Saturday, February 28, 2009

Multinational Exercise to Test Interoperability in Caribbean

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

An initiative aimed at boosting capacity among Central and South American security forces will get put to the test next week when 18 countries come together for a national security exercise in the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

The United States and Great Britain will join 16 Caribbean countries during the 25th annual Tradewinds exercise that kicks off March 4 and runs through March 18.

Marine Corps Forces South will take the lead in the U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise focused on maritime interdiction and search-and-rescue operations with an emphasis on command and control.

Representatives of every military service, the Coast Guard, Joint Interagency Task Force South and the Drug Enforcement Agency will be among about 500 participants in Tradewinds 2009.

During the exercise, they'll conduct boarding party operations training, evidence processing and hazardous material identification and handling during realistic scenarios in Nassau and the Dominican Republic, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. David Hercher of Marine Corps Forces South said.

As the participants rehearse critical skills, they'll also help Southcom assess the effectiveness of its Enduring Friendship program. The program provides select partner nations with high-speed interceptor boats with extensive communication and surveillance capabilities, operation and maintenance training, and command and control systems, Southcom spokesman Jose Ruiz said.

By providing a common operating picture and improving maritime domain awareness and interoperability, the program builds or improves partner nations' ability to detect and interdict illicit trafficking along their shores.

The Tradewinds exercise will offer one of the first opportunities for Enduring Friendship program participants to exercise the standardized equipment and training offered through the program, Ruiz said.

"The goals of Tradewinds 2009 are to better coordinate partner nations' search-and-rescue and maritime interdiction operations, increase maritime domain awareness, and better coordinate end-game seizure of illicit-trafficking vessels that can be used to smuggle terrorists, weapons, explosives or narcotics," said Marine Corps Maj. Landon Hutchens, exercise coordinator for U.S. Marine Corps Forces South.

"The U.S. and the Caribbean share common interests, and regional challenges require cooperative solutions," Hutchens said. "Illicit trafficking is a threat faced by all nations in the region. We are all committed to building lasting partnerships that will enhance our ability to work effectively together."

In addition to the United States and Great Britain, participants in the exercise are the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, St. Kitts-Neves, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad-Tobago.

Stennis Conducting Port Visit at Sasebo

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits to its anchoring point in Sasebo Ko, Japan. Stennis, as part of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, is in Sasebo for a scheduled port visit during a six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Josue L. Escobosa/Released)

Klakring Teams with French Navy in FANAL 09

US Navy Photo

By Ensign Peter Goodman, USS Klakring Public Affairs

USS KLAKRING, At Sea (NNS) -- While assigned to Commander, Standing Maritime NATO Group (SNMG) 1, USS Klakring (FFG 42) helped prepare the Charles de Gaulle Strike Group (CDGSG) Feb. 24 for her upcoming deployment.

SNMG-1 ships consisting of FGS Emden, NRP Alvares Cabral, and Klakring served as the opposing force while participating in the FANAL 09 exercise.

The CDGSG, comprised of two destroyers, the oiler, FS Meuse, and anchored by the French nuclear aircraft carrier, FS Charles de Gaulle, are in the midst of completing a final multi-warfare training exercise before a scheduled deployment.

The exercise provided Klakring the unique opportunities to conduct maritime interoperability operations with not only other allied navies, but to do so while gaining tactical warfighting experience in a more complex and dynamic maritime environment than she does so regularly.

"As OPFOR, we had the unique opportunity to develop our own strategies to best conduct harassment training scenarios as part of our simulated attacks against the CDGSG," remarked Lt. Michael Beaty, Klakring Combat System's officer. "The exercise has certainly helped strengthen Klakring's own tactical warfighting capabilities."

The performance of the SNMG-1 assets directly helped to sharpen the coordination, communication, and warfare employment skills of the strike group warships and battle staffs.

Klakring's participation in FANAL 09 helps execute the United States' Maritime Strategy as well by both strengthening relations with allied navies and enhancing Allied ability to maintain maritime superiority. "Our ability to work as a team against a superior force and achieve commendable results demonstrates the seamless interoperability that we share with our NATO allies – a vital component in providing global maritime security and preventing conflict. It is exercises like these that strengthen regional maritime partnerships."

Klakring is on a scheduled six month deployment. She is assigned to Commander, Destroyer Squadron 14 and homeported in Mayport, Fla.

U.S. Navy, NATO Complete Exercise Noble Manta 09

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan P. Idle

The U.S. Navy and seven NATO allies completed the annual anti-submarine warfare exercise Noble Manta 09 Feb. 27 in the Ionian Sea off the eastern coast of Sicily.

The exercise was conducted from Feb. 13-27 and was a cooperative effort facilitated by NATO assets in conjunction with Command Task Force 67 and included six submarines, 10 surface ships and 13 aircraft from countries including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Canada.

The purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate NATO's determination to maintain proficiency and improve interoperability in coordinated anti-submarine, anti-surface and coastal surveillance operations using a multinational force of ships, submarines and aircraft. The exercise also provided operational training in potential NATO Response Force (NRF) tasks/roles and missions, exercising the procedures for possible NRF operations as well as defense against terrorism.

"We had some friendly subs and some surface vessels," said Lt. Erik Sword, a naval flight officer with Patrol Squadron 4 stationed at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. "We were involved and the other NATO forces had their air assets out there as well. So, it was a lot of detect and deter type missions for submarines to either keep the battle group safe or just go out and detect subs that may or may not have been there."

Noble Manta offered service members from different nations a chance to work alongside many of their NATO counterparts.

"It's good exposure for us to get over here and represent Canada, reinforce our role in aviation community and work with our NATO allies," said Canadian Cpl. Tim Johnston, an aviation systems technician with the 14th Air Maintenance Squadron stationed in Greenwood, Nova Scotia, Canada. "The support that we have received from the other has been excellent. We're all on the same team here, and we have the same goal in mind."

Lockheed Martin Delivers Third C-5M Super Galaxy to the USAF

Blog Note; One of our regular reporters caught USAF 160013 (86-0013) ALE address on the Scope Command network (9025 kHz) yesterday. This was probably the aircraft mentioned in the story below. Thanks to Ron Perron for passing that along and MNP reporter Jack NeSmith for the 3rd C-5M rollout story.

Lockheed Martin today delivered the third fully modernized C-5M Super Galaxy to the U.S. Air Force. Following a small send-off at the company's Marietta facility, the
C-5M flew to Dover AFB, Del.

"This delivery is yet another success in the C-5 modernization program," said Lorraine Martin, Lockheed Martin C-5 program vice president. "I'm confident the Air Force will be as impressed with the improved performance, reliability and capability of the Super Galaxy as we were during flight test."

This was the second C-5M to be delivered to Dover this month, and was the third and final aircraft delivered during the System Design and Development phase of the program. The C-5M program will enter production this summer. Induction of the first aircraft is planned for August.

The C-5M Super Galaxy climbs higher and faster than its legacy counterparts while carrying more cargo over longer distances. It also requires less tanker support and is projected to have a much higher mission availability rate due to increased reliability. Current Air Force plans call for Lockheed Martin to deliver 52 fully modernized C-5Ms by 2016.

The C-5M is the product of a two-phase modernization effort. The first, the ongoing Avionics Modernization Program (AMP), provides a state-of-the-art glass cockpit with modern avionics and flight instruments that meet future Communication, Navigation, Surveillance and Air Traffic Management requirements. AMP kit installations have now been completed on more than 40 C-5Bs. Lockheed Martin is under contract to perform AMP modifications on 111 C-5 aircraft.

The Reliability Enhancement and Re-Engining Program (RERP) is the second phase of the C-5 modernization effort. It includes 70 enhancements or replacements of major components and subsystems, including the installation of GE CF6-80C2 commercial engines. Modernization of the C-5 pays for itself through savings in operation and sustainment costs.

The C-5 has been the backbone of strategic airlift in every engagement since it entered service. It is the only aircraft capable of carrying 100 percent of certified air-transportable cargo, with a dedicated passenger compartment
enabling commanders to have troops and their equipment arrive in an area of
operation simultaneously. The C-5 can carry twice the cargo of other strategic airlift systems. With more than 70 percent of its structural service life remaining, the C-5M Super Galaxy will be a force multiplier through 2040.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Seattle ARTCC RCAG Moved

The Seattle ARTCC RCAG at Fort Lawton, WA on 128.500/306.900 has been moved to Whidbey Island, WA.

This RCAG provides Approach/Departure services for:

Arlington Muni, WA KAWO
Snohomish County (Paine Field), WA KPAE
Harvey Field, WA S43

Rockwell Collins and L-3 Deliver Block I Modernization for Navy E-6B

Rockwell Collins delivered the first installation of the Block I modification to the U.S. Navy’s E-6B Mercury aircraft on February 25, 2009. Navy officials, Rockwell Collins senior leaders and L-3 Communications leadership celebrated the milestone during a roll-out ceremony held at the L-3 Integrated Systems facility in Waco, Texas.

