Saturday, February 28, 2009

US Airpower Summary, Feb. 28, 2009: B-1B Destroys Enemy Narcotics Facility

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A mission-bound B-1B Lancer lifts off from the runway of an air base in Southwest Asia. The B-1B is a multi-role, long-range bomber capable of flying intercontinental missions without refueling. It can perform a variety of missions, including that of carrying conventional weapons for theater operations. (U. S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Olsen.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Feb. 28, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with coalition ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan during operations Feb. 27, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

In Afghanistan, an Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber used guided bomb unit-38s to destroy an anti-Afghan forces narcotics facility in southern Afghanistan. The strike took place as part of Coalition-Afghan National Army drug interdiction efforts, helping to reduce the flow of enemy funding from illicit drug production.

An Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft system engaged a group of enemy personnel with a Hellfire missile near Lashkar Gah. The UAV launched its strike in response to an enemy attack on coalition forces.

Near Bari Kowt, an Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II flew a show of force near a coalition observation post after ground forces starting receiving small arms fire. Enemy fire ceased upon the aircraft's arrival.

A UK Royal Air Force GR-9 Harrier performed a show of force near Tarin Kowt after a coalition vehicle was disabled by an IED strike. To provide an additional deterrent to enemy attack, the Harrier remained with the convoy to ensure a safe withdrawal.

Near Orgun, an A-10 conducted a show of force to put a stop to an enemy attack. The A-10 arrived shortly after coalition ground troops had taken rocket propelled grenade and automatic weapons fire.

An A-10 carried out a show of force near Ghazni after a coalition unit spotted individuals acting suspiciously near a supply route through a civilian settlement. After ground observers determined it likely that the individuals were preparing to place an improvised explosive device, the aircraft carried out the maneuver to discourage the group.

Coalition aircraft carried out several other shows of force to deter enemy activity in locations throughout Afghanistan including Soltani, Lashkar Gah, Orgun, Now Zad, and Ghazni. Shows of force provided an additional level of presence to enhance security for coalition operations and Afghan civilians without having to employ weapons.

Joint Terminal Attack Controllers assigned to coalition units verified the success of each mission.

In total, 60 close air support missions were flown in support of the ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

Sixteen Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Afghanistan.

In Iraq, F-16C Fighting Falcons provided shows of force to deter insurgent gunfire during an Iraqi Army medevac operation near Ba'qubah. The jets also helped maintain security for the operation by performing aerial overwatch of the landing zone.

Additional F-16s flew shows of force and expended flares near Ba'qubah during other operations in the area. The maneuvers took place during two simultaneous ground engagements, suppressing enemy mortar and small arms fire as the Iraqi army closed in on and captured insurgent positions.

Coalition aircraft flew 28 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-two Air Force and Navy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Iraq. In addition, three Air Force and coalition aircraft performed tactical reconnaissance.

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

Approximately 135 airlift sorties were flown; more than 600 tons of cargo was delivered; and about 3,125 passengers were transported.

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

On February 26, U.S. Air Force aerial refueling crews flew 44 sorties and off-loaded approximately 3.0 million pounds of fuel to 239 receiving aircraft.

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

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Army National Guard Cuts Recruiting, Retention Bonuses

News in Balance

News in Balance:

ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 28, 2009 -- Since 2005, the number of Army National Guard enlistees has grown due in large part to enlistment bonuses ranging from $2,000 to $15,000.

But that will change March 1 as the Army Guard restructures the way it pays out those bonuses.

“About 78 percent of people that joined the Army National Guard over the last three years received a bonus of some kind,” said Army Col. Michael Jones, commander of the Army Guard’s Strength Command, which oversees recruiting and retention issues. “That will be reduced to about 5 percent going forward.”

A drop in the number of bonuses being paid is a result of several factors.

“We had to scale back on some of the bonuses we were offering due to some funding challenges and trying to live within the appropriations we’ve been given,” said Jones, who added that the funding for those bonuses has been affected by the country’s current economic environment.

Because of that, rather than providing enlistment bonuses across the board, bonuses will be linked to specific career fields or units within the Army Guard.

“Going forward, the 5 percent of Soldiers that will receive a bonus will be targeted toward very critical skills (military occupational specialties) or units that are sourced (meaning) they’ve gotten their alert that they are going to be deployed,” said Jones.

