Saturday, January 17, 2009

US Army Infantry Brigade Announced for 2009 Afghanistan Deployment

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2009 -- The Department of the Army confirmed January 16 the Department of Defense's announcement of the deployment of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, based in Fort Richardson, Alaska, as part of the next rotation of forces in Afghanistan. This announcement involves approximately 3,500 service members. Their deployment is scheduled to begin in February 2009.

The Spartan Brigade will replace one active duty brigade currently on the ground, and continue the current U.S. commitment to providing three brigade combat teams in support of Regional Command East.

The Army will provide only the best led, best trained, and best equipped forces possible to the combatant commander for operations in Afghanistan.

Located on the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska, the Spartan Brigade is a strategic asset to the Department of Defense's Pacific Command. It provides a quick reaction force capable of deploying anywhere in the world in 18 hours or less.

The Spartan Brigade was formed with six battalions: 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry, known as 1 Geronimo; 3 Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry, known as 3 Geronimo; 1st Squadron (Airborne), 40th Cavalry known as Denali; 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 377th Field Artillery, called Spartan Steel; 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, the Warrior Battalion; and the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, the Centurions.

In October 2006, less than a year after the Spartan Brigade was fully formed, it deployed to southern Iraq as part of Task Force Marne and took over operational control of Babil, Karbala, and An Najaf provinces. It returned from deployment in December 2007.

American Soldiers are deployed to more than 80 countries worldwide. They and their Family members continue to make great sacrifices for the good of our nation.

(From a U.S. Army news release.)

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Guantanamo Detainee Transfer Announced

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2009 -- The U.S. Department of Defense announced today the transfer of six detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Four detainees were transferred to Iraq, one to Algeria and one to Afghanistan. These detainees were determined to be eligible for departure following a comprehensive series of review processes.

The transfer is a demonstration of the United States' desire not to hold detainees any longer than necessary. It also underscores the processes put in place to assess each individual and make a determination about their detention while hostilities are ongoing -- an unprecedented step in the history of warfare.

The Department of Defense has determined -- through its comprehensive review processes -- that approximately 60 detainees at Guantanamo are eligible for transfer or release. Departure of these detainees is subject to ongoing discussions between the United States and other nations.

Since 2002, more than 525 detainees have departed Guantanamo for other countries including Albania, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, France, Great Britain, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom and Yemen.

There are approximately 245 detainees currently at Guantanamo.

(Report from a U.S. Defense Department press release.)

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Video: US Airways Descent into Hudson River

video

News readers click here to watch video.

On the Home Front:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2009 -- The U.S. Coast Guard has provided the video embedded above. A U.S. Airways commuter airliner conducted an emergency landing into the Hudson River near Manhattan, N.Y., around 3:31 p.m. Jan. 15, 2009. (Video courtesy of Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Military Imagery on THE TENSION

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Fate of Joint Strike Fighter, F-22 Raptor Looms as New President Takes Office

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In this file photo, an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, marked AA-1, lands October 23, 2008, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julius Delos Reyes.)

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2009 -- Decisions about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor aircraft programs are expected early in President-elect Barack Obama’s administration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“End the debate, make a decision and move on,” Gates said. “’Start getting stuff built’ is just so important.’”

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

Davis told the Brooking Institution audience Thursday, “support from all three services has never been stronger” for the F-35 program.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Report by Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service.)

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US Army Prepped for Inaugural Contingencies

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Sgt. Malkia Litaker, with the 947th Military Police Detachment at Fort Myer, Va., and her military working dog, Gerko, work together to find simulated explosives during a demonstration Jan. 14 at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C. The team will assist in providing explosive detection capability during inaugural events in the nation's capital. Litaker said Gerko can detect up to nine different chemical scents that might indicate the presence of explosives. (U.S. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez.)

On the Home Front:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2009 -- As the nation prepares to welcome a new president, the Army stands ready to assist civilian law enforcement and first responders inside the National Capital Region.

While military participation in the Jan. 20 inauguration is largely ceremonial -- a full 2/3 of military members involved in inauguration-related activities will be involved in the parade or other ceremonial events -- another 2,500 military members are on standby to provide support if things go wrong.

911 Engineers

Soldiers from the Army's 911th U.S. Army Technical Rescue Engineer Company out of Fort Belvoir, Va., for instance, are poised to help first responders rescue those trapped in collapsed building should such an incident occur during inaugural activities.

"If a building were to fall down, we'd go in to shore it up and basically stabilize the building," said Sgt. Robert Huffman, 911th EC. "If the air is bad we're going to go in on air, if not just with respirators -- whatever we need to do to extricate the people. It's very similar to what firemen do."

