Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bollinger Built The Boats:Coast Guard Secures Persian Gulf

The U.S. Coast Guard continues to secure the Persian Gulf in support of Operation New Dawn,successor to Operation Iraqi Freedom.Performing the task are the crews of six Island class patrol boats.These 110-foot cutters have a complement of 16 and a range of 1900 nautical miles.They are armed with one Mk38 25mm machine gun and two .50 caliber machine guns.
The Island class is powered by two diesel engines and has a speed of 29.5+ knots.It is currently being refurbished for cost-effectiveness and to extend its service life by another 15 years.The patrol boats are the product of Bollinger Shipyards,Inc.
Bollinger operates 12 shipyards with 32 drydocks in South Louisiana and Texas.It was founded in 1946 and serves both commercial and military interests.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Noted Actor Was Navy Vet

Tony Curtis,the critically acclaimed actor who was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II,died September 29.He was 85.
Mr.Curtis,born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx,New York,peaked as a film actor in the 1950s and 60s.In later years,he made a number of T.V. appearances.Among his most highly regarded films were Houdini(1953),The Defiant Ones(1958)and The Boston Strangler(1968).
Tony Curtis was a submariner from 1942-1945.He served aboard the USS Proteus(AS-19)in the Pacific Fleet.In September 1945,he witnessed the surrender of Japanese forces in Tokyo Bay.
Attaining the rank of SM3,Mr.Curtis was an ardent supporter of the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. after the war,lending his celebrity to the Memorial on a number of occasions.Survived by his wife Jill,he was married five times,including to actress Janet Leigh.
Actor Ernest Borgnine also served in the Navy in World War II,and comedian Bill Cosby was a Navy corpsman in the 1950s.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In Tribute:Ambassador Richard Holbrooke

The man who symbolized American diplomacy for more than four decades,Ambassador Richard Holbrooke,has died from complications of epic surgery to repair his torn aorta,the main artery leading from the heart.Dr.Sanjay Gupta said the tear is typically caused by years of high blood pressure in men in their 50s and 60s.Mr.Holbrooke was 69,but had no intention of slowing down at an age when most have at least partially stowed their shingles.
Mr.Holbrooke was a significant associate of Democratic presidents from Lyndon B. Johnson to Barack Obama,beginning his career at the Saigon embassy in Vietnam,where he served from 1963-66.His greatest achievement was brokering the Dayton Accords in 1995,the peace treaty which ended the Bosnia War,but he also participated in the Paris peace talks that ended the Vietnam War and the reopening of relations with China.
A tough and demanding boss with a vast knowledge of history,Richard Holbrooke knew all the reporters by name and was quite open with them.A man of charisma and great intellect,the tall ambassador was described by those who knew him well as being larger than life and a force of nature who saw the U.S. as a force for good in the world.
Mr.Holbrooke held a number of posts,including Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia,Ambassador to Germany and U.N. Ambassador.His current title was Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan,but he was regarded as the architect of President Barack Obama's policy for that region and worked closely with General David Petraeus,commander of coalition forces in the Afghan War.
General Wesley Clark,U.S. Army Retired,said Richard Holbrooke epitomized everything great and good about U.S. diplomacy and the United States of America.He had a tremendous vision of what Europe was all about.He pushed for NATO alliance enlargement,shifting U.S. policy on the matter.He could always step back from a problem.He was an outstanding leader.We were in awe of what he delivered.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

General Atomics Develops Sea Avenger

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is developing an aircraft carrier-based,unmanned aerial system for Intelligence,Surveillance and Reconnaissance(ISR)and precision strike capabilities for the U.S. Navy.It will provide naval commanders with enhanced situational awareness and instantaneous,time-sensitive strike,the company says.
Based on General Atomics' Predator series,the Sea Avenger will expand the projection of naval power through speed,long endurance,sophisticated sensors and significant strike capabilities.It is presented as being both low-risk and affordable.
Founded in 1955,General Atomics employs 5500 people and is headquartered in San Diego,California.The company works in the research and development,as well as manufacturing,of defense,energy and other advanced technology products.The aeronautical systems affiliate manufactures unmanned aircraft systems,tactical reconnaissance radars and surveillance systems.
The Sea Avenger will be deployable soon,General Atomics claims.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Response Boat-Mediums:New Coast Guard Workhorse

The Response Boat-Medium is destined to be the U.S. Coast Guard's workhorse for shore-based units.A multi-mission craft,it is survivable in seas up to 12 feet and features twin diesel engines with waterjet propulsion,as well as advanced navigation.With a speed of up to 42.5 knots,the RB-M is much faster than its predecessor,the 41-foot Utility Boat,Big,which can only reach 26 knots.
The RB-M was introduced to the fleet in 2008 and will be added to it until 2016.Marinette Marine Corporation and its partner,Kvichak Marine Industries,are building 180 of the highly maneuverable boats,which are lightly armed with two M240 machine guns.The RB-M is 44.9 feet in length and has a complement of four.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

China Proposes Emergency Talks

China has proposed emergency talks on the Korea crisis for early December.South Korea said it is seriously considering the idea.Meanwhile,South Koreans went about their Sunday routines in their capital,Seoul,attending religious services or shopping.
The U.S. has been frustrated by China's failure to pressure its ally North Korea into better behavior.
Artillery fire from the north was heard Sunday on Yeongpyeong Island,site of North Korea's deadly attack last Tuesday,sending the remaining civilians into shelters.No shells landed there today.Many of the residents have left the island chain near the sea border between the two Koreas.
An armada of 10 U.S. Navy and South Korean warships have begun exercising nearby in the Yellow Sea.Communications,logistics and defensive tactics will be practiced during the four-day maneuvers.They are part of a series of exercises which began after North Korea sank a South Korean warship,the Cheonan,in March of this year,and are intended to improve coordination and demonstrate solidarity.No weapons will be fired during the drills.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Early Edition:Naval Exercises To Continue

Naval exercises in the Yellow Sea off the Korean peninsula by South Korean and U.S. forces will proceed in spite of North Korea's violent outburst Tuesday.The aircraft carrier USS George Washington(CVN 73) left its homeport in Japan as scheduled on Tuesday and will join the maneuvers shortly.
North Korea had opened fire with K-9 155mm Howitzers on Yeongpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea,7 miles off the coast of South Korea,killing 2 South Korean Marines and injuring 3 civilians and 16 military personnel.The attack lasted about an hour.
Fires from the barrages were still burning at nightfall.Thousands of civilians were being evacuated from a chain of 31 islands.South Korea had responded to the aggression with barrages of its own.The Pentagon said it had no plans to attack the north,and U.S. forces were not put on alert.
In March,a North Korean submarine sank the South Korean warship Cheonan in the same area,killing 46 South Korean sailors.The north doesn't recognize the western maritime border established by the U.N. in 1953,at the truce of the Korean War,which was never formally ended.Several clashes have occurred over the disputed maritime border and along the Demilitarized Zone on land.
President Barrack Obama was awakened at 3:55 am and told of the incident,which he later condemned.North Korea is in the midst of a transition of power from Kim Jung Il to his son Kim Jong Un,who was recently made a four star general,and many observers see the attack as the son's baptism of fire,gaining him credibility with North Korea's powerful army.
The USS George Washington carries about 80 aircraft.Powered by two nuclear reactors,it can cruise at 30+ knots.Around 28,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea.
Update:The bodies of two construction workers were found buried in the rubble left by North Korea's artillery barrage on Tuesday,raising the death toll to four.The USS George Washington and her carrier battle group should arrive on scene by Sunday to conduct four days of naval exercises with South Korea.North Korea has threatened more attacks if the exercises violate even a millimeter of its perceived territory.
An angry protest against the North Korean aggression took place in Seoul,South Korea.
Update 2:South Korea has reinforced Yeongpyeong Island and other islands nearby with 4,000 more of its marines.General Walter Sharp,commander of U.S. forces in Korea,has toured the devastated island,describing North Korea's attack as being in clear violation of the armistice agreement of 1953.South Korean veterans bitterly criticized the government's response to the aggression,considering it weak and slow.Fire was not returned for 13 minutes.
U.S. and South Korean naval exercises will begin in the Yellow Sea around noon on Sunday,a U.S. Navy spokesman said.They will not be live fire exercises because they are being held in a high traffic area.The maneuvers were planned in advance of the North Korean attack.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Last of the Color

The last of the autumn leaves are being viewed in the Mid-Atlantic region.Scattered red maples and oaks still have some color on them,as well as the exotic Asian pears.
The snowbirds are present in force.Firearms deer season is fast approaching.The white-tailed deer are having their last calm days for a few weeks or so.
The first lowland snow flurries can't be far in the future.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Afghan War Progress:Militants Low On Funds

