Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Armed Forces Inaugural Committee Moves Into High Gea

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 30, 2008 - Exactly three weeks before Inauguration Day, the buzz of activity at the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee here is a notable exception to the traditional holiday lull that settles over the nation's capital between Christmas and New Year's Day.

More than 400 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen – active duty, reservists and National Guardsmen -- are busy preparing for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration Jan. 20. Another 300 will report for duty after New Year's, bringing AFIC to full strength with about 700 servicemembers.

"We're spinning up for the full dress rehearsal Jan. 11," Navy Lt. Mike Billips, a reservist from Atlanta serving as an AFIC spokesman, said. The rehearsal will kick off in the dark at about 3 a.m., when participants go through two full iterations of the swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol, then parade down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House.

"The curtain goes up on Jan. 20, and everything has to be locked down perfect before then," Billips said. "So it's a lot of rehearsal, a lot of coordination and a lot of training for the people who are coming in."

The incoming servicemembers will get intensive training for the ceremonial support they'll provide at the inauguration ceremony and 10 official inaugural balls, Billips said. Some will be in the midst of the fanfare, serving as honor guards, marching bands, musical units, salute batteries, drivers, ushers and escorts for distinguished visitors. Others will work behind the scenes, helping to ensure the events go off seamlessly.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Finney, a telecommunications technician from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, assigned to AFIC's information technology directorate, called being a part of the inauguration a rare opportunity. "I am excited to be a part of our nation's history," he said.

"I am honored to be a part of a committee of this caliber," Army Spc. Kevyn Coleman agreed. "This is definitely an assignment to talk about years from now. In my personal opinion, I don't think that I have ever had a better assignment."

The 2009 inauguration will be the 56th in which the military has played a role in welcoming the incoming commander in chief. During the first, in April 1789, U.S. Army, local militia units and Revolutionary War veterans escorted George Washington to his inaugural ceremony at New York City's Federal Hall.

Navy to Commission Aircraft Carrier George H.W. Bush

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy's newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush will be commissioned Jan. 10, 2009, during a ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.

President George W. Bush will deliver the principal address. Dorothy "Doro" Bush Koch, daughter of the ship's namesake, is the ship's sponsor. In the time-honored Navy tradition, she will give the order to "man our ship and bring her to life!"

The last Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is named to honor World War II naval aviator and America's 41st president George H. W. Bush. Born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Mass., Bush began a lifetime of service to America when he joined the Navy on his 18th birthday as a seaman. He became the youngest pilot in the Navy at the time, receiving his commission and naval aviator wings before his 19th birthday.

Bush flew the Avenger torpedo bomber in combat from the carrier USS San Jacinto. During an attack on enemy installations near Chichi Jima in September 1944, his plane was hit by enemy fire while making a bombing run. Although the plane was on fire and heavily damaged, he completed a strafing run on the target before bailing out of the doomed aircraft. Bush parachuted into the sea and was later rescued by the Navy submarine USS Finback. He was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals for his Navy service in the Pacific theater during World War II.

After his time in the Navy ended in September 1945, Bush held a number of public service roles that included two terms as a U.S. congressman from Texas, ambassador to the United Nations, chief of the U.S. Liaison Office to China and director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He then served two terms as vice president under the late President Ronald Reagan before being elected himself as president of the United States in 1988. As commander-in-chief, Bush led the United States and a coalition of nearly 30 other nations during Operation Desert Storm, which ended Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and liberated the people of the Persian Gulf nation.

Capt. Kevin O'Flaherty, from Los Angeles, and a 1981 Naval Academy graduate, will become the ship's first commanding officer, leading a crew of more than 5,500 men and women, including embarked air wing personnel. George H. W. Bush will be initially homeported in Norfolk, Va., assigned to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Construction of the tenth Nimitz-class ship took place at Northrop Grumman-Newport News, Va., starting with the ship's keel laying Sept. 6, 2003, and christening Oct. 7, 2006. George H. W. Bush towers 20 stories above the waterline, displaces approximately 95,000 tons of water, has a flight deck width of 252 feet, and at 1,092 feet long, is nearly as long as the Empire State Building is tall. This floating airfield has a flight deck that covers 4.5 acres. Bush's two nuclear reactors are capable of more than 20 years of continuous service without refueling, providing virtually unlimited range and endurance, and a top speed in excess of 30 knots.

The ship will support a wide variety of aircraft, including the F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters, the E-2C/D Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning aircraft, the C-2 Greyhound logistics aircraft, the EA-6B Prowler and the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, multi-role SH-60 and MH-60 helicopters, and other future carrier-based aircraft.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

JTACs keep pilots on target to minimize collateral damage

by Staff Sgt. Andrea Thacker, Air Forces Central News Team

U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets deploy heat flares during a combat patrol over Afghanistan Dec. 15. Trust between joint terminal attack controllers and pilots serves as an important aspect of close-air support. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ORGUN-E, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- Minimizing collateral damage is at the forefront of military leader's priorities in Afghanistan. Those leaders depend on the teamwork between pilots and Air Force joint terminal attack controllers to ensure innocent civilians and their property aren't put at unnecessary risk.

By combining laser-guided munitions with constant communication between JTACs on the ground and pilots in the sky, collateral damage is kept at the lowest possible level.

"Preventing civilian casualties and [friendly fire] is our primary concern," said Master Sgt. Leigh Bradley, JTAC superintendent from the 19th Expeditionary Air Support Squadron. "The Air Force has gone to great lengths in providing precision strike weaponry that serves this very purpose."

The JTACs serve as liaisons between Army ground commanders and pilots by planning, communicating and coordinating close-air support to eliminate enemy threats.

These Airmen have several tools they use to minimize collateral damage such as published fixed-wing risk estimate distances, accredited collateral damage estimate charts and flight restrictions, according to Sergeant Bradley.

"These efforts provide the ground commander a valid means to neutralize a target while preserving the lives of friendly forces and the civilian populace," the 20-year JTAC added.

While the JTACs rely on their tools, the trust between them and the pilots serves as one of the most important aspects of close-air support.

"One major component of the relationship between the JTAC and the [aircrew] is the trust and understanding of expectations," said Capt. Daniel Wester, 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron weapons system officer. "The JTAC must trust that the aircrew is going to strike precisely when and where needed in order to save friendly lives. The aircrew in turn must trust that the JTAC passed [on] the right coordinates, properly assessed the threat and mitigated collateral damage to the [maximum] extent he can.

"This expectation of professionalism results from the trust that forms from the life-saving interaction between aircrew and JTACs," he said.

The pilots know to trust the JTACs because of the exhausting measures they go through before requesting kinetic weapon support.

"We do not act on a sole source of intelligence; we collect as much data as we can gather before employing anything," said Tech. Sgt. Harvey Wagenmaker, 2-506th Battalion Air liaison officer. "We have to have enough evidence to determine the [targets] to be hostile."

The JTACs also estimate the potential collateral damage to ensure there are no structures, such as schools or mosques that can be affected by the bombs impact.

"A common misconception is that bombs create a lot of uncontrolled damage," said Sergeant Wagenmaker, the 13-year JTAC deployed from Fort Campbell, Ky. "But with precision-guided munitions, our risk-estimated distances and the information we have on the munition's blast radius, unless something goes severely wrong, the bomb will hit it's intended point of impact."

It's that sort of confidence in their profession that gives military leaders the trust in their Airmen to accomplish their mission while minimizing collateral damage.

"It's a priority every time we drop [munitions]," Sergeant Wagenmaker said. "The bottom line is we go through extraordinary measures to ensure there are no civilian casualties."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Eglin Airmen test readiness during weeklong exercise

by Chrissy Cuttita, 33rd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

A 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief marshals an F-15 Eagle ready to takeoff for a simulated Operation Noble Eagle tasking during a 33rd Fighter Wing exercise Dec. 17 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Chrissy Cuttita)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- Airmen of the 33rd Fighter Wing here tested their ability to respond anytime and anywhere in support of the nation's defense during an Operation Noble Eagle exercise in mid-December.

Wing planners and exercise evaluation team members created plans and scenarios to provide an accurate replication of real-world deployment orders to the wing from higher headquarters.

Base members had to scramble F-15 Eagles as quickly as possible in an environment with increased security measures to give the exercise an authentic feeling.

"F-15s will be on alert, ready to scramble and launch against air threats to a simulated no-fly zone that is established in support of Homeland Defense," said Lt. Col. David McClanahan, the 33rd FW chief of plans and programs whose office plans exercises and evaluates the wing's performance. "We relate our employment exercises to anticipated taskings. The F-15 is an air superiority asset for America, so we're practicing homeland-defense missions."

"Once the order is received, we configure the aircraft with fuel and munitions required for the mission and conduct preflight inspections," said Senior Master Sgt. Jay Mason, the 58th Aircraft maintenance unit superintendent. "Once all required actions are complete, the aircraft is considered 'on-status' for any tasking. We are prepared to fill any and all required aircraft taskings."

