Saturday, December 6, 2008

US Army Aviators Among 1st to Respond to Pearl Harbor Attack

Image shows a scene after the bombing of Hawaii by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Picture shows a burned out plane, located north of Hangar # 3, at Wheeler Field. (WW2 Signal Corps Photograph Collection; Photo by U.S. Army Heritage Museum.)

Photo shows a scene from shortly after the bombing of Hawaii by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. The impromptu machine gun nest was built in a bomb crater and reinforced with salvaged aircraft motors. WW2 Signal Corps Photograph Collection; Photo by U.S. Army Heritage Museum.)

Lieutenants Welch and Taylor scored victories flying Curtiss P-40Bs; this damaged Warhawk at Bellows Field never got airborne. WW2 Signal Corps Photograph Collection; Photo by U.S. Army Heritage Museum.)

This wreckage is believed to be the Aichi Type 99 Kanbaku dive bomber shot down near Wahiawa by Lieutenant George S. Welch on his second sortie. WW2 Signal Corps Photograph Collection; Photo by U.S. Army Heritage Museum.)

Brigadier General Howard C. Davidson awards the Silver Star Medal to two unnamed Army Air Forces officers for their service at Wheeler Field during the Japanese attack. WW2 Signal Corps Photograph Collection; Photo by U.S. Army Heritage Museum.)

Living History:

Two planes, eight guns, and lots of Zeros.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2008 -- The Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor targeted Navy and Army assets including Schofield Barracks and Army airfields. The first wave struck Wheeler Field, where most of the pursuit (fighter) aircraft were based; Hickam Field, the Army’s largest aviation facility; and Barber’s Point.

Initially caught by surprise, Army Air Forces personnel were soon fighting back and inflicting casualties. Second Lt.'s George S. Welch and Kenneth M. Taylor, 47th Pursuit Squadron, took off in partially armed P-40s and scored several victories. They were recommended for the Medal of Honor but received instead the Distinguished Service Cross -- because they had taken off without orders.

Welch’s citation read, in part:
“When surprised by a heavy air attack by Japanese forces on Wheeler Field and vicinity at approximately 8 a. m., he left Wheeler Field and proceeded by automobile, under fire, to Haleiwa Landing Field, a distance of approximately ten miles, where the planes of his squadron were stationed.

He immediately, on his own initiative, took off for the purpose of attacking the invading forces, without first obtaining information as to the number or type of Japanese in the attacking force, and proceeded to his initial point over Barbers Point. At time of take-off he was armed only with .30 caliber guns.

Upon arrival over Barbers Point he observed a formation of approximately twelve planes over Ewa, about one thousand feet below and ten miles away.

Accompanied by only one other pursuit ship [Taylor], he immediately attacked this enemy formation and shot down an enemy dive bomber with only one burst from three .30 caliber guns. At this point he discovered that one .30 caliber gun was jammed.

While engaged in this combat his plane was hit by an incendiary bullet, which passed through the baggage compartment just in rear of his seat. He climbed above the clouds, checked his plane, returned to the attack over Barbers Point.

He immediately attacked a Japanese plane running out to sea, which he shot down, the plane falling in the ocean.

No more enemy planes being in sight he proceeded to Wheeler Field to refuel and replenish ammunition. Just as refueling and reloading was completed, but before his guns had been repaired, a second wave of about fifteen enemy planes approached low over Wheeler Field.

Three came at him and he immediately took off, headed straight to the attack and went to the assistance of a brother officer [Taylor] who was being attacked from the rear. This enemy plane burst into flames and crashed about half way between Wahiawa and Haleiwa.

During this combat his plane was struck by three bullets from the rear gun of the plane he was attacking, one striking his motor, one his propeller, and one the cowling.

This attack wave having disappeared he returned to the vicinity of Ewa and found one enemy plane proceeding seaward, which he pursued and shot down about five miles off shore, immediately thereafter returning to his station at Haleiwa Landing Field.”
Although the citation contains some errors -- Welch was actually credited with four victories -- it captures the essence of aerial combat during the opening hour of the attack.

On the first day of the war, Army Air Forces pilots flew twenty-five sorties and were credited with destroying ten Japanese aircraft. America’s entry into World War II rapidly accelerated an already transforming Army.

The Army Air Forces defenders at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere developed into a force with unparalleled strategic and tactical capabilities including the first use of atomic weapons.

(Report by Jay A. Graybeal, Army Heritage Museum.)

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Bush Says Iraq War End in Sight

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2008 -- The war in Iraq isn’t over, but a successful end is in sight, thanks to hard work between the United States and Iraq, President George W. Bush said in his weekly radio address today.

“Earlier this week, Iraq's Presidency Council approved two landmark agreements that will solidify Iraq's democratic gains, affirm its sovereignty, and put its relations with the United States on a strong and steady footing,” he said. “The first agreement that America and Iraq have signed is called a strategic framework agreement.”

This pact sets out a common vision for U.S.-Iraqi relations in the years ahead, he said. Under this agreement, the two nations will work together to bring greater stability to Iraq and the region. That will include working to promote stability in the region through trade and investment as well as supporting Iraq’s leaders and citizens.

