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Monday, November 30, 2009
NOQ Mobile AL Marine Information Broadcast-1020/1220/1620/2220
NMC CAMSPAC Point Reyes CA Marine Information Broadcast-0203/1403
NMQ9 Long Beach CA Marine Information Broadcast-0503/1303/2103
NMQ27 Los Angeles CA Marine Information Broadcast-0503/1303/2103
NMA10 Mayport FL Marine Information Broadcast-0620/1820
NCF Miami FL Marine Information Broadcast-0350/1550
NMA21 St. Petersburg FL Marine Information Broadcast-0320/1420
NRV COMSTA Apra Harbor GUM Marine Information Broadcast-0705/2205
NMO COMSTA Honolulu HI Marine Information Broadcast-0545/1145/1745/2345
NMG COMSTA New Orleans LA Marine Information Broadcast-0550/1035/1235/1635/2235
NMF COMSTA Boston (Cape Cod) MA Marine Information Broadcast-1035/2235
NMF2 Woods Hole MA Marine Information Broadcast-0440/1640
NMN70 Eastern Shore MD Marine Information Broadcast-0233/1403
NMW44 Portland ME Marine Information Broadcast-1105/2305
NMF44 Southwest Harbor ME Marine Information Broadcast-1135/2335
NMN13 Cape Hatteras NC Marine Information Broadcast-0133/1303
NMN37 Fort Macon NC Marine Information Broadcast-0103/1233
NMK3 Atlantic City NJ Marine Information Broadcast-1103/2203
NMY42 Moriches NY Marine Information Broadcast-0010/1210
NMW Astoria OR Marine Information Broadcast-0533/1733
? Humboldt Bay CGAS (Arcata) OR Marine Information Broadcast-0303/1503
NOE North Bend OR Marine Information Broadcast-0603/1803
NMR COMSTA San Juan PR Marine Information Broadcast-0305/1505
NMB Charleston SC Marine Information Broadcast-0420/1620
NOY26 Corpus Christi TX Marine Information Broadcast-1040/1240/1640/2240
NOY Galveston TX Marine Information Broadcast-1050/1250/1650/2250
NMN80 Hampton Roads VA Marine Information Broadcast-0203/1333
NOW Port Angeles WA Marine Information Broadcast-0615/1825
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- According to air mobility experts on the ground in Iraq, initial results of the ongoing U.S. Army direct support mission Concept of Operations test there indicate what Air Force and Air Mobility Command officials have said all along: the Air Force supports this mission 100 percent.
The CONOP test began Nov. 5 and will continue through December.
In April, through Resource Memorandum Decision 802, Defense Secretary Robert Gates moved the C-27J program and its related direct support airlift mission from the Army to the Air Force. And since April, the Air Force and AMC have taken a serious approach to building the program.
As part of that approach, AMC officials drafted a Concept of Employment to support the delivery of Army time-sensitive, mission-critical equipment, supplies and personnel into the Commander of Army Forces' area of operations. The plan gives the Senior Army Aviation Authority, or SAAA, tactical control of C-27J Air Force assets, which will be embedded with the SAAA.
That Concept of Employment has now become a Concept of Operations, or CONOP, which is being tested in Iraq via an expeditionary airlift squadron and two C-130 Hercules aircraft since the C-27J aircraft will not be operational until late 2010. According to Col. Gary McCue, the air liaison officer with the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq, the squadron flies one aircraft daily, with the second aircraft on standby for immediate response, if necessary.
During testing, the 164th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, made up primarily of members of the 164th Airlift Squadron, Ohio Air National Guard, is tasked directly by the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade; similar to the system used by the Army's rotary-winged assets, such as the CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk.
According to Colonel McCue, who is also the commander of the 179th Operations Group, Ohio ANG, the test will work out the command and control structure of the C-27 direct support mission and help the Air Force validate requirements. "We want to figure out how best to provide direct support to the Army in addition to what we're already doing," he said. "This has never been done before ... nobody knows where this is going to lead."
Although it's never been done before, Colonel McCue said it gets better with every day and with every mission.
Since the testing began, the team has completed dozens of sorties. Colonel McCue said each day varies, but so far the team has executed several sorties during each mission and, as the test progresses, they expect to add more sorties per mission. He said they are getting into their "battle rhythm," and each day is more successful than the previous.
"Our primary mission is to learn the Army's command and control and scheduling processes," Colonel McCue said. And, he said, his unit is perfectly suited for working with the Army.
"When the call came in asking if we would support this mission, it took us about 3 seconds to answer," said Colonel McCue. "As an Air Guard unit, we work very closely with the Army [National Guard] in Ohio. And since we rolled in here, it's been seamless. The Army wants this to work. They've been asking for this for 60 years. And we're showing them that we're with them 100 percent."
Although there are no set number of sorties each day, Colonel McCue said the team of air mobility experts executes the mission every day with the goal of completing the full day's taskings. So far, they're on track with 100 percent of the sorties executed.
Although this specific CONOP is new to the Air Force and AMC, mobility Airmen have a proven track record of providing direct support to ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. AMC officials said if the Army asks for something, particularly with airdrops, they've been able to fulfill their request 100 percent of the time.
In fact, the Air Force is setting airdrop records month after month in Afghanistan. In June, a record 3.2 million pounds of cargo was airdropped, only to be beaten in July with 3.3 million, then August with 3.8 million and again in September with 4.1 million pounds. As of Oct. 30, mobility aircraft had airdropped about 24 million pounds of cargo in Afghanistan in 2009, directly delivering much-needed supplies and aid to American and coalition warfighters.
The increase in airdrops isn't new. Air mobility forces have doubled their airdrop rate every year since 2006. In 2006 we dropped more than 4 million pounds; in 2007, more than 8 million; and in 2008, the total was 16.6 million pounds of cargo. At the current pace the 2009 total will likely reach more than 25 million pounds.
The record number of pounds delivered also means record numbers of airdrop bundles delivered. For example, in 2007, the Air Force airdropped 5,675 cargo bundles to troops in Afghanistan. In 2009, with an average of about 1,065 bundles a month, the Air Force is on pace to airdrop more than 16,000 bundles -- almost triple the pace of two years ago.
Mobility Airmen have also shown their direct support through intra-theater airlift. Through the end of August, more than 245,000 passengers and 119,000 tons of cargo were airlifted in the Afghanistan theater. In Iraq during the same time frame, it was just as significant, with 570,000 passengers and 92,000 tons of cargo airlifted.
Although the team is using C-130s to test the JCA CONOP, the Defense Department's designated direct support mission aircraft is the C-27J Spartan; what some are calling a "mini Herc."
Air Force officials will field 38 C-27Js to be operated by the Air National Guard. Current plans indicate the C-27J will be based at six ANG bases, including: Baltimore, Md.; Mansfield, Ohio; Fargo, N.D.; Bradley Airfield, Conn.; Battle Creek, Mich.; and Meridian, Miss.
By Ian Graham, Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON - Global positioning system technology is being applied to older rotary-wing aircraft to help save lives, a senior helicopter pilot based at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., said.
Air Force Col. Peter Mapes and other pilots at Andrews will install and test advanced GPS units, designed originally for airplanes, in some of the 316th Wing, 1st Helicopter Squadron's UH-1N "Huey" helicopters.
"This is game-changing technology because it directly addresses the leading cause of loss of life in this type of aeronautical vehicle," Mapes said.
The Defense Safety Oversight Council sponsored the test as part of efforts to reduce helicopter mishaps. From 1985 to 2005, 917 non-combat mishaps occurred, resulting in death, injury, damage exceeding $200,000, and the loss of aircraft.
Most helicopter fatalities are caused by impact with terrain – unseen mountains, trees or other obstructions -- known as controlled flight into terrain or CFIT. Because the vehicles are generally moving at high speed during such collisions, more than 90 percent of passengers and crew exposed to these events are injured or killed.
The GPS units installed in the Hueys help prevent- CFITs by displaying maps of potential obstructions at a certain elevation.
"This device has a global terrain database and will warn you of any potential collision," Mapes said. "It also has an obstruction database for North America, Central America and Western Europe that will warn about towers if you're in those areas."
The new GPS systems, he explained, turn each helicopter into a sort of "mini radar station." In addition to providing data on obstructions and terrain, it also tracks weather patterns – including lightning strikes, wind flow and rain – and other aircraft in the area.
Unexpectedly bad weather is the second leading non-human factor responsible for Army helicopter mishaps, and the leading non-human factor causing fatalities.
But, by using the new equipment, officials say, a pilot can essentially fly "blind" using the GPS and weather data to make flight plans, observe potential obstructions and even land the aircraft with minimal visibility.
The unit, a GNS-530AWT produced by Garmin, also gives the helicopters radio communication and navigation requirements, making them easy to deploy worldwide.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
BRUNSWICK, Maine -- The two last planes at Maine's Brunswick Naval Air Station lifted off Saturday in blustery winds, ending nearly 60 years of maritime patrol operations at New England's last active-duty military air base.