During a real Operation Noble Eagle mission, Eglin AFB aircrews could shadow, intercept, escort, and provide aid or, if necessary, use force to protect North America. To intercept, pilots need to see and identify the aircraft.

For the exercise, a Civil Air Patrol-owned Cessna 206 and Cessna 337 flew into a simulated "no-fly" zone and Eglin AFB F-15 pilots had to intercept the low-flying aircraft.

"We want to give them as much realism as possible," said Capt. Grant Meadows, the director of marketing and public relations for Florida's CAP wing.

Weapons loaders also were tested as they had jets prepared to "fire" by going through all of the motions hands-on as if they were loading live missiles.

"The process of preparing and launching an alert sortie is a little different than normal and must be done in a very short amount of time," said Maj. Jonathan Bland, the 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. "The exercise gives our maintainers a chance to become more comfortable with that process and improve our speed so that we will be in top shape when called for a real mission."

Eglin AFB members also participated in creating the exercise environment with support from officials from security forces, airfield support and air traffic control.

"Maintaining air superiority takes more than pilots in airplanes, it takes lots of maintenance personnel, planners, communications specialists, and command/control personnel," Colonel McClanahan said. "We have to practice working together so it's flawless when we're tasked to do the real thing. Practice keeps our intricate air defense machine functioning seamlessly."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

DoD Announces Afghanistan Force Deployment

The Department of Defense announces today the deployment of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, from Ft. Bragg, N.C. The brigade will deploy approximately 2,800 soldiers to Afghanistan in the spring of 2009 to increase the capabilities of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Upon the recommendation of commanders on the ground, the secretary of defense approved this request, which will increase the level of forces and military capability for NATO-ISAF.

The United States continues to be NATO-ISAF’s largest troop contributor, and remains committed to leading the offensive in counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, training and equipping the Afghan national security forces and assisting with reconstruction. Force levels in Afghanistan are conditions-based and will be determined in consultation with the Afghan government and NATO.

NATO Operations Chief Discusses Deployments, Caveats

By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan - Most American troops deploying to Afghanistan in the next year will go to Regional Command South, the deputy chief of staff for operations for NATO's International Security Assistance Force said here today.
Army Maj. Gen. Michael S. Tucker said ISAF officials expect that area to have the heaviest fighting in the coming year.

"RC South is a mosaic of different [NATO] countries," he said. "There seems to be all these small regional wars."

The United Kingdom is in charge of operations in Helmand province, the Canadians are in Kandahar, the Dutch in Uruzgan, and in Nabol the force is Romanian. "They are kind of fighting their own war," he said.

In the past, the NATO commander in the south rotated every six months, and this encouraged this mosaic approach. The Dutch commander in charge now will serve a year, Tucker said. "It's now on the right track," he said.

And this is vital to success in the region, the general said, as the center of gravity in a counterinsurgency fight is not the enemy, it is the population.

"You have to build relationships with tribal elders, police chiefs, the local governments, provincial officials," he explained, "and it's hard to do that six months at a time." Army Gen. David McKiernan, who commands all NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has stressed to commanders at all levels that they must get out with the people and build these relationships.

The fight in Regional Command South also is affected by what officials call "national caveats" -- restrictions on how NATO commanders can use the military personnel of a particular country. Commanders assigning missions always must keep these restrictions in the back of their minds. U.S. forces have few caveats, and commanders can use American troops as needed.

"These caveats are strictly controlled by their national governments," Tucker said. "Some of them, for example, can't do a cordon-and-search without getting permission from their minister of defense. Some countries can't conduct an air strike without permission. Some can't cross a regional boundary with troops or helicopters without permission from their ministries."

McKiernan has addressed these caveats with various national leaders and has highlighted the effects of those restrictions. "The advantages that we have over the enemy are often taken away from us by caveats," Tucker said.

NATO has unmatched air power, but negotiating with various countries and asking for permission can take that advantage away, the general said. For example, he said, a medevac helicopter from one country could not cross a regional boundary to pick up wounded personnel in an incident over the summer.

That made an impression, Tucker said, and NATO defense ministers now are more apt to work to lessen the caveats.

"But more needs to be done," Tucker said. "You can't order. You need to nudge them in the right direction."

JABS knock out communication problems for warfighters

by Tech. Sgt. Craig Lifton, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFNS) -- Joint Airborne Battle Staff members here are similar to 911 operators in the air as they ensure convoys operating throughout Iraq are never without communications.

JABS crews flying on board C-130 Hercules aircraft fill in the gap wherever ground communication is limited in the war zone, which is especially important on the dangerous Iraqi roads where improvised explosive devices, vehicle malfunctions and accidents threaten mission success.

"The Army needed an airborne communications platform," said Capt. Seana Jones, the Multinational Corps-Iraq JABS Detachment commander. "We can be more mobile and can provide coverage in the communications gaps."

The JABS was created to fill the Army's need to keep in constant communications with convoys as they travel throughout Iraq. Ground communications stations dot the countryside, but due to distance, terrain, mechanical issues and atmospheric conditions, the ground systems can't always provide 100 percent radio coverage.

"JABS is a crucial part of the convoy mission," said Army Spc. Jamie Lipscomb, a movement control specialist with the 486th Movement Control Team from Kaiserslautern, Germany. "Without JABS, it would be virtually impossible to speak with the convoys."

Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen make up the JABS crew. Coming from different bases and career fields, these servicemembers are joined to fulfill the JABS mission.
"I am learning about how the other branches work," said Army Spc. David Jarvis, a signal support specialist deployed to JABS from the Army Garrison in Bamberg, Germany. "Everyone brings something different to the table."

Operating on board a 777th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-130s, the JABS crew listens to convoy communications traffic. When ground communications are out, the convoying servicemembers can rest assured, knowing that JABS is overhead.

"Either we intercept the call and pass the information on, or they call us directly," said Captain Jones, a New Smyrna Beach, Fla., native deployed from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. "We can call out a quick-response force, explosive ordnance disposal or aeromedical evacuation."

Ensuring the servicemembers on the ground are ready for the fight is what JABS brings to the team.

"It's essential to the guys on the ground," said Navy Chief Petty Officer Dan Boyles, an avionics technician from the Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va. "JABS gives the warfighters on deck a warm, fuzzy feeling to know they can count on us."

When JABS first started in March 2007, they had to start from scratch. They improvised and adapted to make the mission a success.

Resembling a police and fire emergency dispatch center in the air, the operating area -- four chairs arranged around a sturdy and equally secured table with laptop computers on top -- comes fully secured on a pallet, connected by cables to a second pallet with their communications equipment.

"We look out for all of the convoys," said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Humphreys, an operations specialist deployed to the MNC-I JABS Detachment from the Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. "We know what can be potentially harmful and relay the information to them."

"When JABS first started, they strapped down a card table and four folding chairs," Captain Jones said. "Now, we use chairs from salvaged vehicles that are comfortable and can recline."

The radio system, known as the Joint Airborne Communication System, or JACS, was large and difficult to move on and off the aircraft. The newest JACS weighs 80 pounds and fits in a box.

The 777th EAS aircrews said they are proud to be a part of the mission.

"We work seamlessly with the JABS crew," said Capt. Kevin Eley an aircraft commander with the 777th EAS and native of Vienna, Va. He is deployed from Little Rock AFB, Ark. "We are one team, one fight."

As convoys continue to roll out on to the roads of Iraq, JABS crews keep an open ear to their communications, ready to help at a moment's notice.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Future USS George H.W. Bush to Transit

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The future USS George H.W. Bush, (CVN-77), will transit from the Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding-Newport News shipyard to Norfolk Naval Station on Dec. 22.

This transit will enable the ship to begin preparation for its commissioning on Jan. 10, 2009. Following commissioning, USS George H.W. Bush will remain at Norfolk Naval Station to prepare for builder's and acceptance trials in early 2009.

"The ship and its crew have worked and trained hard and are on course for commissioning and delivery", said Capt. Frank Simei, program manager for in-service aircraft carriers.

"As the most powerful warship in the world USS George H.W. Bush will be a tremendous asset to our nation over its fifty years of planned service."

Congress authorized construction of the future USS George H.W. Bush in the Fiscal Year 1998 National Defense Authorization Act. The ship was laid down on Sept. 6, 2003, and christened on Oct. 9, 2006 by Dorothy Bush Koch, daughter of the ship's namesake.

George H.W. Bush is the 10th and final ship of the Nimitz class and incorporates major improvements from her predecessors, including a bulbous bow, redesigned island, composite mast and three-wire arresting gear configuration.

The future USS George H.W. Bush is commanded by Capt. Kevin O'Flaherty.

Future USS Makin Island Successfully Completes Builder's Trials

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The future USS Makin Island (LHD 8) successfully underwent Builder's Trials Dec. 13 in the Gulf of Mexico. The trials mark the first time this amphibious assault ship has gone to sea on its own power.

