Saturday, January 31, 2009

USS Bremerton Returns from Western Pacific

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Cynthia Clark, Commander, Submarine Force Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- USS Bremerton (SSN 698) returned to Naval Station Pearl Harbor from a six-month Western Pacific deployment, Jan. 29.

"My crew is an amazing bunch of guys," said Cmdr. Howard Warner, USS Bremerton commanding officer. "I'm very, very proud of the guys, they prepared long and hard for the deployment and performed absolutely stupendously on cruise and I think the deployment results will definitely speak for themselves."

Since departing Pearl Harbor on July 29 of last year, USS Bremerton conducted many exercises with foreign navies and performed tasking from the Commander, 7th Fleet operational commander. Bremerton also visited Guam, Okinawa and Yokosuka, Japan and Singapore.
As Lt. j.g. Blake Hlavaty, assistant operations officer, received the 'first kiss' from his wife Ashley, said his first deployment was "everything I thought it would be."

"We performed very well on all of our missions," he continued. "I couldn't be more proud of my fellow officers and Sailors. There were some exciting times, along with some challenges; overall it was an amazing experience and the adventure of a lifetime."

Bremerton, the 10th ship of the Los Angeles-class of submarines, was commissioned March 28, 1981. With a crew of more than 120 enlisted and 10 officers, she is 360-feet long and has the capability to carry Tomahawk missiles and MK-48 torpedoes.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Amphibs Operating in the 5th Fleet

Sailors aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) watch the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) breakaway from the Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1) after a replenishment at sea. Carter Hall and Iwo Jima are deployed as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group supporting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katrina Parker/Released)

Air Force fighters to fly patrols supporting Super Bowl XLIII

Air Force fighter pilots will be busy during Super Bowl XLIII as they will be flying to protect the sky around Raymond James Stadium Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla.

Airmen flying fighter jets may be visible enforcing the Federal Aviation Administration's temporary flight restriction zone during the National Football League's championship game.

In preparation for the Super Bowl, FAA officials will be imposing a temporary flight restriction over the greater Tampa area. Air Force fighters will be on patrol, and Customs and Border Patrol assets will also be airborne during the event. This interagency partnership helps ensure the safety of the sky over the stadium.

Maj. Gen. Henry C. "Hank" Morrow, the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region commander, said command officials provide air defense for the protection of the entire continental U.S., to include special events such as this year's Super Bowl.

"As America's air defenders, we have a total team mindset," General Morrow said. "Special events like this world-renowned sporting event take precise coordination with all mission partners, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Patrol, FAA and local law enforcement."

"America's (air operations center) will be closely monitoring all air activity while the FAA temporary flight restriction is in place," said Col. David Kriner, the 601st Air and Space Operations Center commander. "The men and women of this (air operations center) monitor the sky 24/7, 365 for the entire continental U.S., and Sunday's special event is another part of our mission set."

Air patrols are carefully planned and closely controlled to ensure public safety while demonstrating Continental U.S. NORAD Region's rapid response capability. Continental U.S. NORAD Region officials have conducted air patrols throughout the United States since the beginning of Operation Noble Eagle, the command's response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Continental U.S. NORAD Region flights will have minimal impact on aircraft in the area during the Super Bowl and are not in response to any specific threat.

"We want citizens to know that we are always on the job, and defending our homeland from air threats is our No. 1 priority," General Morrow said.

Hurricane Hunters take on winter storms

A WC-130J readies for takeoff at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. Reserve Hurricane Hunters of the 403rd Wing from Keesler AFB, Miss., deployed for a month to collect weather data ahead of pending winter storms. The data they collect increases the accuracy of the National Weather Service forecast by 10 to 20 percent. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. James B. Pritchett)

Keesler Air Force Base Airmen and two WC-130J Hurricane Hunter aircraft deployed to Anchorage, Alaska, Jan. 17 for a month-long mission in support of the 2009 Winter Storm Reconnaissance Program.

The 403rd Wing team includes Reserve aircrews, operations, maintenance, aerial porters, and others to improve winter storm forecast models.

Operations are directed by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, a part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Like their tropical reconnaissance missions, winter storm routes can keep crews in the air more than 12 hours at a time.

When a tasking for a flight comes in to the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron's deployed operations center at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, a WC-130J crew is alerted and maintenance Airmen ensure there is an aircraft ready to fly.

Showtime and pre-flight are similar to the Hurricane Hunters' normal missions except, depending on weather, maintenance teams de-ice the aircraft. Winter missions require crews to fly at altitudes above 30,000 feet, which is higher than they normally fly in tropical weather systems.

"On average, the data we provide along with the (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) aircraft lead to a 10 to 20 percent reduction in error in the targeted forecasts," said Lt. Col. Roy Deatherage, the mission commander for the 53rd WRS and an aerial reconnaissance weather officer since 1988. "As a result, numerical forecast guidance issued 48 hours prior to the events become as accurate as 36-hour lead time forecasts."

Use of weather reconnaissance aircraft have improved the forecast models more since 1999 than the previous 25 years of satellite data, according to the NCEP.

Unlike in tropical storms, on a winter mission the crew is not trying to pinpoint the center of the storm, in fact, there may not even be a "storm."

"Often, the crews are flying from one to four days in advance of a potential storm system in the Pacific that appears headed for either Alaska or the continental U.S.," Colonel Deatherage said.

On board the aircraft, the aerial reconnaissance weather officer and weather reconnaissance loadmaster take atmospheric observations at predetermined points along a flight track where the measurements are expected to have the greatest chance of improving the forecasts.

The weather reconnaissance loadmaster drops highly sensitive devices, called dropsondes, which fall at about 2,500 feet per second, in areas of the atmosphere as requested by NCEP officials. As they fall toward the ocean, the dropsondes measure temperature, wind speed, humidity and pressure. Aircraft follow what are called synoptic patterns, which are huge ovals sometimes more than 3,000 miles round-trip.

Colonel Deatherage said that during a typical tropical mission, dropsondes are released at certain points defined by the National Hurricane Center. This is usually four drops every time the aircraft passes through the eye with an additional four to eight per mission in the most significant wind bands. In contrast, Pacific winter missions average 16 to 22 sondes dropped. For impending Atlantic winter missions the average is lower, closer to five.

The information collected is checked onboard and then relayed by satellite to the NOAA Weather Service supercomputer that incorporates it into the agency's numerical prediction models. This information helps "fill-in-the-blanks" or bolster the data in computer climate models that forecast storms and precipitation for the entire U.S.

"The goal is to make a good forecast so cities can be prepared with snow plows, and other snow removal and mitigation equipment to diminish the impact of a winter storm on a city," Colonel Deatherage said. "If they are better prepared, they can recover more quickly. That can be crucial for residents living in harm's way. These forecasts provide people in the path of the storms with warnings that can save lives."

While the Hurricane Hunters are patrolling the north Pacific, NOAA officials are using its Gulfstream G-IV aircraft to fly missions from Honolulu. Between the two units, they are able to cover the parts of the Pacific that directly affect the U.S.

Each year, the 53rd WRS and NOAA rotate deployed locations to better improve the forecasting models. The G-IV flies higher and collects a slightly different data set than that of the WC-130J.

Since 1996, the two organizations have been flying these missions in support of the NCEP.

This project does not encompass the entirety of the 53rd WRS staff's winter taskings. The unit also receives taskings for the East Coast of the U.S. to assist forecasters with pending Nor'easter storms.

The Hurricane Hunters normally fly several of these missions in support of the National Weather Service each season beginning Dec. 1 and ending April 30.

In seasons past, the tropical storm season, beginning June 1 and officially ending Nov. 30, has crossed over into the winter storm season. In 2005, the Hurricane Hunters flew winter storm missions and tropical missions at the same time. That year, the final storm of the hurricane season was recorded in early January.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

10th Mountain Division Leads New Deployments to Afghanistan

A CH-47 Chinook helicopter airlifts a 155 MM howitzer onto Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Amber Robinson)

By Army Sgt. Amber Robinson, Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, - The 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team is taking up positions in eastern Afghanistan that until now have had little coalition presence.

The BCT, known as 'Task Force Spartan,' and based at Fort Drum, N.Y., was rerouted from Iraq to Afghanistan in the fall. As the first substantial illustration of the new military focus in Afghanistan, the brigade will be moving into forward operating positions through mid-February, serving under Combined Joint Task Force 101 as a unit in NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

The brigade will be responsible for the provinces of Wardak and Logar in Regional Command East. The area has been sparsely occupied most recently by units from the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky.

