Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nassau Amphibious Ready Group Begins COMPTUEX

Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU) are transported by Landing Craft Unit 1655 (LCU 1655) into the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4) for a Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX). COMPTUEX is a routine training exercise conducted by U.S. 2nd Fleet off the East Coast from Virginia to Florida. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brien Aho/Released)

USS NASSAU, At Sea (NNS) -- As part of its Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) 10-2 from Oct. 23-Nov. 17, the Nassau Amphibious Ready Group (NAS ARG), comprised of three ships and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, have been hard at work training Sailors and Marines for its upcoming deployment.

NAS ARG is comprised of Commander, Amphibious Squadron 8, 24th MEU, the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48).

The exercise will serve as a deployment certification for ships, as well as offering Sailors the opportunity to execute maritime strategy.

The training scenarios will be realistic and challenging to enhance U.S. capabilities for maritime security. Exercise scenarios will be divided into phases and will challenge the NAS ARG Navy and Marine Corps team.

"It's important that our assessors certify us as deployable, not just as an amphibious strike group, but also as individual ships," said Lt. Cmdr. John Erickson, Amphibious Squadron 8 training officer.

Planned scenarios will test the group's ability to perform Maritime Security Operations (MSO), such as counterpiracy operations, and Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO), which will enhance both global and theater maritime security.

Additionally, ships will simulate strait transits and conduct real world operations such as replenishments at sea and boardings.

In port, the NAS ARG maintained an aggressive training program, said Capt. Mark Scovill, deputy commander, Amphibious Squadron Eight. At sea, Sailors are building on their in port training and putting their surface warfare knowledge to the test.

The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG 56), the guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), the frigate USS Boone (FFG 28) are also participating in the exercise.

COMPTUEX, a routine training exercise taking place off the East Coast of the United States, from Virginia to Florida, was scheduled by Commander, U.S 2nd Fleet and is being conducted by a training team led by Commander, Strike Force Training Atlantic.

The exercise promotes Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet's three focus areas: conducting safe and effective fleet operations to achieve mission, providing ready maritime forces for global assignment, and teaming with allies and partners in execution of the maritime strategy.

Search Continues for T-34 Instructor Pilots

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The search for two instructor pilots of Training Squadron 28 continues Oct. 30 after losing contact with them approximately 3:20 p.m. Oct. 28.

Lt. John Joseph Houston and Lt. Bret Travis Miller left Naval Air Station Corpus Christi on a routine training mission in the area of Rockport-Aransas County Airport, Texas.

Local Navy, Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection Agency and other government agencies are using surface and airborne assets to conduct the search. The search is from Port Aransas to Port O'Connor, from 30 miles offshore to 25 miles inland and surrounding bays.

USS John L. Hall Visits Klaipeda, Lithuania

By Lt. j.g. T.J. Orth, USS John L. Hall Public Affairs

USS JOHN L. HALL, At Sea (NNS) -- The guided-missile frigate USS John L. Hall (FFG 32) recently completed a theater security cooperation (TSC) port visit to Klaipeda, Lithuania.

The port visit was an opportunity for Sailors from the John L. Hall to interact with their counterparts from the Lithuanian Navy and the people of Lithuania.

John L. Hall Sailors, along with the embarked Sailors of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 48 Detachment 9, completed several community relations (COMREL) events.

The Sailors attended a reception in their honor hosted by the Lithuanian Navy.

A city that dates back almost 800 years, Klaipeda is Lithuania's only seaport and is home to their Navy. The Lithuanian Navy provided excellent support to the ship and crew, and immediately helped them get involved with the local community. Upon the ship's arrival Oct. 21, John L. Hall's Commanding Officer Cmdr. Derek M. Lavan was met by the local media. Questions centered on why the ship was visiting Klaipeda, why the U.S. Navy was in the Baltic Sea, and what they hoped to achieve while in Lithuania.

"We are here as part of the United States Navy's continuing presence in the Baltic Sea to promote maritime safety and security, which is necessary to ensure freedom of the seas, safe navigation and commerce, to advance prosperity and freedom, and to protect the resources of the oceans," Lavan said. "We are also here to work with the Lithuanian Navy, who has been a valuable partner and our visit here is part of the ongoing relationship between our two countries and our two navies."

Beginning on the first day in port, crew members participated in several COMREL projects. One group of Sailors spoke to students at the Juodkrante Sea Cadet School. Another group of Sailors delivered Project Handclasp materials to the Caritas Elderly Home and the Rytas Orphanage. Project Handclasp is a program where Americans can donate educational and humanitarian goods to be transported overseas by Navy ships. Not only did the Sailors deliver these donated supplies, they toured the facilities, spoke with the residents, and taught the children at the orphanage some American dance moves while learning local Lithuanian dances.

"The Sailors of John L. Hall worked so hard preparing for the TSC port visit and to see them out in town interacting with the Lithuanian people made me very proud to be a Chaplain," said Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Philip Bagrow, of the Surface Ministries Center.

For many Sailors, the highlight of the port visit was a joint clean-up of Melnrage Beach with Lithuanian Sailors. They were joined by Ambassador Anne Derse, members of the U.S. Embassy, and received very positive coverage by local television and newspapers.

"I really thought it was good and I really didn't know how much the people of Klaipeda would appreciate us cleaning a beach," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW) Anthony Robinson. "It was great to get out and work with the Lithuanian Sailors on a COMREL project and then to have lunch and talk with them was an experience I won't soon forget."

This event was followed by a barbecue with traditional American and Lithuanian foods cooked by Sailors from both navies and a basketball game between Lithuanian and U.S. Sailors. The John L. Hall team suffered a narrow defeat to the Lithuanian team, who has an unbeaten record against every U.S. Navy ship that has visited in the past several years.

On the last day in port, the crew hosted a reception on board. Derse joined Lavan in welcoming the governor, mayor, members of parliament, and members of all branches of the Lithuanian military and thanked them for their outstanding hospitality. This reception capped an excellent port visit that continued to build the strong relationship between the two countries.

"I enjoyed the opportunity to meet with our peers in the Lithuanian Navy, a chance to show off our ship and to see the pride the Sailors had for their Navy was a memorable experience," said Lt. Adams, John L. Hall supply officer.

"TSC engagements are very challenging but well worth the investment. What a fantastic county with great people and culture," said John L. Hall's Command Master Chief Dion Beauchamp. "The Sailors on board had a unique opportunity to meet and talk with senior non-commissioned officers, take tours of Lithuanian ships, ask questions of the Command Sergeant Major of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and the Lithuanian Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. They worked side by side cleaning a popular beach in Klaipeda. TSC engagements are truly the best way to see the world and get to know Sailors from other countries."

Future USS New York Sets Sail for the Big Apple

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Rachael L. Leslie, Pre-Commissioning Unit New York Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- Future USS New York (LPD 21) left Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Oct. 29 to begin her four-day transit to New York City where the ship's commissioning ceremony is scheduled to take place on Nov. 7.

Part of the ship's mission is to return the 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers to its home.

"We're going to bring New York home," said Cmdr. Curt Jones, the ship's commanding officer. "The sacred steel in the bow of the ship will get to go home, and we're proud of that."

The ship is scheduled to pull into New York City and sail up the Hudson River where it will dock on Nov. 2. City officials, a fireworks display and private boats anchored in the harbor will welcome USS New York and her crew.

"We'll be sailing up the Hudson on this ship," said Col. Mark Desens, commanding officer of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 26, out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. "If you can't get excited about that, then you just can't get excited.

The ship's motto, "Strength forged through sacrifice. Never forget," speaks of the strong ties the ship and her crew has to the terrible events that took place on 9/11. Because of this connection, the ship will host on board receptions for first responders and their families Nov. 3 and Nov. 8.

"I know they feel a strong kinship to us and the feeling is mutual," added Desens. "I can't wait to meet them."

The ship will be open to the public on Nov. 4, and the 10-day celebration will also include tours, sporting events, theater shows and a visit to the World Trade Center site for crew members and their families.

"About ten percent of this crew is from New York," said Jones. "We like to think of the ship as a transition from that horrible day into what we have now, a global force for good."

Upon her departure from Naval Station Norfolk, the San Antonio-class landing platform dock ship carried 360 Sailors, 186 Marines, 60 naval Reserve personnel and members of both local and international media.

"This crew has done things in the last few weeks that set the standard," said Jones. "They are incredible."

Pre-Commissioning Unit New York is designed for 21st century expeditionary forces and fitted with improved aviation facilities that will have a mix of helicopters and the Marine Corps' new MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. In addition to housing two fully-loaded Landing Craft Air Cushions, the ship's well deck can also hold 14 of the Marine Corps' new Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles, transport combat-ready Marines to their objectives and provide combat support with its 30mm guns.

