Thursday, December 31, 2009

86th AW expands Air Forces Africa support with first Super Herc flight

by Senior Airman Stefanie Torres, 17th Air Force Public Affairs

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- The first C-130J Super Hercules mission in support of U.S. Air Forces Africa, or 17th Air Force, opened up doors to a future partnership of support between the 86th Airlift Wing and upcoming missions into Africa.

The mission's aircraft commander, Maj. Robert May of the 37th Airlift Squadron, and his crew were tasked to fly into Mali Dec. 19 to bring home 17 troops who were assisting with training Malian forces.

The significance of this mission is two-fold, Major May said.

"First, we now recognize the capability of the J-model aircraft," he said. "I really believe that the J-model is uniquely going to show our capabilities in Africa. Second, this shows we can support the guys on the ground with a very reliable aircraft."

The C-130J is the latest addition to the C-130 fleet, replacing C-130Es. The 86th AW is the first wing outside the U.S. to have the C-130J assigned. The unit began receiving the Super Hercules in April 2009, and in late December took delivery of the 10th and 11th aircraft in the fleet of 14 to be assigned to the 37th AS and 86th AW.

"AFAFRICA will be able to call on the 37th AS to support the mission," the major said. "I know this is something our aircrews look forward to."

The J-model has six-blade propellers, new turboprop engines and is larger than previous models. It climbs faster and higher, has a longer range at a higher cruise speed, and takes off and lands in a shorter distance.

The J-model can also perform three times the workload of the previous models, increasing mission capability. Brig. Gen. Michael W. Callan, the Vice Commander at 17th AF, recently experienced these capabilities first hand. He flew one of the 37th AS's new J-models from the Lockheed-Martin plant in Marietta, Ga. to Ramstein Air Base, Germany Dec. 23.

"The J-model is a significant improvement over the C-130H and E models," General Callan said. "It's range and enhanced payload will make the 86th Airlift Wing even more capable of supporting missions in Africa. We're very lucky to have the 86th so close."

The General's sentiments were echoed by Lockheed-Martin.

"The C-130J is the most advanced tactical airlifter in the world," said Mr. Peter Simmons, the Communications director for C-130 programs for Lockheed-Martin. "The newly formed mission in support of Africa Command has given us yet another opportunity to see how this aircraft can operate in a testing environment. Yet, the aircraft is ideally suited for the missions flown on the African continent."

The maximum load of the C-130 J is 45,000 pounds. However, a bigger aircraft doesn't necessarily mean a bigger crew. This cargo plane only needs a minimum of three crew members compared to five on the older models, he explained.

"With a 20,000-pound payload, the aircraft can fly more than 4,000 nautical miles and is well over 15 percent more fuel efficient as well," said Mr. Simmons.

Ultimately, this mission was only a beginning. J-model crews here were excited at the challenge presented by supporting AFAFRICA.

"The increased missions will be a challenge, but we are excited to take this on," Major May said.

Raptors to deploy to Guam

Fifteen F-22 Raptors from the 90th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, are slated to deploy to Andersen AFB, Guam, in January. The deployment supports U.S. Pacific Command's theater security packages in the Western Pacific. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cynthia Spalding)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (AFNS) -- Fifteen F-22 Raptors are scheduled to deploy to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in January 2010 for approximately three months.

The fighters and associated personnel will deploy from the 90th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.

The deployment supports U.S. Pacific Command's theater security packages in the Western Pacific and follows the recent departure from the theater of two deployed squadrons of F-22s that also were supporting U.S. PACOM's TSP. The fighters and personnel deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, and Kadena Air Base, Japan, completed their redeployment in October 2009.

The F-22 is a transformational combat aircraft that can avoid enemy detection, cruises at supersonic speeds, is highly maneuverable, and provides the joint force an unprecedented level of integrated situational awareness.

As part of continuing force posture adjustments to address worldwide requirements, U.S. officials continue to deploy additional forces throughout the Western Pacific. This is the latest example of the flexibility U.S. forces have to meet their ongoing commitments and security obligations throughout the Pacific region.

Monitoring Times Square on New Years Eve

Our friends on the will be streaming scanner audio from NYC and the Times Square area starting this afternoon. Might be some interesting listening given our current threat environment. You can get more details on our sister blog at

China accelerates space research and development

Chinese Long March Family of Boosters.

Craig Covault at SpaceFlight Now has posted a fascinating article on the Chinese Space Operations. According to Covault, "China in 2010 will be engaged in the most ambitious and diverse manned and unmanned space system research and development surge since the U.S. and Soviet Union squared off in the 1960s space race."

"In addition to maturing its manned program for ambitious flight operations in 2011 the Chinese will also launch its second lunar orbiter mission and complete development of a nuclear powered common lunar lander bus that by 2013 is to support Chinese lunar rover operations then unmanned lunar sample return flights by 2017."

For more on this article jump over to to read the rest of this copyrighted article.

New Classified Bomber Under Consideration by DoD

The $2-​​billion question in development of a new bomber is whether a major black-​​world demonstration program is already underway, with Northrop Grumman as the contractor.

This hypothesis makes sense of a series of clues that have appeared since 2005. In that year, Scott Winship, program manager for Northrop Grumman’s X-​​47 unmanned combat aircraft system (UCAS), mentioned that the company—responding to a U.S. Air Force interest in a bigger version of the then-​​ongoing Joint UCAS project—had proposed an X-​​47C with very long endurance, a 10,000-lb.-plus weapon load and a 172-​​ft. wingspan, the same as a B-​​2. The idea was to match extreme endurance with a “deep magazine”—a large and diverse weapon load for multiple attacks on different types of target. Soon after, in the Fiscal 2007 budget, the J-​​UCAS program was terminated. While the Navy continued with the X-47B—now undergoing tests before a first flight in early 2010—it was reported that USAF funds were transferred into a classified program. The service also introduced a budget line-​​item for a Next Generation Bomber (NGB), but the program had no visible funds for Fiscal 2008-​​10.

During 2007, Northrop Grumman leaders hinted that the company expected to win a major restricted program. A financial report in early 2008 then disclosed a $2-​​billion surge in backlog at the company’s Integrated Systems division—just after Boeing and Lockheed Martin agreed to join forces on an NGB proposal.

Since that time, sources in Washington and elsewhere have reported that the company did win a demonstrator program for a large stealthy platform, and that the program has survived the budget cuts announced in April 2009.

A possibly related development is the construction of a large new hangar at the USAF’s flight-​​test center at Groom Lake, Nev. Unlike other buildings on the secluded site, it is screened from the closest public viewing point by a specially constructed berm.

The most likely focus of a flight-​​demonstrator program would be on the aerodynamic and aero-​​propulsion aspects of a very stealthy flying-​​wing design. The B-​​2 was designed in the earliest days of computational fluid dynamics (CFD), before the complex 3D airflows over an all-​​wing aircraft could be simulated properly, and represented a low-​​risk trade between aerodynamics and signatures. Thirty years later, vastly more powerful computing makes it possible to design shapes with better signatures and higher efficiency that nearly ensure they will work in the wind tunnel and in flight. However, a large-​​scale flying demonstrator can incorporate engine inlet and exhaust effects in the design and evaluate stability and control.

High-​​altitude performance could be another goal. The Air Force does not regard the B-​​2 as survivable in daylight because of the risk of visual detection by a fighter aircraft. The B-​​2 cruises at the same altitude as most fighters and can be caught in the best position for visual detection—silhouetted against the horizon. A high-​​altitude aircraft operating at 60,000 ft. or above is less likely to be in this position, and the sky above it is dark.

Using a version of Northrop Grumman’s “cranked kite” configuration—designed to be scalable and adaptable to different flight regimes—a new bomber could be around half the weight of the B-​​2, but about equal in centerline length, allowing it to carry the same types of weapons, possibly up to the size of the 30,000-lb. Boeing-​​developed Massive Ordnance Penetrator, intended to destroy hardened and deeply buried targets.

Northrop Grumman’s development of an NGB could be facilitated by its work on B-​​2 upgrades. Improvements being developed for B-​​2 include changes to the bomber’s rotary weapons launcher, allowing it to carry mixed loads of weapons ranging from Small-​​Diameter Bombs to 2,000-lb. class bombs; a new Ku-​​band active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, with the potential for extremely high ground resolution; and stealth-​​compatible high-​​rate satcoms systems.

Bomber supporters have mooted the idea of building and deploying a new bomber/​ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) aircraft in phases. An initial version could be manned, powered by versions of existing engines, and use off-​​the-​​shelf sensors and avionics. Later aircraft could be unmanned or optionally piloted and powered by advanced engines, improving altitude performance or supplying power to directed-​​energy weapons for self-​​defense or attack.