“Only a few years ago, such an agreement was unimaginable,” Bush said. “Terrorists were seizing new ground and using violence to divide the Iraqi people along sectarian lines and the nation was nearing the point of political collapse and civil war. Today, violence is down dramatically. The Iraqi military is growing in capability, taking the lead in the fight against the extremists, and working across sectarian lines.

“There is hope in the eyes of young Iraqis for the first time in many years,” he added.

The second agreement, a status of forces agreement, has the primary purpose of ensuring the protection of U.S. troops and Defense Department civilians as Iraq begins to exercise greater sovereignty.

“It [also] lays out a framework for the withdrawal of American forces in Iraq,” Bush said. “This withdrawal will take place in two stages.”

The first stage will occur next year, when Iraqi forces assume the lead for security operations in all major population centers, while U.S. combat forces move out of Iraqi cities and into an overwatch role, Bush said. After this transition has occurred, the drawdown of American forces will continue to the second stage, with all U.S. forces returning home from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Bush acknowledged early differences of opinion about the initial decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power and the subsequent conduct of the war. But as the situation becomes more and more positive, he said, the country has an opportunity to adopt a new perspective.

“Americans should be able to agree that it is in our nation's strategic and moral interests to support the free and democratic Iraq that is emerging in the heart of the Middle East,” he said.

The president also acknowledged the sacrifices made to reach this point, including long separations from friends and family, and for many, the ultimate sacrifice.

“Throughout the past eight years, I've seen the tremendous talent and courage of those who wear the uniform,” Bush said. “Their efforts have overthrown tyrants, made our nation safer, put terrorists on the run, and opened the door to liberty for more than 50 million people.

“Now, thanks to their work in Iraq and the courage of the Iraqi people, a hopeful new era is dawning for their democracy and ours,” he said.

Bush also conveyed his appreciation for the American people’s sacrifices.

“The battle in Iraq has required a large amount of time and a large amount of money,” he said.

Bush added that he would attend the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia this afternoon, and said he was looking forward to spending time with “brave men and women of the United States military.”

(Report by Samantha L. Quigley, American Forces Press Service.)

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US Airpower Summary; Dec. 6, 2008: Predator Fires on Anti-Afghan Forces

Three MQ-1 Predators sit ready for launch in a hangar at a base in southern Afghanistan, Oct. 25. The Predator is a multi-role attack reconnaissance unmanned aircraft system incorporating advanced surveillance capabilities with the offensive power of two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Dec. 6, 2008 -- Coalition airpower integrated with coalition ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, in Afghanistan during operations Dec. 5, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

In Afghanistan, an MQ-1 Predator used a hellfire missile against anti-Afghan forces who were firing rocket propelled-grenades at coalition forces from the western edge of a tree line in the vicinity of Lashkar Gah. In addition, coalition aircraft performed shows of force to deter further enemy activities in the same area. The missions were confirmed a success by joint terminal attack controllers.

In the vicinity of Soltani, a A-10 Thunderbolt IIs conducted a show of force to deter anti-Afghan activities and to illuminate the valley for coalition convoy navigation around that area. The JTAC declared the mission successful.

F-15E Strike Eagles performed shows of force to deter enemy activities and provided armed aerial overwatch for a coalition forces convoy conducting search operations in the vicinity of Ghazni and near Monari. The missions were reported a success by the JTACs.

In the vicinity of Sangin, a coalition aircraft performed a show of force and provided armed aerial overwatch to deter anti-Afghan forces from firing at a coalition forces convoy from a compound where RPGs had been fired at coalition forces earlier in the day. The JTAC confirmed the mission successful.

In total, 51 close-air-support missions were flown in support of the ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

Fourteen intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Afghanistan. Additionally, two coalition aircraft performed tactical reconnaissance.

In Iraq, F-16 Fighting Falcons performed shows of force and provided armed aerial overwatch and reconnaissance for a coalition convoy conducting raids in the vicinity of Baghdad. The missions were reported a success by the JTACs.

In total, coalition aircraft flew 44 close-air-support missions for Operation Iraqi Freedom. These missions integrated and synchronized with coalition ground forces, protected key infrastructure, provided overwatch for reconstruction activities and helped to deter and disrupt hostile activities.

Thirty-two Air Force and Navy ISR aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Iraq. Additionally, three Air Force and coalition aircraft performed tactical reconnaissance.

C-130s and C-17s provided intra-theater heavy airlift, helping to sustain operations throughout Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa.

Approximately 120 airlift sorties were flown; more than 350 tons of cargo were delivered; and nearly 3,000 passengers were transported. This included approximately 28,500 pounds of troop re-supply that was air-dropped in Afghanistan.

Coalition C-130 crews flew as part of operations in Afghanistan or Iraq.

On Dec. 4, Air Force and coalition aerial refueling crews flew 47 sorties and off-loaded approximately 3.4 million pounds of fuel to 272 receiving aircraft.

(Report from a U.S. Air Force news release.)

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Saturday Marks 109th Army-Navy Matchup

Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) spell out "Go Navy Beat Army!" on the flight deck to cheer on the midshipmen in the upcoming 109th Army-Navy college football game. The teams of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy will meet Dec. 6 in Philadelphia. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jon Rasmussen.)