Critical MOSs include medical, military intelligence and transportation, among others.

The change in the bonus structure will also affect those who are considering re-enlistment in the Army Guard.

“Our retention bonuses will vary as well,” said Jones. The standard re-enlistment bonus has been $15,000 for an additional six-year commitment, but “that will be paired back to $5,000 for units not deploying and if you are deploying, that will be paired down to $10,000.”

But while these financial bonuses are scaled back, other opportunities may be available for Soldiers.

“We’re looking at things that are non-monetary,” said Jones. “For example, the ability to go to Air Assault School to earn that qualification badge.”

In addition to Air Assault School, the option of going to Airborne School or other specialized schools or training may also be made available.

“A lot of Soldiers would say, ‘Hey, I’d pay $5,000 to get to go to Air Assault School. I don’t ever get to do that.’ (We’re looking at) things … that a Soldier truly wants to earn and have that on their record.”

Jones said recruiters will also continue to tout the tuition assistance and Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits offered by the Army Guard.

One recruiting program that has not been affected is the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP), which pays $1,000 to Guardmembers for referring someone who enlists and $1,000 when they ship to basic training.

“G-RAP has been one of those amazing stories of where you develop a strategy, you fund it and it absolutely comes to fruition the way you wanted it to be,” said Jones. “Right now, the amount of money for G-RAP … will remain intact.”

(Report by Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy, National Guard Bureau.)

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Combat Camera Troops Record History

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In this file photo, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adrienne Brammer documents a joint patrol between U.S. and Iraqi Army soldiers in Muhandiseen, Oct. 30, 2008. (Photo by Staff Sgt. JoAnn S. Makinano, U.S. Air Forces Central.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SATHER AIR BASE, Feb. 28, 2009 -- When thinking of the word combat, many have visions of fire fights, violent conflicts and warfare. For a few Airmen and Soldiers, the word combat means being armed with a camera.

For these members of the Multi-National Corps - Iraq C39 Joint Combat Camera (ComCam) team, based out of Baghdad, taking still and motion imagery isn’t just a hobby … it is their mission.

“My job documents history in the making and shows folks at home what’s going on here,” said Staff Sgt. Joann Makinano, MNC-I combat photojournalist. “We are unfiltered and unbiased. What we see is what you get.”

“Our job brings the mission home to people around the world,” added Tech. Sgt. Adrienne Brammer, MNC-I combat videographer and member of the 1st Combat Camera Squadron at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. “It makes it accessible to people. Plus, a combat camera team gets to go where a lot of people don’t get to go.”

Many people have probably seen imagery from the war in a magazine, newspaper, online or on television, but may have failed to realize that behind every great photo, behind every great video, stands a person behind a lens.

“After seven years with ComCam and this being my third deployment, it’s become second nature,” said Makinano, who is also deployed from the 1st CCS at Charleston AFB. “Most of the units I’ve gone out with think we’re crazy, but we are Airmen and Soldiers first. And being a member of a team means that protecting your battle buddies is a higher priority, regardless of the job.”

“There are a lot of support functions on a base that never get to see the Soldiers they are supporting in action,” said Brammer, a Sparta, Ill., native. “Families in the States don’t know what it’s about and neither do taxpayers. They never really know what those Soldiers do on a mission, but we do. And we get to tell everyone about it, good or bad.”

Being armed with a camera may not sound like the ideal way to go into combat, but these combat camera personnel wouldn’t have it any other way.

Makinano said sometimes it feels surreal to be behind the lens and that in her three deployments she has seen firsthand the progression the country of Iraq has made.

“During my last deployment in 2007, there was a lot of action and I covered combat operations like raids,” said the Stockton, Calif., native. “It was nerve-racking and I was always anticipating the worst. This deployment, we’ve covered humanitarian aid drops and dismounted patrols with Iraqi counterparts. Things have since calmed down. But you still have to maintain situational awareness because you never know what may happen that day.”

So the next time you see a photo or video from the war, don’t forget about the person who took it. Don’t forget about the person behind the lens.

(Report by Staff Sgt. Tim Beckham, U.S. Air Forces Central.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Combat Camera Video: Mosul Combat Operations

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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of infantry operations in Mosul, Iraq. Scenes include soldiers returning fire from atop a building, soldier speaking with local Iraqi, various shots of Iraqi neighborhood with smoke rising in the distance, still shots of city, soldiers in firing stance, and traveling armored vehicle. (Produced by Spc. John Gurtler, Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Rotherham; 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. Length: 3:15.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Gates Comments on Obama Iraq Drawdown Statement

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2009 -- President Barack Obama’s decision to redeploy all U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August next year emerged from a process that included input from military commanders and senior defense leaders, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.

