Saturday, April 18, 2009

Combat Camera Video: 591st Engineer Route Clearance in Mosul, Part 1 of 3

video

News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of a route clearance operation in Mosul taken on April 17. Scenes include armored vehicles and tanks driving through the area, soldiers loading themselves in vehicles and driving through the streets at night and dusk. (Video: 145th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. Length: 5:13. Part 1 of 3.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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Wire: Baghdad's Green Zone Shelled

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2009 -- Newswires reported that suspected militants shelled Baghdad's protected Green Zone on Saturday in the first such bombardment in more than three months.

A police official says the rounds were fired from eastern Baghdad late Saturday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, AP reported.

AP noted that the attack came during a light sandstorm, which the militants used as cover since patrol helicopters cannot fly in such weather conditions.

In other Iraq news, AP reported the following:

West of Baghdad, Iraqi forces launched raids into an industrial zone in Fallujah where authorities fear Sunni insurgents could be seeking to regain footholds in areas they once controlled.

But the offensive into the district of factories and workshops found no clear evidence that al-Qaida in Iraq or its allies had re-established a major presence in Fallujah, said the city's police chief, Col. Mahmoud al-Issawi.

He said police and military units found only small stockpiles of buried weapons and explosives. No arrests were made during the all-day sweep.

Security forces, however, have sharply stepped up their guard against the possible return of extremist factions to areas that have been relatively calm.
Attacks across Iraq remain sharply down compared with past years, but bloodshed has edged up in recent weeks. Citing recent suicide bombings and a rising lawlessness claiming scores of lives, AP reported that there are signs of violence returning to Iraq.

(Report from commercial news sources.)

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Top US Military Leaders Discuss Piracy Solutions

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2009 -- Military force is only part of the solution to the recent wave of piracy in the waters off Somalia, the Pentagon’s top military and civilian officials said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said fighting piracy will require an international effort that includes a whole-of-government approach in addition to military force.

“It’s not just a military solution here,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said in a National Public Radio interview today.

Pirates have attacked at least three ships recently in the waters off Somalia and Yemen, and Dutch marines rescued 20 Yemeni fishermen after their boat was hijacked and used as a mother ship for Somalis operating against an oil tanker.

More than 80 attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Aden and waters adjoining Somalia have taken place this year. Though war ships from 16 nations are in the region, Mullen said, it is impossible to have ships everywhere in a 1.1 million-square-mile-area.

“There are an awful lot of ships, and the number of Navy ships we have out there cannot cover the water,” Mullen said. “Nor would increasing that number dramatically cover the water.”

At the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., yesterday, Gates said shipping companies have a responsibility in helping to combat piracy off Somalia, noting that some companies are prepared to pay ransoms to pirates as part of the cost of doing business.

“Clearly, if they didn't pay the ransoms, we would be in a stronger position,” the secretary said.

Somali pirates currently hold 15 ships and about 280 hostages. Piracy has become a business for Somalis, who live in a failed state.

“The impact of the dollars that these pirates get in their villages and for the individuals involved is staggering, because their home villages are unspeakably poor,” Gates said in Newport. “And the infusion of millions of dollars into them, and the corruption and everything else makes it a very attractive career field for a lot of poor young men who have no prospects.” And desperation on the ground will continue to make piracy attractive, Gates added.

“It’s a complex problem, and I think it involves both a maritime aspect that involves enforcement and a kinetic aspect,” he said. “But I think until we can do something to provide some kind of stability on land and some prospects for these people, it's going to be a tough problem.”

On NPR today, Mullen said more needs to be done to punish piracy. “In the end, this is a crime, and it needs to be prosecuted in a court,” he said. “The only country the United States has an agreement with is Kenya, where we have transferred pirates that we’ve captured. That part of the system has to be more robust than it is right now.”

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

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OEF Summary, April 18, 2009: Troops in Afghanistan Kill Unknown Number of Militants, Nab Suspect

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 18, 2009 -- Afghan and coalition forces today killed an unknown number of militants and detained one suspect during an early morning operation to capture a senior Taliban commander known to operate throughout northern Kandahar province.

In Maywand district, approximately 60 km northwest of Kandahar, forces conducted an attack on multiple compounds to locate and capture a militant closely associated with the anti-Afghan forces leadership in Pakistan. In an isolated area of Maywand district, Afghan and coalition forces carried out an assault that turned deadly for militants who engaged the assault force.

