Saturday, August 1, 2009

Wire: 3 US Troops Killed in Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that three U.S. troops were killed Saturday when roadside bombs ripped through their patrol in southern Afghanistan, while a French soldier died in a gunbattle north of the capital, officials said.

The Associated Press reported that the American servicemembers were killed in the southern Kandahar province, said Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Naranjo. He gave no further details on the blasts, pending notification of the victims' families.

AP said roadside bombs have become the militants' weapon of choice in Afghanistan, and the number of such attacks has spiked this year, as thousands of additional American forces have joined the fight. President Barack Obama has ordered 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and expects the total number of U.S. forces here to reach 68,000 by year's end.

Deaths among U.S. and other NATO troops have also soared this year. With 74 foreign troops killed -- including 43 Americans -- July was the deadliest month for international forces since the start of the war in 2001.

Recently, President Barack Obama said "victory" in Afghanistan country isn't the United States' goal.

In a factually incorrect comparison, Obama told ABC News, "I'm always worried about using the word 'victory,' because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur."

There are currently 62,000 U.S. troops and 39,000 allied forced in Afghanistan, on top of about 175,000 Afghan soldiers and police. Some NATO countries plan to withdraw their troops in the next couple of years, even as the U.S. ramps up its presence, AP noted.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Wire: UK Lawmakers Slam US Afghan Strategy

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

"Significant mission creep"

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2009 -- Newswire services late today reported that an influential committee of British lawmakers said the international military mission in Afghanistan has delivered "much less than it promised" due to the lack of a realistic strategy.

The French news agency AFP said that, in a report, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said without a clear strategy stabilizing Afghanistan had become "considerably more difficult than might otherwise have been the case."

Lawmakers criticized United States' policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan and warned the "considerable cultural insensitivity" of some coalition troops had caused serious damage to Afghans' perceptions that will be "difficult to undo."

"We conclude that the international effort in Afghanistan since 2001 has delivered much less than it promised and that its impact has been significantly diluted by the absence of a unified vision and strategy grounded in the realities of Afghanistan's history, culture and politics," the report said.

As for Britain's roughly 9,000 troops in Afghanistan -- who in July suffered their worst month since the 2001 invasion with 22 deaths -- the members of parliament said their role has seen "significant mission creep," AFP said.

They were initially sent to counter international terrorism and are now working on areas like fighting the drugs trade and counter-insurgency, it said, adding the military had not been given "clear direction."

AFP noted the following details:
"We conclude that the UK's mission in Afghanistan has taken on a significantly different and considerably expanded character since the first British troops were deployed there in 2001," the report said.

"The UK deployment to Helmand [province] was undermined by unrealistic planning at senior levels, poor coordination between Whitehall [government] departments and crucially, a failure to provide the military with clear direction."

Britain's role as lead international partner on counter-narcotics was "a poisoned chalice", the report said, adding there was "little evidence" to suggest that cuts in poppy cultivation were down to deliberate strategy.

It called for British troops to focus on security alone.

The "Global Security: Afghanistan and Pakistan" report also looked at problems caused by the use of air power, particularly by the United States.
Responding to the report, the Foreign Office said it would study its conclusions and submit an official response in the coming months, AFP said.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Nimitz Strike Group Underway for Western Pacific Deployment

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SAN DIEGO (July 29, 2009) The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 transits into San Diego prior to mooring at Naval Air Station North Island. Nimitz is preparing for a 2009 regularly scheduled Western Pacific Deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Philip Wagner Jr.)

Focus on Defense:

USS Nimitz, At Sea, July 31, 2009 -- USS Nimitz (CVN 68) departed her homeport of San Diego July 31 on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.

"Teamwork … A Tradition" is the motto and philosophy of the USS Nimitz, the flagship of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG). Nimitz will leverage both as she leads a versatile, flexible and mission-tailored force in support of the nation's maritime strategy.

"I'm proud of these Sailors, and all of their families for the mutual commitment to support their country," said Rear Adm. John W. Miller, commander, CSG 11 "This deployment is the culmination of a lot of hard work. We are ready."

Aircraft carriers and their accompanying strike groups deliver the right balance of presence and power necessary to wage war in the 21st century. They enable the Navy to execute the six core capabilities of the maritime strategy – forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, maritime security and humanitarian assistance/disaster response.