Huffman, who's been in the Army going on four years now, says the 911th EC uses tools like concrete saws, wood chainsaws, torches, exothermic torches, breathing apparatus, shoring equipment and trenching equipment to conduct their rescues.

The 911th EC trains with state, local and federal agencies, to include the Federal Emergency Management Agency Urban Search and Rescue Teams, to develop and maintain the most advanced skills in the field.

"We always try to simulate real-world emergencies with the force," said Staff Sgt. Donald Nolan, 911th EC. "We use fog machines to simulate smoke, and our confined spaces and collapsed structures are all mock -- so there is no risk. But out Soldiers go through crawl, walk, and run stages with training. It's all very intensive and it takes months to hone."

Participating Soldiers from the 911th EC will be stationed in and around the National Capital Region waiting to assist.

"We're posted at a heightened state of readiness -- on order to deploy and conduct technical rescue if needed," said Capt. David Dietz, commander of the 911th. He said his unit will have a "fairly robust package" of assets available to provide support to civilian agencies if they are tasked to assist.

Sniffing out danger

Sgt. Malkia Litaker, with the 947th Military Police Detachment at Fort Myer, Va., is one of many Army military working dog handlers who will be tasked to augment security during inaugural activities.

Litaker and her military working dog, Gerko, work together to seek out potential explosives. She said Gerko can detect up to nine different chemical scents that might indicate the presence of explosives.

"We make sure everything is safe for all the people in the area and the president," she said. "We are just doing detection."

Prior to the inauguration, Litaker said she didn't know exactly what kind of support she'd be asked to provide, but she remembers the last inauguration she worked -- in January 2005 and expects to do the same kind of work this year.

"Last inauguration we were at the convention center, we swept the entire convention center for explosives," she said. "The last inauguration -- it was a lot of fun doing that, and I was glad to be part of that -- this one too."

Joint effort: three-pronged

Servicemembers from the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard are all participating in the inauguration as part of Joint Force Headquarters - National Capitol Region. The headquarters acts as a single point of contact between the capabilities of the armed forces in the NCR and civilian law enforcement, first responders, and other federal response agencies.

"Our medics who will be out supporting the parade along the parade route, will be able to respond to a situation in support of the incident commander very quickly," said Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe Jr., commander of both Joint Force Headquarters - National Capitol Region and the Army's Military District of Washington.

Rowe also said JFHQ-NCR provides a chemical, biological radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive consequence management capability to the inaugural events, including the Marine's Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force.

The general said the 7,500 servicemembers in JFHQ-NCR have three roles during the inauguration, including providing ceremonial support, providing specific DOD capabilities to federal agencies in charge of inaugural events, and being prepared for a consequence management requirement should something happen that causes people to be injured.

Rowe said the JFHQ-NCR is ready to provide whatever support is needed for the inauguration -- mostly because servicemembers have practiced for the many possibilities that could happen.

"We have every two weeks a tabletop exercise that takes a look at our region, takes a look at a situation: infrastructure collapse, train derailment, loss of power supply, communications incident, incident within Metro, crowd control, crowd management incidents, medical incidents or contaminants," he said.

"You have to force yourself to try to think through what some people might say the unthinkable -- but to try to think what combinations of things could happen. We are very well prepared. We are ready to do a wonderful event. I believe our head is in this, we are committed to this, and we are prepared."

(Report by C. Todd Lopez.)

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USS San Antonio Key to Counter-Piracy Mission

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GULF OF ADEN (Jan. 12, 2009) The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) transits the Gulf of Aden. San Antonio is the command ship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, which conducts counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John K. Hamilton.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SAN ANTONIO, At Sea, Jan. 17, 2009 -- Amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD-17), the flagship for Combined Task Force 151, is serving as an afloat forward staging base(AFSB) during its current counter-piracy mission.

Fulfilling the role of an AFSB is one of the many mission areas the ship was specifically designed to perform.

"We're able to embark and support a wide range of forces and equipment, and as the [executive officer], it is my job to ensure that these embarked units-- just like the crew -- have the resources and support they need to accomplish their assigned tasking," said Lt. Cmdr. Sean Kearns, San Antonio's executive officer.

As an AFSB, the San Antonio brings a robust capability to the theater and task force commanders, and the breadth and depth of embarked forces currently on board San Antonio are a prime example. Those embarked on San Antonio from the Marine Corps are the 3rd platoon of the 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit's (MEU) 'Golf' Infantry Company, a military police detachment, and intelligence personnel.