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates poses with the members of the U.S. Army West Point Pep Band during their tour of the Pentagon, Dec. 5, 2008, in anticipation of the Dec. 6 Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia. (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Molly A. Burgess.)

News in Balance:

WEST POINT, N.Y., Dec. 5, 2008 -- One of college football's biggest rivalries will take place this weekend in Philadelphia when Army and Navy meet Saturday at noon at Lincoln Financial Field.

Saturday will mark the 109th meeting between the service academy rivals and a sold-out crowd, including President George W. Bush, is expected in Philadelphia. CBS will broadcast the game nationally while the Army Sports Network will have the radio call.

Army is 3-8 and looking to snap a six-game losing streak to the Midshipmen who stand 7-4 and are bound for the EagleBank Bowl later this month.

Navy holds a slim 52-49-7 advantage in the series. The series is tied 38-38-4 in games played in Philadelphia with Navy holding a 4-0 lead in games at the home of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Midshipmen beat Towson 41-13 to open the season but suffered consecutive losses at Ball State (35-23) and at Duke (41-31) before edging Rutgers (23-21), Wake Forest (24-17) and Air Force (33-27). A 42-21 loss at Pitt was followed by wins against SMU (34-7) and Temple (33-27 in overtime). A 27-21 loss to Notre Dame and a 16-0 win at Northern Illinois led Navy into the Army game.

"I played in the Super Bowl, and I tell people that this game is 10 times bigger than the Super Bowl," said second-year Army head coach Stan Brock. "If you think about it, if you go to the Super Bowl, and it's in a 70,000-seat stadium, the majority of those people at the game are not rooting for either of the teams. When you go to the Army-Navy game, there are 70,000 people in that stadium that this game means the world. This is it. Then the people that view this around the world in the military, it really means something to them. If you take the intensity of this game and factor in those watching around the world, that's probably the easiest way to explain how important this game is."

Saturday's matchup will pit a pair of option offenses that rely heavily on rushing the ball and long, sustained drives.

"Defensively we have done a good job against option offenses, and I think we'll continue to do that," said Brock. "We have a disciplined defense and our coaching staff has a great understanding of the option and how it works."

A look at the matchups:


Army sophomore Chip Bowden is expected under center for his eighth straight start. He is second on the team in rushing with 180 carries for 566 yards and averages 51.5 rushing yards per contest. He has completed 22 of 56 passes for 230 yards with a pair of touchdowns and interceptions. Junior Carson Williams has played in eight games and connected on 26 of his 53 attempts for 273 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.

Navy has utilized three quarterbacks with senior Jarod Bryant the lone signal caller to play in all 11 games. He has rushed 139 times for 381 yards while averaging 43.7 yards per game. He has completed 19 of 37 passes for 275 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Senior Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada is expected to play in his fifth game of the season. He has completed 13 of 18 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns. Ricky Dobbs, who engineered the comeback win against Temple, has played in seven games with 105 carries for 493 yards and a team-leading eight touchdowns.


Army senior fullback Colin Mooney continues to lead the team in rushing yards and touchdowns. He has carried 214 times for 1,285 yards with eight touchdowns. He averages 116.8 yards per contest and 6.0 yards per carry. Senior Wes McMahand has 39 carries for 301 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns while Bryson Carl has 37 rushes for 227 yards. Ian Smith, Patrick Mealy, Tony Dace, Justin Turner and Geoffrey Hewitt have also factored into the rushing game.

Senior slotback Shun White is the Midshipmen's leading rusher with 873 yards on 106 carries and seven touchdowns. Eric Kettani has 152 carries for 807 yards and three scores while Bobby Doyle has 12 carried for 121 yards.


Army has completed 48 passes on the season with Damion Hunter and Jameson Carter the lone receivers with double digit catches. Hunter has 134 yards on 11 receptions while Carter has a team-best 145 yards on 10 catches. Mike Wright has six catches for 49 yards while Carlo Sandiego has caught six passes for 68 yards.

Tyree Barnes is Navy's leading receiver with 17 catches for 334 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Midshipmen have completed 41 passes on the season with 11 players notching receptions.


The Black Knights are averaging 254 yards rushing per game with a veteran offensive line that has featured the same starting five for all but one game. Senior center Trey Miranne is surrounded by classmates Brandon Cox and Mike Lemming. Juniors Jason Johnson and Ali Villanueva are the tackles.

Navy averages 292 rushing yards per contest with two seniors, a junior and two sophomores across the front. Center Ricky Moore and guard Anthony Gaskins are seniors while Curtis Bass is a junior guard. Tackles Jeff Battipaglia and Matt Molloy are sophomores.


Army is allowing just 124 rushing yards per game and 206 passing yards per contest. Junior brothers Ted and Fritz Bentler are the tackles with sophomore Joshua McNary and junior Victor Ugenyi at end. David Shore and Marcus Hilton add depth at end with Joe Paolini and Mark Faldowski are listed as the backup tackles. McNary is tied for fourth on the team with 61 tackles and has a team-high 11 tackles for loss. Ugenyi has four sacks while the Bentler brothers have 64 tackles between them.

