditionary Combat Command provides a self-contained adaptive force package with a command element tailored to support the full spectrum of operations from major combat operations to unconventional and irregular warfare," said NECC commander Rear Adm. Mike Tillotson.

U.S. and coalition naval assets underway for the exercise include the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) with associated units including the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (RO 7), the Brazilian Navy frigate Greenhalgh (F-46) and the French submarine FS Amethyste (S 605). BNS Greenhalgh is the first Brazilian Navy ship to operate integrated in a U.S. strike group.

French Rafale fighter aircraft assigned to the 12th Squadron, and Hawkeye early warning aircraft assigned to the 4th Squadron will conduct carrier qualifications and cyclic flight operations with U.S. Carrier Air Wing 8 during Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group's Joint Task Force Exercise. This marks the first integrated U.S. and French carrier qualifications and cyclic flight operations aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier.

The TR CSG is made up of: USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71); Commander, Carrier Strike Group 2 (CCSG-2); Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW-8); Commander, Destroyer Squadron 22 (CDS-22); the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61); the guided-missile destroyers USS Mason (DDG 87), and USS Nitze (DDG 94) homeported in Norfolk; the attack submarine USS Springfield (SSN 761) homeported in Groton, Conn.; and the guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) homeported in Mayport, Fla.

The IWO ESG consists of USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), Commander, Amphibious Squadron Four (CPR-4) based at Little Creek, Va.; the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU) based at Camp Lejune, N.C.; the amphibious transport dock ship San Antonio (LPD 17); guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72); and the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61), homeported in Norfolk; the dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) homeported at Little Creek, Va.; the guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) homeported in Mayport, Fla., and the attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) homeported in Groton, Conn.

The Navy Expeditionary Combat Task Group (NECTG) is made up of: Riverine Group 1 staff augmented with personnel from throughout the NECC force, Riverine Squadron 1, Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron Ten, based in Jacksonville, Fla.; an air detachment from Naval Construction Forces Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11 based in Gulfport, Miss.; Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 3, based in Alameda, Calif.), and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 6 plus EOD Support Unit based at Little Creek, Va.

In addition, the following forces are participating in the exercise simulating opposition forces: the guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64), homeported in Mayport, Fla.; the guided missile cruisers USS San Jacinto (CG 56), USS Anzio (CG 68) and USS Normandy (CG 60), the guided-missile destroyers USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79), USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81); and the guided-missile frigate USS Carr (FFG 52), all homeported in Norfolk.

Ships involved

Below are ships in the JTFX exercises. In parentheses are command units that will be embarked on board.

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71);
Commander, Carrier Strike Group Two (CCSG-2);
Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW-8);
Commander, Destroyer Squadron 22 (CDS-22);
Monterey (CG 61)
Mason (DDG 87)
Nitze (DDG 94).;
Springfield (SSN 761) homeported in Groton, Conn.;
The Sullivans (DDG 68) homeported in Mayport, Fla.;
Iwo Jima (LHD 7),
Commander, Amphibious Squadron Four (CPR-4) based at Little Creek, Va.; the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU) based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.;
San Antonio (LPD 17);
Vella Gulf (CG 72);
Ramage (DDG 61);
Carter Hall (LSD 50);
Roosevelt (DDG 80) homeported in Mayport, Fla.;
Hartford (SSN 768) homeported in Groton, Conn.

In addition, the following forces are participating in the exercise simulating opposition forces:

San Jacinto (CG 56),
Anzio (CG 68)
Normandy (CG 60),
Oscar Austin (DDG 79),
Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81)
Carr (FFG 52), all homeported in Norfolk, Va.;
Carney (DDG 64), homeported in Mayport, Fla.

Lightning struck at the Blue Angel air show this weekend.

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Missile Defense Status

The director of the Missle Defense Agency says that the US is increasingly concerned about Iran's missile capabilities.

If you would like to view this story using a pop up media player click here Missile Defense Status

Navy Warship Assist German Cargo Ship

ARABIAN SEA (July 14, 2008) An SH-60B Seahawk assigned to the "Saberhawks" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 47, embarked aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Momsen (DDG 92), takes supplies to the German cargo ship MV Lehmann Timber after the ship suffered engine problems and became stranded in a storm. Momsen is providing food and water to the ship until a tug arrives. Pirates recently released the crew of the Lehmann Timber after the owners paid a $750,000 ransom. Momsen is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility supporting maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo)

Italian Submarine Visits Naval Station Mayport, Marks First U.S. Visit Since WWII

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Regina L. Brown, Fleet Public Affairs Center Det. Southeast

Crew members assigned to the Italian air-independent propulsion (AIP) equipped submarine ITS Salvatore Todaro (S-526) prepare to pull into port at Naval Station Mayport, which marks the first visit of an Italian submarine to the U.S. since World War II. Todaro's port visit is supporting the upcoming Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group joint task force exercise (JTFEX) and demonstrates the U.S. and Italian Navy's continued commitment to building a strong working relationship. JTFEX is designed to test and evaluate a battle group's reactions to multiple wartime scenarios and is the final certification for a battle group preparing to deploy. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Regina L. Brown

Italian submarine ITS Salvatore Todaro (S 526) pulled into Naval Station Mayport, July 11, the first visit by an Italian submarine to the United States since World War II.