Others using the ship as an AFSB include an eight-man Coast Guard law enforcement detachment (LEDET) that specializes in maritime interdiction operations, three HH-60H helicopters from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 3 that cross-decked from USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), and members of Fleet Surgical Team 8 who bring a level-two surgical capability to the ship to deal with trauma, surgical, critical care and medical evacuation needs.

"If you take all these forces that have been assembled on board San Antonio, you have an incredible breadth and depth of capabilities, training, and experience, and the synergistic manner in which we all are able to work together on an AFSB ship such as San Antonio acts as a force multiplier and allows us to accomplish much more together than we ever could independently," said Kearns.

The Sailors and Marines of San Antonio have worked hard during the past few weeks to prepare the ship for its role as the flagship and AFSB for CTF 151.

"We have configured several of the ship's spaces so that the equipment and resources available are suited for specific missions that the CTF 151 staff will be planning and executing," said Kearns.

"In addition to material preparations, the ship has been conducting targeted training on the missions and tasks that we may be called upon to perform as part of the CTF 151 anti-piracy mission."

As part of their pre-deployment, unit-level and integrated level training, the crew of San Antonio and the 26 MEU conducted robust training across a wide range of mission areas.

"The mission skills that were developed during this training provide abroad spectrum of capabilities that can be tailored and applied to virtually any mission," said Kearns.

In preparation for CTF 151's anti-piracy mission, San Antonio has focused on its existing capabilities in surface and air warfare, maritime interdiction operations, anti-terrorism and force protection, mobility, intelligence collection and medical and logistical services.

They also conducted additional training to tailor these capabilities to the specific needs of their current anti-piracy tasking.

"The one thing you can't buy is experience, and the greatest asset that each of the units embarked on San Antonio brings to the fight is the robust experience that they have developed through training and operations within their own organizations," said Kearns.

"Each service or organization has its own way of doing business based on the specifics of how they train and the environment in which they operate.

"By bringing such a diverse group of forces together, we are able to capitalize on each other's experiences and training to gain perspectives and insights that allow us to better prepare for future missions. This is the heart of joint warfare, and it is rooted in the camaraderie and military heritage that we all share in the armed forces."

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

This marks San Antonio's first deployment.

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class (SW) Brian Goodwin.)

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Obama Picks Defense Lobbyist as Pentagon No. 2

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2009 -- On January 8, President-elect Barack Obama appointed William J. Lynn III, senior vice president of government operations at Raytheon Co., to become the No. 2 official at the Defense Department.

Many establishment news outlets noted that that the choice of Lynn for deputy defense secretary breaks with Obama's campaign promises of 'Change' by keeping Washington lobbyists out of his administration.

The 55 year old Lynn is also a former Pentagon comptroller and Senate staffer. He was a registered lobbyist for Raytheon from 2003 through June 2008, according to the Obama transition team.

The Associated Press reported on January 8, in the first three months of 2008, Lynn's lobbying team reported spending $1.15 million to influence Defense Department issues including missiles, sensors and radar, advanced technology programs and intelligence funding.

AP also noted that Obama has vowed that no political appointees in his administration would be permitted to work on areas that "directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years."

From Obama's Web site, www.barackobama.com:
No political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration.
On January 15, writing in the Wall Street Journal, Pentagon reporter August Cole noted that against a backdrop of mounting budget pressure, the deputy secretary of defense will be a key player in tackling some of the toughest questions about how to equip the U.S. military and for what kinds of wars. The outcome of these debates will be crucial to the defense industry.

Cole continued, "Like other contractors, Raytheon has some important programs up for review this year, including its role on a multibillion dollar Navy destroyer program that employs about 2,000 of the company’s workers."

Some government watchdogs have questioned the revolving-door aspect of Lynn's appointment.

AP notes:
[Lynn] left public service and went into lobbying for one of the largest defense contractors in the nation. And that's the part that's troubling," said Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. "Even if he's completely above board and ethical, it raises questions about his loyalty."

During his presidential campaign, Obama took pains to tell voters he wouldn't tolerate influence-peddling.

"I am in this race to tell the corporate lobbyists that their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over," Obama said in November 2007 in Des Moines, Iowa. "I have done more than any other candidate in this race to take on lobbyists and won. They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I am president."

It will be difficult for Lynn to avoid defense issues related to Raytheon, said James Thurber, who teaches lobbying at American University.

"I think it's impossible in our system not to have people that have been in the advocacy system," he said. "They're the people who know the issues and have the expertise." The key is for the administration to disclose those connections and avoid financial conflicts, he said.