The Block I Modification features an open system architecture for mission avionics, a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Intercommunications System (ICS) and an on-aircraft, multi-level secure network for message processing, radio control/monitor and other mission applications. The program also improves the reliability and availability of the Ultra High Frequency Command, Control and Communication (UHF C3) system and enhances the electrical power and cooling systems.

The Navy E-6B aircraft is used to conduct both the “Take Charge and Move Out” (TACAMO) and the United States Strategic Command Airborne Command Post missions, providing reliable and survivable communications between the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense and the U.S. strategic forces. The open solution provided by the Block I modification addresses immediate requirements and enables system expansion in the future.

The Block I Modification solution provides an infrastructure to support moving data on, off and throughout the aircraft even as user bandwidth demands increase in this emerging age of the digital battlespace. The E-6B Block I program also provides a template for transforming additional special mission aircraft to serve key roles in an emerging network centric world.

In 2004, Rockwell Collins was awarded a $79 million contract by NAVAIR PMA-271 to provide upgrades for the Navy’s fleet of E-6B aircraft. The program has a potential value to Rockwell Collins of approximately $300 million over 10 years.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Marines and Navy Conduct Exercise Coconut Grove

Members of the Maldives National Defense Force set up a 360 degree perimeter as a CH-46E Sea Night helicopter comes in for landing during Exercise Coconut Grove. Marines and Sailors from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group are participating in Exercise Coconut Grove, a bi-lateral, military to military and humanitarian civic assistance engagement designed to strengthen international relations and build interoperability between the services. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jesse Leger/Released)

Navy Constructs New Army Wideband Satellite Communication Operations Center

By Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- A Hawaiian ground-blessing ceremony was held Feb. 20 for a new Army Wideband Satellite Communication Operations Center (WSOC) at Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific (NCTAMS PAC), Wahiawa, Oahu.

Representatives from the Army and Navy, as well as the project's contractor, Watts Constructors, LLC, were on hand to witness the blessing of a site for a new Army operations center that will be constructed on a Navy base. The construction will be administered by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Hawaii.

"This is a unique Hawaiian ceremony and very much a tradition," said Lt. Cmdr. Kirk Lagerquist, resident officer in charge of construction Wahiawa at NAVFAC Hawaii. "I look forward to being a part of this tradition and providing our customer with a safe, professional, and quality project," he said.

The ground-blessing ceremony is important because the lands of Hawaii are considered sacred by its people. In most cases, contractors begin their projects with this traditional blessing to ensure that the construction site and workers are kept safe and the project is successful.

The ceremony concluded when Lt. Col. Patrick Kerr, commander, 53rd Signal Battalion, and Capt. Janet Stewart, commanding officer, NCTAMS PAC, untied the maile lei after a Hawaiian chant was performed.

"We are very excited about this project," said Kerr. "This facility is linked in with five other operational centers around the world providing communications support. This is a great strategic location and we are excited about this project's teamwork and partnership, and are happy to be a part of this joint team," he said.

When completed, the new facility will provide 24-hour satellite control for communications of the Department of Defense (DoD) military wideband satellite communications constellation, as well as commercial satellite communication resources, which the building will also contain.

Currently, the Army unit that controls DoD satellite communication payloads execute their mission in California. However, the approximately 60-person unit will move to Hawaii once the building at NCTAMS PAC is completed and operational.

"We are very, very proud of being a part of your mission and our job is to do the very best we can, providing quality, price, and timing," said Denny Watts, president of Watts Constructors, LLC. "This is important so that when we turn it over to you, the end users, we can all walk away with a lot of pride about what we've done and a sense of accomplishment."

The WSOC project was awarded by NAVFAC Pacific as a firm-fixed price, design-bid-build contract to Watts Constructors, LLC on Dec. 30, 2008 for $25.4 million.

Watts Constructors, LLC, will build a 28,244 square-foot operation center that will enable the Army to provide 24-hour satellite communications. The project will also include Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design features that will achieve a silver rating.

The WSOC designed for the Hawaii site will become the prototype for four additional facilities at other locations including Fort Detrick, Md., Landstuhl Heliport in Germany, Fort Meade, Md. and Schiever Air Force Base, Colo. It will be site adaptable to all locations and all WSOCs will be similar in size.

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower CSG Deploys

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike group have deployed. You can view a video report at

USS Blue Ridge Conducts SAR Exercise

Members of the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) search and rescue boat crew look on as a search and rescue swimmer is lifted from the ocean during a training exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew D. Jordan/Released)

Red Flag 09-3 exercise begins

by Mike Estrada, 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Blog Note: For my friends out in Vegas. Hope we have some who monitor and can pass along some freqs and callsigns. Thanks de Chief sends.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- Southern Nevada residents may have notice increased military aircraft activity as the latest Red Flag exercise began Feb. 23.

Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the United States and its allies. The exercise is conducted on the 15,000-square-mile Nevada Test and Training Range, north of Las Vegas. Red Flag is one of a series of advanced training programs administered by officials at the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center and at Nellis, through the 414th Combat Training Squadron.

Red Flag 09-3 will be different from previous exercises, adding an extra week to the traditional two-week exercise.

"The extra week will test the feasibility and effectiveness of adding focused mission training," said Maj. Keith Lowman, the Red Flag 09-3 team chief. "Our goal is to provide tailored training during the third week by focusing on close-air support and combat search and rescue for aircrews who frequently support ground forces, sometimes dropping weapons within a few hundred feet of friendly troops. The additional training will better prepare our Airmen for combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and other locations around the world."

An Army Patriot missile unit from Ft. Bragg, N.C. , has established a base at the Alamo airfield, about 90 miles north of Nellis AFB. Radar, missile and communications equipment has been set up in Delmar Valley, west of Caliente, Nev. Army participants are focusing on establishing communications with airborne units and identifying friendly and enemy aircraft.

Flying for Red Flag 09-3 began Feb. 23 and will end March 13. About 80 aircraft will depart Nellis twice a day. Flying times are scheduled to accommodate the other flying missions at Nellis and provide Red Flag participants with valuable night-time training.

In addition to the aircraft from Nellis AFB and nearby Creech AFB, U.S. aircraft will come from Virginia, Idaho, California, Maryland, Washington, Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, Georgia, Nebraska, Ohio, Florida and Germany. Aircraft types will include F-22 Raptors, F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, F/EF-18 Hornets, EA-6B Prowlers, HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, KC-135 Stratotankers and a KC-10 Extender.

In addition to U.S. aircraft, the United Kingdom will be flying F-3 Tornados, and the Royal Australian Air Force will be flying F-111s. Both allied countries will also fly C-130 cargo aircraft.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

First Corps Units Deploying to Iraq

U.S. Army First Corps held a traditional deployment and colors casing ceremony February 24 at Fort Lewis, Washington.

Tight-knit Trident Submariners Conduct Strategic Deterrence Missions

By Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service

Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean last week, sailors aboard the Trident strategic missile submarine USS Maryland prepared to start a series of underwater practice maneuvers known as "angles and dangles."

The Maryland's captain, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey M. Grimes, and his chief of the boat and senior enlisted leader, Master Chief Petty Officer Michael C. McLauchlan, intently observed the actions of the officers and enlisted crew in the control room as the vessel silently tilted downward.

Trident strategic deterrent submarines -- nicknamed "Boomers" -- carry as many as 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear ballistic missiles.

"We're there on the front line, ready to go," Grimes said. Important missions, he said, are "happening every day in the deep, blue ocean."

Tridents are nuclear-powered, Ohio-class submarines. At 560 feet long and 42 feet wide, they are the largest submarines in the U.S. Navy's inventory.

Meanwhile, in the control room, Petty Officer 3rd Class Lamar Johnson, 23, sits calmly at the helmsman's station as he adroitly manipulates the yoke control that adjusts the submarine's depth and direction. At about 400 feet under the waves, the Maryland leveled off, then began ascending.

After the exercise, Johnson, who hails from Chicago, said piloting the Maryland underwater is a matter of "paying attention, making sure you're tracking the gauges."

Sailors volunteer for submarine duty and are among the top performers across the Navy, McLauchlan, a 26-year veteran, said.

"There is a pretty rigid screening process to get a guy to come into the submarine force," McLauchlan said. New submariners are subject to stringent qualification criteria when they report to their first boat, he said, while submarine veterans experience continued certifications during their careers.

During their first year while assigned to their first submarine, enlisted members are required to earn the coveted silver "dolphins" pin that says they've learned how to function as a team member aboard their boat. Dolphins-pin recipients also must demonstrate knowledge of basic submarine operations, as well as the ability to work as a team member to put out fires and control flooding.

"They kill themselves to try to get those dolphins, because it's very important to them," McLauchlan said of enlisted sailors aboard their first submarine. "And we make it very special when we present them. Once they get those dolphins, it's just the start for more and more for these kids."

Commissioned-officer submariners also must qualify to wear golden dolphins.