The Midshipmen are allowing 128 rushing yards per game and 230 through the air with its 3-4 4 defensive scheme. Nate Frazier is the noseguard with Matt Nechak and Jabaree Tuani as the ends. Kyle Bookhout, Ryan Griffin and Billy Yarborough add depth to the front three. Nechak has 33 tackles while Frazier has 30, including 7.5 tackles for loss.


Both of Army's defensive captains are linebackers and among the leading tacklers. Frank Scappaticci leads the team with 82 tackles while John Plumstead has 58 tackles. Stephen Anderson, the third starting linebacker, is second on the team with 72 tackles and 10 tackles for loss.

Ross Pospisil leads the Midshipmen in tackles from his linebacker spot with 81. Fellow inside linebacker Clint Sovie has 53 tackles while Corey Johnson has 73 stops and 6.5 tackles for loss from his outside linebacker position. Jeff Dietz and Ram Vella are listed as co-starters on the Navy depth chart at the other outside linebacker.


Army's secondary has featured a bevy of players contributing, led by senior Lowell Garthwaite who is third on the team with 64 tackles. Sophomore Donovan Travis is fourth on the squad with 61 tackles from his safety position. Junior Mario Hill has 28 tackles and shares the team lead with six pass breakups while freshman Antuan Aaron has 26 stops from his cornerback spot. Richard King, David Black, Donnie Dixon, Markenson Pierre, Desmond Lamb, Lawrence Brown and T.J. Walker may also factor in the secondary.

Navy utilizes a rover, safety and two corner backs in its defense. Jeff Deitz, listed as a co-starter at rover with Emmet Merchant, is second on the team with 74 tackles while Merchant has 38. Wyatt Middleton is credited with 71 tackles from his safety position while cornerbacks Rashawn King and Ketric Buffin each have three interceptions.


Army kicker Matthew Campbell has made eight of 12 field goals with a long of 42 yards while also averaging 59.5 yards on 39 kickoffs. Punter Andrew Rinehart is averaging 38.8 yards per punt with 20 landing inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

Matt Harmon has connected on 15 of 17 field goals for Navy with a long of 49 yards. Kyle Delahooke has punted 36 times and averages 42 yards a punt with 10 inside the opponents' 20.

(Report from a U.S. Army news release.)

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On Target: US Tests Complex Missile Defense

A Ground-Based Interceptor is shown shortly after liftoff from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., on December 5, 2008. The launch, designated FTG-05, was a test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense element of the Ballistic Missile Defense System. The missile successfully intercepted a long-range target launched from Kodiak, Alaska several minutes earlier. (Photo by US Missile Defense Agency.)

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2008 -- The military today shot down a mock enemy missile, employing a synchronized network of sensors in what officials called the largest and most complex test of the missile defense system to date.

A mock target missile was fired from Kodiak, Alaska, at 3:04 p.m. Eastern Time. An interceptor missile was fired about 30 minutes later from a silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., with its launch directed by soldiers based at Fort Greely, Alaska. The two successfully collided off the coast of California minutes later.

This is the first time the Defense Missile Agency has synchronized its network of varied sensor types and frequencies to successfully track, report and intercept a single target, the agency’s top officer said.

If the multiple radars did not work together, each would have reported a different target to the system.

“Overall, I’m extremely pleased, because … the core of our missile defense system is the fact that we can operate in layers and have multiple systems working together,” Army Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O'Reilly said. “The key to our protection and the effectiveness of the systems is to have all of these different sensors simultaneously tracking, and the system [knowing] exactly that it’s not multiple objects, it’s one object up there.”

The test combined an early warning radar system south of Sacramento, Calif., a mobile radar system temporarily posted in Juneau, Alaska, two AEGIS ballistic missile defense ships off the Pacific coast and a sea-based radar system.

The test also marked the first time soldiers from the 49th Missile Defense Battalion based at Fort Greely were in control of the launch. On previous tests, a Colorado Springs-based unit was used.

Each of the systems was networked together, despite their varied sizes and frequencies, to form an accurate, single-target track, O’Reilly said.

Soldiers, airmen and sailors operated all parts of the system, and the USS Benfold, a Navy guided-missile destroyer equipped with the AEGIS air-defense system, went through all of the motions of a simulated intercept successfully, O’Reilly said.

“What we showed today is all those sensors working together,” he said. “At any one time, the system knew which sensor was reporting … and tracking it and it gave the warfighter a presentation of the target. It is the first time we have ever done that in an actual test and with our soldiers [and sailors and airmen] operating it.”

Officials had hoped to deploy countermeasures during the flight that would test the system’s reaction to multiple objects. Countermeasures could include the missile deploying chaff, decoys or replicas. The countermeasures did not deploy, however.

“Countermeasures are very difficult to deploy,” O’Reilly said. “We have had trouble deploying them in the past.”

Even though countermeasures didn’t deploy, the upper stage of the mock enemy missile was still in the area. The interceptor saw two objects and had to understand the data sent from the sensors to discern which object to hit, O’Reilly said.