Lynn has been a well known lobbyist in Washington at Raytheon for years. His responsibilities include "company liaison with the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, as well as state and local government relations," according to his corporate biography on Raytheon's Web site.
Lynn has been an officer with Waltham, Raytheon since 2005.

Raytheon, with 2007 sales of $21.3 billion, specializes in worldwide defense and homeland security-related sales.

(Report from commercial media sources.)

Sources:
AP: Obama picks lobbyist as Pentagon No. 2
WSJ: Nominee Is Questioned About Pentagon’s Revolving Door
Raytheon William J. Lynn Bio
Barack Obama Web Site: Ethics

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Friday, January 16, 2009

US Airpower Summary, Jan. 16, 2009: C-17s Key to Transport Missions

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A C-17 Globemaster III takes off from an air base in Southwest Asia. The C-17's primary mission is to transport servicemembers and cargo in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Jan. 16, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with coalition ground forces in Iraq and International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan during operations Jan. 15, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

In Afghanistan, several Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets destroyed anti-Afghan bunkers and firing positions using guided bomb unit-38s. The strikes were conducted after coalition ground forces began receiving fire from those locations in the vicinity of Lashkar Gah.

Multiple coalition aircraft provided aerial overwatch for recovery operations after a HH-60 helicopter made an emergency landing outside Kabul. Details of the incident were unavailable pending investigation. No casualties were reported.

Near Musa Qala, a coalition patrol called in a Navy F/A-18C Hornet to perform shows of force over a nearby area to discourage suspicious activity.

On-scene joint terminal attack controllers assigned to coalition ground units verified the success of these missions.

In total, 33 close-air-support missions were flown in support of the ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

Four Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Afghanistan. Additionally, two Navy aircraft performed tactical reconnaissance.

In Iraq, coalition aircraft flew 38 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.

Twenty-seven Air Force and Navy ISR aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Iraq. Additionally, three Air Force and Coalition aircraft performed tactical reconnaissance.

Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft and C-17 Globemaster IIIs provided intra-theater heavy airlift, helping to sustain operations throughout Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa.

Approximately 100 airlift sorties were flown, more than 340 tons of cargo were delivered and about 3,000 passengers were transported.

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

On Jan. 14, Air Force and coalition tanker crews flew 47 sorties and off-loaded approximately 3 million pounds of fuel to 209 receiving aircraft.

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

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Pentagon Switches Seabee Deployment from Kuwait to Afghanistan

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2009 -- Instead of deploying to Kuwait, about 500 Navy Seabees will deploy to Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today.

The Seabees are the 25th Naval Construction Regiment home-ported in Gulfport, Miss., and they will deploy beginning next month in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"What the regiment provides is expeditionary engineering and construction support," Whitman said. The regiment can build buildings, put in roads or air strips. The projects the Seabees work on could be used by NATO and Afghan forces.

"This is a new deployment to Afghanistan," Whitman said. "The regiment was originally scheduled to deploy to Kuwait, but will now deploy to Afghanistan."

The unit will not have to go through intensive retraining due to the shift. "The type of tasks they do ... are labor skills, and whether you are doing those in Kuwait, Iraq or Afghanistan, it is very similar," Whitman said.

They will go through geographical orientation and cultural instruction before they deploy, and will be deployed for no longer than 12 months, he said.

U.S. officials have talked in the past of the need for more infrastructure to support additional U.S. forces that will deploy to Afghanistan in the coming year.

"These Seabees can provide the support that is necessary as we look to the future and can provide the type of construction that will be necessary as we look to add combat capability into Afghanistan," Whitman said.

The Seabees are the largest "enabling force" unit that has been announced, and are needed to allow combat units to perform their missions.

Whitman also announced the 25th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska, will deploy to Afghanistan as part of the normal rotation. The unit will replace the 101st Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team in Regional Command East.

"The commander, of course, can place these forces wherever he sees fit," he said.

The 3,500-man brigade will be part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The Alaska unit will deploy beginning next month.

(Report by Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service.)

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Pentagon Announces Afghanistan Force Rotation and Deployment

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2009 -- The U.S. Department of Defense announced today that the 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, based in Fort Richardson, Alaska, is scheduled to deploy as part of the next rotation of forces in Afghanistan. The 25th Naval Construction Regiment, based in Gulfport, Miss., will deploy as an additional unit in support of coalition operations in Afghanistan.

This announcement involves approximately 4,000 service members, and their deployments are scheduled to begin in February 2009.

The 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division will replace one active duty brigade currently on the ground, and continues the current U.S. commitment to providing three brigade combat teams in support of Regional Command East.