About a week earlier, the Maryland's "Gold" crew under Grimes' command embarked on its 53rd patrol from its home port at Naval Submarine Base King's Bay, Ga. Trident submarines have two crews, called Blue and Gold, which rotate patrols. One crew is at sea for 60 to 90 days, while the other trains ashore. In this way, the vessels can be employed at sea 70 percent of the time, when not undergoing scheduled maintenance in port.

The USS Maryland is "a platform that is undetectable, that cannot be found, and yet, is in constant connection with the national command authorities," Grimes explained. The submarine, he added, possesses "the stealth and power needed to respond to a global crisis with devastating force."

The Maryland's crew routinely performs damage control exercises –- consisting of flooding and fire scenarios -- as well as mock battle and strategic-deterrence drills during its patrols, so that if the real event should ever occur, "we're ready to go," Grimes said.

As the Maryland's commander, it's important to impart to the crew "how they fit together on the ship as a team," Grimes said.

"They realize the mission is relevant and they feel the importance of their job," Grimes said. "They leave their families at home. They work long hours for me when we have the boat in for refit.

"It's all about the mission," Grimes said, adding that Trident submarine sailors stay in the Navy "because they like what they do, and they are true patriots."

The Navy's attack and strategic-deterrent submarine force "is safe, secure and reliable and ready to perform its mission, 24/7," said Navy Capt. Kevin R. Brenton, who was along for part of the Maryland's patrol and is preparing to take command of Submarine Squadron 20 at King's Bay.

"We couldn't do it without the extraordinary young men that man these submarines," Brenton said. "They're America's best and brightest."

Besides its 160-member crew, the Maryland also was carrying a group of journalists, who early on Feb. 15 had been conveyed by tugboat to the Maryland for a two-day orientation tour. During the journalists' visit, the submarine would be submerged for 24 hours.

A nuclear-powered Trident submarine like the Maryland produces its own drinking water and oxygen, and, therefore can remain submerged nearly indefinitely, Grimes said, needing to surface only to take on food.

The Maryland's lead culinary specialist, Chief Petty Officer Tony L. Thompson, 40, said he and his staff prepare food for about 120 crew members during the course of the day. Submariners, he said, enjoy the best food in the Navy.

"We do all we can to make them comfortable down here," Thompson said of his team's efforts to provide the best meals possible for the Maryland's crew.

Thompson, a 20-year Navy veteran, said he enjoys the "close-knitted" camaraderie that's part of duty aboard submarines such as the Maryland.

"I could walk around and talk to anybody around here," said Thompson, as he enjoyed a plate of prime rib. "Everything is 'one' crew ... because you've got to depend on everybody.

"I'm a cook," Thompson said, "but at the same time, I can go and put out a fire."

Near the end of the journalists' visit, the submarine surfaced to make its rendezvous with the tugboat that would return them to shore.

A cloudless, bright-blue sky stretched across the horizon as Lt. j.g. Eric S. Spurling, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle G. Fulmer and Seaman DeAngelo Jackson Adams pulled watch duty on the bridge atop the Maryland's sail panel, or uppermost structure. The day's temperature was unseasonably mild.

Submariners belong to "a real tight community" of sailors who perform a vital, unique mission, said Fulmer, 23, from Dillon, S.C.

"You have to be able to trust everybody with your life. ... Any time, anything could go wrong, and if you're beside it, you have to be ready to act on it," Fulmer said.

Adams, a 21-year-old sailor from Detroit, cracked a sliver of a smile at his machine-gun station as the breeze batted at his orange windbreaker.

Adams said he loves the sailor's life aboard the Maryland.

"The mission of being out to sea, under water, is just cool, you know?" he said.

The USS Maryland's "Gold" crew executive officer, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Louis J. Springer, takes a look through the vessel's periscope, Feb. 17, 2009. DoD photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.

Exercise offers A-10 crews chance to hone warfighting skills

by Casey E. Bain, U.S. Joint Forces Command

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- Airmen are improving their warfighting skills as they train to conduct close-air-support missions for ground forces in preparation for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan during Exercise Green Flag East here.

The exercise is in partnership with the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., and with support from U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team.

A-10 Thunderbolt II aircrews from the 354th Fighter Squadron from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., are currently participating in the training.

"Green Flag East provides us with the environment that best replicates what we'll experience once deployed," said Maj. James Krischke, an A-10 pilot and 354th FS assistant director of operations. "I don't think people realize how carefully organized and orchestrated our military operations have become. Our goal is to minimize collateral damage and eliminate fratricide in combat. The Green Flag team provides our squadron with the opportunity to improve those skills we need to reach our goal before we deploy and fight."

Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team members helped Green Flag East staff members enhance joint close-air-support training for aircrews, joint terminal attack controllers, and joint fires observers for the past two years.

"Green Flag has done a remarkable job of providing a world-class CAS environment for the aircrews, JTACs, and JFOs that train here," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chris Olson, JFIIT lead at GFE. "Our job is to help integrate those assets and bridge the gaps between the services, both in terms of technology and tactics, techniques, and procedures, so they can improve their combat effectiveness while reducing the potential of fratricide and collateral damage on an ever-evolving battlefield."

Green Flag East staff members work with Joint Readiness Training Center officials to integrate joint assets for a realistic and rigorous training environment that replicates many of the same conditions found in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The joint training between Green Flag and JRTC is excellent," said Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Roten, a Joint Readiness Training Center training mentor and ground liaison officer for Green Flag East. "Anytime you get the chance to work with the Air Force it makes you a better warfighter for the Army. I will take the lessons that I learn from this exercise and apply them back at JRTC to help improve CAS integration for our Army fires supporters that are preparing to deploy downrange."

Green Flag East provides many opportunities for aircrews to train with resources and assets that they don't have readily available at their home station.

"There is so much that we want our aircrews to experience before they leave Green Flag," said Maj. Brendan O'Brien, director of operations for Green Flag East. "Their experience will include working with JTACs and JFOs in a realistic and dynamic air-to-ground environment; flying with and using advanced targeting pods and practicing with new technologies. We want our fighter pilots to be exposed to intense combat scenarios with realistic tactical problems to solve so they will leave here confident in the knowledge they've learned and ready for the challenges that lie ahead."

According to Green Flag East leaders, the opportunity for aircrews, JTACs, and Army JFOs to improve the coordination, synchronization, and execution of close-air-support in this near-real-world environment will help the joint team accomplish its mission and put bombs on target more effectively in the heat of battle.

"We take pride in providing the best possible predeployment combat training for our fighter crews, intelligence, maintenance, and logistics team to ensure they are prepared for the asymmetric fight they will face in theater," Major O'Brien said. "Green Flag East strives to be a premier training venue that replicates that fight and we do it as a joint team. Working with organizations like JRTC, JFIIT, and others allows us to provide the quality training that our fighter pilots and entire warfighting team needs and deserves."

Joint Readiness Training Center training mentors also realize the importance of working with aircrews at Green Flag East to improve air-ground integration between fighter pilots, JTACs, JFOs and brigade combat teams.

"CAS is such a combat multiplier for our maneuver forces," Sergeant Roten said. "We've got to learn how to fully take advantage of its capabilities before we actually need it on the battlefield - this exercise will really help us to improve that mission-essential air-ground integration that's vital to our team's success."

The benefits of this enhanced joint training are evident to many of the leaders and fighter pilots who train here.

"This is the only exercise that intentionally seeks to replicate the operational flow of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom," Major Krischke said. "We get the opportunity to work with many of the same assets that we will see in theater in just a few short months. It's a fundamental building-block approach to training aircrews that can't be found anywhere else."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Counter-Piracy Operations

Turkey and Singapore are the latest nations to join Combined Task Force 151.

New Presidential Helicopter Faces Scrutiny

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - The VH-71 helicopter being developed as the next-generation presidential helicopter could get the ax before it ever takes flight.

President Barack Obama announced yesterday that he has directed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to conduct "a thorough review" of the program, which has experienced big cost overruns.

Speaking at the closing of a White House summit on fiscal responsibility, the president called the helicopter program an example of "the procurement process gone amok."

"We're going to have to fix it," he said, calling it "one of our highest priorities" and urging congressional support.

Obama noted that Gates is a big advocate of the effort and "recognizes that simply adding more and more does not necessarily mean better and better, or safer and more secure."

The president offered a lighthearted take on the helicopter Lockheed-Martin is developing to replace the Sikorsky Marine One helicopters the White House has used for a quarter-century. "The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me," he quipped. "Of course, I've never had a helicopter before. ... Maybe I've been deprived, and I didn't know it."

The VH-71 contract calls for 28 helicopters for $6 billion, but the cost has almost doubled to about $11 billion.

Cost overruns of this magnitude in major defense acquisition programs require congressional notification. This requirement was established under the so-called Nunn-McCurdy provision of the 1982 Defense Authorization Act. The provision was named for its sponsors, U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and U.S. Rep Dave McCurdy.

