Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Milair Frequency Changes - 3/31/2009

And here are the latest aeronautical frequency changes.

118.7000 Auburn-Opelika/Robert G. Pitts AL (KAUO) Clearance Delivery (Atlanta Tracon provides the service)
119.1500 Miami International FL (KMIA) D-ATIS Arrival
120.2000 Jacksonville ARTCC (ZJX) Crestview FL RCAG Approach/Departure Control Services
124.0500 Defuniak Springs FL (54J) Eglin Approach/Departure Control
125.1500 Wichita Mid-Continent KS (KICT) ATIS
125.3000 Honolulu International/Hickam AFB HI (KHNL) Air Mobility Control Center "Shaka Ops"
126.3500 Branson Airport MO (BBG) Springfield Approach/Departure Control
126.4500 Bendigo Airport PA (74N) Harrisburg Approach/Departure Control
126.8500 Memphis ARTCC (ZME) Harrison AR RCAG Approach/Departure Control Services
133.6750 Miami International FL (KMIA) D-ATIS Departure
235.7750 Lebanon Muni NH (KLEB) Tower, ex-385.500 (this change effective 7/2/2009)
269.4500 Bendigo Airport PA (74N) Harrisburg Approach/Departure Control
281.5500 Memphis ARTCC (ZME) Harrison AR RCAG Approach/Departure Control Services, ex-286.6000
284.6500 Defuniak Springs FL (54J) Eglin Approach/Departure Control
292.5000 Honolulu International/Hickam AFB HI (KHNL) 15AW Command Post "Shaka Ops"
332.1500 Branson Airport MO (KBBG) ILS/DME Rwy 32 Glide Slope
346.4000 Jacksonville ARTCC (ZJX) Crestview FL RCAG Approach/Departure Control Services
349.4000 Honolulu International/Hickam AFB HI (KHNL) Air Mobility Control Center "Shaka Ops"

Monday, March 30, 2009

Airshow Update and T-Bird VHF Freq Confirmation

This last weekend the Blue Angels performed at Tyndall and the T-Birds performed at MacDill. I did not receive any Tyndall reports, but did get two field reports from the MacDill performance. And I am happy to report that both reports confirmed my earlier post on the first T-Bird airshow of the season and a new VHF freq for the team of 141.0750 MHz.

A-10 Flight Demo 122.4750 MHz
Ed Hamill Hamster Bi-plane 123.1500 MHz
F-15 Eagle 376.0250 MHz
Heritage Flight (F-15/A-10/P-51) 136.6750 MHz
MacDill Airboss (various acts) 126.1500/292.2000 MHz
T-Birds 141.0750/235.2500 MHz

So did anyone attend Tyndall with a scanner?

This weekend the T-Birds are performing at Keesler AFB, Mississippi - Thunder on the Bay http://www.keesler.af.mil/ and the Blues are at Tuscaloosa, Alabama - Tuscaloosa Air Show http://www.ci.tuscaloosa.al.us/index.asp?NID=846.

Any and all field reports are appreciated, even if the freqs are already on our frequency list. Confirmation of active freqs at each location is important in keeping our annual airshow guide up-to-date.

You can send your reports directly to me at n5fpw at brmemc.net. I want to thank both of the anonymous reporters who sent their freqs in from MacDill for this week's report. Thanks fellows for thinking of the Milcom Monitoring Post (MMP).

AirFest 2009 complete success.

by Staff Sgt. Patrice Clarke, 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla -- AirFest 2009 ended in a resounding success.

The event gave Team MacDill an opportunity to show our appreciation to the local Tampa community by opening our doors to the public and inviting them to enjoy some of what the men and women of the U.S. Military do every single day.

Saturday provided a spectacular backdrop for dynamic aerial displays along with the ground attractions and static displays. Though the skies dropped much needed rain on the Tampa Bay area cancelling Sunday morning's performances, the afternoon skies cleared for exceptional ariel viewing.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds headlined AirFest 2009, returning after more than three years. This year, the Thunderbirds celebrate 56 years of representing the more than 500,000 Airmen, National Guardsmen and Reservists worldwide. While at the AirFest this year, the team embodied the same pride, precision and professionalism that all the men and women of the U.S Air Force exhibit every single day. While here, the Thunderbirds attended local area schools and put on a special performance for children in the Make a Wish foundation, Children's Cancer Center and the Shriners Hospitals for Children.

As true professionals, the team also took the time after their performances to meet the members of the Tampa Bay community and to sign autographs. They took every opportunity to engage, by mingling with spectators, accommodating photo requests and letting the Tampa community get a closer look at the Thunderbirds.

Safety was paramount this year. More than 300 Security Forces and Office of Special Investigation Airmen were available to provide water, sunscreen and ear plugs to all members of the public. Security Forces also received 370 trained Air Force volunteers and support from 11 local security agencies to assist with the security of the event and ensure the safety of the local community. To respond immediately to any medical emergency, the 6th Medical Group was also available with medical personnel located throughout the spectator area with additional medics in vehicles ready to respond to any incident.

We would like to thank the entire Tampa community for the part they played in the success of the event. The Tampa Police Department, Tampa Fire and Rescue and corporate sponsors all played in an integral part in ensuring the success of the AirFest 2009. A special thanks is also given to the local media outlets that came out this year to help cover this important event. As a result of the hard work of all these agencies, the spectators were able to come out and enjoy a one of kind show in Tampa.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Contracts awarded for TACAMO Digital NorthStar System

For my friends who monitor the widebands, the analog is going away and the system will be going digital. According to the information below by about 2011 we will go dark.

Rockwell Collins Inc., Richardson, Texas, is being awarded a $10,281,275 fixed firm price contract for approximately 37,250 man-hours of non-recurring engineering, installation, and testing in support of Phase four of the Internet Protocol and Bandwidth Expansion (IPBE) for the E-6B Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO) aircraft. In addition, a total of three options with a total value of $7,678,423 are being exercised at time of award that includes an additional 40,900 man-hours of non-recurring engineering, installation, and testing. The purpose of the IPBE Phase 4 is
to install the Digital Northstar System on the E-6B aircraft to provide the aircraft with the necessary interoperability and the proper configuration to communicate with DNS ground sites. Work will be performed in Richardson, Texas, (69 percent); Cedar Rapids, Iowa, (18 percent); and Phoenix, Ariz., (13 percent), and is expected to be completed in Mar. 2011.

I hope to have more on this story in the June issue of Monitoring Times and my monthly Milcom column.

North Korean Satellite Launch May Violate U.N. Rule, Mullen Says

By John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Friday expressed concern over a possible North Korean satellite launch that could violate United Nations sanctions against nuclear testing by the government in Pyongyang.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said North Korea has threatened a launch as soon as next week, and added that U.S. ships today moved from Japanese ports toward the Korean peninsula.

North Korea reportedly has placed a Taepodong 2 missile at a launch facility in preparation for a launch. Pyongyang has stated the long-range missile is equipped with a commercial satellite and poses no danger, according to reports.

But Mullen said the launch would contravene U.N. Resolution 1718, a unanimous decision the U.N. Security Council reached in 2006 to block attempts by North Korea to employ such technology.

He added that it's unlikely the missile in question could reach U.S. territory, but it "works towards technology to do that," the admiral said.

Appearing on CNN today, Mullen showed imagery that he said depicts a North Korean missile with stacked boosters on a launch pad. He added that North Korean leader Kim Jong II has stated he is readying for a launch between April 4 and 8.

"There's an expectation that even though the North Koreans say this is a satellite launch, what is of most concern to us is we believe it violates [Resolution 1718]," Mullen said. "[It] says very clearly that the technology supporting the development of ballistic missiles is against that resolution no matter what they're packaging."

Mullen said the engineering, guidance and engines involved in the primed missile are identical to the kind of capabilities required in manufacturing a ballistic missile.

"Potentially, with where this could go long-term, [Jong] can develop a system that could actually target us," Mullen said, adding that any upcoming launch could be "very disturbing to the region."

Navy Completes Air and Ballistic Missile Exercise

The San Diego-based guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) fires a missile Thursday, March 26, 2009 during training exercise Stellar Daggers in the Pacific Ocean. Benfold engaged multiple targets with Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IIIA and modified SM-2 BLK IV missiles. The overall objective of Stellar Daggers was to test the Aegis system's sea-based ability to simultaneously detect, track, engage and destroy multiple incoming air and ballistic missile threats during terminal or final phase of flight. The Benfold's Aegis Weapons System successfully detected and intercepted a cruise missile target with a SM-2 BLK IIIA, while simultaneously detecting and intercepting an incoming SRBM target with a modified SM-2 BLK IV. This is the first time the fleet has successfully tested the Aegis system's ability to intercept both an SRBM in terminal phase and a low-altitude cruise missile target at the same time. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, Vice Adm. Samuel J. Locklear announced the completion of the fleet operational exercise, Stellar Daggers, March 26.

The scheduled event took place March 24 and 26. Command and control of the participants in Stellar Daggers resided with U.S. 3rd Fleet based in San Diego.

San Diego-based Aegis destroyer, USS Benfold (DDG 65) engaged multiple targets during this multi-event exercise with Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IIIA and modified SM-2 BLK IV missiles. The overall objective of Stellar Daggers was to test the Aegis system's sea-based ability to simultaneously detect, track, engage and destroy multiple incoming air and ballistic missile threats during terminal or final phase of flight.

During the event, Benfold's Aegis Weapons System successfully detected and intercepted a cruise missile target with a SM-2 BLK IIIA, while simultaneously detecting and intercepting an incoming short range ballistic missile (SRBM) target with a modified SM-2 BLK IV. This is the first time the fleet has successfully tested the Aegis system's ability to intercept both an SRBM in terminal phase and a low-altitude cruise missile target at the same time.

Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), which includes Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), is a Navy core competency and a key warfighting capability for the U.S. maritime strategy, which calls for credible combat power to be continuously postured to protect America's vital interests.

Ronald Reagan Strike Group Completes SUSTAINEX

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The crew of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) completed its sustainment exercise (SUSTAINEX) and returned to Naval Air Station North Island, Calif., Mar. 26.

The Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier completed SUSTAINEX along with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14, the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), the guided-missile destroyers USS Howard (DDG 83) and USS Gridley (DDG 101) and the guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43).

SUSTAINEX is the last coordinated exercise involving the ships of Carrier Strike Group 7 prior to its upcoming deployment later this year.

"It was a great underway for our Sailors," said Capt. Kenneth Norton, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer. "Even though we had been apart for a few months, it didn't take long for the Ronald Reagan-Air Wing 14 team to start humming like a well-oiled machine."

According to Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate Equipment (AW/SW) Robert Everson of the ship's Air Department, Ronald Reagan conducted more than 1,000 launch and recoveries of aircraft, all while preparing hundreds of new Sailors for their first deployment aboard.

"This underway has prepared them a great deal," said Everson. "With the turnover since last deployment, we have a lot of new Sailors. It gives them a little bit of a vision of what they're going to be facing in the months to come."

SUSTAINEX put the ships together for several coordinated evolutions, including maritime security operations (MSO) and testing air defense and anti-submarine warfare proficiencies. The exercise also proved very valuable from a command-and-control standpoint.

"There were some skills we had to fine tune early on, but all units quickly came on step, and we were able to achieve all training objectives," said Capt. William Nault, commodore of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7. "I have full confidence that we are ready to deploy."

For the flagship, one key qualification was achieved. According to Capt. Thomas Lalor, Commander, CVW-14, USS Ronald Reagan and CVW-14 have requalified as blue-water capable, meaning the ship can now sail into deep waters and conduct flight operations.

USS Ronald Reagan is the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 7 and the ninth of ten Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The ship is named for the 40th president; its motto, "Peace through Strength," was a recurring theme during the Reagan presidency.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Navy, Army Hold Emergency Response Exercise

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert Stirrup, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Naval Station (NAVSTA) Pearl Harbor's Emergency Operations Center Incident Management Team along with the Hawaii Army National Guard's 93rd Civil Support Team (CST) held a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) exercise on historic Ford Island March 25.

The event was held to help train and assess Naval Security Forces, Federal Fire Department, Emergency Operations Center, and the 93rd CST for preparation in case of real world events.

"It's important to make sure that all personnel involved know how to react to these scenarios in case a real world event does happen," said Ray Toves, exercise director of the event.

Different elements of the drill included manning decontamination stations, conducting tests on the CBRNE agents, among others.

Personnel assigned to NAVSTA Pearl Harbor Security's canine detachment played one of the largest roles in the event, finding multiple CBRNE agents while searching the premises with military working dogs.

"I think that we performed well during the exercise," said Master-At-Arms 2nd Class Jeye Pena, assigned to NAVSTA Pearl Harbor Security's canine detachment. "All of our training with the dogs pays dividends as we found all of the CBRNE agents that were planted."

Having great teamwork between more than 65 personnel was a huge factor in helping the drill run smoothly.

"It's very important for everyone to be on the same page for events like this," said Cmdr. Lawrence Hill, NAVSTA Pearl Harbor's executive officer and training team leader for the drill. "We've had great communication between all of our different stations making the drill run without a hitch."

Toves noted that personnel spend many days planning and training for an event like this.

"Planning an event this large can take range from 90 days to six months," said Toves. "Personnel spend at least two months constantly training for these types of drills."

Ensuring the team would be ready to respond in case of an actual casualty in the area is key to the maritime strategy.

"We train very well here at Pearl Harbor for scenarios like these, and I have complete confidence that we will perform exactly the way we train if an actual casualty does happen," said Hill.

Alaska Scheduled to Change Homeports

Kings Bay, Ga. (NNS) -- USS Alaska (SSBN 732), a fleet ballistic submarine assigned to Submarine Group 10, is scheduled to change homeports to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga.

Alaska was previously assigned to Submarine Group 9 in Bangor, Wash., for 20 years and has been undergoing a 26 month refueling overhaul at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

Ballistic missile submarines conduct a major overhaul near the mid-point of the submarine's service life, approximately 20 years, to re-capitalize the vessel and extend the useful life to maintain the required SSBN force level.

Alaska has completed sea trials and is scheduled to arrive at Kings Bay for the first time in April.

Cmdr. Paul Haebler is the commanding officer of Alaska's single crew. The crew will split into a Blue and Gold crew in May.

The "Kodak Tough" Alaska will increase the number of SSBNs homeported in Kings Bay to six, with USS Tennessee (SSBN 734) currently at Norfolk Naval Shipyard undergoing its refueling overhaul.

Alaska is the seventh Trident Ohio-class nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile submarine and the fourth United States Navy ship to bear the name of the state. Alaska was commissioned January 25, 1986 and has conducted 59 strategic deterrent patrols.

Roosevelt Returns to Mayport after Ops in Two Theaters

By Ensign Michele V. Rollins, USS Roosevelt Public Affairs

MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- The guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) returned home from a seven-month deployment to the U.S. Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Operation March 25.

Roosevelt departed Naval Station Mayport, Fla., Aug. 28 as part of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) in support of maritime security operations (MSO) and national tasking.

"The ship's 2008-2009 deployment was both challenging and rewarding," said Lt. Cmdr. Scott Harvey, Roosevelt's executive officer. "There are few times in a career that you get a chance to see 300 Sailors come together to accomplish a mission so important. This deployment was one of those times."

Roosevelt served as the air defense commander (ADC) for the Iwo Jima ARG during the early phases of the deployment. The ship's combat systems team coordinated hundreds of aircraft flight hours and maintained the air picture for the strike group.

Roosevelt also provided support to the pirated motor vessel (M/V) Faina, the Ukrainian arms ship held hostage by Somali pirates for several months, and operated off the Horn of Africa in support of national tasking, logging two lengthy underway periods of 70 and 83 consecutive days.

Roosevelt Sailors were excited to return to homeport and see their loved ones.

"This deployment has truly been challenging," said Cmdr. Stanley Keeve, Roosevelt's commanding officer. "We were challenged by its length of seven months, the extended underway stretches of 70 and 83 days and by the diversity of the operations we conducted: theater security cooperation, antipiracy, presence ops and MSO. Through all the challenges, Roosevelt's Sailors truly worked as a team and focused on the mission at hand. I am extremely proud of each and every one of them."

Roosevelt was deployed as part of the Iwo Jima ARG supporting maritime security operations (MSO) in the U.S. Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Operations. MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seeks to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

Amphib Squadron's Deployment Includes Space Ops

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Michael Starkey, Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group Public Affairs

USS IWO JIMA, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors from Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 4, embarked aboard the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), are nearing the end of a seven-month deployment - which included integrated space operations - to the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Operation.

Under the leadership of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) commander, Capt. Brian Smith, the PHIBRON 4 staff planned and executed the operations of six Iwo Jima ARG ships: USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), USS San Antonio (LPD 17), USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), USS Ramage (DDG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80).

"My staff effectively led the Iwo Jima ARG in executing maritime security operations and theater security cooperation in support of the Navy's maritime strategy," said Smith. "We executed a wide variety of operations with our ships and provided critical capabilities to Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet."

Managing such a large and diverse number of ships required skillful planning and execution.

"Our operations team planned, coordinated and executed all the operational matters for our ARG ships," said Lt. j.g. Benjamin Pearlswig, PHIBRON 4's operations officer. "One of our biggest successes was the flawless execution of three theater security cooperation exercises. It was great to work with our coalition partners, demonstrate our interoperability and really push towards expanding our global maritime partnerships."

In addition to managing the six ARG ships, PHIBRON 4 headed up several unique initiatives. One of the most significant involved the integration of space operations. Space operations remain a relatively new field for the Navy but are vital in providing a wide variety of warfighting capabilities.

"Our objective was to further 'operationalize' the Navy Space Campaign Plan and to develop the tactics, techniques and procedures to make space operations relevant and effective to the expeditionary warfighter," said Smith.

PHIBRON 4 was the first afloat staff to produce detailed space operations tactical guidance and to incorporate space operations into its daily operational planning cycle.

PHIBRON 4 also served as a launch area coordinator (LAC), an assignment that involves the mission planning to support the employment, if tasked, of Tomahawk cruise missiles.

PHIBRON 4 Sailors met all challenges head-on and led the Iwo Jima ARG assets through a successful and historic deployment.

"The PHIBRON 4 staff and the Iwo Jima ARG ships did an exceptional job this deployment," said Smith. "I'm extremely proud of all our accomplishments."

PHIBRON 4 is deployed as part of the Iwo Jima ARG supporting maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

U.S. 4th Fleet Stands Up Maritime Operations Center

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alan Gragg, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, U.S. 4th Fleet Public Affairs

MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. 4th Fleet officially launched the implementation process for the command's new maritime operations center (MOC) March 2.

The MOC implementation process will continue until the preliminary accreditation phase in August during the annual multi-national maritime exercise PANAMAX 09.

Through the Navy Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (NTTP 3-32.1) manual released in October 2008, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead directed all numbered fleets and Navy component command headquarters to adopt the MOC system, which allows commanders to more easily and effectively control assigned and attached forces by monitoring, assessing, planning and directing missions.

"This transition is taking place so we can better align and interoperate with the other numbered fleets and component commands using a common MOC system," said Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan, commander of both U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO) and U.S. 4th Fleet.