The ship will depart New York Nov. 12, and return to its homeport in Norfolk, Va., where the crew will begin preparing for their first overseas deployment scheduled for sometime next year.

To Engage with the crew, sign up as a fan on their Facebook page at

Ellsworth officials launch digital ASR

Staff Sgt. Jacob Martin views a radar scope Oct. 14, 2009, at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. The base recently switched from airport surveillance radar to digital airport surveillance radar. Sergeant Martin is a 28th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. (AFNS) -- Ellsworth Air Force Base officials recently completed the installation of a digital airport surveillance radar system to be used with the Dakota Air Traffic Control Facility here.

This modern, digital radar replaces traditional airport-surveillance radar used by air traffic controllers, eliminates ground distractions and displays multiple levels of precipitation.

The new system also helps address maintenance and parts challenges, while increasing Ellsworth AFB capabilities to control more airspace in Rapid City and other locations in South Dakota, said Chief Master Sgt. Brian Lavoie, the 28th Operations Support Squadron radar approach control facilities chief controller.

"This is the first Air Force DASR to be located outside of the military installation," Chief Lavoie said. "This location provides us with line of sight to the runways at both airports and provides us with a clearer digital presentation which reduces our maintenance team's workload on a daily basis."

The system does this by automatically transmitting digital radar to the standard terminal automation replacement system. This process eliminates the electronic conversion that was necessary when using traditional airport surveillance radar signals, and decreases the amount of time used to convert an electronic signal into a digital signal.

Along with these advantages, the new system allows Ellsworth AFB air traffic controllers to work more efficiently with Rapid City Regional Airport.

"The old radar wouldn't be able to see aircraft landing at Rapid City Regional Airport," said Airman 1st Class Ryan Anger, a 28th OSS air traffic controller. "The DASR provides a larger range of scope and can actually see airplanes landing at Rapid City Regional and picks-up echoes from aircraft farther away."

This two year project involved members from 28th OSS, 28th Communications Squadron, 28th Civil Engineer Squadron and contractors.

"The implementation of the DASR is landmark for us as controllers," Chief Lavoie said. "We have lived with 1960s technology until today and our controller force now has state-of-the-art equipment to provide the safest air traffic control service possible to our military and civilian flying communities."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Navy to Commission Guided Missile Destroyer Dewey at Seal Beach

By Gregg Smith, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Public Affairs

SEAL BEACH, Calif. (NNS) -- Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has approved Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, Calif., as the commissioning location of Pre-commissioning Unit (PCU) Dewey, the Navy's newest and most technologically advanced guided-missile destroyer.

The event will be the first time a U.S. Navy warship has been commissioned at Seal Beach.

Deborah Mullen, wife of Adm. Mike G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the ship's sponsor. She had previously christened the ship during a ceremony at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., Jan. 26, 2008.

The new destroyer honors Adm. George Dewey, most famous for leading his squadron of warships into Manila Bay April 30, 1898, and destroying the Spanish fleet in only two hours without a single American loss. A popular hero of his day, Dewey was commissioned admiral of the Navy, a rank created for him, in March 1903.

Dewey, designated DDG 105, is the 55th of 62 Arleigh Burke class destroyers either in commission, under construction or on order. The ship will be able to conduct a variety of operations, from peacetime presence and crisis management to sea control and power projection. Dewey will be capable of fighting air, surface and sub-surface battles simultaneously and contains a myriad of offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime defense.

Commencing operations in 1944 as a U.S. Naval Ammunition and Net Depot, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach is the Pacific Fleet's premier ordnance loading, storage and maintenance installation. The base services approximately 50 U.S. Navy vessels annually.

Blue Ridge Arrives in Singapore

SINGAPORE (NNS) -- USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) arrived in Singapore Oct. 29 for a scheduled port visit as part of the ship's fall 2009 deployment.

The 7th Fleet flagship's approximately 1,000 crew members and embarked staff will have the opportunity to enjoy visiting one of the world's most vibrant city-states, while fostering friendship and cultural relations.

"Singapore and the United States have a long history of working together in this region, and this port visit gives us the opportunity to build on that excellent relationship," said Capt. Thom W. Burke, Blue Ridge's commanding officer. "The crew is looking forward to experiencing the hospitality and culture."

While in Singapore, Blue Ridge's crew and embarked 7th Fleet staff will see the island city-state during scheduled tours and participate in several community outreach projects.

"Blue Ridge has been here several times in recent years," Burke said. "Our visits to Singapore have always been a great way to show the relationship that exists between the U.S. Navy and this great city."

Blue Ridge departed its forward-deployed home of Yokosuka, Japan, Sept. 2 for a fall deployment to further positive relations with regional partners. The ship has made port visits in Guam, New Caledonia, Sydney and Cairns, Australia, and Port Kelang, Malaysia.

Blue Ridge serves under Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force. Blue Ridge is the flagship for Commander, 7th Fleet. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with an operating detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

Rushmore, Cleveland Arrive in Singapore for Port Call

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eva-Marie Ramsaran, Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group Public Affairs

SINGAPORE (NNS) -- USS Cleveland (LPD 7) and USS Rushmore (LSD 47) from the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) arrived in Singapore Oct. 28 for a scheduled port visit.

The visit comes after Cleveland and Rushmore's participation in Marine Exercise 2009, a multilateral training exercise with the Indonesia military.

Sailors and Marines from both ships and the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are scheduled to participate in several community service projects during the port visit.

Cleveland's 40 volunteers will help maintain the grounds at the Archdiocesan Commission for Missionary Activity and will interact with elderly residents at a local Peace-Connect facility.

Sailors and Marines from Rushmore will visit with local residents at the Peace Haven Nursing Home and the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped.

"This is my first time going to Singapore, and I'm very excited about the visit and participating in a community service project to help the local people," said Yeoman 3rd Class Angie Morales, a Rushmore crew member and community service volunteer.

Sailors and Marines from both ships are also scheduled to play soccer, basketball and volleyball with local youth teams.

The Bonhomme Richard ARG is transiting the 7th Fleet Area of Operations and reports to the Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.

Air Force officials announce candidate bases for joint strike fighter

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force officials here announced the list of candidate locations Oct. 29 for basing the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.

The list of candidate bases was approved by the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force and identifies the first group of bases to be considered for joint strike fighter basing decisions. The selection of these bases signifies the determination of Air Force officials that these locations have the greatest potential to accommodate the F-35 training or operational mission.

Eleven bases have been selected as candidate bases and include for training: Boise Air Terminal Air Guard Station, Idaho; Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.; Holloman AFB N.M.; Luke AFB, Ariz.; and Tucson International Airport Air Guard Station, Ariz. The six bases selected as candidate bases for operations are: Burlington International Airport Guard Station, Vt.; Hill AFB, Utah; Jacksonville International Airport Air Guard Station, Fla.; Mountain Home AFB, Idaho; Shaw AFB, S.C.; and McEntire Air Guard Base, S.C.

Air Force officials will evaluate existing F-22 Raptor force structure at Holloman AFB as it considers F-35 basing.

"The selection of this candidate list is the result of a deliberate, repeatable, standardized and transparent process," said Kathleen Ferguson, Air Force deputy assistant secretary for installations. "We are excited about the future of the joint strike fighter and look forward to working with each of the communities surrounding these bases to ensure all of their concerns are addressed."

The list of candidate bases were selected using previously announced basing criteria such as airspace, flight training ranges, weather, support facilities, runways, taxi ramps and environmental concerns, and military judgment factors such as combatant commander requirements, aircraft retirements and delivery schedules, aircraft maintenance and logistics support and integration with the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.

Now that the list of candidate bases has been released, the formal environmental impact analysis process and site assessments will begin, allowing communities around each candidate base to participate and provide input into the environmental impact analysis. Based on the results of these efforts, officials expect to announce the JSF preferred locations in late spring of 2010. Once the formal environmental impact statements are complete, Air Force officials will issue the Records of Decision and announce the final basing decisions. This is anticipated in early 2011.

Enterprise Launches Forward

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Tracey Whitley, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- USS Enterprise (CVN 65) successfully completed its first phase of no-load catapult testing Oct. 28.

The event marked a huge milestone and brought the Enterprise and her crew members one step closer to leaving the shipyard and returning to operational status.

The Enterprise's catapult was put through a series of no-load checks to ensure its launching valves and steam pistons were in proper working condition. Additionally, the checks were used as a preliminary tool for catching any unexpected issues or operational malfunctions.

"These no-load checks are essential to the safety of our crew members and our pilots," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate Equipment (AW/SW) Jason W. Hosler, the bow catapult shop's leading chief petty officer. "We must do them before any aircraft can be launched from the flight deck to ensure there aren't any leaks or hidden debris in the catapult track that could cause big problems later."

