Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gates Calls Arrival of Second Carrier in Gulf 'Reminder' of U.S. Presence

USS Abraham Lincoln (US Navy Photo)

Blog Editor's Note: The USS Harry S. Truman CSG and the USS Abraham Lincoln CSG are both currenting assigned to the 5th Fleet and operating in the Persian Gulf.

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

MEXICO CITY, April 30, 2008 - The movement of a second aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf this week doesn't signal an escalation of the U.S. naval presence -- but could serve as a "reminder" of it to countries in the region, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here last night.

Gates did not specifically name Iran when responding to a reporter's question about the arrival this week of USS Abraham Lincoln in the Gulf.

"The size of our naval presence in the Gulf rises and falls constantly," he said. "This deployment has been planned for a long time. I don't think we will have two carriers there for a protracted period of time. So I don't see it as an escalation. I think it could be seen, though, as a reminder."

Pressed by another reporter, Gates denied that heightened Defense Department criticism of Iran means it's laying the foundation for a military strike.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters last week that recently manufactured Iranian weapons found in and around Basra, Iraq, prove that Iran continues meddling in Iraq in ways that hamper progress and put U.S. and Iraqi lives at risk.

Mullen said at an April 25 Pentagon news conference that he's "increasingly concerned about Iran's activity, not just in Iraq, but throughout the region.

"I believe recent events, especially the Basra operation, have revealed just how much and just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability," he said.

Mullen said he believes diplomatic, financial and international pressure is the best way to pressure Iran to reverse course. But "we are not taking any military elements off the table," he said.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq who is in line for the top U.S. Central Command job, is preparing a briefing that details Iran's activities. That report is expected in the next couple of weeks.

Gates told reporters last night that he does not believe there's been any significant increase in Iranian support for the Taliban and others opposing the government in Afghanistan. "There is, as best as I can tell, a continuing flow, but I would still characterize it as relatively modest," he said.

The nature of the Taliban threat has changed, he said. Large-scale firefights against Afghan and coalition forces have evolved into terrorist acts, many using improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers. Gates noted that Afghan President Hamid Karzai narrowly escaped such an attack on his life earlier this week when Taliban gunmen attacked a military parade in Kabul.

The secretary said he views the latest tactics as a sign that the Taliban recognizes the strength and firepower of the coalition forces they're up against in Afghanistan. "They are changing their tactics, and we will have to clearly continue to adapt our tactics as well," he said.

USS Harry S. Truman (US Navy Photo)

Navy Announces Commissioning of Submarine North Carolina

The Navy’s newest attack submarine North Carolina will be commissioned Saturday, May 3, during a 10 a.m. EDT ceremony at Port of Wilmington in Wilmington, N.C.

Designated SSN 777, the fourth submarine of the Virginia-class will bear the name North Carolina to honor the Tar Heel State. The submarine will be the fourth ship of the U.S. Navy to bear the name North Carolina. The first was a 74-gun ship-of-the-line that served from 1820 to 1836. The second North Carolina was a Tennessee-class armored cruiser that was built at the Newport News shipyard and served from 1908 to 1921. The third North Carolina was the first of the Navy's modern battleships, serving from 1940 to 1947, earning 12 battle stars for service during World War II. The battleship now serves in Wilmington, N.C., as a memorial for all North Carolinians who served in World War II.

Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter will deliver the ceremony’s principal address. Linda Bowman, wife of retired Adm. Frank "Skip" Bowman, former director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion, will serve as sponsor of North Carolina. The ceremony will be highlighted by a time-honored Navy tradition when Bowman gives the first order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”

The Virginia-class is designed and built to fulfill all current warfighting requirements and provides the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation's undersea supremacy well into the 21st century. Equally adept at operating in the world’s shallow littoral regions and deep waters, North Carolina and her sister ships will significantly contribute to the mission areas of anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; special operations forces; strike; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; battle group support; and mine warfare.

Capt. Mark E. Davis, a native of upstate New York, will become the ship’s first commanding officer and will lead a crew of approximately 134 officers and enlisted personnel. North Carolina will be homeported in Groton, Conn., as a member of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

The 7,800-ton North Carolina was built under a teaming arrangement between Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat. North Carolina is 337 feet in length, has a beam of 34 feet, and can operate at depths greater than 800 feet and at speeds exceeding 25 knots submerged. North Carolina is also designed with a reactor plant which will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship-reducing lifecycle costs while increasing operational availability.

KC-135 wing moves from Michigan to Florida

USAF Photo

Blog Editor Note: As of this date the 927ARW Ops frequency of 314.200 MHz has been deleted. Wonder if the Piston callsign will go with it or will it move over to the MI ANG unit that is moving from their F-16/C-130 mix to an A-10/KC-135 unit? Thanks Jack for the story.

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) -- Air Force Reserve Command's 927th Air Refueling Wing transferred to MacDill AFB April 27, forming a classic associate unit partnership with Air Mobility Command's 6th Air Mobility Wing.

Before the move, the 927th ARW was at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., where it flew and maintained its own KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft. At MacDill AFB, the wing will help fly and maintain the active-duty wing's aircraft.

"We are going to build the premier KC-135 associate wing," said Col. Kenneth Lewis, who took command of the Air Force Reserve wing on the same day as the transfer. "When I ask you to integrate with active duty everywhere, it makes sense to do so. Or, when I tell our Airmen [they] need to conceive, devise and implement better ways of utilizing resources in order to maximize our efficiency and productivity, it is because the better we do our jobs as individuals and collectively, as a wing, the more we contribute to the destruction of our enemies."

It has been nearly three years since the Base Realignment and Closure Commission directed the wing to relocate to MacDill AFB to become an associate wing.

Aircraft formerly managed by the 927th ARW went to Air National Guard units.

Wing Airmen and civilian employees continue to find employment through the Air Force Reserve Command clearinghouse and with Air Force Reserve units that are within commuting distance. Some went to work for other federal agencies or joined the Michigan Air National Guard. Others returned to the regular Air Force or chose to serve with another military service.

Despite these changes, "morale remains high, and the remaining people realize there is a big job to be done," said wing officials.

"The men and women of the 927th have a unique opportunity to build something great here, and I know that you will," said Col. Gary Beebe, who passed the wing leadership flag to Colonel Lewis.

Colonel Beebe now commands 4th Air Force, Detachment 2 at Selfridge, an organization that will close out Air Force Reserve business there in 2009.

"Cling to our core values and decide today that you will not compromise them even in the face of adversity," Colonel Beebe told the reservists at MacDill AFB. "You are all warrior leaders. Take that very seriously, but learn some things better than anything else: learn to lead with humility. Learn to always say hello, please, thank you, can I help and, most importantly, to say 'I'm sorry.' We all blow it sometimes. Admit your mistakes and move in the right direction. It will empower your leadership."

April 27 was also the first unit training assembly weekend for the reservists at MacDill. More than 150 of them participated in the drill weekend with 142 in formation for the ceremony, beneath the nose cone of a KC-135 that bears the numeric designation of the Reserve and active-duty wings.

"We have a long and exciting future, and I'm thrilled about us being able to do this," said Maj. Gen. Robert E. Duignan, 4th Air Force commander, referring to the Total Force Integration at MacDill AFB. "There have been a lot of people who have worked very hard for this to come about, and we are ready for this relationship to begin.

"There are processes in place (at MacDill) to take care of our personnel, and they are ready for us to start flying operations. It will be here, as at other places, where you won't be able to tell the difference between the forces whether they are active duty or Reserve. Everyone will function toward the same level of mission accomplishment."

At the height of its operations at Selfridge, the 927th ARW had more than 1,200 people assigned, including traditional reservists and full-time workers. They had an annual economic impact on the local economy of more than $58 million dollars.

Port Everglades Welcomes Sailors for Fleet Week 2008

Blog editor note: For Robert and all my friends in the south Florida area. Good hunting.

