Saturday, August 8, 2009

Combat Camera: More Scenes Around Kabul, Afghanistan

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An Afghan man sells local fruit while sitting alongside a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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An Afghan shoe polisher sits against a wall full of political campaign advertisements July 28, 2009 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Kabul has been overwhelmed with campaign ads in preparation for the upcoming Aug. 20 elections. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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Afghan people walk across a street next to a Mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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Two Afghan nationals work on a construction project installing sewer pipelines alongside a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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An Afghan police officer provides security at a busy corner in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. Kabul requires a great deal of security to protect its 3 million residents. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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Afghan national police traffic officer attempts to direct the traffic in a crowded intersection in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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An Afghan woman wears a modern attire as she walks in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. In the past, it was mandatory for all females to wear the traditional local female outfit; this rule is no longer enforced. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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An Afghan man counts the money he earned while selling cell phone sim cards in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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Afghan national vendors sell fresh vegetables in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. The lack of big retail stores and supermarkets in Kabul has helped develop an industry of small companies that supply groceries to the local population. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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An Afghan national police traffic officer attempts to direct the traffic in a crowded intersection in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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Two Afghan women and their daughters walk in between a herd of sheep in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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Dump trucks containing bricks are park alongside a main highway in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. These trucks usually re-supply small construction projects around the Kabul city area. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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Father and son ride a bicycle through the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. Bicycles and motorcycles are popular ways of transportation in Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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Afghan people walk across a market next to the Kabul River in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. Unfortunately the waters of the river have been heavy polluted and trash can be seen on the surface. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

Related: Combat Camera: Scenes Around Kabul, Afghanistan

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Wire: Pentagon Says Lawmakers' Jets, Unrequested Appropriations, Take From Troops at War

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2009 -- Newswire services this morning reported that the House's bid to buy new executive jets on the Pentagon's budget has broadened a conflict between Congress and the administration over defense priorities.

"It forces us to take money from things we do need to fund and redirect it for things we don't need," Geoff Morrell, a spokesman for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said Friday. "And in a time of war, we just can't afford that."

Lawmakers' move to upgrade the fleet of government jets -- used for travel by lawmakers and other senior government officials -- is just one of more than 1,000 spending projects lawmakers added to the Pentagon's budget for next year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The $550 million request for additional executive jets, which pales next to the price of weapons systems targeted for cuts, comes at a time when the White House is trying to limit Pentagon budgeting and contracting.

"The bottom line is, for everything that they appropriate for us above and beyond what we've asked for, it will, at some point require us to find money from programs we do need," Morrell said.

The House trimmed President Obama's budget request for the Pentagon to $636.3 billion, down slightly from the $640.1 billion he sought. But in so doing, House appropriators also rearranged spending priorities, cutting programs Mr. Obama favored and replacing them with items he wanted cut, the Journal said.

In all, the House included more than 1,000 additional spending provisions totaling more than $2.8 billion, according to an analysis of the legislation by the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense.

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: Pentagon Takes Aim at Jets for Congressional Travel

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Pentagon Releases Speicher Search Details

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ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq (July 28, 2009) Marines from Task Force Personnel Recovery (TF MP) of Multi-National Force-West conduct recovery efforts at the crash site of U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, whose F/A-18 was shot down over Anbar province, Iraq, Jan. 17, 1991. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo.)

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ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq (July 28, 2009) Marines from Task Force Personnel Recovery (TF MP) of Multi-National Force-West conduct recovery efforts at the crash site of U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, whose F/A-18 was shot down over Anbar province, Iraq, Jan. 17, 1991. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo.)

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ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq (July 23, 2009) Marines from Task Force Personnel Recovery (TF MP) of Multi-National Force-West conduct recovery efforts at the crash site of U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher, whose F/A-18 was shot down over Anbar province, Iraq, Jan. 17, 1991. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo.)

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Washington, D.C. (Oct. 11, 2002) Navy file photo of Navy Capt. Michael “Scott” Speicher, the F/A-18 "Hornet" pilot who was shot down over Iraq on the opening night of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. (U.S. Navy Photo.)