The VH-71 program "certainly fits the category of requiring a Nunn-McCurdy breach notification, and that is not a good position to have a program in," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters today.

The program will be among many to get a thorough review during the acquisition overhaul, he said. "We are committed to looking at expensive programs, particularly those programs that are underperforming," Whitman said.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

U.S. Given Six Months to Vacate Base in Kyrgyzstan, Talks Continue

By John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - Kyrgyzstan has given the United States six months to leave Manas Air Base, but discussions continue for a longer U.S. presence there, a Pentagon official said today.

The Kyrgyz foreign ministry today officially notified the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek that a 180-day withdrawal process is under way, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

But U.S. officials don't consider the military's future at Manas, a key logistics hub for military forces in Afghanistan, a "closed matter," and will continue discussions with Kyrgyzstan about remaining at the base, he said.

"We will continue our discussions with the government for possible continued future use of the base. But we will certainly abide by the agreement that we have with them," he said.

The Kyrgyz order became effective today when President Kurmanbek Bakiyev reportedly signed legislation that the parliament in Bishkek backed yesterday.

The United States pays $17.4 million a year to use Manas Air Base, a major logistical and refueling center that supports troops in Afghanistan. Officials in Washington and Bishkek signed a deal three years ago allowing the United States to renew the arrangement annually through July 2011.

About 15,000 troops and 500 tons of cargo reportedly move through Manas monthly.

But Whitman, echoing remarks yesterday by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, said the base is "not irreplaceable," and that the United States will seek alternate supply routes.

"This is an important facility, it has been an important facility, but it's not irreplaceable and, if necessary, we will find other options," he said.

U.S. Seeks Successor to Trident Submarine

By Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service

NAVAL SUBMARINE BASE KING'S BAY, Ga., - The U.S. Navy has started the process to find a 21st-century successor to the Trident strategic missile submarine, senior Defense Department officials said here yesterday.

"We're just at the opening phases right now, going through the proper systems engineering that will advance that particular design approach," Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter told reporters at a news conference.

Tridents are nuclear-powered, Ohio-class submarines. At 560 feet long and 42 feet wide, Tridents are the largest submarines in the U.S. Navy's inventory. The first Trident ballistic-missile submarine, the USS Ohio, was commissioned in 1981.

"A wide variety of options" are being considered for the Trident's replacement, Winter said. However, the Navy secretary expressed his belief that the Trident system would be replaced by another undersea-going platform.

"I do fully expect that it is going to be a submarine," Winter said of the Trident's successor.

Prior to the news conference the Navy's top leaders and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were among senior officials who attended a ceremony that paid tribute to the crew of the USS Wyoming Trident strategic missile submarine.

The USS Wyoming finished its 38th patrol Feb. 11, marking the 1000th completed patrol of a Trident submarine since the Ohio embarked on its initial patrol in October 1982. The Wyoming was commissioned in July 1996 and began its first patrol in August 1997.

Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, echoed Winter's belief that the Trident's replacement "will be a submarine."

Chief of Naval Operations Navy Adm. Gary Roughead told reporters of the resilience and independence exhibited by submariners' families.

"I think the families of our submariners are really like submariners, a special breed," Roughead said. "And, my hat's off to them, and they have my utmost respect and support."

The U.S. military is about to embark on its Quadrennial Defense Review and a Nuclear Posture Review, Cartwright said, to determine what types of defense capabilities will be required to maintain U.S. national security in the coming years. The QDR is performed every four years.

The threats America faces during the 21st century are much more diverse and involve "a much broader spectrum of conflict against a much broader number of enemies, to include those that are not nation-states," Cartwright told reporters.

Gauging and evaluating future threats and determining what kinds of military capabilities and systems will be needed to deter them will be debated during the QDR and the nuclear posture review, Cartwright said.

U.S. defense planners are now seeking "to tailor our deterrence for the types of actors that were not present during the Cold War but are going to be present in the future," Cartwright said.

And, "it will be the sailors that will make the difference in deterrence, not necessarily just the platforms," Cartwright said of the Navy's future nuclear-deterrent mission.

The 14 nuclear-missile carrying Trident submarines based here and at other Navy ports provide more than half of America's strategic deterrent capability, King's Bay officials said.

"The application of deterrence can be actually more complicated in the 21st century, but some fundamentals don't change," Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said. "And, the underlying strength of our deterrence force remains the nuclear deterrent force that we have today."

The Trident submarine strategic missile force "is absolutely essential" to America's nuclear-deterrent capability, Chilton said.

"And, it's not just to deter nuclear conflict," he said of the Tridents' mission. "These forces have served to deter conflict in general, writ large, since they've been fielded."

The U.S. government agreed to reduce the number of its strategic-missile submarines as part of the 1992 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Consequently, four of the Navy's 18 Trident submarines were modified to exchange their nuclear missiles for Tomahawk-guided cruise missiles. These vessels carry the designator SSGN. In 2006, the USS Ohio was converted into a guided-missile submarine.

At the news conference, Roughead said the Navy is "really pleased" with the converted Trident submarines, which also carry a contingent of special operations troops, as well as the Tomahawks.

"That [type of] submarine has performed extremely well," Roughead said of the cruise-missile carrying Tridents.

The facility here was established in 1980, replacing a closed U.S. ballistic submarine facility that had been based in Rota, Spain. In 1989, USS Tennessee was the first Trident submarine to arrive at the facility. Another Trident training facility is based in Bangor, Wash.

Friday, February 20, 2009

National Guard Gears Up for 2009 Hurricane Season

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill, Special to American Forces Press Service

HILTON HEAD, S.C., Feb. 19, 2009 - "One team, one fight" is the mantra for local, state and federal leaders preparing for a 2009 hurricane season that forecasters say could include nine major storms.

"If that forecast is even close to being accurate, the timing of this [workshop] is vital to us being ready," Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said today at a hurricane planning workshop here. "The American public expects this team to pull together to do the job right."

For the first time, the Guard workshop was co-sponsored by U.S. Northern Command and attended by key leaders from partner agencies.

National Guard leaders from 11 hurricane-prone states have met annually for several years to coordinate plans and exchange ideas for the upcoming storm season. This year was the first time they were joined by so many federal and state partners -- a team drawn from 27 states, five major commands, three territories and the District of Columbia.

"This is an historic event," said Army Maj. Gen. Stanhope Spears, the adjutant general of the South Carolina National Guard, which hosted the workshop.

Air Force Gen. Victor E. "Gene" Renuart Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, and Bob Powers, acting assistant administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster operations, attended the workshop, as did leaders from U.S. Army North, 1st Air Force, the Department of Homeland Security and other military and federal agencies that would team up in the aftermath of a storm.

"This is the first of what I think will be many, in the future, joint hurricane planning workshops," Renuart said. "It gives us an opportunity to pull together the National Guard Bureau and U.S. Northern Command as we prepare. It gives us a chance to pull together not only the [Defense Department], but the civilian responders."

The hurricane workshop came just three weeks after the latest batch of National Guard leaders graduated from a Joint Task Force Commander Course taught at Northcom headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., to prepare for a unified response to just such a domestic crisis as a major hurricane.

"For us to work jointly to achieve the desired results of being prepared to assist the citizens of the United States -- in this case with natural disasters -- that's what we're being paid to do," McKinley said.

Joint local and regional planning conferences have been held in the past, Renuart said, but Hurricane Katrina changed the paradigm when it struck in 2005.

"We learned after Katrina that the only way to ensure that you don't repeat those lessons is to pull together all of the players and to pre-plan the kinds of responses that'll be necessary," Renuart said. "Clearly, the governors, the state emergency managers, the adjutants general will have the lead, ... but bringing in the federal partners ... allows us to integrate our efforts ahead of time so that the response can be more effective and certainly more timely."

"You don't want to exchange business cards at the scene of a disaster," McKinley added. "You want to know your counterparts well before that disaster so you have the connectedness to work the interagency process that is vital to a successful operation."

This South Carolina barrier island, which hosts more than 2.4 million visitors each year, is on the front lines among almost a dozen states prone to the potentially deadly and damaging storms.

Hurricane planners meeting here this week wore Army and Air National Guard, and active Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force and Coast Guard uniforms. But they said Hilton Head's residents do not care how responders are dressed or what agency they are from -- they just want an efficient, unified response to save lives and property after a storm.

Workshop attendees strengthened existing relationships, discussed force package planning for supported and supporting states, and heard about existing hurricane response capabilities and gaps to be fixed.

Enlisted leaders and adjutants general broke off to discuss preparedness at all levels of the chain of command.

All incidents are local, planners said, meaning it all starts with a 911 call to a local agency, and local responders are the first in the breach.

In the event of a major hurricane, that response is quickly supplemented with additional state and federal resources, such as 460,000-strong National Guard and Northcom personnel working in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Defense Department assists FEMA and other federal agencies when requested and approved by the president or the secretary of defense.