The P-3 Orions of the VP-26 squadron lumbered down an 8,000-foot runway before heading off to a six-month deployment in Central America. After that, they fly to their new home at Florida's Jacksonville Naval Air Station.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009
SANTA RITA, Guam (NNS) -- Combat stores ship USNS San Jose (T-ASF 7) made its last port visit to U.S. Naval Base Guam Nov. 10 before it heads to Pearl Harbor for deactivation.
A crew of about 140 civilian mariners and 40 military personnel operate the 581-foot San Jose under Military Sealift Command's (MSC) Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force.
San Jose is the last of the T-AFS vessels, which supplied the Navy with everything from food, fuel, equipment, spare parts and other supplies.
Capt. Keith Walzak, the ship's master, said San Jose has been a key player in missions for the Navy's 7th and 5th Fleets as well as U.S. African Command.
In previous years, San Jose also provided humanitarian assistance to foreign nations. It transported food, blankets and other items to American Samoa after it was hit by a tsunami and to the Republic of the Philippines after a typhoon in September. Walzak added those missions have helped promote the maritime strategy by strengthening America's relationship with its allies.
From Bahrain to Djibouti and Singapore to Japan, San Jose and its crew have performed their services with excellence, Walzak said.
"We talk about the Navy and the tip of the spear," Walzak said. "San Jose feeds the tip of the spear."
San Jose is scheduled for its official deactivation Jan. 27, 2010. MSC will continue to support the fleet with the Navy's newest Lewis and Clark (T-AKE) class of dry cargo/ammunition ships.
"It was a good ship that was good to us," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Emerald McNeal, who has worked aboard San Jose for two years. "We all looked out for each other."
"For 40 years, she did a great job and now she's heading to her final resting place," she added.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, civilian-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.
OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- Many "Fighting Marlins" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 40 have an extra reason to be thankful this Thanksgiving. They are home from Iraq.
The first VP-40 airlift bringing home 105 Marlins, and one of their P-3 Orion aircraft with 16 on board arrived Nov. 24, representing the first wave to return after completing a seven-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Marlins will continue flying the remaining aircraft home over the next two weeks.
VP-40 deployed to Iraq supporting Commander Task Force 57, providing vital intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to Central Command troops and commanders.
During this global deployment, they sent crews to Sigonella, Italy under Commander, Task Force 67, supporting Operation Active Endeavor; to Kadena, Japan supporting 7th Fleet operations and detached crews to Bulgaria, Germany, France, Norway and Scotland, participating in various exercises.
"Everyone gains something from an experience like this; for some it's professional, for others it's a character building experience," said Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Maurace Clark. "These Sailors give it their all to get these planes off deck and accomplish the mission. Very few people have faced conditions like we've faced here in Iraq."
Over the course of the deployment, Sailors faced extreme weather conditions, reaching temperatures in excess of 130 degrees and blowing sand.
"Not even Sailors from Texas or Arizona have seen weather like this and for Northerners…they might as well be on the moon," said Clark.
During the deployment, VP-40 flew 4,000 flight hours and more than 400 combat sorties in support of OIF. The squadron also flew 120 events and 500 flight hours supporting 7th Fleet theater security objectives. The Marlins' Maintenance Department diagnosed and repaired 5,471 discrepancies, encompassing 12,091 man hours.
"With operational mission accomplishment as the centerpiece of each day, 24/7, for seven months, every Marlin did it right, did it proud and did it safe," said Cmdr. Michael McClintock, VP-40 commanding officer. "Our Sailors have operated in the most austere conditions, and I couldn't be more proud of the Marlins' performance."
Even while operating at an extremely vigorous operational tempo, personnel were still able to carry out essential training, qualifying 31 personnel in different flight crew positions and 43 personnel in essential maintenance positions. Training that will empower the next generation of Marlins to carry out its mission.
"We provide an essential piece of the intelligence picture to the Iraqi theater so that multi-national forces here can create an effective plan," said Chief Aviation Electrician's Mate (AW/NAC) Brett Edwards, VP-40 Operations leading chief petty officer. "Very few Navy personnel get to see this side of the Navy. It has been an extremely rewarding experience."
USS CHOSIN, At Sea (NNS) -- Three commanders of counterpiracy task forces met Nov. 21 to discuss future efforts and to welcome their newest member.
Rear Adm. Scott Sanders, commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, transferred from USS Chosin (CG 65), flagship of CTF 151, on an APECS II Lynx helicopter (Mk 95) from the Portuguese frigate Alveras Cabral, to meet with newest member Commodore Jose Pereira de Cunha, NATO commander, Combined Task Force 508 and Commodore Pieter Bindt, force commander of European Naval Force Somalia Combined Task Force 465.
The CTF leaders meet monthly to discuss and coordinate current and future operations off the coast of Somalia.
"There is an extraordinary level of communication and cooperation among all of the nations conducting counterpiracy operations in the Gulf," said Sanders.
"We communicate with each other while underway via electronic means, but to be able to meet and discuss matters in person helps to foster better relations between the task forces."
Since December 2008, more than nine countries have joined with CTF units in order to ensure safety, reduce wastage of assets, and create efficient and effective coverage of the Internationally Recognized Transit Corridor.
"No ship has been successfully pirated in the IRTC that has followed the recommended maritime industry guidelines," said Sanders.
Merchant mariners that have listened to the recommendations and lessons have employed reasonable self-protection measures that discourage or prevent pirates from attempting to take their vessels. These measures have ranged from proactive lookouts, evasive maneuvering, razor wire on deck edges, using charged fire hoses to fend off attackers and employing armed security teams on board.
The presence of coalition Navy vessels in the region demonstrates the international commitment to regional security and stability. To continue to counter and deter piracy successfully, coalition efforts must be complimented by proactive measures by commercial shippers, regional governments, and the international community.
CTF 151 is part of Combined Maritime Forces, a coalition that conducts Maritime Security Operations throughout the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea to help provide security and stability in the region.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Bravo Zulu to all hands
Also, to all my friends here in the US, from my family to yours, we hope you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday. And another special shout out to all of you who are serving on active duty. Your service and sacrifice are the true testament to the freedoms we have in this country. You and your family are in our prayers every day.
Fair winds and following seas shipmates
NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG) successfully completed a Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX), Nov. 24, off the East Coast of the U.S. from Virginia to Florida.
The integrated training exercise began Nov. 2 and tested all warfare mission areas of the strike group's individual and combined forces.
"The exercise provided a realistic training environment that ensured effective and intense training," said Rear Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of the Eisenhower Strike Group. "As a strike group, we each bring our own strengths to the fight, and COMPTUEX give us the opportunity to make sure we can effectively work as a team."
Conducted by a training team led by Commander, Strike Force Training Atlantic (CSFTL), COMPTUEX ensured that the collective forces of the Eisenhower CSG attained major combat operations certification and are ready for deployment.
"Throughout COMPTUEX, the group's performance increased each and every day," said Eisenhower Commanding Officer Capt. Dee L. Mewbourne. "It was an outstanding show of teamwork, and we are well prepared for any challenges we may face during deployment."
The strike group was assessed on their ability to execute the nation's maritime strategy. The task scenarios provided Sailors with experience for deployment as they operated together through strike warfare, anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, anti-air warfare, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions. The scenario has now evolved to include events focused on irregular warfare, counter-piracy, counter proliferation and associated maritime interdiction operations.
"It's about bringing everybody together to work toward a common goal," said Mewbourne. "We returned from a successful combat deployment in July. However, since then, the carrier alone has had more than a 10 percent turnover in personnel, and we have new ships as part of the strike group. COMPTUEX is that chance to sharpen our skills and ensure that we are ready for anything."
The exercise environment created scenarios that could reflect anything that could be expected during the actual deployment.
"We wanted the training to be realistic and challenging for all the ships and aircraft in the strike group," said Davidson, "so that when it comes time to perform in a real world environment, we execute our mission effectively and with the confidence that comes from experience. The Sailors in this strike group have proven without any doubt throughout this COMPTUEX that they have the ability to do extraordinary things."
Pre-deployment exercises give the Navy's strike groups operational experience so they are better prepared to achieve the goals of America's maritime strategy.
The Eisenhower CSG participants for COMPTUEX included the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69); Carrier Air Wing 7 (CVW); Destroyer Squadron 28; guided-missile cruisers USS Hue City (CG 66) and USS Normandy (CG 60); guided-missile destroyers USS Carney (DDG 64), USS Farragut (DDG 99), USS McFaul (DDG 74), USS Ross (DDG 71), and USS Barry (DDG 52).
Additionally, the new littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) participated in several training events as part of its unit level qualification and pre-deployment certification process.