The brigade is the first element of its size to deploy exclusively into the two provinces, increasing the U.S. presence there by thousands of soldiers. All forward operating bases throughout these provinces will be reinforced to accommodate the influx of troops.

The brigade's mission has been called expeditionary because of the undeveloped region to which it's assigned.

"The term basically means that we are a very flexible force," Army Col. David Haight, Task Force Spartan commander, said. "We can get a mission in an austere part of the world, and if you give us the right equipment and the right amount of personnel, we can quickly come up with a solution, deploy to that area from our home base of Fort Drum, N.Y., and begin effective operations in a short period of time."

Flexibility was a key word for the brigade as they prepared for their current deployment.

"We spent well over a year preparing to deploy into the region of East Baghdad," Haight said. "Once we found out we were being re-routed, we very quickly replicated our training for Afghanistan."

Although much of the brigade's last year of training for Iraq can be applied to combat and counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan, the brigade staff and soldiers quickly adjusted fire and integrated new training objectives for Afghanistan.

"Some may say that a counterinsurgency is a counterinsurgency, no matter where you are in the world, but there are obvious differences we had to prepare for," Haight said. "The infrastructure in Iraq is much more advanced than what we are dealing with here in Afghanistan, as is the overall terrain. Language and terrain issues are obviously vastly different in Iraq than they are in Afghanistan."

In the past, only a battalion-sized element occupied the two provinces that now belong to Task Force Spartan. Sleeping arrangements, chow hall capacity, showers, and phone and Internet connectivity are concerns of the brigade.

Army Pfc. MaryPearl Parnell, an information analyst who deployed early and has been in Afghanistan for a month, noted the progress the brigade has made since they began to arrive.

"When we first got here, our tactical operations center was only a bunch of wires and lots of wood," said Parnell, who is on her second deployment to Afghanistan with the brigade. "We really had to organize our priorities once we got here. Things were different this time around. So once we arrived, we had to establish connectivity in our headquarters and make sure each room had the correct lines run for the personnel that would need them. These basics were already established for the brigade last time, so that was a challenge."

Aside from the challenges, Parnell and others have focused on some of the positives.

"I was impressed with the [forward operating base]. It was much more than what I expected," she said. "I also notice that personnel have a lot more patience. They understand that this is a slow process, but it is a necessary process towards progress."

Like Parnell, about a third of the brigade soldiers have deployed with Spartan before, Haight said.

"That adds an advantage to our current mission, due to the fact that they already possess the cultural sensitivity, awareness of the terrain and are more aware of the tribal dynamics," he said.

"We learned a lot of critical lessons last time we were here," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Delbert Byers, command sergeant major for the brigade. "We learned how to operate efficiently in this environment and what are the best ways to interact with the people, to include the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police," he said. "We'll lend a lot of effort and focus to working with and helping to train the local Afghan security forces this time around."

The brigade is now focused on building adequate bases to conduct missions from, but soon they will begin to move into Wardak and Logar and build relationships with the local populace.

"Our first steps are to get forces out into these more populated areas and begin to interact with the people," Haight said. "Knowing the human terrain is as important as knowing the mountainous terrain surrounding our forward operating bases."

"We cannot accomplish our mission without the support of the people," Army Maj. James Baker, the brigade's information operations officer, said.

"We establish these relationships so we can understand the locals' viewpoint, position and better help them in our efforts to work towards the overall security of Afghanistan," he said. "We base these relationships on trust, which is vital to our joint efforts over the next year."

The focus of the brigade for the next year will be to help to improve security in Wardak and Logar and to help bring the local populace into a position of strengthened governance and infrastructure, officials said.

(Army Sgt. Amber Robinson serves with the 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

Essex Departs Sasebo for Spring Patrol

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Greg Johnson, USS Essex Public Affairs

An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the "Island Knights" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 lands on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2). Essex, the lead ship of the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group and the flagship for Combined Task Force 76, is preparing for a spring patrol. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark R. Alvarez/Released)

USS ESSEX, At Sea (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) departed Sasebo, Japan Jan. 26, for her annual spring patrol throughout the Western Pacific region.

The annual deployment will feature a series of bilateral maritime training exercises designed to build relationships and enhance operational readiness between U.S. and Asian-Pacific partner nations throughout the region.

The ship's first stop will be in Okinawa, Japan, to embark more than 1,400 Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Sailors assigned to Fleet Surgical Team 7. Once aboard, Essex will be fully operational, with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 and Marine Attack Squadron 211 of the MEU's Aviation Combat Element (ACE) in place. The Sailors and Marines will work together over the course of the deployment to enhance their collective amphibious warfare capabilities with Western Pacific allies.

"Essex has a very busy spring patrol schedule ahead working with our allies and supporting the 31st MEU," said Capt. Brent Canady, Essex' commanding officer. "We spent the last two months conducting engineering repairs as well as training our Sailors for this deployment. Once again, we are ready to work closely with our regional partners during spring patrol.

"Perfecting our craft and enhancing the cohesion between Sailors and Marines is vital to the success of everyone involved in Essex' flight operations," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st Class (AW/SW) Giancarlo Treano.

"Our patrols are important because it allows us to support any missions during operations and do what we have to do to accomplish them," said Treano.

Throughout the deployment, pilots and flight-deck personnel will orchestrate extensive flight operations, drawing from the ACE's full arsenal, including CH-53E Sea Stallion, CH-46E Sea Knight, AH-1Z Super Cobra and UH-1N Huey helicopters, as well as AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft.

While Sailors and Marines will certainly keep busy on the flight deck and in the air, those responsible for Essex' well-deck operations will be busy in their own right. Operating landing craft air cushion vehicles assigned to Assault Craft Unit 5, Detachment Western Pacific, Essex will transport Marines and their equipment to the beach during the various exercises scheduled for the deployment.

"We always look to use these patrols as a way to create better teamwork between our Sailors and the Marines in the well deck," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class (SW) Matthew Nelson. "It doesn't matter what patrol or ship you're on, teamwork is always going to be an important factor."

As always, Essex' spring patrol will serve as an opportunity for some of the newest Sailors to experience life underway for the first time.

"I'm really looking forward to learning my job from the experience of being underway," said Boatswain's Mate Seaman Jeremiah Maldonado of San Antonio. "This should be a great opportunity to get my qualifications."

Once the Marines are embarked, Essex will assume the role of flagship for the Essex Expeditionary Strike Group while joined by the dock landing ships USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).

The 31st MEU is the only permanently forward-deployed MEU, maintaining a presence in the Pacific Ocean at all times as part of III Marine Expeditionary Force, and is based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Okinawa, Japan.

Essex is commanded by Capt. Brent Canady and the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. expeditionary strike group and serves as the flagship for CTF 76, the Navy's forward-deployed amphibious force commander. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

Boeing Receives Contract Extension for USAF TSAT

Boeing has received a $75 million contract extension from the U.S. Air Force to continue risk reduction and system definition for the Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT).

The six-month contract extension began on Jan. 7, 2009. This additional award brings Boeing's total TSAT contract funding to $793 million.

"Boeing and our TSAT partners are committed to supporting the U.S. Air Force to move this important program forward," said Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager for Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems. "This contract extension continues the team's work to ensure our men and women in uniform will be able to make rapid decisions based on current, comprehensive information."

TSAT will provide survivable, protected, high-capacity and Internet-like connectivity via satellite for Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; Communications On The Move; and protected strategic communications.

Boeing has used on-orbit technology produced for a commercial communications satellite services customer to demonstrate low-risk, flight-proven solutions for TSAT. These demonstrations showcased the maturity of Boeing's space-based packet-switching technology. Boeing also has built a single software program that will allow all of TSAT's space and ground systems to work together, eliminating the need for multiple software programs to run different operations.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Troops Return

Soldiers, Sailors and Marines return home to the United States this weekend from their deployment to Iraq.

Green Bay Comes to Life in Long Beach

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jose Lopez, Jr., Naval Reserve Fleet Public Affairs Center San Diego

LONG BEACH, Calif. (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to USS Green Bay (LPD 20) brought their ship to life during a commissioning ceremony Jan. 24 at the port of Long Beach, Calif.

The Navy commissioned the fourth amphibious transport dock ship of the San Antonio-class to honor the first settlement in Wisconsin, the "city by the bay."

"I have never known a city with such a legendary spirit, sense of community and purpose as Green Bay embodies," said Rear Adm. Michael Shatynski, vice commander, Naval Surface Forces. "All of the qualities that I identify in your great city, I identify in the Navy-Marine Corps team."