The 25th Naval Construction Regiment will provide additional expeditionary engineering and construction support to coalition forces in Afghanistan. This regiment was originally scheduled for deployment to Kuwait, but will now deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In consultation with Afghan officials and NATO, commanders continue to assess the situation to ensure sufficient force levels to best support the Government of Afghanistan, perform counter-terrorism operations, assist with reconstruction, and train and equip the Afghan national security forces. Afghan security forces continue to develop capability and assume responsibility for security, and this U.S. force rotation and deployment may be tailored based upon changes in the security situation.

(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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New Navy Technologies Used on Supercarrier USS George HW Bush

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NORFOLK (Jan. 10, 2009) F/A-18 aircraft assigned to Air Wing 1 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va. perform a flyover during the commissioning ceremony for the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). The Navy's newest, and final, Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is named after World War II naval aviator and the 41st president of the United States George H.W. Bush. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Susan Caraballo.)

Focus on Defense:

ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 16, 2009 -- The nation's 10th and final Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77), was commissioned Jan. 10 with a host of new technologies developed by the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

The ship's namesake and along with his son, President George W. Bush, were present. Chief of Naval Research, Rear Adm. Nevin P. Carr, and the ONR Executive Director, Dr. Walter F. Jones, were also on hand to witness the event.

"It's great to see tangible systems and capabilities going to sea in this magnificent warship. It's a real tribute to the many who have worked long and hard, including scientists and engineers," said Carr.

Likewise, Jones noted that, "When one sees the technology employed on the USS George H.W. Bush, we can take pride in knowing our investments in research have improved our Sailors' warfighting abilities. These Sailors are deploying with the best systems available while performing in a complex operating environment. In fact, we are currently working on technology that will make the next generation of ships even more advanced."

The George H. W. Bush is the final ship built in the Nimitz class of carriers. CVN-77 will feature a number of improvements over its predecessors, including significant upgrades funded and developed by the ONR. Highlights include:
  • Improved data management systems that enhance C4I capability, minimize data push and maximize network capacity.
  • Redesigned propellers that improve ship performance and reduce noise were developed in partnership with Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock (NSWCCD).
  • The Vacuum Collection/Marine Sanitation Device incorporates Fixed Activated Sludge Treatment that mitigates sewage and gray water, using biological treatment and ultraviolet light, eliminating the need for chemicals (also developed with NSWC).
  • High-Strength, Low Alloy steel (HSLA-65) was used extensively in the flight deck and upper decks to improve strength and reduce weight above the waterline.
ONR's continuous investment in new and innovative technologies builds and maintains the world's most capable Navy. In fact, ONR's science and technology investment portfolio is aimed at meeting the next generation warfighter's broad spectrum of requirements, which includes providing the latest technology for the Navy's newest class of aircraft carriers, CVN-21.

The new class of carriers features many ONR-developed technologies that will sustain the Navy's war-fighting dominance, ensure a technological advantage for our warfighters and protect our nation's interests.

Highlights include new nonskid flight deck coatings that will last longer, reducing maintenance and preservation costs; UHF-L band antennae that enable advanced multifunctional RF distribution for VHF-UHF communication; a Plasma Arc Waste Disposal technology that processes 6,800 pounds of solid waste per day; and combined UHF and Ku-Band arrays that provide Line-of-Sight functionality as well as weight and space savings for integration of high frequency Ku-Band phased arrays.

Since 1946, the Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research has been providing the Science and Technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological warfighting dominance. Through its affiliates, today, ONR is a leader in Science and Technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning, and 914 private industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprised of uniformed, civilian and contract personnel.

(Report by Peter Vietti, Office of Naval Research.)

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Mission for US Navy: Deterring Piracy at Sea

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In this February 2008 file photo, members of the visit, board, search and seizure team assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) prepare to inspect a dhow in the Gulf of Aden. While aboard the dhow, the team found 39 packs of drugs. Carney is conducting maritime security operations (MSO) and is assigned to Combined Task Force (CTF) 150. Coalition ships assigned to CTF 150 operate throughout the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. MSO are focused on counter-terrorism, defense of offshore and onshore maritime infrastructure, counter smuggling, counter-piracy and upholding international rights and freedoms. (U.S. Navy photo.)

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In this February 2008 file photo, members of the visit, board, search and seizure team assigned to the French frigate Guepratte (F714) prepare to inspect a dhow in the Arabian Sea while coordinating with the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston Churchill (DDG 81). The boarding team discovered at least 400 bottles of alcohol while searching the dhow. Guepratte and Churchill are assigned to Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 and are conducting maritime security operations (MSO) throughout the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. MSO are focused on counter-terrorism, defense of offshore and onshore maritime infrastructure, counter smuggling, counter-piracy and upholding international rights and freedoms. (U.S. Navy photo.)

