Saturday, July 12, 2008

Head of Joint Chiefs Meets With Pakistani Leaders

News in Balance

News in Balance:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, July 12, 2008 -- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with Pakistan’s military and civilian leaders here today to discuss issues concerning Pakistan’s lack of pressure toward insurgents flowing from its border into Afghanistan.

During Navy Adm. Mike Mullen’s brief stop in Pakistan, which lasted less than a day, he met with President Pervez Musharraf; Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani; Mahmud Ali Durrani, national security advisor to the prime minister; and army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

The admiral discussed a wide array of security issues, along with his growing concern for the lack of pressure on Pakistan’s side of the border, Navy Capt. John Kirby, a spokesman for Mullen, said.

U.S. military officials attribute the border issue as one of the main causes for the recent spike in violence throughout southern and eastern Afghanistan.

The chairman has kept the details of these discussions private, but stressed that Pakistan’s leaders are aware of U.S. concerns and the challenges both countries face in the border region. Pakistani officials said they are working to address those challenges, Kirby said.

“The new Pakistan government has a very difficult challenge and continues to work its way through, but has to enforce making sure foreign fighters don’t exist out there and make sure the insurgents don’t have the freedom of movement across the border,” Mullen said during an interview with reporters July 10 in Afghanistan.

Mullen later said he was pleased with the outcome of his meetings today and looks forward to taking any opportunity to meet with Pakistani leaders.

(Story by Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press Service.)

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Head of Joint Chiefs Presents Medals for Valor to 12 Paratroopers in Afghanistan

U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, poses for a group photo with award recipients from the 503rd Infantry Regiment, Korengal Outpost, Afghanistan, July 11, 2008. (Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley.)

Dispatches from the Front:

KORENGAL VALLEY, Afghanistan, July 12, 2008 -- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today took the opportunity to present 12 paratroopers with awards here for valorous and heroic achievements in combat.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen pinned five Army Commendation Medals with valor devices, five Purple Heart Medals, one Bronze Star with valor device, and one Silver Star on the troopers’ chests during a ceremony at their combat outpost here.

“It’s an honor and privilege to be here,” Mullen said to the awardees. “This ceremony is about individuals who represent the sacrifice of so many.”

The paratroopers are assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, and have been operating in the valley for 14 months. Though their tour at the secluded combat outpost has been somewhat primitive, with few luxuries and the bare necessities, their mission of counterinsurgency has been quite complex.

The troopers often found themselves patrolling the rugged Korengal Valley and surrounding areas for days at a time with little contact with the rest of the world. Only radio communication and a keen sense of their environment kept the rotation of patrolling squads and platoons connected with even their isolated outpost, soldiers explained.

Army Capt. Greg Ambrosia, executive officer of Company A and recipient of the Silver Star that Mullen awarded here, said he can attribute his leadership and confidence during such patrols to the lives he saved during one particular encounter with Taliban fighters on the night of Sept. 27.

Ambrosia and his men set up a makeshift outpost after a nighttime air assault into the valley. The troopers made contact with the enemy early the next morning, receiving a hail of rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire. But they couldn’t spot where exactly the attack was coming from, he said.

His basic function and responsibility was to radio information from the company commander in a nearby mounted element on the side of the mountain back to the battalion headquarters, he continued.

“We spotted an enemy scout and eventually made contact, but he was able to [disengage and communicate] our location to other fighters in the valley,” Ambrosia said.

Ambrosia’s element had a translator monitoring the enemy communication with a basic one-way radio. After the initial contact, it was quiet for about 45 minutes. The interpreter continued to monitor the radio, and Ambrosia learned that the scout was coordinating with other enemy fighters in the area to launch an attack, he explained.

Soon there were at least three enemy elements with three to five fighters each closing in on the platoon. So close, in fact, they were in hand-grenade range of his troops, he said.

“They were able to get to really close using the terrain,” he continued. “At one point, I started calling the vehicles in the valley to start shooting on our position, because the enemy was too close to call in artillery or mortar fire.”

“So we ended up having our guys shooting on our own position,” he continued.

Even though Ambrosia and his men maintained some safety behind a mound of rocks, the smoke from the mounted vehicle engulfed their position. He began call for aerial support from AH-64 Apache helicopters, he said.

Enemy radio traffic intercepted by Ambrosia’s interpreter let the paratroopers know the insurgents planned to overrun their position and take them hostage, but they were able to repel the attack, he said.

However, Ambrosia’s radio requests for Apaches to provide aerial support wouldn’t arrive for another 45 minutes, he added.

“That’s when it began to get really hairy,” he said. “The enemy was getting really close and using hand grenades.”

Ambrosia’s actions and direction of his men repelled the enemy fighters long enough for the helicopters to arrive. The modest captain said he doesn’t know exactly how many enemies were killed, but knows that two of his men were wounded. None were killed.

“I’m very thankful for that,” Ambrosia said.