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Katrina Parker, Fleet Public Affairs Center Atlantic

The guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) pulls into port at Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for Fleet Week. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky)

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. (NNS) -- More than 2,500 Sailors, Marines and CoastGuardsmen aboard various ships arrived for Fleet Week Port Everglades April 28. An official reception for all hands was held at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

During the reception, the Mayor of Hollywood, Peter Bober, welcomed Sailors from amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), guided-missile destroyers USS Mitscher (DDG 57) and USS Ramage (DDG 61), guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) and attack submarine USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720) into the community with many thanks for their service.

"It's an honor for me on behalf of the 143,000 residents of Hollywood to thank all the service members here," Bober said. "We hope you have a very pleasant and safe stay."

Bober presented the key to the city to Rear Adm. Daniel Holloway, commander of Carrier Strike Group 12. Holloway expressed his gratitude to the city for putting this event together.

"There are so many divisions that helped put this event together," Holloway said. "This does not come cheap, quick, or easy. It comes from volunteer time and great leadership."

The Southeast Navy Band from Jacksonville, Fla. provided musical performances, and Hard Rock treated service members to food and an open venue.

"Each year, Port Everglades is honored and humbled by the thousands of men and women who serve in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard," Port Everglades Director Phillip Allen said. "We appreciate everything you do to protect our country, and look forward to welcoming you to our community."

The guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) pulls into port at Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for Fleet Week. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky)

UNITAS Ships Sail Together

USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- Ships from three countries participating in UNITAS 49-08 joined together April 27 in a close quarters formation exercise sailing off the coast of Brazil.

Brazil, Argentina and the United States had a total of 10 ships participating in the exercise, including BNS Niterói (F 40), BNS Greenhalgh (F 46), BNS Bosisio Almirante Brown (D 10), USS George Washington (CVN 73), USS Farragut (DDG 99), USS Kauffman (FFG 59), USCG Northland (WMEC 904), ARA Patagonia (B 1), and ARA Gomez Roca (P 46).

"Sailing ships this close together is always a test of seamanship and coordination," said Cmdr. Anthony Calandra, operations officer of George Washington. "Today all of the Strike Group showed its ability to coordinate and communicate effectively to execute this complex maneuver."

The exercise provided an opportunity for all of the participants to improve their ship handling skills while working together in a multinational environment.

The navies of the three countries are participating in the exercise which wraps up May 2. UNITAS, Latin for "unity," is a 49-year-old annual exercise designed to enhance mutual cooperation, understanding and interoperability for participating navies through cultural exchanges, maritime coalition training and maritime interdiction operation scenarios in an ongoing commitment by participants to regional stability and security.

Boxer Deploys to Latin America for Continuing Promise 2008

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Michael E. Miller Jr., USS Boxer Public Affairs

The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) leaves Naval Base San Diego for a two-month deployment to Latin America as part of a humanitarian mission. During the deployment, the ship's crew will provide humanitarian relief to Guatemala, El Salvador and Peru. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alexia M. Riveracorrea)

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- USS Boxer (LHD 4) along with various embarked units and non-governmental organizations (NGO) departed Naval Base San Diego April 28 in route to Latin America nations for the Pacific Phase of Continuing Promise (CP) 2008.

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

Specific locations for the ship's relief operations include Guatemala, El Salvador and Peru. The deployment is scheduled to last through June.

The Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA) mission provides partner nations in the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) area of focus a mobile, flexible and rapidly responsive medical and engineering capability for a number of missions and training opportunities in Central and South America. This is Boxer's first deployment since returning from the Western Pacific in May 2007.

The Pacific Phase of CP is one of two HCA deployments planned for the USSOUTHCOM area of focus for 2008. The second CP deployment will be conducted by USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) in the Caribbean. The deployments are modeled in part on last year's USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) deployment to the region that delivered substantial medical and dental support to a large number of people in remote locations. Boxer's deployment is planned with a more robust capability for engineering operations ashore.

"This is what the Navy has always done," said Boxer's commanding officer, Capt. Matthew J. McCloskey. "It's always been about diplomacy and it's always been about helping people. I think the prospect of being able to go down there and do something focused on helping people just fits Boxer."

Wasp-class amphibious assault ships like Boxer are designed with a variety of expeditionary mission capabilities, including rapid, projected humanitarian assistance worldwide. It also has the physical capacity to transport large amounts of medical and engineering supplies and equipment to most locations around the globe.

Boxer's CP deployment has been coordinated through Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 5 with partner nations in the region and planned hand-in-hand with a variety of governmental and NGOs to creatively address the level and scope of care that will be needed to support regional medical needs. A key objective of this deployment is to address regional health service support requirements and promote clinical information sharing across the region.

"We are partnering with our neighbors to provide construction capabilities ashore, basic primary health care, dentistry, environmental health care, optometry, biomedical repair, training and even veterinary care," said Commander of PHIBRON 5, Commodore Peter K. Dallman. "We are also planning to provide a limited number of surgeries on board the ship which is a unique capability that Boxer brings."

The embarked Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 5, will work with Latin American medical teams and NGOs in treatment, training and infrastructure support across the host countries.

Navy Seabee Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 303 will support Boxer and FST 5's medical mission by bringing robust construction capabilities, civic action repairs and minor construction projects to nations in the region.

"The variety of training and capabilities Continuing Promise will take into the region clearly demonstrates our nation's commitment to fostering cooperative partnerships," said Dallman. "This is a diverse mission that demands a diverse ship and crew. The same flexibility that makes Boxer an effective warship also makes it an extraordinarily effective platform for performing humanitarian assistance missions."

"America is a country interested in freedom, our own personal freedom and everyone else's freedom," added McCloskey. "We're a country that's willing to reach out and help with no strings attached. I want to thank these nations for partnering with us."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

USS Fort McHenry Heading Home

A tug boat comes along side the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) as it prepares to leave Naval Station Rota for its homeport of Norfolk, Va., after a six-month deployment to the coast of west and central Africa as part of Africa Partnership Station (APS). APS is a U.S. Naval Forces Europe-led initiative, executed by a multi-national staff aboard the high-speed vessel (HSV) 2 Swift and Fort McHenry designed to contribute to maritime security and safety in the region. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Robert Clowney (Released)

HSL-47 Conducts Flight Deck Ops with Singapore Navy

An SH-60B Seahawk assigned to the "Saberhawks" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 47 banks over the guided-missile frigate RSS Steadfast (FFG 70) during flight deck qualifications with the Republic of Singapore Navy. HSL-47 and other squadrons assigned Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 are on a scheduled seven-month deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility with the USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans (Released)

HSL-47/HS-2 Conduct Air Power Demonstration

An SH-60B Seahawk helicopter assigned to the "Saberhawks" of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Light (HSL) 47 flying the American flag and an HH-60H Seahawk helicopter assigned to the "Golden Falcons" of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 2 fly over the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Shoup (DDG 86) during an air power demonstration. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Geoffrey Lewis (Released)

Breaking Ground for Reliable Communications Services in the Pacific.

By Denise Emsley, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- A groundbreaking ceremony was held, April 25, at Naval Communications and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific (NCTAMS PAC) in Wahiawa, Hawaii for a new, technologically-advanced communications center.

The 63,560 sq. ft. building will be located on the northeastern end of NCTAMS PAC. Currently, the area is an open, grassy field, which had hosted several radio antennas prior to being relocated to facilitate the start of construction. The new structure is to replace building 294, erected in 1959, which can no longer meet today's modern communication equipment and operational needs.

"Our customers, who span 17 times zones across the globe, from Patuxent River, Md., to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, will reap the benefits of our new facility," said Capt. Janet Stewart, commanding officer, NCTAMS PAC. "It will not only provide them with state-of-the-art communications equipment, it will also serve to minimize outages and reduce the time required to restore services when outages do occur. Ultimately, our new operations building will allow the men and women of NCTAMS PAC to continue to do what we do best, to provide the best customer service to our customers, the warfighter."