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the Island Nights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 flies near the guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) during a vertical replenishment with the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). HSC-25 is deployed aboard the Military Sealift Command dry cargo ship USNS Alan B. Shepard (T-AKE 3). George Washington, the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, is underway supporting security and stability in the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman William P. Gatlin/Released)
By Oyaol Ngirairikl, Joint Region Marianas Public Affairs
SANTA RITA, Guam (NNS) -- Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 welcomed home Detachment 1 from a 13-month deployment Nov. 24.
Det. 1 was embarked on USNS Shasta (T-AE 33), USNS Flint (T-AE 32) and USNS Alan B. Shepard (T-AKE 3). The 32 Sailors provided vertical replenishment support, moving more than two tons of cargo and transferring passengers.
Cmdr. Ben Reynolds, HSC-25 executive officer, commended the Sailors for successfully completing their mission.
"You did logistics support and humanitarian assistance —so much of what we do in our community you all did in this microcosm of Det. 1 and you did it very well," Reynolds said.
Following the aftermath of Super Typhoon Choi-Wan, Det. 1 embarked aboard Shepard provided humanitarian support to residents of Alamagan and Agrihan Sept. 17. The islands, part of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), are approximately 146 nautical miles north of Saipan.
Along with the Military Sealift Command dry cargo-ammunition ship, Det. 1 was tasked with transiting to the area to assist the residents who required basic survival needs following the effects of heavy rain and winds in excess of 150 mph brought on by the super typhoon.
"We flew to Agrihan and Alamagan and we provided food supplies to 25 families and assisted a family of six with a 5-day-old baby that we rescued," said Lt. Cmdr. Mark Dennison, officer-in-charge of the detachment.
Dennison credited Det. 1's success to the Sailors' level of professionalism and pride in their work.
"I joined the Navy in 1992, and I can easily say this has been the best year in my Navy career because of these folks," Dennison said. "Their dedication, hard work and positive attitude were the cornerstones of this Det. They made it successful and made it fun."
Dennison also thanked HSC-25 spouses for their strength and support.
"We couldn't have done it without you," he said. "I know it was hard for everybody, but because of your support we got through it and finished it safe and with a positive attitude."
HSC 25 is the Navy's only forward deployed vertical replenishment squadron providing deployed ships a rapid, safe and versatile means of re-supplying diminishing stores. In addition, HSC 25 provides 24-hour search and rescue and medical evacuation services for Guam and the Northern Mariana islands.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Matthew Ebarb, USS Essex Public Affairs
SASEBO, Japan (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) returned to Sasebo, Japan Nov. 21 following a successful fall patrol.
Essex, fresh off of a nine-week Ship's Restricted Availability (SRA) period, departed Oct. 28 to conduct sea trials and to support Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX) 21G. During ANNUALEX, Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ESX ARG) worked alongside the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to strengthen ties and enhance interoperability between the two navies.
"This was a great opportunity to work with our Japanese partners improving our interoperability skills," said Capt. Troy Hart, Essex commanding officer. "Being forward deployed to Japan, we share a friendship and closeness that is distinctive to our nations, and among our naval forces. ANNUALEX showed our commitment to each other and the commitment of our Sailors."
The underway period also gave the ship a chance to perform evolutions such as degaussing and the aviation certification (AVCERT) inspection. These evolutions helped return the ship to a maximum state of readiness following the maintenance period.
For some Sailors, the cruise gave them their first taste of what to expect on deployments.
"It was an interesting experience and there was a lot to get used to," said Information Systems Technician Seaman Brian Ngov, from Rochester, Minn. "It's exciting to stand out on the weatherdecks and see the ship pulling into a new location."
The end of the deployment brings a rare opportunity for Essex Sailors to spend the Thanksgiving holiday season with their families. While those with family members in the area can enjoy the chance to be together, Essex will make sure single Sailors aren't left out in the cold by hosting its own Thanksgiving dinner aboard the ship.
"We'll have a large spread of food, pastries and an ice cream bar all laid out on the mess decks for everyone and their families to enjoy," said Chief Culinary Specialist (SW/AW) Anthony Ignacio, S-2 Division leading chief petty officer. "It's an opportunity for us to extend a good show of hospitality for our guests and make sure that even our duty personnel have a chance to enjoy the holiday."
Additionally, the Sasebo United Service Organization (USO) will offer Skype video calls to the United States for the holidays. The service will be free for all local service members, giving them a chance to connect with family members back home.
With many more activities on the horizon such as the command Christmas party, Children's Christmas party and holiday stand down, the in-port period will offer Sailors the chance to relax and spend time with their loved ones.
Essex is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. Amphibious Ready Group and serves as the flagship for CTF 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force commander. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan.
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Taurean Alexander, USS Essex (LHD 2) Public Affairs
OKINAWA, Japan (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) arrived in Okinawa Nov. 18 to offload the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) after successfully completing Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX) 21G.
Essex Sailors and Combat Cargo Marines moved approximately 75 vehicles and 300 pieces of MEU cargo, as well as dozens of aircraft assigned to the 31st MEU's Aviation Combat Element (ACE), marking the end of the 21st edition of the exercise, which is designed to enhance naval interoperability between the U.S. Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).
"Once again, ANNUALEX has served as a great opportunity for us to strengthen our relationship with the Japanese," said commanding officer Capt. Troy Hart. "It is always a great opportunity for us to enhance our efforts in surface warfare with our closest ally in the region and this year's exercise was no different."
The exercise focused on enhancing improving command and control, air, undersea and surface warfare.
"It improves our ability to communicate and coordinate between the U.S. Navy and the JMSDF," said Lt. Patrick Isom, Essex' assistant operations officer. "Both countries have shared responsibilities in leading various events, and ANNUALEX exercises our ability to communicate and steadily helps us to improve at sea in a complex environment."
Isom cited the long history of successful U.S.-Japan bilateral efforts and said he views ANNUALEX as an opportunity to build on that success.
"The ability to work together ensures stability in the Pacific," said Isom. "Our ability to practice these exercises with our Japanese partners shows our commitment to that stability."
According to Essex Command Master Chief Brannon Knox, the exercise is an opportunity to not only become more cohesive militarily, but culturally as well.
"We always look forward to working with Japan, whether if it's in a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief drill, or maritime security efforts like ANNUALEX," said Knox. "Exercises like these allow both countries to plan and operate together, and it's a great opportunity to exchange bodies and let both navies get experience from each other."
The exercise also served as a chance for Essex Sailors to work with Marines of the 31st MEU. Many of those Marines were experiencing their first deployment underway.
"It feels good to get that first deployment under your belt," said Lance Cpl. Dalton Kuegn, of Tyler, Texas. "This was a short one, but it was enough to get into a different kind of mindset and be ready for the next big patrol."
Essex is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. Expeditionary Strike Group and serves as the flagship for CTF 76, the Navy's forward-deployed amphibious force commander. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan.
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos Gomez, USS George Washington Public Affairs
USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- The George Washington Carrier Strike Group (GW CSG) returned to Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, Nov. 23, completing its second fall deployment since joining the Forward-Deployed Naval Forces last year.
During the deployment, the carrier strike group participated in two major bilateral exercises with forces from the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan.
The first, a bilateral exercise with the ROK Navy, focused on advanced combined training to build cooperation and interoperability between both navies in the event of a crisis. Embarked ROK Navy liaison officers and Sailors worked alongside GW Sailors on board focusing on enhancing coordination to expand and improve future readiness. Personnel from the ROK Navy's Task Force 51 were also able to work with their counterparts from the GW CSG's Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15. Also during that exercise, GW hosted members of the ROK National Defence Committee and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jung Ok-Keun for a visit during flight operations.
The GW CSG also participated in Annual Exercise 21G (ANNUALEX) November 10-17. ANNUALEX is the largest annual bilateral exercise between Japanese and U.S. forces.
"The 5,000 men and women that comprise the George Washington/Carrier Air Wing 5 team are extremely excited to return to our respective homes of Yokosuka and Atsugi," said GW's Commanding Officer Capt. David A. Lausman. "During the fall patrol, we continued to exercise and hone our warfighting skills to remain the Navy's Permanently Forward Deployed Carrier Strike Group.
"Additionally, during this patrol we participated in ANNUALEX 21G with the Joint Maritime Self Defense Force where we exercised our communications and equipment interoperability with our command units. The high degree of interoperability and professionalism we share continues to make this alliance strong and ready to respond to any situation."
The Commander of Carrier Airwing 5, Capt Ross Myers echoed that sentiment when discussing CVW-5 participation in ANNUALEX 21 G.
"We learn valuable lessons working with each other, which allows us to operate at our full potential during a time of conflict," said Myers. "Having Japan Air Self Defense Force pilots on board helps us gain a greater understanding of each other's capabilities."
Embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 completed nearly 500 aircraft launch and recovery cycles during the seven-day event alone, a tempo that was nearly a hundred sorties more than a typical week of flying. In total, the carrier flew more than 1,000 sorties in the last month of the deployment.