“It has been a very dangerous time here,” Mullen told the troopers. “You’re almost home; it’s not far off, so stay focused and get home safe. I can’t say enough about how impressed and proud I am of what you’ve accomplished.

The battalion has already begun redeploying troopers. The entire battalion should conclude its 15-month deployment and be back at home station in Vicenza, Italy, by the end of the month.

(Story by Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press Service.)

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Navy Officially Re-Establishes U.S. Fourth Fleet

Focus on Defense
The new U.S. Fourth Fleet headquarters is located in Mayport, Florida. (U.S. Navy photo.)

Focus on Defense:

MAYPORT, Fla., July 12, 2008 -- Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead today officially re-established U.S. 4th Fleet and named Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan as its commander during a ceremony at Naval Station Mayport.

The ceremony followed the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO) change of command, during which Kernan relieved Rear Adm. James W. Stevenson Jr.

Kernan, the dual-hatted NAVSO and 4th Fleet commander, is responsible for U.S. Navy ships, aircraft and submarines assigned from east and west coast fleets to operate in the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) area of focus, which encompasses the Caribbean, Central and South America and surrounding waters.

"Re-establishing the Fourth Fleet affirms our support for, and our desire to, enhance cooperative relationships with the navies and maritime services in the Caribbean and Central and South America. It recognizes the immense importance of maritime security in the region," said Roughead.

"Our maritime strategy raises the importance of forming global maritime partnerships by working with international partners as the basis for global maritime security. Re-establishing Fourth Fleet allows us to more effectively employ naval forces to build confidence and trust among nations through collective maritime security efforts that focus on mutual interests."

Fourth Fleet was first established in 1943 as one of the original numbered fleets. During World War II, the United States needed a command in charge of protecting against raiders, blockade runners and enemy submarines in the South Atlantic. Fourth Fleet fulfilled that mission until it was disestablished in 1950, and U.S. 2nd Fleet took over its responsibilities.

The new 4th Fleet will be headquartered in Mayport and co-located with NAVSO, taking advantage of the existing infrastructure, communications support and personnel already in place. Fourth Fleet's re-establishment will not involve an increase in forces assigned in Mayport, or result in any permanently assigned ships or aircraft.

With a focus on strengthening friendships and partnerships, 4th Fleet will directly support the U.S. Maritime Strategy by conducting five ongoing missions: support for peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, traditional maritime exercises and counterdrug support operations.

"It is an honor to assume command of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and to be granted the privilege of reestablishing U.S. 4th Fleet," Kernan said. "I look forward to continuing the great work Rear Adm. Stevenson has accomplished in demonstrating the United States' commitment to our regional partners in this immensely important part of the world."

The re-establishment and change of command ceremony concluded with Stevenson's retirement after 32 years of naval service.

During Stevenson's tour as NAVSO commander, U.S. Navy's operational focus in the region was greatly increased resulting in enhanced partner nation cooperation and improved collective capabilities. Recent missions championed under Stevenson, such as USNS Comfort's (T-AH 20) 2007 humanitarian medical assistance deployment and the first Global Fleet Station deployment in 2007 with HSV Swift highlight this increased focus.

In 2008, Stevenson oversaw planning and execution of the third-annual Partnership of the Americas deployment, which included the George Washington Carrier Strike Group; as well as Continuing Promise humanitarian civil assistance deployments aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4) and USS Kearsarge (LHD 3). Currently, Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51) is conducting Navy Diver – Global Fleet Station with Caribbean Island partner nations.

As the Navy component command of SOUTHCOM, NAVSO's mission is to direct U.S. Naval forces operating in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies within the maritime environment. Various operations include counter-illicit trafficking, theater security cooperation, military-to-military interaction and bilateral and multinational training.

Fourth Fleet is the numbered fleet assigned to NAVSO, exercising operational control of assigned forces. Fourth Fleet conducts the full spectrum of Maritime Security Operations in support of U.S. objectives and security cooperation activities that promote coalition building and deter aggression.

(Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alan Gragg, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command Public Affairs.)

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Military Aircraft in 'Surge' to Fight California Wildfires

A C-130 Hercules from the North Carolina Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing equipped with the modular airborne firefighting system takes off from McClellan Airfield, Calif., on a firefighting support mission. A continuing heat wave and an ongoing need for aircraft to support ground firefighters will likely keep Department of Defense aircraft very busy for the foreseeable future in support of the national wildland firefighting effort. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Hector Garcia)

On the Home Front:

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 12, 2008 -- A continuing heat wave and an ongoing need for aircraft to support ground firefighters will likely keep Department of Defense aircraft very busy for the foreseeable future in support of the national wildland firefighting effort, the Army colonel in charge of coordinating that support said July 9.

Col. Gary Stanley, a U.S. Army North defense coordinating officer, has been deployed since late June to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, to coordinate federal requests for cargo planes and helicopters to fight wildfires raging in California.