"FEMA is a small agency," Powers said. "We do not go in and provide direct FEMA support for most of the things that we do. Most of the work that the federal government provides comes from across all federal agencies. The Department of Defense and the National Guard Bureau are two very, very key players."

One team, one fight means, in part, a timely and efficient response when needed, Powers said.

"This is a large step in our maturation process," Powers said. "It's the first time that we've brought together such a large group from across the National Guard, from across the Northcom resources."

No other organization has the National Guard's combination of size, skills, training and experience, dispersion across states, command and communications infrastructure, and the legal flexibility to support civil authorities at a moment's notice, officials said.

The National Guard is the nation's first military responder, working with state emergency management divisions, emergency operations centers and civilian agencies and authorities to respond to natural disasters and other major incidents as required in accordance with each state's emergency response plan.

But the National Guard also is not a panacea, and Northcom and other agencies supply additional capabilities and capacity. Northcom, for example, can draw upon thousands of active-duty military forces from throughout the nation.

"Each have unique capabilities," Renuart said, "but some of the ... tools that Northcom brings would be in the areas, for example, of pre-incident aeromedical evacuation, ... post-incident airlift support, of added search and rescue capabilities, of incident-assessment capabilities."

When a state and the emergency management assistance compact have exceeded their capacity, the Defense Department can be helpful, Renuart said.

After an interstate highway bridge collapsed in Minnesota last year, Defense Department salvage divers responded. "That capability only exists in one place," Renuart said.

Each state has unique capabilities and needs, Renuart noted, and it's important to know what those are ahead of a disaster.

After Hurricane Katrina, the National Guard sent about 50,000 citizen-soldiers and -airmen from every state and territory to Louisiana and Mississippi.

Today, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact between states is a key tool enabling the Guard to deploy and respond as needed from anywhere in the nation to anywhere in need, officials said.

Although the workshop focused on hurricanes, much of the discussion also applied to other incidents such as earthquakes, wildfires or terrorism, planners said.

"The customer is our families, our communities, our homes," Renuart said. "It is no-fail. Trust me, my mom will call me if her house is being threatened and we're not out there to help. There is no more important mission than responding when Mother Nature whips up on us."

(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves in the National Guard Bureau.)

Strykers Gear Up for New Mission in Afghanistan

By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2009 - The Army's Stryker armored vehicle will get its first crack at the resurgent Taliban and terrorist strongholds in Afghanistan this summer when the 2nd Infantry Division's 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team hits the ground there.
Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, said at a Pentagon news conference yesterday that he specifically requested the Stryker brigade for its versatility.

"I asked for a Stryker capability, with one of the brigade combat teams, so that it could provide the mobility, the situational awareness, the protection," McKiernan said. "And, quite frankly, it provides a lot of infantrymen. And that would give us an ability to maneuver capabilities in the southern and southwestern parts of Afghanistan."

The brigade will bring about 4,000 soldiers and nearly 300 Strykers to the fight in Afghanistan. They will be operating in the country's southern region and along the Pakistan border, areas that don't have a sufficient security presence, preventing governance and infrastructure progress, McKiernan said.

"We need persistent security presence in order to fight a counterinsurgency and to shape 'clear, hold and build' in support of a rapidly developing Afghan capacity," he said, referring to the strategy of clearing an area of insurgents, preventing them from returning, then taking advantage of the improved security to build governance and infrastructure.

The additional troops also will have a dual responsibility in training and organizing Afghan police forces and army, he said. Military leaders there hope to double the size of the Afghan army to 134,000 troops as soon as 2011. Mentoring and training Afghan forces is necessary for success there, the general said.
"Our goal [is] to attempt to accelerate the growth of the Afghan army," McKiernan said. "But we need to do that in a smart way. We need to do it in a holistic way, so it's not just a question of numbers; it's a question of training, equipping, leader development and their employment."
The Army brigade's deployment was officially announced this week as part an additional 17,000 soldiers and Marines President Barack Obama ordered to Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates signed the deployment orders at around 7:25 a.m. on Feb 17, and Obama's announcement was pending notification of the soldiers' and Marines' families, Pentagon officials said.

The Strykers originally were slated for an Iraq deployment this summer, but anticipated the switch "some time ago," a brigade spokesman said yesterday.

Army Maj. Mike Garcia wouldn't give specifics as to when the soldiers were notified of their new Afghanistan mission, but said it was enough time to adjust their training before arriving at the National Training Center earlier this month at Fort Irwin, Calif.

"Their training scenario is focused on an Afghanistan fight," Garcia said. "We knew this some time ago and had enough time to modify the scenario."

The brigade started its training at the National Training Center on Feb. 15, learning the various cultures within Afghanistan. Persian Farsi, Pashto and Urdu are some of the languages and customs they'll get a crash course in. They'll also learn what to expect regarding Afghanistan's mountainous terrain, weather and type of insurgency they may face, based on military experiences there.

Their training will continue through the end of the month, Garcia said.

The Stryker brigade concept has proven successful in urban warfare since it was first introduced to live combat December 2003 in Iraq, but it has never been used in Afghanistan. The Stryker community recognizes the challenges, but is confident in their capabilities.

"Yes, it is a different theater," Garcia said. "Combat is never easy, but they're still prepared, mentally and physically, to go to combat. It's just a different place on the globe to us."

Afghanistan's mountainous and rigid terrain, freezing weather and the freedom of movement insurgents have enjoyed there will be new challenges for the Stryker. There are distinct differences compared to Iraq regarding the terrain and culture, but Garcia said, "the basic tenets and concept of fighting a counterinsurgency remain the same."

"Stryker brigades are very versatile," he said, echoing McKiernan. Strykers can travel long distances very fast. The 10 different models of Stryker vehicles include infantry, engineer, reconnaissance and medical evacuations variants, and can carry as many as 14 soldiers, Garcia explained.

"With the incredible capabilities they have to conduct reconnaissance and target bad guys with precision operations while mitigating collateral damage, Strykers are probably one of the best formations that the Army has put on the fields in decades," he added.

The 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team will be making the unit's first combat deployment. It was activated at Fort Lewis on May 4, 2007, as the Army's seventh Stryker brigade.

Essex Deploys LCACs During Cobra Gold

Seaman Christopher Smith, from Washington, D.C., assigned to Beachmaster Unit (BMU) One, Det. Western Pacific, directs Landing Craft Air Cushion 63, assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5, as it transports Marines and equipment ashore for Cobra Gold 2009. Cobra Gold is an annual Kingdom of Thailand and U.S. co-sponsored military exercise designed to train U.S. and partner Asian-pacific forces. The exercise will include humanitarian projects with participants from Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and the U.S. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gabriel S. Weber/Released)

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nardelito Gervacio, USS Essex Public Affairs

USS ESSEX, Gulf of Thailand (NNS) -- The Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) vehicles assigned to forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) are supporting multinational, amphibious training off the coast of Thailand as part of exercise Cobra Gold.

LCACS are high speed, over the horizon, fully-amphibious landing crafts. Their main mission is to provide lift capability for Marines and their equipment from ship to shore. These craft are an integral part of Essex' ability to transport weapons systems, equipment, cargo and personnel of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

"I'm in charge of a [multimillion-dollar] U.S. Navy hovercraft," said Chief Quartermaster (SW) Charles A. McNall III, of Seattle, Wash. "I drive it back and forth to the beach and also oversee the crew's activities"

LCACs are capable of carrying up to 70 tons of vehicles, equipment or supplies at a speed up to 50 knots, or 60 miles per hour. The craft's speed, maneuvering capabilities and ability to land on beaches worldwide have made the LCAC an essential piece in the overall success of the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group (ESX ESG).

"Traditional displacement crafts are slow. They go 10 to 12 knots," said McNall. "That means the ship has to be closer to the beach in order to do a rapid off load. Our capabilities allow the ship to be over the horizon and still have the same offload effect in same amount of time as traditional crafts."

These key operations are made possible by the Assault Craft Unit (ACU)-LCAC community.

"The thing that satisfies me most about being in the LCAC community is the role we play in amphibious operations," said the craft engineer for LCAC 57, Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 2nd Class (SW) Jarrod Connor, of Houston. "It's all about getting Marines and cargo to the beach so we can secure that beach for our forces to land."

Since the crews are small, each Sailor is afforded a wealth of responsibility as compared to a more traditional ship's company billet assignment.

"I get a chance to play chief engineer of a 23-million-dollar craft. Most second class petty officers don't have the opportunity to do that," said Connor.

With the Marines being the most valuable asset carried to shore, it is important that the Sailors work hand in hand during these operations to ensure equipment functions safely and seamlessly during missions.

LCACs work closely with amphibious assault ships around the world, but have little interaction with other types of vessels. They have an enlisted crew of six, usually a chief or a senior chief as craftmaster, an engineer and navigator, normally E-5 or above, one loadmaster and one deck mechanic.

"We have a five-person crew and the advantage of something that small is the fact that everyone knows each other. We work incredibly well together," said McNall. "After a couple of months together, you work more cohesively. When you're doing 35 to 50 knots over the water, if you know what the other person is thinking, it's going to keep everyone a lot safer."