"This ship is one of our nation's primary on-call assets, we can take this capability forward even to places where access is not assured", said Capt. Michael Manazir, Nimitz' commanding officer, "and it is all made possible through the pride and professionalism of the Nimitz Sailor".

Last year, Nimitz CSG deployed to the western Pacific in support of the U.S. commitment to peace and stability in the region while USS Kitty Hawk's (CV 63) was in maintenance. During the four-month deployment Nimitz CSG supported the maritime strategy by expanding cooperative relationships with the Republic of Korea (ROK), participating in Operation Key Resolve/Foal Eagle 2008.

"The carrier strike group has a unique ability to access critical areas and project power ashore without requiring basing ashore, said Miller, "but this same access can also position us for sustained, routine security cooperation activities with foreign partners and allies."

Nimitz CSG, commanded by Miller, is comprised of USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the guided-missile destroyers USS Pinckney (DDG 91) and USS Sampson (DDG 102) of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 23, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chosin (CG 55) from Commander, Naval Surface Group, Mid-Pacific and the Perry-class frigate USS Rentz (FFG 46) from DESRON 1. Squadrons from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11 include the "Black Aces" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41, the "Tophatters" of VFA 14, the "Warhawks" of VFA 97, the "Sidewinders" of VFA 86, the "Indians" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 6, the "Black Ravens" of Electronic Attack Squadron 135, the "Providers" of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 and the "Wallbangers" of Carrier Airborne Command and Control Squadron 117. Detachments from the "Easy Riders" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 37, the "Battle Cats" of HSL 43, the "Wolfpack" of HSL 45 and the "Scorpions" of HSL 49. Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 and USNS Bridge (T-AOE-10) embarking the "Wildcards" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 also accompany Nimitz CSG.

(Report from a USS Nimitz Public Affairs news release.)

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Former First Lady Laura Bush Honors Leadership, Crew of USS Texas

News in Balance
Former first lady Laura Bush smiles in front of USS Texas after a Change of Command ceremony in Groton, Conn., Friday, July 31, 2009. Mrs. Bush spoke briefly during the Change of Command for the USS Texas submarine, where Cmdr. James Gray turned over command to Cmdr. Robert Roncska. (AP news photo.)

News in Balance:

GROTON, Conn., July 31, 2009 -- The former first lady of the United States congratulated the outgoing commanding officer and offered best wishes to the incoming commander of USS Texas (SSN 775) during a change of command ceremony July 31 at Submarine Base New London.

"I'm happy to join you all for today's ceremony," said Laura Bush before a crowd of military and civilian dignitaries. "The USS Texas embodies the best ideals of her namesake's state: endurance, courage, loyalty and quiet strength. And nowhere are these virtues more visible than in her crew."

Bush, the boat's sponsor and native Texan, provided remarks during the change of command ceremony, during which Cmdr. James Gray turned over command of Texas to Cmdr. Robert Roncska. She had fond words for both naval officers.

"We thank Commander Gray for his outstanding service and leadership as the commander of the Texas. Congratulations to you, Jim, on a job well done and best wishes in your next assignment," said Bush.

As for Roncska, she said, "He'll be an excellent commander for the crew of the USS Texas. Congratulations Bob, and my very best wishes to you,"

Bush has been very active in the life of Texas, the fleet's second Virginia-class submarine. Not only did she take part in the change of command ceremony, which is among the oldest traditions in the Navy, she has also been there for other Texas milestones.

Previously, Bush participated in the laying of the ship's keel as first lady of Texas. In addition, as first lady of the United States, she spoke at the submarine's christening in 2004 and commissioning in 2006.

Her involvement did not stop there, according to Gray.

"She has been very interested in the crew's activities and corresponds with us periodically to remind us that we are in her thoughts. Shortly after the commissioning, she established a scholarship fund for children of current and former crew members. This scholarship provides partial tuition for up to three children at a time and there is currently one recipient," said Gray

Gray, a native of Dover, Del., will next serve as a member of the Chief of Naval Operations' Executive Panel. During his time in command, Texas transitioned into fleet operations and certified the ship's systems and her crew. The submarine also participated in numerous exercises, spent 181 days underway and logged nearly 42,000 miles.

