Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pentagon: Decision Pending on Status of 16 Suspected Somali Pirates

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2009 -- The 16 suspected pirates captured by American ships yesterday and Feb. 11 have been transferred to the USNS Lewis and Clark, defense officials said yesterday.

The suspects -- all believed to be Somali -- are being treated properly and humanely, Defense Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said during a Pentagon news conference.

The suspects will “remain aboard that ship until information and evidence is assembled and evaluated and a decision is ultimately made regarding their future transfer,” Morrell said.

Servicemembers in Task Force 151 -- the anti-piracy group operating in the Gulf of Aden -- will compile the evidence in each case and determine if there is ample evidence to recommend prosecution.

“If there isn't, we will likely repatriate these individuals -- of course, minus the weapons that they were apprehended with,” Morrell said.

The United States has a memorandum of understanding with Kenya on the piracy issue. Under the agreement, any pirates captured would be brought to justice in Kenya. Prosecuting these men will show there is a price to criminal behavior on the high seas, Defense Department officials said.

“The commander of the task force is ultimately responsible for determining whether or not these individuals will be taken to Kenya for adjudication or whether they -- some of them or all of them -- can be released,” Morrell said.

The U.S. decision is being made even as a Russian cruiser seized 10 suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The Russian cruiser is part of a multinational effort to stop piracy in the region. The ships operate under a United Nations Security Council resolution.

“Overall, this speaks to the fact that the task force is aggressively patrolling this body of water as, frankly, are many other nations that are not a part of this task force, all in response to an international cry to do more to protect cargo and other material and individuals being shipped through there,” Morrell said.

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

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Combat Camera Video: US Marines Patrol Local Iraqi Villages Near the Syrian Border, Part 2

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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll of U.S. Marines with C Co., 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion patrolling Iraqi villages near the Syrian border and conducting a vehicle check point in Ninewa province, Iraq. Scenes include Marines knocking on doors, patrolling the town and the surrounding desert floor and searching a vehicle. (Video by Sgt. Rome M. Lazarus; Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq. Length: 3:15.)

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Friday, February 13, 2009

US Airpower Summary, Feb. 13, 2009: C-130s Sustain Transport Missions

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A C-130 Hercules prepares to depart on a sortie to Iraq from a base in Southwest Asia. The C-130 provides intra-theater heavy airlift, delivering tons of cargo and transporting passengers in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Raheem Moore.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Feb. 13, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with coalition ground forces in Iraq and International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan during operations Feb. 12, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

In Afghanistan, a Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet used a guided bomb unit-38 to strike anti-Afghan forces firing at coalition troops from a mountain side near Oruzgan. The Super Hornet also performed shows of force expending flares to suppress hostile fire and deter remaining enemy forces.

A Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet engaged enemy gunmen in a compound using a GBU-38 near Musa Qala. The strike destroyed the enemy's fortified position inside the structure being used as a platform for rocket-propelled grenade and automatic weapon fire directed at a coalition unit.

Near Sangin, a Super Hornet and a coalition aircraft flew shows of force to deter enemy forces while flying aerial overwatch for coalition ground troops. The coalition troops had been receiving hostile fire prior to the maneuver.

A coalition aircraft also flew a show of force in the area of Lashkar Gah in order to discourage enemy forces from launching indirect fire attacks from a position they had used in the past.

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

In total, 57 close-air-support missions were flown in support of the ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

Eleven 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 43 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-eight Air Force and Navy ISR aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Iraq. Additionally, two Air Force 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 120 airlift sorties were flown, more than 475 tons of cargo was delivered and about 2,900 passengers were transported.

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

On Feb. 11, Air Force tanker crews flew 43 sorties and off-loaded approximately 2.5 million pounds of fuel to 189 receiving aircraft.

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

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OEF Summary, Feb. 13, 2009: Afghan Commandos Liberate Hostages, Detain Militants, Destroy Bomb

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2009 -- Afghan commandos liberated three Taliban hostages, detained six armed militants and destroyed a roadside bomb in recent operations, military officials reported.