The crew credits its high morale to a work environment where all Sailors must work together to complete a wide array of exciting and varied missions.

"Having a good crew, the tight relationship and trust we have in one another, is what gives me the most satisfaction," said Connor.

There are currently two hovercraft Assault Craft Units in the Navy. ACU-5 and its 36 craft are based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., while also maintaining a permanent detachment in Sasebo, Japan. ACU-4 is based out of Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Virginia Beach, Va., and currently maintains 39 LCACs.

Essex is commanded by Capt. Brent Canady and the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. Expeditionary Strike Group and serves as the flagship for Commander Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force commander. CTF 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

Masters of Hitting the Beach

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Taurean Alexander, USS Essex Public Affairs

GULF OF THAILAND (NNS) -- Conducting a full-scale amphibious assault requires a great deal of manpower and coordination. It involves the transportation of hundreds of Marines and dozens of vehicles.

When it comes to amphibious assaults from the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), that's where Beach Master Unit (BMU) 1, Western Pacific comes in. It's their job to ensure Marines, supplies, landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) vehicles and landing craft utility (LCU) vehicles get safely ashore.

BMU 1 Sailors ensure safety by training on proper signaling techniques and proper safety procedures for bystanders so they don't get hit by debris from propeller blast.

"We normally get in real early and do a foreign-object-damage (FOD) walk-down on the staging area of the beach to make sure there is no debris that can damage the LCACs," said Quartermaster 1st Class (SW/AW) Melvin Cassidy, a BMU 1 beach master from Biscoe, N.C.

Performing a landing requires five beach masters to safely carry out the mission: a senior ramp marshal (RM), who is in charge of the entire landing, three RMs who land the LCACs, and a radio telephone operator (RTO), who communicates with the Assault Craft Unit (ACU) on when and where to bring the LCACs.

Before each landing, the senior RM gives a safety brief to all personnel on the beach in regards to where they can stand and where to be when the LCAC lands or departs.

"During any landing, the RM has a 30-yard area from each side of the LCAC where no one can stand. The RM is an additional 50 yards away, a total of 80 yards, to make sure he and no one else gets hit by debris," said Cassidy.

After the LCAC lands, the all clear signal is given, the ramp to the LCAC is lowered and vehicles and troops storm the beach.

BMU 1 recently demonstrated these skills when they performed numerous amphibious assaults on the beaches of Thailand as part of Cobra Gold 09 (CG 09).

The job requires highly-skilled personnel. Before becoming part of a Beach Master Unit, Sailors must go through extensive training that continues throughout their career.

"We go to San Diego every year for 30 days or so to do training with our stateside counterparts," said Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Miguel Reyes-Flores. "We give and get training on various LCAC operations, how to work with Seabees and SEAL team ops."

The training received is valuable since BMU 1 Sailors put the training to good use. Being forward-deployed means frequent amphibious assault exercises.

"Being a beach master can be complicated at first, but after you learn the job, it's easy," said Seaman (SW/AW) Christopher Smith from Washington, D.C. "We go out there to get troops and supplies to the beach as safely and quickly as possible. During an actual assault, we can have four or five LCACs beached and have a command center set up within 30 minutes."

Beach masters feel most rewarded when the mission is accomplished; all troops are safely on the beach and the last LCAC has left and is safely aboard Essex. Only then can the BMU rest and get ready for the next day, said Smith.

CG 09 is an annual Kingdom of Thailand and U.S. co-sponsored military exercise designed to train U.S. and partner Asian-pacific nation forces. The exercise also includes humanitarian civic action projects with participating nations from Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and the U.S. The U.S. also engages with Thai military forces in a field training exercise to promote familiarity with and cohesion between these partner nation's military forces. CG 09 provides a unique and dynamic environment to strengthen the bond between these partner militaries and the Thai community.

Essex is commanded by Capt. Brent Canady and is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. Expeditionary Strike Group and serves as the flagship for Commander Task Force (CTF) 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force commander. CTF 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

USS Klakring Joins Standing NATO Maritime Group

US Navy File Photo.

By Ensign Peter Goodman, USS Klakring Public Affairs

LISBON, Portugal (NNS) -- USS Klakring (FFG 42) joins the task group of ships comprising Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 after departing Lisbon, Portugual Feb. 16. Klakring is conducting maritime interoperability operations with allied navies after a visit to Lisbon.

Commanded by her new commanding officer, Cmdr. Scott M. Smith, Klakring sailed across the Atlantic reporting to 6th Fleet as the newest U.S. warship assigned to Commander, Standing NATO Maritime Group 1. (CSNMG 1).

The force, a composition of NATO allied warships, fills an integral role in maintaining allied maritime situational awareness in the region. Along with Klakring, German warship FGS Emden (F 210) and Portuguese warship NRP Alvares Cabral (F 331) comprise the task group of ships assigned to CSNMG-1.

SNMG-1 provides the Maritime Component Command of the NATO Response Force a high readiness element able to support various NATO missions, exercises, presence operations, and diplomacy visits. In her role as an asset to SNMG-1, Klakring brings surface, submarine, maritime interdiction, and air warfare mission capabilities.

Klakring, Emden, and Alvares Cabral conducted a recent port visit to Lisbon, where the establishment of the current force was celebrated during a reception held aboard Emden honoring Rear Adm. Pereira de Cunha, Portuguese Navy, CSNMG-1. The event provided Klakring Sailors the opportunity to engage their counterparts from other ships.

In particular, the event afforded Smith the opportunity to both share experiences with foreign counterparts.

"All the COs know that the key to enhancing the coalition and achieving the common interests in the maritime domain is to increase both interoperability and greater understanding. It is the personal relationships that are forged during these events that will ultimately forge the strongest coalitions," remarked Smith.

The port visit provided Klakring's crew an opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of Lisbon as well, a city which is famed for being the Gateway to Europe for ships traveling from the Americas.

For Chief Electrician's Mate (SW) Johnny Hill, the visit also provided the opportunity to see the beauty of the Portuguese countryside during a host nation sponsored trip to visit such historic landmarks as the Cathedral at Fatima and the Tomb of Henry the Navigator.

"I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about the culture and experience places I had only heard about, commented Hill, "I definitely appreciate the work Portugal did in organizing the tour for us."

Klakring is on a scheduled six month deployment. She is assigned to Commander, Destroyer Squadron 14 and homeported in Mayport, Fla.

John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group Visits Hong Kong

HONG KONG (NNS) -- The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG) arrived in Hong Kong Feb. 17, for a scheduled port visit during its western Pacific Ocean deployment.

The strike group supports maritime security in the region, regional partnerships through joint operations and by conducting community service projects during port visits with host nations.

"We've got enduring partnerships around the world," said Carrier Strike Group Commander Rear Adm. Mark Vance. "We want to continue these relationships in the Pacific region and provide safety and security for our nation."

The United States Maritime Strategy focuses on joint and international partnerships across a range of operations through forward presence, deterrence, freedom of the world's sea lanes, maritime security and humanitarian assistance/disaster response.

JCSCSG includes Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), Carrier Air Wing 9: Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 71, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, VFA 154, VFA 146, Marine Strike Fighter Squadron 323, Electronic Warfare Squadron 138, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 112 and Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30. JCSCSG also includes Destroyer Squadron 21: Arleigh-Burke class destroyers USS Kidd (DDG 100) and USS Preble (DDG 88) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54).

Lewis and Clark Provides Afloat Staging Base for Counterpiracy Task Force

The Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1) conducts a vertical replenishment with the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50). Iwo Jima and Carter Hall are deployed as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group supporting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katrina Parker/Released)

By Mass Communication Specialist First Class (AW/SW) Monique K. Hilley

GULF OF ADEN (NNS) -- USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1) (LNC), crewed by civil service mariners, recently joined Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, greatly enhancing the group's capabilities to maintain forward presence while underway in support of counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

"USNS Lewis and Clark is an incredibly flexible and adaptable platform and is perfectly suited for this mission as the ship possesses the necessary capabilities to launch and recover aircraft and temporarily house suspected pirates and provides an afloat staging base to support CTF-151's current mission," said Capt. Bill McCarthy, master, USNS Lewis and Clark.

Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 is a multinational task force conducting counterpiracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. CTF 151 was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.

In addition to providing a staging platform for the aircraft and related personnel assigned to CTF-151, the cargo and ammunition resupply ship also provides the task force a temporary holding facility for suspected pirates. Currently there are 16 suspected pirates on board the Military Sealift Command asset.

Embarked Marines ensure suspected pirates receive safe and humane care.

"Suspected pirates will receive three meals each day, clean clothes, the opportunity to shower and medical treatment if necessary," said McCarthy. "In addition, suspected pirates' religious rights will be respected. They will have the opportunity to observe their faith-based practices."

Lewis and Clark was a readily available asset as she was already operating in 5th Fleet providing logistics support to U.S. and coalition ships in theater when she was tasked to join the counterpiracy mission.