Dispatches from the Front:

MANAMA, Bahrain, Jan. 15, 2009 -- Contrary to the romanticized portrayal of pirates that have populated folk tales and captured youngsters' imaginations, modern-day pirates pose a clear and present threat to lives, commerce and the environment as they lurk over shipping lanes attacking ships and crew without regard for nationality or cargo. As matter of fact, piracy in the Gulf of Aden not only poses a threat to global commerce, but also threatens aid delivery by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to victims of the ongoing civil war in Somalia. An estimated 2.4 million Somalis depend on the WFP shipments, which contribute more than 30,000 tons of aid to the impoverished nation.

In 2007, pirates attacked 31 vessels off the coast of Somalia with ransom demands averaging $500,000. In 2008, ransom demands have varied between $1 million and $8 million. Pirates received an estimated $30 million in ransom payments in 2008.

More than 20,000 ships annually transit the Gulf of Aden, a vital shipping route for international trade that connects the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North and South America. However, with more than 100 piracy attempts this year, attacks affect less than 1 percent of the total commercial traffic.

Piracy Grabs Headlines

Amid a decrease in the rate of successful pirate attacks on merchant vessels off the coast of Somalia, a couple of spectacular attacks have grabbed media attention. Pirates armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) boarded Motor Vessel (MV) Faina off the Somali coast Sept. 25, 2008, and took the ship and her crew hostage.

The situation of MV Faina represents the growing problem and complexity of the piracy issue in today's world. The ship is owned and operated by Kaalbye Shipping Ukraine, flagged in Belize, and her crew is from Russia, Latvia and the Ukraine. At the time, they were transporting 33 T-72 tanks, ammunition, small arms and associated equipment to Mombasa, Kenya.

As the pirates transited toward the harbor city of Hobyo, Somalia, several U.S. Navy ships quickly converged on Faina to ensure the safety of the crew and also prevent pirates from off-loading the ship's cargo.

Even more dramatic was the hijacking of the Liberian-flagged oil tanker MV Sirius Star Nov. 15, 2008. The Saudi-owned, supertanker was attacked about 450 nautical miles off the coast of Kenya and forced to proceed to anchorage near Harardhere, Somalia.

"Our presence in the region is helping deter and disrupt criminal attacks off the Somali coast, but the situation with the Sirius Star clearly indicates the pirates' ability to adapt their tactics and methods of attack," said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander, Combined Maritime Forces.

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), mariners have reported more than 100 pirate attacks, including 30 successful hijackings off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden in the past. By the end of November 2008, pirates held 14 vessels and more than 330 crew members hostage.

A Coalition Presence in the Gulf of Aden

In February 2002, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) established the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a coalition of more than 20 nations that operate throughout the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and parts of the Indian Ocean. The coalition's mission is to deter destabilizing activities to create a lawful maritime order by defeating terrorism, deterring piracy, reducing illegal trafficking of people and drugs as well as promoting the maritime environment as a safe place for mariners with legitimate business.

To accomplish this mission, CMF established three principle task forces divided by geographic location: Combined Task Force (CTF) 158, CTF 152 and CTF 150.

While CTF 158 and 152 operate inside the Arabian Gulf, CTF 150 is a multinational task force that operates in the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

Established near the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, CTF 150 was created to counter terrorism, prevent smuggling and conduct MSO to help develop security in the maritime environment.

"CTF 150's mission is to provide a lawful maritime order and deny the use of the sea to terrorists and violent extremists," said Gortney. "We do this through our presence within the region."

Coalition ships monitor the presence of small skiffs around fishing and merchant vessels as well as provide assistance to regional mariners when requested.

"Fisherman tell us when we are out patrolling the waters near them, the pirates are usually at bay," said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Marko Fusilero, a VBSS team member aboard USS Ramage (DDG 61). "It's nice to hear we're making a difference."

USS Peleliu (LHA 5) and the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit received a distress call, Aug. 8, 2008, from the Singaporean cargo ship Gem of Kilakarai in the Gulf of Aden, which reported being under attack from pirates aboard two skiffs. The pirates carried out their assault with small arms and rifle-launched grenades.

Only 10-miles away from the attack, Peleliu launched three helicopters, which successfully drove away the pirates.

A few weeks earlier USS Momsen (DDG 92) and its embarked helicopter detachment provided assistance to the crew of a German cargo ship that had been released by pirates. Momsen provided food and water after MV Lehmann Timber experienced engine trouble.