"One of the reasons GW operates from Japan is to aid in their defense," said GW's Operations Officer Cmdr. Anthony Calandra. "Through exercises like ANNUALEX, our countries can learn from each other and operate better as a team."
While fostering cultural and working relations with other countries, GW continued maintaining mission readiness with 26 simulated fire, emergency and medical drills.
As part of the GW Engineering Department's Repair division, Hull Maintenance Technician Fireman Apprentice Sara Bingham participated in every drill as a member of a fire party hose team during her first deployment.
"I like the fast pace. It's exciting to me," said Bingham regarding GW's high operational tempo.
Though she has only been in the Navy since January, Bingham feels honored to share in the GW's responsibility as "America's 911" force.
GW steamed nearly 14,500 nautical miles, prepared more than 825,000 meals, flew more than 2,000 sorties and expended 154.2 tons of ordnance during its 48-day fall patrol in support of the nation's maritime strategy.
Also during the deployment, the carrier and made its first visit to Hong Kong. More than 300 Sailors participated in 14 community service projects ranging from visits to disabled and retirement homes to volunteering at distribution centers and schools.
The GW CSG, commanded by Rear Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, is comprised of GW, CVW-5, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, and the guided-missile cruisers USS Shiloh (CG 67) and USS Cowpens (CG 63). GW, commanded by Capt. David A. Lausman, is scheduled to begin its second Selected Restricted Availability (SRA) in Yokosuka, Japan, this winter.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Russia launched a military spy satellite into space Friday on a Soyuz-U rocket from the country's Plesetsk Cosmodrome (launch complex 16, launch pad no. 2). The secret payload lifted off at 1044 GMT (5:44 a.m. EST). The three-stage Soyuz-U rocket delivered the Kosmos 2455 spacecraft (2009-063A) into an elliptical orbit 905 x 199 km, inclination 67.17°. Catalog numbers associated with the launch are 36095 and 36096.
There are several post on various newsgroups indicating this is an elint satellite. The particulars on this satellite follow.
Payload: Lotos-S Electronic Reconnaissance satellite (Cosmos 2455)
Spacecraft: Lotos-S ("Lotos" means Lotus), possible production item's code 14F145.
Manufacturer: Samara Space Centre; ELINT Payload Manufacturer: PLC Arsenal Machine Building Plant, St. Petersburg
Lotos-S satellites are one component of the the next generation ELINT satellite system Liana. Liana replaces both the Tselina-2 with Lotos-S satellites and the naval US-PM with Pion-NKS spacecrafts. It's built upon Yantar remote sensing satellites' bus. The coming launch is going to be first in the service career of this model.
From the Russian Strategic Nuclea Forces:
"This is the first launch of a satellite of the Lotos-S type. It has been reported that these satellites, with their not yet flown counterparts known as Pion, will work as part of the Liana electronic reconnaissance system. This system is being designed to replace the Tselina electronic intelligence and US-PU/Legenda naval reconnaissance systems. Cosmos-2421, which operated from June 2006 to February 2008, apparently was the last US-PU satellite. The launch of Cosmos-2428 in June 2007 was reported to be the last launch of a Tselina-2 satellite. (At the same time, according to the Kommersant report quoted above, Ukraine will deliver to Russia four 11F644 Tselina spacecraft by January 2012, indicating that launches might continue.)
"The launch was initially planned for July 28, 2009, but was cancelled because of problems with one of the satellite components. The spacecraft was returned to the manufacturer, Arsenal Machine Building Plant in St-Petersburg, which worked on the spacecraft together with the TsSKB-Progress Design Bureau in Samara."
Early initial reports from RIA Novosti that this was another Oko EW mission were not correct.
The Cosmos 2441 (launched on July 26, 2008) is believed to be the first in a new series of spy satellites (Persona), featuring updated imaging technology and an extended lifetime of up to seven years.
The Soyuz-U rocket is designed to orbit Soyuz and Progress manned and cargo spacecraft, as well as special-purpose satellites such as Cosmos, Resurs-F, Foton and Bion.
The rocket has payload of up to 6,950 kilograms. A Soyuz-U was last launched from Plesetsk on April 29, 2009.
Russia reportedly operates a network of 60-70 reconnaissance satellites and has carried out 16 space launches since the beginning of 2009.
Based on the information in my satellite database, I do not believe the later mission tieup since that Oko EW constellation operates around a 65° inclination in a much high Molniya style orbit. For now I will carry this satellite as a Lotus-S elint bird.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Every year around Christmas, Marines band together to help brighten the spirits of kids in need through their nationwide Toys for Tots gift program. This is our absolute favorite charity and we contribute to it every year. In the spirit of the holiday season and Christmas, please help make this year special for needy children everywhere by contributing to this great program. I challenge each of my readers to this blog to provide an unwrapped toy or a monetary contribution to support this most worthy cause. If your a true Milcom enthusiast, and want to help, this is a program that deserves your support. More in this video report.
2259.0 kHz USB Link 11
3050.0 kHz USB HF CWC Voice Coordination Net: Force Track Coordinator (Link-11/Link-16): Ike CSG, Truman CSG, Bataan ARG??
5316.0 kHz USB HF CWC Voice Coordination Net: Air Warfare Commander (India Whiskey)
Jack NeSmith and others have passed along the following U's associated with Ike COMPTUEX activity off the Florida east coast. The initial story is posted here on the Milcom blog at http://mt-milcom.blogspot.com/2009/11/ike-csg-conducting-east-coast-comptuex.html
Freq's ID'd as "Unknown User/Usage" are exercise related, most are first time hit's.
136.9750 Hawker Hunter aircraft discrete Cougar c/s
139.8750 Unid aircraft calling an E-2C VAW-121/CVW-7 aircraft. Maybe one of the adversary aircraft (Cougar or Dart?)
225.3500 Pinecastle Target - Range Impact (Strike/Shot Common)
226.5500 Unknown user/usage "IKE"
227.1750 Unknown user/usage "IKE"
233.3250 Bluetail AIC freq, ex-Button 19 CVW-7 Aerial Refueling Boom
234.5750 VFA-143 Dog c/s, unknown usage (CVW-7 squadron)
237.1750 VFA-143 Dog c/s, unknown usage (CVW-7 squadron) (Tac 13?)
237.7000 CVW-7/USS Ike Discrete
238.9000 AR-620 Crystal AR Track - Boomer freq
239.4750 VAQ-140 Stinger c/s, unknown usage (CVW-7 squadron)
239.5500 Unknown user/usage "IKE"
246.8000 VFA-103 Victory c/s, unknown usage (CVW-7 squadron)
247.1000 Probable Fleet Air Defense FAD-4/Fighter Control D (Button 12) Bluetail c/s
253.1000 VMFA-122 Squadron Common
253.5250 Unknown user/usage "IKE" (Secure)
257.1000 Avon Park MOA Ground FAC
258.9250 Unknown user/usage "IKE" (now an ex-spectrum hole)
261.2500 Pinecastle Rodman Target R-2907
264.6250 MOA Avon Park FL - Range Operations (Bravo & Foxtrot Range)/Forward Air Controller
264.8500 Unknown user/usage "IKE"
266.6250 CWC Strike Commander India Papa (Secure) (Button 7)(now an ex-spectrum hole)
267.5000 FACSFAC Jacksonville Sealord South
269.3250 Jacksonville Approach/Departure Control
270.5250 Fleet Air Defense FAD-1 (SCC AC)/FAD-A Air Control (Fighter Control A "Freddie") (Button 05)(now an ex-spectrum hole)
271.6500 CSAREX (SAR ALPHA)
275.6500 VFA-204 Aggressor Air-to-Air
276.3250 Unknown user/usage "IKE"
277.2000 Unknown user/usage "IKE"
278.0500 VFA-83 Ram c/s, unknown usage (CVW-7 squadron)
283.6500 VFA-83 Ram c/s, unknown usage (CVW-7 squadron)
284.5000 FACSFAC Jacksonville Sealord North
285.3500 VAW-121 Bluetail c/s, unknown usage (CVW-7 squadron)
289.2000 Pinecastle Complex FL R-2910 Range Air Control
292.2000 MOA Avon Park FL Range Control/Operations and AR Boom
292.2250 Ike Strike (Button 3)
298.4750 Probable Fleet Air Defense FAD-2 (SCC AC) FAD-B /Air Control (Fighter Control B) Bluetail c/s (Button 10) (now an ex-spectrum hole)
303.2000 VFA-103 Victory c/s, unknown usage (CVW-7 squadron)
307.2500 Jacksonville ARTCC St. Augustine FL Low/High Altitude -St. Augustine Sector
313.9000 Unknown user/usage "IKE"
314.4250 Ike Positive Identification and Radar Advisory Zone (PIRAZ) "Red Crown" (Button 4)
318.3250 CCA Departure (Button 2) (now an ex-spectrum hole)
318.5250 Unknown user/usage "IKE" (now an ex-spectrum hole)
328.4250 Ike Marshal (Button 16)
340.1250 Dog clg Warhawk (now an ex-spectrum hole) (Button 9?)
340.2000 NAS Jacksonville Tower
342.2500 Cecil Field FL Urban CAS JTAC Iron Cross/Strike
348.3500 VFA-131 Cat c/s, unknown usage (CVW-7 squadron)
351.8000 Jacksonville Approach/Departure Control
351.8750 VFA-103 Victory c/s, unknown usage (CVW-7 squadron)
357.3750 Another possible CSAREX frequency (now an ex-spectrum hole)
363.6500 CVW-7 Aerial refueling boom (Button 19)
367.7250 Secure Comms (JStars related?)
370.7500 Phoenix Air/Flight International and Hawker Hunter discrete (Air-to-Air)
Cougar and Dart c/s (Silent Warrior?). Unid aircraft here passed 139.875 MHz.