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2009 -- The following news release made available Friday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement regarding the recent discovery of the remains of Navy Capt. Michael "Scott" Speicher in Iraq:
The Navy announced today additional details regarding the recent discovery of the remains of Navy Capt. Michael "Scott" Speicher in Iraq. Speicher was shot down flying a combat mission in an F/A-18 Hornet over west-central Iraq on Jan. 17, 1991, during Operation Desert Storm.

Acting in part on information provided by an Iraqi citizen in early July, Multi National Force - West's (MNF-W) personnel recovery team went to a location in the desert which was believed to be the crash site of Speicher's jet. The Iraqi, a Bedouin, was 11 years old at the time of the crash and did not have direct knowledge of where Speicher was buried, but knew of other Bedouins who did. He willingly provided his information during general discussion with MNF-W personnel and stated he was unaware of the U.S. government's interest in this case until queried by U.S. investigators in July 2009.

The Iraqi citizens led MNF-W's personnel recovery team to the area they believed Speicher was buried. The area where the remains were recovered was located approximately 100 kilometers west of Ramadi, in Anbar province. There were two sites that teams searched. One site was next to the downed aircraft that was discovered in 1993 and the other site was approximately two kilometers away. The second site was where Speicher's remains were recovered.

The recovery personnel searched two sites from July 22-29. The personnel recovery team consisted of approximately 150 people, mostly Marines and other forces under MNF-W.

The recovered remains include bones and multiple skeletal fragments. Based on visual examination of the remains and dental records at the site, a preliminary assessment was reached that the remains were that of Speicher. After searching the site another day, no further remains were recovered.

On July 30, the remains were turned over from the recovery team to MNF-W mortuary affairs at Al Asad. The remains were then transported to Dover Port Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Del. They were examined by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology's (AFIP) Armed Forces medical examiner who positively identified them as those of Speicher on Aug. 1.

Positive identification by AFIP was made by comparing Speicher's dental records with the jawbone recovered at the site. The teeth were a match, both visually and radiographically. AFIP's DNA Lab in Rockville, Md., confirmed the remains to be Speicher on Aug. 2 via DNA comparison tests of the remains by comparing them to DNA reference samples previously provided by family members.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon Identifies Marine Casualties (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2009 -- The following news release made available Friday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying casualties:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of four Marines who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

The following Marines died Aug. 6 while supporting combat operations in Farah province, Afghanistan:
  • Lance Cpl. James D. Argentine, 22, of Farmingdale, N.Y.

  • Lance Cpl. Travis T. Babine, 20, of San Antonio, Texas.

  • Cpl. Christian A. Guzman Rivera, 21, of Homestead, Fla.

  • Sgt. Jay M. Hoskins, 24, of Paris, Texas.

Argentine, Babine and Hoskins were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay.

Guzman Rivera was assigned to the 3rd Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Combat Camera Video: Air Assault in Khost, Afghanistan

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NOTE: News readers click here to watch the video.

Dispatches from the Front:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2009 -- Embedded above is a b-roll video of U.S. and Afghan soldiers conducting an air assault mission in Khost, Afghanistan. Scenes include U.S. and Afghan forces getting off the back of an military aircraft, U.S. soldiers using dogs to search an area, soldiers destroying a supply of weapons with a controlled detonation, Afghan soldiers handing out food to Afghan children and U.S. and Afghan forces getting back onto a military aircraft and taking off. (Produced by Spc. Robert Ham, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs. Length: 00:04:34.)

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Wire: Lawmakers Slate $500 Million for 8 Air Force Commuter Jets

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

The Pentagon didn't request the additional planes.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported Congress plans to spend $550 million to buy eight jets, a substantial upgrade to the fleet used by federal officials at a time when lawmakers have criticized the use of corporate jets by companies receiving taxpayer funds.

The purchases will help accommodate growing travel demand by congressional officials. The planes augment a fleet of about two dozen passenger jets maintained by the Air Force for lawmakers, administration officials and military chiefs to fly on government trips in the U.S. and abroad, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The congressional shopping list goes beyond what the Air Force had initially requested as part of its annual appropriations. The Pentagon sought to buy one Gulfstream V and one business-class equivalent of a Boeing 737 to replace aging planes. The Defense Department also asked to buy two additional 737s that were being leased, the Journal said.