Pentagon officials said this test was “very realistic” and followed a trajectory and mimicked a launch similar to one the U.S. military believes could be a threat.

This test cost $120 million to $150 million. Thirteen similar tests have been conducted since 1999, seven successfully hitting their targets. The last previous test, in September 2007, was successful.

The ground-based midcourse defense program is designed to defend the United States against intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile attacks in the midcourse phase of flight, or while they are arching in the “exoatmosphere” -- the region of space just outside the Earth's atmosphere.

The 54-foot-6-inch interceptors look like missiles, but no explosive warheads are attached. The main body acts as a booster vehicle to propel into space the embedded kill vehicle, a 152-pound “smart bullet” that basically steers itself into the path of the oncoming warhead, causing an explosion on impact.

The U.S. military has 24 ground-interceptors in silos in Alaska and California, and 21 sea-based interceptors.

The Defense Department has spent about $100 billion on missile defense since 1999, officials said. Iran’s pursuit of ballistic missiles and the recent nuclear and long-range missile tests by North Korea create an evolving threat to the United States, according to military reports.

In the last 20 years, the number of countries interested in having or actually having intercontinental ballistic missile capability has increased from six to more than 20, military officials said. The number of test launches has increased every year.

(Report by Fred W. Baker III, American Forces Press Service.)

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OIF Summary; Dec. 5, 2008: Troops in Iraq Kill Terrorist, Nab Suspects

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2008 -- Operations across Iraq over the past two days left one terrorist dead, brought in five wanted men and resulted in the detention of 18 additional suspects, military officials reported.

In Bazzunah, northwest of Mosul, coalition forces approached a house today where a suspected suicide bomber was believed to be. When they called for the occupants to surrender, a man came out of an adjacent building and appeared to have what could have been a suicide belt under his clothing, officials said. He failed to comply with the assault force's multiple instructions to surrender, so the assault force killed him.

It was later determined that the dead terrorist was a wanted man believed to facilitate the movement of foreign suicide bombers into Iraq. Three men were detained during the operation without incident.

In Mosul today, coalition forces detained a suspect in an operation targeting a suicide-bomb cell member, and another in an operation targeting a wanted man believed to be an al-Qaida in Iraq courier and possible administrative operative.

In Baghdad today, forces captured a wanted man suspected of attacks against coalition forces, along with a suspected associate.

Three operations late yesterday and early today in Beiji, south of Mosul, further degraded al-Qaida in Iraq leadership, officials said.

During the first operation, forces detained one suspect. The ground force was then led to a second location, where they detained two additional suspects.

In the second operation, forces captured a suspected terrorist believed to be an al-Qaida in Iraq weapons facilitator. Reports suggest the wanted man conspires directly with the terrorist group’s local leaders and was stockpiling weapons intended to be used against coalition forces during the upcoming provincial elections, officials said. He surrendered himself without incident.

Early today, a third operation in Beiji resulted in the capture of a suspected terrorist allegedly associated with building roadside bombs and car bombs. The wanted man also is believed to have connections to regional al-Qaida in Iraq leaders. A suspected associate also was detained.

In northern Iraq, coalition forces in Kirkuk worked with Iraqi forces during an operation targeting an alleged al-Qaida in Iraq courier yesterday. Four additional suspects were detained for further questioning.

Yesterday in central Iraq, coalition forces conducted two coordinated operations in Tikrit and captured a wanted man believed to have connections to al-Qaida in Iraq leadership and detained three additional suspects.

A suspected terrorist believed to have connections to al-Qaida in Iraq leaders in Iraq’s Anbar province was captured by coalition forces in Mussayib. A suspected associate was detained.

In Dec. 3 operations:
  • Iraqi National Police and Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers detained a suspected member of an Iranian-backed criminal group in the Aamel community of southern Baghdad's Rashid district. The man is suspected of murder and distributing propaganda.

  • In a clearance operation in the Aamel community, Iraqi National Police confiscated a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, six AK-47 assault rifles, an RPK machine gun, a rifle scope, four PKC ammunition cans and small-arms ammunition.

  • A resident’s tip led to a cache hidden in a vacant house in Kadhamiyah that included 75 60 mm mortars, 21 81 mm mortars, six 130 mm artillery rounds, four 107 mm rockets, 130 grenades and 2,000 rounds of ammunition. Earlier, soldiers found a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, nine RPGs and a box of ammunition while conducting searches in Hussaniyah.

  • Also south of Baghdad, U.S. soldiers recovered a stockpile of weapons and munitions collected by Iraqi soldiers during a two-week period. The munitions included 26 57 mm projectiles, 22 high-explosive anti-tank grenades, 37 RPG rounds, seven 60 mm mortars, an RPG, a 20-pound bag of stick propellant, 20 projectile fuses, 32 23 mm cartridges, six 82 mm mortars, three rifle grenades, an 82 mm projectile, a 5-pound bag of bulk explosive, a 57 mm rocket and two 60 mm mortars.

  • Soldiers in southern Baghdad also found a cache that included a machine gun, nine full AK-47 magazines, two full pistol magazines and fake identification cards.