With the catapults sitting stagnant for almost two years, it's no surprise that the Sailors of Air Department's V-2 Division spent many long hours to prepare for the event. They fixed several issues by performing corrective and preventive maintenance evolutions such as water-brake jobs, piston rebuilds, launch-valve repacks and retraction-engine rereads.

Although their work was more behind-the-scenes than that of Air Department Sailors, Reactor and Engineering Department's Sailors also played a vital role in making the event a success. Reactor Department generated the steam while the engineers held and accurately pressurized it for Air Department's use.

"Our job is to make sure the steam pressure is adequate for catapult operations," said Chief Machinist's Mate (SW/AW) Richard M. Lewis, the catapult steam shop's leading chief petty officer. "Although we are separate in everything we do, it takes all three departments coming together to make flight operations possible."

Ultimately, there is still a lot more work to do before Enterprise will be ready to launch birds again, but the event proved to be a step in the right direction.

"The testing of catapult 3 was a huge success, and we have just as much confidence in moving forward and testing the remaining three," said Hosler. "The whole purpose of an aircraft carrier is to launch aircraft, and after each one of these catapults have been thoroughly tested, we will be ready to do that."

Enterprise is currently undergoing a maintenance period in the Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipyard and training to maintain proficiency in preparation to return to the fleet.

GW Makes Historic Visit To Hong Kong

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class(SW) John J. Mike, USS George Washington Public Affairs

HONG KONG (NNS) -- USS George Washington (CVN 73) anchored out in Victoria Harbor Oct. 29, as the ship made the first port call to Hong Kong in its 17-year history.

Joining the more than 5,000 GW and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 Sailors in the visit, are the crews of the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63), the guided-missile destroyer USS O'Kane (DDG 77) and the guided-missile frigate USS Crommelin (FFG 37).

"Visiting Hong Kong is a big deal for GW," said GW Operations Officer Cmdr. Anthony Calandra. "As the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, this port call helps us foster relations with China, which will help us work together to maintain maritime security in the region."

Renowned for its "East meets West" atmosphere and culture, Calandra said GW Sailors will have a memorable visit to Hong Kong.

"Our Sailors are going to meet some great people, see some great sights and enjoy some of the best cuisine and shopping available in this part of the world," said Calandra.

While in Hong Kong, GW and its escort ships will give back to their hosts by sending 300 Sailors to participate in 17 community service projects.

"These projects provide a great opportunity for our Sailors to exercise community spirit in multiple benevolent acts, which benefit the local community," said Cmdr. Dennis Young, GW command chaplain.

"Hong Kong and China are strategic partners with the U.S. and by getting involved with their communities, we create a spirit of goodwill between our countries," Young said.

As part of the projects, Sailors will do painting at the Hong Kong Society for the Blind, pack rice at a food bank and visit kindergartners at a local school.

Young said the outpouring of interest in community service projects speaks to the integrity of all Sailors and that their service is pivotal in building trust in the Pacific region.

Commanded by Capt. David A. Lausman, the carrier is the flagship of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, Commanded by Rear Adm. Kevin M. Donegan. The George Washington Carrier Strike Group also includes embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63). Homeported at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, O'Kane and Crommelin are deployed in support of operations in the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

DoD Conducts a Successful Missile Launch

Officials announced the successful completion of an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense intercept flight test.

Postal Service Announces Holiday Mailing Guidelines

I know a lot of readers to this blog have military ties and some of those ties extend to members based overseas. As a service for them the following is posted to this blog.

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Jung, Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - U.S. Postal Service officials have announced recommended mailing dates for delivery by Christmas to U.S. servicemembers serving in Afghanistan and other overseas locations.

First-class and priority mail for servicemembers stationed in Afghanistan should be sent by Dec. 4 for arrival by Christmas. The deadline for parcel airlift mail is Dec. 1, and space-available mail bound for Afghanistan should be sent by Nov. 21.

Officials recommend that parcel post mail to all military overseas locations should be sent by Nov. 13.

A chart with recommended mailing deadlines for all types of mail to various APO and FPO addresses is available at the Postal Service's Web site at

Express mail cannot be used to mail packages to Afghanistan; however priority mail is available.

Priority mail packaging products, including priority mail flat-rate boxes, can be obtained free at any post office, or online at The priority mail large flat-rate box can be used to mail to any overseas military address, no matter the weight of the box, for $11.95.

The Postal Service offers free military care kits, designed for military families sending packages overseas. To order by phone, call 800-610-8734 and ask for the military care kit. Each kit includes two "America Supports You" large priority mail flat-rate boxes, four medium-sized priority mail flat-rate boxes, six priority mail labels, a roll of priority mail tape and six customs forms with envelopes.

"All packages and mail must be addressed to the individual servicemember by name, without rank, in accordance with Department of Defense regulations," said Air Force Master Sgt. Deb LaGrandQuintana, the 455th Expeditionary Communications Squadron official mail manager here.

Military overseas units are assigned an APO or FPO ZIP code, and in many cases, that ZIP code travels with the unit wherever it goes, LaGrandQuintana added.

The Postal Service places APO and FPO mail to overseas military servicemembers on special transportation destined to be delivered as soon as possible.

Mail sent APO and FPO addresses may require customs forms. All mail addressed to military post offices overseas is subject to certain conditions or restrictions regarding content, preparation and handling. For general guidelines on sending mail to servicemembers overseas, visit

Postal Service officials recommend taking the following measures when sending packages:

-- If you use a regular box, use one strong enough to protect the contents with no writing on the outside.

-- Cushion contents with newspaper, bubble wrap, or Styrofoam. Pack tightly to avoid shifting.

-- Package food items like cookies, fudge, candies, etc. securely in leak-proof containers.

-- Use pressure-sensitive or nylon-reinforced packing tape.

-- Do not use wrapping paper, string, masking tape, or cellophane tape outside the package.

-- Print your return address and the servicemember's complete name, without rank, followed by unit and APO or FPO delivery address on one side only of the package.

-- Place a return address label inside the package.

-- Stuff fragile items with newspaper or packing material to avoid damage.

-- Remove batteries from toys and appliances. Wrap and place them next to the items inside.

-- Purchase insurance and delivery confirmation service for reassurance of package delivery.

Fitzgerald Arrives for Proliferation Security Exercise Deep Sabre II

By Ensign Bill Morrison, Commander, 7th Fleet Public Affairs

SINGAPORE (NNS) -- The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) arrived in Singapore Oct. 26 for multinational exercise Deep Sabre II, a proliferation security initiative exercise.

Fitzgerald will be participating in the exercise with military and civil agencies from 22 countries to develop maritime interdiction strategies targeting vessels that transport weapons of mass destruction.

The exercise demonstrates the continued cooperation of the international community to counter weapons of mass destruction and promote peace and security on the world's seas.

"Fitzgerald is honored to accept the invitation extended by the Singaporean Navy to participate in this exercise. We are very appreciative of the opportunity to work side by side with navies from around the world to enhance our ability to prevent weapons of mass destruction," said Cmdr. Richard Dromerhauser, Fitzgerald's commanding officer. "This visit reaffirms the sound international commitment to maritime security, and it sends a clear message of strength and unity from the global community in the war on terrorism."

Fitzgerald is assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15 and patrols the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility. U.S. 7th Fleet is the largest of the forward-deployed U.S. fleets covering 48 million square miles with approximately 60-70 ships, 200-300 aircraft and 40,000 Sailors and Marines assigned at any time.

Exercise Vigilant Guard in NY State Starts Nov 1

For milcom monitors in the Empire State -- Vigilant Guard will begin November 1!

Vigilant Guard is an annual joint civilian and military response exercise which allows civilian and military first-responders to practice life-saving skills.

The scenario this year is a national earthquake and the week-long exercise will be held at the Spaulding Fiber Plant in Tonawanda, NY November 1-6.

It gets a bit hectic, so it will not be open directly to the public but civilian media are invited and encouraged to come.

More details at

Navy Loses Communication with T-34 Training Aircraft

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Corpus Christi air traffic control tower lost contact with a T-34C Turbomentor aircraft at approximately 3:20 p.m. Oct. 28.

The aircraft and two pilots aboard are assigned to Training Air Wing 4 based out of NAS Corpus Christi, Texas.

Local Coast Guard surface and airborne assets are currently conducting a search near Port Lavaca, Texas. The aircraft was conducting routine training missions.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

45th Space Wing Airmen support successful Ares I-X launch

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (AFNS) -- Airmen, Air Force civilians and contractors from the 45th Space Wing provided Eastern Range support for NASA's successful launch of the Ares I-X. The test rocket launched from Space Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center at 11:30 a.m. (EDT) Oct. 28.