"Most importantly, the MOC provides for an institutionalized framework and process for the effective conduct of planning, operations and intelligence by a trained and focused team. We will more efficiently conduct our recurring missions, such as regional partner nation engagements, security cooperation and deterrence, all while maintaining the capability to effectively execute crisis response and contingency operations."

MOCs allow the Navy to maintain a state of readiness, providing commanders with all the necessary resources to constantly manage operations and be able to smoothly transition from peacetime operations to disaster relief operations and major combat operations, while still handling fleet management functions.

The structure and staffing of a MOC depends on the command's missions and the regional environments where operations will be conducted, which include preparing for existing or potential adversaries as well as natural disasters. Hurricanes and tropical storms are the most frequent natural disasters that occur in the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) area of focus, which encompasses the Caribbean, Central and South America, and surrounding waters and where U.S. 4th Fleet has operational responsibility of assigned assets.

"A functioning MOC will facilitate more effective, efficient and timely response to environmental disasters requiring U.S. humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR)," said Capt. Gregory S. Parker, of the U.S. 4th Fleet MOC Implementation Team.

U.S. 4th Fleet staff members received training Feb. 23-27 to better operate the command's MOC. Instructors from the Naval War College Assess and Assist Team provided the training to various members of the staff, explaining the MOC concept.

"As a MOC, we are aligned with all of the other numbered fleets, planning, monitoring and assessing operations in the same manner," said Cmdr. Craig Black of the U.S. 4th Fleet MOC Implementation Team. "There will be growing pains, but in the long run, the transition will be beneficial."

NAVSO, the Navy component command of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), oversees maritime operations throughout Latin America, including exercises and deployments, counter illicit trafficking support and theater security cooperation events.

U.S. 4th Fleet is the numbered fleet exercising operational control of U.S. Navy units temporarily operating in the SOUTHCOM area of focus.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Electronic Attack Squadron Returns from Afghanistan

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tucker M. Yates, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest

OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133 returned from a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom March 14 and 21.

The Wizards of VAQ-133 reported to Bagram Airfield in September with 180 Sailors for the 175-day deployment.

"This is my second deployment within about a 14-month period, and most of the people in the squadron are in that same turnaround, so we went back to a mission we had done before and were all familiar with," said Cmdr. John Ward, VAQ-133 commanding officer. "We knew what we were getting into and had the right attitude."

The Wizards maintained a 100 percent mission accomplishment rate during the deployment, conducting 550 sorties, logging approximately 1,800 total combat hours through the combined efforts of their maintainers and air crews.

"It was great. Everybody performed just like they were supposed to, and teamwork was outstanding," said Senior Chief Aviation Machinist's Mate (AW) Jimmy Flores, VAQ-133 command senior chief. "We had no problems on the maintenance side of the house. Their conduct was great and morale is high."

"I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is the best maintenance department in naval aviation. We didn't miss a single sortie, and we had good 'up and safe' jets the whole deployment," added Ward.

VAQ-133 made an impression both on- and off-duty while not only lending 12-hour shifts, providing their electronic attack support to combatant commanders and troops on the ground, but also volunteering at the local Bagram Airfield Hospital.

"I have some folks that like to use their free time in a manner that helps out the locals. There was always work to be done at the hospital; it's the biggest in Afghanistan," said Ward. "Working every day for the squadron and the mission and then finding time while they're off duty to help out local nationals that are in the hospital, I'm very proud of them."

The Wizards also had multiple distinguished visitors during their tour, including then-President George W. Bush and Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations. The support shown by these visits cemented the squadron members' belief in their contributions being appreciated.

"It's nice to feel appreciated and wanted. Every visitor would ask how the squadron was doing, what we needed, and how morale and the troops were," said Ward. "Being a Navy squadron in Bagram is not like a typical Navy squadron; most squadrons are on ships. Being in that focus and that level of mission readiness with ground forces and then having all the senior leaders come out and appreciate it, made me, and everyone between me and my young airmen, proud. They notice us and the great work we're doing."

Command ombudsmen, Connie Williams and Shauna Atkinson, offered a significant amount support to family members of deployed Sailors.

According to Selena Dziura, wife of Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class(AW) Derek Dziura, of Burlington, Wash., the ombudsmen were "phenomenal," and sent out e-mails to keep everyone informed.

"We had quite a few group sessions, there were one or two every month," said Dziura, "and everyone was welcome."

Space operations units assume control of new GPS satellite

by Staff Sgt. Don Branum, 50th Space Wing Public Affairs

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) -- The 2nd and 19th Space Operations Squadrons here assumed control of the Air Force's newest GPS satellite shortly after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., March 24.

The satellite, named GPS IIR-20(M), is the 34th satellite in the GPS constellation, which provides precise navigation and timing data to military and civilian customers around the world.

Space operators with 2nd SOPS and 19th SOPS took over early-orbit operations for the new satellite 68 minutes after launch, said Lt. Col. Douglas Schiess, 2nd SOPS operations officer.

"We're getting it ready to provide its combat effects to warfighters as soon as possible," Colonel Schiess said. "It's a great team effort by 2nd SOPS and 19th SOPS."

GPS IIR-M satellites provide combat capability for military applications such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions and handheld, vehicle-based and aircraft navigation aids. Civilian applications include ATMs, bank and stock market transactions and power grid management. Currently, 31 of the 34 GPS satellites in orbit transmit navigation and timing signals to users.

A Delta II launch vehicle carried GPS IIR-20(M) into low-Earth orbit. From there, a booster will lift the satellite into its operational orbit approximately 12,500 miles above the Earth.

The launch was delayed from June 2008 due to a fault in the 40-second timer that triggers separation of the third-stage booster from the satellite. Air Force and contractor engineers resolved the problems, said Lt. Col. John Wagner, mission director for the Launch and Range Systems Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.
The IIR-M spacecraft includes several upgrades from the earlier Block IIR model. A modernized antenna panel provides a stronger signal that is more resistant to GPS jamming and stronger encryption for military signals. It also includes two military signals and one civil signal beyond those transmitted by earlier GPS satellites.

Other Air Force Space Command agencies that supported the launch include the 22nd Space Operations Squadron here, the 45th Space Wing at Patrick AFB, Fla., and the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB. Contractor partners included United Launch Alliance, the Aerospace Corporation and Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Airmen demonstrate unmanned aircraft not merely 'drones'

by Staff Sgt. Zachary Wilson, AFCENT Combat Camera News Team

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- The door to the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron features a drawing of an MQ-1 Predator armed with Hellfire missiles underscored with the words "We're not drones - we fire back."

Often referred to by reporters as "drones," unmanned aircraft like the MQ-1 Predator and RQ-4 Global Hawk are remotely-flown weapons systems flown both locally and stateside from ground stations using satellite uplinks. They're also far more complex than the U.S. military's relatively more simplified radio-controlled drone aircraft used for aerial target practice, according to unmanned aircraft system professionals.

For the Airmen flying and maintaining the lethal Predator and its big brother, the MQ-9 Reaper, from Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, and from Creech Air Force Base, Nev., the message is demonstrated to their adversaries on a regular basis.

"(Both the MQ-1 and MQ-9 are weapons-carrying aircraft,) and both have a hunter-killer role in addition to their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities," said Lt. Col. Scott Miller, the 62nd ERS commander, who is deployed from the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech AFB.

Performing dual-missions of close-air support and ISR taskings, the Predator can stay airborne for more than 12 hours at 50,000 feet and the Reaper can stay up for a longer period of time at even higher altitudes, according to squadron officials. Boasting a full-motion video camera with various modes that can detect enemy movements, the Predator and Reaper also carry the Hellfire missile. In addition to carrying a larger payload of Hellfires, the UAs bring to the fight a set of two 500 lbs. laser-guided bombs that allow operators to not only observe and detect hostile forces, but also eliminate them if called upon to do so.

"Both aircraft can initiate and complete the 'killchain'," Colonel Miller said. "With their ability to loiter for long periods of time over a target, eliminate it, stay on station and then provide the (bomb damage assessment,) they provide continuity to a mission and prove to be invaluable assets."

The aircraft are flown jointly by the 62nd ERS crews stationed here with the 451st Air Expeditionary Group and by crews back at Creech using satellite uplinks that transfer control from the local pilots who taxi, launch, land and recover the aircraft (all from trailers adjacent to the flightline) and the Creech aviators flying inside of mission control elements performing missions across Afghanistan. British Royal Air Force counterparts also fly the Reaper.

General Atomics contractors perform maintenance on the Reaper while responsibility for Predator maintenance is undertaken by 62nd ERS Airmen.

"As this aircraft is like 90 percent avionics, it's a pretty unique experience to work on it," said Senior Airman Doug Cox, a 62nd ERS MQ-1 avionics specialist from Creech AFB. "We're asked to do a lot more than our traditional specialties and most of us are trained up on crew chief duties such as performing 60-hour inspections, changing spark plugs, engine oil and things like that."

First Lt. Andrew Dowd, also deployed from Creech AFB as the unit's maintenance officer, agreed.

"This aircraft does not have hydraulic fluid and operates using electro-servos," he said, also noting the aircraft recently reached a 500,000 flight hour milestone. "It's a very unique platform, but of course, when it's all said and done, it's the $1.2 million camera that runs the show."

After the aircraft are airborne and are handed off by the Kandahar crew, Creech aviators perform the majority of traditional mission taskings. However, the 62nd ERS Airmen increasingly are taking responsibility for executing missions within the local area to aid and protect coalition forces stationed around Kandahar who are fighting the enemy. Sometimes weapons are dropped, demonstrating the lethality and uniqueness of the 62nd ERS' mission and aircraft to friends and foes alike.

Notably, some missions are often generated to fly only within the local area, putting the responsibility for the entire mission on the shoulders of the Kandahar-based aircrews.