Stealth will be very important to a bomber/​ISR platform, and a key advantage compared to low-​​observable (LO) fighters. According to experts familiar with UCAS programs, blended wing-​​body and flying-​​wing shapes offer two unique attributes. First, they can provide all-​​aspect stealth, with low signatures from the side as well as in the front and rear aspects, whereas more conventional designs (like the F-​​22 and F-​​35) have a characteristic “bow-​​tie” radar cross-​​section (RCS) plot with peaks to the sides, associated with the body sides and vertical tails. Flying wings also feature “broadband” stealth: at lower radar frequencies, the wingtips, tails and other small parts of a conventional aircraft have dimensions in the same magnitude as the radar wavelength and therefore have a “resonant” RCS that is largely unaffected by shaping or materials. Recently, both Russia and China have unveiled modernized versions of VHF radars, touting their counterstealth performance.

ISR capability would be inherent in a new-​​technology strike aircraft. Characteristics such as long endurance, wide-​​band active and passive radio-​​frequency sensors, and LO-​​compatible high-​​bandwidth satcoms are essential for both missions.

Another major issue is whether the new bomber should be nuclear-​​capable. Analyst Barry Watts, in a February 2009 paper for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, argued that four conventional requirements were the strongest justification for a new bomber: missions requiring a sufficient radius of action from the last air-​​refueling point to reach targets deep in defended airspace; conflicts in which there is a need to strike targets at intercontinental distances; missions requiring the survivability to persist in defended airspace in order to prosecute time-​​sensitive targets; and operations in which U.S. forces must have a radius of action beyond the reach of enemy weapons.

Watts saw a need for nuclear missions only in the case of limited, controlled nuclear options against a regional threat and suggested only a moderate degree of electromagnetic pulse hardening. Courtesy of DefenseTech – From Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hmm… Israel Calls ALL Ambassadors Home For Special Meeting in Jerusalem

For the first time ever, Israel has called ALL of its ambassadors and consuls home for meetings this week in Jerusalem. The meetings opened Sunday December 27.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman, will host a conference next week (27-31 December) for Israeli Heads of Missions. At the conference, Israel’s ambassadors and consuls general serving throughout the world will discuss broad diplomatic and strategic issues.

This is the first time a conference for all of Israel’s Heads of Missions has been held. The idea is to facilitate direct dialogue with the country’s leaders, mutual updates on major diplomatic issues, and a discussion of action plans to deal with the challenges awaiting the State of Israel in the international arena in the coming year, including the Iranian threat.

Israel recalls all ambassadors. Probably nothing, but I wouldn’t buy real estate in Tehran anytime soon.

Time to keep a closer watch on Enigma E10 and Israeli AF HF freqs. Those freqs have been posted on this blog at and

PCU New Mexico Delivered to Navy Four Months Early

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy took delivery of its newest attack submarine, PCU New Mexico (SSN 779), from Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding (NGSB) Dec. 29, four months earlier than its contract delivery date. New Mexico is the sixth Virginia-class submarine and the third delivered by NGSB.

"New Mexico performed superbly on sea trials," said Rear Adm. William Hilarides, program executive officer for submarines. "Her early delivery keeps us firmly on pace for a 60-month construction span by the end of the Block II contract."

Capt. Michael Jabaley, Virginia-class Program manager, commented, "With the delivery of the sixth submarine, the Virginia Program continues to provide needed capability to the fleet."

USS North Carolina (SSN 777) and USS New Hampshire (SSN 778), the two submarines delivered prior to New Mexico, were completed after 82 and 71 months, respectively. New Mexico completed construction in just 70 months.

"Raising the bar yet again, the Virginia shipbuilding team has completed the fastest delivery to date, with further improvement soon to follow. This improvement in performance positions the team to double the production rate to two submarines per year in 2011. Keeping the production rate at two per year is critical to maintaining the Navy's Attack Submarine inventory," Jabaley added.

New Mexico's delivery in 2009 wraps up a successful year for the Virginia-class program. Earlier accomplishments include beginning the construction of PCU North Dakota (SSN 784) March 2; the keel-laying ceremony of PCU California's (SSN 781) May 1; USS Texas (SSN 775) completion of the Virginia-class submarines' first Arctic Ocean testing in November; transfers of USS Hawaii (SSN 776) and Texas to their new homeport of Pearl Harbor in July and November respectively; and the christening ceremony of PCU Missouri's (SSN 780) Dec. 5.

Virginia-class submarines are flexible, multimission platforms designed to operate in both open-ocean and littoral waters. Their inherent stealth, endurance, and firepower enable them to support the United States seapower core capabilities of forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, and maritime security.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Georgia Air Guard Teams With Fighting 48th in Afghanistan

Air Force Capt. Roger M. Brooks IV, commander of a 12-man Joint Terminal Attack Controller team, takes coordinates at an Afghan Border Police observation post in the mountains of Achin district in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, Dec. 20, 2009, as a tower guard provides over watch. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Tracy J. Smith

By Army Sgt. Tracy J. Smith, Special to American Forces Press Service

NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Georgia Air National Guardsmen assigned to the 165th Air Support Operations Squadron have teamed up with 48th Infantry Brigade soldiers in eastern Afghanistan.

The airmen comprise several Joint Terminal Attack Controller units that will call in combat air support for the 48th's fighters, said Army Capt. Roger Brooks IV, from Marietta, Ga., the commander of the Georgia JTACs.

Brooks describes his team as an "in-case-of-emergency-break-glass" option.

The controllers serve with the advancing infantry, he said, assessing the situation alongside the combat troops and calling in air support if the situation dictates.

Georgia's JTACs are divided into three-man teams spread among four battalions conducting battlefield operations.

Air Force Master Sgt. James F. Harnisch, from Savannah, Ga., is the senior noncommissioned officer on Brooks' team. He has been a support member of the 48th Brigade for nearly six years. He and his fellow airmen have served with the Guard members during various operations.

Harnisch found familiar faces at Forward Operating Base Hughie in eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, where the 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment is based. Many of the Georgians previously had served together in Mahmudiyah, Iraq.

"Because of that history, they know what they can expect from us and what we can provide them," Harnisch said.

The JTACs' sense of situational awareness allows them to assist with intelligence gathering and provide input based on what they call patterns-of-life observations. These traits are invaluable to the cavalry scouts who patrol the mountains bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Missions in Afghanistan are conducted during unpredictable weather amid formidable terrain. The Georgia airmen and soldiers surmount such difficulties through communication and teamwork.

"The camaraderie is appreciated. With them being from the same state makes them more valuable, because we sort of speak the same language," said Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Warren, who hails from Douglasville, Ga.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Hammond, Georgia Air National Guard commander, is slated to visit with soldiers and airmen in Afghanistan. During recent stateside pre-deployment training exercises he highlighted the need for airmen and soldiers to speak the same language and work in concert.

"There should be no delineation as to uniform or branch of service," Hammond said. "The primary focus is to make sure the 48th Brigade is successful during this deployment and we will do everything we can to make sure that they are successful."

MC-12 arrives, heralds activation of 4th ERS

Airmen welcomed the first Air Force MC-12 to be based in Afghanistan Dec. 27, 2009. The aircraft brings another capability to Operation Enduring Freedom, because the MC-12 is not just an aircraft, but a complete collection, processing, analysis and dissemination system of Airmen committed to securing Afghanistan and protecting Afghan and coalition lives. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Felicia Juenke)

by Tech. Sgt. John Jung, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- The newest aircraft to the Air Force's inventory arrived Dec. 27, 2009, to Bagram Airfield. The MC-12 aircraft, tail number 090623, was the first of an undisclosed number of aircraft for the new 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron here.

Following the MC-12's arrival, the 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron was activated to carry out MC-12 operations in the Afghan theater of operations.

Col. Patrick McKenzie, the 455th Expeditionary Operations Group commander, presided over the brief ceremony attended by approximately one hundred Airmen and Soldiers.

"The MC-12 is much more than just a fleet of aircraft, its pilots and maintainers. It also consists of equipment and personnel that collect and broadcast full-motion video and signals intelligence, as well as crews that process, exploit and disseminate the information," Colonel McKenzie said. "In addition, the MC-12 encompasses a host of communications experts that support and maintain the added capability that the aircraft brings to the warfighter."

Taking the reins of the 4th ERS was Lt. Col. Douglas Lee, deployed from Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., and a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala.

"As a boy growing up in the Air Force, I could only imagine this day and for this opportunity to come along - [serving] in combat is why we raise our right hand to begin with," he said. "Knowledge is power and that is what we provide. This knowledge will help protect Afghans, provide security and protect Coalition lives. All of these things directly contribute to the combined effort that secures the battlespace and helps the Afghan people to defeat the insurgency."

As the demand for Air Force ISR increases assets, the MC-12 is positioned to meet that demand.

The first of its kind for the Air Force in Afghanistan, the MC-12 provides real-time ISR in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. The aircraft bring another capability to Operation Enduring Freedom because the MC-12 is not just an aircraft, but a complete collection, processing, analysis and dissemination system of Airmen committed to securing Afghanistan and protecting Afghan and coalition lives.

Eighteen months ago, 'Project Liberty' was on the drawing board. Today, the aircraft and its crews and maintainers supporting the 4th ERS are operational and ready to go at Bagram Airfield.

"We are not the first to provide ISR, but we hope to enhance the joint effort through synergy with our sister services," Colonel Lee said.