"The ship performed very well during these trials," said Capt. Jeff Riedel, the amphibious ships program manager in the Navy's Program Executive Office (PEO), Ships. "The Navy and industry team is overcoming many challenges in delivering this ship, and we look forward to it joining the fleet."

These trials, conducted by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding (NGSB), made history in two ways. Makin Island is the first LHD to get underway on gas turbine engines and the first LHD to get underway on electric propulsion motors. Makin Island's first-of-kind hybrid gas turbine electric drive propulsion system will provide substantial fuel savings and increased operational flexibility over the life of the ship. The ship also tested its engineering systems, fire control radar, air control radars and self defense systems. The ship will conduct a follow on Builder's Trial in late January to complete some additional engineering phases of the trials.

"On the bridge we were observing the plant status on the Machinery Control Console when we reduced speed on one shaft," said Prospective Commanding Officer Capt. Robert Kopas. "This gave us the opportunity to experience one of the unique features of MCS (machinery control system) in that the system automatically brought the other shaft up to compensate and keep the ordered speed. Typically, on most other ships you would have to manually order that to happen."

Second only to aircraft carriers in size, Wasp-class amphibious assault ships are the largest amphibious ships in the world. These ships are specifically designed to remain off shore near troubled areas of the world, ready to send forces ashore quickly by helicopters, tilt rotor aircraft and Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft. As the centerpiece of a Navy Expeditionary Strike Group, LHDs are fully capable of conducting and supporting amphibious assaults, advance force and special purpose operations, non-combatant evacuation, and other humanitarian missions. LHDs embark, transport, deploy, command and fully support a Marine Expeditionary Unit of 2,000 Marines with their gear.

LHD 8 will continue construction, tests and trials at the NGSB shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. The ship is scheduled to begin acceptance trials in February 2009 and is expected to deliver to the fleet later that year.

The Navy's PEO Ships is responsible for the development and acquisition of U.S. Navy surface ships, and is currently managing the design and construction of 11 major ship classes and a wide range of small boats and craft. These platforms range from major warships such as frontline surface combatants and amphibious assault ships to air-cushioned landing craft, oceanographic research ships and special warfare craft. Since its creation in November 2002, PEO Ships has delivered 27 major warships and hundreds of small boats and craft from more than 20 shipyards and boat builders across the United States.

Nuclear surety inspection completed at 90th Space Wing

SAN ANTONIO (AFNS) -- The nuclear surety inspection that wrapped up at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., Dec. 17, identified some deficiencies for the 90th Space Wing that require corrective action and resulted in an overall unsatisfactory rating for the wing. However, the wing remains certified to perform its strategic mission.

According to Air Force officials, in the exacting world of nuclear inspections, deficiencies do not translate to an inability to accomplish the mission or ensure the security and reliability of nuclear forces. Instead, they relate to departures from the extremely high standards that are required in this mission area.

This inspection involved more than 100 inspectors, across all inspection activities, conducting a very rigorous and comprehensive inspection. Areas evaluated during the NSI included operations, maintenance, security and support activities needed to ensure the wing is performing its mission in a safe, secure and reliable manner.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz have made reinvigorating the nuclear enterprise their top priority. Part of reinvigorating the enterprise is re-establishing standards of performance and accountability. In this respect, finding these areas requiring corrective action are part of the fix.

With the added emphasis and focus placed on the nuclear enterprise, Secretary Donley and General Schwartz have increased the intensity, depth and rigor of all inspection activities to ensure that every aspect of a unit's mission is thoroughly examined.

The benefits of this careful examination are paramount to continued reliability and confidence in the Air Force's nuclear enterprise. There is no margin for error in nuclear operations.

Friday, December 19, 2008

National Guard to Support Presidential Inauguration

National Guard to Support Presidential Inauguration
By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
Special to American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va. - More than 4,000 citizen-soldiers and airmen from at least eight states will provide security, medical and other support during the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration, a National Guard official said today.

"We will be there to fill the gaps and help out the first responders," Army Maj. Kenneth Napier, deputy director of the Deliberate Operations branch for the National Guard Bureau, said.

About half of the 4,000 personnel will be dedicated to security, including crowd control, civil-disturbance missions, manning traffic-control points and assisting with the screening process.

"The states are planning and ready to support," Napier said. "Making sure that everyone is safe is the priority."

Air Force Gen. Victor E. "Gene" Renuart Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters yesterday that another contingent on alert would be able to respond to a chemical attack.

In addition to marching units, bands and other ceremonial support, the National Guard will provide communication, medical evacuation and explosive ordnance disposal assets.
National Guard members and re-enactors from the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment have been invited to march in the parade. The 54th represents the all-black regiment that fought in the Civil War and was memorialized in the movie "Glory."
"These organizations embody the best of our nation's history, diversity and commitment to service," President-elect Barack Obama said in a Dec. 8 statement. "Vice President-elect Biden and I are proud to have them join us in the parade."
The District of Columbia National Guard's efforts will be larger this time because of the expected crowds. "We will be involved in almost every facet of the operation," Officer Candidate Robert Albrecht, a spokesman for the D.C. Guard, said.

In addition to the Guard's on-the-ground missions, the 113th Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., will lead the air-sovereignty effort through North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The D.C. Guard participated in a media event today with the Military District of Washington as well as the U.S. Park Police and other D.C.-area agencies involved in planning for the inauguration. Renuart told reporters that it is "prudent" for the military to plan for the possibility of someone trying to interrupt the inauguration.

"And how well we respond will be defined by how well we trained," Napier added.

Earlier this year, the National Guard provided similar support to the Democratic and Republican national conventions, but only about 1,500 troops were involved in each of those missions. The size and scope of this mission is much bigger.

"I can't think of anything that we've done other than natural disasters that would be comparable to this operation," Napier said.

Carl Vinson Brings JP-5 Aboard, Readies for Missions

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Aaron Shelley, USS Carl Vinson Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Air Department worked Dec. 13-14, to completed a new milestone for the V-4 division and transfer 750,000 gallons of JP-5 aviation fuel back aboard the ship.

The transfer marks the first time since the beginning of Carl Vinson's 40-month refueling complex overhaul that JP-5 has been stored on board.

"It was a divisional effort by everyone in our chain of command and it couldn't have been done without them," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) 1st Class (AW/SW) James Hendershot, V-4 division leading petty officer.

The division conducted dry runs months ahead of schedule, finding the most efficient way to bring the fuel aboard and to its designated area.

"The plan went flawlessly, we went over it until it was perfected," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels)(AW/SW) Raymond J. Gray, V-4 squadron flight deck chief.

A robust fuel supply is vital to aircraft carrier operations. JP-5 is used to fuel various types of equipment aboard including aircraft, flight deck gear, and emergency generators.

With the fuel aboard, Carl Vinson is significantly closer to completing its overhaul process and becoming fully operational and combat ready.

"Without this fuel we can't launch aircraft, and if we can't launch aircraft, we can't fight," said Hendershot.

USS Tucson Returns to Pearl Harbor

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Luciano Marano, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- USS Tucson (SSN 770) returned to Naval Station Pearl Harbor Monday, Dec. 15, following a 23-month absence that included a modernization period in Norfolk, numerous sea trials and a port visit in San Diego.

"Everybody is happy to be back in Pearl Harbor," said Cmdr. Paul Spear, USS Tucson commanding officer. "The homecoming aspect is nice, especially since half my crew is new and hasn't been here yet."

The submarine just completed a major overhaul in Norfolk.

"Tucson has a new fire control system and a totally refurbished engine room as well as a lot of new gear on board," said Ensign John Chester Jr., Tucson junior officer.

Tucson departed Pearl Harbor in January 2007 and has since acquired many new crew members, many of whom had never seen the submarine's homeport, having come aboard during the shipyard period.

"Coming to Hawaii is a big relief for us," said Electronics Technician Seaman (SS) Fred Saunders.
"Wherever we were, every Friday at quarters we would announce the count down to Pearl Harbor."

"I'm very excited to get to Hawaii," said Chester. "Everything new and innovative going on in the submarine force is happening on the west coast."

Prior to heading home, Tucson stopped in San Diego where the sub hosted an embark for business leaders of its namesake city, Tucson, Ariz.

"We have an excellent relationship with our namesake city," said Spear. "The mayor has come to every change of command ceremony, and our Sailor of the Year, Junior Sailor of the Year and Bluejacket of the Year all fly to Tucson for a week for some community engagement and to tour the city every year."

The final days of transit from San Diego were passed anxiously, yet productively. The entire crew took advantage of the time to conduct numerous training drills for the benefit of the junior crew members.

"The last few months have been pretty tough for us," said Saunders. "We were coming out of the shipyard and trying to get the submarine ready for sea so there were a million things to do. Things are looking up now, and everybody's ready for a slower pace for the holidays."

Awaiting the Sailors on the pier at home were excited friends, family and shipmates including Commander, Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet Rear Adm. Douglas McAneny.

"Welcome back to the Pacific, Tucson," McAneny wrote in a pre-arrival welcome message. "And well done!"