When completed, the project will provide NCTAMS PAC with a modern, safe, secure, efficient and adaptable facility, enhancing mission operations. It will also consolidate operational support facilities and personnel which are presently dispersed throughout the base.

"It is indeed time we move into the 21st century and work smarter, not harder," said Stewart. "NCTAMS PAC has the most dedicated and technically proficient workforce the Navy has ever seen, and it is time they are rewarded with a building that is designed to maximize their already noteworthy capabilities."

Construction efforts include building a one-story, steel framed communications structure with work spaces that will be equipped with raised floors, moveable interior walls, under-floor fire suppression system, storage spaces, conference rooms, showers, restrooms, access control system, climate control system, and emergency electrical power.

In addition to the communications center, new supporting facilities such as a 135-stall parking lot, site improvements, sidewalks, landscaping, pavement, electrical and communication ducts, fencing and security lighting are to be completed.

The final piece of the project is to construct a new single-story, power switching station, which will be built adjacent to the electrical substation located on base.

The new, secured communications facility will provide space for approximately 200 personnel and will be manned 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.

Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Pacific, the project's program manager, awarded the $46.9 million contract to Watts Constructors, LLC, of Honolulu, March 5. NAVFAC Hawaii's Resident Officer in Charge of Construction Wahiawa is the Navy's Administrative Contracting Office for the project. The project's scheduled completion date is March 2010.

CSG9 Ships Participate in Singapore PASSEX

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

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- Ships and aircraft from Carrier Strike Group 9 and the Republic of Singapore Navy conducted a Passing Exercise (PASSEX) while underway near Singapore, April 15.

Republic of Singapore Formidable-class guided missile frigate RSS Steadfast (FFG 70) conducted flight deck training with an SH-60B Seahawk assigned to Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 47 "Saberhawks."

The helicopter, flown by HSL-47's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Shawn Malone and copilot Lt. Christopher Moore, made several landings on the ship's flight deck, giving the crew of Steadfast the opportunity to practice helicopter recovery procedures including chocking and chaining (referred to as "lashing" by the Singapore Navy) and refueling evolutions.

"The Singapore Navy is increasing its capabilities and acquiring H-60 type helicopters and their pilots are training at NAS North Island (San Diego), so this is an opportunity to work together and for us to train with them for helicopter shipboard operations," Malone said. "It was a great exchange and it was a wonderful way to build those partnerships with the Singapore Navy."

Following the flight operations, Steadfast practiced coming alongside the fast combat support ship USNS Rainier (T-AOE 7) and conducted a simulated refueling-at-sea.

The evolution was observed from the air in an HSL-47 helicopter by Singapore Navy Capt. Kelvin Lim, a communications officer assigned to the RSS Formidable. Lim also spent time aboard USS Shoup (DDG 86) during the PASSEX and observed that there are many similarities and differences between the two ships.

"Our primary mission is air defense, like your ship, but we do things differently because we only have 70 people on board," said Lim.

He added that the most striking difference between Shoup and Steadfast was the makeup of the crews. "You can see the whole of America on your ship; there is so much diversity."

One similarity participants noted during the PASSEX was that Steadfast's design in many ways reflected the direction the U.S. Navy is moving with its own ship designs, Malone said.

"That ship to me represents something very similar to where we're moving with the littoral combat ship and some of the stealth technology that is being incorporated into our surface forces," Malone said. "That was the benefit for us -- to be able to operate with that type of modern warship."

Brazil, Argentina, George Washington Carrier Strike Group Kick-Off UNITAS

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Riza Caparros, USS George Washington Public Affairs

In this panoramic photo illustration the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) arrives at Rio de Janeiro for a scheduled port visit. USS George Washington departed Norfolk, Va. en route to Yokosuka, Japan, where it will replace the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). US Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Clifford L. H. Davis (Released)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (NNS) -- USS George Washington (CVN 73) and the George Washington Carrier Strike Group participated in the opening ceremony for UNITAS 49-08 in Rio de Janeiro April 22.

UNITAS, Latin for "unity," is a 49 year-old annual exercise designed to enhance friendly, mutual cooperation, understanding and interoperability for participating navies through cultural exchanges and maritime warfare and maritime interdiction operations scenarios.

Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 40, Capt. Rodelio Laco Jr. described the mission of UNITAS as working together to solve common issues and to engage with maritime partners in the hemisphere.

"By increasing interoperability, information sharing and cooperation, we can collectively improve the maritime security of the hemisphere, which will ensure the free flow of maritime trade," Laco said. "Our mutual economies highly depend upon maritime shipping to keep them thriving and it is in our mutual interest to protect the freedom of the seas."

Laco stressed the Navy's new maritime strategy as a key element of UNITAS 49-08.

"We're attempting to engage our partner navies of Brazil and Argentina on multiple levels," Laco said. "Multinational task groups will include Sailor exchanges and cultural sharing while participating in complex and sophisticated scenarios beneficial to all participating navies."

Lt. j.g. Jacob Steele, DESRON 40 assistant operations and planning officer, said these exercises help the U.S. maintain strong relationships with other countries.

"The goal is to be completely interoperable with the other country's navies, to be able to work with any ship from any South American navy," said Steele. "We do that through collaborative planning and execution of challenging, realistic scenarios."

As the host nation for UNITAS, Brazil has been instrumental in getting UNITAS off on the right foot.

"UNITAS would not happen without the Brazilians, because as the host nation they have taken the lead on multiple issues. Their leadership made the planning conferences run smoothly and we expect it to continue throughout the exercise," Steele said.

This is the 49th year UNITAS has been held. The exercise is conducted annually in the Atlantic and Pacific waters around South America, bringing together Sailors and naval officers from various countries to train and operate as a cohesive unit, while developing cooperative relationships, professional understanding and lasting friendships between nations.

Ronald Reagan Strike Group Returns Following Completion of JTFEX 08-5

CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 returned to homeport April 22, following completion of Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 08-5.

The exercise tested the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group's ability to operate alongside other U.S. and coalition forces in a complex, hostile warfighting environment. JFTEX 08-5 was also the final step in preparing the strike group for deployment.

"This is the strike group's last training before we go on deployment," said Rear Adm. James P. "Phil" Wisecup, commander, Carrier Strike Group 7. "It's the ability to do integrated training, not just individual ship training. We bring the group together, all the ships, the air wing and the aircraft carrier, as well as the staffs of the warfare commanders and we fight the ship as a group.

"I'm very confident about the Ronald Reagan Strike Group's ability to go into harms way and also to do the nation's business," said Wisecup.

Ronald Reagan Commanding Officer Capt. Terry B. Kraft, noted the success of JTFEX 08-5 was the direct result of all of the hard work and dedication exhibited by the officers and crew.

"It is just amazing to watch the way a crew, a ship and an air wing come together to meet the kind of high-level of tasking that we're performing right now during JTFEX," said Kraft. "This carrier is ready to deploy in support of U.S. interests anywhere in the world."

In addition to the ship's performance during the exercise, Ronald Reagan also successfully completed its Maintenance, Material Management (3M) inspection with a score of 95 percent.

Wisecup said he was extremely impressed by the officers and enlisted Sailors assigned to the strike group.

"Their heads were in the right place, they were focused, they worked hard, they put in long hours," said Wisecup. "I'm proud as I could be of them and I am very, very honored to have the privilege to sail with them here in very short order."

Ronald Reagan Strike Group Sailors who took part in the excerise said they enjoyed the opportunity to work in the JTFEX environment.

"We learned a lot during the JTFEX," said Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class (SW) Justin D. Prince. "It was a great opportunity to work on a lot of the mission sets we can expect to see during deployment, especially in the strike group environment.

"For me specifically, there was the anti-submarine warfare mission I'm normally exposed to on [USS] Thach, as well as lot of infrastructure defense that we will probably do in the Gulf," added Prince. "JTFEX kept the whole crew on its toes and gave us a good idea of the pace we might experience."