At a vehicle checkpoint in Afghanistan’s Farah province yesterday, a vehicle approached a combined forces checkpoint. The driver failed to heed warnings to stop and attempted to breech the checkpoint, so Afghan commandos opened fire.

One wounded militant was treated by Afghan commandos and coalition forces medics for minor injuries and was taken to a local clinic for further treatment. He was reported to be in stable condition. The commandos detained five others and confiscated an AK-47 assault rifle.

Occupants of a second vehicle were seen trying to discard weapons as they approached the checkpoint. Commandos searched their vehicle and found bomb-making materials, three AK-47s and a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher with three rounds and four boosters. Three militants were detained.

Three occupants of the first vehicle were discovered to be hostages being held for ransom. One of the men was a local shepherd who insurgents had planned to execute. The other two are a father and son, one of whom was forced to drive the vehicle. All three hostages were released.

In other news, Afghan commandos assisted by coalition forces destroyed a roadside bomb in Paktia province’s Zormat district Feb. 10.

The combined forces were conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol when the commandos discovered the bomb, made from a pressure plate and a container filled with explosive material.

After searching the area, the commandos destroyed the bomb in place. No military or civilian casualties were reported.

(Compiled from U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)

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OIF Summary, Feb. 13, 2009: Troops in Iraq Find Bomb, Seize Weapons

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2009 -- Iraqi and U.S. forces foiled a bomb attack and seized stockpiles of weapons today and yesterday, military officials reported.

In southern Baghdad’s Rashid district today, Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers found a bomb in a plastic bag hung from the door handle of a shop in the district’s Hadar community. An Iraqi explosive ordnance disposal team responded to safely disarm it.

Also in the Rashid district today, Iraqi and U.S. soldiers confiscated two AK-47 assault rifles in the Saydiyah neighborhood.

In the Rashid district’s Ghartan community yesterday, Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers found 12 AK-47 assault rifles and three large machine guns.

Later that day in the Arab Jabour neighborhood, Iraqi and U.S. soldiers questioned three people in connection with a cache of four rifles, two shotguns, a pistol, two plate carriers, AK-47 assault rifle magazines, two video cameras with remote controls and tripods, and three scopes. Two of them were released after it was determined they were not involved with the cache, and the patrol transported the third suspect to a joint security station for processing.

Also yesterday, Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers found a hand grenade in the Masafee community. An Iraqi EOD team responded to handle it.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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Honest Abe Was Also Captain Lincoln

Living History:

Living History:
EDITOR'S NOTE: Revisionist historians would have you believe that one of the greatest American presidents served without having any military background during a time of deep national division and civil war....
ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 13, 2009 -- Many people know Abraham Lincoln as the 16th American president or the man who brought an end to slavery. But not many know of his military service.
Abraham Lincoln, who is considered by many historians and political scientists to be the greatest U.S. president, was born 200 years ago yesterday in a one-room Kentucky log cabin.

“Honest Abe” was the real thing -- a self-educated man of the people who rose to greatness, guiding the country through the long and bloody Civil War that marked his presidency.

Many historians believe the outcome of the war might have been different if Lincoln had not been president. Over the years, historians have speculated that without Lincoln’s political skills, northern states would have agreed to make peace rather than seek victory on the battlefield.

Between his inauguration in 1861 and his assassination in 1865, Lincoln became a student of military tactics and strategy. However, Lincoln was not without military experience of his own. In 1832, he served in the Illinois militia for three months during the Black Hawk War.

Lincoln, known for his humor and willingness to poke fun at himself, downplayed his military service. He once declared in a congressional debate: “I fought, bled, and came away. … I had a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes.”

In addition to serving as a private, Lincoln also was elected company commander. During this time, many militia companies elected their officers.

Thirty years later, his three months in the field as an officer and a private likely influenced his attitude toward the great armies of citizen-soldiers -- who fought on both sides in the Civil War.

As the nation celebrates the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War is not far behind. It probably will be commemorated, in the words of Lincoln’s second inaugural address, now chiseled on the walls of his memorial, “with malice toward none, with charity for all.”

(Report by Renee Hylton, historian for the National Guard Bureau.)

