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.