Penatgon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the Department of Defense didn't request the additional planes and doesn't need them. "We ask for what we need and only what we need," he told reporters Wednesday. "We've always frowned upon earmarks and additives that are above and beyond what we ask for."

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: Congress Gets an Upgrade

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Combat Camera: Scenes Around Kabul, Afghanistan

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Coalition forces from Bulgaria drive a U.S. made Humvee in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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A Maxxpro Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, manufactured by Navistar, heads out on patrol at Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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A Cougar Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, manufactured by Force Protection Inc., heads out on patrol at Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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Three Afghan women, right, wear the traditional local female attire while another woman, left, wears modern attire, July 28, 2009, Kabul, Afghanistan. In the past, it was mandatory for all females to wear the traditional local female outfit; this rule is no longer enforced. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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French coalition forces shop at the Afghan market inside Camp Warehouse in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. Coalition forces support the local economy by shopping at the Afghan markets inside the base. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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A German military vehicle travels in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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Afghan citizens walk in front of a Mosque located in the south side of Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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An Afghan salesman displays some of the carpets he has on stock at his store inside the Afghan market at Camp Warehouse in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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Vintage knifes, antique weapons, helmets and knight's armor are some of the items sold at the Afghan market inside Camp Warehouse in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. Coalition forces support the local economy by shopping at the Afghan markets inside the base. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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U.S. Army Pfc. Justin Bell, from the 48th Infantry Brigade, Georgia National Guard, clears his M4 carbine after he entered Camp Phoenix, Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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The King Palace of Afghanistan is seen on top of a hill in the south side of Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. At one point in history, Afghanistan used to have its own king and queen and each one used to have their own palace. The palaces still exist, but they were heavy damaged after the Afghan-Russian War in the 1980s. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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French soldiers guard the gate at Camp Warehouse in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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The King Palace of Afghanistan is seen on top of a hill in the south side of Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. At one point in history, Afghanistan used to have its own king and queen and each one used to have their own palace. The palaces still exist, but they were heavy damaged after the Afghan-Russian War in the 1980s. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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An ambulance with California license plates drives through downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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U.S. Army soldiers provide security at the gate of Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 28, 2009.(Photo by Sgt. Teddy Wade, Joint Combat Camera Afghanistan.)

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Pentagon Identifies Navy Casualty (OEF)

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2009 -- The following news release made available Thursday by the U.S. Department of Defense is the text of a statement identifying a casualty:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony C. Garcia, 21, of Tyndall, Fla. died Aug. 5 while supporting combat operations in Farah Province, Afghanistan.
(Report from a U.S. Defense Department news release.)

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Pentagon Discuses Activation of Global Strike Command, Nuclear Mission

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2009 -- A key step in reinvigorating the Air Force’s nuclear deterrence mission will be made today with the activation of the service’s Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.

Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley said the new command will bring together the Air Force bomber force and intercontinental ballistic missiles under a single commander.

“Standing up the command is no small task, and actually we’re doing it sooner than we anticipated,” Donley said during a Pentagon news conference Aug. 5. “This command will provide the combatant commanders the forces needed to conduct strategic nuclear deterrence and global strike operations through ICBM, B-2 and B-52 operations.”

Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz will command the organization. The headquarters will include 900 people, and is slated to reach full operating capability by Aug. 7, 2010, Donley said. The 20th Air Force, the service’s missile organization, will come under the new command in December; and the 8th Air Force, the bomber component, will come under the command in April.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz stressed that the new command will be a major command like Air Combat Command or Air Force Special Operations Command. The role is to “organize, train and equip America’s ICBMs and nuclear-capable bombers, and prepare a cadre to do this important work with passion and professionalism,” he said during the news conference.

Ensuring professionalism and pride in the nuclear field will be vital to the command’s success, Schwartz said, noting that airmen with nuclear expertise had been leaving the service, feeling their work was not appreciated.