Taliban militants trying to unseat the Afghan government and reinstate their radical Islamist reign are finding their funding drying up,the result of the predominant U.S. Marine and other coalition forces being active in Helmand and neighboring Kandahar Provinces.From threatening poppy growers to processing and smuggling heroin,the militants' fund-raising habits are being disrupted,forcing them to resort to unearthing stashes of old weapons and ammunition.
Mullah Omar,the Taliban leader in hiding since U.S. forces and the Afghan Northern Alliance drove him from power in 2001,issued a plea for Muslims to fund the militant cause.He spoke in a greeting on Eid-al-Adha,the major Muslim observance.
Afghan villagers and farmers are bolder in standing up to the militants with the coalition troops around.Soon,the Marines and British troops will be setting up self-defense units of 50 Afghans apiece,formalizing their independent streak.A similar tactic proved successful in Iraq,tapping anti-Al Qaida sentiment there and focusing it on dislodging that Islamic militant group.
Although neither the Taliban nor Al Qaida in Iraq are likely to disappear entirely,they are being marginalized over time,to the point where indigenous security forces can contain them.They are being pushed to outlying villages and the cover of darkness.
The NATO defense alliance plans to completely turn security over to Afghan forces by 2014.NATO emphasizes,however,that this is a goal.If conditions in certain areas do not warrant the transfer of authority,U.S. and allied troops may remain on station there.
Scholars point out that the ultimate challenge is setting up honest governments the locals can rely on,backed by competent indigenous security forces to defend them from the gruff Islamic militants.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Carnival Splendor Arrives Home

The cruise liner Carnival Splendor has safely docked in San Diego,several hours ahead of schedule.The ship had been protected by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Morgenthau(WHEC 722).The Morgenthau is homeported at Alameda,California.A Hamilton class high endurance cutter,the Morgenthau has a complement of 162.
Many of the Hamilton class cutters saw combat duty in Vietnam.They are heavily armed with several guns and a Phalanx Close-In Weapons System,and have long-range capability,with a range of 14,000 nautical miles at a speed of 15 knots.
A U.S. Navy corpsman aboard the cutter was available for any medical needs of the cruise liner's passengers and crew.Fortunately,it appears they suffered only varying degrees of discomfort and aggravation.
On this Veterans Day,America salutes you,our military men and women.
Carnival Corp(CCL)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cruise Ship Phones Back

Cell phones aboard the disabled Carnival Splendor are working again,providing a clearer picture of conditions on the vessel.A third tugboat has joined the small armada helping the cruise liner,which should arrive in San Diego by late Thursday.
An NBC affiliate employee who is cruising on the Splendor said people are trying to keep their spirits up.Musicians are providing some entertainment for the passengers.The inner cabins are still in the dark,and have to keep their doors propped open for fresh air and light.
There is still no hot food.It is a "diet cruise" of fruit,salad and small sandwiches.Many of the passengers say they will never take another cruise.
Carnival Corp(CCL)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Early Edition:Military Aid Arrives At Cruise Ship

Help has begun arriving off the coast of Baja California,Mexico,where the cruise liner Carnival Splendor was disabled by an aft engine room fire early Tuesday.The first of two tugboats had reached the liner as of Tuesday evening,a Carnival spokesperson said.
The fire left the huge ship without plumbing,air conditioning and cooking.Carnival said the Splendor should reach San Diego by late Thursday.The company is arranging for hotels and flights home for the passengers,and will provide full refunds plus a future cruise for them.
The Splendor had left Long Beach,California on Sunday with 3299 passengers and 1167 crew.The U.S. Navy responded to a request for aid.Sailors sent eight planeloads of food-including plenty of Spam-water and other supplies from an air station to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan(CVN 76),which will in turn supply the Splendor by helicopter.
Navy personnel who have been delivering the supplies report that the passengers are in good spirits,taking photos of the Navy helicopters.
There have been no serious injuries reported,but two passengers and one crew member had panic attacks.A U.S. Coast Guard cutter is shadowing the Splendor.Security is a concern,given the disabled liner's vulnerability to drug traffickers and terrorists.
Update:Both tugboats are now pulling the Splendor,and the operation is proceeding without incident.The liner's crew got auxiliary power going last night,so cold water is now on tap.For some historical context,see this week's post in International Daybook,which you can reach from the link list in the right column.
Carnival Corp(CCL)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wintry Hints

Hard freezes have descended on the Mid-Atlantic region,greeting motorists with frosty windshields in the morning.It was below 0 Celsius in some locations.The winter ahead is predicted to be average for the region,which will seem mild after last winter's multiple blizzards.
Snowbirds were seen at feeders this morning,and some human snowbirds are already making their annual migration to Florida from Canada and New England.The cheaper sacks of birdseed are stacked at the store for today's budget-conscious shoppers.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

D.C. Area Mystery:Assailant Targets Sea Services

A serial assailant has been attacking sea services facilities in Northern Virginia.Tuesday morning,it was discovered that the shooter had fired on a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting station at a Woodbridge,Virginia mall.
The individual has also taken pot shots at the Pentagon;on two occasions,at the Marine Corps museum in Quantico;and at a Marine Corps recruiting station.The same weapon was used in the Marine Corps shootings.
An FBI profile theorized that the person has a grudge against the Marine Corps,but the attack on the Coast Guard calls that motivation into question.
No one has been injured in the shootings,which took place in pre-dawn hours.At least some of them were believed to have been carried out from a highway.There are no suspects in the incidents so far.
What would normally be considered safe postings have suddenly taken on menace for the service members who work in the area,as well as the civilians who have business there.
Update:The FBI has ascertained that the Coast Guard shooting was from the same weapon as the other four attacks.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Operation Moshtarak:Marines See Little Change

Firefights with militants are still a regular occurrence in Operation Moshtarak,the coalition effort to secure the Afghan town of Marjah which began in February.And roadside bombs continue to be a lethal threat.For the young leathernecks,life is still a primitive grind in this agricultural zone of mud huts and irrigated fields.
More than 20 U.S. Marines have died in the operation.It has displaced the militants;now the area must be held until the Afghan security forces can do it themselves.
The militants never give up.A hardened cadre,they are as pesky as the fleas which bite the Marines-but much more dangerous.Afghanistan is steeped in a drug-financed guerrilla culture,and the Marines must confront that fact daily.
So far this month,there have been 20 U.S. deaths in Helmand Province,where Marjah is located.There have been a total of 55 coalition deaths in the Afghan War this October.
Helmand Province is known for the poppy fields which support the drug trade that bankrolls the Taliban militants;42% of the world's opium comes from those fields.The province borders the militant heartland of Kandahar Province.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mysterious Leaf Color

The mature silver maple on the property has autumn leaves in an unusual color this year.Normally,the fall color is bright yellow.This year,however,the maple's leaves that have turned so far are partly to nearly completely red.Perhaps this is from the very hot and dry summer conditions.It could also be from the tree's age,or a combination of factors,not all of them ascertainable.Whatever the cause,the mysterious color of the old,big tree is a rare and welcome addition to the autumn palette.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

India Company Salutes Comrade

India Company,3rd Battalion,5th Marine Regiment,lost their brother in arms,machine gunner Lance Corporal John T. Sparks,23,who was killed in action in Afghanistan on 8 October.Marines and sailors from the unit honored Lance Corporal Sparks with a simple yet moving ceremony on 16 October in Sangin,Afghanistan,which is located in Helmand Province,in the Helmand River valley,at elevation 888 meters/2913 feet.
They gave testimonials to their fallen comrade,read prayers and bible verses.Final Roll was called three times for him,and three times his name went unanswered.The ceremony ended with the playing of taps.
Lance Corporal Sparks' roomate,Corporal Jeffery Holsey,said John always carried his own weight,and when others couldn't,John would pick up their slack.He was a selfless person.He always gave everything and never asked for anything in return.
Survived by his mother Lenora,the Chicago native had an Associate's degree in criminal justice from Westwood College.He had joined the Marine Corps in February,2008.
The 3rd Battalion,5th Marine Regiment is part of the 1st Marine Division,America's 9-1-1 Force in Readiness.Major General Richard P. Mills has command of the historic organization.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Greece Cites Deficit Progress

NATO ally Greece is citing much progress toward righting its deficit crisis.Finance minister George Papaconstantinou says they're confident they are getting there.The main point is the reforms:they finished the pension reform and labor market reform.
It's all about growth now.Greece is making it easier to set up a business.They're beginning to change the sceptics' attitude.They aim to cut the deficit to 7% by 2011.It had been as high as 14%.They are aggressively collecting taxes,changing the culture of tax-evasion.
Norway will invest in Greek government bonds.There is investment interest in tourism,infrastructure and real estate by China and Qatar.Greece needs to build on traditional strengths such as tourism and shipping,as well as new competitive advantages around tech and green energy.
They now need to reinvent themselves.All the Euro-zone has been supportive.Greece has got to change its rules,institutions and behavior,Mr.Papaconstantinou explained.