Personnel from throughout the 45th Space Wing provided vital support, including weather forecasts, launch and range operations, safety and public affairs. The wing also provided its vast network of radar, telemetry, optical and communications instrumentation to facilitate a safe launch.

"The success of this test launch helps to pave the way for future space exploration," said Brig. Gen. Edward L. Bolton Jr., 45th Space Wing commander. "We're very pleased to continue supporting NASA and its partners as we write the next chapter in human space flight here on the Eastern Range."

The Ares I is the first rocket developed for NASA's Constellation Program, tasked with developing vehicles necessary to carry astronauts on future journeys of exploration. This mission provided an opportunity to test and prove the new rocket's flight characteristics, hardware, facilities and ground operations.

Thanks to one of our MMP reporters for passing along his photos of the launch. In the first Ares I-X photo, one of NASA's UH-1's can be seen just to the left of the rocket. Our reporter guessed he was near the east shore of the Indian River or the SLF, still 4-6 miles from the pad. His location was 11.5 miles from Pad 39A on the west shore of the river. Thanksto the Hammer for his photos.

USS Russell Returns from Western Pacific Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Robert Stirrup, Commander, Navy Region Hawai’i Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- More than 300 Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) arrived to a crowded pier of friends and family at Naval Station Pearl Harbor Oct. 26, following a three-month deployment to the Western Pacific.

Russell deployed July 27 as an independent deployer to 7th Fleet's Area of Responsibility (AOR).

While in 7th Fleet's AOR, Russell participated in South East Asian Cooperation for Anti-Terrorism and the Indonesian portion of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT).

Cmdr. Rodney Patton, commanding officer of Russell, described the great effort and teamwork that Russell Sailors displayed while on deployment.

"I could not have asked of anything more from the crew during the deployment," said Patton. "They performed very well and carried out all tasks that Russell was assigned to do."

Friends and families of Russell Sailors lined the pier with excitement as they waited for the ship to arrive.

"The deployment wasn't as long as they usually are, but three months is still a long time and I'm just really excited to see him," said the wife of a Russell Sailor.

Sailors were overjoyed to be home as they walked off the ship and into the arms of their loved ones.

"It is just really great to come home and see my family waiting here on the pier for me," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Shawn Daudaherty. "I've been anxiously awaiting this day for a while, and I'm happy it has finally came."

CARAT is an annual series of bilateral military exercises between the United States and various Southeast Asia nations. Participants historically include the navies of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Guided-missile destroyers like Russell provide multimission offensive and defensive capabilities and can operate independently or as part of carrier battle groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups and underway replenishment groups.

USS Annapolis Visits US Naval Academy

By Lt. Patrick Evans, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) -- Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Annapolis (SSN 760) visited the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Md., Oct. 24-25 as part of the school's homecoming activities.

During the visit, crew members attended Navy's homecoming football game.

In addition, USNA Midshipmen and the public received tours of the submarine, which was anchored in the Chesapeake Bay.

"The best part about this is giving the Midshipmen an opportunity to visit the ship," said Capt. Michael P. Holland, commanding officer of Annapolis. "This gives the Midshipmen an opportunity to make an informed decision on their career choices."

Each year, the Navy tries to bring ships to the academy for homecoming weekend.

As part of the Annapolis' visit, the submarine's sponsor, Myra "Micky" Kauderer, called on the boat's crew members to attend a reception hosted by the Navy League.

The Annapolis' visit to USNA was not the only college connection the ship made in 2009.

In April 2009, the crew of Annapolis helped Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., keep a promise to honor two heroes and promote diversity during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2009.

Annapolis took a glass case of memorabilia to the North Pole in April 2009 to commemorate the historic expedition of Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary and Matthew A. Henson to the top of the world, which took place April 6, 1909. The commemorative case, compiled by Harvard University, contained an American flag and bible, similar to ones taken during the original expedition and books by Peary and Henson.

Annapolis, named in honor of the capital city of Maryland, is a Los Angeles-class submarine, which is considered the backbone of the submarine force with 45 submarine now in commission.

Attack submarines like Annapolis are designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships; project power ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles and special operation forces; carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions; support carrier strike groups; and engage in mine warfare.

NCTS Guam Connects Navy Ships and Shore Commands

By Oyaol Ngirairikl, Joint Region Marianas Public Affairs

SANTA RITA, Guam (NNS) -- Providing dual-oceanic communication support, multiple networks, and high frequency support for the fleet and joint military components makes U.S. Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station (NCTS) Guam paramount for mission success in and around the region of Guam.

"Ensuring ships, subs and shore commands are able to communicate messages from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific is just one of the things we do here," said Cmdr. Willis Arnold, executive officer of NCTS Guam. "NCTS — because of its location on Guam — is very strategic because it's situated so that we can hit two oceans, Pacific and Indian, from this location. So as a result of this, you can relay information between two ships or between a ship and a land command in two different oceans — that's a very unique ability and that makes us a very valuable commodity."

The command has about 200 personnel — a mix of military service members, civilians and contractors.

"We are a small command with a very large job and the scope of our communications is bigger than Guam," said Chief Information Technician (SW) Eric Purcell information assurance officer.

NCTS Guam is one of seven Navy computer and telecommunications stations that provides assured communications services to shore and afloat units worldwide. NCTS Guam is a round-the-clock operation that has three primary mission areas:

• Multispectral connectivity to the warfighter. This is the traditional role people think of when they think of an NCTS, such as the antennae that send communications to ships, submarines and airplanes.

• NCTS Guam provides critical communication lines to Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, joint and coalition operations to include search and rescue. Base Communications Office. This function is the telephone service and island-wide transport of communication services on Guam. NCTS provides the telephone services for all Navy and many other customers on Guam.

• NET Ops and Information Assurance. NCTS Guam provides the local help desk and support for 24 Navy units as the local ONE-NET enterprise network service provider. NCTS provides touch labor and help desk support to over 3,000 ONE-NET computers on Guam. In addition, NCTS Guam is the cryptographic service provider for 29 units on Guam, providing electronic cryptographic material support.

The primary facility consists of a group of buildings and satellites tucked just beneath Andersen Air Force Base in the northern end of Guam. Yet, the command has offices around the island, including Radio Barrigada, a centrally located village of Guam, which has what looks like a dozen antennae sticking up above the surrounding roads and fields. In addition, NCTS employees and contractors attached to the command have an office on U.S. Naval Base Guam.

Arnold said two of the primary goals he and Cmdr. William Chase, NCTS commanding officer, have set for the command are to revitalize the "operational focus of the command" and to implement strict information assurance practices at the command in accordance with Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) standards.

"One challenge with implementing strict information assurance practices is the need for full cooperation from all of our customer units," Arnold said. "This goal was realized in the development of the Navy Region Guam Security Counsel, which met weekly preparing for the Defense Information Systems Agency command computer readiness inspection."

Arnold noted the cooperative efforts of all Navy units utilizing ONE-NET computer assets, resulted in a highly successful 2009 DISA inspection, with the lead inspector stating "this is the best network security posture we have seen in 16 years. Outstanding team effort by Navy Region Guam."

Arnold also noted that a large percentage of NCTS personnel are civilians and contractors, which provide continuity.

"NCTS Guam [contractors and civilians have] had and continue to have a very positive impact on operations," Arnold said. "While it does take the entire team of military, federal employees, and contractors to get the mission accomplished, the civilian and contract employees provide the continuity of operations to effect a more efficient organization."

In addition, many members of the civilian and contractor work force bring with them years of military experience. Terry Morgan is one example. Morgan was an electronics technician in the Navy for 20 years and is now one of the civilians working alongside uniformed service members.

"We didn't even have e-mail when I first started doing this," Morgan said. "Now we've got different levels of e-mails that comes through here."

Robert Laanan, a sergeant major in the Guam Army National Guard, is now NCTS' DISN services manager who takes a lot of pride in the work he does to keep the island's and region's Navy commands connected to each other and to the world.

"We were the first Guam telephone authority," he said. "It was the Navy that built the telephone systems that we were all using, and eventually all of that went to government of Guam, and now of course it's private. But this is where it all started — how Guam was able to talk to the rest of the world — and here is where we keep it going for the present and hopefully into the future."

Arnold noted that in addition to the benefits of having experienced civilian personnel that provide continuity, the mix of military, civilian and contractor helps to ensure quality work is completed efficiently and economically.

"The great thing is as the Navy strives to economize while maintaining professionalism and technological expertise, we can say we've been doing that here," Arnold said.

Echoing Laanan, Arnold said the men and women of NCTS Guam have "extreme pride in the work they do every day to support missions on Guam."