“The bottom line is retention has a lot to do with perceptions on how important people’s work is, and how worthy that work is,” the general said. “We’ve worked to make it clear to those who will serve in this command that the work is important to the country’s defense and it will continue to be so.”

Making the command a major command also will give airmen in the nuclear fields an advocate equal to the other commands, he said.

The creation of the command is an effort to boost security and reduce errors. In a 2007 incident, nuclear weapons were loaded aboard a B-52 bomber at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and flown to Barksdale before the mistake was discovered. In another incident, nuclear nose cones mistakenly were shipped to Taiwan. As a result, the service’s top civilian and military officials -- Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley -- resigned.

Multiple studies of the incidents and the Air Force’s atmosphere revealed that the service’s nuclear forces and the entire enterprise lacked clear lines of authority and responsibility, officials said. The Global Strike Command is one of the solutions.

Donley said moves at the Air Staff and in the field have emphasized accountability and compliance with respect to nuclear issues at all levels. The service has re-emphasized training for inspectors and added $750 million over the Future Year Defense Plan for nuclear efforts, in addition to a $4.2 billion base budget. The service also is standing up another B-52 squadron, in part to provide for longer and more focused training.

A number of entities have an interest in the nuclear arena, including the U.S. Strategic Command and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. These agencies will play a key role in inspections of the new command, Schwartz said.

The command will have an inspector general, and the service has made a special effort to make the inspections “more challenging and intrusive to ensure that commanders get good feedback in how healthy their commands were,” the general said.

Inspections will be demanding, he promised, and will include operations, security, maintenance and weapons.

The emphasis on the nuclear missions means that when a mission requires B-2s or B-52s to carry conventional weapons, they will be reassigned from the new command to the regional commanders for that mission. Global Strike Command will ensure that air and ground crews have expertise in conventional weaponry and raids, but the focus must remain on the nuclear capability, the chief of staff said.

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

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USS Georgia Departs Kings Bay for Maiden Deployment as Converted Guided Missile Sub

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KINGS BAY, Ga. (Aug. 5, 2009) The guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729) transits the St. Marys River on her first operational deployment as a converted Guided-missile submarine. Georgia will deploy for approximately one year to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility before returning to homeport at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga. (U.S. Navy photo Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kimberly Clifford.)

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KINGS BAY, Ga. (Aug. 5, 2009) Sailors aboard the guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729) wait for a storm to pass as the submarine prepares to get underway from Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga. for the first time since conversion from a ballistic missile submarine to a guided-missile submarine in 2008. (U.S. Navy photo Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kimberly Clifford.)

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KINGS BAY, Ga. (Aug. 5, 2009) The guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729) prepares to get underway from Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga. for the first time since conversion from a ballistic missile submarine to a guided-missile submarine in 2008. (U.S. Navy photo Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kimberly Clifford.)

Focus on Defense:

KINGS BAY, Ga., Aug. 7, 2009 -- The fourth of the four guided-missile submarines (SSGN) departed for its maiden operational deployment as a newly converted SSGN from Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., Aug. 6.

USS Georgia (SSGN 729), led by Capt. Brian McIlvaine, Blue crew commanding officer, completed its conversion from a ballistic missile submarine to a guided-missile submarine and returned to service March 28, 2008.

Georgia will deploy for approximately one year to the 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Responsibility before returning to its homeport in Kings Bay. Georgia's two crews, Blue and Gold, will alternate manning the submarine every three months, conducting crew swaps in Diego Garcia.

Georgia's blue and gold crews are well-trained for a wide variety of missions including strike, special operations and irregular warfare. The submarine carries MK48 torpedoes and can carry 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles. There is additional space provided aboard Georgia to accommodate living, working and training of up to 66 special operations forces and their equipment.

"I could not be more pleased with the way the Georgia team has prepared and trained for their deployment," said Rear Adm. Barry Bruner, commander, Submarine Group 10. "I know the forces forward will use USS Georgia wisely and look forward to watching her excel throughout the many real-world and exercise events that she will participate in."

Georgia credits fellow commands at Kings Bay for preparing the boat and crew for the deployment, including the numerous certifications and inspections that the boat has completed in the past 45 days.

