Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Weirdly Warm:South Central Pennsylvania's Shuttered Ski Resorts

Liberty Mountain,Roundtop Mountain and Whitetail Resorts have yet to open so much as one trail.It has simply been too warm and wet.Not only has it not snowed;it hasn't been possible to make snow,either.The target maximum temperature of 28 degrees F has been frequently exceeded.
Skiers are getting impatient,asking the resorts by Tweet just when they plan to open this year.All they've been able to reply is that they don't know,but there will surely be some skiing eventually.As long as a stubborn jet stream keeps the Arctic air bottled up in Canada,there won't be any relief for them.The local economy will continue to miss the business the skiers bring up from D.C. and Baltimore,as well as close-in towns in Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland.
The three resorts are owned by Snow Time,Inc.,a privately held firm based in York,Pennsylvania.They have a four season business model,offering golf,along with wedding and conference amenities,as well as fly fishing.Given ski seasons like this one,it's a good thing they do.
Tuesday saw torrential rain pelt the resorts,but the company says Wednesday night is forecasted to be ideal for snowmaking,with temperatures in the low 20s F.Next week is looking even better,with the prospect for several consecutive nights of 25 degrees F or below as an Arctic blast buffets the region.
Update:All three resorts have now opened for skiing and snowboarding on limited terrain.There is no top of the mountain access or tubing as of yet.Expect rudimentary quality conditions-at least until next week,when Arctic air will be drifting in.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Operation New Dawn Concludes As Colors Return From Iraq

The colors of U.S. Forces Iraq-the unit's flags-arrived home on Tuesday,carried by the last troops to return from Operation New Dawn,General Lloyd J. Austin III,U.S. Army,commander,and his staff.The soldiers flew to Joint Base Andrews,Maryland,where they were greeted by President Barack Obama;Vice President Joe Biden;Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey,U.S. Army;and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter,as well as the returning soldiers' families.
In a brief address to mark the occasion,General Austin,who is incidentally one of the highest ranking African Americans in the U.S. Army,declared that U.S. Forces Iraq has accomplished its mission.I am proud to safely return our colors to the United States of America.They have safely been passed from commander to commander.
A significant number of our troops answered the call after 9-11.Many of them have re-enlisted.What our troops achieved is truly remarkable.They removed a brutal dictator and gave the Iraqi people their freedom.
Success in Iraq cannot be soley defined as a military effort.Thank you to all of our State Department comrades who are here with us today.
The general went on to thank our Gold Star families-those who lost family members in the war-for their sacrifice,and also the great American public for their care packages and letters-often sent to soldiers they didn't even know.It was a big boost to morale.
Finally,the general thanked our military men and women who served in Iraq.I am truly humbled by your many sacrifices.Thank you for a job extremely well done,General Austin said emphatically.
Genral Austin goes on to be Vice Chief of Staff,U.S. Army.The colors will eventually be put on display.
Members of all five branches of the U.S. military served in the Iraq War:Army,Marine Corps,Navy,Air Force and Coast Guard.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reality T.V.,Coast Guard Style

The Weather Channel has been exploiting the U.S. Coast Guard for its own purposes of generating ratings and making a profit.The question is,is the Coast Guard getting a fair amount in return?
"Coast Guard Alaska" documents life at the Kodiak air station in seven 60 minute episodes.It does make for compelling viewing.For human interest,it's hard to top search and rescue,which the Kodiak Island unit appears to spend most of its time on.Even those who really aren't interested in the Coast Guard as an institution,nor understand the service fully,will be drawn in by the life and death situations which are the bread and butter of this particular outpost.The documentary has the added virtue of being amenable to the viewing habits of many of TWC's viewers,who mainly watch the channel in short snippets to-let's face it-get the local forecast on the way out the door or in airport lounges and hotel rooms.You can watch the episodes rescue by rescue,since the events are sufficiently self-explanatory. In short,the show is a winner for TWC.As to whether the Coast Guard is winning equally is more difficult to quantify.Ultimately,the service's leadership will have to ponder that one and render the appropriate decision.
The Weather Channel's goal is to reward its investors through profitable entertainment.The Coast Guard's goal is neither to entertain nor to make a profit,but to preserve the homeland security of the United States through its various missions.
The Weather Channel is co-owned by NBC Universal,Bain Capital and The Blackstone Group,L.P.In turn,NBC Universal is co-owned by Comcast and General Electric."Coast Guard Alaska" is a production of Al Roker Entertainment,whose CEO is the popular NBC personality.
The Weather Channel is seen by more than 100 million U.S. viewers.Other TWC long-form original content series include "Twist of Fate" and "From the Edge with Peter Lik."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

DIA Honored With Joint Meritorious Unit Award

The Defense Intelligence Agency,a Pentagon organization that provides strategic military intelligence to warfighters and defense policy makers,received a Joint Meritorious Unit Award,or JMUA,from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at a 13 October ceremony.The award,the eighth in the agency's history,was given for exceptional achievement during the period of August 1,2008 to July 31,2011.
The extraordinary dedication of agency personnel was directly responsible for the identification,pursuit and capture or death of key adversaries,as well as the provision of vital information essential to maintaining our national security,the award citation said.
Within the past year,the agency helped manage emerging threats related to North Korean aggression against South Korea;the Arab Spring;and the Libya crisis;as well,a DIA team supported humanitarian and disaster relief to Japan following the tsunami and nuclear disaster at Fukushima.Agency teams are frequently deployed with military and interagency partners to defend U.S. national security interests.
The award device,a streamer,was attached to the DIA flag by Mr.Panetta and DIA Director Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess,Jr.,U.S. Army.Looking on was James Clapper,Director of National Intelligence.
The DIA has more than 16,500 military and civilian personnel worldwide.The agency is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Iranian Students Ransack British Embassy

In a move that has haunting echoes for Americans,a crowd of Iranian students rushed the British Embassy in Tehran on Tuesday evening,vandalising the premises and terrorising diplomats and their families.Unable to break the lock on the compound's iron gate,the activists just climbed over it.Once inside,they trashed documents and set fires,burning the Union Jack and raising a Shiite banner.Chanting "Death to England,"they took hostages,whom they later released.
A British residential compound was stormed in the fracas.Iranian security forces did little to stop the intruders.The British Foreign Office expressed outrage and condemned the incident.The student mob was linked to the Basij plainclothes militia.
The U.K. has recently joined Canada and the U.S. in imposing sanctions on Iranian banks to thwart Iran's suspected nuclear weapons development programme.
In 1979,a similar group of students attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tehran,seizing dozens of American hostages and holding them for 444 days.March 2007 saw the Iranians seize 15 British Sailors and Marines,accusing them of violating Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf,which the U.K. denied.They were released after two tense weeks in captivity.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Middle East:A Consolidation of Forces