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

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OEF Summary; Dec. 5, 2008: Troops in Afghanistan Kill Militants, Nab Suspects

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2008 -- With help from coalition troops, Afghan security forces killed two militants and detained two others today in the Shindand district of western Afghanistan’s Herat province, military officials said.

During the early morning raid, Afghan army commandos targeted a safe house used by a suspected roadside-bomb cell operating in the Zer-e-koh Valley. The safe house served as a storage facility for weapons, munitions and assembled bombs.

Militants engaged the commandos from multiple positions, and the Afghan soldiers responded with precision fire, killing two militants. The commandos detained two other militants and recovered Taliban-related documents, AK-47 assault rifles, ammunition and ammunition-carrying vests.

During the operation, forces safeguarded 42 men, women and children, officials said, and the commandos met with village leadership afterward to explain the operation and methods used.

In an operation targeting the Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin network in the Tagab district of Kapisa province yesterday, coalition forces searched a compound looking for a commander in the terrorist group known to move weapons and foreign fighters into the region and believed to have conducted attacks against civilians and military. The troops searched the compound without incident, and protected 10 women and 20 children while detaining four suspected militants, officials said.

Also yesterday, Afghan and coalition forces killed four militants in the Nar Surkh district of southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The combined forces were conducting a combat security patrol when militants attacked from a wooded area, using small-arms and machine-gun fire. Forces responded, killing four attackers.

In the same district the day before, Afghan and coalition forces used mortar fire to kill 10 militants who attacked a coalition base with rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun fire.

No coalition or Afghan forces or civilians were hurt in the operations, U.S. Forces Afghanistan officials said.

“Afghan national security forces and coalition forces continue working together against the militants,” said Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, chief spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry. “Our cooperation provides better security for the people of Afghanistan.”

(Compiled from U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases and a joint news release from U.S. Forces Afghanistan and the Afghan Defense Ministry.)

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Commanders Mark 3,000th F-16 Flying Hour

Col. John Dolan, vice commander of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, prepares to egress his aircraft at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, after he completed his 3,000th flying hour in an F-16 Fighting Falcon, Dec. 2. Cols. Michael Fantini and David Romuald also completed their 3,000th F-16 flying hour that evening. Approximately 150 F-16 pilots have surpassed this milestone. Fantini is the commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group and Romauld is the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group deputy commander. (Photographer: Airman 1st Class Jason Epley, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.)

Col. John Dolan, vice commander of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, taxis under the spray of two fire department crash trucks at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, after he completed his 3,000th flying hour in an F-16 Fighting Falcon, Dec. 2. Cols. Michael Fantini and David Romuald also completed their 3,000th F-16 flying hour that evening. Approximately 150 F-16 pilots have surpassed this milestone. Fantini is the commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group and Romauld is the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group deputy commander. (Photographer: Airman 1st Class Jason Epley, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.)

Cols. David Romuald, Michael Fantini and John Dolan pose in front of an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, after they each completed their 3,000th flying hour in an F-16, Dec. 2. As tradition would dictate, they were hosed down with water from fire department crash trucks after leaving their cockpits. Approximately 150 F-16 F-16 pilots have surpassed the 3,000 hour mark. Dolan is the vice commander of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Fantini is the commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group and Romauld is the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group deputy commander. (Photographer: Airman 1st Class Jason Epley, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.)

Col. Michael Fantini, the 332nd Operations Group commander, gives a thumbs up at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, after he completed his 3,000th flying hour in an F-16 Fighting Falcon, Dec. 2. Cols. John Dolan and David Romuald also completed their 3,000th F-16 flying hour that evening. Approximately 150 F-16 pilots have surpassed this milestone. Dolan is the vice commander of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and Romauld is the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group deputy commander. (Photographer: Airman 1st Class Jason Epley, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.)

COMBAT CAMERA Recent Military Imagery on THE TENSION

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NASA Trains Air Force Pilots to Fly High

Mike Parrott performs a routine brake check on a NASA T-38 Dec. 2 in Ellington Field, Texas. Mr. Parrott is an unscheduled maintenance crew leader for NASA. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios.)

Jesse Perez and Mike Parrott perform a routine brake check on a NASA T-38 Dec. 2 in Ellington Field, Texas. Mr. Perez is an avionics technician and Mr. Parrott is an unscheduled maintenance crew leader for NASA. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios.)

NASA T-38s are parked inside a maintenance hangar Dec. 2 at Ellington Field, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios.)

Mike Parrott performs a routine maintenance check on a NASA T-38 Dec. 2 in Ellington Field, Texas. Mr. Parrott is an unscheduled maintenance crew leader for NASA. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios.)

Focus on Defense:

ELLINGTON FIELD, Texas, Dec. 4, 2008 -- To achieve their dreams of space flight, NASA astronauts must overcome many challenges -- challenges they can only receive at one place.

Whether they are a pilot, navigator or mission specialist, Ellington Field, Texas, is the proving ground where astronauts earn their "wings" through the expert guidance of Air Force experience.

Most of the training astronauts receive at Ellington Field is led by former Airmen.