Shortly after arriving at their primary target area, the force was engaged by several militants hiding in an underground bunker that appear to be an abandoned well. Afghan forces attempted to secure the surrender of the militants by calling for them to come out peacefully, but they refused to comply. Despite an escalation by the assault force, the militants remained barricaded. On two attempts to clear the structure, the assault force was engaged by the armed militants. Assessing that all non-lethal options were exhausted and that no civilians would be endangered, the commander of the force called for close air support to end the engagement. Coalition forces dropped precision munitions on the bunker that held the barricaded militants with no collateral damage. Due to structural instability of the bunker, the force was unable to verify the number of militants killed, but assessed that at least two armed combatants had engaged the force during the clash.

At compounds located a short distance from the barricaded militants, a combined force conducted a concurrent operation. Afghan forces called for civilians to exit their buildings and all complied.

With residents moved to safety, Afghan and coalition forces searched multiple buildings and compounds without incident, detaining one suspected militant and protecting 19 men, 18 women and 21 children.

(From a U.S. Forces Afghanistan news release.)

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US Army Units Move from Iraq Directly to Afghanistan

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq, April 18, 2009 -- A U.S. Army transportation company here was moved from Iraq to Afghanistan on April 14, marking the second time in three weeks a 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) unit has moved directly from one combat theater to another.

The 154th Transportation Company, an active-component unit from Fort Hood, Texas, was repositioned to southern Afghanistan where it will continue its mission of transporting supplies to Coalition forces, unit leadership said.

Capt. Corinne F. McClellan, the 154th Trans. Co. commander, said the move would not change her unit’s mission – only its location.

“We’ll go wherever we are needed,” McClellan said. “The Soldiers are ready to go.”

Deployed to Iraq in January, the 159 Soldiers of the 154th Trans. Co. operated under the Fort Hood’s 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. While stationed at Camp Liberty, the unit moved supplies to camps across Iraq, although most missions were in or around Baghdad.

1st Sgt. Eric A. Moree, the company’s senior noncommissioned officer, said he is proud of his unit’s performance thus far and believes they are “absolutely” ready to assume their mission in Afghanistan.

“We haven’t lost a vehicle,” Moree said. “We haven’t lost a Soldier. We haven’t lost any cargo. And in doing so, we were able to provide the support to the warfighters that’s needed.”

Moree said the unit will face some challenges, however, and cited the narrow dirt roads and mountainous terrain of southern Afghanistan as two examples.

In preparation for the move, the unit trained on various tasks that could prove useful to the unit’s mission, including weapons training and first-aid training. The unit conducted additional training on vehicles the company will use in Afghanistan.

The unit reorganized itself by creating a “gun truck” platoon – a special convoy security element for its mission in Afghanistan.

“They are fully prepared to execute that mission,” Moree said. “They had months of extensive training prior to even coming to Iraq.”

The 154th Trans. Co. drives the military’s Palletized Load System, a vehicle designed with self-loading capabilities that reduces the need for forklifts and other equipment that may not be readily available in smaller military camps in southern Afghanistan.

According to current Department of Defense policy, the length of the 154th Trans. Co.’s deployment will not be affected by the unit’s move.

(Report from a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

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Friday, April 17, 2009

US Navy Accepts Delivery of Future USS Makin Island

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In this December 2008 file photo, pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Makin Island (LHD 8) departs the Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding Gulf Coast shipyard for five days of Builder's Trials to tests a wide variety of systems and equipment. More than 100 Makin Island Sailors were embarked to observe and monitor the testing conducted be Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding personnel. Makin Island, scheduled for commissioning Oct. 24, 2009 in San Diego, will be the Navy's eighth and final Wasp Class amphibious assault ship. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alec Noe.)

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2009 -- The Navy officially accepted delivery of the amphibious assault ship Makin Island (LHD 8) on April 16 from Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding (NGSB) in Pascagoula, Miss.

"Our partners at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding have worked hard to deliver this ship," said Capt. Jeff Riedel, amphibious ships program manager within the Navy's Program Executive Office, Ships. "Makin Island's state-of-the-art gas turbines and Auxiliary Propulsion System will benefit the Navy for years to come."