Rose Magnus, wife of Gen. Robert Magnus, former assistant commandant of the Marine Corps and ship's sponsor uttered the famous words of a commissioning ceremony, "Man your ship and bring her to life."

The crew answered the call. Within a few minutes the men and women of USS Green Bay lined the rails of the new ship while the call to battle stations rang. A pair of Marine Corps CH-53 Sea Stallions performed a fly-by over the ship.

"This is a thin line," said Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, about Green Bay's future role in world affairs. "But, it is a thick wall of defense to the lives which we bring freedom."

"Just as a great generation answered the call seven years ago," added England, "so do the Sailors of Green Bay answer that call today. We believe in freedom for all people, and we back our words with deeds."

Though the ship is new to the fleet, Green Bay begins trials and training exercises to prepare her for her future role in the war on terrorism.

"I hold the crew to high expectations," said Command Master Chief Cecilio Macias about the ship's upcoming tests. "During pre-com they did well. Now, we have to get the ship ready to go on deployment."

Green Bay is a multi-task ship in the amphibious Navy that will perform the mission of four previous classes of ships. With her modern capabilities Green Bay will be a key factor in littoral combat operations which call for the projection of sea power deep inland; part of the Chief of Naval Operations' Maritime Strategy for the 21st Century.

Green Bay will accommodate the Marine Corps' "mobility triad," an attack strategy that involves advanced amphibious assault vehicles, landing craft air cushion and the vertical/short takeoff and landing tactical aircraft MV-22 Osprey.

Green Bay is the second ship to bear the name of Wisconsin's largest city. The first was the patrol gunboat USS Green Bay (PG 101), which served from 1969 to 1977. The current Green Bay is also the first Navy warship commissioned in the Los Angeles area since 1994.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

USCG/Navy Training

Coast Guard and Navy boarding teams conduct counterpiracy training in the North Arabian Sea.

3rd Marine Expeditionary Force replaces radios

The 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force replaces the single ground and airborne radio system with the VRC-110 vehicular system. Click here for video report

Iwo Jima Floats New Technology While Deployed

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zane Ecklund, USS Iwo Jima Public Affairs

USS IWO JIMA, At Sea (NNS) -- Airmen and Marines aboard multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) launched a weather balloon, outfitted with new technology, from the ship Jan. 19.

The weather balloon, in conjunction with a Combat SkySat High Altitude Radio Relay Package launched by Airmen from the Arizona Air National Guard, demonstrated the capabilities of this new technology to Marines of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (26 MEU). Current technology allows Marines in the field to boost a signal approximately 60 miles. The SkySat package boosts the signal of radio equipment up to 600 miles.

"The radio relay package rises to an altitude between 60 to 90 thousand feet and enhances warfighter capabilities," said Lt. Col. Patty Tuttle, commander, Arizona Air National Guard Detachment 2.

The signals received and re-transmitted by SkySat can be picked up by ground units and pilots immediately after the launch.

"The Marines were pleased with the result," said Tuttle. "At one point during long-range helicopter operations, SkySat was the only communications they had. They were talking from ship to helicopter to Yuma and Camp Pendleton."

"The equipment is safer and more cost effective than using personnel and aircraft to do the same job," said Tech. Sgt. Craig Armstrong, Arizona Air National Guard Detachment 2 ground radio non-commissioned officer in charge. "It drastically reduces the amount of personnel going into harm's way."

The technology is used at sea as well. Chief Aerographer's Mate (AW/SW) Burt Crapo sees weather balloons as being practical in the Navy since an intelligence surveillance reconnaissance package could replace the balloon ballast, which could track boats, troop movements and traffic lanes.

"Because of the size of the balloon, there is a weight restraint; so there is only so much you can put on it," said Crapo.

Crapo also suggested adding a meteorological/oceanographic device, which would improve meteorological models available to the ship.

He said the models help with the navigation of the ship, mission planning, Marine support and aiding communications for other ships in the strike group.

Iwo Jima is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations with the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group to conduct maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

Helo Squadron's Flexibility Supports Counterpiracy Ops

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Brian Goodwin, Combined Task Force 151

An HH-60H Sea Hawk helicopter attached to the "Tridents" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 3 soars trhough the skies around the Gulf of Aden in support of the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17). San Antonio is the command ship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, which conducts counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John K. Hamilton/Released)

USS SAN ANTONIO, At Sea (NNS) -- Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 3, attached to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), is embarked aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) in support of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151's counterpiracy mission.

HS 3's primary role in CTF 151 operations is to provide aerial support with its HH-60H and SH-60F helicopters, which specialize in combat search and rescue, mobility and logistics.

"We present a show of force when flying above any suspected pirate vessels while the boarding teams track them in the [rigid-hull inflatable boats], and we can definitely provide a rescue platform during the operation as well as a show of firepower," said Cmdr. William Cox, HS 3's executive officer.

San Antonio was chosen as the afloat forward staging base (AFSB) for HS 3 because of the ship's many capabilities. Its hangar bay can house two helicopters with plenty of space for maintenance, and its large flight deck allows the squadron to launch four helicopters at the same time if needed.

HS 3 brought everything they needed for sustainment during the mission, such as parts for the helicopters and optimal manning in logistics.

"We had to decide how many of our Sailors we could bring over to San Antonio from Theodore Roosevelt without taking away all the quality of work we provide on the carrier," added Cox.

HS 3 Sailors are enjoying working alongside San Antonio's crew while supporting CTF 151's counterpiracy mission.

"We've never worked with the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, and it's exciting to be in this atmosphere of working with the international community on San Antonio's first deployment," said Cox.

"My Sailors are great people who do a great job for me every day, and we're just happy to be a part of this event."

San Antonio's Air Department provides HS 3 with the manpower it needs to carry out the various CTF 151 operations.

"We provide safe ground support for the aircraft with directing, landing and refueling," said Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Richard Romious, the air department's leading chief petty officer. "Our handlers make sure the helicopters are chocked and chained to the hangar or flight deck, and our fuels personnel provide quality assurance through our refueling their craft."

San Antonio's crew spent weeks making the necessary changes and configurations to prepare the ship for its current mission. These changes allowed several spaces to be available for use by the various embarked units, including HS 3.

"We have configured several of the ship's spaces so that the equipment and resources available are tailored to the specific missions that the CTF 151 staff, along with the help of San Antonio's personnel, will be planning and executing," said Lt. Cmdr. Sean Kearns, San Antonio's executive officer.

Although three helicopters from the squadron are currently part of CTF 151, the rest of the squadron is still aboard the aircraft carrier supporting maritime security operations and Operation Enduring Freedom in the North Arabian Sea.

San Antonio is the flagship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151. CTF 151 is a multinational task force conducting counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. It was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.

Navy to Commission Amphibious Transport Dock Ship Green Bay

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy will commission the newest San Antonio class amphibious transport dock ship Green Bay during a 10 a.m. PST ceremony Jan. 24 in Long Beach, Calif.

The ship is named Green Bay to honor the nation's Midwest "city by the bay." The city of about 100,000 residents was founded in 1634 by French explorer Jean Nicolet, and is the oldest community in Wisconsin.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England will deliver the ceremony's principal address. Rose Magnus, wife of the former Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Magnus (ret.), is serving as the ship's sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, she will give the order to "man our ship and bring her to life!"

Designated as LPD 20, Green Bay is the fourth amphibious transport dock ship in the San Antonio class. As a critical element in future expeditionary
strike groups, the ship will support the Marine Corps' "mobility triad," which consists of the landing craft air cushion (LCAC), the expeditionary fighting vehicle (EFV) and the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft (MV 22). The ship will provide improved warfighting capabilities including an advanced command-and-control suite, increased lift-capability in vehicle and cargo-carrying capacity and advanced ship-survivability features.

Cmdr. Joseph Olson, a native of Madison, Wis., will be the first commanding officer of the ship. Olson graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1991 and received his commission from the Naval Reserve Office Training Corps. He will lead a crew of approximately 360 officers and enlisted personnel and three Marines. Upon commissioning, the ship will be homeported in San Diego.

Built by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding - Avondale Operations in Louisiana, Green Bay is 684 feet in length, has an overall beam of 105 feet, a navigational draft of 23 feet, displaces about 24,900 tons and is capable of embarking a landing force of about 800 Marines. Four turbo-charged diesel engines power the ship to sustained speeds of 24 knots.