Air Force receives last GPS IIR satellite

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

Employees at the Lockheed Martin plant in Valley Forge, Pa., prepare GPS IIR(M)-20 for shipment to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The satellite, scheduled to launch June 30, is the last of the IIR-series GPS satellites the Air Force is receiving from Lockheed Martin. (Lockheed Martin photo/Stephen B. Griffin)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFPN) -- The Air Force received the last in a series of GPS IIR(M) satellites from Lockheed Martin during an recent fly-out ceremony at the Lockheed Martin facility in Valley Forge, Penn.

"The IIR satellites have been great," said Lt. Col. Doug Schiess, operations officer for the 2nd Space Operations Squadron. He represented the 50th Space Wing at the ceremony. "One of the things they've done for us is allowed us to reduce our operations tempo. We used to have to do two supports per day on all GPS satellites, but the IIRs have allowed us to go down to one support per day."

The IIR satellites require less support because they have improved autonomous capabilities. The primary autonomous capability is a IIR redundancy management function, which tracks and manages the satellite's subsystems. Internal tests are run regularly and components can be autonomously swapped if a failure is detected.

The IIR series of satellites also has been more robust. After nearly 11 years since the first IIR satellite was launched, all the IIR satellites remain operational and are still on their primary clocks.

"We have multiple clocks for redundancy on each satellite," Colonel Schiess said. "Our older IIA satellites are on their second or third clocks, but we haven't had to change a clock yet for the IIR satellites."

This robustness makes the satellites more likely to live beyond their projected design lifetimes, which means more utility for taxpayers' dollars.

When GPS IIR(M)-20 launches this summer, it will be the 19th IIR satellite in orbit. Of those 19 satellites, seven are the newer IIR(M) models, which provide an additional signal called L2C for civilian use and additional military code, or M-code, signals.

"The M-code is a modification that the Air Force asked Lockheed Martin to do after they had the GPS IIR contract," Colonel Schiess said. "The M-code provides anti-jam capability, and as we saw we were going into a jamming environment, we knew we'd need the capability sooner than it would have been available on the GPS IIF satellites."

Lockheed-Martin specialists, at the request of Air Force officials, pulled some of the satellites that were ready for launch out of storage to add the M-code, flex power and L2C capability.

GPS IIR(M)-20 also will transmit on a frequency called L5, which is primarily designed for aviation safety-of-life applications.

"Lockheed-Martin modified this satellite (per the Air Force's request) to transmit on the L5 frequency so we can demonstrate to the International Telecommunication Union (the United Nations body that governs use of satellite communication frequencies) that we're using the frequency," Colonel Schiess said. "We had to start using the frequency or we'd lose the ability to say it's ours."

The L5 payload aboard the IIR satellite will provide a demonstration signal that secures exclusive protection of the L5 signal spectrum for U.S. use.

GPS IIR(M)-20 is the last IIR(M) satellite the Air Force received due to the L-5 modification, but it will not be the last IIR(M) satellite to launch. GPS IIR(M)-20 is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station June 30. The last IIR(M) satellite to launch, GPS IIR(M)-21, is scheduled for liftoff Sept. 11.

B-1B performs as never envisioned after 20 years

by Tech. Sgt. Russell Wicke, Air Combat Command Public Affairs

A B-1B Lancer lifts off from the runway of an air base in Southwest Asia. The B-1B is a multi-role, long-range bomber capable of flying intercontinental missions without refueling. It can perform a variety of missions, including that of carrying conventional weapons for theater operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. David Miller)

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (AFPN) -- May 2 marks 20 years since the last B-1B Lancer was delivered to the Air Force, and today commanders consider it one of the most valuable aircraft in Iraq.

Since 2003, the once-nuclear-weapon-carrying bomber has maintained a continuous presence in Southwest Asia after the Air Force modified it to carry numerous conventional bombs.

The Lancer's efficiency in urban ground combat is peculiar considering its designers never envisioned it for such a job, said Lt. Col. James Johnson, Air Combat Command B-1 weapons system chief. The bomber, he said, was designed to make flights around the globe from four garrison bases to deliver nuclear ordnance. Now it's an inter-theater aircraft trading long-range sorties for loiter time in Iraqi air space.

"Upgrades enabled it to use smaller bombs and more of them," said Senior Master Sgt. Chuck Klein, Air Combat Command B-1 aircraft manager. "[The B-1] uses precision smart bombs to support troops in contact."

Operating at approximately 20,000 feet, the B-1 waits patiently with up to 35 tons of precision-guided bombs. When ground troops encounter the enemy it can engage in minutes because of its readiness and speed.

In the first six months of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the bomber delivered almost 40 percent of the bomb tonnage in only five percent of the sorties. Nearly five years later, the B-1 sorties increased by 25 percent, and Air Force officials dubbed it the most valuable aircraft for OIF in March 2007.

Other Air Force bombers have their advantage: the B-2 Spirit boasts stealth and the B-52 Stratofortress is low cost to operate.

But the B-1 earned its popularity by trumping those bombers in speed, range and payload, said Sergeant Klein. Those attributes are what make it a perfect fit for the war in Iraq.

"The airplane can do the job continuously and has the right mix of weapons," he said, adding that its long loiter time and massive payload make it a fast lifesaver for ground troops.

In fact, the B-1 is so effective there are times when it doesn't even need to drop a bomb.

Army officials from the 82nd Airborne 2nd Battalion 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, who returned from Iraq in November, said a B-1 show of force was more than enough to put the enemy's head down during gun battles. A show of force occurs when an aircraft flies by low and fast releasing flares to intimidate enemy combatants. Smaller fighter aircraft are usually used for this purpose; however, the 200,000 pound Lancer makes for an intense fly-by, Army officials said.

Despite the B-1's age, its effectiveness in Iraq prompts the Air Force to keep a sharp technological edge on the Lancer. Upgrades to the B-1 are ongoing initiatives that modify the airframe with the latest technology, according to Colonel Johnson. Currently B-1s are being equipped with the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod, which allows pilots to identify tactical targets at greater ranges.

Other accomplishments of the B-1 include the breaking of 51 world records. Sergeant Klein said many of these records include carrying large amounts of weight at fast speeds from one point to another.

"It's been the bomber of choice for [Central Air Forces]," he said. "It's the right bomber for the mission in Iraq, which is close-air support."

Friday, April 25, 2008

US Navy vs Iranian Fast Boats - Again

SS Westward Venture (Photo courtesy of Tote)

Fox News is reporting that the SS Westward Venture (a US Navy contract vessel) fired on Iranian Fast Boats yesterday (4/24). The boats were within 100 yards of the vessel and not responding to radio communications. Navy secruity detachment personnel used M16s. It is believed that the potential Iranian attackers were Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

You can check out the complete story on the Fox website at,2933,352579,00.html

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Navy Re-Establishes U.S. Fourth Fleet

Sailors attached to the Peruvian frigate Palacios (FM-56) approach the stern gate of dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), during multi-national passenger transfers for the closing conferences of UNITAS 48-07. Pacific phase held aboard Pearl Harbor during Partnership of the Americas (POA) 2007. POA focus is to enhance relationships with partner nations through a variety of exercises and events at sea and on shore throughout South America, Latin America, and the Caribbean. (U.S. Navy photo By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Damien Horvath)

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead announced today the re-establishment of the U.S. Fourth Fleet and assigned Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan, currently serving as commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, as its new commander. Fourth Fleet will be responsible for U.S. Navy ships, aircraft and submarines operating in the Caribbean, and Central and South America.

U.S. Fourth Fleet will be dual-hatted with the existing commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO), currently located in Mayport, Fla. U.S. Fourth Fleet has been re-established to address the increased role of maritime forces in the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) area of operations, and to demonstrate U.S. commitment to regional partners.