It's great to have a direct impact on the war," said Airman 1st Class Patrick Snyder, an MQ-9 sensor operator who maneuvers the system's cameras and sensors as well as directs its munitions when launched. "We provide over-watch for the Canadians fighting the Taliban and then have coffee with them at the end of day (here at Kandahar.) It really makes us feel connected."

Capt. Ryan Jodi, a B-1 pilot who now flies the Reaper from his cockpit position in a ground control element, also acknowledged his preference for performing missions locally as opposed to Creech.

"I really enjoy doing the launches and landings from here," he said. "It really gives you more of a flying feeling. And doing local missions is also great because we can really appreciate the camaraderie we have with our coalition partners who we live with here."

With spring arriving in Afghanistan, Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents once again will ramp up hostile operations against coalition forces around the country as they have demonstrated each year during the duration of Operation Enduring Freedom.

However, with the planned increase of forces within the area, that means more assets are on the way, with 62nd ERS leaders preparing for additional aircraft and more mission sorties generated from combatant commanders. With nearly 10 additional Reapers coming to supplement the squadron's approximately dozen MQ-9 aircraft, Colonel Miller says that means more work.

"In 2005, we were generating about two sorties a day," he said. "We've more than quadrupled that now and we are going to expect a lot more coming in the future."

Col. Ted Osowski, the 451st AEG commander, agreed with Colonel Miller on the demand for the ISR hunter/killer platforms in-theater.

"No other asset is more sought after," he said. "Close air support and ISR are very valuable to the ground commanders."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Disaster Preparedness Exercise Trains 500 Guardsmen in Puerto Rico

By Army Staff Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum, Special to American Forces Press Service

PONCE, Puerto Rico - An underwater earthquake triggers a tsunami as a terrorist cell is discovered producing dangerous chemicals. If there was a time to call the National Guard, this is it.

Fortunately, these scenarios are only a simulation at Vigilant Guard 2009, an exercise under way here that tests the capabilities of more than 500 Guard members from five states and territories to handle disasters and cooperate with federal, state and local partners.

The two scenarios are the main focus of the exercise. In the first, which began yesterday and ends today, Guard members from the civil support teams of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico assist civil authorities in identifying and containing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. The teams take turns arriving on the scene of a nonfunctioning oil refinery, stocked with suspected weapons of mass destruction by the 35th CST from West Virginia.

In the other scenario occurring today, Guard members from the Puerto Rico National Guard and Arizona Air National Guard Expeditionary Medical Support systems will assist in casualty evacuation and treatment in field hospitals.

"To be part of an exercise of this magnitude is an honor and exciting," said Capt. Aesha Rivers, acting commander of the 23rd CST from the Virgin Islands. "It's great to be able to come here in their home to help."

In the real-world-scenario feel of Vigilant Guard, Rivers saw the opportunity to help a neighbor in need, and with that the implied promise of help in return.

"If we have an incident in the Virgin Islands, we will call 22nd CST out of Puerto Rico," Rivers said. "We will call Florida. We will call Georgia. Those are our sister and brother states."

For the Guard members of Puerto Rico's 22nd CST, the exercise is a chance to improve upon training that so far has involved few of these large-scale exercises.

"This training is ... important for us," Army Staff Sgt. Edwin Rosa, a team chief with the 23rd CST from Puerto Rico, said. "It's realistic, and we will learn from this experience."

Army and Marine Corps Troops Return Home

Soldiers from Oklahoma Army National Guard return from Iraq, as do Marines and Sailors from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Helo Squadron Flies in Bilateral Exercise, Increases Interoperability

By Lt. Kim Gentner, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14 Public Affairs

YEOSU, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14, Detachment 1, participated in bilateral mine countermeasure training exercises with the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy in exercise Foal Eagle, March 13–20, in the area around Yeosu, Korea.

Throughout the exercise, HM-14's two MH-53E helicopters coordinated with ROK and U.S. minesweepers to clear channels through notional mine fields in the waters around Yeosu.

"The opportunity to participate in Foal Eagle has proven to be a special event we look forward to every year," said Det. 1 Officer in Charge Lt. Cmdr. Tony Monell. "We commence training for the exercise months in advance, attempting to hone the readiness of our flight crews."

During the exercise HM-14 coordinated with ROK Navy ships ONG-GIN, KANG-JIN, KO-RYUNG and USS Patriot (MCM 7) in various scenarios. The ROK Navy also provided search and rescue capability to HM-14 in the remote waters of Yeosu, often shadowing their every move.

The exercise also provided valuable data to planners in relation to bottom type, water salinity, clarity and temperature to provide battle space profile information that previously went unrecorded. This type of data project assists in shaping commander's decisions when integrating the capabilities of both countries in future engagements.

"Not only does it improve South Korean and U.S. combat readiness, it targets joint-combined interoperability to improve battle space awareness and communications between both nations," said Monell. "It's been a great experience for our detachment, and we look forward to building on an already solid foundation with the ROK."

HM-14 is currently forward deployed to Pohang, Republic of Korea, and serves under Task Force 76 led by Rear Adm. Richard Landolt and headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.

Milair Frequency Changes - 3/24/2009 & 3/25/2009

Here are the latest milair frequency changes.

118.750 Bowie Muni TX (0F2) AWOS-3
119.700 Marthas Vineyard MA (KMVY) Cape Approach/Departure Control and Clearence Delivery when KMVY tower is closed.
120.100 Moffett Field CA (KNUQ) Departure Control (Northern California TRACON), ex-121.300
121.800 Marthas Vineyard MA (KMVY) Clearance Delivery, ex-119.700
122.250 King Cove AK RCO (CDB)
122.800 Fort Benton MT (79S) AWOS-A
124.625 Indianapolis ARTCC (KZID) New Hope KY RCAG Approach/Departure Services - Lebanon-Springfield (6I2)
126.850 Memphis ARTCC (ZME) Harrison AR RCAG Approach/Departure Services - Branson (KBBG)
127.700 Port Angeles CGAS WA (KNOW) Coast Guard Operations (Port Angeles Air)
128.150 Chicago O'Hare International IL (KORD) Tower, ex-135.925
269.025 Sheppard AFB/Wichita Falls Muni TX (KSPS) Approach/Departure Services
281.550 Memphis ARTCC (ZME) Harrison AR RCAG Approach/Departure Services - Branson (KBBG)
345.000 Port Angeles CGAS WA (KNOW) Coast Guard Operations (Port Angeles Air)
371.925 Indianapolis ARTCC (KZID) New Hope KY RCAG Approach/Departure Services - Lebanon-Springfield (6I2)

Total force keeps air mobility in the fight

by 1st Lt. Justin Brockhoff, 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center Public Affairs

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- Airmen of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve have sustained the hub for directing global airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation operations since the onset of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom here.

The 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center manages a daily average of 900 point-to-point flights, called sorties, in support of worldwide mobility operations ranging from humanitarian assistance to combat airdrops.

Approximately 20 percent of the center's 700 personnel that work to fulfill the planning, scheduling and management of those missions come from Guard or Reserve backgrounds.

"Guardsmen and reservists are a vital part of the mobility air force, including here in the TACC," said Col. Steve Goodwin, the senior Air National Guard member in the 618th TACC, and Guard adviser to Maj. Gen. Mark S. Solo, the 618th TACC commander. "We're all part of the same team, working on the same mission, and we're proud to do it."

Many of those missions include direct support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, supplying U.S. and coalition troops with the food, equipment and supplies required to sustain military presence in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Other operations supported by the 618th TACC staff include providing command and control oversight for humanitarian missions, such as in mid-January when 618th TACC personnel managed missions that moved equipment into the Darfur region of Sudan in support of United Nations and African Union peacekeeping missions.

"The person that planned the C-17 (Globemaster III) missions that supported the Darfur movements is a guardsman on voluntary orders with the 618th TACC," Colonel Goodwin said. "Our (Air Reserve Component) integration here is seamless."

While a limited number of guardsmen and reservists worked in the 618th TACC prior to Sept. 11, 2001, their presence as volunteers has significantly increased to support the significant requirements for airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation missions needed to execute Air Mobility Command's current global operations.

The high level of global movement coordinated by the 618th TACC means that a sortie is scheduled to takeoff or land somewhere around the world every 90 seconds. This fact drives the need for the 618th TACC staff to operate 24 hours a day, which places an even greater emphasis on the requirement for experienced aircrew members, maintainers, and transporters to manage those missions from the ground.

"The experience that guardsmen and reservists bring to the table is invaluable," said Col. Kurt Peterson, the Reserve adviser to the 618th TACC commander, who has worked in the 618th TACC since its activation in 1992. "A typical active-duty member will move every three or four years, while reservists and guardsmen can remain associated with a unit for 10 years or longer. This long-term investment creates unparalleled continuity within an organization and pays huge dividends in retaining the expertise needed to execute the mission."

In fact, when you walk throughout the 618th TACC, many times it's the Guard and Reserve personnel demonstrating a practice or procedure to the active-duty members new to the TACC, because of that expertise and knowledge they've developed over their career.

"The most remarkable thing about the Guard and Reserve members in the 618th TACC is that each one is a volunteer, who has sought out the opportunity to serve," Colonel Peterson said. "Looking back on my 27 years with the Air Force, I couldn't be more honored to be part of this team."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blue-Green Team Approaches Final Stages of Seven-Month Deployment

Foreign Navy ships participate in a photo exercise with ships from the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) during a bilateral exercise in the Persian Gulf. The Iwo Jima ESG is supporting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Chad R. Erdmann/Released)

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Michael Starkey, Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group Public Affairs

USS IWO JIMA, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) and embarked Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU) make the final preparations to return to homeport as their seven-month deployment to the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Operation comes to a close.

Iwo Jima began its deployment Aug. 26, 2008 as the flagship of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) and had several achievements that made the deployment a success.