Pearl Harbor Destroyers Deploy Under Enhanced Employment Planning

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

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- More than 1,000 Sailors aboard three Pearl Harbor-based ships departed for a Western Pacific deployment Jan. 20

Guided-missile destroyers USS Hopper (DDG 70) and USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) departed as part of the Mid-Pacific Surface Combatant Operational Employment program while USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) departed as part of the USS Boxer (LHD 4) Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG).

The Sailors spoke of their outlook for the months ahead.

"The crew's excited, focused and ready to do the mission that we've trained for a long time to do," said Cmdr. Michael McCartney, commanding officer of Chung-Hoon. "It's hard to leave friends and family behind, but that's why we're in the Navy, and we go out and stand up for our country overseas."

"I'm actually a little nervous about leaving," said Information Systems Technician Seaman Devon McNew, assigned to Hopper. "It's the first time I've left the homeport, but I'm looking forward to the new ports and ready to see what's there for us when we get out there."

While Chung-Hoon's involvement in the Boxer ESG is common in today's Navy, the deployments of Hopper and Paul Hamilton continue the fairly new trend of the Mid-Pacific Surface Combatant Operational Employment program.

"This is a relatively new concept for the Pacific Fleet. During 2008, USS O'Kane (DDG 77) and USS Reuben James (FFG 57) were out in the Western Pacific a great deal without first going to Southern California so we're already seeing the benefits," said Capt. William A. Kearns, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 31. "It's more efficient use of time. It ends up being less time away from home for training purposes. They can do training and do deployment missions and operate with allied navies, and do port visits out in the Western Pacific during the time they would have in the past operated in Southern California."

Paul Hamilton returned to Pearl Harbor from her most recent deployment on June 7 while Hopper returned from hers on May 2. Chung-Hoon recently completed a major maintenance period, and the Sailors are eager to see the new improvements of the ship on the deployment.

The ships' time between major deployments have allowed them to concentrate on training so that the crews can be ready for anything the deployment might bring.

"A year ago we were in the Persian Gulf, and we've been working towards this day since we came back. We're ready to take advantage of the training we'll get in the 7th Fleet. And it's a great way to start the year," said Cmdr. Timothy Kott, commanding officer of Hopper.

Even though three separate crews departed Pearl Harbor on the same day, the feelings of those left behind were in sync.

"It's always hard seeing them leave," said the wife of a Hopper Sailor. "This is something we never get used to, but we just stick together as a family until they come home."

"You never want to see them leave, but it's their job, and we support them in what they do. Now it's just counting down the days until they come back home," added the wife of a Paul Hamilton Sailor.

Guided-missile destroyers operate in support of carrier strike groups, surface action groups, amphibious groups and replenishment groups and are multimission surface combatants.

Largest deployment of F-22s under way

An F-22 Raptor cools down after a 10-hour flight Jan. 10 from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, to Kadena Air Base, Japan. The aircraft is one of 12 deployed from Langley AFB, Va., as part of an air and space expeditionary force rotation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Amanda Grabiec)

Twenty-four F-22 Raptors and hundreds of Airmen deployed to the Pacific region for a three-month deployment in support of the Pacific global deterrence mission.

Twelve F-22s deployed from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, arrived Jan. 18 to Andersen AFB, Guam, and the week prior 12 F-22s from Langley AFB, Va., began arriving at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

The F-22s and Airmen are part of ongoing rotations of forces to ensure security and stability throughout the region. Members of both squadrons will conduct air combat training with Air Force and other U.S. military assets in the region.

F-22s are the Air Force's newest and most advanced fighter, combining stealth, maneuverability, supercruise capability and superior avionics to provide the U.S. with unmatched air dominance.

Academy researcher develops satellite imaging technology

by Staff Sgt. Matthew Bates
Defense Media Activity-San Antonio

1/23/2009 - COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AFNS) -- A research associate at the U.S. Air Force Academy's Laser and Optics Research Center here is developing a new capability that will allow satellites to be seen and see clearer.

Dr. Geoff Andersen developed the process, called holographic adaptic optics, that uses sensors and lenses that can correct for disturbances in the atmosphere.

Atmospheric disturbances can interfere with ground-based optical telescope's abilities to clearly see satellites orbiting the earth.

"Stars don't twinkle," Dr. Andersen said. "This is just the effect of atmospheric interference on our ability to see into space."

Dr. Andersen's process uses adaptive technology to compensate for this interference.

"Think of it like wearing a pair of glasses," he said. "When someone has poor eyesight, the prescription compensates for this and makes his or her eyesight better. This process is similar. It uses adaptive optics so telescopes can see into space better."

This is important to the Air Force because it will allow the service to better see its satellites. For instance, if a satellite stops communicating with personnel on the ground, they can view it on a telescope to determine what caused it to go off the grid.

"Naturally, the clearer you can see the satellite, the easier it will be to diagnose the problem," Dr. Andersen said.

Air Force officials have been using various forms of technology to view its satellites for several decades, but the equipment used to perform this is expensive, computer intensive and large.

"The computer itself is as large as a room," Dr. Andersen said.

This new system, which Dr. Andersen has the patent for, uses holograms and is condensed into a device the size of a standard DVD player. This makes it cheaper and opens the door to new possibilities.

"We could place one of these devices on a satellite and then the satellite would be able to see down to earth with a crystal image," Dr. Andersen said.

Devices could also be placed on unmanned aircraft systems, allowing them to produce a clearer image for combatant commanders. UAS' are perfect candidates for this technology due to their type and height of flight, Dr. Andersen said.

"UAS' produce their own turbulence when flying and they tend to fly in the general area where atmospheric interference is high," he said. "This new technology would eliminate these problems and allow the UAS to produce a high-quality, sharp image."

The adaptive optics technology goes beyond having only military applications. It also has uses within the medical arena -- especially that of laser eye surgery.

"This technology will make eye surgery more precise and specialized," Dr. Andersen said.

Capabilities aside, Dr. Andersen said he is proud to be instrumental in the creation of this holographic technology. He's also proud of the cadets he teaches and who help him on a daily basis.

"They get hands on to help find solutions using research," he said.

The students are happy to help, knowing that the work they are doing today could possibly shape the future of imagery technology.

"It makes it really worth it knowing there's a real-world application for what we're doing here in the laboratory," said Cadet Will Holmes, a senior at the Academy. "And it's great getting to work with Dr. Andersen."

Navy Announces Decision on Atlantic Fleet Active Sonar Training

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NNS) -- The Navy completed and released on Jan. 23 the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Atlantic Fleet Active Sonar Training (AFAST) Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (EIS/OEIS).

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for the Environment Donald Schregardus signed the ROD, marking completion of the EIS/OEIS process.

The AFAST EIS analyzed a set of alternatives including one that limited sonar training to designated areas or times during the year and another that continues with the present level of training in the same geographic areas while complying with protective measures set forth by federal regulators. The two-year, multi-million dollar EIS study revealed that limiting active sonar training in this way is not preferable to the protective measures the Navy previously developed with scientists and regulators.

Federal regulators confirm the Navy's current protections are effective in minimizing impacts on marine species.

As part of the EIS process, NOAA's Fisheries Service and the Navy worked to develop a robust monitoring plan to use independent, trained and experienced aerial and vessel-based marine mammal observers (as well as Navy watch standers) and passive acoustic monitoring to help better understand how marine mammals respond to various levels of sound and to assess the effectiveness of mitigation measures.

The Navy made its final decision after considering comments on the EIS from scientists, regulators, and the public. Based on the results of the study and the effectiveness of the measures already in place, the Navy decided to implement the "No Action Alternative," which means the Navy will continue with the present level of training in the same geographic areas while complying with protective measures set forth by federal regulators. It is not intended to increase the type or frequency of Anti-Submarine (ASW) or Mine Warfare (MIW) training along the East Coast of the United States and within the Gulf of Mexico.

The AFAST study is part of a $100 million effort to comprehensively evaluate the environmental impact of the Navy's training activities on all of its training areas. Policies resulting from the Fleet-wide review, which began four years ago, will seek to strike the proper balance between the Navy's statutory requirements to maintain military readiness while minimizing its impact on the environment.

The Final EIS/OEIS and the decision are available at

Friday, January 23, 2009

Africa Partnership Station 2009 Kicks off with USS Nashville Departure

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Charles L. Ludwig, Africa Partnership Station 2009 Public Affairs

The amphibious transport dock ship USS Nashville (LPD 13) departs on a six-month deployment to the coast of west and central Africa to support Africa Partnership Station (APS). APS is a U.S. Naval Forces Europe-led initiative, executed by a multi-national staff aboard Nashville, designed to contribute to maritime safety and security in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ash Severe/Released)

USS NASHVILLE, At Sea (NNS) -- Africa Partnership Station (APS) 2009 kicked off Jan. 15, as USS Nashville (LPD 13) and the embarked Commander, Destroyer Squadron 60 departed from Naval Station Norfolk.