Given recent trends,the next decade in the Middle East may see a consolidation of the current strategic reality in the region.Driven by a need to counterbalance Iran,Saudi Arabia has embarked on a significant defence buildup that will considerably solidify its pre-eminent military stature among the Gulf States.The new Saudi defence minister,Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz,is presiding over the project following the October death of his predecessor,Prince Sultan.
According to The Washington Post,the Saudis will basically double their military capabilities in both hardware and manpower.The army and national guard will grow by a combined 175,000 troops;the navy will buy more than 30 billion dollars of new ships and missiles;the air force will purchase another 450-500 aircraft;and the interior ministry will augment police and special forces by 60,000 personnel.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is calling for a dramatic intensification of sanctions against Iran.He considers Iran a grave and growing threat to international security.
In Southwest Asia,the Afghan government has been authorised by a special assembly to negotiate with the U.S. for a substantial U.S. military presence in the country beyond the current withdrawal date of 2014.The Afghans will seek an end to night raids by U.S. forces,however,which they see as unnecessarily risky.
This Afghan policy stands in stark contrast to that of Iraq,which couldn't muster enough support to keep U.S. troops beyond the end of this year.The U.S. is looking at its options for shifting some of the soldiers to Kuwait and other allied states in the region.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sapsucker Winter Visitor

The yellow-bellied sapsucker has been seen wintering in the lower elevations of the Mid-Atlantic region,fond of the parks,woodlots and suburbs that are abundant there.It is always a bird of open woods,breeding from Canada and Alaska south through much of the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains,and around the Great Lakes,in boreal and transition forests.
About 21 centimeters long,or 8 and a half inches,this nearly silent woodpecker has mottled black and white plumage with dull yellow on its belly and a splash of red on the crown and throat-females are red only on the throat.It is known for the neat rows of holes it drills in tree bark,from which it drinks sap with its tongue and eats insects caught in the sap.
A woodsman may be busily working in the forest,only to catch a pleasant glimpse of this attractive northern creature,which seems to calmly accept humans who are performing legitimate tasks.The sapsucker expects people to be working around its home.Since it favors working forests and their scattered clearings,it doesn't have a problem with the woodland laborer.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Twilight of the USS Enterprise

In a few years,the world's first nuclear aircraft carrier,the USS Enterprise(CVN 65)will be decommissioned.From that date until 2015,the U.S. Navy will be short an aircraft carrier.In 2015,the USS Gerald R Ford will join the fleet,bringing the number of carriers back to 11.
The Enterprise was commissioned on 25 November,1961.Since then,she has served in every major combat operation.Originally built to last 25 years,through excellent maintenance the ship will soon surpass 50 years of service life.So far,more than 100,000 Sailors and Marines have served on her.The Big E is the second oldest ship in the fleet after the wooden-hulled USS Constitution.
The Big E was last deployed on 13 January,2011 in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean.On that cruise with her strike group of a Carrier Air Wing,guided missile cruiser and three guided missile destroyers,she participated in operations which captured 75 Somali pirates and launched missile strikes against the repressive Gaddafi regime in Libya.
The Enterprise has one or two more deployments ahead of her.A deployment typically lasts about six months.In 2013,the ship will be decommissioned,then deactivated and defueled at Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News,Virginia.It is uncertain whether the Enterprise can become a museum following this massive and unprecedented safing process,which will involve dismantling much of the warship.
Huntington Ingalls Industries(HII)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Defense Secretary Warns Iran

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a warning to Iran and others not to miscalculate over the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.For Iran and anybody else who has any other ideas,let me make clear that the United States maintains 40,000 troops in that region;23,000 in Kuwait,and numbers of others in countries throughout that region,Mr.Panetta stated while on an Asian trip last week.
Almost all U.S. forces will be withdrawn out of Iraq by 31 December on orders by President Obama.The only exceptions will be a small cadre of U.S. Marines who guard the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad-the largest U.S. Embassy in the world-as well as a small number to help with arms transactions with Iraq.
As well as maintaining those U.S. troops currently stationed in the Persian Gulf region outside of Iraq,the Pentagon is reportedly considering transferring some of the soldiers now in Iraq to neighboring Kuwait,The New York Times ascertained.The U.S. Navy may also keep more warships in the region.A Pentagon spokesman said they're going through a range of options and no decisions have been made.
The vacuum created by U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is a growing concern for America's Sunni Muslim Persian Gulf allies,who are wary of more Iranian Shiite Muslim influence in the region.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Admiral James Stavridis Honored

Admiral James G. Stavridis,U.S. Navy,and the U.S. Armed Forces received the Athenagoras Human Rights Award at the New York Hilton on 15 October.The award was presented by Archbishop Demetrios,Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Western Hemisphere,and Dr.Anthony Limberakis,National Commander of the Order of St.Andrew the Apostle,Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.The award is presented to one who exemplifies in word and deed the commitment to liberty.
In his acceptance,Admiral Stavridis,who leads the NATO defense alliance as Supreme Allied Commander Europe(SACEUR),a post once held by President Dwight D. Eisenhower,recalled his father from Asia Minor and the values he imparted,including pride in their Hellenic heritage.It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak,the admiral observed.We live in an imperfect world in which human rights sadly are not the norm.
Also attending the awards banquet were the Honorable Dr.Suzan Johnson Cook,U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom;ABC Chief Political Correspondent George Stephanopoulos,Master of Ceremonies;and Fox News Chief Congressional Correspondent Mike Emmanuel,who introduced those seated on the dais.The latter two are Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate-a Greek Orhtodox distinction similar to being Knights of Columbus.
Patriarch Bartholomew is the current Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch,the spiritual leader of all Orthodox Christians.He is based in Istanbul,Turkey.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Marines Exercise Near Controversial Islands

Six Asian countries,including China and the Philippines,lay claim to some of the Spratly Islands.Nonetheless,U.S. and Philippine Marines are holding two weeks of military exercises near the disputed islands.Some 3,000 troops are participating.The most sensitive exercise will be a mock raid by the forces to capture a hostile beach head on the South China Sea.
A U.S. Marine Corps spokesman denied the exercises were aimed at a specific country;they are merely intended to improve regional security capability.
The Spratlys are part of a vast archipelago of more than 750 islands,reefs and atolls off the Philppine and Malaysian coasts in the South China Sea,which China considers to be its territorial waters.The international community doesn't agree with China's expansive concept.
The Spratlys consist of only four square kilometers of land,but the archipelago is flung across more than 425 square kilometers of sea.
The Spratlys are considered important as way marks for territorial claims on natural resources believed to be in and under the South China Sea,including fisheries and oil and gas.A number of the islands are patrolled by small military units of China;Vietnam;Taiwan;Malaysia;and the Philippines,as a way to assert these claims.This has resulted in minor armed clashes over the past thirty years.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Findings From The Edge:Brookhaven National Laboratory

Located on a 5200 acre site 60 miles east of New York City in Upton,Long Island,Brookhaven National Laboratory does basic and applied research in long term,high-risk programs at the frontiers of science to develop advanced technologies that address national needs,transferring them to other organizations and the commercial sector.Its staff of 3,000 scientists,engineers,technicians and support personnel host over 4,000 guest researchers annually and carry out the strategic missions of the Department of Energy.
BNL's major programs include Nuclear and high energy physics;Physics and chemistry of materials;Environmental and energy research;Nonproliferation;Neuroscience and medical imagery;and Structural biology.
The Nonproliferation and National Security Department has developed the Conceptual Design of Safeguards,the first systematic nuclear materials safeguard system that integrates material control and accountability;physical protection;and records and reporting.
The NND has also developed international nuclear safeguards and expanded into technology for counter-terrorism;critical infrastructure protection;and advanced detection development and testing.It has a special interest in Material Protection Control and Accountability in Russia and the Newly Independent States.
Ironically,BNL may now be applying some of these findings to its own activities as an investigation and procedural review have been prompted by a minor radiation leak from a monitor testing device on 28 September.Radiological operations were stood down pending completion of the inquest.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Destroyer Joins The Fleet

