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.