371.0500 VFA-131 Cat c/s, unknown usage (CVW-7 squadron) (now an ex-spectrum hole)
374.0000 REP (Button 18)
376.0250 Unknown user/usage "IKE"
377.0500 Jacksonville Approach/departure Control
384.1000 Air-to-Air comms (OPFOR?)
393.550 To 269.325 (Jax App)
225.150 235.050 239.950 252.925 267.850 284.150 293.550 298.650 303.275 308.750
Button 2 318.325 - CCA Departure
Button 3 292.225 – Strike A
Button 4 314.425 - Positive Identification and Radar Advisory Zone (PIRAZ) "Red Crown"
Button 5 270.525 – SCC C&R E-2 Air Control (Surface Warfare Commander/Sea Combat Commander Net)
Button 7 266.625 – CWC Strike CMDR India Papa (Secure)/ STW C&R Primary - Strike A
Button 8 (mentioned for JSTARS contact)
Button 9 340.125 - Fleet Air Defense FAD-1 (SCC AC) FAD-A Air Control (Fighter Control A "Freddie")
Button 10 298.475 - Fleet Air Defense FAD-2 (SCC AC) FAD-B Air Control (Fighter Control B)
Button 11 227.175 - Fleet Air Defense FAD-3 (SSC Helo) Tac Net 1 (Fighter Control C)
Button 12 247.100 - Fleet Air Defense FAD—4 Tac Net 2 (Fighter Control D)
Button 15 CCA Final A (CCA/LSO Paddles)
Button 16 328.425 – CCA-A Marshal
Button 17 CCA Final B (CCA-B)
Button 18 347.000 - CCA Overload CVW-7 Maintenance Reps
Button 19 363.650 – CCA Overhead Tank AR Boom, ex-233.325
Bluetail - VAW-121 (CVW-7)
Canvas ## - HS-5 (CVW-7)
Cat ## - VFA-131 (CVW-7)
Cougar ## – Hawker Hunter
Dart ## – Lear, Phoenix Air Group
Delta – Surface unit (HF)
Dog ## - VFA-143 (CVW-7)
Dusty 01 - Unknown user
Foxtrot – Surface unit (HF)
Hammer - CVW-7 Strike Package Tactical Callsign
Hoist 98 – KC-10, 305th AMW
Hotel – Surface unit (HF; foreign accent)
India – Surface unit (HF)
India Foxtrot – Force Track Coordinator
India Papa – Strike Warfare Commander
India Whiskey – Air Defense Commander
Iron Cross – JTAC Avon Park
Kilo – Surface unit (HF)
Lightning – JTAC Pinecastle
Mike – Surface unit (HF)
November – Surface unit (HF, UHF)
Omega 70 – KC-135
Ram ## - VFA-83 (CVW-7)
Stinger - VAQ-140 (CVW-7)
Tyrant – JTAC, Jax Urban CAS
Vega 31/32 - Downed pilots (CSAREX)
Victor – E-2C
Victory ## - VFA-103 (CVW-7)
Warhawk - Unknown
Anybody have any ideas on Warhawk??
Thanks to Jack and several other contributors who wish to remain anon for updating this report. Hope to have more to follow I'm sure.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
CBS will televise this annual event and provide coverage of the 2009 Army/Navy game, which will be held Dec. 12 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The football game is a traditional event that offers an exciting opportunity for Sailors and Marines to display their team spirit before millions of Americans.
So I have a message from this old Navy Chief and you better damn well pay attention when the Chief speaks . . .
Navy Quarter Back Troy Gross (14) gets sacked by a blitzing Army defender at the 108th annual Army vs. Navy football game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, MD. Navy defeated the Black Knights of Army by the score of 38-3. The Navy Midshipmen have now won the last six Army Navy battles. The 8-4 Midshipmen have accepted an invitation to play in the Poinsettia Bowl Dec. 20 in San Diego, Calif. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Herbert D. Banks Jr. (Released)
Friday, November 20, 2009
While much of the nation prepares for Thanksgiving, air crews from VP-26 are prepping to ship out for a six-month deployment to El Salvador, Italy and the Horn of Africa. After that, they'll rejoin the rest of NAS Brunswick, Maine aircraft that have relocated to Florida's Jacksonville Naval Air Station.
Cmdr. Mike Parker, commanding officer of VP-26, begins the final wave of departures on Sunday, marking a milestone in the closing of the last active-duty military air base in New England.
To read the rest of this copyrighted story click here or here.
Like previous patches for classified missions, the one for the upcoming NROL-49 mission offers some hints as to its purpose.
The link below is for a very interesting article on a future NRO launch no. 49. If you are interested in military space missions, this one is worth the look.
Better the devil you know…
by Dwayne Day
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The future USS Independence (LCS 2) successfully completed acceptance trials this week, after completing a series of graded in-port and underway demonstrations for the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV).
Acceptance Trials are the first opportunity for INSURV to test the ship and its systems.
During two days underway, the ship completed demonstrations of the combat systems suite, steering, anchoring and propulsion. The ship achieved a top speed of almost 45 knots during the full power demonstration.
"Independence performed extremely well during trials," said Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program Manager Rear Adm. James Murdoch. "LCS 2 conducted two outstanding days at sea. We look forward to delivering this critical asset to the fleet."
The ship was presented to INSURV with high levels of completion in production and test. The official results of the trials, including the type and number of trial cards, are currently being reviewed by the Navy.
Members of the LCS 2 pre-commissioning unit were on board Independence during trials to see how their future ship will perform.
"It's going to change the way we do things, particularly in the surface force," said Cmdr. Curt Renshaw, Independence Blue Crew commanding officer. "This ship allows us the flexibility to complement almost all the pillars of the Maritime Strategy."
"This is a significant milestone for the surface warfare community and the Navy at large - the impact that Freedom and Independence will have on the fleet will be immediate. We are another step closer to having this important capability as part of the surface force, and I applaud the team effort - Sailor, civilian and contractor - that went into making this happen," said Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, commander, Naval Surface Forces.
Acceptance trials are the last significant milestone before delivery of the ship to the Navy. Ship delivery is expected to occur next month, with the ship's commissioning Jan. 16 in Mobile, Ala.
A monitor reported this week that they are back at the Cape and operating on 282.325 MHz UHF Milair. I find this frequency selection a bit odd since this is a nationwide ATC allocation.
They are also using TG 16976 on the NASA trunk radio system. See our complete profile of this system in our free online monitor aid the Monitoring NASA and Space Communications Guide, available for free at our newly revamped MT website at http://www.monitoringtimes.com.
So can anybody down in those parts shed some light on this semi-annual venture by a F-15 from Eglin to CCAFS? Let me know, drop some mail in the masthead.
5 p.m. ET No. 902-09
November 18, 2009
United Launch Services, LLC, Littleton, Colo., was awarded a $9,000,000 contract which will provide for the acceleration of the launch-to-launch time spans of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle launches to preserve the capability to launch the National Reconnaissance Office L-32 mission in October 2010. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. SMC/LRSW, El Segundo, Calif., is the contracting activity (FA8816-06-C-0002, P00171).
Thursday, November 19, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - National Guard soldiers bring a variety of life and work experiences with them on deployment, and even the smallest unit can include a surprising array of skills and experience.
In October, Task Force Keystone's Alaska-based C Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, needed a crew for a routine flight to two of their remote sites. Illinois' A Company, 1-106th, supplied that crew, which wound up flying a Pennsylvania National Guard Black Hawk helicopter.
The diversity the National Guard embodies is reflected in the jumble of helicopters and crews that came together to accomplish a single mission and is echoed in the stories behind the four Illinois soldiers.
In the left pilot seat was Army Chief Warrant Officer Patrick Schroeder, 38, an instructor pilot with 21 years of service. The Sherman, Ill., native joined the Army in 1988 and served as a UH-1 Huey mechanic for four years before attending flight school.
In 2003, he took a job flying the governor of Illinois. Prior to being deployed in January 2009, he even flew for Gov. Rod Blagojevich before his removal from office.