The granddaughter of a great World War II commander,Admiral Raymond Ames Spruance,participated in the sunset commissioning of an Arleigh Burke class destroyer,the USS Spruance(DDG 111),on Saturday 1 October in Key West,Florida.Ellen Spruance Holscher,Sponsor of the new ship,ordered the 285-member crew to man the ship and bring her to life,at which they ran up the gangways in their dress whites.Ms.Holscher had also taken part in the ship's christening on 5 June,helping to smash a bottle of champagne against the bow.
General Dynamics built the warship at its Bath Iron Works in Maine.Commander Tate Westbrook is her commanding officer.
The ship is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles;a 5-inch gun;25mm machine gun;and torpedo tubes.It also carries two MH60-R helicopters.
Admiral Spruance led naval forces in the Battle of Midway and the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
Several other of this type of destroyer are under construction or in the planning phase.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coast Guard Puts Transocean On Notice

The U.S. Coast Guard has issued a Notice of Federal Intent to Transocean,owner of the abandoned Deepwater Horizon oil rig,which now sits on the ocean floor near BP's capped Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico.The notice informs a party it may be liable for cleanup costs and damages under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.The Coast Guard recently spotted a number of sheens on the ocean's surface near the site of the crippled rig and well,which caused a catastrophic oil spill in April 2010.
Captain Johnathan Burton,commanding officer of Marine Safety Unit Morgan City,said the notice is part of the Coast Guard's process whenever there is an oil sighting that cannot be immediately attributed to a specific source.The Coast Guard said the oil sheens may be leaking from a severed pipe that once connected the rig to the well.This riser pipe now lies twisted on the ocean floor.
Both Transocean and BP said they will cooperate with the Coast Guard's investigation of the sheens,but pointed fingers at each other as the potentially liable party.In late August,a BP submarine survey of the area showed no leakage from the Macondo well itself.The well was capped on 15 July,2010 and permanently sealed on 19 September of that year.
Enforcing environmental laws and responding to oil spills are some of the Coast Guard's core missions.It played a key role in assessing,investigating and mitigating the Macondo well spill.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bridges To Somewhere:Thespian Family Receive Navy Memorial Honor

The Bridges family,who have lent their talents to American dramatic arts for over 60 years,are receiving the U.S. Navy Memorial's Lone Sailor Award on September 22 in Washington,D.C.The late Lloyd Bridges and his two sons,Beau and Jeff,will be saluted for their decades of service to country and community.All three are U.S. Coast Guard veterans.
Lloyd Bridges,who died in 1998,served in the Coast Guard from 1941-45;Beau Bridges served in the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserves from1959-1967;Jeff Bridges followed with his service in the Coast Guard and USCGR from 1967-75.It's a fact that may surprise many of their fans.One doesn't necessarily associate Hollywood with the U.S. Coast Guard.
The family has several hundred television,record and film credits to their name,from Lloyd's hit TV series Sea Hunt(1958-61)to Beau's Best Spoken Word Album Grammy Award for "An Inconvenient Truth"(1989) and Jeff's Best Actor Oscar for his role in "Crazy Heart"(2009).
Beau and Jeff also have a sister,Lucinda Bridges.
Lloyd Bridges received an Honorary Commodore Award from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary,11th Coast Guard District Los Angeles.Son Beau served aboard U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dexter(WHEC-385).
Also receiving the Lone Sailor honor for 2011 are baseball legends Jerry Coleman and Bob Feller,who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy,respectively;as well as Brian Lamb,C-Span founder and U.S. Navy veteran.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nature Note:Moth Resembles Tree Bark

I noted a triangular moth resting on the sliding screen door of my home.Taking a closer look,I observed it was beautifully camouflaged as gray tree bark.It was an epione underwing,a forest moth that ranges from Quebec west to Minnesota and south to Florida,Texas and Oklahoma.When startled,the epione underwing drops to the ground.
The adults are abroad from August to September,having emerged from pupae in leaf litter.The eggs are laid on tree trunks in the early autumn and then hatch in the spring.The epione underwing caterpillars favor the leaves of shagbark hickory trees.
There is probably one generation of this moth a year.It was first described by the British entomologist Dru Drury in 1773.Drury lived from 1725-1803 in London.His collection had at least 11,000 species.The son of a prosperous goldsmith,three species were named in his honor by fellow entomologists.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Frigate Visits Mauritius On Goodwill Trip

The USS Samuel B. Roberts(FFG 58) arrived in Port Louis,Mauritius on 5 September for an eight day goodwill port visit.The ship's crew will be strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and exercises in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa,which is part of the mission of U.S. Africa Command.
Besides on board training in damage control;fire fighting;search and rescue;and electrical maintenance,the crew will undertake a community service project at a children's school and play a soccer match with the Mauritius coast guard.It is FFG 58's fifth East Africa port visit in the past seven weeks.Prior to that,the frigate was engaged in maritime security operations and theater security cooperation in the U.S. 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
Homeported in Mayport,Florida,FFG 58 is an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate.These frigates have a complement of 17 officers and 198 enlisted personnel.
Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean.Its closest neighbors are Reunion and Madagascar.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Irene,Katia and Isabel:Nature's Tropical Blowhards

Mariners and Mid-Atlantic residents are warily observing another tropical system developing,even as the region busily cleans up after the previous one.As of Tuesday evening,Hurricane Irene had killed 43 people,and three million were still without power.A thousand roads were blocked in Connecticut,and water rescues continued.The storm's cost was up to seven billion dollars,and Mid-Atlantic agriculture was taking a blow as well,with 30,000 chickens perishing in Maryland,while New Jersey's significant blueberry crop was damaged.
Hurricane Irene wasn't the worst tropical system we have seen.It will go down as a moderately destructive event;but if you are in one of the eleven towns that remain isolated by flooded or crumbled roadways,it will indeed seem one of the worst to you personally.
Far out in the Atlantic,just off the coast of West Africa,another unwelcome guest is making its way towards us.Tropical Storm Katia is just beginning its path of mayhem,and could be a hurricane by Wednesday.
Sometimes hurricanes occur in patterns,revisiting the same area for an extended period.That would be the worst case scenario for the Mid-Atlantic,which until Irene had not seen a hurricane landfall since Isabel,a Cape Verde storm like the new Katia,struck in September 2003,leaving 51 deaths and 4.3 billion dollars of inflation-adjusted damage in its wake.
Update:Katia has now been upgraded to a hurricane,with top winds of 75 mph.It is located just east of the Leeward Islands.It will be days before its course can be ascertained.
The death toll from Irene was 45 as of Wednesday evening.The damage estimate was over 12 billion dollars.Just over two million remained without power,and food was scarce in some towns.Rescues continued.
All New Jersey rivers were receding,but the Passaic was still a roaring rapids.More than 24 feet above flood stage,the river inundated Wallington.The Passaic drains Northern New Jersey,which had its wettest August on record even before Irene.
In Vermont,the National Guard delivered relief supplies.Road access was restored to all but one community.A base lodge was destroyed by a swollen creek at the Killington ski resort,and several other businesses in the state were ruined by the flooding.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chimney-Crumbler Startles Residents