Eight Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft equipped with modular airborne firefighting systems, known as "MAFFS," are dropping retardant on fires in California. The MAFFS are U.S. Forest Service-owned units that slide into the back of military cargo planes and turn them into air tankers that drop fire retardant.

"The MAFFS are designed to supplement the commercial air tanker fleet during periods of high utilization," Colonel Stanley said. "Federal activation occurs when additional assets are needed to support initial or extended attack or for large fire support."

In this case, the MAFFS aircraft are based at McClellan Airfield, Calif., and have flown more than 300 sorties, dropping nearly 850,000 gallons of retardant from June 20 through July 9.

Air tankers are part of a coordinated air-ground effort. Retardant is used to lower flames and fire intensity in support of ground firefighters. Without ground support, there is a good chance that fires will burn through or around the retardant.

Basing the aircraft at McClellan Airfield in Sacramento kept the planes far enough away from the fires in the north so that they did not get smoked in, said Air National Guard Lt. Col. Jerry Champlin, a director of operations with the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group.

A reload base was later established farther south at Channel Island Air National Guard Station to increase mission efficiency, Colonel Champlin said.

"The reload facility allowed us to reduce round-trip time and to fly more sorties each day," he said. "The Channel Island base was ideal because we trained there -- the pit locations, set-up and procedures were well established -- and it's far from Southern California's major air traffic routes."

In addition to the MAFFS, six Marine Corps heavy helicopters and two Navy medium helicopters equipped with buckets are dropping water on fires in Southern California.

As with MAFFS aircraft, military helicopters are activated only after commercial assets have been fully committed. As of July 7, the helicopters have made more than 500 drops flying from their base at Lemoore Naval Air Station, Calif.

This is the first time in more than 10 years that active-duty aircraft have been used as an integrated federal resource managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Stanley said. Until this time, active-duty helicopters were limited to providing immediate response and support on mutual-aid agreements with local communities, he said.

"We were pleased to add the helicopters to the list of capabilities available to the federal wildland firefighting community," he said. "Under this activation, the active-duty helicopters have been deployed and employed throughout California, which allows this limited resource to be used against the highest-priority fires regardless of where they are."

The federal activation of helicopters was only possible because of the combined efforts of the Forest Service, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and the Department of Defense following the 2007 wildfires in California, Colonel Stanley said.

"We worked before the start of the 2008 Western wildfire season to get the aircraft and crews certified to California and federal standards," he said. "As a result, these helicopters may be employed as a federal asset on a federal fire as well as an asset on a state fire."

Colonel Stanley said he expects that both military air tankers and helicopters will be flying these missions for the foreseeable future.

"We've got a lot of experience employing the MAFFS air tankers," he said. "Now we're working to ensure we have the processes in place to move the parts and supplies needed to maintain the helicopters for sustained operations."

Ten U.S. Army North defense coordinating officers are stationed throughout the United States to coordinate defense support of civil authorities for U.S. Northern Command, the unified command responsible for homeland defense and civil support in the continental United States.

The National Interagency Fire Center has representatives of eight different agencies and organizations who prioritize requirements and allocate resources for wildland firefighting operations.

"Multiple, simultaneous outbreaks of large wildfires are relatively common, and we've learned that a single agency trying to handle all the fires will quickly be overwhelmed," said Lyle Carlile, fire director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Fire Center. "Getting the job done works best when we coordinate operations and help each other out."

The aircraft are assigned to the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group. The MAFFS aircraft are from three Air National Guard units -- 145th Airlift Wing from Charlotte, N.C.; the 146th Airlift Wing from Channel Islands ANGS, Calif.; and the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyo., -- and one Air Force Reserve unit -- the 302nd Airlift Wing from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

The helicopters are from California-based Navy and Marine Corps units -- Medium Helicopter Training Squadron 164 and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 based out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego; and the Navy's Helicopter Sea Combat Support Squadron 85 based out of Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.

(Story by Patti Bielling, U.S. Army North Public Affairs.)

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Hurricane Hunters Fly Bertha, 1st Storm Mission of 2008 Season

A WC-130J Hercules from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron "Hurricane Hunters" flies the first mission of the 2008 hurricane season. The Air Force Reserve squadron is part of the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. This year, the planes are equipped with the Stepped-Frequency Microwave Radiometer, which measures the wind speeds at the surface. The data collected by the Hurricane Hunters increases the accuracy of the National Hurricane Center Forecast by 30 percent. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. James B. Pritchett.)

On the Home Front:

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss., July 11, 2008 -- As the Hurricane Hunters prepared to fly their first storm of the 2008 hurricane season July 11, Hurricane Bertha lumbered on a wide path toward Bermuda.

At the time, the category 1 hurricane kicked up winds of 85 mph. It was about 350 miles south southeast of the island, churning northwest at about 7 mph.

Air Force reservists in the 403rd Wing's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron provide the National Hurricane Center with data for forecasting the path of nature's most destructive storms.