Tucson is a Los Angeles class attack submarine with approximately 125 crew members, both officer and enlisted. They have received three Battle Efficiency Awards and four Retention Excellence awards.

San Antonio Showcases Air Capabilities with Marine ACE Detachment

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

USS SAN ANTONIO, At Sea (NNS) -- Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 264 Aviation Combat Element (ACE) detachment recently embarked amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) to conduct a variety of training operations with the ship's air department.

The 75 Marines assigned to the ACE detachment, stationed out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., disembarked from the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) to test their skills in defensive postures and ordnance loading operations, and to showcase the aviation capabilities of the new San Antonio-class ship.

"The LPD class has the capabilities to support an aviation detachment aboard, and we were here to exercise the motions of executing air operations that can be used in future missions," said Capt. Peter Herrmann, ACE action officer.

"Normally we are the ready deck to support Iwo Jima when the ship is at flight operations and, on occasion, we will fly and perform deck landing qualifications," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) (AW) Thomas Cline, San Antonio's Air Department leading chief petty officer.

The mission of San Antonio's aviation boatswain's mates (handling) was to serve as safety directors while ACE performed 48 mishap-free aircraft moves to and from the hangar bay to the ship's flight deck.

Refueling the helicopters safely was another top priority for San Antonio's Air Department and for the aviation boatswain's mate (fuel) Sailors.

"We refueled the helicopters 40 times in one week in order to keep ACE in the air," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) 1st Class (AW) Jerome Fuda.

Cmdr. Kurt Kastner, San Antonio's commanding officer, commented on the air department's performance.

"Our air department is truly flexing their operational muscle," said Kastner. "We are conducting a lot of flight operations and aircraft handling evolutions, so they are getting a lot of experience."

Cline is proud of his departments' achievements.

"We demonstrated our air capabilities by launching the ACE's aircraft in an environment of amphibious ships deploying Marines," added Cline. "San Antonio is even capable of going off on its own with an embarked detachment, and perform missions independently. This was the first time we had a Marine detachment with us, and we look forward to the opportunity of working with them again in the future."

ACE departed with an enhanced appreciation for the professionalism of San Antonio's Sailors and Marines.

"San Antonio has been a very hospitable place for us, and the Sailors and Marines have been very supportive of our operations," added Herrmann.

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Checkmates Fly from Iraq into Sunset

By Clark Pierce, Naval Air Station Jacksonville Public Affairs

Two S-3B Vikings assigned to the "Checkmates" of Sea Control Squadron Twenty Two (VS-22) conduct an airborne refueling, during routine flight operations from aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). George Washington Carrier Strike Group is currently participating in Partnership of the Americas, a maritime training and readiness deployment of the U.S. Naval Forces with Caribbean and Latin American countries in support of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) objectives for enhanced maritime security. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Christopher Stephens)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- The Sailors of Sea Control Squadron (VS) 22 returned to Naval Air Station Jacksonville Dec. 15 after completing a five-month deployment to Al-Asad Air Base, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Their boots-on-the-ground and eyes-in-the-sky deployment in Iraq, required that VS-22 pilots, aircrew and maintainers operate in a very dangerous environment, substantially different to the conditions they normally encounter as a carrier-based platform.

To meet the demands of this mission, each of the 205 "Checkmates" completed anti-terrorism and desert survival training, in addition to qualifying with the M-16 rifle and M-9 pistol, prior to their deployment.

The large Al Asad Air Base (formerly Saddam Hussein's premier MiG-25 Foxbat air base) is located south of the Euphrates River in the volatile, largely Sunni, Al Anbar Province in western Iraq.

The squadron brought four S-3B Vikings to Al Asad, each equipped with the latest LANTIRN (Low Altitude Navigation Targeting Infrared for Night) navigation pod. LANTIRN is a terrain-following radar that enables pilots to maneuver and surveil at low altitudes during daylight or at night. According Lt. Jason Tarrant, the squadron flew about 80 percent of its non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (NTISR) combat missions at night.

"The Viking's LANTIRN infrared capability was invaluable for taking away the cover of darkness from enemy combatants," said Tarrant. "The Checkmates routinely detected heat signatures of vehicles, shelters, people and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) –and relayed that information to convoys and combat teams in the affected area."

The Checkmates flew an average of three sorties a day.

"Our VS-22 maintenance personnel displayed tireless dedication to keep these soon-to-be-retired birds mission ready. As far as I know, we sustained a 100 percent sortie completion record," said Tarrant.

VS-22 is the Navy's last S-3B Viking squadron. Disestablishment activities are scheduled for Jan. 28-30.

C-17 revolutionizing logistics in Antarctica

by Staff Sgt. Eric Burks, 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A C-17 Globemaster III sits on the Pegasus ice runway Dec. 1 near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (U.S. Air Force photo/Col. Jeffrey Stephenson)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFNS) -- Airmen assigned to the 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron supporting Operation Deep Freeze completed the first operational C-17 Globemaster III airdrop to the Antarctic Gamburtsev Mountain Province Nov. 26.

Thirty bundles of fuel and other supplies were delivered to a scientific camp in the province, one of the most remote locations on Earth.

Capt. Joe O'Rourke, a 7th Airlift Squadron pilot deployed to ODF, helped develop the missions. He said the airdrop was a quick and efficient way to deliver resources to the camp, better than any other method available.

"Without our delivery of that fuel, these scientists who are trekking out to the campsite from the South Pole would have had to carry that fuel with them, or a second trip would have been necessary from McMurdo Station over land carrying literally thousands of gallons of fuel," he said.

In just three hours, the captain said, Airmen delivered what would take days or weeks to accomplish through any other means.

The C-17 has revolutionized Antarctic logistics, and the mission was just another example of how the Air Force has leveraged its strategic airlift capability to support the National Science Foundation's tactical requirement, said Lt. Col. Jim McGann, 304th EAS commander.

"Airdropping the fuel enables critical global climate research to continue in remote locations," Colonel McGann said. "Without it, the project--involving six countries at a cost of more than $40 million--would fail. And support like this, even in the most hostile environment on the planet, is what Team McChord does best."

The mission was flown as part of Operation Deep Freeze, which is commanded by U.S. Pacific Command's Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica. Headquartered at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, and led by 13th Air Force, JTF SFA's mission is to provide air and sealift support to the National Science Foundation and U.S. Antarctic Program.

A total of four airdrops have now delivered supplies to the scientific campsite on the north side of the Gamburtsev province, a chain of mountains the size of the European Alps buried under five kilometers of ice.

Scientists believe that the Gamburtsev Mountains are the point of origin of the East Antarctic ice sheet and may be home to some of the oldest ice on the continent, Captain O'Rourke said.

"They are trying to determine the nature of that ice and also the nature of the geophysical event that caused the uplift of the mountains, whether it was volcanic, tectonic, or otherwise," he said.

The U.S. military's support to ODF began in 1955. Through this program, McChord Airmen provide airlift support in an extremely adverse environment, sometimes landing the C-17 on a six-foot thick ice runway to deliver supplies to the U.S. Antarctic Program from August through February each season.

During the 2007 to 2008 season, McChord C-17s flew 57 missions to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, from Christchurch, New Zealand, carrying more than 3.1 million pounds of cargo and more than 2,800 passengers.

On the return missions from McMurdo, C-17 aircrews flew more than 850,000 pounds of cargo and 2,700 passengers back to Christchurch.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

USS Boxer Underway in the SoCal Opareas

The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) performs maneuvers off the coast of Southern California. Boxer is on a certification exercise supporting the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit in preparation for an upcoming deployment. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker (Released)

Milcom Blog Logs - 12/17/2008 - Mid Atlantic

Here are some excellent intercepts sent to MMP by our Maryland Mid Atlantic reporter Ron Perron. Ron, thanks for sharing them with our MMP readers.

(Times UTC, Freqs KHz)

09106.0 KBPNNN (Navy/Marine MARS): 1435 USB/ALE sounding.

09106.0 WWLNNN (Navy/Marine MARS): 1447 USB/ALE sounding.

09106.0 034MERCAP (Civil Air Patrol, Middle East Region): 1501 USB/ALE sounding.

09106.0 OARNNN (Navy/Marine MARS): 1519 USB/ALE sounding.

14396.5 AFA3HY (USAF MARS, Kansas-NCS) & NNNVUV (Navy/Marine MARS, CA-Alternate NCS): 1535 USB w/weekly SHARES admin net voice check ins--WGY9498 (FEMA); KHA908 (NASA, Moffett CA).

11108.0 FC8FEM (Communications Manager, FEMA Region 8, Denver CO): 1547 USB/ALE sounding.

11108.0 FC6FEM (Communications Manager, FEMA Region 6, Denton, TX): 1612
USB/ALE sounding.

08045.6 JES (unid): 1703 USB/ALE calling EDK (unid).

08045.6 GHM (unid): 1735 USB/ALE calling MHE (unid).

08045.6 RVH (unid): 1755 USB/ALE calling JES (unid).

08045.6 LXV (unid): 1849 USB/ALE sounding.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Missouri Troops Deploy

Nearly 200 Soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, are heading back to Iraq.