The president made his decision after in-depth talks with commanders on the ground and in Washington, Gates old the Pentagon press corps via telephone from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

The timeline takes into consideration Multinational Force Iraq Commander Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno’s concern about security during district and sub-district elections scheduled for the summer and another national election at the end of the year.

Odierno wanted to ensure enough U.S. troops remained to help the Iraqis and still allow time to redeploy the combat brigades, Gates said, noting that an earlier drawdown would pose some “significant logistical and security issues.”

At the end of August 2010, all U.S. combat forces will be out of Iraq, but this does not mean all forces will leave. Between 35,000 and 50,000 Americans will remain in country to train and mentor the Iraqi forces or track down extremist groups in conjunction with Iraqi forces.

The president will be flexible and reserves the right to make changes, Gates said. “He clearly does not anticipate having to do that,” said he added. “He has balanced the risks of staying longer or coming out sooner.”

All those involved with the discussion believe U.S. forces will meet the president’s timeline, the secretary said.

Under the terms of the U.S.-Iraq status-of-forces agreement, all American forces must be out of the country by the end of 2011. Any U.S. presence in the country after that date would require a new agreement, Gates said.

“My own view is we should be prepared to have some very modest-sized presence for training and helping them with new equipment, and perhaps providing intelligence support and so on, beyond then,” he said. “But it’s a hypothetical, because no such request has been made and there is no indication there will be.”

The August 2010 timetable helps the Iraqis with their planning to take over security responsibilities.

“You saw in the performance of the Iraqi security forces in the provincial elections that they really did a superb job of maintaining security,” Gates said.

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

Related: Press Conference Call with Secretary Gates on President Obama's Troop Withdrawal Plan

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Pentagon Comments on Obama Iraq Drawdown Statement

News in Balance

News in Balance:
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article was released today by the Pentagon.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2009 -- U.S. combat troops will redeploy from Iraq by August 2010, leaving about 35,000 to 50,000 American forces there to attend to Iraqi troop and police training, counterterrorism and other duties, President Barack Obama told servicemembers at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., today.

“So, let me say this as plainly as I can: by Aug. 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end,” Obama told servicemembers gathered inside the post’s Goettge Memorial Field House.

“As we carry out this drawdown, my highest priority will be the safety and security of the troops and civilians in Iraq,” Obama said, noting he’d consult closely with U.S. commanders on the ground and with the Iraqi government as the redeployment gets under way.

Next month marks the sixth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, Obama said. The situation in Iraq has improved, he said, thanks in great part to the efforts and sacrifices of U.S. servicemembers. There are about 146,000 U.S. forces currently in Iraq.

However, “we cannot sustain indefinitely a commitment that has put a strain on our military and will cost the American people nearly a trillion dollars,” Obama said of the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

“America’s men and women in uniform -- so many of you -- have fought block-by-block, province-by-province, year after year, to give the Iraqis this chance to choose a better future.

“Now, we must ask the Iraqi people to seize it,” Obama said.

Violence in Iraq “has been reduced substantially” from the horrific sectarian warfare experienced there in 2006 and 2007, Obama said. Also, al-Qaida in Iraq “has been dealt a serious blow” by U.S., coalition and Iraqi security forces, the president said.

However, even considering the reduced violence, Obama acknowledged that “Iraq is not yet secure” and predicted “there will be difficult days ahead.”

There is renewed cause for hope in Iraq, Obama said. Yet, that hope, he added, depends upon “an emerging foundation” that supports efforts to transfer full responsibility to Iraqis so that they can superintend their own affairs.

And, the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, Obama said, is the first part of a three-pronged U.S. strategy “to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility.”

Obama said employing diplomacy and injecting comprehensive U.S. engagement across the broader Middle East to promote regional peace and prosperity comprise the other legs of the U.S. government’s Iraq strategy.

“After we remove our combat brigades,” Obama said, “our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government and its security forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country.”

Around 35,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops will stay in Iraq after the combat forces depart, Obama said. These remaining forces, he said, will help train, equip and advise Iraqi security forces, conduct antiterrorism missions, and protect ongoing U.S. civilian and military efforts.