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Combat Camera Video: US Marines Patrol Local Iraqi Villages Near the Syrian Border, Part 1

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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll of U.S. Marines with Charlie Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (1st LAR), patrolling local Iraqi villages near the Syrian border on December 2, 2008 Ninewa province, Iraq. 1st LAR is patrolling the Ninewa province in support of Operation Defeat al-Qaida in the North (DAN) II, seeking out signs of insurgents activity and weapons cache in the area. (Video by Sgt. Rome M. Lazarus; Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq. Length: 5:17.)

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Satellite Debris May Affect Space Operations, US Military Leader Says

News in Balance
Pictured above is an artist's impression showing about 4 per cent of the objects orbiting the Earth. (Uncredited image.)

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2009 -- The collision yesterday of two communication satellites has left a debris pattern that may affect future space operations, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a symposium here today co-sponsored by the George C. Marshall Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Space Enterprise Council.

U.S. Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, speaking on the national security ramifications of the collision between an American and a Russian satellite, said the event shows the need for better information sharing and space situational awareness.

The American satellite, owned by Iridium Satellite of Bethesda, Md., weighed about 1,200 pounds and collided with a Russian satellite that had been nonoperational for more than a decade. The crash happened 491 miles above Siberia. The collision was confirmed when the active U.S. satellite did not report in and the debris field was picked up by sensors.

“My worry is that debris field is going to be up there for about a year, so we’re going to have to play a little bit of dodge-ball,” Cartwright said. “It’s going to be a problem because it will take a month or two for the debris to settle down and for us to understand the scope of the field to be able to track it and understand where at least the larger objects are.”

The debris will be around for some time because the satellites were in a high orbit around the earth, Cartwright said. Once the debris field has stabilized, there will be a pattern that all countries can use to navigate around, he said.

“It’s a field of debris out there that’s going to be out there for many years,” he said. “The good news is once it’s stabilized, it’s relatively predictable. The bad news is, it’s a large area. If we’re denied that large area for use, it becomes a problem.”

Many of the commercial and national security satellites, particularly communications satellites, rely on certain spacing between other objects in order to be effective, Cartwright said. Losing a spot because of debris could have a financial or operational impact on anyone wanting to use the space, he said.

“If that’s going to be long term, that’s a problem for us,” he said.

The general said he hopes the incident will result in a better exchange of satellite orbit data between countries.
“I’d like to be able to find a way, not only with Russia, but with other nations to make sure that our exchange of data is more complete,” he said. “We would be remiss to not take advantage of this and turn it into good.”

The growing number of satellites require improved information sharing, Cartwright said. “It is a crowded place out there today,” he said. “There is just no way around that. The need, first and foremost, for better situational awareness out there is something you have to actively pursue.”

The need for space situational awareness has changed drastically in recent years, the general said. “It was acceptable five years ago to know something was out there and check on it every couple weeks,” he said. “Those days are just not tolerable anymore.”

Whereas countries previously could wait a few days or weeks to get satellites stabilized in their orbits, the current congestion in space pushes that time-frame down to seconds and minutes, he said.

(Report by Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump, Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office.)

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Combat Camera Video: React to Contact Class, Camp Diwaniyah, Iraq

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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll of U.S. soldiers and 8th Iraq Army conducting a react to contact class, Camp Diwaniyah, Iraq, Jan. 25, 2009. Scenes include the 8th Iraq Army practicing basic patrol procedures with reaction to contact, Iraq soldiers receiving contact they conduct flanking maneuvers to defeat the enemy. The training was done to help prepare the Iraq army when U.S. Forces withdraw from the country. (Video by Staff Sgt. David Bertles; Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq. Length: 2:57.)

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US Army Recruiting Faces Major Challenges

News in Balance

News in Balance:
Education, health and conduct problems disqualify seven of 10 military applicants.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2009 -- Despite challenges in recruiting 17- to 24-year-olds, Army leaders said yesterday the service is on track to meet recruiting goals this year, and will not lower standards to do so.

The Army faces major challenges in recruiting from the under-24 demographic group, due to education, health and conduct deficiencies, said Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commanding general of U.S. Army Accessions Command.