Overall, the MC-12 will augment information gathered by other ISR assets already operating in Afghanistan and complement existing capability. The platform will enhance how Air Force ISR complements the total intelligence 'picture' in the respective commander's scheme of maneuver in the battlespace.

With a unique mission to execute, members of the 4th ERS are eager to "look for trouble," as their squadron motto states, but hope to see it first so U.S. and coalition ground forces can avoid it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ohio NG Troops Return in Time for Christmas

For some military families Christmas will be extra special because they'll be spending it with their loved ones who've just returned from war.


MARS Gets New Name As It Fine Tunes Mission

This story is courtesy of the website and their weekly email newsletter:

On Wednesday, December 23, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued an Instruction concerning MARS, effective immediately. This Instruction gives the three MARS services -- Army, Air Force and Navy/Marine Corps -- a new focus on homeland security and a new name: Military Auxiliary Radio System. The Instruction is the first major revision to MARS since January 26, 1988 -- as such, the first revision since the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, two major events that changed the way Amateur Radio dealt with emergency communications.

The DoD defines a "military auxiliary" as "an organized body of volunteers prepared to supplement the uniformed services or any designated civilian authorities by provision of specialized autonomous services when called upon or when situations warrant," and gives the Civil Air Patrol and Coast Guard Auxiliary as examples of auxiliaries.

In the past, MARS had focused primarily on emergency communications and health and welfare support. The DoD's Instruction now directs the three MARS services to provide "contingency radio communications" to support US government operations, DoD components and "civil authorities at all levels," providing for national security and emergency preparedness events. MARS units will still continue to provide health and welfare communications support "to military members, civilian employees and contractors of DoD Components, and civil agency employees and contractors, when in remote or isolated areas, in contingencies or whenever appropriate." MARS must also be capable of operation in "radio only" modes -- without landlines or the Internet -- and sustainable on emergency power (when public utility power has failed); some MARS stations must be transportable for timely deployment.

The Instruction, however, does not mention which of the three MARS services will take the lead when responding to events. According to sources, this has been seen as a critical issue in conforming to the National Incident Management System (NIMS) that calls for "unity of command." As now constituted, the three separate MARS services are supposed do "interoperate," but command-wise, each operates independently. Some MARS members had urged clarification on this issue to avoid confusion during an emergency, sources said.

The Secretaries of the Army, Air Force and Navy are to encourage participation in MARS, the Instruction states, saying this may be accomplished "by establishing and funding an active MARS program within each Military Department, which shall then assign a MARS-licensed staff representative to manage operations, readiness, planning, procedural and technical development, documentation, standards, training, equipment, program and membership administration, and other matters necessary for mission accomplishment."

The Secretaries are also tasked with bringing new personnel into their MARS services. The Instruction calls on them to establish programs "to promote civilian interest, recruit qualified volunteers, sponsor them for basic background checks and furnish them suitable training in contingency support communications."

The Instruction also dictates that MARS leaders will now report to three DoD officials; before this revision, they only reported to one person. The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Security and Americas Security Affairs (ASD [HD&ASA]) now has primary responsibility for the MARS Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) mission. In addition, MARS leaders will report to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration/DoD Chief Information Officer (ASD[NII]/DoD CIO) and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Material Readiness (ASD[L&MR]). In the 1998 charter, oversight of MARS was assigned to a single top official, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence.

This revision -- which was years in the making -- keeps the Navy/Marine Corps MARS intact; until now, members of this MARS service were concerned that their part of MARS might be terminated by Navy commanders.

The Instruction also gives some new perks to MARS members. Active duty military personnel who are affiliated with MARS may be able to earn Reserve points based on service in MARS and, in cases of permanent change of station, qualify for weight exemption for transportation of MARS communications equipment. All members may be considered for benefits associated with DoD civilian service, such as access to DoD morale, welfare and recreation Category C recreational facilities and access to DoD credit unions.

Membership in any of the three MARS services is open to qualified active duty, Guard and Reserve personnel, as well as those in civilian agencies who report to civil authorities or their supporting organizations (including nongovernmental organizations) and private US citizens who meet age, education and other criteria -- such as an FCC-issued Amateur Radio license -- imposed by a DoD Component MARS office.

USS Wasp Returns From Deployment

The timing could not be better for the 1100 Sailors and 365 Marines onboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.

Exercise Iron Magic Concludes in Arabian Gulf

By Lt.j.g. Jennifer Womble, Expeditionary Strike Group 5 Public Affairs

Arabian Gulf (NNS) -- The exercise was a culmination of the training conducted during the weeklong exercise which included host nation Marines training alongside the aviation combat element, ground combat element and logistics combat element of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

Rear Adm. Sinclair Harris, commander ESG-5 commended the interoperability demonstrated during the exercise.

"The impressive skills exhibited by the host nation Marines ensured the success of this exercise," said Harris. "The relationships we are able to form during this annual exercise are invaluable, and we look forward to future training with them."

Harris also observed the Fleet Shock Trauma Platoon of Combat Logistics Battalion 11, the logistics combat element of the 11th MEU, instructing host nation Marines on basic lifesaving techniques. The surgical team is the first with shock trauma capability to be deployed with a MEU, and consists of two emergency medical physicians, a physician's assistant, a critical care nurse and about 20 corpsmen.

"There is a period known as the golden hour, which is the first 60 minutes following an injury for the medical team to stabilize the victim. That is where we excel by providing advanced care during the first moments following battlefield injuries. Once the patient is stabilized we are able to transport them to a full care hospital where they receive further treatment," said Lt. Brian Downing, emergency response doctor with the Shock Trauma Platoon.

The Marines and Sailors, part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, came ashore from amphibious transport dock USS Cleveland (LPD 7) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47), which departed San Diego Sept. 18, on a deployment to the Western Pacific and Middle East.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Naval Research Lab Studies Solar Storms

By Bob Freeman, Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - Imagine a threat to the global community with the potential to damage communication satellites, interrupt navigation systems, shut down regional power grids, impede oil and gas exploration, expose aircraft crews to high levels of radiation, and endanger the lives of astronauts.

That threat exists, but it's not from any well-organized terrorist group. It's from the sun.

"Ultraviolet and X-ray radiation and particle emissions from the sun affect the ionosphere and [the Earth's magnetic field] and can cause lots of problems to space and ground assets," explained Russell Howard, an astrophysicist at the Naval Research Laboratory, in a Dec. 21 interview on Pentagon Web Radio's audio webcast "Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military."

Howard was joined in the interview by George Doschek, head of the Naval Research Laboratory's Solar Terrestrial Branch, who explained that the "solar wind," a stream of charged particles and radiation constantly blowing toward the Earth, is intensified by disturbances in the sun's magnetic field, such as sunspots, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections.

"All the activity on the sun is produced when the sun's magnetic field is converted into particle emissions and acceleration, and radiation," Doschek said. He explained that the magnetic field of the sun actually stores energy, which is released in bursts when the structure of the field suddenly changes to a configuration that holds less energy.

"When that happens," he said, "we think that the excess energy goes into radiation and accelerating particles."

Howard, who holds a doctorate in chemical physics, said the release of electromagnetic radiation in the form of X-rays, ultraviolet rays, and gamma rays, interacts with the Earth's ionosphere.

"The ionosphere is an electrically charged layer of the Earth's atmosphere," he said. "It's most important, because it reflects radio waves, and that's what allows us to propagate radio waves around the Earth," said Doschek, who holds a doctorate in physics. Radiation affects the ionized particles in the ionosphere, causing them to absorb radio waves, causing communication fade-outs, he explained.

"That's the issue of the satellites themselves," Howard said. "But with ionospheric disturbances, you are also getting an increase in electron density in certain areas, and this can cause failures in GPS." He added that there were about 30 minutes of complete GPS outage in December 2006.

In addition to GPS, Howard noted that the effects of solar storms on communications satellites extend to such things as cell phones, pagers, television, the Internet and streaming video. "Society is becoming increasingly dependent on space-based assets," he commented.

Howard added that strong ionospheric disturbances can also cause ground controllers to lose track of low orbit satellites. "Electromagnetic energy comes in and heats the atmosphere," he said. "When you heat the atmosphere, you get increased density at spacecraft altitude, and that causes an increase in drag, and you can lose track of them."

Solar radiation also can pose a threat to humans. "The radiation can damage astronauts, or if you're flying [in an aircraft] over the polar regions, you have to worry about getting too much radiation from X-rays and ultraviolet radiation," he said.

"The transpolar routes are becoming extremely popular for the airlines," Howard added, "so the crews have to wear radiation dosimeters to measure how much exposure they are getting."

High-energy particles also pose a hazard to anyone working high in the atmosphere or in space, Howard said. "Particles can also be released, and they're coming at fantastic speeds, 500 times that of a bullet, and their combined mass is a million times that of a Nimitz-class carrier," he explained.

"With a coronal mass ejection, you can get a billion tons of matter moving 1 million miles an hour toward the Earth," Doschek added. He noted that coronal mass ejections were first identified by researchers at NRL in 1971.