Schroeder said he enjoyed the times he was able to fly then-Lt. Gov. Patrick Quinn, and that he looks forward to flying for Quinn, now the governor, when he returns from deployment. Married just a month before he was called back to active duty, this is his second deployment, Schroeder said. He first deployed in 2004 with A Company for 15 months.
In the right pilot seat was Army Chief Warrant Officer Nathan McKean, 31, of Decatur, Ill. McKean has served 12 years, beginning with four years in the Navy, during which he built bombs on the aircraft carrier USS Stennis and served in a combat search-and-rescue unit based in San Diego.
McKean came home in 2001, he said, enrolled in college, and joined the Army National Guard. He trained as a crew chief with B Company, 1-106th. After leaving active duty, he decided he needed a good job that would allow him time off for military duty — lots of time off. In 2002, he took a job as an engineer on the Norfolk Southern Railroad.
But within a year, he was training to go to Iraq, and he left for a 15-month deployment with B Company in 2004. Soon after he returned, McKean went to flight school for a year, then had additional training before his current tour in Iraq, which began in January. He has worked on the railroad for two and a half years, he said.
Behind McKean, on the right side of the Black Hawk, was Army Sgt. Steve Sunzeri, 26, of Naperville, Ill. Sunzeri has six years in the Illinois Army National Guard. From 2003 to 2007, he served as a scout and infantryman with C Company, 2nd Battalion, 106th Cavalry Regiment. In 2006, he completed the requirements for a bachelor's degree in history. In 2007, he reclassified to become a flight crew chief, deploying in 2009 with A Company, 1-106th.
After nearly two years of service in helicopters, Sunzeri said, he plans to return to college to earn a degree in aviation management at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and at the same time to train to be a commercial pilot. "My goal is to fly fixed-wing aircraft for a major airline," he said.
In the meantime, he will earn the ratings necessary to become a fixed-wing pilot while earning his degree, he said. He plans to continue to serve as a crew chief in the Illinois Army National Guard while he attends college and completes flight training.
In the left seat, behind the pilot, was the door gunner, the youngest member of the crew and the one with the most combat deployments.
Army Cpl. Michael Randazzo, 24, of Queens, N.Y., is on his third deployment in six years with the Army National Guard.
He enlisted shortly after graduating from high school, and he served as an infantryman with the New York-based 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment. In May 2004, he deployed with the 1-69th to Baghdad and Taji, and spent the time patrolling and conducting raids. He also worked route clearance on Route Irish.
When he returned from Iraq, Randazzo worked for an executive protection company until June 2008, when he volunteered to return to Iraq as a door gunner with 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment.
Near the end of that tour, he volunteered for a second consecutive tour as a door gunner with Company A, 1-106th. When this tour is complete, Randazzo said, plans to return to New York City and "squeeze in a semester of college" before going to flight school next fall.
After flight school, he said, he will continue his college education until 2012, when he plans to deploy to Afghanistan as an Army helicopter pilot.
SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) will return to San Diego Nov. 23 after its second six-month deployment in 18 months to the 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility (AOR).
"This crew has operated at the tip of the spear for months-on-end, flawlessly," said Decatur's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Christopher Sweeney. "They have executed all six expanded core capabilities in the maritime strategy, and have an unmatched operational tempo."
Decatur was the only Ronald Reagan Strike Group ship to earn the Iraqi Defense Medal while attached to Commander, Task Force Iraqi Maritime. The ship defended the Al-Bashrah and Khawr al Amaya Oil Terminals, which account for 80 percent of the revenue used to support Iraqi reconstruction and transition. When not defending oil platforms, Decatur was attached to Commander, Task Force 152, responsible for maritime security operations, providing forward presence, and deterrence in the region.
Decatur helped strengthen partnerships and was the primary sea base for the terminals. The ship operated a small boat marina along with a heliport for parts and mail. The ship's visit, board, search and seizure teams conducted approach and assist visits with local dhows, and interdicted narcotics. Decatur was also the primary Ballistic Missile Defense asset in the Persian Gulf for a portion of their time there.
While in the 7th Fleet AOR, Decatur participated in a short-notice homeland defense mission as a primary BMD asset. Also, keeping with the ship's motto of "in pursuit of peace," while conducting a Theater Security Cooperation port visit to Thailand, the crew performed community relations events; they also conducted military-to-military engagement with subject matter expert exchanges', and operational planning for at-sea operations.
"The crew was resilient and always ready," said Sweeney. "We brought 505 feet of persistent American will to the maritime domain, and made a lasting impact on the forward deployed combatant commanders and our coalition partners."
Decatur helps provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the sea and humanitarian/disaster response within 3rd Fleet's 50-million square mile area of responsibility in the Eastern Pacific, as well as supporting the nation's maritime strategy when forward deployed.
By Ensign C.J. Gotcher, USS John Paul Jones Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (JPJ) (DDG 53) will return to San Diego Nov. 24 after an independent seven-month deployment to the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR) in the Persian Gulf.
"This has been an incredibly productive and successful deployment for the men and women of John Paul Jones," said John Paul Jones' Commanding Officer Cmdr. Sam Hancock. "JPJ executed operations in every mission area from approach and assist visits to Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)."
"Throughout the deployment, we provided security and stability while partnering with the Gulf Cooperation Council nations to develop an integrated maritime security environment in the Gulf," said Hancock.
JPJ provided BMD presence and capability in support of national tasking in the 5th Fleet AOR, including the tracking and critical data collection of multiple BMD launches in theater. They also deterred smuggling and other criminal activity, provided aid to local fishermen and disrupted the shipment of more than four tons of illegal narcotics.
In efforts to transition the defense of Iraq and put control back in the hands of the Iraqi people, JPJ also operated almost two months in the Northern Arabian Gulf, assigned to Commander, Task Force Iraqi Maritime. While assigned, JPJ provided defense, training and logistical support for critical Iraqi oil terminal infrastructure in a joint effort with the U. S. Coast Guard, Iraqi Navy, British Navy and other coalition forces.
JPJ hosted several distinguished guests and events; including a meeting of the United Arab Emirates Air Defense Regiment, Iraqi-Kuwait Naval planning conference and the Fleet BMD Senior Leadership Summit.
During port visits to Bahrain and Phuket, Thailand, the crew cleaned, painted and rebuilt a local school and a children's home, respectively.
"This crew is incredibly talented and nothing but pure professionals who never stopped," said Hancock. "They have made me and our country very proud."
JPJ helps provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the sea and humanitarian/disaster response within 3rd Fleet's 50-million square mile AOR in the Eastern Pacific, as well as supporting the nation's maritime strategy when forward deployed.
INDIAN OCEAN (NNS) -- After transiting the western Pacific Ocean, the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) entered the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations this week to relieve the Bataan ARG.
While deployed to the region, Sailors and Marines from the Bonhomme Richard ARG and the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) will conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO), which help set conditions for security and promote regional stability and global prosperity.
"We've been training for the MSO mission in this region for quite some time," said Capt. Rodney Clark, the ARG's commodore. "We're ready to execute when tasked."
While transiting the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR en route to the 5th Fleet AOR, the ARG/MEU team participated in humanitarian projects during Marine Exercise 2009, sending Sailors and Marines ashore in Indonesia and Timor-Leste to provide medical and dental care to more than 2,000 patients in cooperation with local health care officials.
Sailors and Marines also volunteered in over a dozen community service projects during four port visits in the area. Projects ranged from cleaning kennels at an animal shelter in Guam, repairing playground structures in Phuket, Thailand, and interacting with children at orphanages in Dili, Timor-Leste.
Maritime Security Operations develop security in the maritime environment and complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. These operations seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment to transport personnel and weapons or serve as a venue for attack.
The Bonhomme Richard ARG consists of three ships – amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6); amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7); and amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47).
In addition, the ARG includes the command element, Amphibious Squadron 7; Tactical Air Control Squadron 12, Detachment 1; Helicopter Sea Combat 23, Detachment 3; Assault Craft Unit 1, Detachment B; Assault Craft Unit 5, Detachment F; Beachmaster Unit 1, Detachment B; and Fleet Surgical Team 9.
by Carla Pampe, Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- Air Force Global Strike Command officials here will gain missile wings at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; Malmstrom AFB, Mont.; and Minot AFB, N.D., when it assumes control of 20th Air Force and the intercontinental ballistic missile mission Dec. 1.
The 576th Flight Test Squadron at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., as well as the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron at Offutt AFB, Neb., will also fall under the new command.
In February, Air Force Global Strike Command officials gain 8th Air Force and the nuclear-capable bomber mission. At that time, the command staff will gain bomber wings at Barksdale AFB, Whiteman AFB, Mo.; and Minot AFB. As AFGSC officials assume responsibility of its new missions, those who formerly worked with points of contact in Air Force Space Command and Air Combat Command will be working with their counterparts in Air Force Global Strike Command.