Seven nuclear power plants,including Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island and New York's Indian Point,declared an Unusual Event-the lowest level of emergency-and the Pentagon was evacuated as a rare Mid-Atlantic earthquake struck at about 1352 hours on Tuesday afternoon.Working in my office,I felt a moderate up-and-down shaking for about thirty seconds.It was enough to inspire fear of property damage,though not for life and limb.A few minor injuries and perhaps several dozen crumbling facades and chimneys throughout the area resulted from the late summer incident,while a handful of unoccupied cars were crushed by debris near the epicenter of Mineral,Virginia.Some of the pinnacles of Washington's National Cathedral were also damaged,and the cathedral's bookstore experienced items tumbling off the shelves.
In Fredericksburg,Virginia,a section of downtown was evacuated as a gas line ruptured and leaked into the sewer system.Twenty-five buildings were damaged in the town's historic district,mostly bricks collapsing and threatening pedestrians.A Lowe's big box store suffered a roof breach and water damage.
Airports throughout the region suspended operations into the late afternoon.Structural engineers began inspecting buildings,a process expected to continue through the night.The U.S. Capitol and Washington Monument were evacuated as a precaution as the region's emergency procedures went into effect.Roads clogged as federal employees were dismissed early while buildings were assessed.
Bank of America evacuated 20 branches during the quake.
Near the epicenter of the 5.8 magnitude quake about 80 miles south of Washington,two of Dominion Power's North Anna nuclear reactors shut down automatically as three of four back-up diesel generators switched on efficiently when off site power was interrupted by the quake,ensuring that the fuel rods would continue to be cooled.
For most residents of the region,it was their first experience of such an event,an encounter with an aspect of nature they will look back on with fascination for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Codename Looking Glass:Navy Jets Have Special Mission

The U.S. Navy's E-6B Mercury aircraft plays a crucial role in the U.S. Strategic Command.Its predecessor,the E-6A Hermes,was a command and control plane only for the Navy's ballistic missile submarines.With the advent of the E-6B and its more advanced avionics,as well as a new battlestaff area,the Navy aircraft was promoted to the Looking Glass mission previously allotted to the U.S. Air Force's EC-135s.
Today,these Boeing 707 derivatives are the Airborne Command Post for the entire nuclear deterrent force,from Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles,to strategic bombers and the Navy's Ohio class of Trident missile submarines.Should the Global Operations Center of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base,Nebraska become disabled,the E-6B aircraft will assume its command and control functions.
The E-6B has a speed of 0.88 Mach,with a range of 8700 nautical miles and a ceiling of 42,000 feet.It has a crew of 3 pilots,2 airborne communications officers,2 flight engineers and 7-15 mission crew.Totaling 15 aircraft,the 2 E-6B squadrons are based at Tinker Air Force Base,Oklahoma.
A sixteenth E-6B is used as a testbed at NAS Patuxent River,Maryland.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

President Receives Afghan War Dead

President Barack Obama received the remains of 30 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan and their 8 Afghan colleagues at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Tuesday.Media were barred from the solemn transfer ceremony,which was described by eyewitnesses as deeply moving.The President comforted the bereaved family and military members.
Among the fallen were 22 U.S. Navy SEAL commandos;5 U.S. Army Chinook helicopter crew;and 3 U.S. Air Force personnel.The helicopter was downed by rocket-propelled grenade fire in Wardak Province of East Central Afghanistan.Chinooks are considered the flying bus among the helicopters.In service since 1958,the Boeing choppers are known to be vulnerable during their take-offs and landings,when their guns are of limited use.They are quite respected as high altitude aircraft,however-an important consideration in the mountainous environment of Afghanistan.
The SEALs were coming to the aid of a U.S. Army Ranger unit that was pursuing a Taliban militant leader when it came under heavy fire.
The militants are very familiar with the Chinook helicopters.They lay down a barrage of rpg or .51 caliber machine gun fire to try to bring them down.This time,they succeeded.
The loss of the SEALs is most prominent in their home communities of Coronado,California and Oceana,Virginia.
Wardak Province is considered a high security risk.Militants have been recruiting there and asserting control in recent years,roaming freely at night.It is largely a rural area,with most residents engaged in agriculture to some extent.
Update:On Wednesday,General John Allen,USMC,commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan,said ground forces,acting on local intelligence reports,located 2 Taliban militants in a wooded area,one of them the militant who fired the rpg that downed the Chinook,and called in an F-16 airstrike to prevent their leaving the country.The militants were killed,but the Taliban leader originally sought by U.S. Army Rangers has not been found.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Crossing A Summer Field

I walk through a hay field just north of Camp David.With each afternoon step in near hundred degree Fahrenheit heat,hundreds of grasshoppers scatter.The grasshoppers are fine.It's what may lurk unseen that is troubling:venomous copperhead snakes;Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks;or Rocky Mountain spotted fever vector dog ticks.A hornet's nest may also be underfoot,along with the terribly poisonous brown recluse spider.
Fortunately,none of these threats are encountered.
Approaching the shallow streams at the west end of the field,the terrain is thickly matted dried grasses or rushes.The shallow streams seem to have dried up,but they are hazardous ditches obscured by the hummocks of dried vegetation,threatening a foot or leg injury.
Then again,the spiny and huge garlic mustard-not to mention the prickly teasel-present an obnoxious challenge.I think I am hearing an eastern coyote snarling from its day bed,but it stays in hiding.
An American bumble bee flies off a swamp milkweed,but doesn't seem angry with me.At one point,I realize I have lost my wallet.Fat chance of finding it in this thatchy place;yet incredibly I do just that,retracing my steps with only a little hope.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A NORAD Response to Intrusion

Working in my office one recent July morning,I heard a loud jet aircraft engine.It must be a fighter protecting Camp David,I thought.Indeed,a few moments later I observed the hefty warplane,an F-15E,heading south towards the presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.
The F-15E was actually one of two NORAD fighters that were intercepting a civilian plane intruding on restricted air space over and near the weekend White House.The NORAD interceptors escorted the intruder to Carroll County Regional Airport in Maryland.The pilot was interviewed by the U.S. Secret Service there and released,it having been determined he was blundering into the forbidden zone out of ignorance.A lengthy suspension of his pilot's certificate-typically 120 to 180 days-would follow.
There is always a 3 nautical mile/6.5 mile diameter prohibited area over the camp.When the president is at Camp David,the zone is expanded to 10 nautical miles/22 miles.Five of the nautical miles are totally off-limits;the outer 5 nautical miles are limited to specially cleared aircraft in communication with air traffic control,which the intruding Cessna 182 was not.
U.S. Marine guards provide terrestrial security at Camp David,which is administered by the U.S. Navy.
NORAD is the North American Aerospace Defense Command,a joint U.S.-Canadian organization that is charged with monitoring and defending the air,space and,more recently,the maritime,approaches and domains of the continent.It is based at Peterson Air Force Base,Colorado.Admiral James A. Winnefeld,U.S. Navy,is Commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command,while Canadian Lieutenant-General J.M. Duval,CMM,CD is Deputy Commander of NORAD.The organization was established in 1958 and was formerly based in the hardened Cheyenne Mountain Air Station.Today,the mountain site is used by NORAD for training and as an alternate HQ,and day to day operations are conducted at Peterson AFB.
NORAD received heightened relevance during the 9-11 crisis,its Cold War urgency having passed from the scene as the Communist Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact disintegrated.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Marine Assumes Afghan War Command