There will be additional redeployments of troops from Iraq, Obama said, noting he intends to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, as part of the U.S.-Iraq status-of-forces agreement.

The decision to redeploy U.S. combat troops from Iraq in 18 months, Obama said, came out of the recently concluded Iraq strategy review conducted by his national security team. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Joint Chiefs, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command; and Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, were among senior defense officials who provided input for the Iraq review.

The Iraq strategy “is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant,” Obama said. “To achieve that goal, we will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe haven to terrorists.”

The United States, Obama continued, will “help Iraq build new ties of trade and commerce with the world” and “will forge a partnership with the people and government of Iraq that contributes to the peace and security of the [Middle East] region.”

The United States and its allies cannot rid Iraq of all the people there who oppose America or sympathize with America’s enemies, Obama said. Neither can the United States wait until conditions in Iraq are perfect, he said.

There are people who want the fledgling Iraqi democracy to fail, Obama acknowledged. Such people, he said, belong “to the forces that destroy nations and lead only to despair, and they will test our will in the months and years to come.”

The terrorists and criminals that seek to tear Iraq apart “offer not pathway to peace; and they must not stand between the people of Iraq and a future of reconciliation and hope,” Obama said.

Obama assured the Iraqi people that the United States “pursues no claim on your territory or your resources.” The United States respects Iraq’s sovereignty and the sacrifices of its citizens, he said.

“And going forward, we can build a lasting relationship founded upon mutual interests and mutual respect, as Iraq takes its rightful place in the community of nations,” Obama said.

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

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Donley to Remain as Secretary of the Air Force

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Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, shown here visiting troops at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, in October 2008, will remain as secretary of the Air Force under the new administration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ruth Holcomb.)

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2009 -- White House officials announced Feb. 26 that Secretary Michael B. Donley will remain the secretary of the Air Force.

"I am very honored that the president and the secretary of Defense have asked me to continue in this capacity," Secretary Donley said. "It remains a privilege to serve the men and women of the world's finest Air Force."

Several other military civilian leaders also will remain at their assignments, creating continuity and stability for servicemembers.

"I am confident that these distinguished individuals have the commitment and expertise to help guide the Department of Defense at this critical time for our nation," President Obama said. "Under the leadership of Secretary Gates, this group will help us maintain a strong and effective military to accomplish the fundamental goals of keeping America safe, advancing our interests abroad, and restoring American leadership in the world."

As the SECAF, Secretary Donley is responsible for the affairs of the Air Force, including the organizing, training, equipping and providing for the welfare of its more than 300,000 men and women on active duty, 180,000 members of the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve, 160,000 civilians, and their families. He also oversees the Air Force's annual budget of approximately $110 billion.

(Report by by Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs.)

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OEF Summary, Feb. 27, 2009: Troops in Afghanistan Detain Militants, Find Weapons

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2009 -- Coalition and Afghan forces detained eight militants and seized enemy weapons stockpiles in recent operations, military officials reported.

Afghan National Police and coalition forces conducted an operation in the Khakrez district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province yesterday to disrupt a Taliban network believed to be involved in the movement of weapons, supplies and foreign fighters from Pakistan into southern Afghanistan.

After arriving at the intended location, forces searched multiple buildings without incident. Several AK-47 assault rifles and machine guns were found, as well as bomb-making materials. After moving everyone in the compound to a safe area, coalition forces destroyed the weapons and explosives to prevent future use. Four militants were detained, and the forces protected 25 women and 33 children.

In Khowst province’s Khowst district, coalition forces conducted operations yesterday to disrupt the Haqqani terrorist network, which is known to be involved in facilitating foreign fighters into Afghanistan.

After arriving at a targeted compound, forces searched the buildings. No women or children were present, and three suspected militants were detained without incident.

Also yesterday, Afghan National Army commandos, assisted by coalition forces, detained one militant during a compound search in Kandahar province's Maywand district.

The combined elements also discovered a weapons cache containing AK-47 and heavy machine gun ammunition, single-shot rifle rounds, 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate used in making explosives and 100 feet of wire. The cache was destroyed in place.

The commandos protected 17 men, five women and 21 children during the operation. They received no resistance, and no shots were fired.