The solar wind interacts with the Earth's magnetic field, Doschek said. "When solar particles get into the magnetosphere, they're trapped there, and that's when they can do a lot of damage," he noted.

In a large solar storm, the particles also can damage equipment. "You can get energetic particles at hundreds of electron volts of energy, and these can damage electronics in our space assets," Howard said.

"They can cause electrical discharges inside the spacecraft and destroy the circuitry," Doschek added, "and they can cause disruptions in the software and communication links in the satellite until it has to be rebooted."

The solar wind can directly affect people on Earth, as well.

Howard described the impact of the solar wind on the Earth's magnetosphere as a force that puts pressure on the magnetic field. With large solar storms, the pressure intensifies and distorts the shape of the field.

"The magnetosphere, when it gets compressed, induces a current in the Earth's crust," he explained, "and power transmission lines can get a huge amount of back current into transformers that actually burns them up. I've seen pictures of copper straps that are two inches thick that are melted. It's just amazing."

A mass ejection in 1989 shut down the Quebec power grid, which is connected to power grids along the entire East Coast of the United States, Howard said. Quick action on the part of an engineer disconnected the Quebec grid from the other grids. "It was within seconds before it would have taken out the power for the entire northeast part of the U.S.," Howard said.

In addition to the loss of transformers, which cost about $10 million to replace, the disruption of power was estimated to be a loss of $2 billion of gross national product, he said.

These induced currents in the Earth's crust also can affect oil and gas exploration. Howard explained that oil prospecting often is done by trailing a magnetometer behind a ship to look for changes in the magnetic field structure. "A huge oil or gas deposit would be indicated by a change in the field properties," he said, "but if one of these storms comes along, you've completely lost that activity."

While it may not be possible to stop the solar storms, it would be useful to know when they are coming to better prepare for them. To do that, researchers need to have a better understanding of their nature, and NRL has been conducting solar research since 1946, Doschek said.

"We try to understand what is causing the atmosphere to do what it's doing," he said, "which means that we want to understand the mechanisms by which the sun's magnetic field, and the energy within that field, can be converted to particles."

Doschek explained that most solar research needs to be accomplished above the atmosphere, using remote sensing instruments carried on spacecraft.

"We use spectrometers," he said, "to determine the temperature and density, and even the motions within the sun's atmosphere. We have another instrument, called a coronagraph, which blocks out the main radiation from the sun and looks at the outer part of the atmosphere of the corona. With this instrument, we can see hot gases and coronal mass ejections as they come toward the Earth."

Reserachers have made some progress in developing notice of solar activity. "We have instruments that are actually on two NASA spacecraft that are in orbit around the sun, "Howard said. "It's called the STEREO mission. They're looking at the sun and the region between the sun and Earth from two different viewpoints."

Howard explained that these sensors, located more than 100 million miles from Earth, are able to observe solar activity as it happens and more precisely pinpoint the time the charged particles will reach the Earth. But not all solar events send high-pressure streams of dangerous particles towards the Earth.

"Part of our research is to determine the parameters that we need to be studying in order to say whether this will have a powerful impact on Earth or not," he noted.

Another approach to forecasting solar events is with the use of computer modeling. Doschek described three-dimensional numerical simulation models that attempt to portray how changes in the sun's magnetic field get converted into thermal energy based on complex circulations on the sun's surface, and observed phenomena like sunspots.

"The magnetic field is part of a dynamo," he explained, "and when sunspots appear -- these are regions of strong magnetic field -- they get fed into the model and the field moves around the sun."

From these models, the researchers have developed a predictive algorithm for the solar wind. "That works on the basis of how the magnetic field originates on the sun," Doschek said.

Howard acknowledged that the modeling effort is in the infant stages, but noted that the observations and measurements being made by space-based sensors are providing a foundation for improving the models.

"Hopefully, in 10 to 15, maybe 20 years, we'll be much better than we are today," he said.

(Bob Freeman works in the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy.)

8th Fighter Squadron flagship arrives

by Staff Sgt. Sanjay Allen, 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) -- The 8th Fighter Squadron received its first of 20 F-22 Raptors Dec. 21 here.

The arrival of 8th FS flagship, a Langley Air Force Base Raptor, which came from maintenance in Palmdale, Calif., starts the next chapter of the "Black Sheep's" storied history that started in 1941 when the squadron was assigned to the 49th Pursuit Group, and during World War II, their pilots amassed 207 aerial victories.

"Air dominance," said Lt. Col. Craig Baker, 8th FS commander, relating how the F-22 fits into Holloman's history. "The F-22 builds on what previous generations of air superiority fighters have established in the 8th -- a positive kill ratio. The fifth generation F-22 is far superior to any enemy aircraft today. U.S. Air Force pilots, the F-22 and its psychological effects all contribute to maintain that positive kill ratio [which is] a must to gaining and maintaining air superiority."

Colonel Baker assumed command of the squadron Sept. 25 after a brief period of inactivity. The 8th has not had any aircraft assigned to it since the F-117 retired in April 2008. The pilots and maintainers will work hand-in-hand with the 7th Fighter Squadron as a "super squadron" until the unit deploys next summer. When that happens, the squadrons' roles will reverse.

Working together with Lt. Col. Mike Hernandez, 7th FS commander, as a super squadron has ran like a well-oiled machine since the two commanders have a history of working together.

"Pigpen (Colonel Hernandez) and I have worked together since 1999 ... so luckily our policies, our thoughts, our tactics and opinions generally fall in-line together," Colonel Baker said. "His opinions for the squadron are the ones that I share, so it makes it relatively easy."

The 7th FS and 8th FS have been working together since 1941.

The nickname, the Black Sheep, dates back to 1943, when the 49th Fighter Group was transitioning from the P-47 Thunderbolt to the P-38 Lightning. The 8th FS was the last of the three squadrons to receive the P-38 aircraft and pilots began calling them the Black Sheep. The name has remained through various conflicts, base changes and airframe changes.

Previously, 8th FS pilots have flown the F-117, F-15, F-4, F-80, P-51 and P-38.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Navy Pic of the Day - VFA-15 Hornet on Nimitz Flightdeck

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Tophatters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14 is secured on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) at sunset. Operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility are focused on reassuring regional partners of the U.S. commitment to security, which promotes stability and global prosperity. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David Mercil/Released)

Hurricane Hunters fly first winter storm

Flightline personnel ensure a WC-130J is prepared to fly a winter storm mission by de-icing the aircraft.

by Senior Airman Kimberly Erickson
403rd Wing Public Affairs

12/21/2009 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- Members of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron here have been tasked by National Weather Service officials to fly their first winter storm of the season on the East Coast starting Dec. 25.

The Air Force Reserve's 53rd WRS "Hurricane Hunters," assigned to the 403rd Wing here, normally collect weather data during tropical storms, enabling forecasters to make more accurate predictions.

Between hurricane seasons, the Hurricane Hunters have a lesser known, but equally important role: collecting weather data during winter storms.

"Whenever there's a system track that will cause an impact, there's potential for winter storms," said Lt. Col. Jon Talbot, a 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer since 1992.

To prepare for a winter storm flying mission, the Hurricane Hunters carefully plan the mission, review which flying route they will take and make altitude reservations by coordinating with air traffic control, said Lt. Col. Roy Deatherage, a 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer.

"The National Weather Service runs computer models that forecast the weather three to five days in advance of a storm," Colonel Talbot said. As an aerial reconnaissance weather officer, he acts as a mission director and liaison between the National Weather Service and his crew.

"Winter storms have a lot of impact," he said, detailing the emergency services and salt trucks that are used once the threat of a winter storm has been confirmed.

The Hurricane Hunters have two winter storm missions, Colonel Talbot said. The first is the Pacific mission. "We average 20 missions over 30 days when we deploy our airplanes to either Alaska or Hawaii." The second is flying winter storms locally in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Atlantic Ocean.

"The goal is to improve the weather forecast for the East Coast because we have a lot of people and money tied up in the Washington to Boston corridor," Colonel Talbot said.

The return of investment for flying winter storms and collecting data is an estimated 15 percent greater accuracy in weather forecasting.

"There are some 5,000 salt trucks in New York City alone," Colonel Talbot said. The increase in forecasting accuracy directly impacts emergency management capabilities by reducing the unnecessary dispatch of resources, which can be costly.

"If you collect the right information at the right place -- over the Pacific Ocean -- you can make a big impact to the forecast four to five days later," Colonel Talbot said. The idea is to fly winter storms before they happen to make the forecast better for the entire Northeastern community.

Colder weather at high altitudes presents a unique challenge to the Hurricane Hunters since the crew must remain cognizant of icing, said Maj. Kevin Fryar, a 53rd WRS aerial reconnaissance weather officer.

The Hurricane Hunters fly WC-130Js at high altitudes, typically 5 to 10,000 feet above their normal range, and drop small weather canisters, or dropsondes, designed to collect weather data in key locations of high-weather activity.

Weather information collected from the dropsondes is then transmitted to the National Weather Service and is ultimately used by forecasters to assess weather patterns enabling them to forecast more accurately.