Naval Aviators Conduct First Carrier Landings Aboard USS Abraham Lincoln

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) James R. Evans, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs

Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Leatrice Koenig guides a T-45 Goshawk assigned to Carrier Training Wing (CTW) 1 onto the No. 1 steam-powered catapult to be launched from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). Lincoln is conducting training and carrier qualifications. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans/Released)

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, at sea (NNS) -- For the first time since 2004, USS Abraham Lincoln's (CVN 72) flight deck served as a training ground for student pilots flying the Navy's advanced jet training aircraft, the T-45 Goshawk, Dec. 10-13.

Student pilots assigned to Carrier Training Wing (CTW) 1 Training Squadrons (VT) 7 and 9, based in Meridian, Miss., and CTW 2 squadrons VT-21 and VT-22, based in Kingsville, Texas, flew aboard Dec. 10 for four days of initial carrier qualifications off the coast of southern California. For these new pilots, the arrested landings and catapult launches they completed aboard Lincoln are the culmination of many months of intense flight training.

"This is the first jet they've flown, and it's their first time on a carrier," said Lt. Cmdr. Mark Schadt, Chief of Naval Air Training's (CNATRA) senior landing signal officer (LSO). "They've spent the last 10 months learning to fly the T-45 and before that they flew T-34s (a propeller driven trainer) for up to 10 months. This is one of the last things they'll have to do before they go to a Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) and learn to fly their assigned aircraft."

After the training wing's arrival and early qualification flights Thursday, students gathered in Lincoln's ready room four to critique their landings with LSOs like Schadt. Many were still visibly excited from their first "traps" and conversations were animated as student pilots reenacted their final seconds before hitting the deck.

"It's a totally surreal experience," said 1st Lt. David Fickle, a prior-enlisted Marine assigned to "Eagles" of VT-7, who completed his first arrested landing aboard Lincoln Thursday. "I had seen all the videos and documentaries on the military channel, but when you actually get here, it's not like anything you perceived. Coming in, everything on the deck – the planes, the people − looks so much smaller, and then you definitely know it when you catch the wire. It's a huge adrenaline rush."

Fickle said that despite all the practice and instruction students receive flying carrier landing patterns and approaches at their home fields, nothing can fully prepare a pilot for the task of catching a wire on the comparatively tiny deck of a carrier while it's in motion. In the ultra-competitive environment of naval aviation, students who had distinguished themselves flying over land found themselves, quite literally, in the same boat with everyone else.

"You develop a certain pride in competition, and I was in the upper echelon flying "the ball" at the field," said Fickle. "But for me and a lot of others, this was a big punch in the guts. Today I was boltering like crazy, and I don't know if it was from the lens being a lot farther in front of me or seeing all the people and planes parked out there, but it was a very humbling experience."

Despite the sweat-drenched, white-knuckle landings, Shadt and Fickle both described launching from a steam-powered catapult for the first time as a more memorable experience.

"Most of the students are so focused flying the approach and getting their numbers right that they barely remember the landings, but for the launch they're just kind of along for the ride," said Schadt. "If you've ever been to Magic Mountain at Six Flags in California, they have a Superman ride there. It's a lot like the Superman ride."

The T-45 Goshawk is the U.S. Navy's version of the British Aerospace Hawk. Using the same airframe, it incorporates aspects of the F/A-18's avionics suite and the ability to land on an aircraft carrier to better prepare pilots to fly the Navy's premier fighter aircraft. One pilot who trained aboard Lincoln has experience in both the Hawk and the Goshawk.

Lt. Stephen Collins is an exchange pilot who has flown the Hawk for the British Royal Navy and is now training in the Goshawk with the "Tigers" of VT-9. Collins and four student pilots from India flew aboard Lincoln to train, as they have for the entire curriculum, alongside their U.S. counterparts. His goal is to qualify to the same standard as U.S. pilots so that he can fly U.S. F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as part of his exchange program.

"The U.S. and the Royal Navy have worked together very closely on the Joint Strike Fighter program," said Collins. "The ultimate aim is for us to get some experience flying a jet with very similar capabilities to that one. It's a good trade, the U.S. gets a pilot out of it and the Royal Navy gets the experience."
While student pilots of Carrier Training Wings 1 and 2 worked to overcome their inexperience, for Lincoln's flight deck and air traffic control personnel, the challenge was putting their own experience to work and avoiding complacency.

"For most of the people up there right now, having just completed a 7-month deployment, it's was almost business as usual," said Lt. Cory Pope, a catapult and arresting gear officer and Lincoln's V-5 division officer. "We just had to be a little extra cautious and remember that these folks had never done this before. We wanted to keep them safe too."

USAF Thunderbirds Among Headliners For Inaugural Branson Air Show

Army's Golden Knights Will Also Perform May 9-10

It's a promising start for a brand-new commercial airport. Days after announcing their first scheduled airline carrier, Branson Airport officials announced Monday the United States Air Force Demonstration Squadron -- better known as the Thunderbirds -- will perform at the first ever Branson Air Show, May 9 & 10, 2009.

The Branson Air Show will highlight the grand opening weekend of the Branson airport, the first privately financed and operated commercial service airport in the United States. Also appearing at the air show will be the US Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights.

"We are thrilled that two of the country's top precision military demonstration teams will be performing at the inaugural Branson Air Show," said Jeff Bourk, Executive Director, Branson Airport.

The Thunderbirds are the premier demonstration squadron of the most elite air and space force the world has ever known. They fly Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons, a multi-role lightweight jet fighter originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force. The famed Air Force precision flying team begins their 56th season in 2009.

The Golden Knights have been wowing audiences at air shows, competitions for 50 years. The two demonstration teams travel all over the country performing aerial demonstrations at air shows and special events, as well as competing at national and international skydiving competitions. They are the most successful US Department of Defense sports team.

"To have the Thunderbirds, and the Golden Knights, along with many other internationally famous air show acts, will surely make the Branson Air Show one of the very best in the country," said Bobbi Thompson, Event Director, Branson Air Show.

The first annual Branson Air Show will be an amazing two-day event featuring many of the top aviation performers in the nation including the AeroShell Aerobatic Team, Patty Wagstaff, John Mohr, and many more. A number of static historical aviation displays will also be featured including a Sea Fury, Lockheed Constellation "Connie", B-25, P-51 Mustang, and a Medal of Honor AC-47 Gunship.

Tickets for the Branson Air Show are available online, with Adult tickets priced at $16 for advance purchase.

McChord Airmen fuel Operation Deep Freeze

A C-17 Globemaster III sits on the Pegasus ice runway Dec. 1 near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. The C-17 is from McChord Air Force Base, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Col. Jeffrey Stephenson)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFNS) -- Airmen assigned to the 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron in support of Operation Deep Freeze completed the first operational C-17 Globemaster III airdrop Nov. 26 to the Antarctic Gamburtsev Mountain Province.

Thirty bundles of fuel and other supplies were delivered by the members of the from the 446th and 62nd Airlift Wings from McChord Air Force Base to a scientific camp in the province, one of the most remote locations on earth.

"The success of this mission was a full total force partnership," said Chief Master Sgt. James Masura, deployed from the 446th AW as the 304th EAS superintendent. "We combined experts from the active duty, Reserve, civilians, contractors, National Science Foundation and the New Zealand Defense Forces. This small team worked extremely hard to ensure we put the cargo on the surface to ensure completion of this groundbreaking science project."

Capt. Joe O'Rourke, a 7th Airlift Squadron pilot deployed to Operation Deep Freeze helped develop the AGAP missions. He said the airdrop is a quick and efficient way to deliver resources to the camp -- better than any other platform available.

"Without our delivery of that fuel, these scientists who are trekking out to the AGAP campsite from the South Pole would have had to carry that fuel with them, or a second trip would have been necessary from McMurdo Station over land carrying literally thousands of gallons of fuel," he said.

In just three hours, Airmen delivered what would take days or weeks to accomplish through any other means, the captain said.

"The C-17 has revolutionized Antarctic logistics and this is another example of how we've leveraged our strategic airlift capability to support the National Science Foundation's tactical requirements," said Lt. Col. Jim McGann, the 304th EAS commander. "Airdropping the fuel enables critical global climate research to continue in remote locations. Without it, the project (involving six countries at a cost of more than $40 million) would fail. And support like this, even in the most hostile environment on the planet, is what McChord (AFB) does best."

The mission was flown as part of Operation Deep Freeze, a U.S. Pacific Command Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica mission. Headquartered at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, and led by 13th Air Force, JTF SFA's mission is to provide air- and sealift support to the National Science Foundation and U.S. Antarctic Program.

A total of four airdrops have now delivered supplies to the scientific campsite on the north side of the Gamburtsev province, a chain of mountains the size of the European Alps buried under five kilometers of ice.