In a Feb. 20 search of a compound in the same area, the commandos discovered several weapons caches containing 120 pounds of black tar opium, five AK-47s with 17 magazines, three other rifles, a shotgun and three grenades.

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

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Pentagon Comments on Obama Budget Cap for Military Pay Raises

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2009 -- President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2010 budget proposal includes a 2.9 percent pay increase for U.S. servicemembers.

The figure is lower than pay raises requested the past two years, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday. But he noted that Congress has a precedent of increasing the amount initially requested.

“Two years ago, we went to the Hill with about the same request; it was 3 percent. And last year, we went with a request for 3.5 percent,” Gates told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. “In both cases, the Congress added to it.”

Gates cited the “constrained economic environment” for the smaller proposed pay raise, but said the request is “not all that different from what we submitted in the past.”

The bump in pay is part of the Defense Department’s $534 billion base operating budget for fiscal 2010, which represents a 4 percent, or $20 billion, increase from the previous fiscal year.

At a news conference yesterday, Gates expressed confidence that the department’s budget share will be enough to sustain its requirements, including personnel needs.

“I'm confident that this funding level will allow the department to meet its long-term institutional priorities of taking care of the troops and their families, re-balancing our capabilities for conventional and irregular warfare, completing the growth of the Army and Marine Corps and preserving essential modernization programs,” he said.

The budget summary released by the White House yesterday says the military pay increase reflects the administration’s commitment to caring for troops and increases servicemembers’ purchasing power.

“After years of asking more and more from our troops and their families, this budget reflects the priorities of an administration that is committed to caring for the servicemembers who protect our security and the families who support them,” the summary states.

(Report by John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service.)

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Combat Camera: Aboard USS John C Stennis; Feb. 27, 2009

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 23, 2009) Lt. David Gardner, from New England, N.D., gives an aircraft the signal to launch during night flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Stennis and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 are on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Walter M. Wayman.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 27, 2009) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits to its anchoring point in Sasebo Ko, Japan. Stennis, as part of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, is in Sasebo for a scheduled port visit during a six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Josue L. Escobosa.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 22, 2009) Aviation Machinist's Mate Airman Alex Davies, from Vladivostok, Russia, holds a container for debris found on the flight deck during a foreign object debris walk down on aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 are on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Walter M. Wayman.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 22, 2009) Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Raymond Calloway, from Sherman, Texas, directs an F/A-18C Hornet from the "Blue Diamonds" of Strike Fight Squadron (VFA) 146 during flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 are on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Walter M. Wayman.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 23, 2009) Storekeeper 3rd Class Calvin Wright, from Houston, Texas, waits to move supplies with a fork lift in the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during a replenishment at sea with the Military Sealift Command combat stores ship USNS San Jose (T-AFS 7). John C. Stennis is on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Josue L. Escobosa.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 23, 2009) Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) perform hellfire release and control checks on an MH-60S Sea Hawk from the "Eightballer" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8 in the ship's hangar bay. John C. Stennis and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 are on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 22, 2009) Sailors from the "Argonauts" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 conduct preflight checks on an F/A-18E Super Hornet on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 are on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Walter M. Wayman.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 9, 2009) Machinist's Mate 2nd Class John Brechwald, from San Jose, Calif., performs bench dips with two 45 lb weights while Machinist's Mate 2nd Class David Cook, from Lewiston, Idaho, spots for him during a workout in the ship's gym aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 10, 2009) An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the "Raptors" of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 embarked aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) hovers while deploying its sonar dipping buoy during an undersea warfare exercise involving the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Walter M. Wayman.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 15, 2009) An MH-60S Sea Hawk from the "Eightballers" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8, embarked aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), flies plane guard during sunset flight operations. John C. Stennis and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 are on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Denny Cantrell.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 15, 2009) An F/A-18C Hornet from the "Death Rattlers" of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 323 prepares for an arrested landing on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 are on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Denny Cantrell.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 16, 2009) Religious Program Specialist Pablo Monroy, from Pasco, Wash., holds an American flag during a burial-at-sea service on aircraft elevator four aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jon Husman.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 12, 2009) U.S. and Japanese ships transit in formation with the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), left, after a successful undersea warfare exercise involving the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and other naval vessels operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. John C. Stennis is on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Walter M. Wayman.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 12, 2009) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits in formation after a successful undersea warfare exercise involving the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and other naval vessels operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. John C. Stennis is on a scheduled six-month deployment to the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jon Husman.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Turkish Warship Joins CTF 151 Counterpiracy Mission

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

Dispatches from the Front:

USS MONTEREY, At Sea, Feb. 27, 2009 -- The Turkish frigate TCG Giresun (F-491) joined Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 yesterday and began conducting counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden alongside other Coalition naval forces.