Makin Island will be the eighth Wasp-class amphibious assault ship. Second only to aircraft carriers in size, LHDs are the largest amphibious warships
in the world.

Makin Island is distinguished from its predecessors in the class by its fuel-efficient hybrid electric drive.

This powerful class is 844 feet long, can reach speeds of more than 20 knots, and has a displacement of more than 41,000 tons. Wasp-class amphibious assault ships are specifically designed to remain off shore near troubled areas of the world, ready to send forces ashore quickly by helicopters, tilt rotor aircraft and Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft.

"With concerns over shrinking budgets, we're delivering APS at the perfect time," said Riedel. "Our estimates show that APS will save the Navy more than $21 million in fuel costs over the ship's lifecycle."

This unique auxiliary propulsion system (APS) is designed with fuel efficiency in mind. Instead of using main propulsion engines to power the ship's shaft, the APS uses two induction-type auxiliary propulsion motors powered from the ship's electrical grid. The ship will be able to use its APS approximately 75% of the time, replacing the less-efficient gas turbines.

Other significant changes from previous LHD-class ships include watermist fire suppression systems, a fiber-optic Machinery Control System -- which is also integrated with the damage control systems -- the SPQ-9B radar and Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC).

As the centerpiece of a Navy expeditionary strike group, LHDs are fully capable of conducting and supporting amphibious assaults, advance force and special purpose operations, non-combatant evacuation, and other humanitarian missions. LHDs, along with the other ships of an Amphibious Ready Group, embark, transport, deploy, command and fully support a Marine Expeditionary Unit of 2,000 Marines with their gear.

Prior to delivery, the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) completed Acceptance Trials aboard Makin Island on March 19 after spending three days at sea. INSURV found the ship to be "capable, well-built and inspection-ready" and recommended that the chief of Naval Operations authorize delivery of the ship. All major systems and equipment were tested by INSURV.

The commissioning ceremony for Makin Island will be held in October in the ship's future homeport of San Diego.

The Navy's Program Executive Office, Ships is responsible for the development and acquisition of U.S. Navy surface ships, and is currently managing the design and construction of 11 major ship classes and a wide range of small boats and craft. These platforms range from major warships such as frontline surface combatants and amphibious assault ships to air-cushioned landing craft, oceanographic research ships and special warfare craft. Since its creation in November 2002, PEO Ships has delivered 28 major warships and hundreds of small boats and craft from more than 20 shipyards and boat builders across the United States.

(Report from a Team Ships Public Affairs news release.)

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US Navy's Next-Generation Destroyer Set for Construction in Maine

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Zumwalt DDG 1000 concept art by Northrop Grumman Ship Systems.

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2009 -- A recent agreement among the Defense Department, the Navy and shipbuilders will enable more efficient construction of the next-generation destroyer at one shipyard instead of two, a senior Defense Department official announced here today.

The “swap” agreement calls for three DDG-1000 destroyers to be built at the Bath Iron Works in Maine, John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told reporters at the Pentagon.

Work on the DDG-1000 destroyers previously was to be split between General Dynamics’ Bath Works and Northrop Grumman’s Ingalls Shipyard in Mississippi, Young said. As part of the new agreement, the Ingalls shipyard, which also builds some other Navy vessels, will gain a contract to build two more DDG-51 guided-missile destroyers.

The swap agreement, Young said, is the result of months of negotiations and is a reflection of “unprecedented efforts by the Navy and industry partners to operate in a business-like manner.” The agreement, he added, involved compromises by all parties “to enable efficient construction of naval vessels.”

The DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class vessel is a high-tech, guided-missile destroyer envisioned to eventually replace the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class of warships that were developed 30 years ago. Navy Adm. Arleigh Burke was a famous destroyer commander in the South Pacific during World War II.

Named for Navy Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Jr., who served as chief of naval operations in the early 1970s and died in January 2000, the DDG-1000 ships feature computer-aided design, modular construction, high-tech armaments and radar, as well as a unique, streamlined hull design.

The DDG-1000’s complicated, high-tech content, Young said, makes its design and construction an admittedly expensive endeavor. Cost of a first prototype, or lead, DDG-1000 ship is estimated to be around $3.2 billion, he said, with prices of follow-on vessels likely to decrease due to industrial economies of scale.