While the hurricane's current path takes it east of Bermuda, island residents could still experience squally weather and high surf during the weekend.

The Hurricane Hunters are using the newest equipment to help determine the surface level winds, giving people in the area a clearer picture of what to expect.

The Stepped-Frequency Microwave Radiometer, affectionately known as the "Smurf," measures surface winds with more accuracy than previous systems.

"The most important information provided on today's flight will be the radius of gale-force winds for Bermuda," said Lt. Col. Jon Talbot, chief aerial reconnaissance weather officer for the Hurricane Hunters. "This is exactly one of the things the Smurf was designed to provide."

The Air Force Reserve Command squadron began using the Smurf last season as it was outfitted on each of the 10 WC-130J Hercules aircraft in the fleet. This year, all aircraft are Smurf-equipped.

The Smurf can also determine rainfall rates within a storm system. This, in addition to wind speeds at flight level, provides structural detail of the storm.

Having the Smurf on board is the most important advancement for this season, Colonel Talbot said.

With the full capability to provide surface wind speed data, the unit gives National Hurricane Center forecasters the most accurate surface wind speed information before landfall.

"That translates into more accurate warnings for the public," Colonel Talbot said.

Data collected by the Hurricane Hunters increase the accuracy of National Hurricane Center forecasts by as much as 30 percent. Squadron officials think Smurf will boost that percentage and give the National Hurricane Center more accurate information to save lives.

Related Article: Upgraded Hurricane Hunters Ready for Storm Season

(Story from U.S. Air Force Reserve Command News Service.)

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Combat Camera Stills, Video: C-130 Controlled Detonation, Baghdad, Iraq

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua Langdon climbs through the top hatch of a C-130 Hercules aircraft before placing explosive charges around the wings of the plane in Baghdad, Iraq, July 7, 2008. The team is using a series of controlled detonations designed to divide the airplane into smaller pieces so it can be moved. The C-130 was disabled after making an emergency landing in a field north of the Baghdad International Airport shortly after take-off on June 27, 2008. The airmen are assigned to the 447th Air Expeditionary Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen.)

U.S. Air Force Maintenance and Explosive Ordinance Disposal personnel assigned to the 447th Air Expeditionary Group prepare to place explosive charges on the wings of a C-130 Hercules aircraft that are designed to divide the plane in smaller sections so it can be moved in Baghdad, Iraq, July 7, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen.)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Pervis King climbs through the top hatch of a C-130 Hercules aircraft before placing explosive charges around the wings of the plane in Baghdad, Iraq, July 7, 2008. King is assigned to the 447th Air Expeditionary Group's Explosive Ordinance Disposal team which is using a series of controlled detonations designed to divide the airplane into smaller pieces so it can be moved. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen.)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Pervis King, left, and Staff Sgt. Joshua Langdon inspect explosive charges placed around the wings of the of a C-130 Hercules aircraft that are designed to divide the plane in smaller sections so it can be moved in Baghdad, Iraq, July 7, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen.)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Anthony DeMarino, left, and Senior Master Sgt. Pervis King place a string of C-4 explosive around the wings of a C-130 Hercules aircraft that are designed to divide the plane in smaller sections so it can be moved in Baghdad, Iraq, July 7, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen.)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Anthony DeMarino, left, and Senior Master Sgt. Pervis King place a string of C-4 explosive around the wings of a C-130 Hercules aircraft that are designed to divide the plane in smaller sections so it can be moved in Baghdad, Iraq, July 7, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen.)

Civil engineers at Sather Air Base, Iraq, use controlled detonations to separate the forward section of a badly damaged C-130 Hercules so it can be more easily moved in Baghdad, Iraq, July 7, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen.)

U.S. Air Force explosive ordnance disposalmen detonate explosives attached to the wings of a C-130 Hercules aircraft at Sather Air Base, Iraq, July 7, 2008. The aircraft was disabled after it made an emergency landing last month, and the airmen used a series of controlled detonations to divide the aircraft into smaller pieces so it could be moved. The disposalmen are assigned to the 447th Air Expeditionary Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen.)

Video: C-130 Dismantled in Iraq

Dispatches from the Front:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 11, 2008 -- Airmen used explosives to dismantle a C-130 Hercules stuck in a barren field northeast of Baghdad International Airport, July 7.

The transport aircraft has been there since June 27, when its crew was forced to perform an emergency landing. The aircraft was deemed a security concern and it was decided that it would be easier to transport if it were dismantled.

Senior Master Sgt. Pervis King, the 447th Air Expeditionary Group explosive ordnance disposal superintendent at Sather Air Base, Iraq, said his team was fired up to perform such a unique mission.

"My team was kind of excited about going out there and explosively cutting up the aircraft," he said. "They were ready to make it happen."

In fact it was something the senior noncommissioned officer had never seen in his career before.

The team of maintainers, EOD, coalition and Iraqi forces and civilians worked in high gear. After securing the perimeter, they setup the aircraft for its final review and the first controlled detonation.