A U.S. Marine four-star general,John R. Allen,has assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force,or ISAF,the senior military leadership post in the Afghan War.On 18 July,General Allen replaced General David Petraeus,U.S. Army,who is to become the next CIA director.
A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy,General Allen has had an intellectually stimulating career,earning several academic degrees in national security and intelligence studies from Georgetown University and the National War College,as well as the Defense Intelligence University.He also taught and was Commandant at the Naval Academy.
From 2006-08,General Allen was Commanding General,2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in the Iraq War.He then served as Deputy Commander,U.S. Central Command from 2008-11,assisting General Petraeus for most of that assignment.
General Allen has been decorated with the Legion of Merit with 3 award stars,as well as both the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and the Joint Meritorious Unit Award with 1 oak leaf cluster.
There would be no let up in engaging the Taliban militants during the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops and transfer of command to Afghan security forces,General Allen insisted.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Leon Panetta's Brisk Entrance

Leon Panetta was sworn in as the new Defense Secretary on 1 July.The former Member of Congress had been serving as CIA Director.Mr.Panetta will be replaced at CIA by General David Petraeus,U.S. Army,who currently commands the International Security Assistance Force,or ISAF,in Afghanistan.
Mr.Panetta,73,is known for his outspoken manner,in contrast to the quieter ways of his predecessor,the esteemed Robert Gates,who received the Medal of Freedom,the nation's highest civilian honor,from President Barack Obama when he recently retired.
Mr.Panetta laughingly puts his demeanor down to being Italian.One thing is certain:the troops he serves,the world leaders he meets and the adversaries he warns will have no doubt about their standing with the United States and its new Pentagon chief.He wasted no time in addressing all three with his prompt journey to Iraq and Afghanistan.
While Mr.Panetta was traveling,Admiral Michael Mullen,outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,was meeting with the Chinese brass in an effort to restore relations with the People's Liberation Army,as China's military is known.Tensions over North Korea's behavior,Taiwan's defences and the status of the South China Sea have in recent years cast a chill over exchanges between the two strongest armed forces,which had been halted altogether for most of 2010.

Defense.gov News Article: Panetta Vows to Protect U.S. Troops

Defense.gov News Article: Panetta Vows to Protect U.S. Troops

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Iranian-Backed Militia Attacks Base

On 30 June,three U.S. troops were killed and seven wounded in a rocket attack on Camp Shocker,a base on the Iran-Iraq border.A Shiite militia with Iranian and Lebanese ties,Kataib Hezbollah,or Hezbollah Brigades,is being blamed for the attack.They had claimed responsibility for a similar action that killed five U.S. troops earlier in the month.
Kataib Hezbollah has ties to Lebanon's Hezbollah militia.They are focusing on attacking U.S. soldiers in Iraq,believing that American forces may remain in Iraq beyond the 31 December deadline for withdrawal agreed with the Iraqi government.These militants use a weapon called IRAMs,or improvised rocket-assisted mortars,which are only made in Iran.
Fifteen U.S. troops died in the Iraq War in June,the most since April 2009.Fourteen of them were killed in action.Besides Kataib Hezbollah,two other Shiite militias have been involved in recent attacks on Americans:League of the Righteous and Promised Day Brigades.
Iran denies it is supporting these militants,who post videos of their attacks on Americans on the Internet.Many of their leaders fled to Iran in 2008 when U.S. and Iraqi forces went after them in the summer of that year.Several other militia leaders were captured in that operation.Besides IRAMs,these militants use improvised explosive devices,mortars,rockets,rocket-propelled grenades and small arms in their attacks.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

National Lab Concern Easing

Danger from the Las Conchas wildland fire in New Mexico appears to be easing.Los Alamos National Laboratory,a nuclear national security facility that was edged by the fire for about a week,has lifted its state of emergency.It is moving into an operational recovery mode,the lab said.
As of Saturday,113,734 acres had been consumed by the blaze.It was burning on Santa Fe National Forest and Valles Caldera National Preserve.The wildfire was rated as 6% contained,and the persistent hot,dry weather conditions remained a concern.About 10,000 Los Alamos residents were still in evacuation status,and LANL had yet to reopen to non-essential personnel.
The lab stated that nuclear and hazardous materials hadn't been threatened by the conflagration.
Update:Residents began returning home to Los Alamos on Sunday as most roadblocks were lifted.Firefighters had made progress when more humid air and lesser winds moved into the region,bringing containment of the Las Conchas fire to 19%.
Los Alamos National Laboratory will reopen to all employees on Wednesday.
The wildland firefighters on scene,who now number more than 2100,say their work isn't over as the fire remains very active.The fire has consumed more than 120,000 acres and destroyed over 100 structures,including more than 60 homes.It began when an aspen tree was felled by high winds on 26 June,hitting a power line and catching fire.When the tree hit the ground,the flames began to spread.
The fire is currently burning in the higher elevations.Thunderstorms are possible in the area through Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Indside Los Alamos:Wildland Fire Threatens National Security Lab

The Las Conchas fire,which has burned 49,000 acres in New Mexico,is threatening a major nuclear weapons facility,Los Alamos National Laboratory.Officials at the lab say the radioactive materials are safe,although about one acre of the lab property was scorched Monday afternoon.Tech Area 49,a former radioactive explosives test site and now a training facility,was quickly extinguished.No off-site releases of contamination were detected by lab personnel.
The lab will remain closed Wednesday to all non-essential workers.The 12,000 residents of Los Alamos are under a mandatory evacuation order.No fires burned on lab property Monday night,and all hazardous material was accounted for and protected.There are reportedly 20,000 barrels of nuclear waste stored at the lab,but the lab takes great pains to make sure it is protected and locked in concrete and steel vaults,and the fire poses little threat to them,said lab spokesman Steve Sandoval.
The lab has a wildland fire helicopter landing pad with water tanks.It is conducting aerial reconnaissance of the fire area.Ground crews and airdrops had extinguished the Area 49 blaze in a matter of hours.The lab also has a meteorological team that is closely watching wind and weather conditions as the fire rages through the Jemez mountains outside the lab's western boundary.The lab is located 35 miles NW of Santa Fe.
Los Alamos National Laboratory is a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security.It is operated by a consortium of private and public entities,including Bechtel National,the University of California,Babcock&Wilcox and the Department of Energy.
The lab enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile,developing technologies to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction and solving problems related to energy,the environment,infrastrucure,health and global security concerns.
There are 11,782 employees at the lab,with a guard force of 497.Of its 2 billion annual funding,51% is spent on Nuclear National Security Administration weapons programs.The NNSA manages and secures nuclear weapons,oversees non-proliferation efforts and U.S. Navy shipboard reactors.It has emergency response capability both at home and abroad,and safeguards nuclear weapon,component and special nuclear material transport by heavily guarded truck convoy.
Critics have produced a photo supposedly depicting hundreds of nuclear waste barrels exposed to open air at the lab.These could burst open if embers from the fire land on them,a nuclear physicist pointed out.
LANL sprawls across 36 square miles.Home to the World War II Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic bombs,the facility contains 2,000 buildings.A glowing orange light engulfed the nearby Jemez mountains as the fire belched a huge smoke plume.Senator Tom Udall,D-New Mexico,was carefully monitoring the situation of his constituency,listening to lab briefings on Tuesday.
Local officials said there is no guarantee the fire won't spread across the sensitive lab property.
Update:By Wednesday morning,the fire had consumed 61,000 acres.It was 3% contained.The outlook wasn't good because of the hot,dry forecast.
Los Alamos Fire Chief Doug Tucker explained that the barrels being stored in the open air,under canvas tents,were low level nuclear waste.The barrels were vented and equipped with HEPA filters.Should the fire approach them,however,firefighters would spray the barrels with protective foam.
Update 2:As of late Thursday,the Las Conchas fire had burned 93,678 acres,touching the southern border of LANL and coming near the lab's western border.More than 1200 firefighters with 52 engines were working the blaze in high winds.
The fire was on Santa Fe National Forest,Jemez Ranger District,but was believed to have started on private property.No homes are thought to have been lost.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Covering Nature Again:Acorn Outlook