Bush is also familiar with Roncska, a native of Dunkirk, New York. He served as naval aide to the president of the United States from 2006 to 2008.

"Commander Robert Roncska - or Navy Bob, as George calls him. We got to know Navy Bob while he served as the naval aide to President Bush. Last June, a little over a year ago now, Navy Bob traveled with me on a trip to Afghanistan. I appreciated the opportunity to get to know him better - and to see that he was a great officer and a natural leader. I know he's excited about the opportunity to command the Texas, and he brings a wealth of experience and energy to his new post," said Bush.

Roncska, who also served as executive officer aboard USS LaJolla (SSN 701), will lead Texas as the submarine transitions from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific later this fall. Bush had a final message for the crew.

"My best wishes for continued success. As your homeport changes from New London to Pearl Harbor - and as you undertake your first deployment - I know you'll tell all those you encounter, 'Don't Mess With Texas.'"

(Report by Lt. Patrick Evans, Public Affairs Officer, Commander Submarine Group 2.)

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Pentagon Releases July 2009 Quarterly Report on Iraq

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2009 -- The U.S. Department of Defense released to Congress today the "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq - July 2009" quarterly report.

The report is available for download.

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

Download: Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq - July 2009

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Space Fence Concept Moves Forward

Focus on Defense

Focus on Defense:

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass., July 31, 2009 -- Last month's award of three $30-million concept development contracts for the Space Fence program will yield an outcropping of risk reduction activities designed to improve the overall space surveillance network.

"This is truly a classic multi-contractor, prototyping risk-reduction effort, and a return on the investment of the program to gather data to improve the follow-on phases," said Linda Haines, Space Fence program manager.

The 850th Electronic Systems Group, the Electronic Systems Center organization responsible for the Space Fence's acquisition and development, awarded the three contracts to Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon on June 11.

The Space Fence is a system of three S-band ground-based radars designed to perform uncued detection, tracking and accurate measurement of orbiting space objects. The Space Fence is intended to replace the Air Force Space Surveillance System, or VHF Fence, that was transferred from the Navy to the Air Force in 2004. The higher wave frequency of the Space Fence allows for detection of much smaller satellites and debris.

The "fence"concept is created by the strategic placement of multiple radars that cover enough area to continuously track space objects that enter the Earth's orbit at certain angles. The land-based geographically dispersed sites will significantly improve timeliness for space event detection.

The current system design review phase will last more than a year and will include systems requirement reviews, design reviews and a three-month demonstration period with each of the three contractors.

"We will be getting systems engineering, architecture, modeling and simulation and analysis that will be used to update the Capabilities Development Document for the next phase, in addition to informing our life-cycle cost estimates and performance parameters," Ms. Haines said.

The February collision of a U.S. Iridium communications satellite and a Russian Cosmos 2251 communications satellite, which added hundreds more pieces of debris to the atmosphere, highlighted the need for more precise tracking of space objects.

"The Space Fence is going to be the most precise radar in the space situational surveillance network," Ms. Haines said. "The S-band capability will provide the highest accuracy in detecting even the smallest space objects."

Avoiding space collisions is important because it averts adding to the thousands of existing objects and debris already in space. All these objects present potential threats for communication or GPS satellites or even NASA's International Space Station and Space Shuttle.

Though current capabilities allow operators to monitor space launches, the Space Fence's radar architecture - three radars strategically located around the world- will yield a higher return in terms of timeliness and characterization of space events.

"Having these radars will boost the completeness of the resident space object catalog, in terms of accuracy and maintenance, and give an order of magnitude improvement in capability for space situational awareness," Ms. Haines said.

Data collected from the Space Fence's sensors would potentially feed into the Joint Space Operations Center Mission System, which is used to track objects orbiting the Earth, monitor space weather and assess foreign launches. Used by operators at the 614th Air and Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., the 614 AOC's 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week support provides vigilance of global and theater operations and equips the Joint Functional Component Command for space operations with the tools to conduct command and control of space forces.

The Space Fence's follow-on full and open competition is expected in the fall of 2010, following an in process review with the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics.

(Report by Monica D. Morales, 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs.)

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Pentagon: Thousands Pre-Apply for GI Bill Transfer Option

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2009 -- With the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s option to transfer unused educational benefits to eligible family members taking effect tomorrow, it’s no surprise that more than 25,000 servicemembers have pre-applied, a Pentagon official said today.