Pentagon Report:China's PLA Navy

A Pentagon report released at the end of August details the Chinese PLA Navy.China's naval forces consist of 75 principal combatants,as well as more than 60 submarines;55 medium and large amphibious warfare ships;and 85 guided missile patrol craft.
China is known to possess two classes of Chinese guided missile destroyers;both Chinese and Russian diesel submarines;Chinese nuclear submarines;and Russian destroyers.The submarines carry anti-ship cruise missiles.
China is developing an aircraft carrier program.It is also working toward a long range anti-ship ballistic missile.
Analysts believe China is not just trying to defend itself or even dominate Taiwan;but to project power across the Asia-Pacific region as well,challenging the U.S. Pacific Fleet.China dismisses such concern,saying its navy is merely commensurate with the size of its population.
China is believed to be spending a billion dollars a year on its military buildup.
PLA:People's Liberation Army

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Insitu's Vital Flying Eyes

The little unmanned aircraft of Insitu,Inc.,a Boeing subsidiary,have played a vital role in the Iraq and Afghan wars since 2004 and 2005 respectively.The ScanEagle is designed for day missions at the division and regimental level;the NightEagle is for night missions;the Integrator is for rapid,robust payload integration.
These aircraft have propellers on the back,rather than the front,and require no runway for launch or recovery.They are suited for both land and shipboard basing.
Insitu aircraft provide superior tactical intelligence,surveillance and reconnaissance,the company claims.With over 340,000 hours of combat flight in austere areas,and 41,500 sorties,they are at the apex of experience and reliability in mission execution.
Contractor personnel have operated these company-owned systems for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps,as well as the Canadian Forces.Founded in 1994,Insitu is headquartered in Bingen,Washington.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mixed Flocks Appear

Now autumn has begun,mixed bird flocks are roaming many of the woods and backyards of the Mid-Atlantic region.These winter flocks of forest species consist of chickadees,tufted titmice and downy woodpeckers,as well as nuthatches,kinglets and brown creepers.They aren't identical flocks;there may only be a few of those species in a particular flock,depending on local habitat and other factors.
All of these mixed flocks lend a bit of excitement to backyard feeders and woodlots as the leaves begin to change and fall.They band together to help each other find food and keep watch for predators.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Afghan War Update:Marjah Still A Battleground

Although Operation Moshtarak,the move to take back the Marjah region of Afghanistan from Taliban militants,began back in February,the area remains unsettled.This was emphasized on Sunday,when militants launched a three-pronged ambush on U.S. Marines and Afghan forces in Marjah.A vigorous firefight ensued.
At one point,Cobra helicopter gunships were called in for air support.The Cobras pursued militants all the way across the border into Pakistan.The militants fought back with roadside bombs and more ambushes,but were eventually forced to retreat.No U.S. casualties were reported.
In February,Operation Moshtarak was launched by 15,000U.S.,British,Canadian,Danish,Estonian and Afghan troops.Marjah had long been a militant stronghold,a linchpin in the opium trade that funds the enemy.The militants had gone so far as to set up a shadow government there.Retaking Marjah was a formidable challenge;holding it is no less so.As U.S. special representative Richard Holbrooke observed,as a general rule in Afghanistan,things go slower than are expected.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Afghan War In Depth:Night Mission's Fiery End

Nine U.S. commandos were killed early Tuesday when their Blackhawk helicopter went down in Zabul Province,Afghanistan.Taliban militants said they shot it down,but the NATO defense alliance said there was no evidence of enemy fire in the area.Helicopter crashes are distressingly common in the dusty,mountainous country.
There is no room for pilot or maintenance crew error in the harsh conditions.
The special operations troops were reportedly on a night mission,which adds to the danger of flight.Another NATO soldier and a civilian were injured in the crash.Four U.S. Navy SEALs were among the dead;the other five were U.S. Army troops.Several SEALs have been killed on previous missions.The worst helicopter crash of the war occurred in 2005,when 16 Americans died.
Located in Southeast Afghanistan,Zabul is notoriously dry and windy,with farming limited to a few irrigated valleys.It is populated by tribes fiercely loyal to the Taliban militants.Zabul borders Pakistan to the south,and Kandahar Province to the west.
NATO and Afghan forces,including U.S. Marines,are trying to flush the militants out of the greater Kandahar area,which is the militant heartland,while intercepting militants at checkpoints that surround the city and conducting raids to capture or kill their leaders.Some success has been reported,such as increasing commerce and movement,building up the Afghan police,clearing the key Argandhab Valley and returning 85% of it to Afghan control.
On the other hand,the militants have been increasing their presence in the north of the country while NATO concentrates on the more populous south.U.S. Marines involved in the southern operations include the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions,sustaining many casualties in Helmand Province,which borders Kandahar Province.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What Gray Squirrels Mean

When gray squirrels appeared,I knew the property had become an urban forest.It may have been many decades since this forest wildlife had inhabited this specific tract.Now with trees approaching or at maturity,the squirrels saw a congenial habitat.It had what they need again.The denizens of this place from the time of the vast eastern forests and the passenger pigeon had come back.It would be a lot livelier with them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Saudi Bulks Up Defenses

Pending congressional approval,Saudi Arabia may purchase up to 90 billion dollars of U.S. military hardware over a period of years,including F-15 fighter jets,attack helicopters and advanced patrol boats.The big effort is in response to an increasingly formidable Iranian military,as well as instability in neighboring Yemen and Somalia.Iran has been improving the range and accuracy of its ballistic missiles,as well as building up its navy,among other projects.Other Persian Gulf states,such as Kuwait,the United Arab Emirates and Oman are also angling for U.S. equipment.
Israel will buy about 20 of the new F-35 Lightning II stealth aircraft,versions of which are currently being produced for,and tested by,the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy.The Israeli government has accepted that Persian Gulf states are arming themselves in light of the Iranian and Islamic militant threats,although Israel is unenthused by the prospect.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

SLQ-32 Is Electronic Armor

The SLQ-32 has been part of the Navy's shipboard electronic armor for nearly three decades.The system's display console allows crewmembers to detect and classify hostile radar emissions-especially from anti-ship cruise missiles.As well,many of these electronic warfare sets have an integrated jamming capability to divert incoming threats.An upgrade cycle for the system is currently underway-the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program.
The upgrades consist of replacing the signal processor and display console,and integrating them with better control and display software.Specific emitter ID capability is also included in the upgrade.Future upgrades are already being designed and conceptualized,with the goals of providing a new receiver and jamming improvements.
The SLQ-32's contractors are Raytheon,Northrop Grumman,General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin.
Raytheon(RTN),Northrop Grumman(NOC),General Dynamics(GD),Lockheed Martin(LMT)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Meteorological Autumn

September 1 marks the beginning of meteorological autumn.Meteorologists reckon seasons by calendar months,rather than astronomical phenomena.Its a way of rounding things off,and may more closely reflect seasonal reality over a broad geographical area.For example,the beginning of September will show substantial seasonal change in the Northern U.S.,though astronomical autumn is some weeks off.
In the Middle Atlantic region,Canada goldenrod has now come into bloom,and many American robins have moved on from their breeding territories.It can still be quite hot,but the plants and wildlife are experiencing change from the noticeably shorter days,if nothing else.Meteorological autumn makes good sense from their perspective.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Northrop Grumman Distances Shipbuilding

Northrop Grumman,one of the main U.S. shipbuilders,is reflecting on its role as shipbuilder to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard.Frankly,the contractor no longer seems to be comfortable with that role.CEO Wes Bush says that shipbuilding has little synergy with Northrop's other activities.He feels it may be time to spin the division off,while the rest of the company focuses on high tech information systems,electronic systems and aerospace systems projects.Shipbuilding may be a bit too boilerplate for Northrop at this point,especially in light of likely defense budget constraints in the offing.
In any event,Northrop is making major moves at its shipyards.It is laying off 642 workers at its Pascagoula,Mississippi shipyard by the end of the year,following a previous layoff of 400;decided to close its Avondale,Louisiana shipyard entirely in 2013;and will also shut its small shipyard in Tallulah,Louisiana down by year's end.The closures are attributed to the timing of contracts and the cyclical nature of shipbuilding.The consolidation will reduce future costs,increase efficiency and address shipbuilding overcapacity,Wes Bush stated.
The company has been promoting its unmanned systems division,as well as its participation in the Navy's CANES,or Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services program,which involves moving critical data seamlessly over a common network system through expert integration,making the fleet more agile.
Northrop Grumman(NOC)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Honors:Specialist Faith R. Hinkley