In a storm, data is transmitted to the National Weather Agency and is later passed on to the Air Force Weather Network, Colonel Talbot said.

"When you fly a hurricane mission, you know you're making a difference," Colonel Talbot said. "With this mission, we know there are people waiting for the information we give to make the best possible forecast. It's essentially the same thing (as a hurricane mission)."

To Colonel Talbot, a 24-year veteran to the weather field, the experience is as rewarding as it is beneficial.

"What other meteorologists get to fly? You get the best of both worlds." he said.

To the people waiting for the forecast, the information he collects can mean the difference between spending hundreds of thousands in preparing for the weather rather than millions of dollars reacting to it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Milcom Blog Logs - HF 19-20 Dec 2009 - Mid Atlantic

Ron up in Maryland checks in again with more Milcom Blog Logs, this time from the HF spectrum. Thanks Ron for sharing. All times UTC and freqs are in KHz.

19 Dec:

07527.0 TSC (Customs National Law Enforcement Communications Center -- Technical Service Center and COTHEN Remote Transmitter, Orlando, FL ): 1345 USB/ALE calling KVQ (USCGC NANTUCKET WPB 1316 St. Petersburg, FL).

08047.0 RLD (Virginia ArNG Richland VA): 2116 USB/ALE sounding.

08345.0 RKW95 (Russian Navy): 0020 CW calling RIT (Russian Navy Northern Fleet HQ Severomorsk). RJH74 & RJD38 also noted calling.

08968.0 PLASPR (Secure Internet Protocol node, Lajes PO): 1412 USB/ALE sounding.

08968.0 CROSPR (Secure Internet Protocol node, RAF Croughton UK): 2310 USB/ALE sounding. Nodes at Amdrews & McClellan also noted sounding.

08983.0 CaamsLant Chesapeake: 1826 USB w/CG 6607 (MH-65C Unknown location-weak) who reports ops normal.

11175.0 Reach 5419: 1739 USB w/unheard station.

11175.0 Andrews: 2006 USB w/Rama 41 (B-1B 77TH BS, ELLESWORTH AFB SD) in pp to 312-675-XXXX (Ellesworth Metro) --Andrews requests they QSY to 15010.0.

11232.0 Trenton Military: 1732 USB w/Canforce 2313 in radio checks and establishing selcal standby.

15010.0 Andrews: 2008 USB w/Rama 41 in pp w/Ellesworth Metro w/request for landing wx. First time for mne to see HFGSC stations use this freq.

20 Dec:

07361.5 OPSFMH (AASF Massachusetts Army National Guard (ARNG), Otis ANGB MA): 1823 USB/ALE sounding.

08171.5 C4M (prob US Army): 1800 USB/ALE sounding.

11175.0 Offutt: 1453 USB w/Reach 5147 in pp w/TACC 779-XXXX. Offutt requests they QSY to 11226.0.

11220.0 Offutt: 1506 USB w/Reach 5147.

11223.0 XSS (UK DHFCS, Forest Moor UK): 1955 USB/ALE sounding.

11226.0 Offutt: 1456 USB w/Reach 5147 (id as tail # 05-3147...C-130J 314thAW / 48thAS Little Rock AFB) in pp w/TACC 779-XXXX. Reach 5147 requests that since they have negative upload/download for Wright-Patterson AFB OH that they go direct to final destination of Little Rock AFB AR. Offutt has "issues" with his radio and advises that he will try to connect via the Puerto Rico remote location. Offutt id's self as Puerto Rico & requests they QSY to 11220.0.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What is an EAM?

This question was recently posted to the UDXF newsgroup:

"I'm new on the list -- do I understand correctly that "EAM" refers to Emergency Action Message? If so, I wonder if all these are related to the weather in the northeast USA."

What is an EAM is a common question that milcom monitors get all the time. EAMs (Emergency Action Messages) have nothing to do with the weather. They are specialized messages transmitted for command and control to various U.S. military units. A basic understanding of what an EAM is can be found at This was written by the dean of USSTRATCOM monitors Jeff Haverlah.

I added additional and new material to Jeff's piece in this month's Monitoring Times magazine in my monthly Milcom column. In my column titled November-Foxtrot-India-India-Four-Sierra: DoD EAMs revisited, I think the best information comes from the top dogs in DoD, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

In a JCS instruction 5721.01D dated February 8, 2008 on Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications (NC3) Hybrid Solution (HS), they wrote: "EAMs are highly structured, authenticated messages primarily used in the C2 (Command and Control) of nuclear forces. EAMs are disseminated over numerous survivable and non‑survivable communication systems, including terrestrial and space systems."

In another online publication published in 2008, the Nuclear Matters: A Practical Guide, Chapter 5 had these two statements: “Emergency Action Message – Use Authorization Control. An Emergency Action Message (EAM) is the medium through which actions involving nuclear weapons are authorized. These messages are encrypted and sent to lower‑echelon units for action. The messages have different formats and may require authentication with sealed authentication code cards depending on the intent of the message. “National Military Command and Control System. The Joint Staff Director for Operations (J‑3) operates the C2 system. EAMs are conveyed to the Combatant Commands through secure communications links.”

There is a lot more to this story so if you are a Monitoring Times print or MTXpress subscriber, you can get the rest of the story including frequency and other comm networks (terrestrial , HF and satellite) info on pages 52/53 of your December 2009 Monitoring Times.

And the article mentioned above is not the end of this story. I have more that I plan on publishing in a future Milcom column in MT. You can get more information on MT and MTXpress at or

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Navy Bids Farewell to USNS San Jose, Combat Stores Ships

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Military Sealift Command combat stores ship USNS San Jose (T-AFS 7) marked the close of 39 years of service to the Navy fleet in a shipboard ceremony Dec. 18 in Pearl Harbor.

The event paid tribute to the ship and the hundreds of sailors and civil service mariners who have served as its crew over the past three decades, ensuring that San Jose played its part in keeping the U.S. Navy fleet at sea, on station and combat ready by delivering vital supplies to deployed warships worldwide.

San Jose will be deactivated from the Navy in January 2010 and is the last of eight combat stores ships to deactivate from MSC's Naval Fleet Auxiliary Force. These ships delivered food, spare parts, mail, fuel and other supplies to U.S. Navy ships at sea. San Jose and five other combat stores ships were originally crewed by sailors until they were transferred to MSC in the 1990s and shifted to civil service mariner crewing. The others came directly to MSC from the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary in the early 1980s.

San Jose transferred to MSC in October 1993. During its service with MSC, San Jose conducted countless underway replenishments with Navy combatant ships operating in support of missions, most recently in providing logistics support to Navy ships in the Arabian Gulf supporting both Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

San Jose has also supported U.S. disaster response and humanitarian assistance missions. In 2005, San Jose provided logistics support to hospital ship USNS Mercy as it played a key role in international efforts to provide assistance to victims of the December 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia.

"All of the crews who have served on board USNS San Jose have set and maintained the highest standard of excellence in underway logistics to our Navy," said Capt. Jerome Hamel, the commodore in charge of MSC's combat logistics force ships operating in the Eastern Pacific.

The combat stores ships are being replaced by the newly built Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo/ammunition ships. To date, eight of an expected class of 14 dry cargo/ammunition ships have been delivered to the Navy.

"Being here to recognize these ships and the professional merchant mariners who sail them is appropriate," said Hamel. "These mariners will now move into the future with the Lewis and Clark-class ships that will continue to support the fleet and take on new missions and roles as fresh challenges arrive."

The nearly 600 foot-long San Jose completed its final mission Dec. 3, when it returned to port in Pearl Harbor with a crew of 120 civil service mariners and a 40-member military detachment. Today's ceremony marks the end of the ship's operations. The bulk of the crew will disembark the ship following the ceremony and the official deactivation will take place in mid- to late January 2010.

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

Navy Accepts Delivery of Future USS Independence

The littoral combat ship Independence (LCS 2) underway during builder's trials. Builder's trials are the first opportunity for the shipbuilder and the U.S. Navy to operate the ship underway, and provide an opportunity to test and correct issues before acceptance trials. (Photo courtesy Dennis Griggs General Dynamics/Released)

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy officially accepted delivery of the future USS Independence (LCS 2) Dec. 18 during a short ceremony in Mobile, Ala. Independence is the second littoral combat ship delivered to the Navy, and the first LCS of the General Dynamics variant. LCS is a new breed of U.S. Navy warship with versatile warfighting capabilities, capable of open-ocean operation, but optimized for littoral, or coastal, missions.

"Today marks a critical milestone in the life of the LCS 2," said Rear Adm. James Murdoch, the LCS program manager in the Navy's Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships. "The Navy and our industry partners have worked diligently to deliver a much-needed capability."

Prior to delivery, the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) conducted Acceptance Trials aboard LCS 2 on Nov. 13-19, and found the ship's propulsion plant, sea-keeping and self-defense performance to be "commendable," and recommended that the chief of naval operations authorize delivery of the ship following the correction or waiver of cited material deficiencies.