“Re-establishing the Fourth Fleet recognizes the immense importance of maritime security in the southern part of the Western Hemisphere, and signals our support and interest in the civil and military maritime services in Central and South America,” said Roughead. “Our maritime strategy raises the importance of working with international partners as the basis for global maritime security. This change increases our emphasis in the region on employing naval forces to build confidence and trust among nations through collective maritime security efforts that focus on common threats and mutual interests. “

Effective July 1, the command will have operational responsibility for U.S. Navy assets assigned from east and west coast fleets to operate in the SOUTHCOM area. As a result, U.S. Fourth Fleet will not involve an increase in forces assigned in Mayport, Fla. These assets will conduct varying missions including a range of contingency operations, counter narcoterrorism, and theater security cooperation (TSC) activities. TSC includes military-to-military interaction and bilateral training opportunities as well as humanitarian assistance and in-country partnerships.

U.S. Fourth Fleet will retain responsibility as NAVSO, the Navy component command for SOUTHCOM. Its mission is to direct U.S. naval forces operating in the Caribbean, and Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies to shape the maritime environment.

Kernan will be the first Navy SEAL to serve as a numbered fleet commander.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Milcom MP Picture of the Week

I love a good military picture and this is one of those I just can't pass up posting. So from time to time I hope to present a great picture here for my Milcom Blog readers. And if you have a great picture you would like to share (from an airshow, etc), you can contact me at the email address in the masthead.

Capt. Norbert "Smurf" Szarleta, commanding officer of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, breaks the sound barrier in an F/A-18F Super Hornet strike fighter during an air power demonstration aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) on 17April 2008. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Yeoman Augustine Cooper (Released)

O'Kane, Reuben James Join Nimitz CSG

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael A. Lantron, Commander, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS O'Kane (DDG 77) departs Naval Station Pearl Harbor. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 2nd Class Michael A. Lantron

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS O'Kane (DDG 77) and the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57) departed Naval Station (NAVSTA) Pearl Harbor, April 18, to join the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Carrier Strike Group (CSG).

Friends and family waved goodbye as the ships left the pier for a surge deployment with the strike group in support of the war on terrorism.

"I know it's part of the job, but I'm going to miss him like crazy and at the same time I'm more proud of him than ever," said a spouse of a Reuben James Sailor.

"Our leaving today is part of the whole new concept of being ready at any time we're asked to deploy and I think the crew understands that and everyone's ready and looking forward to it," said Cmdr. Joseph Naman, commanding officer of Reuben James.

Reuben James returned Feb. 22 from a six-month deployment in support of the war on terrorism, where they also conducted community relation projects in Guadalcanal, Tonga and Samoa.

Having to leave their friends and family behind as they return to sea two months after a major deployment is strenuous on the crew of Reuben James but the crew is still upbeat about another underway period.

"I'm pretty excited to get out there, go underway and do whatever it is we may have to do," said Electronics Technician 3rd Class Stephen Coffmann, assigned to Reuben James.

O'Kane has been in Pearl Harbor since returning from a seven-month deployment in the Persian Gulf with the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) CSG on Aug. 20, 2007.

Cmdr. Tom Druggan, commanding officer of O'Kane, believes that despite the long wait between deployments, the crew is up to the task and ready for their deployment.

"In the end, this is what we're hired to do," said Druggan. "This is why the Navy maintains a ready posture throughout the fleet and we are answering the call."

One O'Kane Sailor said he looks forward to getting back underway and supporting the nation while at sea.

"I think all of us are ready to go out and do what we're meant to do, which is go underway and defend our country," said Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class (SW) John Grunnels, assigned to O'Kane.

Guided-missile destroyers provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities, and can operate independently or as part of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, expeditionary strike groups, and underway replenishment groups. Frigates fulfill a protection of shipping mission as anti-submarine warfare combatants for amphibious expeditionary forces, underway replenishment groups and merchant convoys.

B-2s return to flight after safety pause

by Airman 1st Class Stephen Linch, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Col. Tom Bussiere and Maj. Rich Collins take off in a B-2 Spirit named the Spirit of Florida April 15 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The flight was the first since a B-2 crashed Feb. 23 at Andersen AFB, Guam. Colonel Bussiere is the 509th Operations Group commander, and Major Collins is the 394th Combat Training Squadron operations officer. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Charles Larkin Sr.)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFPN) -- A B-2 Spirit made a successful return to flight April 15 here after a 53-day safety pause for the aircraft following the first-ever crash of a stealth bomber Feb. 23 in Guam.

While an accident investigation board is still ongoing, Air Force and Air Combat Command maintenance and safety experts gave 509th Bomb Wing officials the green light to fly.

Col. Tom Bussiere, the 509th Operations Group commander, and Maj. Rich Collins, the 394th Combat Training Squadron operations officer, took a B-2 into the Missouri sky April 15 in the first flight since a B-2 crashed on takeoff Feb. 23 at Andersen AFB, Guam.

"We definitely wanted our return to flying to be deliberate and safe," said Brig. Gen. Gary Harencak, the 509th Bomb Wing commander.

B-2s have been flying almost 20 years and are renowned in the Air Force for their unprecedented safety record, General Harencak said.

"In the history of aviation, there's never been an aircraft with a safety record like the B-2," he said. "These bombers combined have a logged more than 14,000 sorties, 100 combat sorties and 75,000 flying hours without a single Class A mishap until now."

A Class A mishap is when there is loss of life or damage in excess of $1 million. But General Harencak said only one flight Class A mishap in 20 years beats the odds of almost any aircraft.

The B-2 that crashed, named the Spirit of Kansas, had logged more than 5,000 flight hours and 1,036 sorties before Feb. 23, and it was "renowned in the maintenance community for being a great jet," said Col. Bob Dulong, the 509th Maintenance Group commander.

"The B-2 is airpower at its purest, most elegant and deadliest form," the general said. "(It is) an aircraft that cannot be denied access with its range, payload and stealthiness. It has everything that is required to hold at risk any of America's enemies anywhere, anytime, and we can do it from here."

Whiteman AFB (Knob Noster, MO) Frequency List

41.000 National Guard (MO) Operations HAWK OPS (FM)
49.650 National Guard (MO) Operations HAWK OPS
118.725 ATIS
121.500 Emergency/Calling
121.750 Clearance Delivery
125.925 Departure Control
127.450 Approach Control
128.275 Ground Control
132.400 Tower
135.575 Kansas City ARTCC - Sedalia RCAG
139.000 National Guard (MO) Operations HAWK OPS (AM)
227.800 442FW/303FS Operations GROUND HOG
239.025 ATIS
242.400 National Guard (MO) Operations HAWK OPS
243.000 Emergency/Calling
255.600 Tower
275.800 Ground Control
284.000 Approach Control
311.000 509BW Command Post SPIRIT CONTROL
321.000 509BW Command Post SPIRIT CONTROL
323.150 Kansas City ARTCC - Sedalia RCAG
335.800 Clearance Delivery
343.650 Departure Control
344.600 Metro
369.900 Metro
372.200 PTD
381.300 509BW Command Post AURORA CONTROL
388.850 509BW A-A
393.000 509BW A-A

This frequency list is posted as a courtesy of Teak Publishing - the official sponsors of the Milcom Monitoring Post blog.

Navy Awards Northrop Grumman Unmanned Aircraft System Contract

The Department of the Navy announced today that the Northrop Grumman Corp. has been awarded the system development and Demonstration (SDD) contract for the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Unmanned Aircraft System (BAMS UAS).

The BAMS UAS contract award is the culmination of a year-long source selection process since the Navy received industry proposals in May 2007. The $1.16 billion cost-plus-award-fee contract is to develop a persistent maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data collection and dissemination capability that fulfills the maritime war fighter's requirement for continuous battle-space awareness. The BAMS UAS will be developed using Northrop Grumman's RQ-4N platform.