The ship – the first in its class -- is one of the newest logistics vessels in the fleet and provides underway replenishment of food, ammunition, fuel and other supplies to U.S. Navy and coalition ships at sea.

LNC joins USS Mahan (DDG 72) and USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), which make up CTF 151. Piracy is considered an international problem that requires an international solution, therefore, LNC and other members of the task force are working very closely with navies from more than 14 different nations to ensure free and secure use of the world's oceans by legitimate mariners.

"Although the crew of Lewis and Clark only had a short time to prepare for this mission, my crew has proudly stepped up to the challenge and opportunity to be a part of this very important mission that has global impact," said McCarthy.

The civil service mariners on board USNS Lewis and Clark are strictly responsible for the safe operation and navigation of the ship in her duties as a staging platform for CTF-151.

"The integration of the civilian mariners and embarked Navy and Marine Corps units has been extremely smooth," said McCarthy. "The Navy Ethos highlights the fact that we are professional Sailors and Civilians. On board Lewis and Clark right now, we have a very diverse and agile force conducting the counter-piracy mission."

Everyone knows their responsibilities and is working closely together to ensure safe and effective mission accomplishment," added McCarthy. "Each day, we learn more about one another and our capabilities to enhance our interoperability."

Lewis and Clark's support of CTF-151 anti-piracy operations as related to the broader role of noncombatant ships in the U.S. Navy is nothing new. U.S. merchant mariners have a long and storied history of providing direct support to U.S. military operations around the globe. From re-supplying Navy ships at-sea to delivering combat cargo to deployed troops in war zones, mariners have played an integral logistics support role in U.S. military operations for centuries.

"The Military Sealift Command and the U.S. Navy have a strong heritage of working together," said McCarthy. "Although the counter-piracy mission may be new to some of us, civilian mariners and active-duty Sailors working together as part of military operations is not new."

As CTF 151 and coalition forces continue to ensure the safe flow of commerce and maritime security throughout the region, Lewis and Clark will be on station to ensure they are ready to respond at a moment's

"By providing an afloat staging base for CTF 151, the embarked Navy and Marine Corps units are able to maintain a forward presence," said McCarthy. "Together, we are all working to maintain security and stability in the maritime environment so legitimate trade and commerce can continue to safely transit this very important corridor."

Navy, Air Force Work Together with Global Hawk Program

By Staff Sgt. Mike Andriacco, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

SOUTHWEST ASIA (NNS) -- The joint mission of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing expanded with the recent addition of the first operational Navy Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system, part of the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS)program.

"It's a good feeling to finally get the aircraft here," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. John McLellan, the BAMS maintenance detachment officer-in-charge. "Now that we have the launch and recovery element and mission asset, we can finally bring this capability to the fight."

The BAMS is launched and recovered locally but controlled from the mission control element, or MCE, at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., much like the Air Force Global Hawk, which is controlled from Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

In an Air Force-developed concept of operations called remote-split operations, the BAMS' arrival marks the culmination of more than five months of joint effort to stand up a maritime surveillance presence in the region.

Navy officials answered a Department of Defense call for increased intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in Southwest Asia, by sending a site survey team here in August to see if the facilities of the 380th AEW could support an added mission and to discuss joint interoperability.

After the evaluation by 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Group personnel, it was determined they could support adding the BAMS with shared use of maintenance equipment and facilities, according to Lt. Col. Matt Venzke, 380th EMXG deputy commander. This allows Navy officials to cut down their overall footprint, resulting in lower operating costs and fewer people needed, he said.

"The cooperation has really been there," Venzke said. "We've worked very well together to identify potential problems and de-conflict our work spaces to make sure everything is happening efficiently for both maintenance teams."

The sentiment is echoed by Navy personnel who arrived on station approximately one month ago and began integrating into the 380th.

"The support has been outstanding," said McLellan. "We have really been made to feel at home and a part of the team."

The Navy and the Air Force benefit from co-locating Global Hawk operations.

"The similarities between the Air Force and Navy Global Hawk [launch and recovery elements] provide enhanced mission capability by allowing each service to use the other's LRE as a back-up in the event of a malfunction", said Col. Kyle Garland, 380th Expeditionary Operations Group commander.

Navy personnel leverage Air Force expertise and proficiency with the Global Hawk platform to step into a program that has been proven in an operational environment, virtually eliminating the learning curve that usually comes with a new program, said Maj. Ronald Shivers, 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron director of operations and safety observer for the arrival of the BAMS.

Operators during the BAMS development phase consisted of contractors and pilots from both the Air Force and Navy. In addition to controlling the aircraft at the forward operating location, Air Force instructors will train naval aviators. The first two scheduled are to take flight control at the MCE sometime in March, said Shivers.

Experts in the two services have been able to come together to develop a process that will ensure differences in operational and maintenance rules and standards are identified and resolved quickly.

"In areas [of maintenance] where we overlap, the BAMS maintenance personnel will adhere to the more stringent standard required by either service," said Venzke.

Though it is the first operational mission for the BAMS, the aircraft has been in service for non-wartime missions during its test and development phase.

"Our Global Hawk has been used to view damaged areas during the California wildfires as well as providing live feedback of the destruction on the Gulf Coast immediately after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike," said McLellan.

The speed at which the Air Force and Navy were able to stand up the new operational capability with minimal difficulties is an example of joint operations at their best, officials said.

USS George H.W. Bush Completes Builder's Trials

A rainbow appears on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) as Sailors perform the ship's first aqueous film forming foam wash-down. George H.W. Bush is conducting builder's sea trials. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Tackitt/Released)

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy's newest aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) returned to Norfolk Naval Base Feb. 16 following the completion of builder's sea trials that began Feb. 13.

During builder's trials the ship's crew conducted high-speed maneuvers, systems checks and other tests that are key to the ship's systems.

Following builder's sea trials, the Navy will commence acceptance sea trials, conducted by representatives of the U.S. Navy Board of Inspection and Survey, to test and evaluate the ship's systems and performance. Upon completion of acceptance sea trials, the ship will be formally delivered to the Navy. George H.W. Bush is scheduled to begin operational training later in 2009 with her first operational deployment in 2010.

George H.W. Bush is the 10th and final ship of the Nimitz class and incorporates major improvements from her predecessors, including a composite mast, new JP-5 fueling system, a bulbous bow, redesigned island, and three wire arresting gear configuration introduced on USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). The carrier is powered by two nuclear reactors operable for more than 20 years before refueling, with an expected in-service life spanning about 50 years.

USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) is commanded by Capt. Kevin O'Flaherty.

U.S. Fleet Forces to Commence Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield '09

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Jerry Foltz, U.S. Fleet Forces Public Affairs

New Orleans, La. - Aviation Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Mario Orr, an Auxiliary Security Forces Patrolman directs Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Ronald Norris to place the security barricade at the entrance to the Child Development Center as Master-at-Arms Chris Simmons looks on during Exercise Solid Curtain. Solid Curtain is a Navy wide exercise that tests the Anti Terrorism Force Protection readiness of each installation. U.S. Navy photo by Sam Shore (RELEASED)

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Navy shore installations and activities inside the continental United States will participate in Exercise Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield '09 (SC/CS-09), an annual training exercise coordinated by U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFF) Feb. 23-27.

The weeklong security evolution is designed to enhance the training and readiness of Naval Security Force personnel to respond to threats to installations and units, using all processes security forces would implement in the event of an actual emergency.

"It is the largest anti-terrorism/force protection (AT/FP) exercise conducted by any service in the DoD," said Capt. Sam A. McCormick, USFF director for fleet anti-terrorism. "This exercise is very important to maintaining our edge."

As the Navy component for U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), USFF will also use SC/CS 09 to enhance their ability to support NORTHCOM's Homeland Defense mission.

"Solid Curtain is mainly an operational level training event, while Citadel Shield, [conducted] by Commander Naval Installation Command (CNIC), will provide advance guidance for personnel involved with the individual field training exercises," said McCormick.

SC/CS-09 will consist of more than 100 simultaneous field training exercise attacks across the country, each designed to test different regional AT/FP operations. Scenarios range from low-key events, such as recognizing and countering base surveillance operations, to higher-tempo and active simulated emergencies such as small boat attacks on waterfront bases and cyber attacks on installations.

"Information superiority leads to decision making superiority," said McCormick. "Newer technologies like our real-time network interface, the C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence) Portal, are effective tools that we can use to coordinate and initiate responses."

The C4I Portal, along with message traffic, teleconferencing centers and e-mail, will provide commands situational awareness and a common operating picture between regions. Events taking place in one region can be instantly viewed by other region commands, giving them an edge in coordinating an effective reaction.

While disruptions to normal base and station operations will be limited, there may be times when the exercise may cause increased traffic or delays in base access. Area residents may also see increased security activity associated with the exercise.