"There is a tremendous amount of loyalty and dedication to NCTS and the United States Navy by the team of military, Department of Navy employees, and contract personnel who support NCTS Guam," he said.

USS George H.W. Bush Air Department Maintains Mission Readiness

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Daniel S. Moore, USS George H.W. Bush Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- Sailors from USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) Air Department continue to train and keep essential warfighting skills sharp although they live and work in a shipyard.

"We are in fact keeping with the Navy's vision of training, and I do believe we have taken the proactive steps to exceed those standards," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) (AW/SW) Anthony J. Alexander, the leading chief petty officer of Crash and Salvage. "We've taken advantage of every training opportunity."

Many members of the Bush Air Department trained alongside members of USS Carl Vinson's (CVN 70) Air Department, performing aircraft firefighting and rescue drills aboard Vinson Oct. 20. The Bush Air Department will also train with the USS Harry S. Truman's (CVN 75) Air Department in the future.

"It ultimately means that the Bush is performing the same training as the Vinson, the Roosevelt, and etcetera." Alexander said. "In the big picture, it means that there's standardized training throughout the fleet, that means that everybody is on the same page."

When training aboard Truman, Sailors will perform drills with the Mobile Aircraft Firefighting Trainer, a trainer aircraft that is set on fire to simulate aircraft firefighting.

"Our crash team is always ready to go and our Air Department is ready to go," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Michael P. King, a crew member of Bush's Air Department's V-1 Crash and Salvage Division. "The training that we are doing now is just brushing the dust off."

According to King, the Bush Air Department frequently sends Sailors to other ships to gain experience during "on the job" training and improve the department.

"The baseline is to establish a foundation of training and get us in an operational mode to be prepared to deploy," said Chief Warrant Officer Larry Dean, Bush's air boatswain. "In the future, what we will do is intensify our training to a point that when we have our own assets aboard the ship. We will be able to go out and actually perform those tasks that need to be done."

Tanker aircrews support exercise in Chile

An F-15 Eagle with the 159th Fighter Wing approaches the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker during a refueling mission Oct. 22 over Chile. The Chilean air force hosted military members from the United States, Brazil, Argentina and France during Exercise Salitre II, a multinational exercise focused on interoperability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky)

by Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky, 12th Air Force Public Affairs

IQUIQUE, Chile (AFNS) -- Airmen aboard two Arizona Air National Guard KC-135 Stratotankers are flying daily refueling sorties above Chile to support a multinational force of fighters during Exercise Salitre II.

The Airmen from the 161st Air Refueling Wing in Phoenix are participating in the Chilean-led exercise that runs through Oct. 31 involving the United States, Brazil, Argentina and France.

The exercise focuses on improving interoperability between partner nations in a command-and-control as well as operational environment.

This is just one visit of many in recent years to Chile for the 161st ARW, said Capt. Blake Waldo, a KC-135 pilot and head of mission planning. The tankers refueled Chilean air force F-16s during, participated in numerous exercises, and even made an appearance at the FIDAE airshow.

"The hospitality in Chile is unbelievable," Captain Waldo said. "You can definitely see the partnership. We teach them and vice versa. I love it. It's a 'pinch-me' job. Exercises like Salitre can take the monotony out of the day-to-day job. It's a fortunate position to be in, to go from initial planning to final, and see it come together. It's a pretty neat deal."

The wing deployed 19 Airmen for the two-week exercise, including maintainers, specialists, boom operators and pilots. Most of the Airmen have deployed here before, and Maj. Quinn Casey said he thinks that familiarity is crucial to smooth operations.

"Over time, you create a standard, and everyone is on the same page, no matter if you are in the U.S. or in Chile," he said. "The standards both of our countries have built over time help immeasurably to keep the exercise running and also help the pilots practice. It just proves that what you've developed is working."

During the initial phases of Exercise Salitre, pilots from all nations involved will familiarize themselves with the airspace and procedures for flying within them. To do so requires fuel, and the KC-135 delivered. It can hold more than 200,000 pounds of jet fuel, which means that fighters can stay aloft for much longer.

The refueling flights also provide a way for the Chilean air force to hone their pilots' mid-air refueling skills. Currently, the Chilean air force does not have a tanker in the inventory. Maj. Alfredo Rios, a Chilean air force F-16 pilot who met Captain Waldo eight months ago, said the tanker flights are critical.

"It is perfect for us," Major Rios said. "It's a good way to maintain training for our pilots. We try to get as many flights as possible each time the tankers arrive. If the tankers didn't come here, we couldn't maintain proficiency in mid-air refueling."

Exercise Salitre builds cooperative capability for responding to humanitarian crises and promoting regional security through a partnership of nations. There are nearly 200 U.S. Airmen and 10 U.S. aircraft participating, including an HC-130 from the 23rd Wing at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., two Air National Guard KC-135s from the 161st Air Refueling Wing, Ariz., and six F-15 Eagles and one C-130 Hercules from the Louisiana Air Guard's 159th Fighter Wing in New Orleans.

Airmen support Army's airlift needs

Pallets of cargo drop from a C-17 Globemaster III to a forward operating base in Afghanistan, Aug. 27, 2009, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The aircraft is assigned to the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

by Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol, Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- American Airmen on C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules aircraft are contributing directly to support joint and coalition forces on the front lines of both operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

"The Air Force airdrops are providing needed support to Soldiers in the field; getting people and parts to our guys in the (forward operating bases) and in the mountains," said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Wright, deployed to Afghanistan from the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Ky.

"The Air Force is doing a great job and it's great to have them out here," he said.

Time-sensitive, mission-critical requirements reflect the Army commander's immediate priorities for delivery of equipment, supplies and personnel. These requirements are generally non-routine in nature and need to be delivered to their location very quickly. This is where the direct support mission steps in and meets those requirements.

In the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, Air Force members have assets coordinating with the Army on missions. For example, as of Aug. 31, 2009, Airmen airdropped more than 8.6 million pounds of cargo for the year supporting Army Soldiers and Marines in remote areas of Afghanistan, according to figures from the Combined Air Operations Center in Southwest Asia. Between January and April, an average of up to 900,000 pounds of cargo per month was airdropped. From May through August, the monthly airdrop rate rose and averages between 1.1 million and 1.6 million pounds per month.

The airdrop increase also highlights the fact that over the past two years, new types of airdrops have helped meet the demand such as the Joint Precision Airdrop System and the Improved Container Delivery System. Both JPADS and ICDS airdrop platforms utilize a GPS-guided assist in their use which has allowed for airdrops from higher elevations and in all sorts of weather. Additionally, use of the C-17 Globemaster III as an airdrop plane has more than doubled since 2007 taking on more than 72 percent of all airdrops in 2009 compared to 30 percent two years ago.

"If the Army asks us for something, particularly with airdrops or otherwise, we've been able to fulfill their requests 100 percent of the time," said Col. Keith Boone, chief of the CAOC's Air Mobility Division. "Take for example this past summer in Afghanistan. The Army required us to provide more airdrops and we've met every one of their requests. That's our commitment -- 100 percent -- to meeting their direct support needs."

In 2009, mobility Airmen have demonstrated the fulfillment of quick-response, direct support requirements within the CENTCOM area of responsibility. In the first seven months of 2009, the Air Force met more than 750 distinguished visitor movements and over 250 urgent aeromedical evacuation movements from both Iraq and Afghanistan.

That support is also highlighted in the intra-theater airlift for Iraq and Afghanistan by the Air Force. Through the end of August, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, AMC aircraft have moved more than 815,000 passengers. In August alone, AMC aircraft moved more than 73,000 passengers in Iraq -- many of those Army Soldiers. In the same month for Afghanistan, AMC aircraft moved more than 27,000 passengers with many of them being Army Soldiers as well.

Army Sgt. Angel Quiles Ramos, from Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery deployed to an undisclosed base in Southwest Asia, said the support he receives from the Air Force at his deployed base is "critical."

"They provide food, security and water," Sergeant Ramos said. "We don't have to get water because they bring it to us. If anything breaks, we call them and they come to fix it. This is critical because the Air Force provides everything so we can do the mission."

As far as the feedback the Air Force received, Army Gen. David Patraeus, the CENTCOM commander, noted how mobility forces are doing well for CENTCOM.

"There is an old military saying that amateurs talk tactics; professionals talk logistics," General Patraeus said. "(U.S. Air Forces Central) talks -- and does -- both. To be sure, AFCENT's tactical operations -- supporting our troopers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan have been exceptional...the logistics accomplishments have been exceptional, too. Moving the mass formations of troopers and the iron mountain of materiel to perform our missions would be impossible without the phenomenal airlift support provided by the men and women of AFCENT."