The wave of applicants has far exceeded the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments’ expectations, said Bob Clark, the Pentagon’s assistant director for accessions policy.

What’s even more impressive is that the Defense Department’s Web site for requesting the benefit has been live only since June 29, he added.

“We’ve seen, roughly, a thousand applications a day for the past week or so, and we expect that to continue,” Clark said. “Transferability of these educational benefits has been one of the most requested provisions by family support groups, family advocacy groups and the troops out in the field and fleet, and we’re just happy that it starts on the first of August.”

The site, https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/TEB/, is accessible using a common access card, Defense Department self-service user identification or a Defense Finance and Accounting Service personal identification number. Spouses and family members must be enrolled under their servicemember sponsor in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System, also known as DEERS, to be eligible for the transfer benefit. Military members also can link to the site through http://www.defenselink.mil/gibill.

With the Post-9/11 GI Bill, servicemembers are eligible for 36 months of educational benefits -- the equivalent of four nine-month academic years. To qualify for the transfer benefit, servicemembers must have six years of service on active duty or in the Selected Reserve on or after Aug. 1 and commit to an additional four years of service.

Servicemembers have the option to use or transfer as much of their benefits as they want to, and they can revoke or redesignate who receives the benefit at any time, Clark said.

He added that servicemembers can add and change names only while on active duty, and not after separating or retiring from active-duty service.

The unused benefits can be transferred to a spouse, two children or any combination, he said. But children cannot start using the benefit until they’re 18 or have a high school diploma or equivalent. Clark noted that children enrolled in DEERS lose their military benefits at age 21 unless they are full-time students.

Only eligible dependents’ names will appear on the registration Web site, he explained. Once servicemembers register on the site and designate who the benefits will be transferred to, the application will be processed through their appropriate service branch.

After the service verifies eligibility to transfer the benefits, the application will be forwarded and processed again through VA. And finally, when the selected dependent decides to use the benefit, he or she must go to the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site and fill out an online application to request a certificate of eligibility, Clark said.

The certificate then can be taken to the school to be processed by its Veterans Affairs representative and used to request tuition, payment for books and the living stipend, which varies by institution and location, he continued.

Of the 25,000 who’ve already applied, more than 15,000 have been approved, and of those, 5,500 dependents already have requested certificates to start their education.

“It has been a very fast, long run-up to the first of August, which is upon us. I see this as a wonderful opportunity for our veterans, our servicemembers, in particular, the families of our career members to give them the opportunity to further their education and reach their dreams,” Clark said.

Most servicemembers who have at least six years of military service as of Aug. 1 and agree to serve an additional four years qualify, he said. Department officials have proposed measures to support servicemembers who have at least 10 years of active service but can’t serve the additional four because of service or department policy. They would, however, have to serve the maximum time allowed before separating from the military, he said.

Another provision will cover servicemembers who will reach the 20-year service mark, making them retirement-eligible, between Aug. 1, 2009, and Aug. 1, 2013.

Clark explained how servicemembers who complete 20 years of service will be able to transfer the benefits:
  • Those eligible for retirement on Aug. 1, 2009, will be eligible to transfer their benefits with no additional service requirement.

  • Those with an approved retirement date after Aug. 1, 2009, and before July 1, 2010, will qualify with no additional service.

  • Those eligible for retirement after Aug. 1, 2009, but before Aug. 1, 2010, will qualify with one additional year of service after approval to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

  • Those eligible for retirement between Aug. 1, 2010, and July 31, 2011, will qualify with two additional years of service after approval to transfer.

  • Those eligible to retire between Aug. 1, 2011, and July 31, 2012, will qualify with three additional years of service after approval to transfer.

(Report by Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden, American Forces Press Service.)

Related:
Post 9/11 GI Bill Transfer Application Secure Web Site
Post 9/11 GI Bill
Department of Veterans Affairs

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Wire: US Troops Killed in Deadliest Month of War in Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that a U.S. servicemember was killed as the deadliest month for foreign troops in the Afghanistan war drew to a close, the U.S. military said on Friday.

Reuters news service said the death in southern Afghanistan brought to 40 the number of U.S. troops killed in July, by far the heaviest monthly toll in the 8-year-old war. The worst previous month for U.S. forces was in September 2008, when 26 were killed.