These incidents not only demonstrated the U.S. commitment to create a lawful maritime order in CTF 150, but also the capability of U.S. forces to respond on a moment's notice to any situation.

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command's Approach – MSO

To help deter piracy and other destabilizing activities off the Coast of Somalia, ships assigned to U.S. 5th Fleet patrol the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean and conduct maritime security operations (MSO).

Naval forces conduct MSO to help develop conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

"Conducting maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf contributes to security and stability in the region," said Capt. Brian Smith, commander, Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group, currently deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. "We work closely with our coalition partners to achieve the same objective - ensuring the free flow of commerce across the seas. Together we are able to respond to any threat that might interfere with achieving that objective."

Coalition forces also conduct interaction patrols (IPATS), an element of MSO that helps generate support and awareness among commercial vessels sailing in the region of U.S. efforts to ensure a safe and secure maritime environment.

"When we go out to conduct approach and assist visits, our main goal is to establish better relationships with the mariners and locals who sail in the area," said Information Systems Technician 2nd Class (SW) Luke Ortega, a Ramage visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team member. "We let them know we're here to help."

VBSS teams conduct IPATS, which focus on putting a friendly face on the U.S. mission in the region. These visits to local mariners help to deter illegal activities on the high seas, as well as reassure them that coalition forces are operating in the region to ensure the sea lanes remain open and are safe to navigate.

Since arriving in the region in September, Ramage has been conducting IPATS alongside some 36 coalition ships at sea. These visits to merchant vessels, or dhows, help local mariners understand what coalition ships are doing in the region to ensure security and stability on the seas.

"Our boarding teams allow naval forces to engage in personable and positive communications with mariners and fishermen aboard vessels in the area," Lt.j.g. Trevor Knight, a boarding officer assigned to Ramage. "There is no replacement for face-to-face engagement, and our interactions with the local fishermen and mariners have been nothing but positive."

The personal touch of the VBSS interaction patrols has allowed the coalition to gain critical information on a broad range of threats to creating a lawful maritime order.

"We've been able to determine a normal operating rhythm in the area, and determination of the regional pattern of life helps coalition forces identify suspicious activity," said Knight. "Simple things such as emergency contact information, fresh water and assistance with engine repairs can lead to information on human trafficking, piracy and drug smuggling."

Ensign Dan Ciulla serves as one of the VBSS officers aboard USS Nitze (DDG 94) and leads the ship's team conducting the IPATs.

"Our mission out here is three-fold: We want to make our presence known, render assistance if needed and create a friendly environment with the local mariners," said Ciulla. "By sending a small team in the RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat), we are able to appear less intimidating."

"If we go out and make just one dhow's crew feel comfortable and build their trust in the coalition and its mission, then our job has been a success," he said. "In the long run, we will build a network of support that will prove to be beneficial."

One of Nitze's boarding team members, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Anthony Machulcz, expressed similar sentiments.

"I think it's good that the local mariners see we are out here to help," he said. "We give them food, water and ways to contact us if they need to. After we complete our visit, they seem very happy we've come aboard."

USS Russell (DDG 59) Sailors also responded to a call to render assistance and save lives when they aided a small boat in distress between Bossasso, Somalia, and the Yemeni coast. The 45-foot small boat experienced serious engine problems, leaving it unable to operate at sea, and had been adrift for two days. There were approximately 70 personnel on board the vessel, some of whom were in need of immediate medical attention. Seven personnel were transferred to Russell and treated for severe dehydration and malnutrition.

"The seas are the 'global commons,'" said Smith. "Our goal here is to strengthen and build relationships, and help mariners feel safer. That's the essence of maritime security operations - coalition nations working together to keep the maritime environment safe."

Maritime Security Area Patrol
In response to a significantly increasing number of attacks in the region on merchant vessels, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) took a more robust approach to deterring piracy and other destabilizing activities in the Gulf of Aden.

Gortney, in his capacity as Commander, CMF, directed the establishment of a maritime security patrol area (MSPA) in the Gulf of Aden, Aug. 22, 2008, a moveable area overlaid within the internationally designated traffic corridor.

The MSPA is in support of the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) call for international assistance to discourage attacks on commercial vessels and is designed to give the IMO time to develop an international accord that will ultimately lead to a long-term solution. Merchant mariners have been actively encouraged to travel through this traffic corridor and employ reasonable self-protection measures to deter piracy attempts.

CTF 150 warships from the United States; United Kingdom; France; Denmark; Pakistan; Canada; and maritime patrol aircraft from the United States; United Kingdom; France; Germany; and Spain, patrol this geographic area in the Gulf of Aden on a routine basis. They have been joined by ships from Malaysia, India, Russia, South Korea, NATO and the European Union.