Scientists believe the Gamburtsev Mountains are the point of origin of the East Antarctic ice sheet and may be home to some of the oldest ice on the continent, Captain O'Rourke said.

"They are trying to determine the nature of that ice and also the nature of the geophysical event that caused the uplift of the mountains, whether it was volcanic, tectonic, or otherwise," he said.

The U.S. military's support to Operation Deep Freeze began in 1955. Through this program, McChord AFB Airmen provide airlift support in an extremely adverse environment, sometimes landing the C-17 on a 6-foot thick ice runway to deliver supplies to the National Science Foundation from August through February each season.

During the 2007 to 2008 season, McChord AFB C-17s flew 57 missions to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, from Christchurch carrying more than 3.1 million pounds of cargo and more than 2,800 passengers. On the return missions from the frozen sea shelf of McMurdo, C-17 aircrews flew more than 850,000 pounds of cargo and 2,700 passengers back to Christchurch.

Monday, December 15, 2008

TBirds to Perform at Keesler in April 2009

Thunderbirds OK Keesler show

BILOXI, Miss. - The Thunderbirds will perform in April during Keesler Air Force Base's first air show since Hurricane Katrina. The lineup for the April 4 and 5 show also includes the Army's parachute team, The Golden Knights, a flight display by the Hurricane Hunters, a World War II-era B-25 Mitchell bomber, aircraft flown by the 81st Wing and more. (Source: The Sun Herald, 12/13/08)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

VP-46 Returns From Multi-Theater Deployment, Maintains Stellar Safety Record

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elizabeth Acosta, Fleet Public Affairs Center, Det. Northwest

OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- The "Grey Knights" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 46 returned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island Dec. 10 after a six-month deployment in support of operations in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

"The effects we generated are real and will be lasting for years to come," said Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Carlos Sardiello. "Not only were the missions performed, but you redefined [and] raised the bar a bit for what it means to provide expeditionary maritime patrol and reconnaissance air power."

With their seven P-3C Orion aircraft, the Grey Knights flew more than 650 missions and logged approximately 4,300 flight hours while on deployment in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, United States Africa Command and United States 7th Fleet.

Throughout the deployment, VP-46 continued its landmark streak of flight safety.

"We flew over 600 sorties, 4,300 flight hours, further extending the Grey Knights' unsurpassed Pacific Fleet safety record to 305,000 Class A mishap-free flight hours," said Sardiello.

Across the board, VP-46 leadership was content with the effort put forth and the professionalism of their Sailors.

"[This is an] outstanding, great group of Sailors, very professional and hard working. They made us very proud," said VP-46 Command Master Chief (SW) Sidney Dawson Jr.

The return marked the first completion of a joint deployment between a patrol squadron and Consolidated Maintenance Organization (CMO) 10. Members of both commands felt the work flow ran smoothly between the two entities.

"I enjoyed the camaraderie between the aircrew and maintenance team," said Aviation Warfare Systems Operator 2nd Class Kevin Emley, of VP-46, from Truckee, Calif.

The crew was happy to have returned home in time for the holidays to spend time with family and friends and get back into a normal routine.

"Deployment went on faster than expected. I'm looking forward to seeing family for the holidays," said Lt. Brett Carstens, of Excelsior Springs, Mo.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Emergency Response Units Won't Perform Law Enforcement, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service

The Pentagon's three new rapid-response task forces will assist civil authorities during possible terrorist attacks or natural disasters, but they won't perform law-enforcement missions, a senior Defense Department official said here yesterday.
Some people have surfaced concerns that active-duty soldiers, who make up the core of the first 4,700-member joint task force established in early October, could be used to perform police functions, which would be in violation of the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas' security affairs, told American Forces Press Service and Pentagon Channel reporters.

The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits active-duty military members from conducting domestic law-enforcement operations.

"None of that is true," McHale said of public assertions that active-duty troops assigned to the task force will perform police duties. Instead, he said, the rapid-response units are "task-organized to deal with the technical and very challenging requirements associated with a contaminated environment."

The task force cited in public discussion, McHale said, was established Oct. 1 and is built around a core of active-duty soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Stewart, Ga. This task force, he said, falls under the control of U.S. Northern Command's Joint Force Land Component Command, U.S. Army North, in San Antonio.

Each task force will be capable of performing tasks such as medical response, decontamination, technical rescue, patient evacuation, and communications and logistics support, including air and land transportation assets for transport of supplies, people and equipment, according to U.S. Army North documents.

Plans are to stand up two more new joint task forces in 2010 and 2011, respectively, McHale said. These units, he said, will comprise mostly reserve-component personnel, mainly National Guard troops.

The new task forces would be ordered into action by the president following requests for disaster-relief assistance from state governors, McHale said.

In the event of civil disturbances and some other types of emergencies, McHale said, active U.S. military units could be ordered by the president to assist civil authorities establish order as part of the Garden Plot domestic security plan.

"There are [active] military units that are prepared, under law, to ensure constitutional rights and the enforcement of federal law, under the Insurrection Act, to be deployed for a domestic security mission," McHale said.

The last time Garden Plot was activated, McHale said, was to restore order during the 1992 Los Angeles riots that followed the trial and acquittal of some local police officers who had been charged with the beating of Rodney King. Federal troops also were employed during the 1950s and 1960s, he said, to ensure the civil rights of African-American citizens.

California Guardsmen Train for Kosovo Deployment

By Army Sgt. Sheila Holifield, Special to American Forces Press Service

Army Capt. Michael Riley, commander of Company C, 1-185th Combined Arms Battalion, and Army Brig. Gen. Keith Jones, assistant deputy adjutant general for California's Army National Guard, get front-row action as they observe a M2 Bradley fighting vehicle live-fire exercise at Camp Shelby, Miss. The exercise is part of training to ready the 1-185th CAB for a deployment to Kosovo. U.S. Army photo.

CAMP SHELBY, Miss. - Nearly 100 California National Guardsmen are preparing for a deployment to Kosovo in the spring, where they will serve as the NATO Kosovo Force's quick-reaction force.

Members of the 1-185th Combined Arms Battalion from Bakersfield, Calif., arrived here to train with their M2 Bradley fighting vehicle.

"Over 50 percent of our soldiers have prior deployment experience to a combat zone doing this type of mission, so we know what to expect," Army Capt. Michael Riley, commander of Company A, 1-185th CAB, said.

Riley said the soldiers can draw from their prior deployment experiences when interacting with the local population.

"We understand cultural sensitivity, and no matter where you are being deployed to, that is important," Riley said.

Although the unit's soldiers are not new to the deployed environment, Riley said, this particular mission will be challenging in its own way.

"Our focus is to help our soldiers understand current battlefield parameters and adhering to their current standards," Riley said. "It's not easy for an infantry soldier to transition out of that mode and into a more 'friendly' role, and still be able to transition right back to being an infantryman."

Upon their arrival here in late November, the soldiers focused on Bradley gunnery training.

"It's just like qualifying with an individual weapon, but we also have to qualify as a crew," Riley said.

Riley said 100 percent of his soldiers qualified.

In mid-December, the 1-185th CAB will travel to Camp Atterbury, Ind., where they will continue their mobilization training for the Kosovo deployment.

(Army Sgt. Sheila Holifield serves in the 177th Armored Brigade public affairs office.)

New Rapid-Response Forces to Bolster Homeland Defense Mission

By Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service

Pentagon officials have established a new rapid-response joint task force and plan to create two more in coming years to bolster assistance to civil authorities following potential chemical, biological or nuclear attacks or natural disasters, a senior U.S. official said here yesterday.

The new units will team with other federal agencies in support of local responders following chemical, biological or nuclear terror attacks on the homeland or during natural disasters, Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and Americas' security affairs, told American Forces Press Service and Pentagon Channel reporters.

The establishment of the new units "builds upon a decade of improving [Defense Department] capabilities to deal with a domestic terrorist attack involving a weapon of mass destruction," McHale said.

The first new 4,700-member task force was assigned to a component of U.S. Northern Command on Oct. 1, McHale said. The new unit, he said, is built around a core of active-duty soldiers from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Stewart, Ga. This task force, he said, falls under the control of Northcom's Joint Force Land Component Command, U.S. Army North, in San Antonio.

Plans are to stand up the other two new joint task forces in 2010 and 2011, respectively, McHale said. These units, he said, mostly will comprise reserve component personnel from all the military services.

Each task force will be capable of performing tasks such as medical response, decontamination, technical rescue, patient evacuation, and communications and logistics support, to include air and land transportation assets for transport of supplies, people and equipment, according to U.S. Army North documents.

The task forces would be ordered into action by the president, McHale said, following requests for disaster-relief assistance from state governors.

The new units, he emphasized, do not conduct law-enforcement missions. In the event of civil disturbances and some other types of national emergencies, he said, other designated U.S. military units could be ordered by the president to help civil authorities establish order as part of the Garden Plot domestic security plan.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States prompted U.S. officials to consider whether existing National Guard-staffed civil support teams could provide enough resources to support civil authorities during multiple catastrophic events, McHale said.