The design and development of the DDG-1000 “has gone well,” Young said, noting that the program has “gone to budget [and] gone on schedule.”

Initial plans were to build 32 of the DDG-1000-series vessels at the Bath and Ingalls shipyards. Today, the Defense Department’s proposed fiscal 2010 budget calls for building just three vessels.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today told members of the Naval War College in Newport R.I., that the United States will require a naval presence in the future.

“But we cannot allow more ships to go the way of the DDG-1000,” Gates told the Naval War College audience. The DDG-1000’s rising cost per ship, he noted, was among the reasons for buying reduced numbers.

Gates has recommended building more Arleigh Burke-class vessels and upgrading those now in the fleet. Sixty-four Arleigh Burkes have been built, not counting the two new ones slated for construction at the Ingalls shipyard.

Gates also deemed the arrangement for constructing DDG-1000s at the two shipyards as inefficient and too costly to taxpayers, Young said.

“I think it was important to him that we build these ships efficiently,” Young said of his understanding of Gates’ reasoning.

If the DDG-1000s couldn’t be efficiently produced, Gates “was potentially prepared, even in the face of clear political danger, to go back and possibly cancel two ships, and that would have cut jobs in both shipyards,” Young said.

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

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Living History: Walt Disney Goes to War

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Shoulder sleeve insignia of the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. The patch depicts the Walt Disney Studios designed "Fifinella," coming in for a landing. "Fifinella" was a winged female gremlin in a red and yellow suit with red high top boots and black gloves. According to Barry Stein, her mission was to seek and destroy male gremlins, which were believed to cause all types of aircraft malfunctions, including those by the aircrew. The WAFS were tasked with ferrying all types of Army Air Force aircraft from the factories to the military air fields throughout the country. In doing so, they freed up male pilots who were needed in combat theaters. Before the end of World War II, the WAFS were incorporated into the organization Women's Air Force Service Pilots, or WASPs.(Army Heritage Museum.)

Living History:

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2009 -- An important factor ensuring America’s ultimate victory over the Axis Powers in World War II was the overwhelming and unwavering support of the Home Front. Contributing much to creating and maintaining that Home Front support were Walt Disney films. Meanwhile, morale-boosting Disney-designed insignia that soon appeared on planes, trucks, flight jackets, and other military equipment accomplished the same for American and Allied forces.

During the war Disney made films for every branch of the U.S. government. Typical of the films was the 1943 “The Spirit of ’43,” produced at the request of the Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. The film depicted Donald Duck dealing with federal income taxes and pointing out the benefit of paying his taxes in support of the American war effort.

At the Navy’s request, the Disney Studios also produced, in just three months, some 90,000 feet of training film to educate sailors on navigation tactics. Disney animators also worked closely with Hollywood producer Frank Capra and created what many consider to be the most brilliant animated maps to appear in a series of seven highly successful “Why We Fight” films.

During the war, over 90 percent of Disney employees were devoted to the production of training and propaganda films. In all, the Disney Studios produced some 400,000 feet of film representing some 68 hours of continuous film. Included among the films produced was “Der Fuehrer’s Face,” again featuring Donald Duck. It won the Oscar as the best animated film for 1943.

Perhaps the importance of the Disney Studios to the war effort is best demonstrated by the fact that the U.S. Army deployed troops to protect the facilities, the only Hollywood studio accorded such treatment.

During World War I, while serving as a Red Cross ambulance driver, Walt Disney embellished his ambulance and other vehicles with drawings and cartoon figures. Thus, he came to appreciate the importance of humorous insignia to unit morale and esprit-de-corps. It is not surprising, therefore, that during World War II Disney artists often used their talents to design military insignia and emblems.

For example, in 1942 the Navy asked Disney to design an emblem appropriate for its new fleet of Navy torpedo boats known as “mosquito boats.” In response, Disney provided its famous emblem of a mosquito riding a torpedo, which soon adorned all of the newly constructed PT boats. t the request of the China Defense Supplies organization, the Disney Studios also designed a winged tiger flying through a large V for victory for the world famous “Flying Tigers.” By war’s end, the Disney Studios had produced over 1,200 insignias for both the U.S. Army and Navy, as well as Allied units, without ever charging a fee.