The team is now headed to West Africa for the Navy's second "banner" APS deployment, an international initiative developed by the Naval Forces Europe and Naval Forces Africa that aims to improve maritime safety and security in West and Central Africa. Nashville's deployment for APS doubles as the ship's final deployment, with it slated for decommissioning September 2009.

"Solidifying friendships and building new ones to ensure safer ports and waterways for Africa and the world's commerce that travels them is our unified goal," said Capt. Cindy Thebaud, APS 2009 commander and DESRON 60 commodore. "The fact that this initiative has been built at the request of our African partners, and we execute it side-by-side with an embarked team of officers and civilian specialists from 20 different countries sends a clear message. The responsibility of maritime security truly is a global effort."

During APS 2009, Nashville will make port calls in five West African countries – Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon. APS training will include professional exchanges on seamanship, environmental stewardship, and maritime awareness, along with numerous humanitarian and civic outreach opportunities.

"When you look throughout our ship, you now see a diverse staff of naval officers all wearing the different uniforms of their countries" said USS Nashville's commanding officer Capt. Tushar Tembe.

"Africa Partnership Station has brought us all together to work a unified effort…at the end of the workday; we are all just maritime professionals…all sailors working side by side. It's a tremendous example for my crew."

Navy Announces Decision on Southern California Range Complex

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Department of the Navy announced Jan. 21 that it has formally selected one of the training alternatives considered in its environmental study of the Southern California (SOCAL) Range Complex.

B.J. Penn, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, signed a Record of Decision (ROD) to continue the current level of training on the range, accommodate the training activities of new classes of ships and aircraft, and increase the instrumentation on the complex.

"The decision I signed today allows the Navy to train in a realistic way that does not harm marine mammals," Penn said.

The Department reached its decision after considering scientific, regulatory, and public comments on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) it prepared to evaluate a set of proposed training options.

The new range instrumentation will serve the additional purpose of providing scientists unprecedented insight into the interaction between the Navy's training and the marine mammal populations passing through the range complex.

"This matrix of silent listening devices off of San Clemente will allow us to definitively track the behaviors and population levels of the marine mammals on the range," said Donald Schregardus, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for the Environment, "which is exciting."

"The SOCAL EIS represents one of the most robust and detailed studies ever conducted on sonar's effects on marine mammals," Penn said. "It was developed using the best available science, and its conclusions are the result of extensive coordination with independent scientists and federal regulators," he added, referring to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency responsible for protecting marine mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection and Endangered Species Acts.

"The Navy is committed to protecting the environment while guarding the nation's freedom," Penn said. "This decision represents a major step forward in our ability to achieve both of those ends."

The SOCAL study is part of a $100 million effort to comprehensively evaluate the environmental impact of the Navy's training activities on all of its training areas. Policies resulting from the fleet-wide review, which began four years ago, will seek to strike the proper balance between the service's statutory requirements to maintain military readiness while minimizing its impact on the environment.

"We need to provide realistic training to our Sailors, and we also need to ensure we're protecting the environment," Penn said. "There is no other option," he added.

The Navy has been training on the SOCAL complex for more than 40 years.

"The SOCAL waters are vital to the nation's prosperity and defense," Penn said. "As such, we must continually and aggressively assess our activities and keep searching for ever more effective ways to minimize our impacts."

The ROD is available on the project's Web site at

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cosmos 1818 fragments of orbiting nuclear-powered Soviet satellite pose no danger

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press Writer

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's military said Wednesday that an old Soviet-built nuclear-powered satellite has spewed fragments in orbit, but insisted they do not threaten the international space station or people on Earth.

The military's Space Forces said the decommissioned Cosmos-1818 satellite "partially fragmented" in July.

See rest of the article at,1,2439002.story

And from the NASA Orbital Debris Newsletter

A 21-year-old satellite containing a dormant nuclear reactor was the source of an unexpected debris cloud in early July 2008. Launched by the former Soviet Union in February 1987, Cosmos 1818 (International Designator 1987-011A, U.S. Satellite Number 17369) was the first of two vehicles designed to test a new, more advanced nuclear power supply in low Earth orbit. Dozens of small particles were released during the still unexplained debris generation event.

Cosmos 1818 and its sister spacecraft, Cosmos 1867 (Figure 1), carried a thermionic nuclear power supply, in contrast to the simpler, thermoelectric nuclear device which provided energy to the well-known RORSATs (Radar Ocean Reconnaissance Satellites) during the 1970s and 1980s. The most infamous RORSAT was Cosmos 954, which rained radioactive debris over Canada in 1978 after suffering a loss of control malfunction.

Unlike their RORSAT cousins, which operated in very low orbits near 250 km, Cosmos 1818 and Cosmos 1867 were directly inserted into orbits near 800 km, eliminating any threat of premature reentry. According to Russian reports, the nuclear reactors on Cosmos 1818 and Cosmos 1867 functioned for approximately 5 and 11 months, respectively. For the next two decades, the two inactive spacecraft circled the Earth without significant incident.

Following the fragmentation event on or about 4 July 2008, the U.S. Space Surveillance Network was able to produce orbital data on 30 small debris (Figure 2). The majority of these debris were ejected in a posigrade direction with velocities of less than 15 meters per second, suggesting a relatively low energy event. From radar detections, a larger number of very small debris appear to have also been released, but routine tracking of these debris has proven difficult.

Special observations of a few of the debris revealed characteristics generally indicative of metallic spheres. Cosmos 1818 employed sodiumpotassium (NaK) as a coolant for its reactor, as did the older RORSATs. Although the post-Cosmos 954 RORSATs were known for releasing significant amounts of NaK droplets after reaching
their disposal orbits (Kessler et al., 1997), Cosmos 1818 and Cosmos 1867 did not follow this precedent.

Simplified illustration of Cosmos 1818 and Cosmos 1867. The dimensional units are millimeters.

Much of the NaK within Cosmos 1818 probably was in a solid state at the time of the debris generation event. However, some NaK present in the radiator coolant tubes might have reached a temporary liquid state, particularly when the spacecraft was exposed to direct solar illumination. A breach in a coolant tube (for example, due to long-term thermal stress) at such a time could have resulted in the release of NaK droplets. Alternatively, the hyper-velocity impact of a small particle might have generated sufficient heat to melt some of the NaK, which then would have formed spheres with metallic properties. Additional analysis of the debris is underway in hopes of providing new insights into the nature of the objects and the possible cause of their origin. To date, no similar debris generation by Cosmos 1867 has been observed.

Courtesy of the NASA Orbital Debris Quarterly News Volume 13, Issue 1 January 2009, Pages 1 and 2.

Extra Notice Helps Wyoming Prepare Families for Historic Deployment

By Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press Service

As Wyoming prepares for the largest National Guard deployment in state history, much of the planning has gone into helping those who will be left behind for a year in communities scattered across the rural state.

Nearly 1,000 soldiers will deploy in April to Iraq and Kuwait, leaving behind thousands of families and extended family members in nearly every community in the state.

"A lot of people think of the 'spouse' when they think of military family programs. Not everybody's married," William Breckenridge, the state Family Support Program director, said. "We work in terms of the comprehensive family -- moms and dads, brothers and sisters, the significant others."

Military deployments aren't new to the state and its families; nearly two-thirds of the soldiers have deployed before. But in sharp contrast to the earlier deployments after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, these soldiers and families have known about this deployment for nearly two years. In 2004, most of the field artillery units that deployed had only three months to prepare.

Defense Department officials put the long notice in in 2007 to allow units to train more at home and less at a mobilization site. Early on, some National Guard units were spending nearly two years away from home, including both the deployment and time spent at a mobilization site before and after a deployment.

The extra lead time has allowed military officials to put in place support services for the families, senior family support officials said, and has allowed them to focus on how to provide support for those in the state's far-reaching communities.

"That's a big challenge for us," Breckenridge said.

The Wyoming Army National Guard mans its family assistance center with a full-time supervisor and six part-time contractors who are based around the state where there is a large military presence. The state also has a family readiness group assistant who travels the state training the volunteer family readiness groups. Each unit commander has a volunteer family readiness group, and the state has used the extra time to encourage and strengthen those units, Breckenridge said.