McHale said 9/11 also "was the genesis for the creation of U.S. Northern Command." Northcom, he said, is responsible for homeland defense of the continental U.S. and Alaska, while U.S. Pacific Command is responsible for Hawaii. Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr. commands Northcom as well as North American Aerospace Defense Command, which are co-located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colo.

National Guard-staffed civil support teams were developed through a Pentagon initiative dating to the mid-1990s. Today, there are 53 civil support teams distributed across the United States, McHale said. These 22-member units, he said, are trained to test for chemical, biological or nuclear contamination in the event of a weapons-of-mass-destruction-attack on the United States.

Additionally, Marine Corps-operated emergency-response units that specialize in relief operations are available during chemical, biological and nuclear attacks, he said.

Multinational recovery exercise kicks off at Davis-Monthan

by Tech. Sgt. Kerry Jackson, 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Two HH-60G Pave Hawks land during a personnel recovery training exercise Dec. 7 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.. More than 800 ground recovery personnel took part in Angel Thunder 2008, a combat search and rescue exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Noah R. Johnson)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS) -- More than 850 ground recovery forces and 51 aircraft from the Department of Defense and numerous other countries kicked off a personnel recovery and combat search and rescue exercise Dec. 8 here.

The two week-long Angel Thunder 2008 exercise allows U.S. and international military forces and numerous national, multinational and interagency personnel recovery assets to train through the full spectrum of personnel recovery capabilities -- preparation, planning, execution and adaptation.

"Angel Thunder is a very unique program, built by the combat search and rescue community from the grass roots level, that incorporates the lessons we've collectively learned from our experiences," said Maj. Brett Hartnett, the Angel Thunder Project Officer assigned to the 563rd Operational Support Squadron here. "This exercise helps to eliminate the idea that personnel recovery can be done independent of other agencies, because from experience, we know that each service and government agency must work together to make successful recoveries at home and abroad."

Personnel recovery is the sum of military, civil, and political operations needed to gain the release or rescue of military personnel from uncertain or hostile environments, and civilians during combat, disaster and relief operations.

The exercise takes rescue personnel through a number of scenarios that emulate real-world rescue operations that have happened or have the possibility of happening. The mountainous regions of Southern Arizona and New Mexico are being used because they mirror the landscapes found throughout Iraq and Afghanistan and other locations around the world.

The recovery forces see the benefit of learning and making mistakes during exercises like Angel Thunder, versus on the battlefield where lives are on the line.

"It's better to exercise this now than it would be when bullets are flying in a real combat situation," said Master Sgt. Chad Watts, the superintendent of combat survival training at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

More than 30 volunteers from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Air Force ROTC cadets from the University of Arizona served as survivors to add another level of realism to this exercise, Sergeant Watts said. "We need something tangible to look for, something to bring home. Ultimately, without a survivor you don't have an exercise."

Other key players participating in Angel Thunder included rescue forces from Chile, Colombia and Germany who are working alongside American forces throughout each phase of the exercise.

Personnel recovery operations require a precise mix of ground air forces to aid in successful rescues. Angel Thunder 2008 integrates combat aircrew forces, guardian angel and intelligence personnel, battle managers, and joint search and rescue center personnel. Because ground recovery forces routinely operate with forces from sister services, and other national, international and interagencies that may communicate, and respond in slightly different ways, Angel Thunder 2008 was designed to facilitate interoperability, cross-culture sharing of tactics and procedures.

"Everybody has their own tactics, techniques and procedures and having everybody come together allows us to work through some of the communication differences, and allows us to share lessons learned with each other," Sergeant Watts said.

Aircraft participating in Angel Thunder 2008 include the HH-60G Pave Hawk, the MC-130P Combat Shadow, C-130 Hercules, the AH-64D Longbow, the UH-1N Huey, C-17 Globemaster III, the KC-135 Stratotanker, the HC-130P/N, EC-130H Compass Call, the E-3 Sentry, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, and the German air force Tornado.

Angel Thunder 2008, hosted by Air Combat Command officials, is the third joint personnel recovery and combat rescue exercise conducted at Davis-Monthan AFB. American participation in this exercise include members from the Air Force, Army, the Department of Justice, the National Reconnaissance Office, the State Department, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Joint Forces Command with multinational observers from Mexico, Canada and Pakistan.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Minnesota National Guard to Command Active-Duty Forces in Iraq

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

For only the second time since 9/11, a U.S. Army National Guard division headquarters will deploy to command active-duty forces in combat.

The Defense Department and Minnesota National Guard today announced that more than 1,000 soldiers from the 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division will mobilize for training in February for a yearlong deployment to Iraq that will begin in April.

"Minnesotans have grown accustomed to our National Guard forces leaving their families, employers, farms and communities in order to carry out vital missions in harm's way," Army Maj. Gen. Larry W. Shellito, the state's adjutant general, said during a press conference today at the Rosemont National Guard Armory in Rosemont, Minn.

More than 17,000 citizen-soldiers and -airmen from Minnesota units have deployed since 9/11, but this particular mission is different, Shellito said.

"The scope of this mission is unprecedented for the modern Minnesota National Guard," he said.

The division headquarters will provide leadership, command and control, and in-depth staff analysis for more than 16,000 U.S., Salvadoran, Lithuanian and Romanian coalition troops in the southern third of the country.

The "Red Bulls" also will have direct partnership with more than 40,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen across eight of Iraq's 18 provinces, all of which have been transitioned to provincial Iraqi control. Coalition troops in the region are employed in a supporting role to Iraqi security forces, Shellito said.

"The images of U.S. troops fighting at close quarters in intense street battles are images of the past," he said. "In order to make this transition happen we now need troops who are not only proficient in military skills, but are adept in assisting civil authorities as well."

Security responsibilities in the region "rest with professional and capable Iraqi security forces," Army Maj. Gen. Richard C. Nash, commander of the 34th Infantry Division, said during the press conference. He added that the days of "U.S.-only operations" in Iraq are mostly over.

"Our mission will be grounded with our relationship with the Iraqis," Nash said. "We will conduct all operations by, with and through Iraqi security forces. The measure of success for the 34th [Infantry] Division will be to what extent the government of Iraq is capable of providing for its own population."

The division primarily will focus on working with embedded provincial reconstruction teams from the U.S. State Department to improve infrastructure and essential services as well as help the local governments stimulate the economy and job opportunities.

"This is where our citizen-soldiers will distinguish themselves," Nash said, citing that his unit includes soldiers with years of experience in business, agriculture, law enforcement, law, medicine and other city services. "We are committed to applying our civilian- and military-acquired skills to enabling Iraqi institutions to provide for their own people."

The division's headquarters, special troops battalion, division band and 34th Military Police Company will receive pre-deployment training at Fort Lewis, Wash. In Iraq, they will relieve the 10th Mountain Division headquarters as Multinational Division Center.

Navy to Christen Submarine New Mexico

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy will christen its newest attack submarine, New Mexico Dec. 13 during a ceremony at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Newport News, Va.

U.S. Rep. Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico will deliver the ceremony's principal address.

Designated SSN 779, New Mexico is named in recognition of the people of the 'Land of Enchantment'. The submarine began construction under a unique teaming arrangement between Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat in 2004. The battleship New Mexico (BB-40) (1918-1946), the only other ship named after the 47th state, earned six battle stars for World War II service, which included providing shore bombardment support for landings in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, and at Guam, Tinian, Saipan, the Philippines and Okinawa.

The sixth Virginia-class submarine, New Mexico is built to excel in anti-submarine warfare; anti-ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; battle group support; and mine warfare missions . By doing so, New Mexico will directly enable five of the six Navy Maritime Strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security, and deterrence.

Cmdr. Mark A. Prokopius, a native of Seven Hills, Ohio, is the prospective commanding officer and will lead a crew of approximately 134 officers and enlisted personnel.

The 7,800-ton New Mexico is 377-feet long, has a 34-foot beam, and will be able to dive to depths of greater than 800 feet and operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots submerged.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Home From Iraq, Army Brigade Trains for Homeland Response Mission

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

NAVAL SUPPORT FACILITY INDIAN HEAD, Md. - The first active-duty unit dedicated to supporting U.S. civilian authorities in the event of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack is wrapping up three days of intensive training its members hope they never have to apply in real life.

Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team are here getting hands-on training in skills they would depend on to provide humanitarian support during a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive incident, known here as a CBRNE.

The "Rock of the Marne" division, which returned to Fort Stewart, Ga., in early spring from its third deployment to Iraq, was designated Oct. 1 as part of the CBRNE Consequence Management Force. The force includes various military assets assigned to U.S. Northern Command that could be called on to respond to a natural or manmade disaster.

The division will conduct the mission for a year, rotating its six divisions through escalating readiness levels, explained Army Col. Roger Cloutier, who commands the 1st Brigade "Raiders." After that, the mission will pass to other Army brigade combat teams.

If first responders found themselves short of manpower or equipment in a disaster, they could tap into the team through U.S. Northern Command and Joint Task Force Civil Support.

