Saturday, March 21, 2009

Photo Essay: USS Hartford, USS New Orleans Collision Damage

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BAHRAIN (March 21, 2009) The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) arrives pier side at Mina Salman pier in Bahrain where U.S. Navy engineers and inspection teams will asses and evaluate damage that resulted from a collision with the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) in the Strait of Hormuz March 20. Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. The incident remains under investigation. Hartford is deployed to the U.S. 5th fleet area of responsibility to support maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Jane Campbell.)

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BAHRAIN (March 21, 2009) The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) pulls into Mina Salman pier in Bahrain where U.S. Navy engineers and inspection teams will asses and evaluate damage that resulted from a collision with the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) in the Strait of Hormuz March 20. Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. The incident remains under investigation. Hartford is deployed to the U.S. 5th fleet area of responsibility to support maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Jane Campbell.)

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BAHRAIN (March 21, 2009) The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) pulls into Mina Salman pier in Bahrain where U.S. Navy engineers and inspection teams will asses and evaluate damage that resulted from a collision with the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) in the Strait of Hormuz March 20. Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. The incident remains under investigation. Hartford is deployed to the U.S. 5th fleet area of responsibility to support maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Jane Campbell.)

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BAHRAIN (March 21, 2009) Vice Adm. Bill Gortney watches through binoculars as the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) transits into Mina Salman pier in Bahrain. Hartford pulled into Bahrain where U.S. Navy engineers and inspection teams will asses and evaluate damage that resulted from a collision with the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) in the Strait of Hormuz March 20. Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. The incident remains under investigation. Hartford is deployed to the U.S. 5th fleet area of responsibility to support maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Jane Campbell.)

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PERSIAN GULF (March 20, 2009) The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) is underway Friday, March 20, 2009 in the Persian Gulf after a collision with the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18). Hartford sustained damage to her sail, but the propulsion plant of the nuclear-powered submarine was unaffected by this collision. (U.S. Navy photo.)

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PERSIAN GULF (March 20, 2009) The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) is underway in the Persian Gulf after a collision with the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18). Hartford sustained damage to her sail, but the propulsion plant of the nuclear-powered submarine was unaffected by this collision. (U.S. Navy photo.)

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BAHRAIN (March 21, 2009) The amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) lowers the ships' brow after mooring in Bahrain where U.S. Navy engineers and inspection teams will asses and evaluate damage that resulted from a collision with the Los-Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) in the Strait of Hormuz. No personnel aboard New Orleans were injured in the incident. Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. New Orleans is deployed to the U.S. 5th fleet area of responsibility to support maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David K. Simmons.)

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BAHRAIN (March 21, 2009) The amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) pulls into Mina Salman pier in Bahrain where U.S. Navy engineers and inspection teams will asses and evaluate damage that resulted from a collision with the Los-Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) in the Strait of Hormuz. No personnel aboard New Orleans were injured in the incident. Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. New Orleans is deployed to the U.S. 5th fleet area of responsibility to support maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David K. Simmons.)

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BAHRAIN (March 21, 2009) USS New Orleans (LPD 18) pulls into Mina Salman pier in Bahrain where U.S. Navy engineers and inspection teams will asses and evaluate damage that resulted from a collision with the amphibious ship, USS Hartford (SSN 768) in the Strait of Hormuz. No personnel aboard New Orleans were injured in the incident. Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. New Orleans is deployed to the U.S. 5th fleet area of operations to support Maritime Security Operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David K. Simmons.)

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USS Hartford and USS New Orleans Arrive in Port Bahrain

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BAHRAIN (March 21, 2009) USS New Orleans (LPD 18) pulls into Mina Salman pier in Bahrain where U.S. Navy engineers and inspection teams will asses and evaluate damage that resulted from a collision with the amphibious ship, USS Hartford (SSN 768) in the Strait of Hormuz. No personnel aboard New Orleans were injured in the incident. Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. New Orleans is deployed to the U.S. 5th fleet area of operations to support Maritime Security Operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David K. Simmons.)

Dispatches from the Front:
ALSO SEE: Photo Essay: USS Hartford, USS New Orleans Collision Damage
MANAMA, Bahrain, March 21, 2009 -- The U.S. Navy submarine and U.S. amphibious ship that collided in the Strait of Hormuz March 20, arrived in port Bahrain today.

USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18) arrived at Mina Salman pier to further assess and evaluate the damage that resulted from their collision at sea.

The incident remains under investigation.

Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. The propulsion plant of the submarine was unaffected by this collision. New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank, which resulted in a fuel spill of approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel marine in the Strait of Hormuz.

Aerial searches of the area where the fuel spill occurred were conducted yesterday, and revealed no indication of any remaining fuel on the ocean’s surface.

The U.S. 5th Fleet has been working in coordination with the Navy Oceanographic Office to determine refined search areas, based on currents and winds. Additional searches were flown by U.S. Navy aircraft today and found no remaining fuel on the surface.

The quick dissipation of the fuel is likely due to the type of fuel, and various environmental factors to include air and water temperatures, winds and seas.

Both Hartford and New Orleans are currently on regularly scheduled deployments to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO).

MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons, or other material.

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

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Combat Camera Video: Patrol in Rusafa District, Eastern Baghdad

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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of Iraqi Police and U.S. soldiers conducting a patrol in the Rusafa district in Eastern Baghdad. Scenes include Iraqi police and U.S. paratroopers preparing for the patrol, walking through the streets, and using their night vision goggles. (Produced by Staff Sgt. Alex Licea; 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs. Length: 3:06)

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USS Dwight D Eisenhower Launches 1st Sorties in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom

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ARABIAN SEA (March 20, 2009) An HH-60 helicopter assigned to Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 3 "Tridents" from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 looks down on the flight deck of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group launched its first sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom March 21, bound for the skies over Afghanistan to support coalition ground forces operating on the ground. Eisenhower relieved USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in the Gulf of Oman as part of a normal rotation of forces and marked the end of the Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group's deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Snyder.)

Dispatches from the Front:

USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, At Sea, March 21, 2009 -- The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group launched its first sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom today, and assumed duties as Commander, Task Force (CTF) 50.

Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 departed the decks of the strike group’s flagship, the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) bound for the skies over Afghanistan to support coalition ground forces.

“Over the last several months, the men and women of this strike group have drilled relentlessly in realistic training scenarios to prepare for the full spectrum of maritime security operations,” said Rear Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, commander of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group.

Eisenhower relieved USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in the Gulf of Oman as part of a normal rotation of forces and marked the end of the Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group’s deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO). Theodore Roosevelt operated in theater since October supporting Coalition forces operating on the ground in Afghanistan.

“We have received amazing support from Theodore Roosevelt which will enable us to provide seamless support to coalition forces operating on the ground in Afghanistan,” said Capt. Dee L. Mewbourne, commanding officer, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

During the Theodore Roosevelt’s deployment to the region, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 flew more than 3,100 sorties into Afghanistan and has dropped more than 59,500 pounds of ordnance providing vital close air support to coalition forces operating as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“Our Strike Group Sailors did a great job over the past five months of combat operations: projecting airpower to support our troops on the ground in Afghanistan, extending maritime security in the Arabian Gulf by working with coalition partners, and deterring piracy off Africa alongside international forces,” said Rear Adm. Frank C. Pandolfe, Commander, Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group. “Thanks to their tireless efforts, security and stability have been strengthened in this critical region of the world.”

USS Theodore Roosevelt Commanding Officer, Capt. Ladd Wheeler, praised the team for their work during the five-plus months in this AOR.

“The TR / Air Wing EIGHT team has performed superbly,” said Capt. Wheeler. “I could not be more proud of the men and women who serve our country in this critical operation. This crew has consistently demonstrated the execution excellence our Navy strives for daily around the world. We wish the crew of IKE the smoothest of seas and continued success as they assume the OEF watch.”

The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is on a routine deployment to the region and will conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO) along with providing support to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

“Like the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group before us, our presence here is a visible message to allies that we are committed to enhancing security across the maritime environment, which promotes regional stability,” said Tidd.

CSG-8 ships including USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) and USS Halyburton (FFG 40); the fast attack submarine USS Scranton (SSN 576); and the Mayport, Florida-based ships USS Vicksburg (CG 69) and USS Gettysburg (CG 64) will help deter destabilizing activities and ensure a lawful maritime order in the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Aden.

The squadrons of CVW-7, led by Capt. Calvin Craig, include the “Jolly Rogers” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103, the “Pukin’ Dogs” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143, the “Rampagers” or Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83, the “Wildcats” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131, the “Patriots” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140, the “Bluetails” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, and the “Nightdippers” of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron (HS) 5.