"The entire staff at Air Force Global Strike Command is working tirelessly to make the transition as seamless as possible, especially to personnel executing the mission in the field," said Col. George Farfour, the Air Force Global Strike Command special adviser to the commander for ICBM transfer. "We want to ensure that people are easily able to reach the points of contact they need to accomplish the mission. To that end, AFGSC contact information is readily accessible on our Portal page and Sharepoint site."
For those who have access to the Air Force Portal, https://www.my.af.mil, contact information and phone numbers for the command staff are posted AFGSC page under "Staff Directory." Each directorate also has a Workflow e-mail box on the Air Force Global Address List. People can contact the Barksdale Air Force Base operator via the Defense Switched Network at DSN 781-1110 or commercial at 318-456-1110 and ask for the appropriate AFGSC directorate.
Air Force Global Strike Command stood up in August to provide combat ready forces to conduct nuclear deterrence and global strike operations in support of the president and combatant commanders.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Ronald Rensen, in The Netherlands, reported the follwoing to the Hearsat newsgroup.
Three COMSATBw-1 UHF tpx's seem to have changed. Below the tpx's that are currently active:
248.175 (was 249.400)
251.775 (was 250.900)
255.500 (was 255.775)
MilSat Services GmbH, a company set up by EADS SPACE Services and ND SatCom, will provide the German Bundeswehr's satellite communications system SatcomBW Step 2. The Federal Office for Information Management and Information Technology of the Bundeswehr (IT-AmtBw) and MilSat Services signed a contract in Koblenz, Germany on Wednesday. The contract became valid after the German budget 2006 has been enacted. The satellites in the SatcomBw-2 system are called COMSATBw 1 and 2
With the SATCOMBw programme, the German Armed Forces will have a secure information network for use by units on deployed missions. This will allow voice and fax as well as advanced data, video and multimedia applications. For the first time the Bundeswehr will have a secure communications system with dedicated military communications satellites. The entire system is due to start regular operation in the year 2009 and will constitute an important step in the implementation of the Bundeswehr concept for network-centric operations.
Along with the in-orbit delivery of two communications satellites for operations in military frequencies (SHF/UHF), the SatcomBw Stage 2 contract includes their operation, the delivery of a comprehensive ground user terminal segment and upgrading the network management centre already installed with the Bundeswehr. MilSat Services GmbH will also provide the Bundeswehr with commercial transmission capacities using Intelsat satellites and anchoring services thanks to new large ground stations.
You can view a video report of this story by clicking here.
MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 5 held an assumption of command ceremony Nov. 8 aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65).
Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris assumed command of the newly established ESG 5. ESG 5 will relieve ESG 2, commanded by Rear Adm. Michelle Howard. The strike group will serve as Commander, Task Force (CTF) 51 and 59 in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility, responsible for all amphibious forces deployed to the region.
"I promise you that the great strides in the partnership building that has been put in place under the tremendous leadership of Admiral Howard will be built upon," Harris said. "Fifth Fleet is as challenging of an area of operations as any for the U.S. Navy and this goes double for expeditionary forces."
ESG 2 spent one year forward-deployed to Bahrain conducting intensive planning and exercises while leading CTF 51 and 59, as well as CTF 151, an international maritime coalition that conducts counterpiracy operations off the coast of Somalia.
During the ceremony, Howard praised the Sailors of ESG 2 for their commitment and hard work. "It's important to remember the many accomplishments we've had as a blue-green Navy-Marine Corps team and the strides we've made toward making this region and the world as a whole a better and safer place through the efforts of all of our Sailors and Marines," she said. "From the deck plates to the front offices, from the most junior Sailor and Marine to the most senior, everyone plays a role and everyone performs a critical mission."
Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said Howard has done a tremendous job commanding ESG 2. "She is an exemplary motivator and a true deckplate leader. She isn't afraid to get her hands dirty no matter the mission," Gortney said. "Through her leadership, she inspires all she comes in contact with and encourages people to excel in all they do. She is the definition of a good leader."
The 48 service men and women of ESG 2 will complete their regularly scheduled, one-year deployment to Naval Support Activity Bahrain and return to their homeport of Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Norfolk, Va. by January 2010.
Task Force 51 is responsible for the planning and execution of contingency response missions in the 5th Fleet Area of Operations. Task Force 59 plans and conducts maritime humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations. CTF 151 is a multinational task force conducting counterpiracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea.
A video report on this story is available by clicking here
USS BATAAN, At Sea (NNS) -- The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) officially departed 5th Fleet and entered 6th Fleet's Area of Operations when the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) transited the Suez Canal and entered into the Mediterranean Sea recently.
The Bataan ARG, which had been conducting maritime security operations in 5th Fleet's Area of Operations, and the 22nd MEU, which served as the theater reserve force for U.S. Central Command, participated in several theater security cooperation engagements and exercises, including Bright Star 2009, 5th Fleet's largest multinational exercise, held every two years.
"The 5th Fleet Area of Operations is one of the most critical regions in the maritime security environment," said Capt. Paul McElroy, commanding officer of Bataan ARG. "The operations we conducted and the exercises we participated in were all geared towards strengthening our regional partnerships and improving security and stability within the region."
5th Fleet's Area of Responsibility encompasses 2.5 million square miles of water and includes the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.
The Bataan ARG is comprised of Amphibious Squadron 2, Bataan, the flagship for the ARG, amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43), amphibious transport dock USS Ponce (LPD 15), Tactical Air Control Squadron 21, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22, Fleet Surgical Team 6, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2, ACU 4 and Beachmaster Unit 2.
The 22nd MEU, led by Col. Gareth Brandl, is a scalable, multipurpose force of more than 2,200 Marines and Sailors. It is composed of its Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Cory Rose, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, East
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- A keel-laying ceremony for the Navy's first Ford-class aircraft carrier, Gerald R. Ford, (CVN 78) was held at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Newport News, Va. Nov. 14.
The ceremony celebrated not only the building of a new class of ship, but the life of the ship's namesake, former President Gerald R. Ford.
Susan Ford Bales, Ford's daughter, was the ship's sponsor. Bales' initials were welded into a metal plate that will be permanently affixed to the ship.
"Ladies and gentlemen, as the ship's sponsor, and on behalf of President Gerald R. Ford," said Bales. "I hereby declare that the shipbuilders of Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), and their patriotism, and commitment to excellence are and shall forever be truly and fairly part of the spirit of the USS Gerald R. Ford."
Ford-class aircraft carriers have some significant design changes including a larger flight deck, improvements in weapons and material handling, a new propulsion plant design that requires fewer personnel to operate and maintain, and a new smaller island that has been pushed aft.
Technological advances in the field of electromagnetic have led to the development of an electromagnetic aircraft launching system, and an advanced arresting gear. An integrated warfare system has been developed to support flexibility in adapting the infrastructure of the ship to future mission roles.
"These and other changes mean that this carrier, piloted by the Navy officers and crew who will one day sail her into harm's way, will be more capable, more flexible, and better able to protect America and the American way of life," said Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding President Mike Petters.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin served as keynote speaker and distinguished guests in attendance included the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott, Glenn Nye, and the Director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Adm. Kirkland H. Donald.
On Jan. 3, 2007 an announcement was made that CVN-78, the Navy's newest aircraft carrier would be named after Gerald R. Ford, the 38th President of the United States. The ship is scheduled to enter the U.S. Naval Fleet in 2015.
Monday, November 16, 2009
by Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- With the new F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft's arrival just four years away, officials at the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center here are looking forward to joint training opportunities while recognizing the challenges of providing realistic training on such a technologically advanced aircraft.
Maj. Gen. Stanley Kresge, the warfare center's commander, said there's a lot of excitement about the next-generation fighter jet slated to begin arriving here in 2014.
Much of the construction under way here will provide new hangars, maintenance facilities and other infrastructure the new aircraft will require. Meanwhile, General Kresge's staff is focused on establishing a new weapons school for F-35 pilots -- an effort he said lends itself to interservice collaboration as the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps prepare for their first joint aircraft program since the Vietnam War.
Unlike the Vietnam-era F-4 Phantom II fighter-bomber, initially developed for the Navy, then adopted by the Marine Corps and Air Force, the F-35 was conceived from the drawing board as a single platform with three different variants to meet the needs of three services.
The Air Force will receive the F-35's "A" variant, which will provide conventional takeoff and landing capabilities. The Marine Corps is slated to receive the "B" variant, which has a vertical-lift capability. The Navy will receive the "C" variant, designed for carrier launches.
Plans are on track to equip the first F-35 training squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., by 2011, and for the Marine Corps to reach initial operational capability by 2012.
General Kresge said he looks forward to working with his Navy counterparts as the Air Force stands up the first F-35 weapons school program at Nellis. Weapons schools provide graduate-level instructor courses, including the most advanced tactics, techniques and procedures for pilots and aircrews.
"If we are going to build a weapons school first, let's partner on it and then make it easier for them to build their weapons school," he said.