"Two words sum up every successful deployment – 'team work'," said Iwo Jima's Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Don Stoddard. "The Sailors of Iwo Jima, including her embarked Navy elements and the Marines of 26 MEU, integrated into a cohesive unit very early in the training cycle. That early integration was critical to the many successes of the Iwo Jima [ESG] while deployed to 5th and 6th Fleet."

"It is simply amazing to watch the blue and green team work side-by-side in virtually every mission area aboard this great ship, and I thank them for their many sacrifices and dedication," continued Stoddard. "Our goal when we sailed out of Norfolk on 26 August, 2008 was to bring every Sailor and Marine back home safely. We accomplished that goal."

As with any amphibious operation, ship-to-shore movement of troops and equipment is key to the success and accomplishment of the mission. Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4 and its three landing craft air cushion (LCAC) played a major role in the embarkation and debarkation of more than 2,000 Marines and their vehicles, equipment and supplies.

"Our detachment supported the Iwo Jima [ESG] by moving 6,298 tons of vehicles and equipment, while also transporting 5,123 passengers in support of the 26 MEU during exercises in cooperation with multi-national forces from four countries," said Quartermaster Chief (SW) Jerrod Morgan, senior navigator for ACU 4.

"The success of our detachment is a direct reflection of our personnel and leadership who have always ensured that we are a team first and foremost. We also accomplished more with less and supported each other to the fullest. We couldn't have accomplished all of our work without the full support of Iwo Jima and its crew."

Air operations also played a major role with ship-to-shore movement and 26 MEU support.

"Air department executed 15,565 flight deck evolutions and 3,850 flight deck moves during 1,419.11 hours of mishap-free flight operations supporting exercises with foreign navies and other operations," said Cmdr. Frank Dowd, Iwo Jima's air boss. "Also, air department issued 1,580,283 gallons of JP-5 during 3,789 aircraft and 81 LCAC refueling evolutions. Air department's V-4 division conducted and coordinated the mishap-free receipt of 1,391,116 gallons of JP-5 during 12 mishap-free replenishment at sea (RAS) evolutions."

During deployment, the ship broke up the underway working routine with port visits to Haifa, Israel; Manama, Bahrain; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Sicily, Italy; and Rota, Spain. Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) offered tours at each port to give Sailors and Marines a unique opportunity to get off the ship and explore the sights at a greatly-reduced cost.

"Approximately 700 Sailors and Marines took advantage of the tours offered during liberty ports," said Elaine-Jane Mitchell, Iwo Jima's fun Boss/MWR representative. "MWR subsidized approximately $90,000 of the cost of tours. We only have one lifetime to see the world in all its greatness, so this was our chance to live our dreams."

Capt. Jeffery Amick, Iwo Jima's commanding officer, attributes the success of the deployment to each and every Sailor and Marine aboard the ship.

"I would say that the greatest factor that contributed to our successful deployment was our Sailors and Marines; they did it all," said Amick. "The equipment is important, but they kept the equipment running; they performed the missions, and their pride and enthusiasm made it a success.

"I've enjoyed working with all the Sailors and Marines, and I'm really proud of each and every one of them. It's a great crew, and I hope they all leave with a tremendous sense of pride in what they've accomplished for themselves and for their country."

Iwo Jima is deployed as part of the Iwo Jima ESG supporting maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

Ramage Proves Multi-Mission Capability During Deployment

By Ensign Patrick Whitmore, USS Ramage Public Affairs

USS RAMAGE, At Sea (NNS) -- The guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61) is wrapping up its seven-month deployment to the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Operation as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) and is making preparations to return to homeport at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.

Ramage's deployment marked the first east coast U.S. Navy ship to deploy equipped with ballistic missile defense (BMD) capabilities. This pivotal defensive capability gives Ramage the unique ability to intercept short and medium range ballistic missiles and provide crucial missile defense to America's interests and allies.

"Ballistic missile defense has become a core mission of the Navy and a key element of [the] maritime strategy and will continue to be well into the future," said Ramage's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Pete Galluch. "Ramage did an exceptional job in setting the standard for future BMD success."

During the deployment, Ramage was called upon to support a wide range of missions. From fulfilling duties as a strategic BMD asset within 5th and 6th Fleet, to conducting more than 100 approach-and-assist visits in the Central Arabian Gulf, to defending Iraq's maritime oil infrastructure – all skill sets of Ramage's crew were called upon to complete these missions.

"Our deployment has been a testament to the dedication and commitment that is required to complete such a broad range of tasks," Galluch said. "That Ramage was able to respond quickly and effectively to any mission given is a direct reflection of the continual vigilance and professionalism that our Sailors maintain. By their flexibility and perseverance, they have earned a very well-deserved return home."

Ramage also conducted counterpiracy operations, cooperative training with foreign navies, air defense operations with U.S. aircraft carriers, and other critical missions while maintaining a safe and professional work environment.

"This deployment clearly shows just how challenging and flexible the crew can be in flawlessly accomplishing multi-faceted missions and at many times conducting the missions simultaneously," said Ramage's Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Jack Killman. "From the moment we entered 5th Fleet, our taskings drew national attention, and Ramage quickly earned the reputation of being the 'go-to ship' to get the job done. I am very proud of the crew and our many accomplishments executed safely and professionally on deployment."

Junior and senior Sailors achieved numerous qualifications and professional achievements while deployed. A large portion of their successes was attributed to the experience and leadership aboard Ramage.

"Deployment is a time to use and show off the skills and training that the crew developed throughout the year leading up to a deployment," said Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Gerald Coulson. "During our deployment, Ramage Sailors were challenged with many operational tasks. The crew met and excelled in all warfare areas."

"Likewise, they improved themselves personally by completing numerous college-level courses, surface warfare officer (SWO) and enlisted surface warfare specialist (ESWS) qualifications, along with many watch station qualifications," continued Coulson. "We held two advancement exams during this deployment, and our Sailors once again excelled by achieving a 38.5 percent advancement rate -- well above the 25 percent national rate."

By committing themselves early in the deployment, Ramage leadership ensured success for the entire crew.

"Many of their successes were products of the guidance offered by their chain of command and leading chief petty officers," said Coulson. "These efforts were a direct result of Ramage's new dedication towards the mentorship program. Ramage Sailors know that operational excellence is an all-hands effort."

Ramage is deployed as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditonary Strike Group supporting maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

Vella Gulf Wrapping Up Rewarding Seven-Month Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky, Iwo Jima Amphibious Expeditionary Strike Public Affairs

USS VELLA GULF, At Sea (NNS) -- The guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) is nearing the end of a successful seven-month deployment to the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG).

Throughout the deployment, Vella Gulf played a significant role in counterpiracy operations.

Early in the deployment, Vella Gulf assumed duties as the on scene commander (OSC) of the pirated Motor Vessel (M/V) Faina crisis.

"Our successful mission as the OSC of the M/V Faina crisis was the longest and most challenging," said Capt. Mark Genung, Vella Gulf's commanding officer. "My watch team's out-of-the-box thinking immediately shaped the tactical situation. In the course of more than 100 days on station, Vella Gulf maintained vigilant situational awareness throughout in what became a highly-complex ransom negotiation process."

"We de-escalated several tense situations when the pirates made credible threats to the Faina hostages and Vella Gulf," Genung continued. "We ensured Faina's significant military cargo was not imported into Somalia, prevented terrorists from capturing or damaging Faina and, most importantly, ensured the negotiations resulted in the safe release of the hostages."

Vella Gulf's involvement in counterpiracy operations continued for the duration of the ship's time in 5th Fleet. Following the M/V Faina crisis, Vella Gulf served as the flagship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 counterpiracy operations.

"Our mission as the flagship of CTF 151 was extremely satisfying," said Genung. "We captured 16 suspected pirates that attempted to pirate the M/V Polaris and M/V Prem Divya. Despite the high risks associated with small boat operations and helicopter warning shots, we captured these heavily-armed suspected pirates without any injuries or inadvertent discharges."

Genung is proud of his crew's accomplishments and the impact they've made.

"Vella Gulf proved that we are good world neighbors and are working together to improve maritime security and safety," said Genung. "The success of our ship and crew contributed significantly to Iwo Jima ARG's overall mission, and I am proud of the job we've done."

Vella Gulf is deployed as part of the Iwo Jima ESG supporting maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seeks to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

San Antonio Demonstrates Capabilities During Maiden Deployment

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

USS SAN ANTONIO, At Sea (NNS) -- The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) readies to return to its homeport in Norfolk after completing a seven-month deployment as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG).

The homecoming will mark the end of the maiden deployment for the first San Antonio-class warship, which brought new warfighting capabilities to the stike group.

"We've demonstrated that the LPD 17 platform is very robust with its new features," said Cmdr. Eric Cash, San Antonio's commanding officer. "If you look at the lift capability, command and control, and capacity and facilities to embark a multitude of detachments, you can see how amphibious ships can be utilized from low to high intensity operations."

Thanks to San Antonio's design, embarked Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU) were able to carry out their daily routine and shore operations in an efficient manner.

"We were a complete unit, capable of any tasking because of the capacity that San Antonio has for our operations," said Lt. Col. John Giltz, Combat Logistics Battalion 26 commanding officer. "The passageways are much wider for a large number of Marines to move throughout the ship and for transporting vehicles. The flight deck is capable of having multiple aircraft, which makes loading and offloading much faster."

"This deployment has taught us a great deal on how to carry out MEU operations," Giltz added. "From what we've learned on San Antonio's maiden cruise, the LPD-class ships are very capable in independent ship missions."

A number of functions are monitored through the ship's latest feature, the shipwide area network (SWAN).

"SWAN has been a godsend for this ship on this deployment," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Wendall Bates.