Last year, a family readiness support assistant who also works with the volunteer groups was placed in the 115th Fires Brigade, a unit tapped for deployment.

Already, Breckenridge said, a center is set up to call and check on families. Those calls will continue monthly throughout the deployment, he said.

During those calls families are encouraged to attend planned information events. During January's drill weekend, the brigade held a "family academy" in conjunction with its soldier readiness process weekend. The first such family academy, which brings together soldiers and families to update them on the support services available such as health care, education and finances, took place last year.

Since November, brigade officials have held family briefings in about 15 towns, taking with them veterans' advocates, representatives from the Yellow Ribbon reintegration program and Army OneSource, chaplains and others.

"You're never going to get all the families in one place at one time, so we have ongoing, repeat opportunities," Breckenridge said.

More events are planned during the deployment, he said.

Just put in place for the first time in the state is a Defense Department team with the Joint Family Assistance Program that includes a Military OneSource consultant and a family counselor. They will spend more than half of their time traveling across Wyoming, meeting with families in the geographically dispersed state. If a problem arises during one of the monthly wellness calls, the team will follow up with the family for a face-to-face visit.

"Their charter is to connect with those dispersed folks ... and check in with them," Breckenridge said.

The state legislature created a $5 million trust fund, the interest of which is used to help financially strapped military family members. In the past five years, more than $1 million has been paid out of the program. This month, senior military officials asked the legislature for another $1 million for the fund to support families during this deployment.

Breckenridge said the state's biggest challenge so far has been attracting families to the events. Despite the months of notice, many families still put off preparing for the deployment. Also, he said, many are hesitant to attend because this is their second or third deployment.

"We deal with the result of that reluctance on their part when the deployment occurs," he said. "The folks that are not taking advantage of those tools are the folks that we will be dealing with shortly after [the soldiers] leave."

The long notice has been a two-edged sword, some soldiers, families and military leaders acknowledged. It has allowed soldiers and families to better prepare for the upcoming deployment – in fact, many said they were better able to plan significant family events such as having a baby, buying a house or changing jobs.

But on the other hand, most also said that knowing for so long is more stressful.

"The more time you have, the more time you have for your mind to wander," Shona Ross, whose husband has deployed twice, said.

But, Ross said, the extra family programs have allowed her and other families to get their "minds wrapped around deployment and what that means."

"This family readiness will help immensely, ... and the stress won't be as intense as the first time, because we have tools," she said. "You've got to kind of try to be as independent as you possibly can. Whoever you are sending over to Iraq, you want them to come back. So they need to have a clear mind every day that things are handled at home."

But, as important as preparing practically for the deployment is, preparing emotionally is critical as well, several soldiers and family members said. Those interviewed said the extra time allowed for spending intentional quality time with the family. It also allowed for planned vacations and family outings. Some even attended National Guard-sponsored marriage enrichment seminars.

Ross' husband, Staff Sgt. Adam Ross, was given only 90 days to prepare for his last deployment in 2004. His first son was only 3 months old when he left. He now has another young son.

"It gives me time to reflect on what is important to me and make sure that I take full advantage of the time that I have with them," he said. "This being my second deployment, knowing a year and a half out that we're going again has given me cause to spend some extra time with my wife, do extra things with my kids that I probably wouldn't do."

Ross said his family has been ready in practical terms for this deployment ever since he returned from his last one in 2005. He knew, Ross said, that he would go again. It was just a matter of time.

For Ross, these next few months will be about the little things, like putting his sons to bed and reading them a book -- the things he does daily and normally doesn't think about.

"I'm paying attention. I'm banking these memories, because three months down the road I'm going to wish I was here, and those memories are special," Ross said. "That's one of the benefits of knowing ... months out. I store away the special times with my family so that I can recall them later and get me through a tough time."

Decisions loom for Joint Strike Fighter Program

by Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

Decisions about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor aircraft programs are expected early in President Barack Obama's administration.

The F-35 program manager said Jan. 15 he sees strong support for the F-35 from the services, allied partners and, so far, on Capitol Hill.

Based on initial indications and inquiries from President Obama's administration, Maj. Gen. Charles R. Davis said he's confident the F-35 program begun during the Clinton administration will continue, even if budget restraints force scale-backs. General Davis made the comments here as keynote speaker at a Brookings Institution forum, "The Joint Strike Fighter and Beyond."

"Support throughout what appears to be three administrations has been relatively consistent," he said. "As of yet, we see no reason that that support is going to change. There is nobody on Capitol Hill who has said they want to cancel the Joint Strike Fighter."

That doesn't mean, he acknowledged, that the program to develop the next-generation strike aircraft weapon system for the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and allied countries might not get scaled back.

General Davis conceded he gets many questions about the F-35's cost -- expected to be $80 million to $90 million, depending on the variant -- and delivery schedule. And if fewer aircraft are built, each will cost even more.

"We lose two airplanes in our [fiscal 2009] appropriation, and every other one of the airplanes being bought in that year goes up $3 million," he said.

Another consideration, he said, is the cost of maintaining the aging legacy fleets the F-35 would replace if production is cut.

Earlier yesterday, William Lynn, President Obama's deputy defense secretary nominee, told the Senate Armed Services Committee it would be "very difficult" for the Defense Department to keep all its weapons systems development programs on track in tight budget times.

Mr. Lynn said at his confirmation hearing he'll push for a speedy Quadrennial Defense Review to set priorities through fiscal 2015, and expects the tactical aviation force modernization issue to play heavily in those considerations.

In written responses submitted to the committee, Mr. Lynn recognized the capabilities of both the F-22 and F-35 aircraft -- particularly when considered together.

"The F-22 is the most advanced tactical fighter in the world and, when combined with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, will provide the nation with the most capable mix of fifth-generation aircraft available for the foreseeable future," he said.

The F-22, to replace the legacy F-15 fleet, brings "tremendous capability" and is a critical element of the department's overall tactical aircraft force structure, Mr. Lynn said. The F-35, on the other hand, "will provide the foundation for the department's tactical air force structure."

The F-35 is the first aircraft to be developed within the Defense Department to meet the needs of three services, with three variants being developed simultaneously.

It will replace the legacy F-16 aircraft for the Air Force and the F/A-18 and AV-8 aircraft for the Navy and Marine Corps, as well as numerous legacy aircraft for the international partners participating in the F-35 program, Mr. Lynn told the Senate committee.

So the big question, he said, is determining the appropriate mix between the two aircraft. "If confirmed, I would expect this to be a key issue for the early strategy and program-budget reviews that the department will conduct over the next few months," he said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has made no secret of his interest in reaching a decision and moving forward. During a June visit to Langley Air Force Base, Va., he told Airmen at Air Combat Command the new administration will have to determine the proper balance between the two aircraft.

"End the debate, make a decision and move on," Secretary Gates said. "'Start getting stuff built' is just so important.'"

Secretary Gates told the Airmen he had allocated enough money to keep the F-22 production lines open so the next administration could make its decision. He did not know at the time that he would be part of that decision-making process.

General Davis told the Brooking Institution audience Jan. 15, "support from all three services has never been stronger" for the F-35 program.

The Marine Corps, slated to receive the "B" variant that has a vertical-lift capability, has been "the most vocal, avid and fervent customer," General Davis said. The Marine Corps leadership expects the F-35 to become "the most effective air platform they have ever had," he said. "Looking at their history of how they have used airplanes, that is quite a bold statement."

Similarly, the Navy, to receive the aircraft's "C" variant designed for carrier launches, "has never been more supportive of the program," General Davis said. He noted that the Navy has been "fighting aggressively" to keep its aircraft carriers fully outfitted.

In addition, the Air Force recognizes the need for a complementary mix of aircraft to meet its mission requirements, he said. Its "A" variant of the F-35 will provide conventional take-off and landing capabilities.

Meanwhile, nine partner nations continue to support the program, with other countries considering signing on, too, General Davis said. The F-35 program represents the first time in military procurement history that the United States has partnered with another nation to build an aircraft from the ground up.

"We believe that the coalition that was put in place when they signed up for this program is probably stronger than ever now," General Davis said.

This partnership, he said, brings the concept of coalition integration to a whole new level. In addition to funding and developing the F-35 together, the partners plan to use a single system to sustain it -- sharing spares and repair capabilities to reduce costs.

"There is something very unique that Joint Strike Fighter offers that other programs I have seen do not," he said.

The big challenge for now, General Davis said, is to take advantage of the latest manufacturing processes to get the production line moving ahead.