"This announcement represents the Navy's largest investment in unmanned aircraft systems to date. The extraordinary efforts leading to this announcement have helped the BAMS UAS program begin to develop a persistent ISR capability never before available to the fleet," said Capt. Bob Dishman, program manager for the BAMS UAS program. "This is a significant milestone for the BAMS UAS program, concluding a deliberate and meticulous source selection process that adhered to stringent Federal Acquisition Regulation and Naval Air System Command source selection processes and documentation requirements."

The BAMS UAS is an integral part of the maritime patrol and reconnaissance Force. As an adjunct to the P-8A Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft, the BAMS UAS will provide persistent maritime and littoral intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to joint forces and fleet commanders worldwide. This capability will enhance battle-space awareness, improve force projection capabilities and protect and defend the fleet and the nation.

NASA turns to Air Force for 'Guppy' evaluation

by Danielle Gregory, 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

NASA’s Super Guppy sits at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., where it arrived in mid-April for a maintenance inspection by Air Force personnel. Project planners say the work should be completed by Aug. 22. (Air Force photo by Debra Bennett)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- NASA brought its Super Guppy (Callsign NASA 941-LVH) - a uniquely-designed aircraft used to transport cargo, including parts of the space shuttle program - to Tinker AFB in mid-April so that maintainers here could inspect the aircraft and perform some repairs.

According to NASA Chief Flight Engineer Henry Taylor, officials chose Tinker AFB because it has a great reputation for having lots of capabilities when it comes to doing significant maintenance.

"We wanted to go someplace where we could have the kind of expertise and support to support a one-of-a-kind airplane and Tinker has that," Mr. Taylor said.

Project planners here estimate it should take about 14,770 hours to inspect and fix the plane, which has never been fixed prior to this. That equates to an Aug. 22 goal of completing inspections and some repairs, with a drop dead date of Sept. 29, unless workers find something that requires extensive repairs.

Debra Bennett, lead Super Guppy project pre-planner, was part of a Tinker AFB contingent that visited NASA in February 2007 to discuss the Super Guppy.

"This is the first time the Air Force has gotten involved as everything has been done by contractors," Ms. Bennett said. "Tinker AFB, in particular, was selected because we had so many different things we can do right here."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Coastal Carolina Airshow Report

Photo courtesy of Ricky Tharrington.

Ricky Tharrington out of Watha, NC attended the Coastal Carolina Airshow in Wilmington this last weekend and filed the following report of what he heard.

Coastal Carolina Air Show Wilmington NC April 19 and 20, 2008

119.9000 Airshow Air Boss AM mode (ILM Tower frequency)
123.1500 Civilian Airshow Acts Air-Air/Air-Ground AM mode
123.4750 US Army Golden Knights Air-Ground AM mode
143.7000 USAF TBirds 4 Ship Air-Air AM mode
216.9975 USAF TBirds Public Address system feed NBFM mode (rock roll music playing before show)
322.9500 USAF TBirds 2 Ship (Solos) Air-Air AM mode
376.0250 US Navy F/A-18 and USAF F-15 Flight Demonstration Air-Ground AM mode
413.2750 USAF TBirds Ground Support NBFM mode (Analog)

No new surprises here, but a great report confirming information our annual list and post here on the Milcom Monitoring Post. Thanks Ricky for sharing the great list and photo from the show.

Remember if you go to an airshow this season I would like to hear from you. You may remain anonymous if you wish. But I can use your input, even if it only confirms information/frequencies we already have on the annual MT Airshow Guide. All input from monitors at these shows is most welcomed and greatly appreciated.

Monday, April 21, 2008

MT Airshow Guide 2008 Now Available Online

I am pleased to announce that the 2008 Monitoring Times Airshow Guide is now available online from the MT website at This is an Adobe PDF file and is provided free of charge as a service to the Milcom monitoring community.

As always, we appreciate any additions, changes, or confirmations of the frequencies and information present in this Guide. You, the monitoring community, are our eyes and ears at each airshow to aid in this project.

So we hope you enjoy the 9th edition of the MT Milcom Airshow Guide.

Exercise Joint Warrior 2008

HMS Northumberland Conducting a replenishment during Exercise Neptune Warrior off Scotland in March 06 with RFA Orangeleaf (UK Royal Navy Photo)

The UK military will be running two publicized multi-force exercises around Scotland under the title of Exercise Joint Warrior 2008. NW 081 will run from April 19, 2008 to May 2, 2008, and NW 082 will follow later in the year, running between October 4, 2008 and October 17, 2008. These are the latest in the series of major regular multi-force exercises previously known as Neptune Warrior. You can get more details on this at

Gerry on the UDXF has reported 4760 kHz USB (Tac Calls: 9IJ, 1IF, 8US, and 1TF), and 5206 kHz USB, probable CWC style net (Tac Calls: Control, KG, KE and JW) as possible exercise frequencies.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Reserve, active-duty Airmen fly last Antarctica mission

by Tech. Sgt. Nick Przybyciel, 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A C-17 Globemaster III from McChord Air Force Base, Wash., is loaded with cargo at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. A Reserve and active-duty Airmen from the 446th and 62nd Airlift Wings flew the late season Operation Deep Freeze mission April 17. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Nick Przybyciel)

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AFPN) -- A total force aircrew from McChord Air Force Base, Wash., made history April 17 during the last Operation Deep Freeze mission of the 2007-2008 season.

With only eight days remaining before Antarctica becomes shrouded in 24-hour darkness during winter, Airmen from the 446th and 62nd Airlift Wings brought 100 scientific researchers, support personnel and their equipment back to civilization. The mid-April flight is the closest to winter a Deep Freeze crew has ever landed in Antarctica.

Tasked to support the National Science Foundation's research efforts in Antarctica, the Reserve and active-duty Airmen from McChord typically provide C-17 Globemaster III support from August to March, which is summer in the southern hemisphere. However, a scientific research team from Montana State University required mission support later than usual this year.

The research team, studying light-driven life in Antarctica's permanently frozen lakes, had to push their field time as close to winter as possible in order to have the proper conditions for their experiments. Unable to receive support this late in the season from the New Zealand air force, the National Science Foundation called on the U.S. Air Force for help.

"We knew we could do it. It hasn't happened yet, but if we ever need to do contingency support -- even in the middle of winter -- we're ready to respond," said Lt. Col. James McGann, commander of the C-17 Deep Freeze operations and a member of the 62nd AW.

The research would be impossible to conduct without the Air Force's ability to respond this late in the season, according to MSU Professor John Priscu. "We wouldn't be here - that's all there is to it. It's a long way from here to New Zealand," he said. One of Antarctica's most weathered research scientists, Professor Priscu has spent 24 seasons on the ice and led this year's MSU team.

By pushing the season, Professor Priscu believes both the Air Force and his research team proved something: "It's proof of concept. We proved we can come down -- and the Air Force can, too -- and work right up to winter."

While most researchers return home after the summer season, a small support group stays behind at the NSF station to maintain and build infrastructure. In case something happens to the support personnel, Colonel McGann is training his crews to fly into the dark Antarctic winter using night vision goggles.

"We're ready if they need us. We've flown test flights under similar circumstances, and although we haven't flown into Antarctica using NVGs, I'm confident if the call comes, we can do it safely and expeditiously," he said.

Even without the difficulties inherent in using NVGs, Deep Freeze missions have more than their share of risks.

Landing on an ice runway in temperatures as frigid as -70 degrees Fahrenheit, Operation Deep Freeze is one of Air Mobility Command's most extreme missions. As such, Colonel McGann cherry-picks his crew, exploiting the expertise of both Reserve and active-duty Airmen from McChord AFB.

"Without a doubt, it's one of the most sought-after missions to get on in Air Mobility Command," said Maj. Tom Jenkins, deputy commander of the mission and a Reserve pilot from the 446th AW.