Even with three aircraft variants, the airplanes are going to be more alike than different, he said. "So since we are fundamentally going to be flying the same aircraft, I think we can all benefit from a closer collaboration," he said.
For the Air Force program, General Kresge expects to tap F-35 test pilots, along with other weapons school graduates who fly other aircraft. "We'll put them in a room, lock the door for six months, and they'll come up with the syllabus, courseware and academics," General Kresge said.
They'll share their efforts as the Navy Fighter Weapons School, known as "Top Gun," prepares to start up its own F-35 program, he said, while soliciting different approaches to incorporate into the Air Force program.
"It would make no sense for the Navy to discover a new way of doing business, and then a year later, we stumble onto it ourselves," General Kresge said.
The general stressed the importance of F-35 leader training to the future Air Force, noting that today's young fighter pilots will be tomorrow's F-35 squadron commanders.
"Set your watch," he said. "Fifteen years from now, we are going to want that F-35 squadron commander to be prepared to lead a squadron in war, and to bring along the squadron full of young lieutenants and captains to be the next squadron commander."
As General Kresge wrestles with the training and leadership challenges associated with the F-35, the staff here is working to ensure that when the F-35 arrives, crews will have the most realistic training environment possible at the sweeping Nevada Test and Training Range.
That's particularly challenging, explained Col. John P. Montgomery, the 98th Range Wing commander, because the F-35's systems are so advanced that they can tell simulated targets from the real thing.
"The F-35 is so smart that if it is not a real target, it won't let you hit it, because it knows what a real target is," he said. Colonel Montgomery oversees the nearly 3 million acres of ranges and 12,000 square miles of airspace that make up the Nevada Test and Training Range. A big part of the job is making the battle space as close as possible to what aircrews will experience in combat, including realistic targets.
So long before the F-35 arrives here, Montgomery and his staff are trying to figure out ways to build the next-generation targets the next-generation aircraft will need.
"We are planning ahead for it now, to give it the right kind of target sets that look visually, optically, [through] infrared and radar like the real thing," he said. "It's got to have the same acoustics, and smell like it, too."
Meanwhile, he's trying to figure out what kind of aircraft will be capable of standing in for the opposing force during advanced-level training exercises, and how to replicate multiple threats simultaneously.
"The F-35 is a very capable system, and we only have so many aircraft to throw against it," Colonel Montgomery said, noting the need to create virtual threats that the F-35 will recognize.
"It is not the same kind of problem that we used to solve," he said. "It was an easier problem before stealth [technology], and the fact that these [F-35s] are just amazingly capable. All of a sudden, the targets have to look a lot like the real thing, and the threats have to be a lot more capable, and there have to be a lot of them."
Colonel Montgomery said he's committed to working through those challenges before the F-35s start arriving at Nellis. "It's a tough problem," he said. "But the Air Force knows about it, the Department of Defense knows about it. Lots of people are working on it to solve that problem."
Ultimately, the goal is to provide F-35 crews the same level of training their counterparts receive at the Nevada Test and Training Range. "In the end, the guy gets real feedback, real time about how we has done against the threat he's going at, in a high-pressure environment," Colonel Montgomery said. "And he gets to live -- and to come back and do it all over again tomorrow."
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Those of you with Milsatcom monitoring capability and RF visibility over the Atlantic might want to keep an ear cocked towards the TAL Support net on UHF Milsat frequencies. These folks will be supporting the launch of Atlantis on the STS-129 mission to the ISS tomorrow. Launch time is scheduled for 2:28 p.p. EST (1928 UTC).
Latest information indicates that a 261.575 MHz downlink is in use. Callsigns monitored include:
DoD Cape - DoD Support Operations Center, controls launch contingency forces Cape Canaveral AFS, FL
Guardian Angel - Unknown
Wolfden - US EUCOM Stuttgart, Germany
Now some non-related Milsat stuff:
Geoff near Belfast has reported on the Hearsat newsgroup that 253.650 MHz.
Unidentified callsign (possibily Linebacker?) female US accent calling Blacksmith 102. No response heard, then she called 'any Blacksmith element' followed by secure transmissions.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
WASHINGTON - As Pentagon officials look for ways to increase intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support for warfighters in Afghanistan, the Air Force's first unmanned aircraft systems wing already is on the case in its never-ending quest to provide more and better intelligence through the systems they fly.
"I don't have to tell them to try to make it better," Air Force Col. Peter E. Gersten said of his 432nd Wing and 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing airmen at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. "They are working to make it better every day, all by themselves. ... Better every day is kind of a theme here."
The 432nd Wing flies the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, both remotely piloted aircraft that provide 24/7 eyes in the sky over troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"Our mission is to keep the joint ground fighter out of trouble, and when he gets into trouble, it's to get him out of trouble as soon as possible," Gersten said. "And with this new technology, we can do that now."
Both the Predator and Reaper provide a capability that Gersten, an F-16 pilot, said a pilot in the cockpit simply can't: a "persistent stare" and ability to hover over a precise location for as long as necessary.
"We have the ability to oversee the joint ground warfighter 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no weekends and holidays and without a break," he said. "We are not going 500 miles an hour. We are going 120 knots, right on top of him, and we are orbiting around him and helping him.
"We are dedicated to supporting him," Gersten said, "and we don't do anything else."
When a convoy leaves the "wire" in Afghanistan or Iraq, the 432nd Wing airmen oversee them every step of the way. "We are going to be there from the time they leave their forward operating base to the time they get to their desired destination," he said. "We are going to watch that soldier on the ground as he begins to do his search mission. We are going to be there."
Geren said the aircraft's ability to hover overhead for as long as necessary is a key in ensuring the information it gathers is complete, and that if strikes are required, they're precise.
"We don't show up on the battlespace and have 15 minutes of hold time to build our situational awareness," he said. "We have a high capacity to make sure that we have the exact, right target in our crosshairs.
"Time is not our enemy," he said. "We own time."
As his airmen fly the aircraft, analyze the mountains of raw data gathered and sift out what matters most to troops on the ground, Gersten said, there's really little about the systems that are "unmanned." He considers the term "unmanned aerial vehicle" a misnomer that loses sight of the manpower every mission entails, preferring the term "remotely piloted aircraft."
And he makes it clear that when he refers to the "system," he means far more than the actual aircraft.
"When I talk about the system, I am talking about the airplane, the ground station, the communication that links the ground station to the airplane, the product we produce that goes out -- the actual ISR intelligence," he said.
He noted the big network of airmen involved in the process, all committed to getting the information the aircraft collects into the hands of warfighters who need it. Regardless of their function within that framework, Gersten said, they recognize the value of their contribution.
"I hear stories all the time about how one of our aircraft stopped a convoy from driving over an [improvised explosive device] or kept a soldier from walking around a corner where there was an ambush, or helped get a wounded soldier out of a city by guiding him out," he said. "Those stories are day-to-day here. It's part of the pride of being 100 percent for the joint ground warfighter, every single day."
When he first sat down to watch his airmen at work after taking over his new command in June, he admitted, he was bowled over by their expertise. "The ability to talk, fly, communicate, text and execute, all very seamlessly, is a tremendous skill set," he said. "And it is amazing to watch them do it as fast as they do."
During his commander's calls, Gersten challenges the wing's airmen to channel their creativity and know-how to making the systems even better.
"I can't tell you what these systems are going to look like 10 years from now, but you can," he tells them. "You are the ones who will make this system the future. ... Make it something better than it is."
And they're coming up with new ideas every day. Some are "completely outside the box, but executable," Gersten said. Others are "way out there," not necessarily applicable now, but present new approaches and new ways of thinking that could apply down the road.
Gersten said he's particularly impressed with his wing's ability to take raw data collected by unmanned aircraft and translate it into "decision information" ground troops can act on.
"There was a time when we said, 'I'm drowning in data, but I am starving for knowledge.' But we have changed that," he said. "Four to six years ago, it was pretty good. Two years ago, it was really good, and today it is exceptional. Tomorrow, it is going to be beyond exceptional."
This capability has generated an almost insatiable appetite for the support unmanned aerial systems provide.
The Air Force has taken notice, funding more unmanned than manned aircraft in this year's budget and training more pilots to fly unmanned aerial vehicles than fighters and bombers combined. Yet, Gersten finds himself constantly working to allay some people's concerns that unmanned aircraft will some day muscle out their manned counterparts.
Remotely controlled aircraft have their unique capabilities, he said, and manned vehicles have theirs.
"We do a great job of enduring over the battle space, but we can't carry the load of a B-2 [bomber]" Gersten said. "We can go do endurance, and then they can come in and help us out. Or they can come in and do their job, and we can come in and look at it afterwards.
"It's not one system that is going to overtake the other," he continued. "These systems are complementary and have a very synergistic capability. So when people ask, 'Which way is it going?' I say, 'It's going together.' It is not a question of one or the other. It's a question of how much of each we need to secure the nation's interests."