"Even the manufacturing lines for some of our newest fighters, the F-22, started in the late '80s and early '90s," he said. "We have progressed almost two decades in manufacturing technology, but we have never really tried it out on a full-scale program."

Air Force officials release proposed Global Strike Command candidate bases

Air Force officials here announced Jan. 21 the possible locations for the eventual permanent home for the headquarters for Air Force Global Strike Command.

Earlier this month, Air Force officials had announced the formal stand up of the Air Force Global Strike Command (Provisional).

The provisional command is located at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., and is responsible for all the activity supporting the establishment of the permanent Global Strike Command at one of six possible bases.

The candidate bases for the permanent AFGSC, in alphabetical order, are Barksdale Air Force Base, La.; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo.; Malmstrom AFB, Mont.; Minot AFB, N.D.; Offutt AFB, Neb.; and Whiteman AFB, Mo.

Kevin Billings, the acting secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics, said that every basing decision is made using a measured and deliberate process to ensure that the final decision is the best possible outcome for national defense and is in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

Current performance of a significant operational function associated with strategic nuclear forces is an overarching requirement for selecting the AFGSC headquarters base. Due to the uniqueness of the nuclear operations culture and the significant time required to develop personnel, processes and systems to create an operational environment which safely and reliably meets the extraordinary levels of precision engendered by such operations, all candidate bases must meet this overarching requirement.

"The principal focus of the new command will be on our nuclear deterrence mission and ensuring the day-to-day excellence demanded by this mission," said Maj. Gen. C. Donald Alston, assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration. "Co-locating the headquarters on an installation where there are significant operational functions associated with nuclear forces will provide positive synergies for this new command."

Air Force officials will now evaluate each of the six bases against the same set of criteria. The criteria include synergy with the AFGSC nuclear mission including availability of requisite expertise, facilities and infrastructure, support capacity, transportation and access, communications and bandwidth, and security to support the AFGSC headquarters.

The Air Force intends to make a final selection no later than the end of June 2009.

Officials announce proposed bases for new cyber headquarters

Air Force officials here announced Jan. 21 possible locations for the headquarters of 24th Air Force, a new numbered Air Force focused on the cyber mission.

The proposed bases to be under Air Force Cyber Command, in alphabetical order, are Barksdale Air Force Base, La.; Lackland AFB, Texas; Langley AFB, Va.; Offutt AFB, Neb.; Peterson AFB, Colo.; and Scott AFB, Ill.

Kevin W. Billings, the acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment, and logistics, said every basing decision is made through a measured and deliberate process to ensure the final decision is the best possible outcome for national defense and is in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

In selecting a base from among the six candidate bases, Air Force officials will consider cyber numbered Air Force mission synergy, including proximity to other cyber operational missions and access to scientific and technical expertise, and communication/bandwidth capabilities.

Other evaluation criteria include facilities and infrastructure, support capacity, security and transportation access. Air Force officials applied the two most important evaluation criteria -- cyber numbered Air Force mission synergy and communication/bandwidth capabilities -- to provide the final candidate basing list above.

"In basing 24th Air Force, we recognize the tremendous preparatory work several states have already done, and we intend to use much of that information, but the mission will ultimately define the final location," said Brig. Gen. Mark O. Schissler, the Air Force Cyber Operations director.

Air Force officials intend to make a final base selection no later than the end of June 2009.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Guard Nerve Centers Prove Key to Inaugural, National Missions

By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith, Special to American Forces Press Service

When National Guard soldiers and airmen show up for the thousands of missions they perform, they know they're part of the right unit, in the right place, at the right moment. But, getting them to a mission does not happen by chance.

That's partly because the joint staff at the National Guard Bureau, along with the Army and Air Guard's readiness centers work behind the scenes with the states and territories to put the Guard's best foot forward.

The National Guard's support to the current presidential inauguration is no different, but its footprint is nearly four times larger than any in previous inaugurations.

"The last 30 days have been pretty intense," said Air Force Maj. Gen. William Etter, director of Domestic Operations at the Bureau, referring to the coordination and deployment of some 9,300 Guardsmen. "The last time I checked, 33 states were involved."

Just before the Guard's Inauguration Day support, soldiers and airmen at the National Guard Bureau Joint Coordination Center, the Army Guard Readiness Center and the Air Guard Readiness Center were busy fine tuning last-minute details.

Although their work and cooperation was not as readily visible as the thousands of Guardmembers providing ceremonial and security support, Etter said JoCC Guardmembers' participation is equally vital.

The Guard Bureau JoCC
The JoCC is the Bureau's nerve center for the presidential inauguration and for all its current operations. Its members, located in Crystal City, Va., are working 24/7 operations for both missions.

The center should not be confused with the states' and territories' Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) operations centers. Each state's JFHQ provides the command and control of Guard forces for its governor.

"The Bureau and the readiness centers do not command, but we synchronize," said Etter. He explained that their missions help coordinate use of Guard assets between the Army Guard, the Air Guard and the states.

"I think that we have a very well coordinated effort for the inauguration," said Etter, who added the inaugural is one of their largest non-emergency missions to date.

As a mission comes in, the JoCC finds what assets the states' Army and Air Guards can best support it. This includes personnel and equipment.

Helping with those support requests was Army Sgt. Christopher Pyle, message center NCO, who is working his first inauguration.

"We get all the e-mails coming from the states. Then we sort through them and send them where they need to go," said Pyle. On a busy day, that can add up to nearly 200 messages.

Pyle sat before a wall of televisions and computer screens. He combed through a flurry of messages. He looked through personnel rosters.

An automated message system - called the Joint Information Exchange Environment - helps manage requests to the JoCC. The JIEE provides special codes used to push requests to officials as well as to Army and Air Guard liaisons. The liaisons help communicate those requests to their respective readiness centers.

"It's a good process," said Etter. "We have taken past procedures from events and formalized them. This is the first chance we had to slow down and capture those best procedures."

For the inauguration, the extreme volume of messages had so many JoCC members busy that some chose to sleep on cots at the Bureau. But the experience was welcome, they said.

"We see how everyone is tied together," said Pyle. "I heard that before Hurricane Katrina, no one really talked to each other, but now I see the government agencies coordinating."

Much cross-agency talk is held via video teleconferences hosted by the Multi-agency Coordination Center. The MACC coordinated a vast array of government agencies for the inauguration.

"You can't think of a single agency not represented," said Etter after Sunday's MACC VTC. He added "it's heartwarming and encouraging" to see everyone cooperating for the same goal: the protection of U.S. citizens and visitors who have arrived in Washington, D.C., to see the inauguration.

"When all is said and done for this inaugural, any success can be attributed to a combination of everyone working together and to the great leadership of Maj. Gen. [Errol] Schwartz, the commanding general of the D.C. Guard," he said.

The Army Guard Watch
Army Maj. Leafay Jones, the JoCC's Army Guard liaison officer, sat in the JoCC and monitored messages.

As the Guard's soldiers meet demands brought by the nation's domestic callouts and the war fight, thousands are supporting the inauguration with ceremonial units and military police, among many other missions. Soldiers in both Maryland and Virginia are supporting law enforcement and transportation agencies. Still others are supporting communications and traffic control. Nearly 13,000 also are prepared to support civil authorities on short notice, in case of an emergency.

Jones helped organize that record number of inaugural support Soldiers with the JoCC and Army "Watch" relationship.

The Watch is a 24-hour crisis response team located at the ARNGRC in Arlington, Va.
"Once a request is assigned to an Army asset, I will determine if we can source it through the people at the Watch," Jones said.

The Watch is made up of a battle captain, a shift officer-in-charge and several NCOs. The soldiers maintain communications with the states' JFHQs as well as with deployed Guard Soldiers and units.

"When they pass a request over to us, we look and see if there are forces available to provide the capability, and we also look at the resources necessary," said Army Col. Hank Amato, chief of the ARNGRC operations division.

Amato said the ARNGRC has increased its manning for the inauguration by bringing in soldiers from the District of Columbia National Guard to augment their Watch and Crisis Action Team.

"We're a dynamic organization that expands and contracts based on the missions," said Amato.

Amato said the Watch and CAT are just one piece of the expanding ARNGRC, where the Guard Bureau's JoCC and its staff plan to relocate to by 2011.

The Air Guard Crisis Action Center
In the Bureau's JoCC, Air Guard liaison officers sit across from their Army Guard counterparts. The entire JoCC staff surrounds both.

"We work between the Army and the Air Force right here, real time, to figure out what each service can provide [for a mission]," said Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Beckman, Air Guard branch chief for aviation planning.