Fewer than 20 pilots in the entire command are certified to fly Deep Freeze missions, and the process takes three years to complete. Aside from landing on a giant sheet of ice, unpredictable weather makes Antarctica one of the most difficult places to fly into in the world.

"[The weather] can change in a second. Even on a sunny day, if that wind picks up, it blows the snow everywhere. On another mission I was on, you couldn't see more than 50 feet just from the wind blowing the snow around," said Maj. Chuck Corrigan, A Reserve pilot and one-of-two pilots who were certified on the mission.

The bitter temperatures have a profound affect as well on loadmasters and crew chiefs, who are forced to work in the elements. After cargo is loaded onto the C-17 using giant forklifts, loadmasters have to push the pallets into place by hand and secure them, all without any heat on the airplane.

If something breaks during flight and needs to be fixed after landing, crew chiefs have to respond to the situation, no matter how inhospitable the temperature is outside.

"The hardest part is working with your hands, because they get cold very fast. Fortunately, we didn't have any maintenance issues this time," Tech. Sgt. Michelle Short, a Deep Freeze crew chief from the 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

At least for loadmasters, conditions have improved a bit over the years. Master Sgt. Terry Philon, a Reserve loadmaster from the 446th AW, has flown to Antarctica in both C-17s and its predecessor, the C-141 Starlifter. Sergeant Philon is one of the most experienced members of the crew, having just completed his 16th Deep Freeze trip since he began flying them in 1999.

"It's a world of difference between those two planes," he said. "In the (C-)141, it got cold and stayed cold. Since the ceiling wasn't as high (as the C-17), you had space limitations, too. The first time I flew, I configured the jet and realized that I was stuck in the back, with no way to get up front. Luckily, you don't have to worry about that with the C-17."

Another person thankful for the C-17's extended capabilities is Professor Priscu, who was able to avoid spending the winter in Antarctica thanks to the plane's increased cargo and passenger capacities.

"People were frothing at the mouth when we found out a C-17 was coming," he said. "Some of them have been here since last winter and they're starting to act a bit weird. They're definitely ready to get out."

Thanks to the expertise of Deep Freeze Reserve and active-duty Airmen, and the capabilities of the C-17, Professor Priscu and his crew were able to escape back to civilization before things got too weird.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Milair Spectrum Hole List Part 3

Spectrum Holes Part 1 - 22 March 2008
Spectrum Holes Part 2 - 30 March 2008

Spectrum Hole List Part 3 (295.000 -325.000 MHz)

When reporting activity on any of the spectrum hole frequencies on our list, be sure to pass along any info that can help identify the user and frequency usage. Also let me know if you want your catch listed here and how you want to be identified. This list is valid for ITU Region 2 only (North/Central/South America). Other areas of the world have their own bandplans.

Note: Any frequency below that is bolded are the highest priority monitoring targets and should be monitored very closely. Any freqs marked with an asterisk should also be high on your target list.

297.8250 297.8750 297.9250 297.9750 298.0250 298.0750 298.1250 298.3250 298.3750 298.4250 298.4750 298.5250 298.5500* 298.6750 298.7250 298.9750 299.0250 299.0750 299.2250 299.3750 299.4250 299.4750 299.7250 302.2750 302.3250 303.0250 305.2250 305.3250 305.4250 305.4750 305.5250 305.6750 305.7750 305.8750 305.9250 305.9750 306.0500* 306.1250 306.1500* 306.2750 306.3250 306.4250 306.4750 306.6250 306.6500* 306.6750 306.7250 306.8250 307.4500* 307.4750 307.7750 307.8250 307.8750 307.9250 308.1500* 308.2250 308.3250 308.3750 308.4750 308.5250 308.6250 308.6750 308.7250 308.8250 308.9750 309.0250 309.1250 309.1750 309.2250 309.2750 309.3750 309.7250 309.7500* 309.8500* 309.8750 309.9250 310.0250 310.0500* 310.1250 310.1750 310.2250 310.2750 310.3750 310.4750 310.5750 310.7250 310.7750 310.8750 310.9750 311.0250 311.0750 311.1750 311.2250 311.2750 311.3250 311.3500* 311.4500* 311.4750 311.8750 311.9250 311.9750 312.0250 312.0500* 312.1750 313.5250 313.6250 313.6500* 313.6750 313.7750 313.8750 313.9250 313.9500* 313.9750 314.1500* 314.3250 315.7750 316.3750 316.4250 316.4750 316.8750 316.9250 317.3750 317.8750 317.9250 318.2250 318.3250 318.3500* 318.4250 318.4750 318.5250 318.6250 318.7750 318.8250 318.8750 319.0250 319.0750 319.1250 319.1750 320.6250 320.9750 322.5750 322.8500* 322.8750 322.9250 323.3500* 323.3750 323.6750 323.7250 323.7750 323.8250 323.8500* 323.8750 323.9750 324.0750 324.1250 324.2250 324.2750 324.5250 324.5500* 324.5750 324.6750 324.7750 324.8750

The highest priority on this spectrum monitor list currently consist of the following frequencies (from parts 1 and 2): 226.000 277.300 293.900. If you hear anything on any of these frequencies please drop me a note.

USS Topeka Returns Home

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Omar A. Dominquez, Fleet Public Affairs Center, Pacific

USS Topeka (SSN 754) returned home to Naval Base Point Loma, April 16, after a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific (WESTPAC).

The Los Angeles-class submarine conducted missions throughout the WESTPAC region. Sailors also enjoyed port visits to Yokosuka and Okinawa, Japan, Guam and the Philippines.

"The crew could not have performed any better," said Cmdr. Marc A. Stern, Topeka's commanding officer. "They rose to the occasion in every mission that we were asked to do."

Family and friends waited on the pier with flags and signs to welcome their Sailors home.

"The deployment was long, but it was very successful," said Davis. "It feels great to be back to see my family. It feels like I won the lottery," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (SS/FMF) Keith Davis whose wife was waiting to welcome him home.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

CARRIER The Series to Premier Next Week on PBS

Milcom enthusiast will be interested in the premier of a new series on PBS tht will air starting next week. Check your local schedule for the date and time this program will air. You can see a preview of the show and other video at the link at the bottom of this post.

CARRIER is a revealing story of daily life on a United States aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz. Filmed from May to November 2005, nearly 2,000 hours of high-definition video were captured aboard the ship during a full six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf, of which three months were spent in combat in support of the ground troops. For the first time, a television series takes a raw and honest look at the Navy’s role in this controversial war. CARRIER premieres Sunday, April 27-Thursday, May 1, 2008, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET on PBS.

“PBS viewers will get a gripping view of the deployment and operations aboard a carrier during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and emotional accounts of life in the floating city,” said John F. Wilson, senior vice president and chief TV programming executive. “The universal themes that emerge offer compelling insight into the men and women who commit to military service against the extraordinary backdrop of war.”

The USS Nimitz, 24 stories high and three football fields long, carries 5,300 navy personnel and 85 military aircraft. CARRIER follows a core group of film participants, from the admiral of the strike group to the fighter pilots to the youngest sailors, as they navigate personal conflicts around their jobs, families, faith, patriotism, love, the rites of passage and the war on terror.

“CARRIER is a character-driven, edge-of-your-seat, nonfiction drama and a once-in-a-lifetime total immersion in the high stakes world of the nuclear aircraft carrier,” said executive producer and director Maro Chermayeff.

CARRIER is a production of Icon Productions, LLC, and Carrier Project, Inc. Executive producers are Mel Gibson, Bruce Davey, Nancy Cotton, Mitchell Block and Maro Chermayeff.

Funding for the series is provided by the CPB/PBS Challenge Fund. The presenting station is WETA Washington, DC.