Salvatore Todaro's visit is in support of their participation in an upcoming Joint Task Force Exercise with the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. The exercise demonstrates the continued commitment of the U.S. and Italian navies to building stronger relationships.

Salvatore Todaro, with a 27-man crew, is the first Type U212A vessel and entered into service just over two years ago. Italy is gradually replacing the Sauro-class units with new Type U212A vessels which operate a fuel cell air-independent propulsion system.

"We are very happy that we're here to support this training," said Lt. Cmdr. Mauro Panebianco, commanding officer of Salvatore Todaro. "This is a historic visit and we're proud to be a part of it."

This visit also works to reinforce the Navy's new maritime strategy, which raises the importance of working with international partners as the basis for building trust and cooperation between nations.

"The U.S. has provided us with excellent support and a wonderful opportunity to train with them," said Capt. Maurizio Ertreo, an attaché working at the Italian embassy in Washington, D.C. "We wouldn't have been able to solve the few issues we had without all the help from the people here at Mayport, especially our sister ship, USS Klakring (FFG 42)."

These exchanges have been an important part in strengthening the foundation of maritime cooperation.

"Hopefully we can use this unique opportunity as a springboard for future relationships," said Cmdr. Ian Pollitt, Klakring commanding officer. "To be part of something like this, in even just a small logistical support way, means a lot to the crew, they've been talking about it for the past couple weeks."

The Klakring crew planned social activities for the Todaro crew, including a formal reception and a friendly soccer game.

"I figure with our crew size of 190 and their crew size of 27, it should be an even match," said Pollitt.

Navy Names Two Virginia Class Submarines

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy announced on July 15 that the next two Virginia-class attack submarines will be named the USS Minnesota and the USS North Dakota.

The selection of Minnesota, designated SSN 783, honors the state's citizens and their continued support to our nation's military. Minnesota has a long tradition of honoring its veterans of wars past and present. The state is proud to be home to 46 Medal of Honor recipients that span from the Civil War to the Vietnam War.

This will be the third ship to bear the state name. The first USS Minnesota, a sailing steam frigate, was commissioned in 1857 and served during the Civil War, remaining in service until her decommissioning in 1898. The second Minnesota was commissioned in 1907. On December 16, 1907 she departed Hampton Roads as one of the 16 battleships of the Great White Fleet sent by then-President Theodore Roosevelt on a voyage around the world. She continued her service through World War I, and was decommissioned in 1921.

The selection of the North Dakota, designated SSN 784, honors the state's citizens and veterans and their strong military support and heritage from the Frontier Wars through the Cold War and currently the war on terrorism. Seventeen North Dakotans have received the Medal of Honor for actions in combat, including Master Sgt. Woodrow W. Keeble who posthumously received the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony on March 3, 2008. This is the second ship to bear the name North Dakota. The first ship, the Delaware-class USS North Dakota, was in service from 1910 through 1923.

These next-generation attack submarines will provide the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation's undersea supremacy well into the 21st century. They will have improved stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities and special warfare enhancements that will enable them to meet the Navy's multi-mission requirements.

North Dakota and Minnesota will have the capability to attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land areas, littoral waters or other sea-based forces. Other missions include anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare; special forces delivery and support; and mine delivery and minefield mapping.

The Virginia-class is 7,800-tons and 377 feet in length, has a beam of 34 feet, and can operate at more than 25 knots submerged. It is designed with a reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship reducing lifecycle costs while increasing underway time.

Multinational Exercise Sea Breeze 2008 Begins

ODESSA, Ukraine (NNS) -- Ships from numerous nations, including USS McFaul (DDG 74), have been arriving Odessa, Ukraine since July 11 as part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 367 in support of Exercise Sea Breeze.

The guided-missile destroyer is one of 14 ships participating in Sea Breeze, a joint invitational and combined maritime exercise involving 16 countries and held in the spirit of partnership for peace.