A former high school cheerleader and National Honor Society member,Specialist Faith R. Hinkley,U.S. Army,23,died on 7 August during a rocket attack in Iskandariya,Iraq.Specialist Hinkley,the latest of more than two dozen female service members to die in the Iraq War,was killed by shrapnel as she and two comrades attempted to take shelter in a bunker when their office came under militant attack.
A Human Intelligence Collector with the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion,201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade from Joint Base Lewis-McChord,Washington,Specialist Hinkley was a native of Monte Vista,Colorado,and the second resident of that town to be killed in the Iraq War.The first was U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Glen R. Martinez.Specialist Hinkley had enlisted in August,2007 after studying for a year at the University of Colorado,surprising those who knew her.She had received the National Defense Service Medal,Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon,and was to return home in about a month.Her brigade had deployed to Iraq last September.It was her first deployment.
Corporal Martinez died in May,2008 when the Humvee he was riding in struck a roadside bomb near Fallujah.Monte Vista is a small farm town of 4300 in Southern Colorado's San Luis Valley.
As of 24 August,4407 U.S. service members had died in the Iraq War,according to the Defense Department.U.S. combat operations in Iraq have formally ended,but training and advice missions will continue for some time in support of the young democracy,as will special forces counterterrorism activity.Iraq will remain an unpredictable and dangerous posting,regardless of one's military operational specialty or location.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Early Signs

Some early signs of seasonal change are appearing in the Mid-Atlantic region.One of them is fall webworm.This relatively harmless insect,the caterpillar of a moth,drapes its webs over leaves beginning in the middle of August.Another sign is premature turning.Here and there,isolated leaves are changing color,shutting down early because of stress-especially dryness.Ragweed,a native plant that causes allergic reactions,is popping up now.Fortunately,it is shallowly rooted and easily pulled.Old field aster and Canada goldenrod have matured,but may not be quite ready to bloom.Small acorns are becoming noticeable on oak branches.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pakistan Relief Ops Begin

Two helicopters from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit departed from the USS Peleilu(LHA 5)to participate in relief operations for victims of monsoon flooding in Pakistan.They were the first of 19 Marine and Navy helicopters that have been detailed to the mission.
The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group will deploy to Pakistan in late August with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.Its sailors and Marines will provide supplies,transportation and support to the flooded areas along with the Pakistan military.This group is based on the USS Kearsarge(LHD 3).
The Peleilu and the Kearsarge are amphibious assault ships.Besides landing craft,each can carry dozens of aircraft,from helicopters to AV-8B Harrier II jump jets.With a ship's company of about 1,000,they can transport around 2,000 Marines and their gear anywhere in the world.Northrop Grumman builds them,and is working on the first of the new America class of amphibious assault ship,scheduled for delivery in 2013.
The situation in Pakistan is grave,being described as worse than the Haiti earthquake and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami combined.Thousands were killed,but millions are homeless.Disease is spreading.The Pakistani people have welcomed aid from U.S. servicemembers,but militants are discouraging it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Navy Helo Thwarts Attack

A Navy helicopter broke up a pirate attack on the merchant ship Ice Explorer early on Monday morning,the NATO defence alliance revealed.The ship,which was in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia,radioed a mayday when the crew spotted suspicious activity.The USS Kauffman(FFG 59)dispatched the helicopter,and the pirates dumped weapons and other items into the sea when they realized they'd been detected.A Navy boarding party seized some of the pirates' gear.
The Ice Explorer's alert crew was pivotal to the successful outcome,a Navy officer said.They caught the pirates in the act before it was too late.At least 17 ships and several hundred mariners are currently being held by Somali pirates,who demand millions of dollars of ransom for their release.NATO,as well as Russia,China and India have been staging naval patrols off the Somali coast for some time,with mixed results.Even when prates have been apprehended,there is often nowhere to send them and they are released.
The USS Kauffman is an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate.It can carry two Seahawk helicopters.Displacing 4100 tons,the relatively small warship can cruise at 29 knots.
The 9 August incident closely resembles several other engagements between Somali pirates and naval helicopters in recent years.Confronted with military opposition,the pirates seldom resist.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Little To Mow

The Mid-Atlantic region is in various stages of drought.It's not a good summer for those in the lawn-mowing business,as the grass has been dormant for many weeks now.Nor can it be good for lawn application vendors,since there isn't a real lawn to apply anything to.The lawns are just barely alive brown thatches.
There are a good number of butterflies around,though.Swallowtails of various types seem especially abundant this year.Perhaps they're ranging farther because of the arid conditions.They may be searching extensively for their favored plants or water.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Coast Guard Marks 220th Birthday

The U.S. Coast Guard was established by the Treasury Department as the Revenue Cutter Service on 4 August,1790.This armed 10-ship force policed maritime trade,collecting tariffs and arresting smugglers.In 1915,the RCS absorbed the U.S. Lifesaving Service and assumed the Coast Guard name.The U.S. Lighthouse Service was added in 1939,as was the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation in 1942.
The Coast Guard's homeland security responsibilities grew markedly in the wake of the 9-11 attacks,and it has always served alongside,or even within,the U.S. Navy in our nation's wars.Since 2003,six Coast Guard cutters and more than 400 personnel have been detailed to the Persian Gulf for various security and training assignments related to the Iraq War.
All told,the Coast Guard has 11 core missions,from icebreaking to fisheries enforcement and national defense.Special attention is paid to defending Washington,D.C. from terrorist attack,whether by patrols with the 25-foot Response Boat-Smalls on the Potomac River,or by Dolphin helicopters armed with machine guns and .50-caliber Precision Fire Weapons.
Strong efforts are underway to prevent the Coast Guard's budget from being cut,given the multitude of vital tasks the service performs today as in the past.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Korea Update

The naval exercises off the South Korean Coast have been concluded after four days of gunnery and anti-submarine warfare practice,along with airpower displays.North Korea's shrill rhetoric had been toned down by the end of the exercises.U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates flew to Seoul to meet with his South Korean colleague in recent days.They agreed to conduct an additional series of meetings and exercises over the next few months to reinforce their message of determination to counter any further aggression by Pyongyang,a Pentagon source said.Mr.Gates also visited the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas and U.S. troops at Camp Casey nearby.
Pynogyang has denied sinking the South Korean warship Cheonan in March,which led to the show of force by the U.S. and its ally Seoul.The Korean War raged from 1950-53,and remains in an uneasy truce that has been punctuated by various deadly crises.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Naval Exercises:Allies Send Stern Message

Since Sunday,naval exercises have been occurring off the South Korean coast,conducted by the U.S. and its South Korean ally.The war games are a clear warning to North Korea that further aggression will not be tolerated.On 26 March,a North Korean submarine attacked and sank the South Korean warship Cheonan with a torpedo,killing 46 South Korean sailors.It was the worst incident since the Korean War was paused in 1953.The war was never formally ended.A group of U.S. sailors bowed their heads in silence as they visited the wreckage of the Cheonan at a naval headquarters south of Seoul.
In response to the deadly attack,the U.S. dispatched the USS George Washington(CVN 73),a nuclear aircraft carrier,from its home port in Yokosuka,Japan,along with its Carrier Strike Group,which is a flotilla of smaller warships plus a nuclear submarine.Included in the CSG were three Arleigh Burke class destroyers.South Korea sent its Landing Platform Helicopter ship Dokdo.The U.S. Air Force contributed F-22 Raptor stealth fighters,their first participation in such an exercise.In total,200 aircraft,20 warships and 8,000 troops took part in the show of force.North Korea bitterly criticized the display,but so far has taken no concrete action against it.
The war games took place mainly off the east coast of South Korea.Plans to exercise in the Yellow Sea as well,off the west coast and closer to China,were protested by Beijing,and have possibly been scaled back in consequence.It is unclear how long the activity will last,or how many exercises will be staged in which locations.
Occasional outbreaks of hostility have occurred since 1953 along the Demilitarized Zone which separates the two Koreas.Some American troops have been killed in them.There have also been clashes at sea between the two Koreas.The eccentric Communist Pyongyang regime has alternately lashed out at democratic Seoul and sought better relations with it.Pyongyang is believed to possess nuclear weapons,but has so far failed to develop an effective delivery system.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War,in which more than 33,000 U.S. troops were killed as,together with other UN forces,they pushed the North Korean invaders back north of the DMZ.Many other Americans remain missing in action.North Korea is a highly militarized state,devoting almost all its resources to combat preparations.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Rack Buck