You can see a preview of the show and other video segments including trailers at

Red Flag-Alaska pilots engage in realistic combat scenarios

by Staff Sgt. Vann Miller, Red Flag-Alaska Public Affairs

F-16 Fighting Falcons sit on the tarmac late into the evening April 1 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Aircraft gathered together for Red Flag-Alaska 08-2. These aircraft are assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron, Osan Air Base, Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska (AFPN) -- Aerial dog-fights between 10 or more jets and dodging simulated missiles may sound like a boss-level of a video game, but it's really the daunting experience of a combat pilot during the Exercise Red Flag-Alaska 08-2 that runs April 3 through 18 at Eielson Air Force Base.

Red Flag-Alaska is a Pacific Air Forces command-directed field training exercise that provides joint-offensive counter-air, interdiction, close-air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment.

"It's like a big helmet fire," said 1st Lt. Derick Cole from the 36th Fighter Squadron from Osan Air Base, South Korea. "You're reacting to threats out there -- 60 to 70 jets, radios going crazy and surface-to-air missiles. Being able to process all that information at one time becomes very challenging."

Red Flag exercises give members from various bases, branches of service and countries a chance to train in a realistic combat environment while giving aircrews and maintainers an opportunity to showcase their skills and warrior ethos.

"This training really prepares pilots for a full combat experience," Lieutenant Cole said.
As the fighters play the role of friendly or aggressor forces, the pilots get to really see just what kind of capabilities are at their fingertips.

"The airspace and real-world emitters just give us a training environment that you really can't get at our home station," Lieutenant Cole said.

Red Flag-Alaska hosts multiple airframes in order to create the most realistic war environment possible. In addition to the fighter aircraft, there are tankers, helicopters and airborne warning and control systems operating in the theater. But it is the high-flying and very maneuverable aircraft that get most of the attention.

Some of those contenders include the Navy's EA-6B Prowler, which is a long-range tactical aircraft, used for electronic warfare. Air Force pilots brought F-16 Fighting Falcons, the F-15 Eagles, and punching its way into the fight for the first time is the F-22 Raptor.

"I find this (training in Alaska) to be the most rewarding," said Navy Lt. Paul Tully from Whidbey Island Oak Harbor, Wash. "The Prowler supports both air and ground forces by denying radar and communications jamming."

Though Red Flag-Alaska has another week before all the training scenarios are complete, some pilots are disappointed the weather has cancelled some of the flights. Lieutenant Tully said three of his flights were cancelled due to nearly five inches of snow since the exercise started.

The exercise will continue as planned despite the snow and poor weather.

Maintainers remove snow and de-ice a Navy EA-6B Prowler for the first official day of Red Flag-Alaska 08-2 April 7 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Red Flag-Alaska provides training for deployed maintenance and support personnel in sustainment of a large-force deployed air operation. The EA-6B is assigned to the Naval Air Station Widbey Island, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jonathan Snyder)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

USS Russell Navigates Uncharted Waters with Ship's Blog

By Electronics Technician 3rd Class Tyler Kirkland, Abraham Lincoln Strike Group Public Affairs

Blog editor note: I recommend you stop by and visit with the crew of the Russell on their blog. The XO is doing a nice job of documenting the cruise. BZ Commander de the Chief.

SOUTH PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- USS Russell's (DDG 59) Web log is having an impact on the World Wide Web since its debut two weeks ago, reaching 5,000 hits April 7.

The Web log which started and coincided with the ship's deployment as part of the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group.

Lt. Cmdr. Chris van Avery, Russell's executive officer, reported aboard the guided-missile destroyer looking to tell a story. The story is about the life of Sailors at sea and their contributions to the war on terrorism and the execution of the Navy's Maritime Strategy. The result is "The Destroyermen," a Web log, or "blog," dedicated to the life of Russell and her crew.

With a new post nearly every day, this method of storytelling has proven to be a hit for Russell and the Navy.

"When I discussed it with the chain of command and the public affairs community, I don't think any of us expected such a positive reaction from the public," van Avery said.

Freelance journalist and a long-time observer of how the armed services use and react to the alternative media, David Axe, stated on his personal blog, "War is boring."

However, Axe was more complimentary about Russell's blog.

"With this sweet little blog, the Navy is now in second place in the race to harness the power of the Internet for educating the American people about the military," Axe wrote on his blog, noting and crediting the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs capturing first place.

Another new media observer and former Pentagon spokesman, Steve Field, noted on "The D-Ring," his Web log, "I've got to say that I am thoroughly impressed with [the] blog started aboard [Russell]. It works because it is authentic. It's got a real voice."

"The other services have some catching up to do, it looks like …" he concluded.

Lt. Cmdr. van Avery was not the first active duty Sailor to start a Web log, as some of the links on the site prove. But, he was one of the first to have the support of his chain of command in the endeavor.

The blog welcomes personal accounts of life at sea and photos from any of Russell's Sailors who wish to contribute. To date, six of the ship's 250 crew members and the Navy College Program Afloat for College Education instructor have participated.

The audience van Avery considers most important, though – the crew and their families and friends – have been especially pleased.

A comment left by the wife of a Sailor out to sea expressed gratitude for the blog and her appreciation for the information it provides.

"These daily blogs are so helpful," the spouse wrote, "especially since it is sometimes days without hearing from my husband."

"It brings comfort" she added.

Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Brian Mittenburg said, "This Web log is a really cool idea."

It really hits the nail on the head, and I look forward to reading more like these when my career has come to its conclusion," he added.

Russell is homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and is currently on a scheduled deployment transiting to the 5th Fleet area of operations with the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group in support of the Maritime Security Operations.

The Web log is viewable at

Coast Guard has large role in Papal security

U.S. Coast Guardsmen are playing a large security role in this week's Papal visit to Washington D.C.

If you want a pop up media player click here Papal Security

U.S. 6th Fleet's Southeast Africa Task Force Arrives in Madagascar

By Gillian Brigham, U.S. Naval Forces Europe Public Affairs

ANTSIRANANA, Madagascar (NNS) -- The dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) pulled into Antsiranana, a small port city on the northern tip of Madagascar, Tuesday, April 15.

Antsiranana is Ashland's third stop on her current deployment with U.S. 6th Fleet's Southeast Africa Task Force, promoting maritime safety and security in the region. The ship recently visited the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius and Reunion.

Notably, this is only the second time a U.S. Navy ship has visited Madagascar since 1972. USS Normandy (CG 60) also called on the country last year during its assignment to the Southeast Africa Task Force.

While Ashland is docked in Antsiranana, the ship will host Malagasy Sailors for a day of shipboard drills and information exchanges. The embarked U.S. Naval Forces Europe brass quintet will play a number of concerts in conjunction with the Malagasy navy band and commander of the Southeast Africa Task Force, Capt. Nicholas H. Holman, will meet with government and military officials to discuss on-going initiatives to build maritime capabilities in the region.

"The goal is to assist African nations so that they can better police their own territorial waters," said Holman. "We want to equip them with the knowledge and the tools to crack down on crimes like unlawful fishing, piracy, drug trafficking and other illegal behavior that destabilizes the maritime environment, the economy and, ultimately, the security of the region."

Ashland Sailors are also benefiting from the ship's mission to bring a greater awareness of the maritime environment to other navies in the Indian Ocean.

"This deployment has been a wonderful opportunity for my Sailors to see a part of the world not many people in the U.S. Navy have visited before," said Ashland Commanding Officer Cmdr. Jeff Ward. "It's also gratifying for the crew to play such an active role in forging partnerships with these nations.

"Whether we're running damage control drills with Malagasy Sailors or giving tours of the ship to foreign military officials, we are ultimately laying the groundwork for the strong maritime relationships the U.S. Navy hopes to build in this region. It's an invaluable experience and one that I'm sure will make an impact on them personally and professionally," he added.

This is the second deployment of CTF-363's Southeast Africa Task Force. In 2007, CTF-363-assigned assets USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) and USS Normandy (CG 60) visited eight Southeast African nations. For many of these countries, it was the first time a U.S. Navy ship had visited in more than 40 years.