The exercise is an annual event which occurs in the Black Sea and at various land-based Ukrainian training facilities. The exercise includes enhancing multinational interoperability, developing Black Sea-nation maritime security capabilities and improving involvement in Navy Europe's larger Black Sea theater security cooperation strategy.

"This exercise is a key part of the U.S. Navy's strategy to enrich our partnerships in the region and work together to improve maritime safety and security," said Cmdr. Tim Schorr, commanding officer of McFaul. "Both myself and the entire crew are excited to work with our friends from all over the world."

The exercise, scheduled to continue through July 26, includes 14 ships, 17 aircraft and more than 2,200 personnel.

"Exercise Sea Breeze demonstrates U.S. and partner nation commitment to regional stability and maritime security," said U.S. Navy Capt. John Moore, exercise deputy commander and commodore of CTF 367.

"During this exercise, Sailors and Marines will work side-by-side with other personnel from partner ships while they are underway and ashore and will become familiar with the other militaries' operating procedures and practices."

Navy Helo Squadron Helps Tame Wildfires

By Lt. David Shark, 302nd Air Expeditionary Group

LEMOORE, Calif. (NNS) -- The "High Rollers" of Helicopter Sea Support Squadron 85 are currently supporting multiple operations around the globe, but members of the squadron are also working stateside to help tame raging fires in California.

Detachments of MH-60S helicopters and personnel from HSC-85 are in Hawaii supporting the Rim of the Pacific 2008 exercise, also known as RIMPAC, and flying air ambulance missions in Kuwait.

Another detachment is in California, helping the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) as they fight to contain wildfires across the state. The squadron, which rendered similar assistance in 2007, deployed to Naval Air Station Lemoore July 1 and began firefighting missions the following day.

Aircrews from HSC-85 completed annual firefighting training with CAL FIRE as recently as May 2008. Aircrews practice coordination with firefighting officials during such training, learning how military helicopters fit into the overall firefighting effort.

This year, crewmembers also practiced setting up fire shelters, in case a helicopter has to make an emergency landing in an active fire area.

"We have a great relationship with CAL FIRE," said Cmdr. Mike Newman, the executive officer of HSC-85. "Because of our annual training, we have built a lot of personal relationships, and we get along very well."

Close coordination is essential on firefighting missions. A military coordinator, known as a MILCO, in another aircraft leads the Navy helicopter to the area of the desired drop point. From there, the aircrew evaluates the wind, the terrain and the performance of the aircraft to develop a plan of attack.

Once the helicopter flies towards the drop point, it is up to the aircrewman in the back of the helicopter to release the water from the 420-gallon bucket hanging below.

"As a Reserve organization, we have a lot of folks who love to fly. That's what brought us back [to the Navy Reserve]," Newman said. "Firefighting missions are tremendously rewarding because you are protecting people and their property. You are helping people out."

As of July 11, the High Rollers have flown 38 firefighting sorties, making 104 drops and delivering approximately 40,000 gallons of water to critical fire areas to support ground firefighters. All firefighting missions have been flown on the basin fire near Big Sur.

HSC-85 is flying firefighting missions along with CH-53E helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465 and CH-46E helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Training Squadron (HMMT) 164 and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 268. Combined, the military helicopters have made 574 air drops, delivering more than 217,000 gallons of water on wildfires in California.

The Navy and Marine Corps helicopters are conducting firefighting missions as part of the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group, which also includes firefighting aircraft from the Air Force Reserve and various Air National Guard units. The 302nd AEG is part of a unified military support effort of U.S. Northern Command to provide assistance to the U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE and the National Interagency Fire Center.

Carrier Strike Group 7 Arrives in Republic of Korea

BUSAN, South Korea (NNS) -- Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 7, including four ships and more than 5,500 Sailors, arrived in Republic of Korea ports July 14 for routine port visits.

The strike group's flagship, the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW 14), and the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) docked in Busan, while the guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur (DDG 73) and USS Howard (DDG 83) moored in the port city of Chinhae.

This marks the third port visit for CSG-7 during its 2008 Western Pacific deployment and the second visit to Busan by Ronald Reagan. The carrier last visited in March 2007.

"I was fortunate enough to be here [as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea] the last time Ronald Reagan came here, and they were talking about it for months," said Rear Adm. Phil Wisecup, commander of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group.

"We're just as excited to be here as they are to host the ship. We are staunch allies and friends, and our Sailors are excited about the cultural exchange."

More than 240 strike group Sailors will volunteer their time and efforts to help make a difference in various South Korean communities, participating in community relations projects at local schools, elderly care centers and orphanages.

CSG-7 is currently in the U.S. 7th Fleet's area of responsibility as part of a scheduled deployment to promote cooperation, security and stability in the region.