"It has enabled us to man less spaces, and it's a constant watchdog for our systems should anything go wrong, such as broken consoles at an engineering station, navigation issues or problems with the ship's control system."

At the start of the new year, San Antonio was selected to serve as the flagship for the newly-established Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 counter-piracy mission. Fleet Surgical Team 8, from the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), and Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron 3, from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), embarked San Antonio to enhance CTF-151's capabilities.

"By bringing such a diverse group of forces together, we were able to capitalize on each other's experiences and training, and that allowed us to better prepare for future missions," said Lt. Cmdr. Sean Kearns, San Antonio's executive officer.

"San Antonio surpassed all expectations made by the Iwo Jima ARG," said Lt. Richard Knutson, San Antonio's operations officer. "We demonstrated that this platform is versatile in carrying out operations such as visit, board, search and seizure operations, damage control training and simulated warfare."

Cmdr. Kurt Kastner, San Antonio's former commanding officer, led the ship and its crew out on the maiden deployment and is proud of the crew's accomplishments.

"The crew and embarked Marines faced every challenge and mission head-on," said Kastner. "I think their efforts will go a long way in defining future LPD 17 class deployments."

San Antonio is deployed as part of the Iwo Jima ARG supporting maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

USS Hartford and USS New Orleans Arrive In Port Bahrain

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy submarine and U.S. amphibious ship that collided in the Strait of Hormuz March 20, arrived in port Bahrain March 21.

USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18) arrived at Mina Salman pier to further assess and evaluate the damage that resulted from their collision at sea.

The incident remains under investigation.

Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. The propulsion plant of the submarine was unaffected by this collision. New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank, which resulted in a fuel spill of approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel marine in the Strait of Hormuz.

Aerial searches of the area where the fuel spill occurred were conducted yesterday, and revealed no indication of any remaining fuel on the ocean's surface.

The U.S. 5th Fleet has been working in coordination with the Navy Oceanographic Office to determine refined search areas, based on currents and winds. Additional searches were flown by U.S. Navy aircraft today and found no remaining fuel on the surface.

The quick dissipation of the fuel is likely due to the type of fuel, and various environmental factors to include air and water temperatures, winds and seas.

Both Hartford and New Orleans are currently on regularly scheduled deployments to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations conducting maritime security operations (MSO).

MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons, or other material

Monday, March 23, 2009

Milair Frequency Changes - 3/23/2009

Here are the latest milair freq changes.

Freq Recap

124.625/371.925 Indianapolis ARTCC (ZID) New Hope KY RCAG Approach/Departure Services
Airport served:- Russell County KY (K24)

124.625/371.925 Indianapolis ARTCC (ZID) London 2 KY RCAG Approach/Departure Services
Airports served:- London-Corbin Airport-Magee Field KY (KLOZ), Middlesboro-Bell County KY (1A6), Wayne County KY (KEKQ), Lake Cumberland Regional KY (KSME), Williamsburg-Whitley County KY (W38), Jamestown Muni TN (2A1), Livingston Muni TN (8A3), and Scott Muni TN (SCX).

Freq Changes and Additions

118.400 Branson Airport MO (KBBG) Ground Control
124.625 Branson Airport MO (KBBG) ATIS
126.850 Memphis ARTCC Harrison AR RCAG Approach/Departure Services for Branson (KBBG)
128.150 Branson Airport MO (KBBG) Tower
128.350 Kansas City ARTCC (ZKC) MOA Lindbergh-A/B/C, MOA Salem, ex-133.400
128.600 Minneapolis ARTCC (ZMP) R-6903 Sheboygan WI
281.550 Memphis ARTCC Harrison AR RCAG Approach/Departure Services for Branson (KBBG)
284.675 Kansas City ARTCC (ZKC) MOA Lindbergh-A/B/C, MOA Salem, ex-323.100
363.000 Minneapolis ARTCC (ZMP) R-6903 Sheboygan WI

Boston/General Edward Lawrence Logan International MA (KBOS)
Boston Approach Control (South) 127.200 343.600
Boston Approach Control (North) 118.250 263.100
Boston Approach Control (West) 120.600
Boston Departure Control 133.000 343.600
Boston Tower Copter 124.725
Boston Tower Rwys 4R-22L and 9-27 119.100 132.225 257.800
Boston Tower Rwys 4L-22R, 15R-33L and 15R-33R 128.800 257.800
Ground Control 121.750 121.900
Clearance Delivery 121.650 257.800
ATIS 127.875 (Arr) 135.000 (Dep)
Gate Control 134.050 (Airspace Gate Control)
Massport Gate 131.100
Unicom 122.950

More as we get them.

Bataan Sails Into CERTEX

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jeremy Grisham, USS Bataan Public Affairs

USS BATAAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines from the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) and embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., are conducting their Certification Exercise (CERTEX) through March 24 off the Atlantic coast.

CERTEX is the last of three pre-deployment exercises designed to evaluate and train Amphibious Ready Groups (ARG) before the ARG deploys overseas. The exercise will fully certify Bataan and the 22nd MEU as the BATARG/22MEU.

While similar to prior pre-deployment exercises, CERTEX is designed to strengthen the "green" team's ability to operate with the Navy and respond to various tasking, which they may be called upon to conduct while forward deployed.

"It is a green focus event," said Capt. Jack Sotherland, Amphibious Squadron 2's commodore. "Our focus is on making sure the 22nd MEU is able to achieve all their goals and return back to New River (N.C.) and Camp Lejeune fully certified for major combat operations."

The "blue" side will still be hectic, as the ships will not be working on a certain timeline and have a more reactive focus, said Sotherland.

The training evolutions will be evaluated by the Special Operations Training Group (SOTG) stationed at Camp Lejeune, based on planning, execution and timeliness.

The exercise builds off the lessons learned from prior exercises and includes additional training that will prepare the BATARG/22MEU for deployment.

"The event is going to consist of a number of different evolutions," said Col. Gareth F. Brandl, commander of the 22nd MEU. "From occupying an embassy with a fallen command element to conducting raids and mass casualty events to tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel."

Once CERTEX is complete, Lt. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force, and Vice Adm. Melvin Williams, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, will fully certify BATARG/22MEU as a deployable unit.

The BATARG/22MEU is a scalable, multipurpose force of Marines and Sailors.

The 22nd MEU, commanded by Brandl, consists of its Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element.

The Bataan ARG consists of amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), amphibious transport dock ship USS Ponce (LPD 15), and amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43).

Bataan is the fifth ship of the Navy's Wasp-class ships. She was commissioned Sept. 20, 1997, and is the second U.S. Navy warship to bear the name. CVL-29 was an Independence-class light aircraft carrier that was commissioned in November 1943. After serving in both World War II and the Korean conflict, CVL-29 was decommissioned in 1954.

Harry S. Truman Team Prepares for INSURV

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Tristan Miller, USS Harry S. Truman Public Affairs

USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman's (CNV 75) INSURV Assessment Team is gearing up efforts to prepare the ship for the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV).

INSURV is a major inspection mandated by Congress to test a crew's damage control ability, the ship's material conditions and the overall readiness of the ship.

Adm. David Farragut established INSURV in 1868 to show the American people that the ships of the U.S. Navy are being properly maintained and are capable of performing their duties while deployed.

The crew will be thoroughly inspected on its ability to perform preventive maintenance, locate and resolve discrepancies, and set material conditions, said Lt. j.g. James Barkley, a member of the INSURV assessment team.

The INSURV assessment team is selected by the executive officer to prepare Truman and her crew for the actual INSURV inspection, which starts in June.

"We are here to help the crew focus on the assessment process, to help guide them in preparation for INSURV," Barkley said. "Small things get overlooked sometimes, and we are the outside eyes to help catch them."

Truman is scheduled to begin the five-day inspection starting June 1. More than 140 inspectors will be on board assessing every space on the ship, with three to six personnel inspecting each space at once.

Each inspector will focus on one specific aspect of the space from proper electrical wiring and equipment maintenance to overall cleanliness. Each department is responsible for its spaces during the inspection, making it an all hands effort.

"All Sailors should recognize these are their spaces and they should reflect the pride and respect of each department," said Lt. Cmdr. James Winfrey, Truman's INSURV coordinator. "We are practicing for INSURV everyday, if we continue to demonstrate our ability to fight the ship, and that we can properly maintain the ship, INSURV should run smoothly."

INSURV is usually conducted every five years. The inspection is conducted in port as well as out to sea. The information obtained during the inspection is sent to the chief of naval operations, and his assessment determines whether or not the ship will be able to deploy on schedule.

Carter Hall Prepares for Return Home After Successful Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katrina Parker, Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group Public Affairs

USS CARTER HALL, At Sea (NNS) -- The amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) has reached the final stages of its seven-month deployment to the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation and is making preparations to return to her homeport at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va.

While deployed, Carter Hall served as an Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) in the North Arabian Gulf as part of Combined Task Force (CTF) 158, acting as a support platform for both helicopters and small boats, which allowed coalition forces to conduct interaction patrols with local dhows. Carter Hall also contributed to the security of oil platforms, supported other warships in the area, and served as a training platform for dozens of Iraqi Sailors and Marines.

"Carter Hall's success as an AFSB was only possible through the combined efforts of the crew's hard work and the ship's versatility," said Carter Hall's commanding officer Cmdr. Jeff Sinclair. "I am proud of how well the crew attacked each new challenge head on as we continued to operate while expanding our role daily in that unique environment."

During the deployment, Carter Hall was recognized for its superior performance by winning the Battle Effectiveness (Battle "E"), Golden Anchor, and Commander, Navy Exchange Command Best in Class Ship's Retail and Services Excellence awards.

"Carter Hall was an excellent example of the surface fleet pushing the envelope and taking the fight to the enemy," Sinclair said. "The crew's around-the-clock performance was above and beyond the call of duty during all operations, exercises, drills and day-to-day conduct."