The latest death occurred in a firefight with insurgents in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, the U.S. military said, without giving further details. At least 70 foreign troops have been killed in July.

Casualties spiked after thousands of U.S. Marines this month launched major operations in southern Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold and the center of Afghanistan's opium production.

The Helmand operations are the first under U.S. President Barack Obama's new strategy in Afghanistan.

Recently, President Barack Obama said "victory" in Afghanistan country isn't necessarily the United States' goal.

In a factually incorrect comparison, Obama told ABC News, "I'm always worried about using the word 'victory,' because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur."

General MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender from representatives of the the Empire of Japan who signed the 'Japanese Instrument of Surrender' in Tokyo Bay aboard the USS Missouri. Emperor Hirohito was never there.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Combat Camera: Pennsylvania Guard Mission Counters Attacks From IEDs, IDF in Iraq

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Spc. Paul Valdiserri pulls security while his fellow Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers scour the area for improvised explosive devices in the Abu Ghraib area, here, July 30. Valdiserri, an infantryman from Stockdale, Pa., is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. "We are trying to catch insurgents placing IEDs or trying to fire rockets and mortars at us or at VBC [Victory Base Complex]," said Valdiserri. (Photo by Jon Soles, Multi-National Division Baghdad.)

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Navy Capt. Thomas Halley, left, commander of Joint Crew Composite Squadron 1, talks with Capt. Paolo Sica of the 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division outside the Rishala Iraqi Police Station in Abu Ghraib, here, July 30. Halley, a Navy fighter pilot from Clarksville, Tenn., accompanied the Pennsylvania National Guardsman on the mission to observe aspects of anti-IED electronic warfare technology. Sica is an infantry officer from State College, Pa. (Photo by Jon Soles, Multi-National Division Baghdad.)

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Spc. Lucas Butler scans the horizon with the sight of his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon during an anti-improvised explosive device and anti-indirect fire mission in the Abu Ghraib area, here, July 30. Butler is an infantryman from State College, Pa., assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. The soldiers of the 2nd Bn., 112th Inf. Regt. chose an area known as "the big concrete slab" to conduct their mission to catch insurgents in the act of placing IEDs or planning IDF attacks. (Photo by Jon Soles, Multi-National Division Baghdad.)

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Cpl. Ed Hall, an infantryman from Julian, Pa., mans the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon on a Stryker vehicle during a counter-improvised explosive device and counter-indirect fire mission in the Abu Ghraib area, here, July 30. Hall is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. (Photo by Jon Soles, Multi-National Division Baghdad.)

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Spc. Bill McSwain, an artilleryman from Clarion, Pa., pulls security while other soldiers meet with the local police commander at the Rishala Iraqi Police Station in the Abu Ghraib area, here, July 30. McSwain is a member of the 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, a Pennsylvania National Guard unit currently assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. (Photo by Jon Soles, Multi-National Division Baghdad.)

Dispatches from the Front:

BAGHDAD, July 31, 2009 -- An area known as "the big concrete slab" has attracted the interest of a platoon of Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers for its use as a staging area to deter indirect fire attacks against coalition forces.

Soldiers of the "Charger" Company, 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment, drove Stryker vehicles onto the "slab" to conduct a counter-improvised explosive device and counter-IDF mission here, July 30.

The area, which gave a wide 360-degree view, was picked as a good spot to thwart insurgent attacks in the planning phase.

"We're trying to catch people placing IEDs or trying to fire rockets and mortars at us or at VBC [Victory Base Complex]," said Spc. Paul Valdiserri, an infantryman from Stockdale, Pa. "There is also that chance that someone will come up to us to give us information. We've had that happen before."

The Pennsylvania Guardsmen, attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, dismounted from their Strykers and scanned the area for anything out of place. There was good reason to search the area, according to 1st Lt. Frederick Santucci, a platoon leader. There have been enemy attacks with RKG-3 grenades in the area recently.

"The remote weapon station has a pretty good field of view from here," said Santucci, who is an infantry officer from Lock Haven, Pa.

Though few attacks against CF would be conducted during the day, Santucci said the presence of the Charger Company soldiers would hopefully discourage insurgents. He said there was no substitute for a soldier's eyes on the ground.