"I personally haven't had a chance to cut up an aircraft," he said. "I've been out on many aircraft crashes. Most times they just kind of... don't land as nicely as this one did in the field."

Sergeant King said that a prime concern of his was to perform the mission safely. In addition to using the explosives correctly, there was the possibility of an attack by insurgents. There was perimeter established to ensure that the plane disposal mission was not interrupted.

After three more detonations, the charred metal of the C-130 was removed.

Lt. Col. Robert Brisson, the on-scene commander, said that the mission was a success because of the contributions of many different people.

"There are so many people involved in this, he said. "The whole effort today was to make sure we did everything safely and effectively."

(Compiled from DoD imagery and a story that appeared on

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Schwarzenegger Calls 2000 More Guard Troops for Fire Duty

Major General William H. Wade stands with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as he thanks the National Guard at the Wild Fire Training Academy, held on McClellan Air Park, California. Governor Schwarzenegger made it a point to personally thank the National Guardsmen for all they have sacrificed to help with the wild fires. (Photo by: Private First Class Darriel Swatts; 69th Public Affairs Detachment.)

On the Home Front:

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 11, 2008 -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered an additional 2,000 National Guard troops to state active duty today to boost the state’s ongoing firefighting efforts and prepare for the threat of additional fires over the next several months.

We already have 400 Guard members on the front lines, and once these new troops are trained and certified, they will be ready to pitch in at a moment’s notice throughout the fire season,” Schwarzenegger said in a news release issued by his staff.

The federal government committed yesterday to send out-of-state firefighters to train these additional California Guard personnel on critical firefighting techniques.

This is the first time since 1977 that soldiers have been used to fight fires on the ground in California.

“Having their assistance is going to be critical as we go forward into this summer of fire fighting,” said Capt. Mark Whaling of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as CAL FIRE. “They have the same basic fire training that every new firefighter has, so if any of these fires escape their containment lines, they will be able to control them so we can get the tired crews back to base camps for rest.”

These additional troops will go through training at McClellan Air Park with the U.S. Forest Service and will be available for duty over the next few weeks.

“The soldiers will be doing duties that CAL FIRE regularly does. It’s just that the volume of fire this year is so much, with so many fires, … this is the challenge the Guard will help us meet,” Whaling said.

CAL FIRE trained the Guard members on fire breaks, brush clearing, proper tool usage and safety. The troops also received basic conditioning that consisted of trail hikes in full gear, multiple times a day in the hot sun, to prepare for what promises to be very difficult work ahead.

“It’s a great experience so far. There is a definite science and process to firefighting that you don’t know about until you’ve been on a hand crew out here for a while,” said Army Sgt. Mark Walch.

Walch is a high school teacher in Chico and a soldier with Company A, 297th Support Battalion, who dropped the summer classes he was taking and reported to the Oroville Armory within hours of the mobilization.

“The fires in Butte County are threatening my hometown of Paradise, so it’s doubly important to me to be here. I’m a small cog in the wheel, but every little thing counts,” Walch said.

The soldiers will be grouped into 20-person teams and distributed around the state to wherever the fire officials need them and where the soldiers can be used most effectively and safely.

“These types of fires are an endurance race, so they will help us stretch our resources so we can move forward and contain the existing and new fires as they pop up,” Whaling said.

One CAL FIRE official said he believes the Guard is an excellent and recurring source of trained and experienced firefighters to help contain and control fires in the state.

“I see this as the future,” said CAL FIRE assistant captain Dan Burns. “Once the training is complete, we have a record of every soldier and will be able to recall them and get them to the lines quickly. I see this as only the beginning.”

The California National Guard, with support from neighboring states, has the following resources allocated to the state’s firefighting efforts:
  • The California Guard has mobilized more than 1,000 personnel to provide support to the ongoing firefighting effort, including more than 400 personnel assigned to hand crews working alongside other firefighters.

  • Twenty-two helicopters are supporting the firefighting effort, including 14 California Guard helicopters and eight helicopters from Utah, Nebraska, Washington, Arizona and Oregon. To date, these rotary-wing aircraft have dropped nearly 3 million gallons of water.

  • The California Guard also is providing one C-130J support aircraft for personnel and equipment transport and one RC-26 providing aerial imagery support.

  • Eight C-130H cargo aircraft equipped with the modular airborne firefighting system are assisting from other states, including three from the North Carolina Air National Guard, two from the Wyoming Air National Guard and three from the Colorado Air Force Reserve. They are capable of dropping up to 3,000 gallons of water or retardant per mission. To date, they have dropped nearly 1 million gallons of retardant.

(Story by Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Hughan, California National Guard, with contributions by Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke of the National Guard Bureau.)

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Remains of Missing Soldiers Jimenez and Fouty Identified

Dispatches from the Front
The identification cards of Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford Township, Mich. and Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass. as pictured in an al-Qaida video released earlier this year. (Photo by SITE.)