Carter Hall also conducted antipiracy operations and other critical missions while maintaining a safe and professional work environment.

"The crew did an outstanding job, and I am extremely proud to have led them," said Carter Hall's executive officer Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Strandquist. "They demonstrated excellence and professionalism in every operation we were tasked with."

Deployment was also an opportunity for Sailors to hone their skills and job specialties. Junior Sailors were able to benefit from the guidance of their chain of command and leading chief petty officers.

"It is the Sailors on the deck plates who deserve the credit and recognition for a job well done," said Carter Hall's Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Don Ouellette. "The Chief's Mess had an incredibly successful seven-month deployment because we have seen the crew answer every call for tasking with pride, dedication and professionalism. We bring home a much more mature and cohesive group of warriors than what we left home with."

Ouellette hopes that Sailors deploying for the first time have learned to appreciate all the facets of life and freedoms they left behind at home.

"As Sailors, we offer up our lives in service to our great nation in order to protect our way of life for our family and friends at home," Ouellette said. "It is an honor and a privilege to go out and defend the freedoms of American citizens."

Carter Hall is deployed as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) supporting maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Airshow Update and New T-Bird VHF Freq

Mark Johnson in Anaheim sent all some airshow confirmations and (he thinks) a new Tbird freq.

3/14 El Centro:
Blue Angels used 346.500 305.500 284.2500 275.350 and 237.800, all per our MT show guide descriptions as to usage.

3/21 Luke:
Thunderbirds used 413.275 216.975 216.725 235.250 and (new?) 141.075 MHz (new on my list Mark-Jefe).

All were per MT show guide descriptions with 141.075 being used for the Diamond. I didn't catch a designator for this (Victor xx) as I didn't find it until after the Diamond was aloft.

All heard using Radio Shack Pro-60... you left this one out of your guide of discontinued but usable air show radios. Maybe I've got the last five which work? ;)

Thanks Mark and great to see that the T-Bird VHF frequency chase will probably continue this year as well.

ICEX 2009 Underway in the Arctic

The Los Angeles-class submarine USS Annapolis (SSN 760) is on the surface of the Arctic Ocean after breaking through three feet of ice during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2009. Annapolis and the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Helena (SSN 725) are participating in ICEX 2009. With the support from the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory, ICEX 2009 enables the Submarine Force to operate and train in the challenging and unique environment that characterizes the Arctic region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tiffini M. Jones/Released)

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- A group of Navy submariners are practicing wartime operations off the coast of northern Alaska as part of Ice Exercise 2009, the commander of the exercise said March 25.

Two Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarines, USS Helena and USS Annapolis, are participating in this year's ICEX, said Navy Capt. Greg Ott, a submariner who is also the deputy operations director for Submarine Force Command, based in Norfolk, Va. The USS Helena is home-based in San Diego, while the USS Annapolis is homeported in Groton, Conn.

"We're maintaining our proficiency in arctic operations," Ott said during a telephone interview with American Forces Press Service.

The submariners, Ott said, are testing torpedo and sonar systems, while practicing wartime operations in an arctic environment. The exercise, he said, is slated to end in early April. The undersea Sailors are working alongside a group of technicians and civilian scientists housed at a temporary base camp set up on the Arctic Ocean ice near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The scientists are collecting environmental data.

"It's going great, so far," Ott said of the exercise. "In fact, we got a nice, warm day today; it's only about minus 10 [degrees Fahrenheit]."

Different skills are required when operating submarines in Arctic water conditions, Ott said, noting the frigid water temperatures and tricky currents affect a submarine's buoyancy characteristics and sonar capabilities. Additionally, he said, submariners also must take care to avoid ice when traveling in Arctic regions.

U.S. nuclear submarines have operated under the polar ice since 1958, Ott said, when USS Nautilus became the first submarine to complete a submerged trip to reach the North Pole.

Arctic submarine operations are important to U.S. national defense, according to Navy documents. Accordingly, the Navy's submarine force must be highly trained in arctic-water operations to provide and ensure access to strategic areas worldwide. Continents of the Northern Hemisphere - Europe, Asia and North America - all share the Arctic Ocean.

Eisenhower Launches OEF Sorties

USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, At Sea (NNS) -- The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group launched its first sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom today, and assumed duties as Commander, Task Force (CTF) 50.

Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 departed the decks of the strike group's flagship, the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) bound for the skies over Afghanistan to support coalition ground forces.

"Over the last several months, the men and women of this strike group have drilled relentlessly in realistic training scenarios to prepare for the full spectrum of maritime security operations," said Rear Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, commander of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group.

Eisenhower relieved USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in the Gulf of Oman as part of a normal rotation of forces and marked the end of the Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group's deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO). Theodore Roosevelt operated in theater since October supporting Coalition forces operating on the ground in Afghanistan.

"We have received amazing support from Theodore Roosevelt which will enable us to provide seamless support to coalition forces operating on the ground in Afghanistan," said Capt. Dee L. Mewbourne, commanding officer, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

During the Theodore Roosevelt's deployment to the region, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 flew more than 3,100 sorties into Afghanistan and has dropped more than 59,500 pounds of ordnance providing vital close air support to coalition forces operating as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

"Our Strike Group Sailors did a great job over the past five months of combat operations: projecting airpower to support our troops on the ground in Afghanistan, extending maritime security in the Arabian Gulf by working with coalition partners, and deterring piracy off Africa alongside international forces," said Rear Adm. Frank C. Pandolfe, Commander, Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. "Thanks to their tireless efforts, security and stability have been strengthened in this critical region of the world."

USS Theodore Roosevelt Commanding Officer, Capt. Ladd Wheeler, praised the team for their work during the five-plus months in this AOR.

"The TR/Air Wing EIGHT team has performed superbly," said Capt. Wheeler. "I could not be more proud of the men and women who serve our country in this critical operation. This crew has consistently demonstrated the execution excellence our Navy strives for daily around the world. We wish the crew of IKE the smoothest of seas and continued success as they assume the OEF watch."

The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment to the region and will conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO) along with providing support to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

"Like the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group before us, our presence here is a visible message to allies that we are committed to enhancing security across the maritime environment, which promotes regional stability," said Tidd.

CSG-8 ships including USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) and USS Halyburton (FFG 40); the fast attack submarine USS Scranton (SSN 576); and the Mayport, Florida-based ships USS Vicksburg (CG 69) and USS Gettysburg (CG 64) will help deter destabilizing activities and ensure a lawful maritime order in the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Aden.

The squadrons of CVW-7, led by Capt. Calvin Craig, include the "Jolly Rogers" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, the "Pukin' Dogs" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143, the "Rampagers" or Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83, the "Wildcats" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131, the "Patriots" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140, the "Bluetails" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, and the "Nightdippers" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 5.

Eisenhower is supporting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet area of operations. MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Continuing Promise 2009 Making Preparations to Get Underway

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) will depart Norfolk, Va., April 1 for a four-month deployment to the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of focus (AOF) in support of Continuing Promise 2009 (CP09).

Continuing Promise (CP) is an equal partnership mission designed to combine partner nation and U.S. relief capabilities to demonstrate the lasting bonds and shared interest among neighbors.

While in the AOF, Comfort will be under the operational control of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet (NAVSO/4th Fleet), which are the main planning and coordination commands for the Continuing Promise mission.

"Continuing Promise represents our commitment to partnering with a region that is of great importance," said Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan, NAVSO/4th Fleet commander.

"The team that has been assembled is diverse and brings together not only multiple U.S. armed forces and interagency representatives, but just as importantly, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and partner nation representatives who bring a wealth of knowledge and resources to the team."

This is the fourth humanitarian and civic assistance mission to the AOF and follows Comfort's 2007 deployment and USS Boxer (LHD 4) and USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Continuing Promise 2008 deployment to the region. In total, more than 169,000 patients have been treated and more than 1,500 surgeries completed during the three deployments.

Embarked aboard Comfort as part of the CP09 team will be partner nation military medical personnel and representatives from various NGOs, the U.S. Armed Forces, U.S interagency organizations, and the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command

CP09 has been coordinated with partner nations in the region and planned hand-in-hand with a variety of other governmental and NGOs. Specific locations for the ship's relief operations include Antigua, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Panama.

As the Navy component command of USSOUTHCOM, NAVSO's mission is to direct U.S. naval forces operating in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies within the maritime environment. Fourth Fleet is the numbered fleet assigned to NAVSO, exercising operational control of assigned forces.

B-2 aircrew participates in exercise in Pacific

A B-2 Spirit positions to receive fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker March 10 over the Pacific Ocean. More than 270 Airmen and four B-2s are deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, as part of a continuous bomber presence in the region. Pacific theater refueling operations are conducted by 434th Air Refueling Wing Airmen from Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind. The B-2 is from the 509th Bomb Wing, 13th Bomb Squadron, Whiteman AFB, Mo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

by Senior Airman Ryan Whitney, 36th Wing Public Affairs

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNS) -- Airmen aboard a B-2 Spirit tested their endurance in a 24-hour, 8,000-mile mission to Alaska and back to Guam March 12 in an exercise showcasing U.S. commitment to peace and stability throughout the Pacific region.

Four B-2s and 270 Airmen from the 13th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron are deployed to Andersen Air Force Base from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and this was the first bomber to complete the Polar Lightning Exercise since their arrival in late February.

Polar Lightning missions are flown to showcase the global reach and power of U.S. bomber force and at the same time the sorties give aircrews an opportunity to hone their skills. During the exercise, a B-2 Spirit aircrew flew for 11 hours to Alaska. After it arrived at the Alaskan Range, the stealth-bomber dropped more than 6,000 pounds of ordnance during two hours of range time, then returned to Andersen AFB.