"Every soldier is a sensor," Santucci said.

The Strykers stopped at several other locations, where the soldiers walked around looking for anything out of the ordinary that could indicate a freshly-planted IED. After the searches were concluded, the soldiers stopped at the Rishala Iraqi Police Station in the Abu Ghraib area.

"They are a solid ally here and we have a great working relationship; we have invested a lot of time with them," said Santucci. "They have really stepped up and supported us."

The platoon leader praised the efforts of the local Iraqi police, who he said had demonstrated a commitment to keeping their community safe and to improving the quality of life for the Iraqi citizens.

"Together we have managed to do a lot of great things in the community, from humanitarian drops to taking down bad guys," said Santucci.

As the Strykers rolled back toward VBC, the sky turned orange as a dust storm quickly descended upon Baghdad. The soldiers dismounted the Strykers for the last time of the day, and attended a post-mission briefing. Santucci fielded questions about how the soldiers thought the mission went and encouraged them to remain vigilant.

"The guys are capable of handling any mission they are given," Santucci said of his infantry platoon. "Every one of them has improved every day since we got here."

At the end of another mission, the soldiers of the 2nd Bn., 112th Inf. Regt., could rest and prepare for their next mission, knowing their presence out in sector had helped to keep other soldiers safer from IEDs and VBC safer from attack.

(Report by Jon Soles, Multi-National Division Baghdad.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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US Navy: Ballistic Missile Defense Test Successful

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PACIFIC OCEAN (July 30, 2009) During exercise Stellar Avenger, the Aegis-class destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70) launches a standard missile (SM) 3 Blk IA, successfully intercepting a sub-scale short range ballistic missile, launched from the Kauai Test Facility, Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), Barking Sans, Kauai. This was the 19th successful intercept in 23 at-sea firings, for the Aegis BMD program, including the February 2008 destruction of a malfunctioning satellite above the earth's atmosphere. (U.S. Navy photo.)

Focus on Defense:

KAUAI, Hawaii, July 31, 2009 -- In conjunction with the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), U.S. Pacific Fleet ships and crews successfully conducted the latest Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) at-sea firing event on July 30.

During this event, entitled Stellar Avenger, the Aegis BMD-equipped ship, USS Hopper (DDG 70), detected, tracked, fired and guided a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block (Blk) IA to intercept a sub-scale short range ballistic missile. The target was launched from the Kauai Test Facility, co-located on the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), Barking Sands, Kauai. It was the 19th successful intercept in 23 at-sea firings, for the Aegis BMD Program, including the February 2008 destruction of the malfunctioning satellite above the earth's atmosphere.

Stellar Avenger was part of the continual evaluation of the certified and fielded Aegis BMD system at-sea today.

At approximately 5:40 pm(HST), 11:40 pm (EDT), a target was launched from PMRF. Three U.S. Navy Aegis BMD-equipped ships, the cruiser, USS Lake Erie (CG 70) and destroyers USS Hopper (DDG 70) and USS O'Kane (DDG 77) detected and tracked the target with their SPY radars. Each developed fire control solutions. At 5:42 pm(HST), 11:42 pm (EDT) the crew of USS Hopper fired one SM-3 Blk IA missile. The USS Hopper's Aegis BMD Weapon System successfully guided the SM-3 to a direct body to body hit, approximately two minutes after leaving the ship. The intercept occurred about 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean.

USS O'Kane conducted a simulated engagement of the target. USS Lake Erie, with its recently installed upgraded Aegis BMD 4.0.1 Weapons System, detected and tracked the same target.

After Stellar Avenger, the same three ships participated in the first live engineering evaluation of Aegis BMD's next system upgrade. Engineers and ships crews recently completed installation and evaluation of an advanced version of the Aegis BMD weapon system. For the first time, the USS Lake Erie used this advanced system during a live firing to evaluate all fire control functions, including launch of a simulated SM-3 Blk IB. This is a typical step in the evaluation of any advancement in the Aegis weapon system. The USS Lake Erie will fire the new SM-3 Blk IB using this advanced weapon system in late 2010. This advanced Aegis BMD system will improve the probability of kill against advanced threats.

MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD Program. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors of Moorestown, New Jersey is the Combat System Engineering Agent (CSEA) and prime contractor for the Aegis BMD Weapon System and Vertical Launch System installed in Aegis equipped cruisers and destroyers. Raytheon Missile Systems of Tucson, Arizona is the prime contractor for the SM-3 missile and all previous variants of Standard Missile.

(Report from a Missile Defense Agency Public Affairs news release.)

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Combat Camera Video: Operation Khanjar, Protecting the Afghan People

video

NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2009 -- Embedded above is a NATO video package. On July 1, a new tactical directive was issued as additional troops deployed to Helmand. This report examines how forces prioritize protecting the local people while engaging insurgents. (NATO TV video. Length: 03:40.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION

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US Navy: P-8A Poseidon Rollout Unveils Next Maritime Patrol Aircraft

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SEATTLE (April 27, 2009) A Boeing P-8A Poseidon test aircraft T-1 conducts a test flight April 25, 2009. The aircraft completed a series of tests during the 3 hour, 31 minute flight and reached an altitude of 25,000 feet before landing at Boeing Field in Seattle. (Photo courtesy Boeing.)

Focus on Defense:

SEATTLE, July 30, 2009 -- The U.S. Navy and Boeing unveiled the next maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, during a rollout ceremony July 30 at Boeing's manufacturing facility in Seattle.

"This is a tremendous day to recognize the outstanding efforts of the U.S. Navy, Boeing and the entire industry team on a job extremely well done," said Rear Adm. Bill Moran, commander, Patrol Reconnaissance Group. "It has been more than forty years since the maritime patrol community has seen a new aircraft; delivery of this aircraft cannot come soon enough."

The admiral said the aircraft's greater situational awareness, open systems architecture and higher operating altitude will bring a greater punch to the fight, across all warfare mission areas and will be a significant force multiplier.

The Poseidon will replace the P-3C Orion as a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. It will maximize the experience and technology of the Orion but with significant growth potential, greater payload capacity, advanced mission systems, software and communications.

"The P-8A Poseidon program is an outstanding example of evolutionary acquisition at work. We have established a very solid baseline for initial operational capability, while concurrently making upgrade increments for future insertion as technology matures," said Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft Program Manager Capt. Mike Moran.

"The team has worked hard to stay on schedule and within cost in this developmental effort; we all should be extremely proud of the results."

Boeing was awarded a contract in 2004 to deliver five test vehicles. This acquisition phase provides three flight test aircraft, one full-scale static loads test airframe, and one full-scale fatigue test airframe. The Navy plans to purchase 117 production aircraft.

All five test aircraft are in various stages of assembly and ground test; two of the flight test aircraft have already successfully flown as part of a Boeing relocation and system flight check process. Testing on the static loads airframe is underway and the Navy will begin formal flight testing later this year.

In April, the Australian Department of Defence signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense to join a cooperative partnership in the development of follow-on capabilities to be added to the Poseidon after it enters the fleet in 2013.

(Report from a Naval Air Systems Command Public Affairs news release.)

COMBAT CAMERA More Military Imagery on THE TENSION

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USS Dwight D Eisenhower Returns From Deployment

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MAYPORT, Fla. (July 28, 2009) Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) arrive in Naval Station Mayport for a port visit. Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group arrived in Mayport after a deployment in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Responsibility supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation. Dwight D. Eisenhower will embark Tiger Cruise participants for a short underway to the carrier's homeport in Norfolk, Va. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elisha Dawkins.)

Focus on Defense:

NORFOLK, Va., July 30, 2009 -- Thousands of family and friends gathered at Naval Station Norfolk, July 30 to welcome home Sailors from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) following a five-month deployment supporting Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and maritime security and coalition operations in the 5th Fleet and 6th Fleet Areas of Responsibility.

"I could not be more proud of the men and women embarked on Dwight D. Eisenhower as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group. They have performed magnificently this entire deployment," said Capt. Dee L. Mewbourne, commanding officer, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. "Safely operating both in the air and on the sea over the past five months, often in arduous conditions, they supported coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan with utmost professionalism while providing regional security and stability. Without question, their service made a difference."

During the deployment, Ike and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 conducted more than 4,600 flight sorties totaling more than 16,000 hours with a 99% sortie completion rate. Of those operations, 2,010 were combat sorties supporting American and Coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan.