"I shared the dream of many young men and women to become an astronaut," said Jack Nickel, an aerospace engineer and research pilot for NASA at Ellington Field. "There are many retired Air Force people here. We draw on our military background to be instructor pilots and pass on our experience."

Mr. Nickel is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who flew the F-4 Phantom, the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. He applied to be an astronaut himself but never made it. Today, he is one of several former Airmen training for NASA.

Astronauts training at Ellington Field must become familiar with a wide variety of aircraft. The aircraft includes the T-38 Talon, primarily used for pilot and navigator training; the G-2, a modified aircraft used to teach pilots how to actually land the space shuttle; the C-9, used for zero-gravity training; and a modified Boeing 747, used to carry the space shuttle.

Similar to the Air Force as a whole, NASA is also modernizing its fleet to help improve the training and mission effectiveness. Its current modernization effort is focused on its T-38 fleet.

"We are in the process of converting those to what we call EFIS, electronic flight instrumentation system, which is a 'glass cockpit,'" Mr. Nickel said. "Instead of having round dials -- what we call steam gauges -- we are now converting our T-38s with these new types of displays. And that is modern, up to date and state of the art. We just modified all of our space shuttles recently in the last five years to that same type of display. And we also modified our shuttle trainer aircraft on the astronaut side of that cockpit."

This modernization has an effect beyond normal training.

"It not only helps with training, but also (it helps with) the mentality of the pilot and navigator and our mission specialists," Mr. Nickel said. "When we modernize our aircraft to match that type of environment, we are only helping them, preparing them for their mission to go into space."

While modernization is important, much of the Ellington Field fleet relies on their expert maintainers. Most of the maintainers at NASA are former Airmen. But, they don't try to set themselves apart. Instead, they fit into the NASA team and help ensure that any mission they work on is a success.

"They are some great guys. But, I don't look at people as being military or not and that may be because I've never been in the military," said Jesse Perez, a T-38 avionics technician who previously worked as a maintainer for a major airline. "I have never had any problems working with 'Air Force' maintainers here at NASA. All of their training is very good and they fit right in here."

It is their Air Force drive for mission success, whether they are trainers or maintainers, that helps NASA achieve its own mission success.

"We don't generally get anything that is new," Mr. Nickel said. "But, we have the best maintenance in the world right here and, of course, our maintainers are prior Air Force and Navy. It is their expertise brought to us here at NASA. We can't fly these missions without them. They maintain and modify these planes to do the mission we do in such a marvelous way. We never hop on board a plane with anything in the back of our minds worrying about how that plane is going to perform."

(Report by Staff Sgt. Matthew Rosine, Defense Media Activity-San Antonio.)

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Ospreys Finish First Operational Deployment

A Malian soldier takes a defensive position while an Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22 Osprey departs a landing zone as part of a drill for Exercise Flintlock in Bamako, Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo.)

Senegalese soldiers exit an Air Force Special Operations Command CV-22 Osprey during mission rehearsals as part of Exercise Flintlock Nov. 16 in Bamako, Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo.)

A Malian boy stops to watch incoming CV-22 Ospreys carrying Malian and Senegalese troops during an exercise near Bamako, Mali. U.S. Special Operations forces the worked with African and European partner nations in the effort to build bonds of trust and confidence. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Bryan Purtell.)

An Airman from the 1st Special Operations Helicopter Maintenance Squadron works atop a CV-22 Osprey under the African sun in Bamako, Mali. The CV-22s conducted their first operational deployment as part of Exercise Flintlock, a training designed build capacity among Trans-Saharan nations so that they may more effectively address issues which threaten peace, stability and security. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Lauren Johnson.)

Focus on Defense:

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla., Dec. 4, 2008 -- Four CV-22 Ospreys from the 8th Special Operations Squadron here returned after completing their first operational deployment supporting Exercise Flintlock 2009 in November in Bamako, Mali.

The aircraft supported the training exercise in the Trans-Saharan region designed to build relationships and capacity and to enhance African nations' ability to patrol and control their sovereign territory.

The exercise included personnel from 15 countries, and the CV-22 served as a platform for multinational training. Specifically, the aircraft was used to transport Malian and Senegalese special operations forces and their leadership teams.

"We did long range, vertical lift, and dropped (teams) off at a landing zone," said Capt. Dennis Woodlief, an 8th SOS pilot. "They practiced their ground movements, then we brought them back."

Missions like this allowed the CV-22 to take advantage of its unique capabilities as a tilt rotor aircraft, said Lt. Col. Eric Hill, the 8th SOS squadron commander.

"The tyranny of distance in the African continent is amazing," he said. "We were able to go over 500 nautical miles, infiltrate a small team for them to run their exercise, and bring them back all the way to home base without doing an air refueling stop. And we were able to do that in the span of about four hours. "

"It would take the MH-53 (Pave Low) twice, sometimes three times as long (to do these missions)," Captain Woodlief said. "And we did it with just one aircraft."

Colonel Hill said the CV-22 is an "unprecedented capability." And with the new capability, there were also new lessons to be learned.

"We learned some lessons like we always do on different equipment we'd like to have and requirements that we'll have in the future," he said.

Many of those lessons revolve around tailoring maintenance packages for future deployments.