Those challenges, he told reporters at a Pentagon media roundtable discussion, disqualify seven of 10 military applicants.

“We think education is a strategic issue for the country,” Freakley said. “Nationally, we have a 70 percent high school graduation rate. We have not lowered our standards, but the goals from the Office of the Secretary of Defense are that 90 percent of those who come in the all-volunteer force have graduated from high school.”

Last year, 83 percent of Army recruits were high school graduates.

“Our second challenge is with health,” Freakley said. “Of 32 million 17- to 24-year-olds, 3.2 million of them are childhood obese -- that’s 10 percent. Several years ago, one in 20 Americans was obese, but that’s closing in soon on one in four.”

Freakley said many of those 3.2 million have childhood diabetes or muscular skeletal issues and that the youth of today have 8 percent less bone mass, which translates to stress fractures from running and more youth using prescription drugs.

The third issue the Army is facing is bad conduct. Young people disqualify themselves from entering the military because of events that happened in middle or high school.

“We’re trying to change the landscape as we look and work in this environment,” the general said. “Educationally, we have a program, ‘March to Success’ which helps young people get online and do better with standardized tests.

“We have a ‘Planning for Life’ program where we go into schools and talk about strong bodies, strong minds, strong souls and try to keep them focused on completing high school,” Freakley added. “Our recruiters are getting into schools, serving as role models and counselors, setting standards and examples, so we’re working on this in every way we can.”

To put the matter in context, Freakley cited two famous war heroes. “Audie Murphy, World War II Medal of Honor awardee, and Alvin York, World War I Medal of Honor awardee, would not be eligible to come into today’s Army,” he said.

Maj. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commander of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, said the Army took in 170,000 men and women last year, which is about the size of the population of Newport News, Va.

So far in fiscal 2009, which began in October, the regular Army is at about 105 percent of goal, and the Army Reserve is at 112 percent of its goal, Bostick said.

“It’s the best start we’ve had in about six years,” he said. “I’m fully confident we’ll accomplish the 78,000 mission for the regular Army and 26,500 mission for the Army Reserves.”

Bostick said recruiting has gone especially well in the medical and Special Forces areas, adding that in 2008 a medical recruiting brigade consisting of five medical battalions scattered throughout the country was stood up. He also said the Army has achieved 100 percent success with Special Forces recruiting and created a special missions brigade. Recruitment of chaplains and warrant officers also has been high.

While the poor economy has created hardships on soldiers as it has every American, Bostick said, historically, as unemployment rises, the Army tends to see improvement in some areas of recruiting. Yet, “less than three out of 10 young men and women are qualified to serve, so we still must deal with that, whether it’s education, obesity or misconduct as they were growing up.”

Even so, he said, the quality of the U.S. soldier has never been better.

“Everyone who serves in the Army is fully qualified to serve. One hundred percent of our soldiers have high school diplomas or GEDs,” Bostick said. “The aptitude of our soldiers is higher than the average American walking the streets throughout the cities and towns across America, and eight of 10 soldiers require no waivers.”

The general added that the Army has what he considers a very sound process that looks at young Americans and makes the determination that if they made a mistake in their lives and recovered from it, they deserve an opportunity to serve.

For potential recruits who’ve made more serious mistakes, Bostick said, the applicants go through a 10-level decision process ending with him or another general officer who makes the final determination on suitability, whether the waiver is for medical or character reasons.

Maj. Gen. Arthur M. Bartell, who is charged with recruiting officers as commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command, said the Army was on track to meet its mission of commissioning 4,500 officers for fiscal 2009. For fiscal 2010, that number will increase to 5,100, and in fiscal 2011, officer growth will top out at 5,350.

“More than 60 percent of our lieutenants come through the ROTC program,” he said. “In a word, what makes the ROTC experience special is diversity – that’s geographic, educational, gender and ethnic diversity. Diversity exposes young Americans to a community of ideas that we find in our traditional college campus environment.”

Characteristics of athleticism, high mental aptitude and leadership are characteristics the Army wants its future officers to possess, he said, adding that ROTC is present at 273 colleges and universities and represented in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Bartell said the Army hasn’t had to change its standards of quality for new officers, nor does he see that changing in the future, despite recruiting challenges.