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2008 -- The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology has identified human remains found in Iraq as those of two 10th Mountain Division soldiers who had been missing since a May 2007 ambush.

Army Sgt. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, and Pfc. Byron W. Fouty, 19, were listed as “missing/captured” during operations in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, on May 12, 2007. The two men were soldiers with the 10th Mountain Division’s 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Drum, N.Y.

Jimenez and Fouty were part of a patrol of seven Americans and an Iraqi army interpreter when they were attacked by insurgents. At the time, the area in and around Mahmudiyah was a stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq. A quick-reaction force dispatched to the scene found five soldiers killed in action and three missing.

Coalition forces launched a massive search of the area. Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi servicemembers participated in the initial search, and U.S. servicemembers never stopped trying to find the men.

Iraqi police found the remains of a third soldier missing in the ambush – Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr. – on May 23, 2007.

The search for Jimenez and Fouty continued until 10 days ago, when coalition special operations forces captured an individual suspected of knowing where the soldiers were buried. The suspect’s information led investigators to the soldiers’ remains July 8. U.S. medical examiners made the identification July 9.

“Every combat death is a tragedy, but this has been especially difficult for the families of these two 10th Mountain soldiers because of our not knowing for over a year of their whereabouts,” said Army Maj. Gen. Michael L. Oates, commander of Multinational Division Center and the 10th Mountain Division. “We take solace in the fact that they are finally home.”

Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, Multinational Corps Iraq commander, called it a difficult and sad day for the families and the Army. “It is also a time in which each of these courageous families can finally bring to closure the loss of their loved ones.”

(From a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

Related Articles:
Combat Camera: Searching for Jimenez and Fouty in Iraq
Troops Detain Two Extremists Tied to Soldiers' Abduction

Related Site:
U.S. Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office

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U.S. Transfers Aircraft to Iraqi Air Force

A Cessna Caravan 208 sits on the flightline at New Al Muthana Air Base, Iraq, on July 9. Army Lt. Gen. Helmick, commander of Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq, signed over eight Cessna 172s and three Cessna Caravan 208s worth more than $9 million to the Iraqi Defense Minister. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen.)

Dispatches from the Front:

NEW AL MUTHANA AIR BASE, Iraq, July 11, 2008 -- U.S. forces transferred ownership of 11 aircraft to the Iraqi air force July 9 during a ceremony at New Al Muthana Air Base.

Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, commander of Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq, signed over eight Cessna 172s and three Cessna Caravan 208s worth more than $9 million to Iraqi Defense Minister Abd al-Qadir al-Mufriji.

Brig. Gen. Brooks Bash said the aircraft would be part of the Iraqi air force's training program at Kirkuk Regional Air Base in northern Iraq. Similar to the way the U.S. Air Force conducts its own training, the smaller Cessna 172 is the initial aircraft Iraqi pilots will learn to fly, while the Cessna Caravan 208 is the more advanced, graduated version, the commander of coalition air force training in Iraq added.

In fact, General Bash said, the Cessna 172 is the first aircraft he learned to fly almost 33 years ago.

"The Cessna 172 is very special to me, because it was the first aircraft I ever flew," he said. "And still today, it's the first aircraft pilots in the United States Air Force fly, and now it's the first aircraft Iraqi air force pilots will fly."

General Bash praised the Iraqi air force for the success it's already had. During the past four months, the air force participated in major coalition operations in Basra, Mosul, Al-Amarah and in Baghdad's Sadr City district.

The Iraqi air force is an important reason for the declining attack levels in those areas and throughout the country, the general noted.

General Bash said Iraqi security would continue benefiting from its air force with the new fleet of Cessnas. The additional aircraft will allow more than 130 new pilots to train and graduate by 2010.

"As of now, the Iraqi air force is just beginning to grow," he said. "They will double in size within the next year, giving them up to 6,000 airmen and 133 aircraft by the end of 2009."

In addition, the King Air intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and King Air light transport aircraft were unveiled during the ceremony. The aircraft were purchased by Iraq's defense ministry for the ISR capability, General Bash said.

He stated the King Air ISR represents the future of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. It provides the latest technology and capabilities in camera-intelligence and surveillance gathering, he added.

The addition of the new aircraft and additional assets to the Iraqi force "signifies the strong partnership between Iraq and United States," he said. "It also represents the strength and growth of Iraqi forces as they continue to fight terrorism and provide security and new capabilities to their country."

(Story by by Army Staff Sgt. Michael Carden, American Forces Press Service.)

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Troops in Iraq Detain 9 Suspected Terrorists

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2008 -- Coalition forces in Iraq detained an alleged al-Qaida leader and eight other suspected terrorists during separate operations in Mosul, Beiji and Baghdad today, military officials said.
  • Near Beiji, coalition forces captured the suspected al-Qaida bombing-cell leader. The detainee is linked to attacks on security forces and civilians in the Tigris River Valley. Two additional suspects were detained during the operation.