Between now and sail away in February 2010, the contractor will correct most of the trial cards received during trials. Any remaining cards will be corrected during scheduled post-delivery maintenance availabilities including the post-shakedown availability scheduled for completion in 2011.

Delivery is the last shipbuilding milestone before commissioning, scheduled for Jan. 16 in Mobile, Ala.

The LCS class is designed from the keel up to deliver efficient capability, capacity, and flexibility to the warfighter. Independence, a high-speed aluminum trimaran, is designed to defeat asymmetric "anti-access" threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft. The 417-foot Independence will be outfitted with reconfigurable payloads, called mission packages, which can be changed out quickly. These mission packages focus on three mission areas: mine counter measures, surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare.

PEO Ships is responsible for the development and acquisition of U.S. Navy surface ships and has delivered eight major surface ships to the fleet since the beginning of 2009. PEO Ships is working in conjunction with its industry partners to achieve steady production for all programs to increase production efficiencies and leverage cost savings. Delivering high-quality war fighting assets ¯ while balancing affordability and capability ¯ is key to supporting the Navy's Maritime Strategy and building the Navy's 313-ship force structure. PEO Ships is committed to delivering quality ships at an affordable price.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Joint Connection in the Skies Over Afghanistan

An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41 refuels from a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender aircraft. The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is on a deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Graham Scarbro/Released)

USS NIMITZ, At Sea (NNS) -- Air Force tankers provide a vital in-flight refueling lifeline to extend Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 missions over Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

CVW 11 aircraft assigned to the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) leave the flight deck from hundreds of miles away to support troops on the ground in Afghanistan. The KC-10A Extender is an airborne gas station capable of delivering 350,000 pounds of fuel per mission to U.S. and coalition aircraft.

"We work very well with our coalition partners both in the air, U.S. Air Force and other coalition air forces from the region, and with the troops on the ground," said Rear Adm. John W. Miller, commander, Nimitz Carrier Strike Group/Carrier Strike Group 11, "We are all on the same team and we are all trying to accomplish the same mission."

CVW 11 aviators work with Army air controllers on the ground and Air Force assets in the sky to provide joint precision support to counter insurgency operations.

"Without the ability to utilize joint tanker operations we would be unable to provide the continuous un-interrupted support of ground forces in Afghanistan," said Lt. Tommy Kolwicz, assistant operations officer for Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 97.

Since entering the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations Sept. 18., CVW 11 has flown more than 1,800 sorties and totaled more than 10,000 cumulative flight hours in support of OEF.

Nimitz provides 30 percent of the close air support to the coalition force in Afghanistan.

Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is comprised of Nimitz, embarked CVW 11, embarked Destroyer Squadron 23, and the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chosin. Ships assigned to Destroyer Squadron 23 include the destroyers USS Pinckney, USS Sampson and the frigate USS Rentz.

Squadrons from CVW 11 include the "Black Aces" of Strike Fighter Squadron 41, the "Tophatters" of VFA 14, the "Warhawks" of VFA 97, the "Sidewinders" of VFA 86, the "Indians" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6, the "Black Ravens" of Electronic Attack Squadron 135, the "Providers" of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 and the "Wallbangers" of Carrier Airborne Command and Control Squadron 117.

Helicopter detachments include the "Easy Riders" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light 37, the "Battle Cats" of HSL 43, the "Wolfpack" of HSL 45, the "Scorpions" of HSL 49 and the "Wildcards" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23. Also accompanying the Nimitz CSG are Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 and the USNS Bridge.

Army Announces Force Structure Actions at Fort Lewis WA

The Army announced today the planned activation of the 4th Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group. This force structure action represents a net increase of 432 military authorizations and four civilian authorizations at Fort Lewis, Wash., and two civilian authorizations at Yakima Training Center, Wash. Implementation of these changes is expected to be completed in August 2011.

New Troops Arrive in Afghanistan

The first of 30,000 new troops have arrived in Afghanistan.

Army Announces Force Structure Actions

The Department of the Army announced today a series of planned unit activations at three installations. These force structure actions will result in an increase of 70 soldiers and 164 civilians at Fort Gordon, Ga., and an increase of 90 soldiers and 92 civilians at two different locations: Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Fort Eustis, Va. Implementation of these changes is scheduled to be completed in January 2010.

The 7th Signal Command (Theater) will activate at Fort Gordon, Ga. Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 106th Signal Brigade will activate at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 93rd Signal Brigade will activate at Fort Eustis, Va.

The 7th Signal Command will extend LandWarNet capabilities to operating and generating forces in support of U.S.-based information-enabled expeditionary operations in support of the Grow the Army Initiative. LandWarNet is the Army’s part of the DoD information technology infrastructure.

Milcom Blog Logs - HF 16-17 Dec 2009 - Mid Atlantic

Ron up in Maryland checks in again with more Milcom Blog Logs, this time from the HF spectrum. Thanks Ron for sharing. All times UTC and freqs are in KHz.

16 Dec:

09025.0 GBL (unid): 0900 USB/.ALE sounding.

09025.0 FAA (HQs FAA, Wash DC): 1030 USB/ALE sounding.

09462.0 FC0FEM (Communications Manager, FEMA Region 10, Bothell WA): 2330 USB/ALE sounding.

17 Dec:

02658.0 FC8 (Communications Manager, FEMA Region 8 Denver, CO): 1200 USB/ALE sounding.

03441.0 FC8FEM006 (Communications Manager, FEMA Region 8 Denver, CO): 1230 USB/ALE sounding.

05402.0 FC8 (Communications Manager, FEMA Region 8 Denver, CO): 1400 USB/ALE sounding.

09352.2 KLE444 (unid), KLE439 (unid) & KLE444 (unid): 1845 USB/ALE sounding.

11175.0 Andrews: 1929 USB w/Beret 22 (poss E-4B NAOC) who requests pp w/DSN 872-XXXX. Andrews rerquests they QSY to 11232.0.

11232.0 Andrews: 1930 USB w/Beret 22--readability fades out after initial contact. First time for me to hear any HFGSC station use 11232.0 USB.

11494.0 LNT (CamsLant Chesapeake): 1937 USB/ALE calling J41 (USCG MH-60J #6041 CGAS Elizabeth City NC). In voice Camslant asks J41 (not heard) for position. CamsLant
also requests that K41 verify that his tail number is 6041 and not 6001. Response not heard.

08971.0 ??? 588 (call missed-P-3C NAS Jacksonville FL): 2048 USB calling Fiddle (TSCC NAS Jacksonville FL) w/no response. (RP-MD)

08886.4 O/M (Spanish): 2122 USB/ALE w/O/M (Spanish). (RP-MD).

08832.0 O/M (Spanish): 2127 USB w/unheard station. (RP-MD)

08816.7 O/M (unid tonal lang, prob SE Asian): 2128 USB w/Y/L (unid tonal lang, prob SE Asian). (RP-MD)

08301.6 Unid: 2140 ANDVT. (RP-MD).

15016.0 Puerto Rico: 2145 USB w/Navy LT (P-3C VP-62 NAS Jacksonville FL-not heard). Puerto Rico adsvises that Offutt cannot hear them and that Puerto Rico has them

unreadable. (RP-MD).

08832.5 O/M (Spanish): 2159 USB w/unheard station. (RP-MD)

09082.0 034MERCAP (Civil Air Patrol, Middle East Region): 2204 USB/ALE sounding. New CAP ALE freq (for me at least). (RP-MD)

09007.0 Trenton Military: 2230 USB w/Akela 71 (MC-130P/HC-130N 550S0W KIRKLAND AFB, NM) in pp w/Kirkland Metro w/request for landing wx at Kirktland. (RP-MD)

18 Dec:

09047.0 101NCRCAP (Civil Air Patrol, Nat'l Capitol Region) & 034MERCAP (Civil Air Patrol, Middle East Region): 1730 USB/ALE sounding. (RP-MD)

09034.0 K56 (USCG MH-65C # 6556 CGAS Borinquen PR): 2000 USB/ALE sounding. (RP-MD)

08957.0 Shannon: 2009 USB/ALE w/volmet. (RP-MD)

12222.0 CamsLant Chesapeake: 21012 USB w/Kilo 18 (USCG MH-65C #6518 HITRON Jacksonville FL-not heard) who reports on final for homeplate & securing radio guard. (RP-


08912.0 I34 (US Customs CESSNA 550 #N2734K): 2016 USB/ALE sounding. Then in voice but too weak to copy. (RP-MD)

11175.0 King 74 (USAF HC-130): 2023 USB calling Mainsail w/request. Answered by Puerto Rico who asks they QSY to 11232.0 (RP-MD)

11232.0 Puerto Rico: 2024 USB w/King 74 in pp w/Kirkland Metro w/landing wx for 2300Z. (RP-MD).

08888.0 Luanda (RDARA Angola): 2133 USB w/Springbok 421 w/position report. Luanda is L/C at my QTH. (RP-MD).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

HSC 25 Welcomes Detachment 6 Back from Deployment

MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters from the Island Knights of Helicopter Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 conduct a vertical replenishment between the Military Sealift Command dry-cargo/ammunition ship USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE 3) and the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). George Washington is underway supporting security and stability in the western Pacific Ocean during her inaugural deployment from Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John M. Hageman/Released)

By Jesse Leon Guerrero, Joint Region Marianas Public Affairs

SANTA RITA, Guam (NNS) -- Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 welcomed home Detachment 6 from an eight-month deployment Dec. 9.