"Most missions for bombers are long-duration flights like what we did during Polar Lightning," said Maj. Beth Makros, the 13th EBS assistant director of operations and mission planner for this exercise. "It is important that we practice like we play, and Polar Lightning provides a great opportunity for our aircrew to get some long endurance experience."

Although the stealth-bomber was originally scheduled to participate with F-22 Raptors, E-3 Sentries and F-16 Fighting Falcons from Elmendorf and Eielson Air Force bases in Alaska, the B-2 aircrews were still able to gain valuable training after inclement weather in Alaska prevented the other airframes from integrating with the B-2s.

"The training that the aircrew got was invaluable, and even though some of the players were unable to participate due to weather, we developed strong contacts with the other units for future Polar Lightning exercises," Major Makros said.

Polar Lightning is a frequent exercise, taking place approximately once a month. In order to fly such a long-duration mission, many preparations must be made. From eating the right diet, to lining up tanker aircraft support, to a good night's rest, preparation is key to a successful mission, the major said.

Making sure B-2s have enough fuel to complete their missions are Airmen aboard KC-135 Stratotankers from the 434th Air Refueling Squadron deployed here from Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind.

"The tanker support here has been phenomenal. For this exercise, we had to refuel three times before the mission was over, and to ensure our success, not only did they have a tanker escort us to Alaska, but they prestaged tankers at Alaska to get us back home as well," Major Makros said.

Another important player in the exercise was the flight doctor, who monitored the pilots' sleep schedule and diet to make sure their level of alertness was as high as it could be during the stressful situation.

The mission also had to be scheduled so when they arrived in Alaska, the time of day was accurate so the ability of the stealth bomber was at its peak.

Although all the coordination and preparation was a lot of hard work, in the end it was worth the effort, the major said.

"The experience the crew gained from the exercise and taking off from a new location was completely irreplaceable, and without help from various players, it wouldn't have been possible," she said.

The Airmen and B-2s are part of a regularly scheduled air and space expeditionary force rotation of bombers that has been underway since 2003. The bomber rotation is aimed at enhancing regional security and demonstrating U.S. commitment to the Pacific region.

Manas KC-135s revolutionize combat operations

by Maj. Damien Pickart, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Senior Airman William Allen (left) and Airman 1st Class Roberto Armas help load four cases comprising the Roll-On-Beyond-Line-Of-Sight Enhancement System "B-kit" onto a KC-135 Stratotanker prior to a March 12 mission at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan. Airman Allen is deployed from the 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., and is a native of Nunn, Colo. Airman Armas is deployed from the 62nd Aerial Port Squadron at McChord AFB, Wash., and is originally from San Benito, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Damien Pickart)

MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan (AFNS) -- The 376th Air Expeditionary Wing's fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers here delivers more than fuel to the fight in Afghanistan these days as it is revolutionizing the way war is fought by serving as a data network relay high above the battlefield.

At first glance, the cluster of cases mounted in the back of Manas Air Base's 50-year-old KC-135s does not look very revolutionary, but the innovative system and its use on a refueling tanker employs the Roll-On-Beyond-Line-Of-Sight-Enhancement, or ROBE, system.

Developed by Northrop Grumman in 2003, ROBE is a communication system that provides a seamless and secure distribution of information to warfighters, local commanders and higher headquarters. Its introduction to the Afghanistan area of operations has allowed data sharing between the myriad communication systems used by aircraft and ground units. It also overcomes terrain restrictions by facilitating beyond-line-of-sight communications.

"ROBE knocks precious minutes off the "sensor-to-shooter kill chain" and fills in the communication 'shadows' caused by Afghanistan's rugged terrain and deep valleys," said Keith Lareau, the lead Northrop Grumman software engineer for ROBE deployed to Manas AB to help aircrews better understand and appreciate ROBE's benefits.

"Now everyone has greater situational awareness of who's who and what they can bring to the fight," Mr. Lareau said. "The tanker and receiver aircraft see and find each other sooner, which equates to more loiter time over the target. It also allows aircraft with previously incompatible systems, like the F-16 (Fighting Falcon) and A-10 (Thunderbolt II), to communicate and share a variety of data. Most important, the air liaison on the ground can quickly identify who is overhead and which aircraft is carrying the ideal weapon configuration and fuel load to best support the situation he's dealing with."

According to the Northrop Grumman contractor, warfighters might not be enjoying the benefits of ROBE today were it not for the unwavering support of Manas AB and U.S. Air Forces Central command leaders.

"The support from Lt. Gen. Gary North (the AFCENT commander) and Col. Chris Bence (the 376th AEW commander) has been paramount," Mr. Lareau said. "If there were different people in their seats with less enthusiasm for ROBE, it could have met a much different fate. Along with many others serving here, they really understand the importance of how it is helping the fight on the ground."

"ROBE ensures I have the total air picture available as the air component commander and the combined forces air component commander so our Airmen overhead can work with the ground forces successfully," General North said. "To have a synchronized communications capability overhead on our tanker fleet that can reach down into the valleys in Afghanistan is very critical. This is a big difference between where we are in the joint fight today and where we were five or ten years ago."

The first ROBE system was flight tested on a KC-135 just four months after the contract was awarded in 2003. Pleased with the initial results, Air Force officials modified 40 of its 500 KC-135Rs to accommodate ROBE. Each aircraft received an "A-kit" modification that included several antennas and wiring throughout the aircraft, as well as a quick-disconnect panel next to which a portable "B-kit" is mounted. The Air Force purchased 20 "B-kits" consisting of four stackable cases containing multiple secure radios, satellite communications and a computer to power and manage the system.

Despite its initial successes and demonstrations in several military exercises, ROBE was not embraced by everyone, and many of the "B-kits" purchased by the Air Force remained shrink-wrapped for years in storage, quietly waiting for the right opportunity to prove the system's worth.

That opportunity came in June 2008 when the first ROBE-configured KC-135s landed at Manas AB carrying several "B-kits." Following close behind was Ken Albers, the first of several Northrop Grumman contractors deployed to Manas AB to work through technical and procedural hurdles.

"There were a lot of issues to be worked through to convince everyone that ROBE was worth the investment," said Andrina Luczon, a Northrop Grumman software engineer from San Diego deployed to Manas AB for five weeks. "There were software and crypto issues, a lengthy boot-up time, checklists and procedures to develop, and the perception that it didn't work well and wasn't user friendly. Ken worked tirelessly to develop most all the procedures we're using today from scratch and solved a number of problems encountered."

After a month of working with maintainers, communication experts and aircrew to work out the kinks, the first fully functional ROBE KC-135 took off July 13 for a mission over Afghanistan.

ROBE proved its worth soon after, Colonel Bence said.

"During the fourth mission with a ROBE refueler on July 27, our aircrew overheard radio chatter between an F-15 (Eagle) pilot and a joint terminal air controller on the ground," Colonel Bence said. "A forward operating base deep in a valley was under attack and in danger of being overrun. We could tell the F-15 pilot was struggling to identify and strike the targets without causing collateral damage or friendly casualties. We turned on ROBE and within minutes, we knew the system was a success by a comment made by the F-15 pilot. The fighter pilot said, 'I don't know where the picture (target imagery) is coming from, but I got it (the target) now. Thanks.'

"ROBE has proven itself the digital backbone of the communication network over Afghanistan," Colonel Bence added. "It has increased the effective communications footprint in Afghanistan by 200 percent and reduced the "kill chain" timeline by 40 percent. We're receiving frequent feedback that ROBE is saving coalition lives on the ground."

"It's like instant text messaging for war, with pics," said Lt. Col. Pamela Freeland, a KC-135 pilot deployed from the 97th Training Squadron at Altus AFB, Okla. As the chief of standardization and evaluation for the 376th Expeditionary Operations Group, her job is to guide new aircrews to understand and operate the system.

"ROBE is becoming a system we can set and forget," Colonel Freeland said. "The pilots have a knee board computer that displays a common operating picture of all of Afghanistan that gives us a better understanding of what's going on in the battle space we're supporting. Even the boom operators like how easy it is to use the system."

"The checklist was really easy to follow," said Senior Airman Steve Cantu, a KC-135 boom operator deployed from the 92nd Air Refueling Squadron at Fairchild AFB, Wash. The San Antonio native is on his second deployment to Manas AB and flew on one of the first ROBE missions in July 2008.

"I remember going through it the first time in training and then booting it up as we approached Afghanistan," Airman Cantu said. "Everything worked according to plan and I was really comfortable operating the system."

ROBE wasn't always easy to use and some crewmembers saw it as a distraction from their refueling duties, Mr. Lareau said.

"It used to take an expert 45 minutes to boot up," he said. "Now we're training junior Airmen to do it in just a few minutes a day or two after they arrive at Manas and they are successfully running the system on a combat mission hours later."

During her five-week deployment, Ms. Luczon is determined to put herself out of business and train Airmen to do the job.

"We're constantly refining and simplifying the procedures so we don't lose the good will of those who have come to see the ROBE and refueling missions as mutually enhancing," Ms. Luczon said. "As excited as we are to put ourselves out of work, it's been great for a software engineer like me to get out of the cubicle and see how I'm making a difference saving lives in combat."

Eight months after the first ROBE mission, a growing cadre of aircrew at Manas AB is recognizing the benefits ROBE brings to the fight. With a near 90 percent mission effective rate, the system continues to make a tangible impact on the ground and in the sky over Afghanistan.

"Several A-10 pilots rotating home passed through here recently and said that when they were engaged in close-air-support missions, the only target information they could get was coming from ROBE," said Maj. Paul Skipworth, a KC-135 pilot from Fairchild AFB's 93rd ARS, deployed to Manas as the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron director of operations. "Fueling the fight is still our primary mission, but seeing the demand for the data we now deliver is very telling."