  • In Baghdad, coalition forces detained two more suspected terrorists.

  • In Mosul, four additional suspected al-Qaida terrorists were detained during another operation.

In other news, U.S. soldiers detained a key suspect during an operation in eastern Baghdad yesterday. The detainee is believed to be a criminal leader with ties to attacks in eastern Baghdad this year.
“Taking an individual like this off the streets of Baghdad is an important stepping stone toward the continued establishment of security for the people of Iraq,” said Army Maj. Joey Sullinger, a spokesman for the 10th Mountain Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team. “Taking out these threats to Iraqi stability strengthens Iraq now and for future generations.”
In July 9 operations:
  • U.S. soldiers seized contraband ordnance during two separate actions in and around Baghdad. The soldiers confiscated four rockets, 74 mortar rounds, two rocket fuses, and hundreds of rounds of small-arms ammunition.

  • Iraqi soldiers patrolling the Sadr City district of Baghdad uncovered contraband weapons and materials. The Iraqi troops seized six mortars and four rockets. The weapons were turned in to U.S. soldiers at a joint security station. In a separate action, Iraqi soldiers found 171 copper blocks.

  • U.S. soldiers detained two known criminals in Baghdad’s Bayaa neighborhood.

In July 8 operations, Iraqi scouts led U.S. military members to a large cache of explosives located near Numaniyah. The cache contained more than 1,300 anti-aircraft shells, 60 high-explosive artillery shells, six tank shells, and several shell casings. U.S. Navy explosives experts destroyed the cache.

Also July 8, U.S. soldiers detained six suspected terrorists and discovered three munitions caches during operations in southern Baghdad.
  • Two suspected murderers were detained in Baghdad’s Zubaida neighborhood.

  • Four suspects were detained in Baghdad’s Masafee sector.

  • A concerned Iraqi citizen turned in two grenades and a battery to U.S. troops.

  • U.S. soldiers discovered a 120 mm mortar round in Baghdad’s Jazair community.

  • U.S. troops picked up two rocket-propelled grenades from a checkpoint manned by the “Sons of Iraq” citizen security group in Baghdad’s Hadar community.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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U.S. Air Force Funding Spinning Electrons Research for Computers

Focus on Defense

Focus on Defense:

ARLINGTON, Va., July 11, 2008 -- Scientists funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research have used a single photon technique to observe the evolution of individual electron spins in semiconductor nanostructures.

Their work has already contributed to the new field of semiconductor spintronics - an emerging technology which exploits the spin of electrons that makes them perform like tiny magnets. By using spintronics in quantum computing, scientists will be able to control electrons and create higher speed technologies that are impossible in present-day electronic equipment.

Dr. David Awschalom, professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is coordinating the research. He and his team are exploring the benefits of electronic devices using spintronics to power quantum computers made of diamond.

"This technology may allow the Air Force to reduce electronic power consumption by creating low-power electronic devices capable of massive improvements in processing speeds, and increasing storage densities by orders of magnitude" Doctor Awschalom said.

Researchers have found that diamond is an electrical insulator, but when combined with other elements, it can become a semiconductor with formidable properties for computers and solid-state, microwave electronics. Scientists' newfound ability to grow a nanometer-to-micron sized synthetic diamond is enhancing the field of semiconductor spintronics and quantum information processing.

"Given these unexpected discoveries, we have many exciting opportunities and research challenges ahead of us," Doctor Awschalom said. "We need to learn how to engineer new quantum spin circuits that will require the precise placement of atoms into diamond at predetermined locations. We also need to learn how to 'wire' the spins together, and in doing so exploit their quantum mechanical properties for novel information processing and secure communication."

Doctor Awschalom said he believes the greatest impact of a future quantum computer will lie in its unique capability to simulate other quantum systems, which is something current computers are unable to do.

"Quantum simulations will be required to understand and predict the behavior of matter at the nanometer scale and could therefore bring huge advances in physics, chemistry, materials science and biology," Doctor Awschalom said.

(Story by Maria Callier, Air Force Office of Scientific Research.)

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U.S. Navy Leads Research on Effects of Sound on Marine Mammals

PERSIAN GULF (2008 FILE PHOTO) A porpoise plays off the bow of the Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE 2). The T-AKE is a new Combat Logistics Force (CLF) Underway Replenishment Naval vessel that can deliver supplies to Navy ships from friendly ports or from specially-equipped merchant ships. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Erik Reynolds.)

Focus on Defense:

SAN DIEGO, July 11, 2008 -- The Navy is leading the United States in funding research to determine the effects of sound on marine mammals, according to Rear Adm. Frank M. Drennan, commander, Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command.

Speaking to business and senior military leaders at the San Diego Military Advisory Council's monthly breakfast meeting June 18, Drennan explained the Navy is funding $26 million this year alone.

"It is important to us, and we want to make sure that all this discussion is based on good solid scientific information."