Det. 6 was embarked aboard USS Essex (LHD 2) and USS Denver (LPD 9).

Det. 6 left the island to support the joint military exercises Balikatan 2009 in the Philippines, Talisman Saber in Australia, Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX) 21G in Japan, and humanitarian assistance operations for Taiwan. They flew more than 700 hours to complete 377 sorties and five medical evacuations, while providing search and rescue (SAR) capabilities for the Navy ships' amphibious operations.

"I'm really impressed with their capabilities," said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Phillips, officer in charge of Det. 6. "They're always on top of things, backing up the pilots whenever possible."

According to Phillips, the goal of the joint exercises was to enhance relations between the U.S. and allied forces and improve coordination for future missions. During ANNUALEX 21G, Det. 6 collaborated with their counterparts in the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force.

Det. 6 helped move food, water, and medical supplies from sea to shore when Southern Taiwan suffered intense flooding and mudslides that claimed the lives of hundreds in August.

"As part of the group of Det. 6, being there to help those people out is very rewarding," said Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class (AW) Lawrence Dave.

HSC 25 is the Navy's only forward deployed vertical replenishment squadron providing deployed ships a rapid, safe, and versatile means of resupplying diminishing stores. In addition, HSC 25 provides 24-hour search and rescue and medical evacuation services for Guam and the northern Mariana Islands.

Combatant Commands Conduct Missile Exercise

By Army Sgt. Josh LeCappelain, Special to American Forces Press Service

SUFFOLK, Va - U.S. Joint Forces Command, in partnership with U.S. Strategic Command, concluded a two-day proof-of-concept missile exercise here yesterday (December 16).

"All Things Missile," which started in April 2008, is a program that consolidates integrated air- and missile-defense training solutions across all military services. The partnership works to integrate multiple missile defense systems into one device that can coordinate with all of them.

The Truth Interface Unit, or TIU, takes information from different systems during training events and disseminates it to others rapidly in a synchronized manner. Exercise trainers are able to make changes directly into TIUs, which push information to systems in the field such as the Aegis long-range surveillance and track system, the joint tactical ground station and the Army/Navy transportable radar surveillance system.

Servicemembers at command cells are able to view updated information from their computer screens, tracking changes as they happen.

The proof-of-concept exercise tested the TIU's capabilities and its initial integration with the Joint Live Virtual Construct Federation and gave participants a better idea of how to get this capability to training audiences. Previously, missile training scenarios required four separate simulations that required extensive coordination, synchronization and resources.

Pat McVay, a liaison between Joint Forces Command and Stratcom, said the partnership is making remarkable progress, noting that officials are a year ahead of schedule in getting "All Things Missile" operational. The goal is to have initial operating capability by the summer of 2011, he added.

"We determined early on that we were first going to take a lot of time to identify the problem and identify what the training requirements were and not jump to solutions, which we sometimes do too early on in the process," said McVay, noting that the ultimate goal is full integration with the JLVC Federation. "I think we have identified those training requirements, and we are here this week, at Joint Forces Command, to finalize those requirements."

Representatives from the Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Northern Command attended the exercise to see progress first-hand and learn how they will integrate it into their organization's capabilities.

"I think this project is a perfect example of how, from a joint perspective, we're supposed to act as an enterprise," said Greg Knapp, Joint Forces Command's Joint Warfighting Center executive director. "Joint Forces Command's role is the lead for joint training in a functional role, but really what that means is we have to work with the operational requirements of combatant commanders to bring in the agencies, bring in the service components, and then make sure we all work towards common solutions."

Knapp added that finding and certifying – rather than building and developing – will bring about large savings in the project's acquisition.

McVay noted that U.S. Central Command and U.S. European Command recently became more involved in the process, as All Things Missile looks into adding follow-on capability in the air- and missile-defense areas.

Logistics 'Bridge' Supports Afghan Conflict

By Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - The Defense Department moves troops and supplies into land-locked Afghanistan via an air-and-land logistics "bridge" that transits Central Asia, a senior defense official said at a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday.

The air-and-ground transport and supply routes, known as the Northern Distribution Network, are employed "to ship supplies through Central Asia to our troops in Afghanistan," David Samuel Sedney, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Central Asia affairs.

Central Asia spans from the Caspian Sea in the west to central China in the east, and from southern Russia to the north to northern India to the south. Countries in the region include Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, northeastern Iran, northwestern India, and western parts of China.

Since November 2008, Sedney said, Pentagon and State Department officials "worked with Central Asia governments to build a robust transit network that supports our shared fight against the threat of extremism."

For example, U.S. forces have access to the Manas Transit Center near Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan, Sedney said. The center is managed primarily by the U.S. Air Force. The facility is located next to Manas International Airport, through which the majority of U.S. combat troops are transported to Afghanistan.

"We greatly appreciate the willingness of the Kyrgyz government to continue its support in our common struggle," he said, "and look forward to maintaining this important link in our logistical network."

The Defense Department conducts military overflights of most countries in Central Asia, Sedney said.

"We have close relationships with each transit country," he said, "and are working to increase over flights and open new flight paths."

President Barack Obama's directive to deploy 30,000 extra U.S. troops to Afghanistan in coming months means the supply mission will be ramped up, Sedney said. Nearly 5,000 supply containers, he said, have been shipped to the war theater via the Northern Distribution Network over the past 11 months.

"We will expand this number in 2010 to meet the new demand, and will continue to support our effort to defeat al-Qaida," he said.

Another component of the logistics system is a local purchasing program, Sedney said, which works with Central Asian businesses to buy materials for use in Afghanistan. "We save money on shipping, while local economies benefit from increased trade," he explained.

The Northern Distribution Network, Sedney said, provides "an effective means to resupply our warfighters and provides capacity and redundancy to complement our heavily burdened lines through Pakistan."

Meanwhile, department officials also are working with some Central Asian countries north of Afghanistan to address local issues of security and humanitarian relief, Sedney said.

"With the help of [Defense Department] training, our partner governments are building modern counterterrorist, peacekeeping and de-mining capabilities," Sedney said.

Through this engagement, he added, the United States and participating Central Asian nations "work together to create stable governments, peaceful societies and a secure zone" north of Afghanistan.

Multinational wing completes first mission into Iraq

A C-17 Globemaster III from the multinational Heavy Airlift Wing based at Papa Air Base, Hungary, makes the new unit's first landing at Baghdad International Airport, Iraq. The airlift into Iraq was a first by the wing and facilitated the deployment for members of the NATO Training Mission-Iraq. The wing operates three C-17s and includes NATO member nations Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the U.S., as well as Partnership for Peace nations Finland and Sweden. (U.S. Air Force photo)

by 1st Lt. J.D. Griffin, United States Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- A recent flight into Iraq marks another unit milestone for the multinational Heavy Airlift Wing based at Pápa Air Base, Hungary.

The airlift mission into Iraq by the wing, which comprises 12 member nations, facilitated the deployment for members of the NATO Training Mission-Iraq.

"Each time we fly a mission into a different area of responsibility, it confirms the 12-nation commitment to support each other's national requirements without regard to whether an individual nation has troops involved in that area," Col. John Zazworsky, HAW commander, said. "Like each of our other missions to date, we flew this mission with multinational crew members in all crew positions."

The mission also enabled the redeployment of 30 International Security Assistance Force members and 25 tons of equipment from Afghanistan. Combining missions and increasing airlift efficiencies is a central wing goal.

"The HAW is starting to make a real difference in moving missions to Iraq and Afghanistan," Col. Mark Melville, chief of the Air Mobility Division, 603rd Air Operations Center, said.

The difference made by the HAW is also noticed by members of the various commands working with them.

"I've been here four years and this is one of the smoothest moves we've had yet," Capt. Terry White, movement and transportation officer, Joint Forces Command-Naples, said. "They understood all the required procedures, pre-filed all the diplomatic clearances, and they were on time."

The quality of airlift provided by the wing activated less than a year ago comes from the airmen.

"The capability of any unit comes down to the caliber of the personnel in the unit," Colonel Zazworsky said. "In our case, we have moved from idea to combat operations in three years. This has been possible because of the quality airmen from all the nations who volunteered to take on the challenges of this effort.

"In some areas, the C-17 specific expertise of the U.S. Air Force Airmen allowed us to get started quickly. In other areas, the experience of many European air forces with the use of shared military capabilities allowed us to tailor our command and control process to fit our concept of operations."

The wing operates three C-17 Globemaster IIIs and includes NATO member nations Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the U.S., as well as Partnership for Peace nations Finland and Sweden.

The wing activated July 27, and each nation committed to the 30-year Strategic Airlift Capability program to collectively solve global heavy airlift issues and meet obligations to the European Union, United Nations and NATO.