Eisenhower is supporting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet area of operations. MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

(From a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs news release.)

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US Navy Deters Suspected Pirate Attack 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 BOXER, At Sea, March 21, 2009 -- The guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64) apprehended six suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden yesterday after responding to a distress call from two nearby merchant vessels.

At approximately 4:30 a.m., the Philippines-flagged Motor Vessel Bison Express sent a distress call to all ships in the area reporting they were being pursued by a small skiff containing six heavily-armed suspected pirates.

Gettysburg closed immediately on the motor vessel's location and intercepted a skiff matching the description given by the crew of the motor vessel. An SH-60B helicopter assigned to Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 46 embarked aboard Gettysburg, flew overhead the skiff and reported seeing objects being thrown overboard.

A Gettysburg visit, board, search and seizure team (VBSS) subsequently conducted a consensual boarding along with members of U.S. Coast Guard Legal Detachment (LEDET) 409 and apprehended the six suspected pirates. They were transferred onto the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), the flagship and afloat staging base (AFSB) for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151.

After evaluating the situation, CTF 151 determined there was not sufficient evidence to hold the suspects for prosecution and released them back to their small boat.

The attack on Bison Express was the second attack by yesterday on commercial shipping vessels in the Gulf of Aden. Earlier this morning, suspected pirates attacked Motor Vessel Sea Green. The motor vessel fired several warning flares at the suspected pirates as they approached, and successfully warded off the attack.

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.)

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Photos: USS Hartford Underway After Collision With USS New Orleans

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PERSIAN GULF (March 20, 2009) The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) is underway Friday, March 20, 2009 in the Persian Gulf after a collision with the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18). Hartford sustained damage to her sail, but the propulsion plant of the nuclear-powered submarine was unaffected by this collision. (U.S. Navy photo.)

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PERSIAN GULF (March 20, 2009) The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) is underway in the Persian Gulf after a collision with the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18). Hartford sustained damage to her sail, but the propulsion plant of the nuclear-powered submarine was unaffected by this collision. (U.S. Navy photo.)

Dispatches from the Front:
ALSO SEE: Photo Essay: USS Hartford, USS New Orleans Collision Damage
MANAMA, Bahrain, March 20, 2009 -- A U.S. Navy submarine and U.S. amphibious ship collided in the Strait of Hormuz early Friday morning, March 20, 2009.

The collision between USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18) occurred at approximately 1:00 a.m. local time (5:00 p.m. EDT, March 19).

Fifteen sailors aboard the Hartford were slightly injured and returned to duty. No personnel aboard New Orleans were injured.

Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. The propulsion plant of the submarine was unaffected by this collision. New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank, which resulted in an oil spill of approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel marine. Both ships are currently operating under their own power.

The incident is currently under investigation.

Both the submarine and the ship are currently on regularly scheduled deployments to the U.S. Navy Central Command area of responsibility conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO).

MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons, or other material.

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

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Pentagon Lists Stimulus Act Projects

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2009 -- Defense Department officials today announced 3,000 projects that the economic stimulus legislation signed last month will fund.

A complete list of the projects is available at http://www.defenselink.mil/recovery and at http://www.recovery.gov/. Defense officials will continue to use those Web sites to post future announcements.

The two biggest projects are hospitals at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Fort Hood, Texas, Defense officials said.

The projects are funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law last month. The Defense Department received $7.4 billion under the law, with $5.9 billion going for construction and repair projects.

The funds are to be spent at Defense Department facilities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. The primary purpose of these funds is to create jobs and stimulate economic activity, officials said.

Total funding for the act is $787 billion, with the $7.4 billion Defense Department portion aimed at projects that could be accelerated or started at once. Department officials can obligate stimulus funds for military construction projects through the end of fiscal 2013, and the rest through the end of fiscal 2010.

These projects will provide much-needed improvements to military installations, and include hospitals, child development centers, barracks projects, family housing, community centers, gymnasiums and other facilities for troops and their families.

The act also funds needed infrastructure repairs including water projects, electrical grids, steam lines and sewers.

The hospitals at Camp Pendleton and Fort Hood are examples of this need. Both bases have sent thousands of soldiers and Marines to combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. The current hospital at Fort Hood was built in the 1960s to service a far smaller community. The base hospital now can accommodate a community of roughly 30,000 beneficiaries, but it serves a beneficiary community of 50,000. The Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton is a 123-bed hospital, and it needs to expand to handle the Marines and retirees in the area.