“Bringing another professional navy into the fold is going to make it even more difficult for the pirates to operate out here,” said Rear Adm. Terence McKnight, commander, CTF 151. “Giresun and her crew will add even more experience and manpower to a very robust counterpiracy mission. We’re making life very difficult for those looking to disrupt the free flow of commerce in the area.”

Commanded by Capt. Cenk Dalkanat, Giresun joins CTF 151’s flagship USS Monterey (CG 61), the Danish flexible support ship HDMS Absalon (L 16), and other ships from the U.S. and U.K., which have conducted operations as part of the task force.

“Having the ability to call upon several ships sailing under different flags is a unique and extremely useful tool in our belt,” said Cmdr. James Harlan, afloat operations officer, CTF 151. “It gives us a wide array of experiences, a lot of flexibility and allows us to cover a lot more water space. The coordination between our ships is a key to the success of our task force.”

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 by Lt. John Fage, Combined Task Force 151 Public Affairs.)

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USS Dwight D Eisenhower Recovers Man Overboard

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In this file photo, Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Justin King launches an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the "Pukin' Dogs" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143 during flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). by Commander Carrier Strike Group 8, Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group departed Feb. 21 for a regularly scheduled deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Bradley Evans.)

Focus on Defense:

USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, At Sea, Feb. 27, 2009 -- USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) successfully recovered a sailor who fell overboard on Feb.26 at approximately 4:30 p.m. while the ship was transiting the Atlantic Ocean.

Look-outs saw an individual fall into the water and the ship immediately initiated man overboard procedures -- mustering the crew, launching an alert helicopter and lowering the rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) into the water.

The sailor was in the water less than 30 minutes before recovery via the RHIB and was not injured. Due to privacy considerations, the sailor's identity will not be released.

(Report from a Second Fleet Public Affairs news release.)

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pentagon Comments on Policy Change to Allow Photos of Soldiers’ Caskets

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2009 -- The Defense Department will allow the news media to photograph the flag-draped caskets of fallen U.S. troops returning home if their families agree, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.

The announcement authorizes family members to choose whether to allow media access to the homecomings at Dover Air Force Base, Del., reversing a long-standing policy barring the press.

“I have decided that the decision regarding media coverage of the dignified transfer process at Dover should be made by those most directly affected -- on an individual basis -- by the families of the fallen,” Gates said at a Pentagon news conference.

“We ought not to presume to make that decision in their place,” added Gates, who began reviewing the policy at the request of President Barack Obama.

The Defense Department’s choice to shift course was informed by sources that include the military services and groups that represent military families, the secretary said.

But the issue created divisions within the department, Gates said, adding that he was rebuffed when he broached the topic last year, before reaching out more broadly during the most recent policy review.

“I had asked about changing the policy in Dover over a year ago and, although when I got the response that I did -- which recommended no change -- I accepted that at the time,” he said. “I must say I was never comfortable with it.”

The secretary has appointed a group to quickly develop a plan to implement the policy, which reverses the restriction put in place by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.

Under the blanket restriction, the media has been barred from photographing the flag-draped caskets of about 3,850 U.S. servicemembers killed in action since 2001.

“I have tasked the working group to examine ways in which we might further assist the families of those who have made the supreme sacrifice for our country,” Gates said. He added that he expects the group to work under “short deadlines.”

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed that military families deserve foremost consideration in dealing with such issues.

“We've seen so many families go through so much, and in that, they have been extraordinarily strong,” Mullen told reporters. “And meeting their needs, their requests in the most dignified, respectful, focused way we can was very much a driver for me in supporting this change.

“Because it is family-centric here more than anything else, I'm very, very supportive,” he added.

(Report by John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service.)

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Combat Camera Video: US Soldiers Conduct Ground Patrol in Mosul, Iraq

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News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of soldiers conducting a patrol through the Zinjali neighborhood in Mosul. (Produced by Tech. Sgt. Adrienne Brammer; Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq. Length: 4:37.)

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