Although this blog has lately been concentrating on the maritime forces and military issues generally,it has in the past covered nature as well.Given its vague title,it could really dwell on any topic in the world.Some readers continue to discover and read those old nature posts,so I wanted to produce a new one.
The first days of summer can bring the natural world to the forefront of our senses.The next season is present in small ways even in the present one.
A large pin oak,for example,is promising a bumper crop of acorns for this autumn.There are many tiny acorns on it now.Last year was a rather poor one for acorn production.
That is the way with oak trees.They deprive mast-eating wildlife one year,only to make up for it the next.It's apparently a way of regulating wildlife,adjusting their population,ensuring that there will be plenty of new oaks as well as birds and mammals.
The chrysanthemums under the pin oak are budding already.They will soon start blooming,seizing the first minute decrease in day length.This step toward far-off autumn by the sun will not be noticeable until after the Fourth of July.Pennsylvania fireflies will continue to flash their signals in the late dusk.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Destroyer Shadows North Korean Freighter

The USS McCampbell(DDG 85),an Arleigh Burke class destroyer,shadowed North Korean freighter M/V Light at the end of May as the North Koreans headed for Myanmar,formerly known as Burma.A UN Security Council resolution bans all North Korean arms exports and authorizes member states such as the U.S. to stop them.
On 26 May,the McCampbell caught up to the freighter and requested permission to board it,which the North Koreans denied.The M/V Light did turn around in a few days,however,and returned to North Korea,its suspicious cargo undelivered.
Myanmar,regarded as a dictatorship by Western nations,is also under a UN arms embargo.North Korea is believed to be its principal source of weapons,perhaps including missiles and nuclear technology.
A longtime issue between Myanmar and the U.S. was resolved when Aung San Suu Kyi,66,a Nobel Peace Prize winner,was released from house arrest by the Myanmar leaders on 13 November,2010.Dr.Aung,a graduate of the University of London,is a prominent opposition political figure and human rights advocate in Myanmar.She is the daughter of the father of Myanmar's independence from the British in 1947,Aung San,and was released when her detention order expired,just after a suspect election which extended the Myanmar junta's reign.
The USS McCampbell is homeported in Yokosuka,Japan.She was built by General Dynamics at the Bath Iron Works,Maine and can sail at up to 30+ knots.
General Dynamics(GD)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Training Base Attacked in Baghdad

Five U.S. troops died in a rocket attack by Shiite miltiamen in Baghdad on Monday,and five more were wounded.The truck-mounted rockets were fired at joint U.S.-Iraqi Forward Operating Base Loyalty,near the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City.The U.S. forces were training Iraqi national police officers at the base.
About 4500 U.S. troops have died in the Iraq War.So far this year,30 U.S. troops have been killed,which is roughly on pace with last year's toll.
At the height of the conflict in 2007,961 Americans were killed.Monday's attack was the worst single incident for U.S. forces in Iraq in two years,however,and another U.S. soldier died on Wednesday in southern Iraq.The Shiite militias often target Iraqi government compounds and hospitals,but attacking U.S. troops definitively demonstrates their competence and courage,from their point of view,as well as helps ensure that the U.S. does not extend its mission in Iraq beyond 31 December,in their opinion.
Iraq's government realistically has until the end of October to request that U.S. troops continue their advise,train and assist role in Iraq.Since it takes about two months for the 46,000 remaining Americans to withdraw,a later request would effectively be too late,the withdrawal having already begun by 31 October.
U.S. officials such as Admiral Michael Mullen,outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,made it clear that the U.S. is open to staying on in its supportive mission,Operation New Dawn.
Iraq has about 650,000 personnel in the army and national police,but they need instruction and backup in intelligence,logisitics,maintenance,combined arms operations,and border and airspace protection.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Navy Weeds Out Slackers,Extra Personnel

We have a retention problem,says Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West,the service's senior non-commissioned officer:a lot of people want to stay,and that's good.In response,however,the U.S. Navy has instituted a program called Perform to Serve,or PTS.It's a way for the service to scrutinize its junior personnel at reenlistment time,weeding out the underperformers and reassigning others in overstaffed fields.With so many sailors seeking to reenlist,as MCPON West points out,the Navy can not only afford to be choosy;it has to be.
Indeed,MCPON West observes,sailors have to fight to stay in the service their whole careers.Frankly,Perform to Serve really begins the moment you set foot in that command.At 15 months from separation,sailors should already have a package to submit.Beyond 15 months,opportunities could be lost.It's that sailor's responsibility to see that the package is ready.And PTS applications have to be submitted every month until a decision is rendered.
Nonetheless,it appears that most of those who make a good effort have a more than decent chance of staying in the service and their chosen specialty.They just can't take it for granted anymore.In 2008,about 90% of those wishing to reenlist got to stay in their rating,or Navy job.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Marine General Supports RQ-4A Global Hawk

General James E.Cartwright,USMC,Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,has expressed full support for the Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial System despite a cost overrun.The Joint Requirements Oversight Council has reaffirmed the 2009 requirements and key performance parameters for the Northrop-Grumman product.
General Cartwright described the Global Hawk as essential to national security.The big reconnaissance drone has exceeded its cost estimate by more than 25%,which triggers a mandatory review and recertification process.The cost overrun is attributed to the Pentagon's halving of its purchase from 44 to 22 aircraft,as well as sourcing and logistics issues.
The Global Hawk is flying missions even now over Iraq and Afghanistan,plus other areas of interest.It is particularly adept at ground surveillance because of its advanced radar technology.The 10 aircraft are operated by the U.S. Air Force's 12th Reconnaissance Squadron.Providing high altitude,long endurance ISR capability,it is slated to replace the manned U-2 spy plane.
The U.S. Navy fields its own version of the RQ-4A,called the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator(BAMS-D).The RQ-4A sensor suite has been optimized for maritime surveillance operations by integrating maritime search and movement indicator modes into it.
Northrop Grumman(NOC)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Iraq War:Considerable Resistance Still Met

The Iraq War,now known as Operation New Dawn,continues as U.S. troops are still subjected to substantial enemy fire,particularly in the south of the country.There,Shiite militia groups roam about,firing rockets,mortars,small arms and grenades at the Americans,as well as placing armor-piercing IEDs along U.S. supply routes from Kuwait.
Around 46,000 U.S. forces remain in Iraq.The Iraqi government is currently deliberating on whether to request further U.S. military help beyond the withdrawal deadline of 31 December.In the north,Sunni militants aligned with al-Qaida have been the problem.The Shiite militants in the south are believed to be Iranian-supported.
Only a small number of U.S. maritime forces remain alongside U.S. Army units in Iraq,mostly,if not entirely,as individual augmentees assigned to the advise,train and assist mission.
The Iraq War began in 2003,and at its peak in 2007,about 170,000 U.S. troops were in country.Around 4500 American service members have died in the war.In April 2011 alone,11 were killed in Iraq,five of them during military operations and six in non-combat incidents.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Intellectual Marine To Head CENTCOM