(Report by J.D. Leipold, Army News Service.)

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OIF Summary, Feb. 12, 2009: Troops in Iraq Detain Suspects, Seize Weapons

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2009 -- Iraqi security forces arrested wanted criminals and, aided by U.S. soldiers, seized several weapons caches in Iraq on Feb. 9 and 10, military officials reported.

Iraqi soldiers arrested three suspects with outstanding warrants during operations Feb. 10 in northwestern Baghdad’s Mansour district. The suspects reportedly are linked to terrorist activities.

In other operations, U.S. and Iraqi forces seized multiple weapons caches and unexploded ordnance throughout southern Baghdad’s Rashid district Feb. 9:
  • Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers discovered several hundred linked 7.62 mm machine gun rounds and a 60 mm mortar round in the Abu Tshir community. Iraqi police transported the munitions to an Iraqi security forces facility.

  • Led by a tip from an Iraqi civilian, Iraqi police and U.S. airmen seized five bags of ammunition in a canal in the Arab Jabour area.

  • Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers discovered a mine and a mortar round in the Masafee community. An Iraqi explosive ordnance disposal team safely removed the munitions.

  • Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers seized a 107 mm rocket in the Bayaa community. An Iraqi EOD unit safely removed the rocket.

  • Iraqi police and U.S. soldiers found 16 AK-47 assault rifles and four 60 mm mortar rounds in the Risalah community. The weapons were transported to an Iraqi security forces facility.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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US Warship Nabs More Suspected Pirates in Gulf of Aden

Dispatches from the Front
News from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet Combined Maritime Forces.

Dispatches from the Front:

USS VELLA GULF, At Sea, Feb 12, 2009 -- The guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) intercepted and apprehended nine suspected pirates today in the Gulf of Aden after responding to a distress call from a nearby merchant vessel.

At approximately 4 a.m. local time, the Indian-flagged Motor Vessel Premdivya sent a distress call to all ships in the area reporting that she had been fired upon by a small skiff, and suspected pirates were attempting to board it.

Upon reaching the suspect skiff, the helicopter crew from Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42, embarked aboard Vella Gulf, signaled for the skiff to stop immediately. When the skiff failed to stop, the helicopter fired one warning shot. A second warning shot was fired when the suspects continued to flee.

Once the suspected pirates brought the skiff to a complete stop following the second warning shot, Vella Gulf, and the guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) closed immediately to intercept the skiff. Visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams from both warships conducted a boarding and found weapons, to include one rocket propelled grenade launcher.

The suspected pirates were apprehended and brought on board Vella Gulf, where they were processed and are being held until they are transfered to a temporary holding facility on board the supply ship USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE-1). They will remain aboard Lewis and Clark until information and evidence is assembled and evaluated and a decision is made regarding their further transfer.

This is the second apprehension of suspected pirates for Vella Gulf in less than 24 hours. There are currently 16 suspected pirates apprehended by the U.S. Navy.

Vella Gulf is the flagship for CTF 151, which is a multinational task force that 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.

(Report from a Combined Maritime Forces Public Affairs news release.)

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Combat Camera: US Warship Nabs Pirates in Gulf of Aden

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GULF OF ADEN (Feb. 11, 2009) Visit, board, search and seizure team members (VBSS) in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) from the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) close in to apprehend suspected pirates. Vella Gulf is the flagship for Combined Task Force 151, a multi-national task force conducting counterpiracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. It was established to create a maritime lawful order and develop security in the maritime environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky.)

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GULF OF ADEN (Feb. 11, 2009) Crew members from the Marshall Islands -flagged cargo ship, M/V Polaris, climb aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) to identify suspected pirates apprehended by the Vella Gulf visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team. Vella Gulf is the flagship for Combined Task Force 151, a multi-national task force conducting counterpiracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. It was established to create a maritime lawful order and develop security in the maritime environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky.)