"All the support external organizations provided was superb," said Command Master Chief Richard Rose, Blue crew chief of the boat. "Submarine Group 10 and Submarine Squadron 16 staff, Trident Training Facility, Trident Refit Facility, and Naval Submarine Support Command Kings Bay's support during the [pre-deployment] phase has been above board. Every time the ship went to sea was a testament on all the hard work and support these facilities provided."

(Report by Commander Submarine Group 10 Public Affairs.)

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wire: US Leaders Look to Vietnam War for Afghanistan Tips

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that U.S. officials have reached out to a Vietnam War author to discuss the similarities of that conflict with the American involvement in Afghanistan.

The overture to historian Stanley Karnow, who opposes the Afghan war, comes as the U.S. is evaluating its strategy there, The Associated Press reported.

President Barack Obama has doubled the size of the U.S. force to curb a growing Taliban insurgency and bolster the Afghan government. He has tasked Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander, to conduct a strategic review of the fight against Taliban guerrillas and draft a detailed proposal for victory.

Recently, Obama told ABC News that "victory" in Afghanistan isn't the United States' goal.

In an interview Thursday with AP, Karnow said it was the first time he had ever been consulted by U.S. commanders to discuss the war. He did not elaborate on the specifics of the conversation.

When asked what could be drawn from the Vietnam experience, Karnow replied: "What did we learn from Vietnam? We learned that we shouldn't have been there in the first place. Obama and everybody else seem to want to be in Afghanistan, but not I."

"It now seems unthinkable that the U.S. could lose [in Afghanistan], but that's what experts ... thought in Vietnam in 1967," he said at his Maryland home. "It could be that there will be no real conclusion and that it will go on for a long time until the American public grows tired of it."

(Report from newswire sources.)

Source: AP NewsBreak: US looks to Vietnam for Afghan tips

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Wire Update: 5 US Troops Killed in Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2009 -- Newswire services this afternoon reported that roadside bombs killed five U.S. troops within 24 hours -- in the same western Afghanistan province -- the American military said today.

The deaths bring to 11 the number of American soldiers killed in Afghanistan so far in August, on the heels of what was the worst month for Western and U.S. troop fatalities since the conflict began in 2001. Forty-three American servicemen died in July, The Los Angeles Times reported.

In addition to the troop fatalities, a total of 26 Afghans, most of them members of a wedding party, were reported killed in roadside bombings today.

The American deaths occurred in Farah province, bordering Iran, where a force consisting mainly of U.S. Marines staffs a string of small forward operating bases set deep in the desert. They are connected by a route that American forces have been struggling for months to keep free of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which have made road travel extremely dangerous for villagers and military convoys alike, the LA Times said.

One of the fatalities took place Wednesday, and the other four, identified earlier by NATO sources as U.S. Marines, in a single incident, came today, the U.S. military said. Such "clusters" of fatalities are becoming less uncommon; three American soldiers were killed over the weekend in a single roadside bombing in the south.

This is a developing story.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Pentagon Officials Look for Way to Solve Social Networking Risks Without Service-Wide Ban

News in Balance

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2009 -- As Pentagon officials weigh the benefits and risks of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, they hope to craft a policy that shores up security vulnerabilities without requiring a ban.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has clarified its guidelines on social networking, and officials said they would consider the findings gleaned in the Pentagon policy review due out in late September.

Defense officials have said the policy review will attempt to balance the pros of social networking – such as its value for recruiting, public affairs and communication between troops and their families -- against the potential security risks they create, which include violations of operations security, network vulnerability and bandwidth drain.

Asked if the Pentagon is leaning toward a policy that doesn't require a department-wide ban, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman replied, "I think certainly it is."

"We need to do this comprehensive review, determine what the vulnerabilities are, match that against the benefits we receive from being able to use these new tools and capabilities, and then try to establish a policy that will accommodate all of that," Whitman said in an interview yesterday.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is slated to receive a report on the threats and benefits of Web 2.0 tools before the end of the month, and a department-wide policy is due in late September. Both Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have embraced the new technologies.