Drennan quoted a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries report, which noted between 2,500 and 7,000 mammals are stranded on U.S. coasts every year. In comparison, about five stranding events worldwide from 1996 to 2006 have been associated with active sonar, resulting in 37 marine mammal stranding deaths. To add perspective, Drennan noted that several hundred thousand marine mammals are destroyed every year by commercial fishing worldwide. No strandings have been linked to active sonar in Southern California, an area of extensive naval training.

As new data is collected to better understand the effects of active sonar, the Navy adheres to extensive protective measures when it trains with active sonar to minimize potential injury to marine mammals. These measures include pre-searching the exercise area for mammals, extensive use of surveillance and applying specific rules for use of mid-frequency active sonar.

Court rulings require the Navy to shut down active sonar altogether when marine mammals are within 2,200 yards of any sonar source, and the courts have imposed other restrictions. On June 23, the Supreme Court agreed to review those lower court rulings.

"It is my belief that the Navy is a very good steward of the environment…our approach is one of balance," said Drennan, who was explaining how the Navy meets the needs for both defense and environment.

"We recognize our obligation to the environment, but we also recognize our obligation and our duty to man, train and equip ships and Sailors for the most stressing combat that they might have to endure."

Drennan explained that some of the 40 nations that have submarine capability are adversarial and use modern, diesel submarines that are very difficult to detect. "Smart mines" are another problem, which are programmed to move around when detected. Mines have been the primary cause of ship sinkings since the Korean War.

"In most environments, the only way we can detect these quite submarines and these very complex mines is with the use of active sonar. That means we have to make sure we have proficient operators who understand how to use this active sonar, and they have to train in the most realistic fashion they can possibly train," Drennan said.

Maritime exercises such as the multinational Rim of the Pacific, which is held every two years in Hawaii, provide invaluable replication of real warfare because of the varied ocean environment, live weapon use and active sonar use. According to Drennan, Southern California is also a range that provides realism.

"It's a national treasure. I would argue that the reason the Navy concentrates in San Diego is because of the training range, not just for subs, but for a lot of reasons. It replicates many of the environments. The noise level from background shipping, the ocean bottom types, the sound velocity profile and those kinds of things."

The Navy takes seriously the environment within which it operates and any effect active sonar has on mammals. The solution to meet both objectives could be simple.

"Take a balanced approach. It's not a single-factor issue. Balance of stewardship and meeting training obligations," Drennan concluded.

(Story by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Larry Foos, Commander, Southwest Region Public Affairs.)

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

CTF 158 Changes Hands

NORTHERN ARABIAN GULF (July 9, 2008). Rear Adm. Kendall Card relieves Royal Navy Commodore Duncan Potts as commander of Combined Task Force CTF 158 on the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT). CTF 158's mission is maintaining security in and around both the Al Basrah Oil Terminal and KAAOT in support of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1790. This resolution charges the multinational force with the responsibility and authority to maintain security and stability in the Iraqi territorial waters and also supports the Iraqi government's request for security support. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Erik Reynolds.)

Dispatches from the Front:

NORTH PERSIAN GULF, July 10, 2008 -- Rear Adm. Kendall Card relieved Royal Navy Commodore Duncan Potts as commander of Combined Task Force (CTF) 158 during a ceremony held on Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT) July 9.

The ceremony concluded the Royal Navy's successful four-month command of CTF 158, which typically rotates between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Potts said the most important achievement during his time as commander was helping train Iraq Security Forces to eventually assume responsibility for security.

"We have been able to help redefine the future for the Iraqi Navy and Marines and map out the path to full transition," he said. "I think we can look back on this as a period of accomplishment. Day-in and day-out, our baseline operations have continued, providing security and stability within Iraq territorial waters."

CTF-158 conducts Maritime Security Operations (MSO) around KAAOT and the Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT) in support of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1790 in the North Persian Gulf.

This resolution charges the multinational force with the responsibility and authority to maintain security and stability in Iraq territorial waters and supports the Iraq government's request for security support.

Card said CTF 158 will continue to protect vital assets in the North Persian Gulf.

"The coalition's commitment to the future of Iraq is evident by the security operations we conduct to ensure the safety and security of ABOT and KAAOT now and into the future," said Card. "I am looking forward to continuing the hard work the Royal Navy and the rest of the coalition have done here in the Northern Arabian Gulf."

The Arabian Gulf is a body of water more commonly known as the Persian Gulf.

The protection of KAAOT and ABOT is important because approximately 90 percent of Iraq's gross domestic product passes through them.

CTF 158 operates jointly with Iraqi Navy sailors and marines trained by members of the Navy Transition Team based in nearby Umm Qasr.

MSO help set the conditions for security, which promotes stability and prosperity in the North Arabian Gulf. These operations protect Iraq's sea-based infrastructure, which provides the Iraqi people the opportunity for self-determination. 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.

(From a Combined Maritime Forces Public Affairs news release.)

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