(Report by Lisa Briner, Army Heritage and Education Center.)

ABOUT THIS STORY: Many of the sources presented in this article are among 400,000 books, 1.7 million photos and 12.5 million manuscripts available for study through the U.S. Army Military History Institute (MHI). The artifacts shown are among nearly 50,000 items of the Army Heritage Museum (AHM) collections. MHI and AHM are part of the: Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC), 950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle, PA.


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Gates Urges Leaders to Learn From Mistakes of Past Drawdowns

News in Balance

News in Balance:

NEWPORT, R.I., April 17, 2009 -- As the U.S. military winds down from Iraq and Afghanistan in the future, leaders must learn the lessons of past drawdowns, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.

Gates spoke to the class and staff of the Naval War College. He said leaders must understand that as conflicts end, the United States cannot unilaterally disarm.

Gates said one of his favorite sayings from his 43 years of federal service is, “Experience is the ability to remember a mistake when you make it again.”

“And one of the things that has happened to this country repeatedly in the 20th century,” he added, “is that at the end of a conflict or a war, we unilaterally disarmed.”

The United States eviscerated the armed forces at the end of World War I and World War II, he said. At the end of the Korean and Vietnam wars, he said, military capabilities dropped again.

“And we did it at the end of the Cold War,” he said. The Army is 40 percent smaller today, he told the students, than it was when he stepped down as director of central intelligence in 1993.

“So every time we have come to the end of a conflict, somehow we have persuaded ourselves that the nature of mankind and the nature of the world has changed on an enduring basis, and so we have dismantled both our military and intelligence capabilities,” he said.

He said that as the United States draws down in Iraq and contemplates the right level of forces in Afghanistan, leaders must not make that same mistake.

“My hope … is that we not forget the basic nature of humankind has not changed, and there will always be people out there who want to try and take our liberty away or the liberty of our friends and our partners,” he said. The United States must sustain a level of investment in national security capabilities that allows the country to deal with the range of threats, the secretary added.

Gates fielded a question on the Air Force’s effort to update its aging tanker fleet, and said he favors one company getting the mammoth contract. Many have suggested splitting the contract and giving pieces of it to both competitors. “First of all,” he said, “I would look at it from the other perspective, and that is, what are the consequences and costs of having two tankers?”

Development costs would double from the current $7 billion estimate to $14 billion, he said. A split contract also means the government gets no benefit from competition. “Any leverage that we might have in terms of cost control disappears,” said he explained.

The competition is in three segments. The first buy -- the KC-X -- is for 179 tankers. It will be followed by the KC-Y and the KC-Z, he said. “If … we encounter problems with those, it seems to me you’re in a position to reopen the competition and go forward from there,” he said.

Finally, the secretary talked about what he called the “miracle” of being able to study the fiscal 2010 defense budget request and make recommendations without anyone leaking the discussions. This was important to him, he said, and all involved signed nondisclosure agreements.

“It seemed to me what was critically important as we considered dramatic changes in the way we were going to procure things and programmatic changes to specific programs was that we be able to have those deliberations among the senior military and the senior civilians in the department without the newspapers printing, every single day, the results of our deliberations the preceding day,” he said.

The decisions were not made in a closed circle, he said, but rather involved multiple meetings with senior civilians, service chiefs, the Joint Chiefs and the combatant commanders.

“I felt it was very important for us to have a collaborative effort where people could be honest with one another across the table and not feel defensive,” he said. “I also thought it was important for the service chiefs each to see that they were not being singled out -- that we were looking at the programs of all the services.”

The nondisclosure policy allowed leaders to concentrate. The participants were not “looking over our shoulder at contractors and Congress and everybody else, and trying pre-emptively to see how we would get around their objections,” Gates said.

The secretary said he discussed the process with President Barack Obama when he started the exercise. “My goal is to present to [the president] a budget independent of political considerations that focuses on what is in the best national security interest of the United States,” he said. “We’ll get into the political tradeoffs once the Congress starts looking at this budget.”

The group was large enough to study the recommendations, but not so large as to make it impossible to tell who leaked if information got out, Gates said.

“And I will tell you, a miracle happened,” he added. “In three months, there wasn't a single leak of any of our deliberations.”

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

Note: Corrected typo in headline.