Along the Pennsylvania-Maryland border one morning,the rack buck bedded down in brush was disturbed by a hiker.He somehow fled through a hedgerow and into a hay field.The hiker followed,not being aware there was a buck in the area.He had just seen the bushes move when the buck got up.Out of the corner of their eyes,the buck and the hiker glimpsed each other in the hay field.The buck decided to dash east,right past the hiker,showing his antlers in velvet,the soft skin he would rub off in autumn,when the antlers had matured.
The hiker was satisfied with a walk well-rewarded.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Admiral Papp Assumes Command

The Coast Guard has a new Commandant.He is Admiral Robert J. Papp,Jr.Admiral Papp succeeds Admiral Thad W. Allen,who continues to lead the BP oil spill effort in retirement.Admiral Papp graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1975,going on to earn a master of arts degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College,as well as a master of science in management from Salve Regina University.The admiral had served as Atlantic Area Commander,Commander of Defense Force East and Chief of Staff Coast Guard.
Admiral Papp is committed to all the Coast Guard's many missions,from search and rescue to drug interdiction and the newer counter-terrorism and anti-piracy missions off Somalia.He is additionally concerned about the need to consider a new ice breaker for the Arctic patrol function,which could cost upwards of a billion dollars to build.The only active icebreaker is the Polar Sea,which will be retired in a few years.There is an effort underway to refurbish the mothballed Polar Star for another seven to eight years of service.With activity in the Arctic picking up in recent years,the icebreaker issue is becoming more critical than ever before.
Now belonging to the Department of Homeland Security,the Coast Guard has 42,000 active duty personnel,in addition to 7,000 civilian workers.It has assisted with maritime security in the Iraq War.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Growler Aircraft Join Fleet

Slowly but surely,the EA-18G Growler is blending into the Navy's carrier fleet.According to the Growler industry team,the aircraft delivers full spectrum electronic attack capability in any battle environment.It is equipped with the most advanced jamming and radar,which enable it to penetrate complex layers of air defense and communication systems and suppress threats over land and water.The EA-18G is available now to meet any electronic attack requirement and help protect the joint warfighter anywhere.
The Growler is gradually replacing the EA-6B Prowler,a snub-nosed Northrop Grumman jet,for carrier operations.The new aircraft is based on the F/A-18F Super Hornet airframe,and provides better connectivity to the full range of strategic and tactical assets,plus organic and accurate targeting of hostile emitters for supression with HARM missiles and other onboard weapon systems.The Growler is able to detect,identify,locate and supress enemy threats with its tactical jamming system pods,communication countermeasures set receiver and multimission advanced tactical terminal.
The Navy is procuring 88 Growlers for 10 carrier squadrons.The Growler industry team consists of Boeing,Raytheon,General Electric and Northrop Grumman.
Boeing(BA),Raytheon(RTN),General Electric(GE),Northrop Grumman(NOC)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Relief On The Way

Upper level winds turned northerly as far south as the Pennsylvania-Maryland border this morning,promising relief from the strong heat wave that has afflicted the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions for several days now.The winds were detected by observing that cirrus clouds were being driven south,presaging the departure of the southern high pressure responsible for the heat wave.Temperatures will start to ease up by Thursday,and return to normal or near-normal by the weekend.Scattered thunderstorms may occur as the cooler air gains momentum and clashes with the hot conditions.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Corporals:Where Leadership Begins

The leadership in the U.S. Marine Corps formally begins at the rank of corporal.Accordingly,35 Marines participating in a training exercise in South Korea graduated from the Corporals Course on 3 July.The course began on 21 May and was conducted on board the USS Tortuga(LSD-46) and at Camp Mujuk,ROK.It mainly consisted of Marine Corps history and traditions,tactics,professional leadership and physical fitness.Its mission was to provide the students with the skills and knowledge to be a successful leader.
The corporals had to squeeze their course in between Navy drills.That was a learning experience in itself aboard the crowded ship,requiring the utmost in adaptability.Despite the interruption with "man overboard" drills,they learned how important their rank really is,the responsibilities a non-commissioned officer carries for helping junior Marines.
The USS Tortuga is a dock landing ship.Besides a Navy crew of 22 officers and 391 enlisted,she carries four landing craft air cushion and two CH53E helicopters or equivalent,as well as up to 503 Marines,and was built by Northrup Grumman.
Northrup Grumman(NOC)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Major Pacific Exercise Underway

RIMPAC 2010,the world's largest multinational maritime exercise,is now underway off the coast of Hawaii.The 22nd biennial exercise,which began in 1971,is hosted by the Navy's Pacific Fleet(PACFLT).Participating are 32 ships,5 submarines,170+ aircraft and 20,000 personnel from 14 countries,including Australia,Canada,Chile,Colombia,France,Indonesia,Japan,Malaysia,the Netherlands,Peru,South Korea,Singapore,Thailand and the US.
The theme of RIMPAC 2010 is "combined agility,synergy and support."Extending into July,it encompasses side-by-side training activities ranging from salvage operations,to interdiction and missile firing,culminating with a scenario phase.Admiral Patrick Walsh,PACFLT Commander,is leading RIMPAC 2010.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Freak Accident Blocks Highway

A chain reaction accident that began with a water main break clogged a major north-south route in Montgomery County,Maryland this morning,trapping commuters or sending them onto detours.The surging water toppled a telephone pole,which was collided with by a tractor-trailer.Wires were strewn across I-270.Pepco,the local electric utility,got the pole and power lines back up in short order,but then Verizon had to restring its own cables.Some drivers tried to turn around using an emergency vehicle path,but were ticketed by state police.
The early heat wave of recent days may have contributed to the water main break.A number of aging pipes crisscross the Mid-Atlantic region,resulting in many breakage incidents during times of temperature extremes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Destroyer Keel Authenticated

On 18 June,the keel of the USS Michael Murphy(DDG 112)was authenticated at Bath Iron Works in Bath,Maine.This ceremony marks the beginning of construction on a ship.The Arleigh Burke class destroyer is named in honor of Navy SEAL Lieutenant Michael Murphy,who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005.His family participated in the ceremony,confirming that the keel was laid straight and true.Lt.Murphy's mother,Maureen Murphy,is the ship's sponsor.She said she really worried about her son being a SEAL at first,but she got used to it because he said he's not cut out for the desk job yet.A banner with Lt.Murphy's likeness and the phrase "Do It For Murph" was posted at the event.
Bath Iron Works is a General Dynamics facility.Northrop Grumman also builds some of the guided missle destroyers.They are armed with 5-inch guns and several other weapon systems,along with missiles.
General Dynamics(GD),Northrop Grumman(NOC)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Marine Support Ship Christened

The USS San Diego(LPD 22),an amphibious transport dock ship,was christened on 12 June in Pascagoula,Mississippi.She is the sixth ship of the San Antonio class of LPD,supporting the U.S. Marine Corps mobility triad of landing craft air cushion,MV-22 Osprey aircraft and expeditionary fighting vehicles.The San Diego can transport up to 800 Marines and their equipment,including helicopters.
Three more LPDs are under construction,which will bring the total number up to eight ships.These LPDs can sail at a speed of 22+ knots.They are manned by a complement of 350 officers and Sailors,plus three Marines.Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor,with Raytheon being among the major subcontractors,providing electronic systems integration.
Northrop Grumman(NOC),Raytheon(RTN)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Making Dust Devils

Mowing the lawn the other day,I sent up big clouds of dust.These dust devils were a sure sign of a rainfall deficit.Despite several thunderstorms,we were clearly in a choking dry spell.As is typical,the loud storms had failed to produce much measurable moisture.It was good to see today's soaking showers,then.Nature is doing the watering chore herself,freeing growers for the many other needs on their minds,such as weed control and seeding.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Defense Contractor Provides Connectivity

For General Dynamics,connectivity is a priority,as well as ships and armored vehicles.A provider of space-to-sea solutions,GD is providing secure communications and collaboration to connect the U.S. Navy and its joint allies,so they can be connected to the network and the mission from space to sea.Connected,networked and secured,naval network operations are being integrated with dynamic bandwidth allocation,everything-over-IP,and state-of-the-art security and technology,the company says.In consequence,commanders and sailors are connected for mission success.
Doing this work is General Dynamics' C4 Systems unit.Based in Scottsdale,Arizona,it provides both terrestrial and space-based communication networks,systems and products;command and control systems;battle management,intelligence,surveillance and reconnaissance systems;and several other offerings.Chris Marzilli is president of C4 Systems.Its revenue is not disclosed.
General Dynamics(GD)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Destroyer Completes Trials

The Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Jason Dunham(DDG 109)has successfully completed her super trials.The super trials combine the builder and acceptance trials.Three more Arleigh Burke class destroyers are under construction,with an additional eight planned.The Jason Dunham is the fifty-eighth ship of her class and is scheduled to be commissioned in November.
Design improvements may still be made in the eight planned destroyers.The later ships of the Arleigh Burke class have two helicopter hangars,while the earlier ships only have landing platforms and handling facilities for helos.Several of the destroyers have been modified for ballistic missile defense,carrying the SM-3 missile for that purpose.The SM-3 intercepts and destroys some types of short and medium range ballistic missiles.
Northrop Grumman is building the new destroyers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Battle of the Nibblers

The nibblers are attacking those plants we workrd so hard to install.Rabbits and slugs are on the march to breakfast.The only option is to apply repellants or netting.One must act hurriedly,or the investment of time and money will be lost to these hungry guests.Repellants must be reapplied every so often,when they've been diluted by the elements.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Navy Flying Ace Dies

Captain Ralph John Rosen,U.S. Navy Retired,died on 11 May in McClean,Virginia.He was 90 years of age.A native of Chicago,Captain Rosen attended the University of Chicago until Pearl Harbor was attacked,then enlisted in the Naval Aviation Cadet Program,beginning his flying career in 1943 from aircraft carriers in the Pacific theater of World War II.A member of Squadron VF-8,he flew Hellcat fighters off the USS Bunker Hill(CV-17).The veteran of many combat missions downed six Japanese aircraft,earning the "ace" designation in consequence.For his superior record,Captain Rosen was awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses;nine Air Medals;and a Purple Heart.
Following the war,Captain Rosen commanded three fighter squadrons and served as a naval attache in Spain and Turkey.He was also Air Operations Officer on the USS Saratoga(CV-60).Retiring in 1973,he entered politics and was elected to the New Hampshire state legislature,where he served eight terms until 2006.
Captain Rosen is remembered by his wife of sixty-six years Joan,three children,six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.He will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

EFV Prototype Rolled Out

A prototype of the U.S. Marine Corps' Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle was rolled out on 4 May at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico,Virginia.General Dynamics is building the amphibious vehicles.The Marines need 573 of them,including the standard personnel carriers,as well as 67 command and control vehicles to support battalion and regimental commanders.A colonel explained that the vehicles create a lot of uncertainty for an enemy force.They create places an enemy can't defend against,so the Marines don't have to relive an Iwo Jima,a Tarawa or a Normandy.
The vehicle is fast,leaving quite a dust trail in its wake.It is armed with a substantial turret gun,giving it the look of a tank.An enlisted man said it was the most fun he's ever had with an armored vehicle.The EFV makes a seamless transition from the water to the beach,and is totally at home either afloat or on shore.It really is a remarkable achievement for the contractor.It can carry 17 Marines-a rifle company- and three crew.Initial operating capability is expected in 2015.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pulling Goldenrod

The oldest garden had a lot of Canada goldenrod coming up,so I got down to pulling it up.It's a native plant,but it tends to take over.Aster isn't quite so aggressive.Goldenrod forms big patches of plants.It doesn't know when to stop.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Advisor Sees Afghan Progress

Erin M. Simpson,a member of an international counterinsurgency advisory and assistance team who teaches at the Marine Corps University in Quantico,Virginia,says it is too early to tell if President Obama's surge policy has worked in Afghanistan.Less than half the troops have arrived,she points out.Most of those who have are U.S. Marines in Helmand Province.After tough combat in Marjah,there are initial,fragile signs of progress.Marjah has shifted from being totally under Taliban control to an ever-increasing Afghan government presence.There are now 20 Afghan government officials working in Marjah on getting basic services to the people.
The Marines have also moved into the hold and build phase in other Helmand towns,such as Nawa and Garmsir.Many government and tribal leaders have returned to these places as the Marines pacify them.There is a change in momentum now in Helmand,and the challenge is to keep it going.The Afghan government must help farmers plant winter wheat instead of opium,which is used as a funding source by the Taliban militants.
The Taliban can't win militarily,Mr.Simpson maintains.It can only win by displacing the Kabul government.This early stage of the surge is about governance.That must be the focus,in Mr.Simpson's view.
Three U.S. Marines died in Helmand Province from Friday through Monday,10 May.The investigation into the casualties is still underway.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Guadalcanal Veteran Dies

Captain Benjamin R. Eggeman,Jr.,U.S. Navy Retired,a veteran of major Pacific theater operations of World War II,died 7 April.Born in 1918 in Grand Haven,Michigan,Captain Eggeman graduated from Yale in 1941,receiving his commission from Yale naval ROTC.He served in the Pacific as an amphibious landing officer,participating in the battles of Guadalcanal,Iwo Jima,Leyte Gulf,Saipan,Bougainville and Luzon.He went on to serve in the Atlantic Fleet aboard cruisers and destroyers,as well as command the USS Putnam(DD-757),USS Denebola(AD-12) and Destroyer Squadron Two.
Captain Eggeman also served in several capacities in the Plans and Policy field,rising to a position on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.A graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces,he additionally earned a Masters in Business from George Washngton University.He was awarded several decorations,including the Legion of Merit,a Bronze Star with V,a Navy Unit Citation,a Phillipines Presidential Unit Citattion,Phillipines Liberation Medal and World War II Victory Medal.
After retiring,Captain Eggeman served in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and on land use panels in Fairfax County,Virginia.Survived by his wife Jeanne,three sons and six grandsons,he will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tug of War

A seasonal tug of war is now underway in the Mid-Atlantic region.The day began with a brushing of frost,then progressed into blustery conditions as cold and warm air masses collided.The warm air will win out beginning Thursday afternoon.Chipping sparrows are in the region for breeding and some chimney swifts have been spotted the last few days.They eat insects on the wing,providing a most useful service.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Marjah A Continuing Struggle

Although Marjah in Southern Afghanistan was successfully cleared of militants by U.S. Marines two months ago,political progress has been slow to non-existent.The Afghan government isn't winning the people over with sufficient aid.In consequence,the people haven't bonded with the Marines on patrol,who are seen as backing the government.Tips have not been forthcoming to the Marines.In general,NATO officials have expressed some disappointment with the atmospherics in the area of 80,000 inhabitants.
With the much larger Kandahar operation slated to commence in June,the Marjah situation is causing worries that President Barack Obama's goal of a quick end to the American presence in Afghanistan will not be met,to the consternation of a war-weary American public and U.S. Congress.Kandahar has about a million residents.U.S. special forces and their Afghan allies are already preparing the way for the June offensive,which has been widely telegraphed.Over 70 militants have been rounded up,and lawless areas in the outskirts are being secured.Some 11,200 NATO troops are expected to partner with Afghan forces in the battle for the Taliban militant heartland.
NATO Commander General Stanley McChrystal,U.S. Army,has been pulling forces out of remote areas of little importance to concentrate on the more populous centers,such as Marjah and Kandahar,that hold the key to Afghanistan's future.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

USS Freedom Comes Home

The Navy's first littoral combat ship,the USS Freedom(LCS 1),will arrive at her homeport of San Diego on 23 April upon completion of her first deployment.A member of the U.S. Pacific Fleet,she departed from Mayport,Florida on 16 February.She conducted counter-drug trafficking operations,netting more than five tons of cocaine in four interdictions,as well as seizing two speedboats and arresting nine smuggler suspects.
The Freedom also integrated with the USS Carl Vinson(CVN70)carrier strike group for training evolutions,and made theater security cooperation visits to Columbia,Panama and Mexico.This involved community outreach events and professional exchanges with partner nation navies.She is a member of the U.S. 3rd Fleet,which has an area of responsibility(AOR)of 50 million square miles in the Eastern Pacific.
The Navy plans to build 55 littoral combat ships.The small,highly networked warships are extremely fast and especially well-suited for near-shore operations in shallow waters.The Lockheed Martin industry team built the USS Freedom.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Strategic Deterrence Mission Continues

The U.S. Navy's strategic deterrence mission persisted after the end of the Cold War.The main purpose of the 14 Ohio class submarines is to carry out that mission.The submarines,homeported in Bangor,Washington and Kings Bay,Georgia,are armed with Trident II ballistic missiles.Each submarine has 24 launch tubes for the missiles,which have a range of more than 4,000 nautical miles.They also have four torpedo tubes for the Mk48 torpedo.
Most of the Ohio class submarines are named for a state-with the exception of the USS Henry M. Jackson(SSBN730),which is named after the late senator from the state of Washington,who was known for being a staunch cold warrior.The nuclear-powered vessels have a speed of 25+ knots submerged and a complement of 155.General Dynamics built the Ohio class.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bizarre Weather Continues