"I can't think of a more noble mission than saving American lives at home," Cloutier said, citing the "phenomenal responsibility" it entails. "Every single soldier and Marine here takes this very personally. You can see it on the faces of my soldiers."

About 200 of Cloutier's soldiers came here this week to learn the ropes in a realistic setting from the experts: the Marine Corps Chemical Biological Incident Response Force. The Marines stood up the unit in 1996 in response to a subway sarin gas attack in Tokyo. Today, it remains the only active-duty element that trains daily in CBRNE consequence management.

The training realism began before the soldiers ever reached the Indian Head facility. They received a no-notice alert at 4:30 a.m. Dec. 8 and deployed just over 24 hours later from Hunter Army Airfield with four aircraft, about 15 vehicles and other equipment and gear.

Exercises at The Marines' Raymond M. Downey Sr. Responder Training Facility gave the soldiers insight into the conditions and challenges they likely would face if called to help rescue victims and provide temporary life support during a disaster.

"This is as realistic as I imagine it can get," said Army Lt. Col. Joel Hamilton as two of his soldiers burst from a smoke-filled building carrying the mannequin they had searched through the dark to locate. "My soldiers are being stressed with some very realistic scenarios."

Hamilton, who commands the 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery, looked on as the soldiers navigated under and through "collapsed" structures and walls and felt their way through dark, smoke-filled buildings and confined spaces to search for survivors.

Working in buddy teams, they inched through spaces as tight as two feet by two feet, wearing blacked-out gas masks that offered zero visibility. They yelled directions to the man behind them, their voices rising over rap music the Marines had cranked up to further confuse the situation.

As the soldiers moved, each maintained at least three points of contact on the floors and walls at all times to keep from getting disoriented. "This is all by feel and communication," Hamilton said.

At another station, the soldiers practiced the techniques to lift seemingly unmovable 17,000-pound concrete beams to reach people trapped beneath. Meanwhile, other soldiers tried their hand at using the "jaws of life" and other equipment to free passengers "trapped" in their vehicles.

The Marines focused on safety throughout the training, emphasizing how quickly first responders can become victims themselves. "We don't want to be the rescuers who need rescuing," said Staff Sgt. Ray Johnstone, an M109 Palladin crew chief.

"It's all about teamwork," he said. "Teamwork is what gets the job done safely and effectively. And it's what we're doing here."

Cloutier credited teamwork the brigade built during 15 months in Iraq's Anbar province with giving its soldiers a leg up on their new mission. Junior leaders developed critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and soldiers learned how to interact with other coalition forces as well as Iraqi military and local government leaders.

And just as they understood in Iraq that they were supporting Iraqi army and police forces, they understand that if called to respond to a CBRNE incident, they'll support state and local authorities, Cloutier said.

"We understand our role, and the fact that we are not in charge," he said. "We are here to help and to find out, 'What do you need?'

The biggest strength his unit would bring to the mission, Cloutier said, is "4,000 soldiers with a can-do attitude who are here to help."

That can-do attitude was evident yesterday as "hoo-ahs" rang through the training area and soldiers exhibited ear-to-ear smiles as they moved between training stations.

"I'm loving every minute of this!" exclaimed Army Spc. David Johnson as he prepared to enter the "smokehouse" facility. "This is something like the coolest training I've had in three years in the Army. And it's all teamwork."

Army Spc. David Draper called helping remove the doors and roof of a beat-up 1991 Cutlass to free a "trapped" passenger "a really good time." But after growing up in the Midwest, and seeing the devastation from floods, tornadoes and ice storms, he said the significance of the CBRNE mission goes deeper.

"I'm pretty excited that we have the utilities to go out and help save people," he said. "This is more of the stuff I joined the Army for."

With 10 years in the Army, and a long string of deployments under his belt -- to Kosovo, Afghanistan and three to Iraq – Johnstone called the CBRNE mission a welcome opportunity to serve his own countrymen.

"We're ecstatic about it," he said of the mission. "This is something new and different. It's about actively saving lives," he said. "Hopefully we never have to get the call to do it. But if we get that call, we are ready."

New Communication Balloon Capabilites Tested Aboard USS Boxer

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Daniel Barker, USS Boxer Public Affairs

A Marine assigned to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) releases a Combat Sky satellite communication balloon from the deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is supporting the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit Certification Exercise to prepare for an upcoming deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Daniel Barker/Released)

USS BOXER, At Sea (NNS) -- Members of the Arizona Air National Guard embarked aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4) demonstrated an advanced communication platform, the Combat SkySat balloon Dec. 5.

The most modern communication balloon platform available, the Combat SkySat is larger than a weather balloon, and has the potential to provide communications between ship and helicopter, ship to shore, and between those on shore.

"There are some places between leaving ships and during insertions or raids where communication can be problematic," said Arizona Air National Guard Master Sgt. Kris Errett.

"Attached to the SkySat balloon is a communications payload containing global positioning systems, radios, and a hanging antenna. There are separate radios, one to control the payload and another, a communications repeater, for personnel to communicate with each other."

Boxer is the first ship in the fleet to have the new communication balloon platform aboard. It has been developed over the past three years, and this is the first operational underway test to determine future utility for embarked Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU).

With a suspended ballast system, the latex balloon can be controlled to maintain an altitude between 60,000 – 85,000 feet above sea level. On its way up, the instrument cluster gathers information on wind direction and speed.

"Helium or hydrogen can be used to enable the balloon to fly" said Tech. Sgt. Craig Armstrong, Arizona Air National Guard. "We use helium due to its stability and accessibility."

In the base of the balloon is a venting system to release gas in order to reach a lower altitude. Hanging below the antennae is a five-pound box of sand, and by releasing sand the balloon climbs to a higher altitude.

"Once we're done with the mission we release the payload from the balloon," said Errett. "The payload has a parachute attached that opens after being released from the balloon. The balloon then climbs up to 120,000 feet, freezes, and bursts into many tiny pieces"

The Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group (BOXESG) is currently underway in support of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Certification Exercise to prepare for an upcoming deployment.

BOXESG is comprised of Amphibious Squadron 5, the 13th MEU, Boxer, USS New Orleans (LPD 18), USS Comstock (LSD 45), USS Chung Hoon (DDG 93), USCGC Boutwell (WHEC 719), USS Milius (DDG 69), USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), Naval Beach Group 1, Assault Craft Unit 5, Assault Craft Unit 1, Beach Master Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 5, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Rein), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21, Combat Logistics Battalion 13, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, and Fixed Wing Marine Attack Squadron 214.

Submarine Wraps up 15-Month Deployment, Celebrates Milestones

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Cynthia Clark, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- USS Ohio (SSGN 726), the first operational Trident guided-missile submarine, pulled into Naval Station Pearl Harbor Dec. 8, before returning to its homeport of Bangor, Wash., from its maiden deployment.

"It's a great opportunity to be in Hawaii," said USS Ohio Commanding Officer Capt. Dennis Carpenter. "Our ship has been deployed for 15 months, and for a lot of our guys it's their first time here. We're also excited some of the families were able to come out and welcome their guys home in paradise before we actually have to go home to winter."

The submarine departed Naval Base Kitsap, Oct. 14, 2007, for its maiden deployment, which began a month ahead of schedule. Claiming many firsts, Ohio was the first Trident guided-missile submarine to complete an equator and prime meridian crossing, the first to achieve SEAL/diver dry deck shelter certification, the first to complete three highly-successful national tasking missions and the first to earn two Navy Expeditionary Medals.

"It's unprecedented," Carpenter continued. "To get out there and conduct mission after mission and demonstrate to our allies our capabilities; it's extraordinary."

Ohio visited Busan, Republic of Korea; Subic Bay, Philippines; Yokosuka, Japan and Guam, where the submarine conducted crew exchanges between the Blue and Gold crews, which allowed the submarine to remain on station in support of national tasking. During her visit to Busan, Ohio accomplished another submarine first: the ship hosted a joint special operations task force during Exercise Key Resolve/Foal Eagle to demonstrate the joint command and control capability of the new SSGN platform.

"That's the great thing about USS Ohio; we can go anywhere in the world in a relatively short period of time," Carpenter said. "We've put a lot of miles on our submarine."

Another memorable event during Ohio's maiden deployment was the burial at sea of a veteran of World War II. Ohio crew member Machinist's Mate 1st Class (SS) Jason Witty spread the ashes of his grandfather, Eugene Stanley Morgan, in the Philippine Sea, honoring Morgan's request to be buried with his shipmates of the World War II cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35). Morgan was one of 316 survivors of the sinking of the cruiser on July 30, 1945.

Ohio, the first Trident submarine ever built, returned to the fleet February 2006 after a $250 million, year-long refueling and a $750 million, two-year conversion from a ballistic missile submarine. With this conversion, Ohio and the subsequent convert submarines provide the fleet with the ability to quickly embark and deploy to provide command and control functions for special operations forces and a large volume strike platform in its operating theater.