As the CENTCOM commander confirmed, the Air Force is fully committed to its deployed mission, particularly its mobility mission. In the direct support mission, that full commitment will continue as new doctrine is developed. As Air Force support to the Army's time-sensitive, mission-critical requirements becomes more mature, the best practices will be captured in joint and service doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures and service manuals.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Joint Warrior 09-2 Wraps Up

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katrina Parker, Destroyer Squadron 24 Public Affairs

USS COLE, At Sea (NNS) -- Ships led by Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 24 along with a host of allied navies, wrapped up the multinational, multiwarfare Exercise Joint Warrior 09-2 Oct. 16.

The guided-missile frigate USS John L. Hall (FFG 32) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Cole (DDG 67) and USS Ramage (DDG 61) participated in the exercise.

Joint Warrior is designed and led by the United Kingdom's Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff and is a multiwarfare exercise designed to improve interoperability between allied navies and prepare participating crews to conduct combined operations during deployments.

The exercise incorporates both conventional warfare exercises and fleet irregular warfare training (FIWT). FIWT is a valuable means for Sailors to address and overcome emerging threats.

"This is a high speed exercise," said DESRON 24's Commodore John Kersh. "What makes it challenging is that it is around-the-clock and includes many events running simultaneously all in the very confined waters of the Scottish littorals."

This littoral training environment can't be found near most of the U.S. Navy operating areas on the East Coast and provides tactical challenges for ships that can not be replicated in the United States.

"I think one of the best things about Joint Warrior is that it is conducted in a geographically constrained environment," said Cole's Commanding Officer Cmdr. Edward Devinney. "We have to work our tactics around some complex geography, which really made the situation a lot more challenging."

Ramage's Commanding Officer Cmdr. Pete Galluch said Joint Warrior was a high operational tempo and tactically challenging exercise.

"The exercise presents a realistic scenario in a difficult littoral environment with significant 'real life' shipping that, while not part of the exercise, must be deconflicted," said Galluch. "It was one of the most intense and realistic trainings I have experienced."

The exercise focused heavily on a broad spectrum of non-traditional warfare areas such as counterpiracy and maritime security operations, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and air defense. These events ran concurrently with traditional training evolutions.
The comprehensive training focused on preparing the allies for combined operations in future global assignments. Participating navies included Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

"Joint Warrior puts a ship's commanding officer through every conceivable iteration of operations that he or she may encounter overseas, in particular, their ability to operate with other navies," Kersh said. "One of the key points of the Maritime Strategy is that you cannot surge trust. All of the friends we make over here by working with different navies are friendships that we can draw upon once we get to the areas of responsibility for 5th Fleet, 6th Fleet and 7th Fleet."

"Joint Warrior focused on multiship operations in a multinational environment," said John L. Hall's Commanding Officer Cmdr. Derek Lavan. "We operated exclusively using NATO messages, publications and guidance, which is not often done during U.S. Navy-only training."

Lavan said the exercise helped his ship become more accustomed to working alongside allied warships and aircraft.

"This training was excellent familiarization for our deployment, which will be predominantly in the area of responsibility for Commander, United States European Command, where we will have numerous opportunities to interact with our NATO allies," Lavan said.

Devinney said he was very pleased with how his crew performed during the exercise.

"I think Joint Warrior is the best training for any ship about to go on deployment," Devinney said. "It was a great opportunity to bring all of our skills to the test. A lot of the events we went through were above and beyond anything we are normally taught in a training cycle. This was a high level event that our crew excelled at in each warfare area."

Joint Warrior ran from Oct. 3-16 and served as a certifying event for ships that will deploy with coalition forces in the future.

John L. Hall, Ramage and Cole worked alongside the Royal Navy's HMS Illustrious (R 06), Northumberland (F 238), Portland (F 79), Bangor (M 109), Penzance (M 106) and Shoreham (M 112); the Canadian Forces's ships HMCS Halifax (FFH 330), Montreal (FFH 336), Athabaskan (DDH 282) and Preserver (AOR 510); the Royal Danish Navy's HDMS Abaslon (L 16); the Brazilian Navy's BNS Defensora (F 41); and the Turkish Navy's TCG Orucreis (F 245).

Pentagon Radio Volunteers Move to New Office

Gary Sessums, left, Navy Capt. Rick Low and John Grimes discuss communications capabilities at the new Military Affiliate Radio System office in the Pentagon, Oct. 21, 2009. DoD photo by Sally Sobsey

By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - A military institution designed to provide emergency communications has moved to new quarters in the Pentagon.

John G. Grimes, the former assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration, cut the ribbon on the new Military Affiliate Radio System (AAN3PNT-LVH) office on the fifth floor of the Pentagon on October 21.

The facility is packed with shortwave radios, radio-telephone patches, computers and data links. It is manned by the Pentagon Amateur Radio Club. "This is a great facility, manned totally by volunteers," Grimes said. "It's a crucial capability for our country."

The system - known by the acronym MARS - began in the early 1950s. It was a worldwide network of shortwave radio enthusiasts who would spring into action in the event of a nuclear war or natural disaster. Thousands of civilian and military ham radio volunteers manned the system.

"In the years before the Internet, deployed servicemembers kept in touch with families and friends using MARS," said Gary Sessums, a contractor in the Pentagon and one of the stalwarts of the radio club.

From the Korean War to the Gulf War, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines used "Marsgrams" to keep in touch. Ham radio operators called these "health and welfare" messages.

The shortwave broadcasts have been superseded by the Internet, and servicemembers in many parts of the U.S. Central Command area can use cell phones and voice over Internet protocol to speak with those back home. Still, in the event of an emergency, high-frequency communication is generally the first to recover, and even the most modern technology can get overloaded.

Allan Hubbert, a volunteer in the Pentagon, noted communication problems during President Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration as an example. "During the inauguration, there were so many people on cell phones that it overloaded the system," he said. "We could still operate, and helped back up the system down on the [National] Mall."

More than 60 volunteers help to man the Pentagon node of the system. They will turn out in force to help with communications for the Marine Corps Marathon, which will be held in the area this weekend. "In that case, we can help act as a bridge between the military and various local and regional agencies," said Navy Capt. Rich Low.

With more than 6,000 volunteers worldwide, the system now also backs up the Department of Homeland Security. "There have been many crises or disasters that have struck where the first word out of an area is via [shortwave radio], and someone has their little gas generator going," Grimes said. "That's not likely to change any time soon."

You can learn more about this new Pentagon Radio Station (Amateur and MARS) on the PARC website at

A volunteer mans his radio at the new Military Affiliate Radio System in the Pentagon, Oct. 21, 2009. DoD photo by Sally Sobsey

"Green Ship" USS Makin Island Brought to Life in San Diego

NORTH ISLAND, Calif. (NNS) -- USS Makin Island (LHD 8) was formally commissioned today (Oct 24) in a ceremony on Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI).

The ship dubbed the "Prius of Navy warships," arrived in San Diego in mid-September, three years after her christening. She brought over 1,000 Sailors and their families to the San Diego community.

"I am proud this ship, and that her Sailors, Marines, and families will all call San Diego 'home'," said Congresswoman Susan Davis, the senior U.S. government official present. "It is great to have a new, 'green,' addition to San Diego. Each of you contributes to mission success and to our great community."

Adm. Patrick Walsh, commander, Pacific Fleet, the event's principal speaker, addressed the impact of Makin Island on the fleet.

"USS Makin Island represents the US Navy's long standing commitment to both the defense of our nation and ensuring security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond," said Walsh. "This commissioning also marks a new and significant chapter in the US Navy's history. The Navy will look to the USS Makin Island as the example as we move aggressively forward with plans to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and other hazardous chemicals."

Makin Island is the final amphibious assault ship built in the LHD-1 Wasp-class, but is the first of the class built with gas turbine engines and electric drive. The Navy projects that this advance will save nearly $250 million in fuel costs over the ship's lifetime. The development is already paying off – during the ships transit from Pascagoula, Miss., to San Diego, Makin Island consumed over 900,000 gallons less fuel than a steam ship completing the same transit, saving more than $2 million in fuel costs. Other environmentally-friendly initiatives include the use of an electric plant to power auxiliaries, meaning no steam or associated chemicals; and the use of reverse osmosis water purification systems that negate the need for chemicals like bromine or chlorine.

"This warship significantly enhances our joint Navy and Marine Corps capability," said Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, commander, Naval Surface Forces. "In support of our nation's maritime strategy, it possesses the ability to rapidly respond to emergent tasking anywhere, anytime."

It was quite a day for Capt. Bob Kopas, commanding officer, USS Makin Island, who guided the ship and her Sailors through over four years of construction and trials. He gave thanks to the crew for working together to reach a momentous occasion.