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US Airpower Summary, April 17, 2009: F-15Es Protect Coalition Forces

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An F-15E Strike Eagle soars over Afghanistan providing close-air support and armed aerial overwatch to deter enemy activities. The Strike Eagle is from the 391st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, April 17, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with coalition ground forces in Iraq and International Security Assistance Force troops in Afghanistan during operations April 16, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

In Afghanistan, an Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle in the vicinity of Shurakian used guided bomb unit-38s to target a senior anti-Afghan forces member, destroying a compound the individual was seen to enter. The compound was selected as a target to avoid harming local civilian residents. The Strike Eagle had also conducted a strafing run in the area earlier after enemy personnel engaged a coalition ground unit with small-arms fire.

An F-15E and an Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II flying over Bagram performed shows of force during several ground operations taking place there. The F-15E maneuvered and launched flares to suppress enemy forces as a coalition quick-reaction force responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle. It then flew another show of force to deter attacks against a coalition helicopter operation. The A-10 performed a fly-by and launched flares while providing overwatch for a friendly ground convoy in order to discourage enemy attacks.

Near Lashkar Gah, a coalition aircraft supported an Afghan National Army and coalition clearing operation by performing shows of force to deter enemy action. The aircraft also supported the preplanned mission with extensive tactical reconnaissance.

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

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

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

In Iraq, coalition aircraft flew 29 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. In addition, three Air Force and coalition aircraft performed tactical reconnaissance.

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

Approximately 200 airlift sorties were flown, 500 tons of cargo were delivered and about 1,600 passengers were transported. Airlift included approximately 125,600 tons of aerial resupply dropped over Afghanistan.

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

On April 15, Air Force aerial refueling crews flew 36 sorties and off-loaded approximately 2.4 million pounds of fuel to 154 receiving aircraft.

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

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Pentagon Announces Partial Installation Realignment In Germany

Focus on Defense

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2009 -- The following news release made available by the U.S. Defense Department Friday is the text of a statement regarding a installation realignment in Germany.

The Department of Defense announced today the United States will return a vacant portion of the Mark Twain Housing Area in Heidelberg, Germany, to the host nation in 2009.

The return involves eight vacant buildings, each with 24 military family housing units. The affected buildings are collocated in a separate area of Mark Twain Village and have been determined excess by the Department of Defense.

The return of this site will have no impact on U.S. military personnel or employees.

Installation Management Command Europe will begin the process of returning the housing area to the host nation. Current annual operating costs of these buildings are approximately $1.6 million.

The United States coordinated this action with host nation officials before announcement.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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OEF Summary, April 17, 2009: Troops in Afghanistan Kill 8, Detain 5

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2009 -- Coalition and Afghan forces killed eight militants and detained five in recent operations throughout Afghanistan, U.S. military officials reported.

In operations today:
  • Afghan soldiers, assisted by coalition forces, killed two militants in Farah province’s Khaki Safed district. The combined patrol came under machine-gun, small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from five to seven militants. Shortly thereafter, 20 to 30 fighters joined in from established firing positions. The Afghan and coalition forces pursued the militants on foot. Most abandoned their fighting positions, but two were killed and several others were wounded as the combined elements cleared the area.

  • In Kandahar province’s Maywand district, U.S. and Afghan troops killed six enemy fighters and detained one in an operation targeting an alleged mid-level terrorist responsible for orchestrating attacks on U.S. forces. Afghan troops killed five of the insurgents in a field near the compound where the suspect was believed to be. The other insurgent was killed inside the complex after taking up arms and refusing to surrender. About 5 and a half pounds of opium was found and destroyed at the compound.

  • In Nangarhar province, Afghan army commandos detained a suspected insurgent after receiving a tip from local villagers that the suspect was coordinating terrorist activities from his home.

  • In Logar province’s Baraki Barak district, U.S. and Afghan troops detained a suspected insurgent believed to be responsible for acquiring and developing bomb-making material for use against local residents and security forces.

In Paktya province’s Zormat district yesterday, Afghan commandos detained three suspected insurgents during a search of an alleged insurgent leader’s home. The suspects and their alleged leader are believed to be involved in mortar and small-arms attacks against Afghan and U.S. forces.

No Afghan or U.S. casualties were reported from these operations.