"There are two areas of experience that U.S. Air Force Airmen have been able to share," Colonel Zazworsky said. "First, expertise with C-17 operations and support has helped our other members make the adjustments to strategic airlift operations. Second, the experience of our families with multiple change-of-station moves helped other nations' families adjusting to new locations, since they tend not to move their families as often as the USAF."

Close encounters of the FalconSAT kind

by Jack Anthony, U.S. Air Force Academy Space Systems Research Center

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) -- Satellites from the U.S. Air Force Academy and the Department of Energy intentionally passed within five kilometers of each other in orbit Dec. 13, with one satellite's sensors trained upon the other.

The two satellites are the Academy's cadet-built FalconSAT-3 satellite and the Cibola experimental satellite operated by the energy department's Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M.

Cibola's sensors were trained on FalconSAT-3 to help the FalconSAT team investigate a spacecraft altitude determination and control problem, said Col. Marty France, the head of the Academy's Astronautics Department. The anomaly has hindered FalconSAT-3's array of Defense Department on-orbit space experiments.

In the past, not much thought was given to this occasional flyby. This time the Cibola visit would be a potential benefit to the FalconSAT-3 team. Cibola could use its star camera sensors to observe FalconSAT-3, possibly shedding light onto the nature of FalconSAT-3's wobble and contributing to corrective actions for FalconSAT-3.

"The key to success was making sure Cibola knew where FalconSAT-3 was and then imaging the satellite when the sun was in the right position relative to the two spacecraft," said Cadet 1st Class Ben Shoptaugh, the FalconSAT-3 Ops team lead.

Los Alamos officials developed a complicated series of attitude maneuvers to support the encounter. The partnership between Los Alamos and the Academy began March 8, 2007, when FalconSAT-3, Cibola and three other research DOD Space Test Program-sponsored satellites were launched from an Air Force Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Since achieving orbit, FalconSAT-3 and Cibola have followed similar orbits and pass close to each other every 225 to 250 days, remaining in close proximity for about two days during each pass.

Dr. Diane Roussel-Dupre, the Cibola program manager and mission operations lead, and Cindy Little, the spacecraft command programmer, spearheaded the cooperative assistance. They and the Cibola operations team quickly planned the two-day encounter wherein both spacecraft would briefly share the same orbital neighborhood. 2nd Lt. Joe Robinson, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has also helped with the investigation.

In just two days, the Cibola and FalconSAT teams shared information and agreed that the joint effort was a go. The cadet team configured FalconSAT-3's systems and physics sensors to collect additional information during the flyby. Cadet Shoptaugh and his crew sent commands Dec. 12 to prepare FalconSAT-3 for the Cibola visit and reported the cadet satellite was ready.

Next, the Cibola team went into action, executing nearly 36 hours of high-tempo operations as the DOE satellite reoriented and aimed its sensors during the weekend. They aimed at FalconSAT-3 26 times to capture information that could help the cadets resolve the problem.

The Los Alamos- and Academy-based teams will continue their partnership when the FalconSAT-3 cadets return in early January, collaborating with detailed data processing and analysis. The data will give cadets a better shot at fixing FalconSAT-3's wobble and fully resuming the Academy's space science exploration endeavors.

U.S. was Warned of Predator Drone Hacking

Iraqi insurgents have reportedly intercepted live video feeds from the U.S. military's Predator drones using a $25.95 Windows application which allows them to track the pilotless aircraft undetected.

Hackers working with Iraqi militants were able to determine which areas of the country were under surveillance by the U.S. military, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, adding that video feeds from drones in Afghanistan also appear to have been compromised.

When a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, is far from its base, terrain prohibits it from transmitting directly to its operator. Instead, it switches to a satellite link. That means an enterprising hacker can use his own satellite dish, a satellite modem, and a copy of the SkyGrabber Windows utility sold by the Russian company SkySoftware to intercept and display the UAV's transmissions.

Iraqi interest in intercepting U.S. military transmissions is not exactly new. A report prepared for the CIA director after the U.S. invasion and occupation noted that Saddam Hussein assigned a young relative with a master's degree in computer science to intercept transmissions from U.S. satellites. The relative, "Usama," was secretly given office space in the Baghdad Aerospace Research Center, which had access to satellite downlinks.

The 2005 CIA report compiled by special advisor Charles Duelfer quotes Abd al-Tawab Huwaysh, Saddam's minister of industry, as saying he was shown real-time overhead video supposedly of U.S. military installations in Turkey, Kuwait, and Qatar before the invasion. A likely explanation, the report concludes, is that "Usama located and downloaded the unencrypted satellite feed from U.S. military UAVs."

You can read the entire CBS News copyrighted story at click here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

USS Michigan Returns from Its Maiden SSGN Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Gretchen M. Albrecht

BANGOR, Wash. (NNS) -- Sailors aboard USS Michigan (SSGN 727) returned to Bangor, Wash., Dec. 12, after successfully completing the boat's maiden deployment as a guided-missile submarine.

Michigan completed 67 strategic deterrent patrols as an SSBN before entering the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility for an engineered refueling overhaul and SSGN conversion in February 2004 and returned to service June 12, 2007.

"The deployment was highly successful, as it demonstrated the viability and adaptability of the SSGN Concept of Operations," said Capt. John Tammen, Commodore Submarine Squadron 19. "Both crews were able to deliver the numerous SSGN capabilities to the Combatant Commander and executed all assigned missions, including several that were vital to national security.

The boat deployed Nov. 10, 2008, and conducted numerous missions in concert with Naval Special Warfare, experimented with unmanned aerial vehicles, and completed several theater security cooperation engagements with foreign countries enhancing relationships with countries along the Pacific Rim.

"It feels outstanding to return to our homeport after completing a successful year forward deployed on the tip of the spear," said Master Chief Electronics Technician Thomas Metcalf, Michigan chief of the boat.

While on deployment the boat made liberty port calls in Hawaii, Guam, Singapore, Japan and South Korea.

"I really enjoyed seeing new places and meeting new people from all over the world," said Yeoman 3rd Class (SS) Jeremy Jurgensen. "Going to Japan and seeing all the historic events that took place and all the monuments that Japan has to offer was probably my favorite."

Many Sailors are glad to be home and are looking forward to some well-deserved time off with their families.

"It feels fantastic to come home from a successful deployment and have the admiration of your family and friends for doing your part to serve this great country," said Missile Technician 1st Class (SS) Cody Brophy. "I'm looking forward to spending time with my family for the holidays and getting some time to ski in the mountains of Washington."

Michigan Commanding Officer Capt. Charles Logan credits the boat's success to his dedicated Sailors and their families.

"Every day is a good day when you're in command of a warship like this one - manned by this hard-working and motivated crew," said Logan. "Both crews return with the satisfaction that we have done our part to further national interests during Michigan's first yearlong deployment as an SSGN. Motivation for this group is not an issue, and the successes the ship has achieved would not have been possible without their total effort and the support we receive from our families."

Michigan will off-load the over 100 cruise missiles and 40 tons of weapons and explosives it carried on deployment, and then go directly into a four-month major maintenance period and dry-docking at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash.

'Signaleers' Keep Communications Open

By Army 1st Lt. Dannielle Needler, Special to American Forces Press Service

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - The morale of troops here and success of their missions depends upon communication, whether it's within Iraq or calling back home.

Keeping communications open for the 1st Armored Division's 4th Brigade is the responsibility of "signaleers" -- technicians who enable the commander to send key tactical messages and allow soldiers to make morale calls home.

The newly promoted team chief for the joint network node here is Army Sgt. Brandon Larson from Coon Rapids, Minn. He and his operators -- Army Sgt. Adrien Zavala from Jal, N.M.; Army Spc. Andrew Nelson from Greenfield, Ind.; Army Spc. Aaron Stevens from Fayetteville, N.C.; and Army Spc. Victor Crum from Montgomery, Ala. -- emplace equipment, run cables and provide the access point for the rest of the brigade's communications.

"At the beginning, everything that could go wrong did go wrong," Larson said. But despite the challenges and obstacles throughout the emplacement process, the soldiers of "B" Company were able to remain focused on the mission, he added.

Soldiers of Joint Network Node 92 here have been working around the clock to provide tactical communications for the brigade's headquarters and its subordinate battalions. They provide services such as Internet phones, Internet connectivity and a secure data network so commanders can have command and control over every operation.

Working just as hard at Contingency Operating Site Garryowen, the soldiers of Joint Network Node 7791 provide vital communication services to 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment. Army Sgt. Jeryll Delmar from Grapevine, Texas, and Army Spc. Paul Weigand of Manhattan, Kan., established and maintain a satellite link connecting the regiment's command to the rest of the brigade.

"It's amazing how important our mission is to the brigade," Delmar said.

"The soldiers' hard work has given the battalion the ability to communicate with counterparts throughout Iraq and back to the United States," he added. "Without the hard work and dedication of these soldiers, [4th Battalion] would not be able to conduct operations as efficiently in the Iraq theater."