"You have shown the metal you are made of every day," Kopas said. "In Mississippi you demonstrated your humanity by rebuilding playgrounds that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and during our port visits in South America you demonstrated your compassion by volunteering your off-duty time to renovate schools and other community facilities. Over the past four years, the dedication and enthusiasm you have shown has been the 'flames' which have heated the metal of our ship, making her able to meet the challenges of our nation and the Navy over the next 40 years and beyond."

'Mini Herc' set to join Air Force fleet

A C-27J Spartan practices airdropping bundles during flight testing of the plane at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., in early 2009. In April, through Resource Management Decision 802, Defense Secretary Robert Gates moved the C-27J program and its related direct support mission from the Army to the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

by Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol, Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- Air Force plans to include the C-27J Spartan, the latest propeller-driven airlifter planned for the Air Force inventory, are steadily progressing.

In April, through Resource Management Decision 802, Defense Secretary Robert Gates moved the C-27J program and its related direct support mission from the Army to the Air Force. Since April, the Air Force and Air Mobility Command have taken a serious approach to building the program, officials said.

"The program is in transition from an Army-led joint program to a sole Air Force program," said Lt. Col. Gene Capone, AMC's C-27J test manager at the Joint Program Office. "Making a switch like this is no small affair, especially at this phase in the acquisition process. Because the Army lost all fiscal year 2010 C-27J funding due to RMD 802, the Air Force is funding the Army to continue leading the program through completion of Multi-Service Operational Test and Evaluation."

The Air Force will field 38 C-27Js, operated by the Air National Guard. Two are currently going through qualification and operational testing.

According to Air Force officials, the C-27J is an "extremely rugged" aircraft, designed for austere environments. And, although it has yet to complete its testing, they say it should thrive in the "dirt."

"Think of the C-27J as a 'mini-Herc' -- it looks like and acts like a C-130, but it is about half the size (3.5 pallet positions versus 6 to 8 pallets for the C-130)," Colonel Capone said. "This smaller size brings efficiency of scale to the Air Force's portfolio of airlifters."

The colonel also said the aircraft is very powerful and agile.

"It flies a lot like a C-130, but with a bit more power for its weight," he said. "Of course, as with most airplanes the pilots who fly the aircraft love it -- myself included."

AMC officials here say work to make the C-27J capable of fully supporting the Army's needs in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility is also continuously progressing.

"The Secretary of Defense gave the C-27J and its mission to the Air Force and we are 100 percent committed to making this work," said Maj. Gen. Brooks Bash, director of AMC's Air, Space and Information Operations Directorate.

A formal test is taking place from October through December in Iraq to gather information on this new Air Force mission.

"This test will help us work out the command and control structure of the direct support mission and help us to validate requirements," said Col. Bobby Fowler, also with the Air, Space and Information Operations Directorate.

Air Force officials say there is still a lot to do as more and more C-27s come into the inventory.

"A concept like this will take time and effort, but most importantly it will also require feedback from the forces," Colonel Fowler said.

AMC and Air Force officials plan to continuously review and update the C-27J using input from field commanders until it is incorporated into joint doctrine.

A C-27J Spartan taxis on the ramp at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., during flight testing in early 2009. The Air Force plans to add 38 C-27Js to its inventory, which will be operated by the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Monday, October 26, 2009

15 units, 3 countries converge on Nellis for Red Flag

An F-16 Fighting Falcon Aggressor flies over the Nevada Test and Training Range after being refueled by an Ohio Air National Guard KC-135 Stratotanker Oct. 19, 2009. Red Flag 10-01 is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the United States and its allies. The exercise is conducted on the 15,000-square-mile Nevada Test and Training Range, north of Las Vegas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jamie Nicley)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- Nearly 1,300 servicemembers, more than 80 aircraft and 15 units from three countries converged on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for the start of Red Flag 10-1 Oct. 19.

American, Norwegian and Dutch airmen and soldiers comprise the allied team in the exercise.

"The exercise is a great opportunity for people to get out of their comfort zones and fight a war at a rapid pace," said Col. Ellwood Hinman, 23rd Fighter Group commander at Moody AFB, Ga., deployed to Nellis as the Red Flag air expeditionary wing commander. "What you may have done (in previously deployed locations) was certainly great, but it's not what you're doing here. This Red Flag provides us the opportunity to maximize training throughout its duration."

The key benefit for most fliers is removing themselves from the vacuum of normal operations.

"We learn to integrate with other platforms as part of a large force to accomplish the mission," said Capt. Eddie Cannon, deployed from the 494th Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. "That's not something we normally get to do."

The exercise doesn't just include a team forming an air expeditionary wing and going through the motions. Those here as a part of Red Flag deal with a full-up aggressor force.

Known as the Red Force, aggressors are trained to challenge Red Flag participants on all aspects of war and serve as enemy pilots, space jammers, cyberspace infiltrators, and even dig through trash on occasion to challenge their Blue Force counterparts.

"We're trying to keep the focus on the big picture," said Lt. Col. Mike Rider, 414th Combat Training Squadron director of operations. "We're set up to challenge all our assets in full spectrum operations. Our aggressors are professionals, and they will challenge you."

The ability to receive the training comes from more than 12,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres that make up the Nevada Test and Training Range.

"The NTTR is a national treasure," said Colonel Rider. "It's a massive piece of land where we can fight and get things done."

Even in the midst of pushing people to their limits to prepare them for war, safety is reiterated as the most important part of the exercise.

"We're doing things fast, but procedures come first and foremost," said Lt. Col. Mark Ciero, AEW deputy commander, deployed from the 48th Operations Group at RAF Lakenheath. "There's nothing we should be doing here that compromises safety and gets someone hurt."

Veterans Day Special Event Station K0V

The Emporia Amateur Radio Society will be on the air with a special event station on November 7th and on Veterans Day, November 11, to honor our Veterans. We will be using the special event callsign KØV, and the station will be located adjacent to the Emporia All Veterans Memorial. You can get more information at:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fort Worth Alliance 2009 Airshow Report

From the DFWScan List:

120.8250 Airboss
139.8150 BA Comcart (NFM)
142.6150 BA Comcart B (NFM)
237.8000 BA Diamond - BA Solos
284.2500 BA Showbox Diamond
305.5000 BA C-130 Fat Albert

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Normandy Completes Group Sail with Ike Strike Group Ships

By Ensign Adam R. Cole, Normandy Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- USS Normandy (CG 60) completed a three-week multimission training Oct. 19 during her first underway period since entering an Extended Dry-docking Selected Restricted Availability (EDSRA) period.

The main focus of the training period was to embark the helicopter detachment for familiarization training, work alongside other Dwight D. Eisenhower Strike Group ships as part of a "group sail" and then independently train in the various mission areas needed to deploy.

Group sail was a seven-day operation that went from Oct. 5-12. During group sail, Normandy teamed up with six other surface ships and one submarine. Ships included the Federal German Navy Ship FGS Hessen (F 221), USS Ross (DDG 71), USS Nicholas (FFG 47), USS McFaul (DDG 74), USS Farragut (DDG 99), and USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58), plus the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720). Normandy embarked Helicopter Anti-submarine squadron light (HSL) 46, "Grandmasters," Detachment 3 for the Group Sail who brought with them the light airborne multipurpose system (LAMPS) SH-60B Seahawk.

"Group Sail proved to be an excellent opportunity for all watchstanders to perform in the areas which they have trained for," said Capt. Jeffrey T. Griffin, Normandy's Commanding officer. "We displayed that we can meet and exceed the tasking given to us as not only air defense commander but also as a vital surface combatant in the surface warfare and subsurface fight. The credit goes to every member of the crew, as each one played some kind of role."

The missions included air, surface and subsurface with the surface component being a live-fire event; both the air and subsurface events used U.S. Navy units posing as opposition forces.

On any given day, Normandy would conduct a mix of operations: landing the SH-60B helicopter, searching for a submarine, transiting in a screen with accompanying ships, or simulating defense on inbound aircraft.

Of the mission areas, particular attention was focused on anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Particularly, the Integrated ASW Course Phase II (IAC II) proved to be the highlight of the Group Sail as it evolved live contacts and a coordinated effort between all ships and helicopters. Normandy sonar technicians had to be at their best to positively identify the subsurface threats, track them, and ultimately engage with weapons in a simulated firing, both of a vertically launched anti-submarine rocket and a torpedo.

"I think we have a strong team that worked well together," said Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SW) Alan C. Bratz. "We had trained well, knew our equipment well, and it just came together."

Also important was furthering the air-surface interoperability between the Normandy and the ship's embarked helicopter detachment, which will be deploying with Normandy next year.