Marine Lieutenant General John Allen has been chosen to replace General David Petraeus as commander,U.S. Central Command.General Petraeus is slated to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency.Lt.Gen.Allen is currently deputy commander of CENTCOM.As commander,he will lead coalition forces in the Afghan War.
Lt.Gen.Allen taught political science at the U.S. Naval Academy.He earned three master's degrees himself.In 2006,the general became a deputy commander in Anbar province,Iraq,and distinguished himself as a skilled political operative there.He persuaded Sunni Muslim leaders in the region to reject al Qaida in Iraq and align themselves with the Iraqi government.
Described as quiet and unassuming,Lt.Gen.Allen cultivated relations with the tribes and sheikhs of Iraq,based on his study of the nation's history.He is regarded as one of the architects of their tribal movement called the Awakening,which transformed Anbar province from tempest to tranquility,and into a template for other Iraqi provinces.
As deputy commander of CENTCOM,the general has become respected in the region,and has been deeply involved in planning and executing Afghan War strategy,according to President Barack Obama,who nominated him for the commander's post recently.Lt.Gen.Allen doesn't believe the war can be won without diplomacy such as he practiced earlier in Iraq.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Time for Recognition:SecNav Thanks 7th Fleet for Japan Aid

In celebration of a large task well-performed,Navy Secretary Ray Mabus thanked and praised U.S. 7th Fleet sailors and Marines for their multi-faceted work in Operation Tomodachi,which helped the Japan Self-Defense Forces deal with the recent overwhelming earthquake and tsunami.Speaking on 20 April at Commander,Fleet Activities Yokosuka,Mr.Mabus cited the Fleet's flexibility in being able to change missions and respond immediately to the disaster,saying no other country can do that and no other service can do that like the Navy Department people there in Yokosuka.
The 7th Fleet is commanded from the USS Blue Ridge(LCC 19),a ship with a crew of 786 plus the Fleet flag staff,or administrative arm,of 637 service members.Built at the old Philadelphia Naval Shipyard,it can sail at a speed of 23 knots,enabling it to keep up with amphibious warfare ships.The Blue Ridge is homeported in Yokosuka.
In the course of Operation Tomodachi,the Blue Ridge and 21 other ships,as well as 132 aircraft,were used to ensure that harbors were cleared of hazards;more than 260 tons of relief supplies were delivered;Japanese ships and aircraft were fueled and supplied;and more than 2,000 square miles of ocean were searched for victims by over 15,000 sailors and Marines.The partnership between America and Japan was made stronger because of what you did,Secretary Mabus told the all-hands call of more than 1,000 gathered on the waterfront.
Mr.Mabus then took questions from the 7th Fleet personnel and personally greeted several members of the maritime forces.Twenty-two Navy ships and 132 aircraft had served in Operation Tomodachi,which means Friendship in Japanese.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Inside the Fleet:Navy Status Report

As of November 10,2010,the U.S. Navy had a battle force of 288 vessels.They were crewed and supported by 328,059 active duty personnel and 6,650 mobilized Reservists.The Navy Department was staffed by 202,597 civilian personnel.
There were 11 carrier strike groups,each clustered around a nuclear aircraft carrier and its Navy and Marine Corps carrier air wings.The carrier air wings typically include four strike fighter squadrons with Navy and Marine Corps F/A-18-series Hornets and Super Hornets,as well as electronic warfare aircraft and a helicopter squadron.
The carrier strike groups consist of guided-missile cruisers and destroyers,and are served by a fast combat support ship that delivers fuel,ammunition and supplies to the group.The fast combat support ships are crewed by civilian mariners.
Each carrier strike group is escorted by a fast-attack submarine.The submarines protect the group from hostile submarines,and can also carry out cruise missile strikes,as well as intelligence,surveillance and reconnaissance tasks.
For special missions such as theater air and ballistic missile defense,the Navy may constitute Surface Action Groups or other action groups of appropriate vessels.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Helping Japan:Operation Tomodachi

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have been leading members of the effort to assist the Japanese people in their recovery from the recent cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami that afflicted them just over a month ago now.As of 1 April,more than 15,000 sailors had participated in the humanitarian relief project known as Operation Tomodachi.Often dressed in their blue camouflage fatigues,the sailors and Marines have been more than willing to lay out their all for the essential task at hand.
At least 22 ships and 132 aircraft have been delivering more than 250 tons of disaster relief supplies in support of the Japanese Self Defense Forces,as their military is known.Initially,search and rescue had been prominent,with helicopters accessing areas cut off from civilization by the cruel events of recent times.Recovery of bodies has become a greater concern as time passes.
Among those involved have been personnel from the destroyers McCampbell(DDG 85)and Curtis Wilbur(DDG 54);amphibious warfare ships Essex(LHD 2)and Germantown(LSD 42)with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditonary Unit;the command ship Blue Ridge(LCC 19);and Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Honors:Iraq War Not Over

The death of Army Sargeant Brandon S. Hocking,a native of Federal Way,Washington,on 21 March,is a reminder that,for the 46,000 Americans still serving in Iraq,despite a transformed mission,the enemy may yet threaten on quiet roads.Sargeant Hocking is one of the 11 U.S. service members to die in Iraq so far this year.
According to the Pentagon,as of 29 March,4,444 Americans had died in the Iraq War,which began in 2003.Formerly known as Operation Iraqi Freedom,it is now called Operation New Dawn.The U.S. role has shifted from combat operations to advising and training the Iraqi forces.
Like so many before him,Sargeant Hocking was killed by an improvised explosive device.A small arms repair specialist,the husband,father and stepfather was manning a gun for a convoy traveling from base to base,fixing small arms for various units.It was his second deployment to Iraq.He was buried on his 25th birthday in Tahoma National Cemetery,Kent,Washington.
A member of the 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion,3rd Sustainment Brigade,3rd Infantry Division,Fort Stewart,Georgia,Sargeant Hocking posthumously received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
Beisdes Army troops,less than 200 U.S. Marines still serve in Iraq,57 of them from Camp Lejeune,North Carolina.All U.S. forces are to be withdrawn by the end of 2011,Vice President Joe Biden confirmed in January while visiting Iraq.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

9-11 Memorial Ship Christened

The USS Arlington(LPD 24)was christened on Saturday,24 March at Northrop Grumman Ingalls Operations in Pascagula,Mississippi.Sponsored by Mrs.Joyce Rumsfeld,wife of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,the Arlington is an amphibious transport dock ship,and was built in honor of the 184 people killed when American Airlines Flight 77 was crashed into the side of the Pentagon on 9-11.
Sporting an advanced composite mast that is as tough as steel but much lighter,the ship has the mission of transporting and sustaining U.S. Marines and their equipment.She can carry a mix of helicopters and vertical take-off and landing fixed wing aircraft,as well as various landing craft,in addition to up to 800 Marines and their gear.
The USS New York(LPD 21),another 9-11 memorial vessel,is in the same San Antonio class as the Arlington,and is now in commission,or fully in service.A total of 11 of these ships are planned.They defend themselves with missiles,30mm guns and .50 caliber machine guns.
In the christening ceremony,Mrs.Rumsfeld broke a bottle of champagne on the new ship.At a later date,a commissioning ceremony is held,when the ship begins its life in the fleet.
Northrop Grumman is spinning off its shipbuilding division to form a separate company,which is to be called Huntington Ingalls Industries,with the U.S. Navy's consent.
Northrop Grumman(NOC)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Marines Ready for Search and Rescue