NAVCENT is working with a number of international organizations such as the IMO and IMB to encourage mariners to transit through the MSPA.

Since the MSPA was formed, CTF 150 has helped thwart more than 30 piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden. But criminals have still successfully targeted several vessels in the region.

"The MSPA is an advisory route," said Royal Navy Commodore Tim Lowe, deputy commander, CMF. "We cannot guarantee security as it is a huge area – 205,000 square miles in the Gulf of Aden alone."

NAVCENT is encouraging mariners to take necessary precautions to improve the safety of their ship and crew.

"Mariners must remain vigilant," said CTF-150 commander, Danish Royal Navy Commodore Per Bigum Christensen. "A ship's master and her crew are the first line of defense for their own ship."

Gortney suggested that the shipping industry consider hiring security teams for their vessels especially given the vast size of the area to be patrolled.

"The coalition does not have the resources to provide 24-hour protection for the vast number of merchant vessels in the region," said Gortney. "The shipping companies must take measures to defend their vessels and their crews."

This fact has been highlighted by merchant mariners who have taken proactive measures to defend their vessels, and have thwarted attacks as a result.

Such measures have included deterring attacks simply by keeping a sharp lookout for suspicious small boats operating in the vicinity of their ships, increasing speed and maneuvering to avoid small craft and even repelling would-be boarders with water from fire hoses.

"As long as private security firms stick to the rule of law, it could be a good thing," said Lowe. "Having an armed sentry on the deck is quite a good deterrent factor."

According to an Associated Press report, some insurance companies have offered to cut premiums by 40 percent if shipping companies hire security. Insurance premiums for vessels transiting the Gulf of Aden have been raised tenfold since the recent surge in piracy.

The U.S. government, together with the international community at large, is also working to provide a mechanism for bringing the pirates to justice and for holding them accountable for their actions.

"We need to maintain this momentum, and can't get fooled into thinking that by deterring attacks the problem has gone away," said Lowe. "The answer to this problem lies ashore. The way to do this is for the international community to work with Somalia to help them overcome their problems and establish the rule of law."

Although piracy may continue to be a problem into the foreseeable future, U.S. and coalition forces are committed to working with the international community to help develop a more permanent solution to this problem.

"The U.S. is very concerned about the increasing acts of piracy at sea off the coast of Somalia," said Gortney. "The U.S. Navy will continue to work in the region to help ensure a lawful maritime order and make sure the sea lines of communication remain open."

Operations in the NAVCENT and CMF area of operations are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States and coalition commitment to security, which promotes stability and global prosperity.

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Schaeffer, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command- U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs.)

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US Airpower Summary, Jan. 15, 2009: Receivers Rely on Refuelers

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A KC-135 Stratotanker stands ready at an air base in Southwest Asia to fly a refueling mission. The KC-135 provides aerial refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied nation aircraft operating in the Central Command area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Darnell T. Cannady.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Jan. 15, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with coalition ground forces in Iraq and International Security Assistance Force troops in Afghanistan during operations Jan. 14, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

In Afghanistan, an Air Force B-1B Lancer, several Navy F/A-18E Super Hornets and other coalition aircraft destroyed a large enemy compound near Sangin with several types of precision guided bombs. The compound was the source of recent mortar attacks on a nearby friendly base, including one that took place just prior to the strike.

Near Gereshk, a coalition aircraft dropped a precision munition on an enemy building where anti-Afghan forces were barricaded and firing rocket propelled grenades and small arms at coalition soldiers. Nearby, Navy F/A-18C Hornets performed several shows of force to deter additional enemy activity.

An F/A-18E destroyed a compound in Shurakian with a guided bomb unit-32. Enemy personnel were using the compound as cover as they fired on a coalition patrol.

Joint terminal attack controllers assigned to coalition ground units verified the success of these missions.

In total, 43 close-air-support missions were flown in support of the ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

Five Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Afghanistan. Additionally, four Navy and coalition aircraft performed tactical reconnaissance.

In Iraq, coalition aircraft flew 42 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-three Air Force and Navy ISR aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Iraq. Additionally, three Air Force and coalition aircraft performed tactical reconnaissance.

Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft and C-17 Globemaster IIIs provided intra-theater heavy airlift, helping to sustain operations throughout Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa.

Approximately 110 airlift sorties were flown, more than 400 tons of cargo were delivered and about 3,300 passengers were transported.

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

On Jan. 13, Air Force and coalition aerial refueling crews flew 48 sorties and off-loaded approximately 3.4 million pounds of fuel to 248 receiving aircraft.

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

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