The helicopter detachment embarked Normandy Oct. 1 for what is known as Week One Workups (WOWU). There, Normandy and the Grandmaster pilots did a series of landings, during the day and at night. It set the stage for the very active group sail period, in which the pilots and flight deck personnel had to be closely linked to achieve mission accomplishment.

"I think both WOWU and Group Sail were very successful," said Lt. Brian Mowry, air department maintenance officer. "The ship was very helpful, both the flight deck crew and the bridge, to ensure that we had safe take offs and landings. We were working hand in hand with a lot of ship's force in order to achieve mission accomplishment."

Of the days that the helicopter detachment was embarked, the helicopter was up in the air for 67.5 hours in total, being used primarily in the ASW mission.

Such hours and such operations meant a lot of flight quarters for the crew, often early in the morning and late at night. Though strenuous, the Normandy flight deck team was happy to oblige.

"We are one team," said Boatswain's Mate Seaman Rueben Benders. "It was a lot of flight quarters, but we knew we had to get it done. Everyone performed at their best."

Normandy is a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser based in Norfolk, Va.

Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group Returns Home

Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) man the rails as the ship transits into Naval Air Station North Island. Ronald Reagan's return to homeport San Diego marks the end of a five-month deployment in the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Scott/Released)

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Frank E. Neely, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) - Ronald Reagan Strike Group Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Four ships and more than 5,000 Sailors of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 7 returned to their homeport of San Diego Oct. 21 after a five-month deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility (AOR).

The strike group flagship, the Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), the guided-missile destroyers USS Gridley (DDG 101) and USS Howard (DDG 83) arrived to meet thousands of family members waiting on the pier.

The guided missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) and the guided missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) remain deployed. The two ships remained in the 5th Fleet AOR for a few extra weeks to provide Maritime Security Operations (MSO), but should arrive next month.

"This is the finest team of Sailors I've been fortunate to call shipmates," said Rear Adm. Scott Hebner, commander, CSG 7. "I could not be more proud of each and every Sailor and their families. The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group has been pretty busy the last few years, executing missions across the capabilities of our National Maritime Strategy--and answering the call with impressive results every time."

Ronald Reagan and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 operated in the 5th Fleet AOR for more than two months, providing 30 percent of all air support to U.S. and coalition ground forces in Afghanistan. In total, they flew more than 1,600 sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Ships of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group were also vital in counterpiracy operations off of Somalia and the Horn of Africa, and MSO to include protecting vital Iraqi infrastructure in the North Arabian Gulf.

"Every single Sailor knew how vital the mission was to accomplish," said Capt. Kenneth Norton, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer. "Because they understood, regardless of their operational tempo, they performed the mission, not just to get it done, but to get it done well. They're selfless. Everybody did their job well to provide service to our Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen in Afghanistan."

Additionally, Ronald Reagan's Sailors participated in 50 community relations (COMREL) projects during port visits to Singapore, Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Phuket, Thailand.

"Being able to afford our Sailors the opportunity to lend a helping hand to those who are truly in need, speaks volumes to the character of our Sailors," said Chief Religious Progams Specialist (SW/AW/FMF) Marcus Taylor, who coordinated Ronald Reagan's COMREL projects. "I believe the Sailors that volunteer really should be commended for their selfless efforts. It is a clear display of maturity and devotion to being goodwill ambassadors for the Navy and the United States."

Now at home, many Sailors of the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group will take leave to spend time with family and friends.

"This is my second deployment in two years," said Interior Communications 2nd Class Adam Treptow, who will be going on leave to his hometown of Parker, Colo. "Homecoming is always an indescribable feeling. I'm too excited. This is a chance for me to get off the ship, relax, unwind and finally buy myself a new truck."

The squadrons of CVW-14 include the "Redcocks" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 22, the "Fist of the Fleet" of VFA-25, the "Stingers" of VFA-113, the "Eagles" of VFA-115, the "Black Eagles" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, the "Cougars" of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 139, the "Providers" of Carrier Logistics Support (VRC) 30, and the "Black Knights" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 4.

This ends the fourth deployment in four years for Ronald Reagan. The ship is named after the 40th U.S. president, and carries the motto of "Peace through Strength," a recurrent theme during the Reagan presidency.

Army-Navy Joint Training Incident at Sea

NORFOLK (NNS) -- One service member is dead and eight are injured following a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter crash on the Navy fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8) at approximately 8:00 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 22, 20 nautical miles off the coast from Fort Story, Virginia.

The crash occurred during routine training operations involving the Army helicopter and members of an East Coast based Naval Special Warfare Unit.

Injured service members were evacuated from USNS Arctic by a second Army helicopter participating in the training and taken to a local Norfolk hospital for treatment.

USNS Arctic has returned to Naval Station Norfolk and the damaged helicopter remains onboard.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Globemaster conducts first mission for Cope India

Two U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft from the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, parked under a Indian sunset at Air Force Station Agra, India. The aircraft along with a C-17 Globemaster III and more than 150 U.S. Air Force and Army personnel are deployed here as part of exercise Cope India, a humanitarian assistance disaster relief exercise Oct. 19 to 24. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Genieve David)

AIR FORCE STATION AGRA, India (AFNS) -- A C-17 Globemaster III crew conducted the first ever combined airdrop mission with Indian air force personnel here as part of exercise Cope India.

The 535th Airlift Squadron from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, conducted a high-altitude low-opening mission with four U.S. Air Force Airmen and Soldiers and 12 Indian air force Garud operators.

"This is the first time in our partnership that we've had the United States and India forces jump out of a C-17," Capt. Billy Dye, a pilot from the 535th AS, and Greensboro, N.C. native said. "It's great that we get to share the capabilities of our aircraft with one another."

More than 160 U.S. Airmen and Soldiers, along with three C-130H Hercules, a C-17, and C-130J are participating in the exercise with an Indian air force IL-76 Gajraj, four AN-32 Sutlejes, two MI-17 Prataps and one Cheak Alouette III.

"Cope India allows our countries the ability to exchange humanitarian airlift, air land and airdrop delivery techniques," Captain Dye said. "And we look forward to continuing to foster theses great relationships that we are already making."

Cope India is an airlift exercise that focuses on the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. Additionally, U.S. and Indian air forces will participate in aeromedical and disaster management exercises and several subject matter expert exchanges during the exercise.

VAQ-139 Returns to NAS Whidbey Island

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

OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- The Cougars of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 139 returned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island Oct. 20-22 after a five-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

The Cougars deployed aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) May of this year attached to Carrier Air Wing 14.

While in theater, air crew members from VAQ-139 were afforded the opportunity to cross train with expeditionary squadron VAQ-134, the Garudas. According to Lt. William Buhl, of VAQ-139, from Syracuse, N.Y., who participated in the exchange for approximately three weeks, the opportunity to fly the improved capability (ICAP) II EA-6B Prowler of VAQ-134 versus the ICAP III Prowler of VAQ-139 and seeing how ground Prowler missions operate was good experience.

"One of the benefits of the expeditionary mission is you take off and you're immediately there and providing support; already in the fight, so to speak," said Buhl. "It was also good just to meet other people in the community."

"It really benefited us because we got the chance to go see how they operate doing strictly ground operations and, for the (VAQ) 134 guys, it gave them the opportunity to see how we operate and do business on the boat. It was basically a cross-pollination between an expeditionary and ship squadron," said Cmdr. Daryl Walker, VAQ-139 commanding officer.

VAQ-139 flew a total of 1350 flight hours, 850 of which were flown in direct support of OEF as a result of 115 combat sorties, leading to a 100 percent combat sortie completion rate.

"For the Cougar team it was a great combat deployment; another successful year for us, and we went and did the job we were supposed to do," said Cmdr. Chris Middleton, VAQ-139 executive officer.

Over the course of the deployment, Reagan conducted four port visits to Singapore, Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates, Phuket, Thailand, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Upon departing Hawaii, Reagan embarked approximately 800 friends and family members, 46 of which were with VAQ-139, for a six-day cruise back to San Diego before returning to NAS Whidbey Island. The "Tiger" cruise offered two air shows, approximately 60 fly-offs, night and day live-fire events, Explosive Ordnance Disposal fast-roping demonstrations and a basketball court set up in the hangar bay, among other games and activities.

"The Reagan may have put on the best tiger cruise I've been on," said Middleton, who embarked three family members for the cruise. "The morale, welfare, and recreation team really did a great job. It was incredible."

According to Walker, a deployment isn't over until you get everyone home safe and sound.

"The deployment was superb. The troops did everything that was asked of them; we didn't fail in any part," said Walker. "We brought everybody back that I took out, which, to me, makes the cruise successful."