The Mid-Atlantic region continues on its bizarre course through the weather world,with temperatures being some 30 degrees F higher than normal.It seems to be nature's reaction to the boreal forest winter the region experienced,a balancing of weather accounts that must itself be balanced by perhaps a cool July.Bushes that were crushed by piles of snow are now being scorched by the waves of weird heat.People are trying hard not to put the air conditioner on so early,but many haven't succeeded in resisting the need for comfort.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pirate Attacks Ramp Up

Pirate activity in the Indian Ocean is keeping warships busy.In one recent incident,a U.S. Navy frigate,the USS Nicholas(FFG47)was fired on by a pirate skiff and responded with a 50-caliber machine gun,sinking the skiff.Sailors arrested three pirates from the skiff and two more on the mother ship.This occurred near the Seychelles islands,far from the pirates' customary range.The Nicholas has a speed of 29 knots.
In another encounter,the USS Farragut(DDG99),an Arleigh Burke class destroyer,arrested 11 more pirates.These pirates had to be released,as Kenya had no more room in its jails.The Farragut has a speed of 30+ knots.A South Korean warship also began pursuing pirates.The pirates had seized an oil tanker with more than 100 million dollars' worth of oil on board.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

South Korea On Alert

The South Korean military has been put on high alert after one of its patrol boats,the 1200-ton Cheonan,exploded,breaking up and sinking in disputed waters just off the North Korean coast.South Korean and U.S. Navy ships were on standby in the area as rescue efforts proceeded.Fifty-eight sailors were rescued,and 46 are unaccounted for.At first,South Korean authorities downplayed a North Korean role in the sinking of the warship,which had been in a previous clash with North Korea.The area has been the scene of repeated naval conflicts in recent years,some involving casualties.
A diver perished in the rescue attempt.It had been hoped there might be survivors in air pockets in the wreckage.The rescue effort continued into nighttime hours.The South Korean defense minister,Kim Tae-young,raised the possibility of a North Korean mine,either left over from the Korean War or deliberately floated toward the Cheonan,being the cause of the tragedy.The U.S. Navy has made advances in mine detection and neutralizing a priority,with several new helicopter-based systems currently in the testing phase.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Marines Pacify Marjah

U.S. Marines have successfully retaken the town of Marjah in southern Afghanistan,preceding the more important Kandahar mission.Now a Marine civil affairs unit is front and center in Marjah,as the holding phase of Operation Moshtarak moves along.They are busy disbursing money to the civilians for any number of needs,asking few questions as to whether compensation is warranted.In general,the Marines are being most accommodating,abandoning or adapting bases at the villagers' request for walking or driving space.
Meanwhile,the Kandahar operation is actually already underway,according to NATO Commander General Stanley McChrystal,U.S. Army.He said the campaign will steadily build in coming months.Right now,the focus is on securing key roads and outlying districts of Kandahar.The operation will last for a significant time period.Unmanned aircraft and other assets have been deployed to search for Improvised Explosive Devices.NATO forces have made some progress in securing the roads.There will be a lot pf political activities as well,shaping relationships in and around the city.
There is concern that the Kandahar leaders are corrupt,unlike the provincial governor in Marjah.Kandahar is the heartland of the Taliban militants in Afghanistan.

Redwings Return

The red-winged blackbirds have returned to their breeding areas in the Mid-Atlantic region,giving their "congaree" calls from a treetop or cattail.These pond birds may be found some distance from the pond this early in the season.They eat some birdseed this time of year,insects being in short supply.Only the males call;the females,dully-colored and silent,are not evident to the casual observer,if they are present at all right now.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cruiser Crew Visits Gettysburg

Six crew members from the USS Gettysburg(CG64) are visiting their namesake town of Gettysburg,Pennsylvania.Sponsored by the USS Gettysburg Society,the sailors presented a book to city hall documenting their recent activities in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden,where they captured 36 Somali pirates.They were hosted at a Cumberland Township restaurant before retiring for the night to a fire station.On Wednesday,they will visit a middle school and high school before touring the Civil War battlefield and other sites in the historic town.The visit concludes on Thursday.
The USS Gettysburg is a Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser.Homeported in Mayport,Florida,the crew is a frequent guest in the Southcentral Pennsylvania town made famous by the epic battle and Abraham Lincoln's address at the National Cemetery.The ship's motto is "Deeds Not Words."She received the USS Arizona Award for combat performance in July,2009.Besides intercepting pirates,she has also disrupted drug trafficking in concert with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Marine Transports Being Replaced

The U.S. Navy's Austin class of amphibious transport dock ships,one of the U.S. Marine Corps' workhorses,is gradually being replaced by the San Antonio class.The Austin class can carry up to six helicopters,while the San Antonio class can accommodate a mix of helicopters and tilt-rotor aircraft,the MV-22 Osprey,which is being phased into operations after a stormy development stage.The Austin class only carries the CH-46E Sea Knight choppers,while the San Antonio can carry any of a number of helicopter types,in addition to the CH-46E,which has been the main Marine Corps assault helicopter since 1964.
The amphibious transport dock ships are considered secondary aviation platforms.Their main role is to carry Marines,their vehicles and supplies to the theater of operations,disembarking them there by air cushion or conventional landing craft,as well as amphibious assault vehicles.The San Antonio class can carry up to 800 Marines,while the Austin class embarks up to 900.The USS New York(LPD21) is the latest LPD to enter service,having been commissioned on Veterans Day,2009.Four more are under construction.

Snow Almost Gone

The snow from multiple storms in the Mid-Atlantic region is all but gone now,reduced to mainly some big piles in parking lots or at dead ends,as well as scattered patches on fields and lawns.The only full snow cover now is on mountain tops or in woodlots.Although March and even April snows are not unheard of here,they seem most unlikely at this point,with the temperature having soared well above freezing.With each passing day,more significant snow becomes less likely.The sun is getting too high in the sky,gaining power all the time.More and more robins are arriving,although they are not yet competing for territory.The killdeers and seagulls are also present,as are the common grackles.Chipmunks have been seen for the first time since autumn,having hidden in their burrows beneath the big snows.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Platoon Commander and Scholar

Colonel William Joseph Davis,U.S. Marine Corps Retired,PhD,was recently interred in Arlington National Cemetery,having died just before Christmas.Colonel Davis,86,was a veteran of three wars,beginning his service as a Navy enlisted man in World War II.After the war,he earned a BA from Penn State University and joined the Marines as a 2nd Lieutenant.He was a platoon commander in the 1st Battalion/7th Marines during the Korean War,and became Commanding Officer of that unit in the Vietnam War.Colonel Davis was decorated for valor several times,receiving two Silver Stars,a Legion of Merit with Combat V,and the Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat V.
Colonel Davis earned his MA at the University of Pennsylvania,where he was a Professor of Naval Science.He also studied at the Air War College in Montgomery,Alabama and was Commanding Officer at The Basic School in Quantico,Virginia. Upon retiring from the service in 1976,he earned a PhD and taught for Pepperdine University at several military bases across the country.The author and publisher of military books,Colonel Davis was known for his swimming and golfing.He is survived by his wife of 63 years,Isabel Anne,a daughter and son-in-law,a grandaughter and two step-grandaughters.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Navy Memorial Honors EOD

The U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington,D.C. will be honoring the Navy's Explosive Ordnance Disposal(EOD).EOD counters Weapons of Mass Destruction,Improvised Explosive Devices and other Unexploded Ordnance.They are currently playing a pivotal role in the Afghan War,just as they did in Iraq.An all-weather,all-terrain force,the EOD operates worldwide,and can parachute or dive to any location where they are needed.They are the tip of the combat operations spear.
Beginning in March,an exhibit at the Memorial will highlight the EOD's history,current operations,mission and training.Both a diving suit and high-tech bomb disposal suit will be on display,as well as numerous photographs.The exhibit will run for one year at the Memorial,which is located on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Operation Moshtarak,in which bomb disposal has been so prominent,is taking longer than had been hoped,U.S. officials admit.Islamic militants have broken into squad-size units and attacked U.S. Marines from bunkers and even roofs amid the houses of Marjah,using the town's residents as human shields.It could go on for at least another month,even though significant advances have been made.Concern for collateral damage has slowed the NATO campaign considerably.