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GULF OF ADEN (Feb. 11, 2009) Visit, board, search and seizure team members (VBSS) in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) from the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) close in to apprehend suspected pirates. Vella Gulf is the flagship for Combined Task Force 151, a multi-national task force conducting counterpiracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. It was established to create a maritime lawful order and develop security in the maritime environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky.)

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GULF OF ADEN (Feb. 11, 2009) Visit, board, search and seizure team members (VBSS) in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) from the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) close in to apprehend suspected pirates. Vella Gulf is the flagship for Combined Task Force 151, a multi-national task force conducting counterpiracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. It was established to create a maritime lawful order and develop security in the maritime environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky.)

CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGE
GULF OF ADEN (Feb. 11, 2009) Sailors aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) conduct bridge operations while suspected pirates are being apprehended by the shipís visit, board, search and seizure team (VBSS). Vella Gulf is the flagship for Combined Task Force 151, a multi-national task force conducting counterpiracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. It was established to create a maritime lawful order and develop security in the maritime environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky.)

Dispatches from the Front:

USS VELLA GULF, At Sea, Feb. 12, 2009 -- The guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) apprehended seven pirates in the Gulf of Aden today after responding to a distress call from a nearby merchant vessel.

The event marks the first time CTF-151 has apprehended suspected pirates.

At approximately 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, the Marshall Islands-flagged Motor Vessel Polaris sent a distress call to all ships in the area reporting that a small skiff containing seven suspected pirates had attempted a forcible boarding of their vessel using a ladder. Polaris crewmembers removed the ladder before pirates could come aboard.

Vella Gulf closed immediately with the M/V Polaris and intercepted a skiff matching the description given by the motor vessel. The skiff contained individuals fitting the physical descriptions given by Polaris crewmembers. A Vella Gulf visit, board, search and seizure team (VBSS) conducted a consensual boarding and found several weapons.

M/V Polaris rendezvoused with Vella Gulf and provided positive visual identification of the suspected pirates. The suspected pirates were brought on board Vella Gulf, where they were processed and are being held until they transfer to a temporary holding facility onboard the supply ship USNS Lewis and Clark.

CTF 151 is a multinational task force that 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.

(Report from a Combined Maritime Forces Public Affairs news release.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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DESRON 9 Ready to Support US Maritime Strategy

Focus on Defense

Focus on Defense:

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea, Feb. 12, 2009 -- Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9, part of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, completed Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) recertification, Feb. 5, off the coast of San Clemente Island.

Having re-attained this certification allows the destroyers USS Shoup (DDG 86) and USS Momsen (DDG 92) to support the nation's maritime strategy by coming to the aid of forces ashore under enemy fire.

NSFS is an exercise in which destroyers and cruisers train to fire deck guns ashore in support of ground troops.

"This exercise is an important test of a ship's firing capabilities," said Lt. Lawrence Repass, a Chicago native and prospective training and readiness officer for DESRON 9. "There is a slim margin of error involved with firing over the heads of friendly forces and the point of this is to ensure ships can hit their targets without endangering civilians or our troops."

According to Repass, the exercise began in January when the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific (EWTGPAC) visited Shoup and Momsen. EWTGPAC monitored the skills of the ships' firing teams, ensuring that they were ready for the test at sea.

The live test was a scenario-based exercise in which Shoup and Momsen fired their five-inch, 62-caliber guns at practice targets. The destroyers were presented with the challenge of having to use indirect fire to shoot at targets that may not even be visible from the ship. Momsen and Shoup fired approximately 45 rounds each Feb. 3 and Feb. 5, respectively.

In order to hit targets at great distances with shells, the ships relied on the report of a ground-based observer. The observer radioed the coordinates of the enemy to the ship which then used a global grid system to aim its cannons and eliminate the threat.

"We have accomplished our mission in total; it has been a grand success," said Repass. "In reality, everyone is involved in this. It takes a big team effort to make this exercise happen."

The completion of NSFS was a major step forward for DESRON 9 in accomplishing their Sustainment Exercise (SUSTAINEX). "The overall purpose of the SUSTAINEX is to ensure that the ships of DESRON 9 are major combat ready," said Repass. "They always have been, and always will be ready for action."

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean Gallagher, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs.)

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