Much like the Army Watch, the Air Guard Crisis Action Team at the ANGRC on Andrews Air Force Base, Md., coordinates between their liaison officers and the JFHQs to provide Air Guard assets for missions.

For the presidential inauguration, their efforts have helped bring a large amount of Air Guard support for inaugural ceremonies and security.

Among other Air Guard support, the District's entire 113th Wing is helping with transportation, security, in-processing, ceremonial marching and other missions. From other states, a large contingent of medical airlift specialists is working with federal agencies. Services personnel are providing hot meals. Still, others are helping at traffic and pedestrian stations.

Nearly 50 airmen also are manning the ANGRC CAT 24/7 for inauguration support, said Air Force Lt. Col. Allen Minick, its director.

"I consider it a major effort on the part of our CAT, the Center and the states' airmen," said Minick.

First staffed in 2005, the ANG CAT's high-security room includes television screens that relay VTCs as well as live newscasts. The CAT's technical capabilities include secure network communications and data links that receive, manage and communicate JIEE messages and other communications.

"We have functional managers here who know the status of Air Guard equipment and airmen," said Minick.

During a crisis, Minick said the CAT can have as many as 140 Airmen operating around the clock to support the states, federal agencies and civilian responders.

When all is said and done, the states and territories will have sent their modern day minutemen and women to the nation's Capital to help usher in a new President and Commander and Chief in the ultimate change of command ceremony.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

US Launches Advanced Elint Satellite

United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office successfully lifted off from Space Launch Complex 37 at CCAFS at 9:47 p.m. EST (0247 UTC) today. The launch was originally scheduled for 2005, but was delayed due to a number of issues, and lift-off took place at 0247 UTC on 18 January 2009.

This was the first Delta IV Heavy mission for the NRO. Designated NROL-26, the mission is in support of national defense. This was the third Delta IV Heavy launch in Delta program history.

“This first Delta IV Heavy launch for the NRO is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication by the combined NRO, Air Force, supplier and ULA team,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA Vice President, Delta Product Line.

NROL-26 is a classified spacecraft which is to be operated by the United States National Reconnaissance Office.

According to reports by Aviation Week and other sources, NROL-26 is believed to be either the first Intruder satellite or an Advanced Orion, ELINT satellite.

Aviation Week reports, "It fundamentally involves America's biggest, most secret and expensive military spacecraft on board the world's largest rocket." The combined cost of the spacecraft and launch vehicle has been estimated to be over US$2 billion.

You can read the Aviation Week article online at

Kevin Fetter on the SEESAT-L group posted these updated element sets based on last night's launch:

GTO burn at 1st descending node 278 X 36398 km
1 70502U 9018.341849515 .00000000 00000-0 00000-0 0 03
2 70502 27.2800 337.3117 7307000 182.9000 167.5000 2.23480000 05

GTO burn at 1st ascending node 278 X 36398 km
1 70503U 09018.16413612 .00000000 00000-0 00000-0 0 04
2 70503 27.2800 337.1517 7307000 3.4000 359.6000 2.23480000 09

Photo by Pat Corkery, courtesy of ULA.

“We appreciate the support from our mission partners in achieving this milestone. ULA is pleased to contribute to our nation’s security, and to continue our strong partnership with the NRO. We look forward to launching many more NRO missions on ULA’s Delta IV Medium, Delta IV Heavy and Atlas V vehicles.” The ULA Delta IV Heavy vehicle featured a center common booster core with two strap-on common booster cores. Each common booster core was powered by the RS-68 cryogenic engine. An RL10B-2 cryogenic engine powered the second stage. Both engines are built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. The payload was encased by a 5-meter diameter (16.7-foot diameter) aluminum, tri-sector payload fairing. ULA constructed the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle in Decatur, Ala. This was the first launch for ULA in 2009. ULA's next launch is NASA’s NOAA-N Prime mission currently scheduled for Feb. 4, aboard a Delta II from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Stennis Departs on Deployment

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Elliott J. Fabrizio, USS John C. Stennis Public Affairs

Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Mike Condlin, from Fayetteville, N.C., directs an F/A-18F Super Hornet strike fighter assigned to the "Experts" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 122 onto a catapult for launch from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Stennis is conducting fleet replacement squadron carrier qualifications off the coast of California. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Josue L. Escobosa/Released)

USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) departed her homeport in Bremerton, Wash., Jan. 13 for a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.

Stennis will join Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21, to form the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSCSG), which will support regional stability in the Western Pacific.

The deployment is part of the Navy's Fleet Response Plan (FRP), which is designed to allow the United States the ability to rapidly respond with flexible and sustainable force to any global commitment on short notice.

"Anytime we deploy, our primary mission is to standby and be ready to support the war on terror wherever that may be," said Stennis Commanding Officer Capt. Joseph Kuzmick. "Terrorism takes many forms around the world, and there are a couple of hot spots in the world right now that we might participate in actively."

JCSCSG plans to maintain the strike group's operational
skill set and increase inter-operability with its allies through joint exercises.

"Some of it is just keeping up our skills and training, and we've got some enduring partnerships we're going to work on in that part of the world," said Kuzmick.

Another goal of this deployment is to foster diplomatic relations with U.S. allies and foreign nations in the region. Sailors from JCSCSG each play a role in this as they represent America positively through proper overseas conduct.

"I consider liberty a mission for the crew," said Kuzmick. "When we pull into foreign countries, not only are we seeing their country but they are seeing us. They can see we are real people, and they can see we are kind people. It makes a positive impression that sometimes does not come through the other visibility and media sources they have."

The deployment is scheduled to be approximately six months; however, JCSCSG will be prepared respond to the needs of any operational situation.

"We are not going to stick to that if conditions dictate otherwise," said Kuzmick. "When you send an aircraft carrier across the Pacific Ocean, it's a fairly large commitment. You're going to spend some time over there since you made the effort to go over there."

During the past few months, Stennis conducted several training exercises off the southern coast of California and is fully prepared to deploy in support of the FRP. This deployment is part of America's maritime strategy under the FRP to maintain a force of combat power overseas, capable of protecting America's vital interests, and assuring regional stability.

John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group
Ships and Squadrons

USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74)
USS Antietam (CG 54)
USS Lake Champlain (CG 57)
Destroyer Squadron Twenty One
USS Kidd (DDG 100)
USS Preble (DDG 88)
USS Milius (DDG 69)

Carrier Air Wing Nine (CVW) 9
VFA-146 - "Blue Diamonds"
VFA-147 - "Argonauts"
VMFA-323 - "Death Rattlers"
VFA-154 - "Black Knights"
VAW-112 - "Golden Hawks"
VAQ-138 - "Yellow Jackets"
HSC-8 - "Eightballers"
HSM-71 - "Raptors"
VRC-30 - "Providers"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Btown Blog Logs - 1/17/2009

Here are the latest active civilian and military aero freqs intercepted this morning here in Btown.

**Need some help from my readers. Does anyone have any additional information on ATL ARTCC freq 125.825 (RCAG, Sector, etc)?

124.325 ATL ARTCC Hampton GA Ultra High Altitude FL330 and above Sector 23 Clark Hill Sector

124.875 ATL ARTCC Chattanooga TN High Altitude Sector 36 Alatoona Sector

125.025 ATL ARTCC Jonesville SC High Altitude FL330 and above Sector 26 High Rock Sector

125.575 ATL ARTCC Columbus GA High Altitude Sector 10 LaGrange Sector

125.625 ATL ARTCC Owning (Greenville) SC High Altitude Sector 32 Spartanburg Sector

**125.825 ATL ARTCC Unknown RCAG Atlanta ARTCC Discrete: Ultra High Altitude

125.925 ATL ARTCC Crossville (Hinch Mountain) TN High Altitude Sector 39 Burne Sector

128.000 ATL Approach Control - Erlin 5 STAR Arrival/Herko 2 STAR Arrival

128.725 ATL ARTCC Birmingham AL High Altitude Sector 03 Gadsden Sector

132.050 ATL ARTCC Chattanooga TN Low Altitude Discrete: Approach/Departure services for various small airports via this RCAG Sector 05 Dallas Sector

132.975 ATL ARTCC Hickory NC Ultra High Altitude FL330 and above Sector 43 Pulaski Sector

134.075 ATL ARTCC Newport TN Ultra High Altitude FL330 and above Sector 40 Blue Ridge Sector

380.350 ATL ARTCC Foothills (Toccoa) GA High Altitude Sector 50 Lanier Sector
(Ground and air side audible here in Btown)