The Pentagon's chief information officer is taking the lead on the review, which was prompted by concerns raised at U.S. Strategic Command, officials said. Stratcom is responsible for overseeing the use of the "dot-mil" network.

For many junior-ranking troops, Youtube, MySpace and Facebook are more than mere diversions; they are the primary means through which young servicemembers communicate with friends and families while on deployments. They also represent avenues for recruiting efforts and dialogue between commanders and military personnel and families, Whitman said.

"So it is a part of our society; it is pervasive," he said. "But we also have to be mindful that we don't do things that will impede our ability to do our core missions here."

Concern for maintaining operations security exists in cyberspace as it does in other social arenas, Whitman said. He added that the military's operations security training regimen -- which emphasizes practicing security at the source -- also translates to social networking.

"Whether I'm communicating over the Internet or I'm talking to somebody at a local establishment socially," he said, "I should be mindful of [operations security] and what I say, and whether or not it's going to compromise any aspect of a military operation."

In the midst of underlying tension between social networking's pros and cons, the absence of a standing Defense Department policy has led to differing interpretations of how to mitigate threats, Whitman said.

"It's an unevenness in the way in which people have applied -- locally -- policies associated with how they have assessed the threat," he said. "And it reflects the tension that exists between wanting to use these social networking tools and wanting to protect our networks.

"I think that tension ... is important for us to resolve at a department level so that commanders have some guidance when they're looking at how to use these tools, as well as how to protect the networks," he added.

No department-wide directives ban the use of social networking and other Web 2.0 applications. But the Marine Corps' block on social networks underscores the unevenness Whitman described.

Since early 2007, the Corps has blocked Marines from accessing sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube through the Marine network. While Marines at home and abroad may use the sites on nonmilitary networks, only those with a waiver are exempted from the standing policy, Marine Corps officials said.

"Right now, the [Defense Department] has yet to come up with a policy on this," said Ray Letteer, senior information assurance official for the Marine Corps. "So we ... are just maintaining what has been the policy since 2007."

The Marines this week issued a statement clarifying the service's policy on social networking sites and spelling out guidelines for obtaining waivers in cases where access to such social networks is essential for a Marine's military job.

As the Defense Department strives to find the right balance in its policy, the Corps also seeks to find harmony between security concerns and the Web capabilities' legitimate use.

"We want to balance that security to protect our Marines on the network [and] at the same time start looking into using this new technology, this exciting capability of communication," Letteer said, "but do it in a way ... where we move in smartly, carefully and do it the right way the first time."

He added that the Marines also will strive to balance the Defense Department's study results with its own social networking policy.

"As with all directives from the Department of Defense, we will have to adapt and take a look at the impacts on this and be able to execute it in a way that will meet with what the [Defense Department] wants us to do," Letteer said, "and still, of course, meet our Marine Corps mission."

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

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Wire: 4 US Marines Killed in Afghanistan

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that four U.S. Marines were killed Thursday when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle in western Afghanistan, driving up Western military deaths at a pace that would make August one of the deadliest months of the war.

The Associated Press reported that at least 15 Western troops have been killed in Afghanistan in August. Attacks killed at least 44 U.S service members and 31 from other international military forces in July, according to military reports.

NATO declined to say exactly where the Marines were killed or immediately release other details of the attack.

This is a developing story.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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Wire: Obama Ends "War On Terrorism"

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Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2009 -- It's official, The Washington Times said, the U.S. is no longer engaged in a "war on terrorism." Neither is it fighting "jihadists" or in a "global war."

Newswire services today reported that President Barack Obama's top homeland security and counterterrorism official took all three terms off the table of acceptable words inside the White House during a speech Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

"The President does not describe this as a 'war on terrorism,'" said John Brennan, head of the White House homeland security office, who outlined a "new way of seeing" the fight against terrorism.

The only terminology that Mr. Brennan said the administration is using is that the U.S. is "at war with al Qaeda."

On July 28, the U.S. military in Afghanistan stopped releasing body counts of insurgents believed killed in operations.

Recently, Obama said "victory" in Afghanistan 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."

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.)

Source: White House: 'War on terrorism' is over

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