CVW-7 squadrons – Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA) 143, 131, 103, and 83; Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121; Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140; and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 5 all returned to homeport earlier in the week.

In addition to carrying out the Navy's mission, Ike made a historic visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain. It marked the first time a nuclear powered carrier pulled pierside in Bahrain. The last conventional carrier to pull pierside in Bahrain was USS Rendova in 1948.

Ike hosted His Majesty the King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain; the first U.S. Naval Officer appointed as the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, Admiral James Stavridis; the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; the Prime Minister of Lithuania and dignitaries and military officials from Libya, Poland, Algeria, and France.

Nearly 4,500 Sailors from Ike proudly carried on the Navy's tradition of ambassadorship during overseas port visits to Bahrain, Dubai, Marseilles, France and Lisbon, Portugal. Over 280 Sailors contributed 1,715 hours of international community service ashore.

With the deployment completed, Ike Sailors will enjoy some well deserved time off before heading out to sea again for an upcoming work up cycle.

"We set out to accomplish three goals: to do it right, to do it safe, and make America proud. I think we've met those goals and now I'm anxious to get back and be with my wife and son," Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class(SW/AW) Daniel Flood.

This was Eisenhower's eleventh deployment since commissioning in 1976, and the ship's second in support of OEF.

(Report from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Public Affairs.)

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Pentagon Identifies Army Casualties (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2009 -- The following news release made available Thursday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying casualties:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

  • Chief Warrant Officer Douglas M. Vose III, 38, of Concrete, Wash., died July 29 in Kabul Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, Stuttgart, Germany.

  • Pvt. Gerrick D. Smith, 19, of Sullivan, Ill., died July 29 in Herat, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry, Illinois Army National Guard, Marion, Ill.

    The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.

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

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US Airpower Summary, July 30, 2009: F-16s Strike Enemy Positions

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F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft flying in a two man formation, launch electronic countermeasure flares, following an aerial refueling mission over Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Scott Reed.)

Dispatches from the Front:

SOUTHWEST ASIA, July 30, 2009 -- Coalition airpower integrated with coalition ground forces in Iraq and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan during operations July 29, according to Combined Air and Space Operations Center officials here.

Near Asadabad, Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons provided armed overwatch for friendly forces engaged in a vehicle recovery operation. Enemy sniper fire forced friendly forces to call for airpower assistance. The F-16s responded by dropping precision guided munitions on the enemy position. Friendly forces were able to complete the mission under air cover.

Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs at Balocan provided support for friendly forces that received rocket-propelled grenade attacks from enemy forces. After several shows of force the small-arms fire ceased.

A friendly forces convoy requested air support from Navy F/A-18C Hornets that were providing armed overwatch at Tarin Kowt. The convoy reported RPG attacks and small-arms fire. The Hornets provided several shows of force and expended numerous flares. A-10s were also in the vicinity providing support to friendly forces. The Air Force aircraft destroyed several anti-Afghan force positions with precision guided munitions and cannon fire. Coalition airpower stopped the enemy attacks.

In the vicinity of Asadabad, Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles provided armed overwatch for friendly forces. When the friendly forces came under enemy small-arms fire the Strike Eagles demonstrated several shows of force expending flares as required. They also destroyed several enemy positions with precision guided munitions after the enemy was positively identified at each location.

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

In total, 83 close-air-support missions were flown in support of the ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

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

Nine Air Force and Navy ISR aircraft flew missions as part of operations in Iraq. In addition, two Air Force aircraft performed tactical reconnaissance.

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

Approximately 35 airlift sorties were flown; 929 tons of cargo were delivered; and 1,791 passengers were transported. This included about 105,000 pounds of aerial resupply cargo air-dropped over Afghanistan.

Coalition C-130 crews flew as part of operations in the theater of operations.

On July 28, Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters and "Guardian Angel" teams transported six patients to coalition field hospitals from locations in Afghanistan. Pararescue team members aboard located, rescued and began treatment to stabilize patients in the battlefield. The Pave Hawk transported these patients to field hospitals in less time than it takes for a civilian patient to reach emergency care by ambulance in most major cities.

Air Force tankers flew 47 sorties and off-loaded approximately 2.5 million pounds of fuel to 178 receiving aircraft.

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

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