Another focal point of the bill is $555 million for a temporary expansion of the Homeowner’s Assistance Program benefits for private home sale losses of both military and civilian Defense Department personnel. The program reimburses those who lose money on a home sale due to a forced relocation.

The program allocates roughly $300 million for military energy research programs.

Officials said the ARRA funds would be spent as quickly as possible, with full transparency and accountability.

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

Related: DoD Expenature Plans (pdf)

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OIF Summary, March 20, 2009: Troops Uncover Weapons Stockpiles in Baghdad, Southern Iraq

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2009 -- Iraqi soldiers and police, along with U.S. soldiers, seized numerous enemy stockpiles in Baghdad and in southern Iraq in recent days, military officials reported.

Iraqi National Police officers and Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers captured a massive weapons cache, including a sizable quantity of rockets, yesterday in eastern Baghdad’s 9 Nissan district.

Acting on a tip from a local resident, police officers and U.S. soldiers uncovered weapons at three sites in the district. After securing the sites, the police officers filled their vehicles to capacity to transport the munitions to a nearby joint security station.

The officers and their U.S. partners safely removed 29 rockets, more than 620 mortar rounds, 20 pounds of TNT, 15 anti-tank rounds, 44 rocket-propelled grenade rounds, along with primers, mortar fuses, gunpowder, additional explosive materials and bomb-making components.

In southern Iraq’s Maysan province March 16, Iraqi soldiers -- with the help of the Qalat Salih and Amarah police departments and the Amarah special weapons and tactics team -- recovered a large weapons cache.

The soldiers and police seized 255 grenades, 23 fuses, two cases of AK-47 assault rifle ammunition, a large bag of 12.7 mm ammunition, 12 82 mm mortar rounds, a mortar sighting device, 1,000 rounds of 14.5 mm armor-piercing ammunition, three AK-47s and 10 AK-47 magazines on a farm just north of Qalat Saleh. The troops and law enforcement officers also detained three suspected criminals during the operation.

The operation involved more than 400 personnel and multiple simultaneous objectives, officials said, and the joint effort disrupted a major smuggling effort the army and police were working to defeat.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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OEF Summary, March 20, 2009: Troops in Afghanistan Kill 36 Militants, Detain Suspects

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2009 -- Afghan and coalition forces killed 36 enemy fighters and detained eight suspects in operations in Afghanistan today and yesterday, military officials reported.

In operations today:
  • Afghan forces, with a small contingent of coalition forces, killed a man who engaged them during the clearance portion of an operation in the Marah Warah district of Konar province. The operation’s goal was to disrupt bombing and foreign-fighter networks near Afghanistan’s eastern border. Three suspected militants were detained. The force destroyed weapons and bomb-making materials found at the site and protected six women and six children during the operation.

  • Afghan and coalition forces killed three militants and detained one suspect during an operation targeting mid- and high-level members of a Kabul-based bomb-making cell operating in Lowgar province. In the province’s Baraki Barak district, the combined force assaulted a compound where militants were reported to be staying. The force called for noncombatants to come out of the buildings, and women and children were moved to safety. During a search, an armed man hiding behind livestock was killed. Forces pursued two militants seen moving from the roof of a building on to an adjacent compound and called for their surrender. The militants barricaded themselves inside a building, and the force engaged and killed them. Seven women and 14 children were protected.

In operations yesterday:
  • Afghan soldiers advised by coalition forces killed 30 armed militants in Helmand province’s Gereshk district. Numerous armed militants engaged an Afghan-led reconnaissance patrol with heavy small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire. The combined force moved forward, and a firefight ensued when militants re-engaged the patrol with small-arms and RPG fire. After positively identifying the enemy fighting position and assuring there were no noncombatants in the area, the combined forces returned fire with small-arms and close-air support, killing 30 militants. An Afghan soldier suffered minor injuries during the engagement and was treated at a nearby coalition medical facility.

  • Afghan forces, with a small contingent of coalition forces, conducted operations in the Bati Kowt district of Nangarhar province to disable an al-Qaida cell that facilitates suicide bombers and plans roadside-bomb attacks. Two armed militants engaged the force and were killed, and four suspected militants were detained. The force found two AK-47 assault rifles, a Marakov pistol and a vehicle that had been altered to be used as a bomb. The vehicle was removed from the compound. The forces also found about 15 pounds of opium, which they destroyed on site, and protected 11 women and 36 children during the operation.