"We will be trying to de-conflict these as much as possible," said McCormick. "We have the largest base installation here at Naval Station Norfolk, with billions of dollars worth of assets on the waterfront to protect. We don't plan on closing down any base facilities, but Sailors and family members may need to factor in extra time," added McCormick.

This year's event will focus on safety while not surrendering the element of surprise. Exercises are planned to decrease the likelihood of accidental injuries.

"Safety is the number one priority of this exercise," said McCormick. "All regional and installation training teams will have safety observers on hand. Anyone can stop an event right as it is happening if they notice an unsafe condition or practice. The situation can then be evaluated and determined if the exercise can be continued or not."

During the exercise, assessors will be collecting information and relaying that data to decision makers to improve on AT/FP practices and procedures in the future.

"We will have them here on the battle watch floor and threat working groups, to look for any inconsistencies in the reporting processes and procedures," said McCormick.

"I would much rather find that out in a training environment in a realistic scenario than an actual event."

Although the main thrust of the evolution will be to evaluate command responses, the exercise will also validate that security folks are up for the challenge.

"I am really looking forward to a good exercise this year," said McCormick.

Manas Air Base 'not irreplaceable,' official says

by Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press Service

Kyrgyzstan's parliament voted Feb. 19 to close Manas Air Base, a key logistics hub for the U.S. military, but a senior Pentagon official said the base closure would not affect operations in Afghanistan.

"[Manas Air Base] is an important base for operations in Afghanistan, but it's not irreplaceable," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters here Feb. 19. "If it's not available to us, we'll find other means."

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev still must sign the bill for the eviction to be official. If he signs the bill, troops will have 180 days to withdraw, based on a previous agreement made by the U.S. and Kyrgyz governments, he said.

Pentagon officials are aware of news reports that Bakiyev intends to close the base, Mr. Whitman said, but the United States hasn't received any official notification or orders to withdraw its military forces. "Our operations there today remain normal," he said.

Defense Department officials are considering what it may be able to offer the Kyrgyz government to continue operations, but will not agree to any price, Mr. Whitman said. Other options in the region are being considered, he said, but he would not give specifics on countries or the status of discussions.

"We remain in close contact with allies in the region," he said.

Russia and Kazakhstan reportedly have given the United States permission to transport nonlethal equipment and supplies by train into Afghanistan. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan also reportedly are being considered.

The United States pays $17.4 million a year to use Manas Air Base, a major logistical and refueling hub supporting international troops in Afghanistan. The United States and Kyrgyzstan signed a "protocol of intentions" in 2006 that allowed the United States to renew the arrangement in one-year increments through July 2011. The air base has been facilitating U.S. troops since 2001, shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

About 15,000 people and 500 tons of cargo transit through Manas each month. About 1,000 troops, most of them American, but some from France and Spain, are assigned to the base.

President Barack Obama authorized 17,000 more troops this week to reinforce international forces in Afghanistan, and Whitman said there will be no disruption in current or future operations there.

"The announcements we made are going to go forward with no disruption," he said. "If we are no longer permitted to use that base, we will start to transition our activities elsewhere."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wisconsin Soldiers Deploy to Iraq

It's the largest deployment of National Guard forces in Wisconsin since World War II.

Marines Return Home to Camp Lejuene

It was an afternoon full of emotions February 17, as about 500 Marines returned from Iraq to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

DoD Announces Afghanistan Force Deployment

Pursuant to President Obama’s decision today, Secretary Gates ordered the deployment of two additional combat units, totaling more than 12,000 troops, to Afghanistan. The 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB), from Camp Lejeune, N.C., with approximately 8,000 Marines will deploy to Afghanistan in late Spring 2009.

The 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Ft. Lewis, Wash., will deploy approximately 4,000 soldiers to Afghanistan in mid-summer 2009. This Stryker Brigade and the MEB will deploy to increase the capabilities of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Approximately 5,000 additional troops to support these combat forces will receive deployment orders at a later date.

Additional information on this story below.

President Orders 12,000 Soldiers, Marines to Afghanistan
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2009 - President Barack Obama has ordered a Marine expeditionary brigade and an Army Stryker brigade combat team -- totaling 12,000 soldiers and Marines -- to Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates signed the orders today. The soldiers are part of the 2nd Infantry Division's 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Lewis, Wash., and the Marines serve with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Of the 12,000, 4,000 are soldiers and the remaining 8,000 are Marines. Both units will deploy later this spring.

This is the president's first deployment decision. "There is no more solemn duty as president than the decision to deploy our armed forces into harm's way," Obama said in a written statement released by the White House. "I do it today mindful that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention and swift action."

The president's decision is for up to 17,000 servicemembers to deploy. The 5,000 other soldiers and Marines are "enabler forces," Defense Department officials said. These troops generally deploy in smaller units and cover such necessary capabilities as engineers, command and control, communication, intelligence and military police.

The deployment partially fulfills the request that Army Gen. David D. McKiernan made upon taking command in Afghanistan last year. McKiernan is the commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

"General McKiernan's request is months old, and the fact that we are going to responsibly drawdown our forces in Iraq allows us the flexibility to increase our presence in Afghanistan," the president said.

Both units had been slated to deploy to Iraq. Both will be based in Regional Command South, Defense Department officials said.

Obama called the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan "resurgent," and said the groups threaten America from safe havens along the Pakistani-Afghan border.

There are 38,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan today and about 19,000 other troops from 42 different countries.

"This reinforcement will contribute to the security of the Afghan people and to stability in Afghanistan," Obama said. "I recognize the extraordinary strain that this deployment places on our troops and military families. I honor their service and will give them the support they need."

The president said the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating. The deployment is aimed at stabilizing the country. The 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team was the most recent reinforcement to Afghanistan. The Fort Drum, N.Y.-based unit has begun operations in Regional Command East.

In addition, the 82nd Airborne Division's Combat Aviation Brigade based at Fort Bragg, N.C., will deploy to Afghanistan later this spring. Aviation assets are needed in the rough terrain of Afghanistan.

McKiernan has asked for another brigade combat team, or its equivalent.

The White House is conducting a strategic review of the situation in Afghanistan. "This troop increase does not predispose the results of that strategic review," Obama said. "Instead, it will further enable our team to put together a comprehensive strategy that will employ all elements of our national power to fulfill achievable goals in Afghanistan."

The president said any move the United States makes will be done in consultation with friends and allies.

USS Harry S. Truman Completes Sea Trials, Returns to Homeport

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) transits up the Elizabeth River as it passes the downtown Norfolk waterfront after completing a successful and on-time six-month Planned Incremental Availability at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tyler Folnsbee/Released)

NORFOLK (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) returned Feb. 14 after completing two days of sea trials following a nearly seven-month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va.

Truman completed her shipyard stay on schedule and on budget, returning to Norfolk with numerous repairs, improvements and upgrades to ship's systems and the shipboard environment.

"For the shipyard work, there was approximately a five percent savings on what was budgeted," said Matt Durkin, the shipyard's project superintendent for Truman. "We set goals for ourselves during the planning concerning quality, safety, cost and schedule. We actually met or exceeded all those goals."

Completing PIA on schedule is necessary to ensure the ship meets her operational commitments, said Capt. Herman Shelanski, Truman's commanding officer.

"The fact that we were able to finish a bit ahead of schedule is really nice," Shelanski said. "Every at sea period has to be accomplished on schedule, and you can't take time out of that schedule to do major maintenance."

Truman underwent a host of repairs, but the largest project was a Dual Media Discharge (DMD). This is a time-consuming maintenance on the propulsion plant that occurs once every ten years and is vital to the ship's readiness.

"We were able to accomplish it in about four months, which was really record setting," Shelanski said. "The last ship to do it took about nine months."

Truman also completed the reactor training modification, making Truman the third nuclear powered aircraft carrier to do so. Contractors prepared a new training space for Reactor department personnel and completely revamped Media department spaces.

Besides operational maintenance and upgrades, Sailors completed many projects that enhanced the ship cosmetically. Sailors replaced decking, paint, lagging, doors and hatches throughout the ship, and completely rehabilitated many berthing spaces. These projects will improve the quality of life for the crew and help boost morale, said Durkin.

One of Truman's major focuses throughout the PIA was keeping Sailors trained and ready for an underway. The importance of keeping up with training is learned from the last yard period, and it proved to be this PIA's greatest accomplishment.

"The biggest victory was that when we went into the shipyard, we decided we were not going to lose our focus on training and being Sailors, and we were very successful at that," Shelanski said. "After completing this underway period, I can see that there's a little more we have to do to get up to fighting speed, but on the whole, the crew has great spirit and great morale and is ready to get the ship ready for deployment."

The culmination of the shipyard period was a two-day sea trial, which the ship performed while transiting back to Norfolk. Sea trials allow the command to assess the ship's state of readiness, get Sailors back into an underway mindset and ensure maintenance was properly completed in the yards. The sea trial was special because it marked the last underway for Capt. Shelanski as commanding officer of Truman. Shelanski will relinquish command of Truman Feb. 18.