Vulture Gathering

About a dozen vultures were standing on the snow by the road.You couldn't see what they were doing there.Most likely they were gathered over a deer carcass.It had to be something substantial to attract that many of them.Both black vultures and turkey vultures were among them.The black vultures are smaller and more southern.This area just over the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania is the northernmost extent of their range.A bald eagle was also seen here recently,winging across the road,which crosses a couple of creeks in this segment.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

NATO Operation Grinds On

Operation Moshtarak,the push to re-establish the Afghan government in Helmand Province,is now well under way.The Marine rifle company which was inserted by helicopter at the beginning of the battle has been reinforced by another company on the ground.The operation was well-publicized to allow civilians to leave and Taliban militants to flee.Some have done so,but the foreign fighters among them will not.There are perhaps hundreds of foreign fighters in that area.Fighting in the key town of Marjah has been house to house,with periods of heavy mortar and small arms fire from the militants.
Intelligence on the area had been gathered for a few weeks prior to the start of the battle.It is now in the clearing phase,which could take up to a month or two.Some say the second phase-the holding phase-is even more challenging.The Taliban will almost certainly counterattack.
Marjah is the last Taliban stronghold in Helmand.It is the opium capital of the province.Sales of opium bankroll the militant activity in Afghanistan.Although important,Helmand is not the Taliban nerve center;Kandahar is.Operation Moshtarak is a template for future operations in the surge phase of the war.
About 15,000 U.S. Marines,British forces,other NATO troops and fully integrated Afghan forces are participating in the operation.As of Wednesday,five U.S. Marines had been killed in action,along with a British soldier.The militants have peppered the Marjah area with improvised explosive devices.NATO troops have managed to neutralize a large percentage of the IEDs,yet they remain a grave threat.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Aircraft Carrier Update

The Kitty Hawk(CV63)was formally decommissioned on 12 May,2009,following a ceremony on 31 January.She is now in reserve status.The USS Carl Vinson(CVN70)was redelivered on 11 July,2009,rejoining the fleet in March after her Refueling Complex Overhaul,a three-year reactor servicing and general overhaul at mid-life.She was the first flagship of the Haitian earthquake relief operation and left Haiti just last week.The Gerald R. Ford(CVN78)had her keel laid in a ceremony on 14 November,2009 at Newport News,Virginia.She is the first of a new class of carrier,built by Northrop Grumman.Commissioning is expected in 2015.

Blizzard of 2010 Live

We've got white-out conditions in the Mid-Atlantic region.Just as we recovered from a weekend storm,we were pounced on again by the snow cat.A neighbor just came by with his John Deere snow blower,helping us all out.The effects of the blizzard are mounting as the federal government is shut for the third day running and airports are closed,disrupting the entire nation.Snow is generally chest-high in many areas.Deer must have yarded up somewhere,their fur very thick this year,and black bears are deep in hibernation.Looking out the window,I can barely see the big oak just three or four meters away.It will take several days to bounce back from this Canada lynx snowfall,for many of us the most profound winter of our lives.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hardware and Operations

The Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget,Rear Admiral Joseph Mulloy,made a number of remarks on programs and operations at a Pentagon briefing on Monday.The Virginia class attack submarine is a hallmark program for the Pentagon,Admiral Mulloy said.Not only is it an economical program;the submarine is also in tremendous demand by all the combatant commanders.It is fully engaged,not a Cold War relic as some would have it.
Similarly,the littoral combat ship is a style of ship that will provide a lot of opportunity.It can self-deploy to shallow waters and do training.There is a steady pull to develop the planned 55 LCSs.It will be a gradual build-out,with newer ships replacing the old over a period of years.
In the area of combat operations,Admiral Mulloy noted that air operations for the Afghan War are proving more expensive than for the Iraq War.It is the cost of delivery:a seven hour flight to Afghanistan versus a three hour flight to Iraq.The flight to Afghanistan requires two mid-air refuelings.It takes a lot more planes and people to keep the same level of operations up for the Afghan War.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Navy Assets

As of November 2009,the U.S. Navy had a battle force of 285 ships and more than 3700 aircraft.According to Admiral Gary Roughead,Chief of Naval Operations,it needs a minimum of 313 ships to meet national security requirements.There were 328,466 active duty personnel and 6,432 mobilized Reserves.The Department of the Navy had 194,562 civilian workers.Raymond E. Mabus,Secretary of the Navy,represents the Commander in Chief,President Barack H. Obama,at the Department.

Bulbs Already

The first spring catalogs are arriving.The spring bulbs are sending up leaves already,too.The leaves could sustain frost damage,but the bulbs have calculated that it is worth the risk to send the leaves up and start making food.Bitter cold and perhaps snow are projected to return to the Mid-Atlantic region this weekend,so the leaves will be tested for sure.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Task Force Builds Steam

Joint Task Force Haiti is building up a full head of steam to assist the Haitian people.It consists of 10,000 U.S. troops and 16 ships.The USS Carl Vinson(CVN70) is flagship of the effort.Four U.S. Coast Guard cutters are involved.One of them,USCGC Oak,is leading the port recovery project.Commander Mark Glander says they hope to have the port reopened within 2-3 days,providing a badly needed access point for aid.Piers and cranes were severely damaged by the earthquake.
JTF Haiti is led by Lieutenant General Ken Keen,U.S. Army.He said we need as many troops on the ground as we can get.There are over 7.5 million Haitians.About 2,000 U.S. Marines and 3,000 other personnel,including the 82nd Airborne,will be serving on land.The other 5,000 will be stationed on ships.General Keen is working closely with the U.N. troops who have been in country since before the earthquake.He meets with the U.N. commander daily.The U.N. troops will provide security while the U.S. forces concentrate on logistics and distribution.
The USS Carl Vinson,a Nimitz class nuclear aircraft carrier which has been active in the Afghan war,is using its helicopters to fly relief supplies into Haiti and bring the injured back to the carrier for treatment.The carrier can purify thousands of gallons of water a day.A Navy hospital ship with 250 beds,the USNS Comfort,is arriving soon from Baltimore.

January Thaw

The Mid-Atlantic region has been experiencing a January thaw for several days now.Most of the snow has melted.Towards the end of the week,however,the first of many prospective winter events may occur.The robins will again be under stress,but they have had a good chance to fatten up during the thaw.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Oldest Naval Aviator Dies

Captain Pliny G. Holt,U.S. Navy Retired,MBE,who was believed to have been the oldest naval aviator at age 99,died on 4 January in Potomac,Maryland.A native of Stockton,California,Captain Holt earned his wings from Pensacola Naval Air Station with his brother Frank-the first brothers to do so-in December 1936.Trained as an engineer and mechanic at Stanford University and the Boeing School of Aeronautics,he developed instrumentation for naval aircraft such as gyroscope autopilots,as well as crucial night bombing navigation systems for the Royal Air Force,for which he was awarded membership in the Order of the British Empire by King George VI.Near the end of World War II,Captain Holt flew combat missions in the Pacific theater.Over the course of his career,he flew in over 100 aircraft types.
After the war,Captain Holt continued his engineering activities,heading the Navy's Guided Missile Division,Advanced Project Section,designing and building the first airborne inertial navigation system.His mechanical genius was attested to by the fact that he was awarded several dozen patents for his discoveries.Retiring in 1968,Captain Holt was awarded the Legion of Merit for over three decades of major achievements for his service and his nation.He coninued his aviation work as a consultant to IBM on avionics and aviation systems.
An accomplished golfer,Captain Holt played rounds with the likes of Admiral Ernest J. King,Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gerald R. Ford,among other notables.His other hobbies included model railroading and ship model building,at both of which he distinguished himself.Captain Holt was preceded in death by his wife,Elyse Law Holt.He leaves behind his nieces and nephews to admire his voluminous legacy.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

AFRICOM Augments Anti-Pirate Efforts

The U.S. Africa Command has added three U.S. Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and 112 sailors,deploying them to the Seychelles islands.They are from the VP-26 Tridents in Maine.Captain John Moore,commodore of Combined Task Force 67 in Signorella,Italy said that the aircraft are uniquely suited to counter-piracy missions,given their ability to cover a wide area for long periods of time.They can stay on patrol for up to eight hours.AFRICOM says the Orions will be unarmed.
Captain Moore said the mission had gone well so far.It started last month.Its goal is to provide intelligence,surveillance and reconnaissance for the Horn of Africa.The mission will last for several months at least,AFRICOM stated.

Powder Snow

Arctic air has brought powder snow showers to the Mid-Atlantic region the past few nights.In a mountainous area,school opened late today because of hazardous roads caused by this light,slippery snow.It is highly favored by skiers,however.It has a unique,feathery beauty.Powder snow is relatively uncommon in the lower elevations of the Mid-Atlantic.Heavy,wet snow is the rule in most of the region.