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

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Pentagon: Influx of US Troops in Afghanistan to be Met With Rising Violence

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2009 -- The number of attacks in Afghanistan is likely to rise with the influx of additional U.S. forces there, an International Security Assistance Force commander said today.

An increased U.S. presence in the region will spur NATO-led pressure on insurgents and improve efforts to counter narcotics and makeshift bombings, Netherlands Army Maj. Gen. Mart de Kruif, commander of the ISAF’s Regional Command South in Afghanistan, said.

But the overall addition of 17,000 U.S. troops to the American contingent in Afghanistan will be met with increased violence at the outset of the plus-up, including a possible uptick in insurgents’ growing use of homemade bombings, the commander said.

“That will lead in the first couple of months after the influx of U.S. forces to what I think is going to be a significant spike in incidents,” de Kruif told reporters at the Pentagon.

The United States has roughly 38,000 forces in Afghanistan with the deployment of additional troops to begin in late spring. NATO has some 32,000 forces there.

De Kruif expressed optimism that security would improve following a round of Afghan elections slated for August, adding that there’s no current evidence suggesting insurgents are focused on disturbing the balloting process.

“I think that what we are doing now is actually planting the seeds, and that we will view a significant increase in the security situation across southern Afghanistan next year,” he said.

The area covered by Regional Command South comprises a restive section of Afghanistan that has been the scene of heavy insurgent activity. Under de Kruif’s command is a roughly 22,000-strong composite force with troops from the United States, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Canada, among other contributors.

The command’s focus centers on security and stabilization operations and building government institutions, including a national Afghan security force, de Kruif said. He added that he hopes ISAF will be able to assume a mentor role to the Afghan National Army and Police in three to five years.

Meanwhile, one of the multinational force’s major security concerns is the “nexus” of the narcotics trade and networks responsible for launching attacks involving improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which account for 70 percent of the region’s casualties, according to the general. Over the past two years, such attacks have increasingly targeted the civilian population, de Kruif said.

“The insurgents changed their overall strategy from attacking our strength, being ISAF, towards focusing on terrorizing the local nationals, the Afghan people,” he said. “For ISAF, that means that we have to deliver a 24/7 security in the focus areas where we are placed. It's no use of getting into a village at 8 in the morning and then leave that village at 5 in the evening.”

De Kruif noted that the higher frequency of attacks has not been matched by an increase in the IEDs’ sophistication, nor is there evidence suggesting materiel from Iran is being used in the assembly of the explosives. The most common IED is detonated by a pressure-plate mechanism triggered by the victim, about 70 percent of whom are Afghan nationals, he said.

“Based on the fact that these IEDs are relatively easy to produce, we don't see any real signs of influence by other countries like Iran with the fabrication and the use of these IEDs,” he said. “So I would not say that IEDs are sophisticated yet.”

Emerging technology in the field of IED detection and equipment like the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, which deflects the impact of explosions, are helping stem the threat of IEDs, de Kruif said. But the key in defeating the tactic also demands that a basic counterinsurgency objective be achieved.

“The first step is having an approach in which you win the hearts and minds of the people. So that means that every day, although we have an IED threat, our forces will go out and have a 24/7 presence amongst the Afghan people,” he said. “Because by the end of the day, it is the Afghan people who will deny the use of IEDs by the insurgency.”

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

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US Airpower Summary, March 20, 2009: B-1B Destroys Enemy Positions

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A B-1B Lancer takes off from a forward deployed location. Carrying the largest payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory, the multi-mission B-1B is the backbone of America's long-range bomber force. It can rapidly deliver massive quantities of precision and non-precision weapons against any adversary, anywhere in the world, at any time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clark Staehle.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, March 20, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with coalition ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan during operations March 19, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

In Afghanistan, Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and F-15E Strike Eagles targeted anti-Afghan forces in the Asadabad region with a mix of guided-bomb units and general- purpose bombs. The strikes destroyed multiple fortified enemy-fighting positions and hit rocket-propelled grenade and machine-gun teams. The engagement was part of a lengthy battle between coalition and anti-Afghan forces continuing throughout the day.