Members of the 1st Special Operations Helicopter Maintenance Squadron deployed to Bamako in support of the 8th SOS. Because the exercise was held at a remote location rather than an established base, one of the maintenance challenges was self-deploying with all the parts and equipment they needed to keep the CV-22s operational for the entire exercise, and for the cumulative 10,000 nautical mile trans-Atlantic flights.

"We have a laundry list about three pages long of things we'd like to take next time," said Master Sgt. Craig Kornely, the squadron's lead production supervisor. "As we grow into the machine, we realize our needs for equipment and resources."

But despite the challenges of operating a new aircraft for the first time overseas and in an austere environment, the squadron had a perfect mission success rate during the exercise.

"We had zero maintenance cancels, zero delays, and we executed 100 percent every time," Captain Woodlief said. "I think we went above and beyond everyone's expectations."

(Report by 1st Lt. Lauren Johnson, 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs.)

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Pentagon: US-Iraq Security Pact Ratified by Presidency Council

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2008 -- The new U.S.-Iraq security pact that was approved by Iraqi lawmakers Nov. 27 was ratified by Iraq’s Presidency Council today, senior U.S. officials said.

The two-part security pact consists of a strategic framework agreement that establishes the foundation of a long-term bilateral relationship between the United States and Iraq, as well as a status-of-forces agreement that stipulates how U.S. forces are affected by Iraqi laws.

Both agreements will take effect Jan. 1, following the exchange of diplomatic notes. The agreements replace a United Nations mandate authorizing the U.S. military presence in Iraq that’s slated to expire Dec. 31.

“We welcome today’s ratification by Iraqi’s Presidency Council of the Strategic Framework Agreement and Security Agreement,” U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker and Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said in a joint statement issued today.

“The United States Embassy and the Multinational Force Iraq will begin immediately to implement these two agreements with our Iraqi partners,” Crocker and Odierno continued. “We will undertake initiatives to strengthen our cooperation in the fields of economics, energy health, the environment, education, culture and law enforcement.”

The United States also will support Iraq’s request to the U.N. Security Council to continue protection of Iraqi assets, Crocker and Odierno stated.

The now-ratified U.S.-Iraq security pact contains “two landmark agreements that will guide our relationships with Iraq, to help solidify Iraq’s democratic gains that they’ve made over the past few years, affirm Iraq’s sovereignty, and put its relations with the United States on a strong footing,” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told reporters today.

A majority vote of Iraqi legislators in attendance approved the new security pact a week ago today. Iraqi lawmakers’ approval of the pact “affirms the growth of Iraq’s democracy” as well as its “increasing ability to secure itself,” President George W. Bush said in White House statement issued Nov. 27.

(Report by Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service.)

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OIF Summary; Dec. 4, 2008: Troops in Iraq Kill 4, Capture 33 Terror Suspects

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2008 -- Coalition forces dealt a heavy blow to al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist networks during multiple operations throughout Iraq today and yesterday, killing four terrorists and detaining 33 suspects, military officials said.

Most of the actions took place when combined coalition and Iraqi forces killed four armed insurgents and detained 19 others in three operations in Kirkuk yesterday. The operations targeted a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq courier believed to conspire directly with al-Qaida in Iraq leadership in the Tamim province.

The four men who were killed were armed and moved aggressively at the troops. Perceiving hostile intent, the soldiers fired on the men, killing them. Three suspects were detained at one location, and 16 were detained at another.

Elsewhere, coalition forces continued to disrupt al-Qaida in Iraq communication networks during two related operations today and yesterday near Lake Thar Thar, about 60 miles northwest of Baghdad. Five suspects alleged to be associates of an al-Qaida in Iraq courier were detained.

In other operations today in Iraq:
  • In Mosul, coalition forces targeted an al-Qaida in Iraq operative assessed to have connections to local terrorist leaders and detained one suspect.

  • Coalition forces disrupted al-Qaida in Iraq bomb networks with four operations. In Abu Ghraib, about 16 miles west of Baghdad, forces detained one suspect believed to be associated with an area car bomb operative.

  • An operation in Baghdad targeting a wanted man associated with area suicide bombings netted two suspects.

  • Coalition and Iraqi forces detained two suspected associates of a man wanted in car bombings and weapons smuggling in the Khurmal area, about 100 miles southeast of Kirkuk.

  • In Mosul, two suspects were detained during an operation targeting an alleged al-Qaida in Iraq suicide bomber facilitator.

  • U.S. soldiers, partnered with Iraqi National Police, captured a suspected Iranian-backed terrorist wanted for murder in southern Baghdad's Rashid district.

Yesterday, coalition and Iraqi security forces seized several large weapons caches in and around Baghdad that included 75 60 mm mortars, 21 81 mm mortars, six 130 mm artillery rounds, four 107 mm rockets, 130 grenades, 2,000 rounds of 7.62 mm and 39 mm ammunition, 26 57 mm projectiles, 22 high-explosive anti-tank grenades, 37 RPG rounds, seven 60 mm mortars, a rocket-propelled grenade, a 20-pound bag of unknown stick propellant and 20 projectile fuses.

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

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