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

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Wire: US Military Veterans a Focus of FBI Extremist Probe

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2009 -- Newswires reported this morning that the Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier this year launched a nationwide operation targeting white supremacists and "militia/sovereign-citizen extremist groups," including a focus on veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to memos sent from bureau headquarters to field offices.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the initiative, dubbed Operation Vigilant Eagle, was outlined in February, two months before a memo giving a similar warning was issued on April 7 by the Department of Homeland Security.

The Journal also reported the following news:
Disclosure of the DHS memo this week has sparked controversy among some conservatives and veterans groups. Appearing on television talk shows Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the assessment, but apologized to veterans who saw it as an accusation.

[. . .]

The documents outlining Operation Vigilant Eagle cite a surge in activity by such groups. The memos say the FBI's focus on veterans began as far back as December, during the final weeks of the Bush administration, when the bureau's domestic counterterrorism division formed a special joint working group with the Defense Department.

A Feb. 23 draft memo from FBI domestic counterterrorism leaders, obtained by The Wall Street Journal, cited an "increase in recruitment, threatening communications and weapons procurement by white supremacy extremist and militia/sovereign-citizen extremist groups."

The FBI said in the memo that its conclusion about a surge in such activities was based on confidential sources, undercover operations, reporting from other law-enforcement agencies and publicly available information. The memo said the main goal of the multipronged operation was to get a better handle on "the scope of this emerging threat." The operation also seeks to identify gaps in intelligence efforts surrounding these groups and their leaders.

The aim of the FBI's effort with the Defense Department, which was rolled into the Vigilant Eagle program, is to "share information regarding Iraqi and Afghanistan war veterans whose involvement in white supremacy and/or militia sovereign citizen extremist groups poses a domestic terrorism threat," according to the Feb. 23 FBI memo.

Michael Ward, FBI deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, said in an interview Thursday that the portion of the operation focusing on the military related only to veterans who draw the attention of Defense Department officials for joining white-supremacist or other extremist groups.
The FBI documents show the bureau was working with investigators inside the nation's uniformed services "in an effort to identify those current or former soldiers who pose a domestic terrorism threat." The other agencies working with the FBI are the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division, the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Journal also noted.

Documents detailing the operation are unclassified, but were meant for internal distribution only.

(Report from a commercial news source.)

Source: Veterans a Focus of FBI Extremist Probe

Download related primary document:
Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment (pdf)

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Combat Camera Video: USS Boxer Counter-Piracy Operations

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Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of a UH-1Y Huey helicopter and AH-1W Cobra with the “Evil Eyes,” Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 163 (Reinforced) of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducting a patrol in support of counter-piracy operations. HMM-163 (Rein.) is embarked aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). (U.S. Marine Corps video by Cpl. Oscar G. Garcia; Navy Visual News Service. Length: 2:33.)

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Combat Camera: Aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt, April 17, 2009

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 15, 2009) The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) steams in the Atlantic Ocean during flight operations. Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 are transiting the Atlantic Ocean after completion of a seven-month deployment operating in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird.)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 15, 2009) Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 fly over the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during an air power demonstration. Theodore Roosevelt and CVW-8 are transiting the Atlantic Ocean after completion of a seven-month deployment operating in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird.)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 15, 2009) An HH-60H Seahawk helicopter assigned to the "Tridents" of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 3 participates in an air power demonstration for the crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 are transiting the Atlantic Ocean after completion of a seven-month deployment operating in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird.)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 15, 2009) An HH-60H Seahawk helicopter assigned to the "Tridents" of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 3 participates in an air power demonstration for the crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 are transiting the Atlantic Ocean after completion of a seven-month deployment operating in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird.)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 15, 2009) An EA-6B Prowler assigned to the "Shadowhawks" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 141 launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) for the squadron's return to Whidbey Island, Wash. Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 are transiting the Atlantic Ocean at the completion of a seven-month deployment operating in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird.)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 12, 2009) Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Shaw and Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) 2nd Class Eric Allen perform a baptism during Easter Sunrise Services aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 are transiting the Atlantic Ocean after completion of a seven-month deployment in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Hall.)

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 10, 2009) Aerographer's Mate Airman Jonathan Salgado launches a weather balloon from the fantail of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) to gather atmospheric data. Theodore Roosevelt and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 are operating in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Andrew Skipworth.)

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