Near Gereshk, Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets struck specific buildings within an enemy-occupied residential compound after gunmen inside began firing at a coalition unit. The aircraft used precision GBU-38 targeting to prevent damaging structures surrounding the anti-Afghan fighting positions.

An Air Force B-1B Lancer along with coalition aircraft targeted a cluster of enemy-fighting positions, bunkers, and buildings in the Kajaki Dam area. Employing guided munitions, the aircraft destroyed or routed a major portion of the enemy force that had attempted to hold ground against a coalition ground assault.

In the vicinity of Nurestan, an F-15E dropped GBU-38s to destroy an anti-Afghan fighting position which had apparently been set up using a communications tower as a shield. The pilot used engagement tactics to target the bomb far enough away from the fighting position to prevent damage to the tower while still retaining enough effectiveness to knock out the fighting position.

An Air Force F-15E flew a show of force while providing overwatch to a coalition convoy to discourage an enemy attack as the vehicles passed through Ghazni. The aircraft remained overhead until the convoy safely reached its destination.

Navy Super Hornets performed shows of force over Balocan and Now Zad during coalition operations in those areas. The maneuvers succeeded in deterring enemy forces from taking action while coalition ground troops achieved their objectives.

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

In total, 78 close-air-support missions were flown in support of the ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

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

In Iraq, coalition aircraft flew 32 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-three Air Force and Navy ISR aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Iraq. In addition, four 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 150 airlift sorties were flown; more than 550 tons of cargo was delivered; and about 2,750 passengers were transported.

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

On March 18, Air Force tankers flew 50 sorties and off-loaded approximately 3.2 million pounds of fuel to 277 receiving aircraft.

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

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File Photos: USS Hartford, USS New Orleans

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CHESAPEAKE BAY (March 25, 2008) Starboard bow view of the Los Angeles class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) anchored off the U.S. Naval Academy. (U.S. Navy photo by Don S. Montgomery.)

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CHESAPEAKE BAY (March 25, 2008) View of the main diving and control station onboard the Los Angeles class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768). The vessel stopped for a port visit to the US Naval Academy and is open for public tours. (U.S. Navy photo by Don S. Montgomery.)

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CHESAPEAKE BAY (March 25, 2008) Port bow view of the fore section of the Los Angeles class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) moored off the U.S, Naval Academy. (U.S. Navy photo by Don S. Montgomery.)

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PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 4, 2008) The amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD 18) performs plane guard duty during flight operations for the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), not pictured. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Jared Apollo Burgamy.)

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SAN DIEGO (Sept. 29, 2007) - An F/A-18C Hornet, F/A-18F Super Hornet and E-2C Hawkeye fly over the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD 18) during the city’s Sea and Air Parade. The annual event, which is part of the month-long Fleet Week celebration, featured a parade of ships through San Diego Bay and flybys from Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard aircraft. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd James Seward.)

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PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (Sept. 11, 2007) - Tugboats assigned to Naval Station Pearl Harbor assist San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD 18) to the pier at Fleet and Industrial Supply Center. New Orleans was in Pearl Harbor following Combat Systems Ship Qualification Trials to provide an opportune lift for Sailors and service members assigned to the Hawaii region. The opportune lift program allows Sailors, service members and their families to save money by transporting privately owned vehicles to the mainland United States on a Navy ship. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael A. Lantron.)

Related: 2 US Navy Vessels Collide in Strait of Hormuz

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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2 US Navy Vessels Collide in Strait of Hormuz

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

Dispatches from the Front:
ALSO SEE: File Photos: USS Hartford, USS New Orleans
MANAMA, Bahrain, March 20, 2009 -- A U.S. Navy submarine and U.S. amphibious ship collided in the Strait of Hormuz early Friday morning, March 20, 2009.

The collision between USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18) occurred at approximately 1:00 a.m. local time (5:00 p.m. EDT, March 19).

Fifteen sailors aboard the Hartford were slightly injured and returned to duty. No personnel aboard New Orleans were injured.

Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. The propulsion plant of the submarine was unaffected by this collision. New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank, which resulted in an oil spill of approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel marine. Both ships are currently operating under their own power.

The incident is currently under investigation.

Both the submarine and the ship are currently on regularly scheduled deployments to the U.S. Navy Central Command area of responsibility conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO).

MSO set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons, or other material.

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

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