The U.S. Marines have air crew recovery teams in place near Libya.The Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel Teams,or TRAP,are based on amphibious ships such as the USS Kearsarge(LHD 3),which is now on station in the Gulf of Sidra,off the northern coast of Libya in the Mediterranean Sea.
TRAP teams employ both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to pinpoint and rescue downed aviators.One of the teams rescued Captain Scott O'Grady when his F-16 was shot down by a missile over Bosnia in 1995.On Tuesday,a TRAP team from the Kearsarge immediately picked up one crewman of a U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle which accidentally crashed in eastern Libya.
The other crewman was welcomed as a hero by Libyan rebels before he too was picked up.Both men had minor injuries.
The Kearsarge is an amphibious assault ship manned by Navy personnel,but with the mission of transporting Marines and their equipment,including aircraft.Its motto is "Proud,Trustworthy,Bold."
Also on Tuesday,a U.S. Navy submarine that had fired cruise missiles at regime targets in Libya withdrew from the area,having completed its mission.
Update:The rescue aircraft dispatched from the Kearsarge was reportedly an MV-22 Osprey,which is a fixed wing aircraft that can tilt its propellers up and fly like a helicopter as well.As it approached the downed crewman,it laid down covering fire to discourage anyone from interfering.Six civilians were slightly wounded in the incident.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fukushima Reactors Reaction:Navy Keeps Residents Indoors

Airborne radiation detected Tuesday at Tokyo-area bases resulted in naval base commanders advising residents to stay indoors.Low level radiation had drifted 200 miles south from the crippled Fukushima reactors-or 321.868 kilometers.
The aircraft carrier USS George Washington(CVN 73)had detected the radiation at 0700 hours at Yokosuka Naval Base.The Atsugi base also detected the radiation,along with civil authorities in Tokyo.
Base residents were advised to shelter in place,stay indoors and close all ventilation sources and windows.Military activities continued during the advisory.
The radiation was 50 times more than the level found in nature.This is not a health hazard,but the commanders decided to be on the conservative side.
Also on Tuesday,the U.S. Marines were negotiating to set up a base at Yamgata in northern Japan.Lieutenant Colonel Michael Coletta said they were ready to fly search and rescue and supply missions.
Yamgata is in a valley which gets about 491 cm of snow a year-or 193.3 inches.
Update:The Navy is now giving potassium iodide pills to helicopter pilots and crews before certain missions over Japan,a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday.Before,the pills,which protect against radiation-induced thyroid cancer,were being given to some crews after their missions.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Naval ROTC Returns to Harvard

The specter of the Vietnam War has receded from Harvard University.The Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps,expelled from campus beginning in 1969,has been reinstated by an agreement signed by Harvard President Drew Faust and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.A director of Naval ROTC will be appointed;the university will resume funding the program;and the program will be given office space,as well as access to classrooms and athletic fields.
The Reserve Officer Training Corps provides scholarships to those who undergo military training while in school and agree to serve in the armed forces after they graduate.Harvard was one of the six original schools to support ROTC in 1926.During the Vietnam War,supporting the ROTC was equated with supporting the much-despised conflict in Southeast Asia.
Dr.Faust said she decided to reinstate ROTC when Congress voted to repeal the Pentagon's "don't ask,don't tell" policy on gays in the military in December 2010.She hailed the armed forces' vital role in securing our freedoms.Secretary Mabus said the reinstatement will benefit both the military and the nation,because with exposure comes understanding,and through understanding comes strength.
There are currently 10 Harvard students who have participated in Naval ROTC at another school.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Navy,Marines On Call for Libya

U.S. military planners are working on various contingency plans for the Libya crisis and are repositioning forces to be able to provide for that flexibility once decisions are made,a Pentagon spokesman said.A destroyer,an amphibious assault ship,the USS Kearsarge(LHD 3),which is carrying part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit,and an aircraft carrier,the USS Enterprise(CVN 65),have passed through the Suez Canal and are on standby in the Red Sea or Mediterranean.
Options being considered include establishing a no-fly zone;safe zones for people sheltering from the Gaddafi regime;securing ports,airports and oil fields;rescuing refugees at sea;and providing guarantees for an attempt to set up a new Libyan government.Cooperation with British and French forces would be particularly important,but Germany is deeply reluctant to get involved militarily.
Rebel forces augmented by rogue Libyan army troops were holding much of Libya as of Tuesday evening,and had successfully repulsed attempts by Gaddafi loyalists to retake ground.
The amphibious assault ship Kearsarge can carry a number of Marine Corps helicopters and Harrier jump jets,besides up to 1871 Marines.The aircraft carrier Enterprise can carry about 80 aircraft and is on one of its last missions,as it is scheduled to be retired in 2012.
Update:A second amphibious assault ship,unnamed as of yet,has reportedly joined the flotilla.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hostages Perish,But Navy Commandos Kill,Capture Pirates

U.S. Navy SEALs attempted to rescue four Americans being held hostage by Somali pirates Tuesday,but found them already dead when they boarded the hijacked yacht SV Quest that had been taken off the coast of Oman,near Yemen and Somalia.The yacht,the Adams' 58-foot sloop, had been shadowed by a Navy task force of four warships:an aircraft carrier;two destroyers;and a cruiser.
At one point,a Somali pirate on the yacht fired a rocket-propelled grenade at one of the warships and gunfire was heard below deck on the yacht.The SEALs were dispatched in an orange life raft to rescue the hostages and,in the event,killed two of the pirates on the Quest,arresting 13 others.Two other pirates were found dead on the yacht,and another two were negotiating with the FBI on one of the warships;they were also detained.
The fifteen surviving pirates are being held on one of the Navy ships.They will go through the appropriate process to hold them accountable,said Vice Admiral Mark Fox of U.S. Central Command.
The hostages were Scott Adams and his wife Jean of Marina del Rey,California,as well as Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle of Seattle.They were apparently on a mission to distribute bibles,having just participated in a sailing rally,and were aware that they were in dangerous waters,asking for prayers to be protected from the pirates.
At present,Somali pirates are holding some 30 other ships and 660 hostages.The Navy is sending three more warships from San Diego to join the anti-piracy effort.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

X-47B Makes Maiden Flight

The Northrop Grumman team is celebrating the successful first flight of the X-47B for the U.S. Navy.The X-47B is a demonstration unmanned combat air system.It is designed for integration with aircraft carriers;launching from,landing on and operating autonomously from them.
The stealthy aircraft is tailless.Its Northrop Grumman team consists of Lockheed Martin,Pratt&Whitney/United Technologies,General Electric,Dell,Honeywell,Rockwell Collins,Eaton and others.The team will also demonstrate autonomous aerial refueling for the drone.
The X-47B test took place at Edwards Air Force Base,California.
Northrop Grumman(NOC),Lockheed Martin(LMT),General Electric(GE),Honeywell International(HON),United Technologies(UTC),Dell,Inc.(DELL),Eaton(ETN),Rockwell Collins(COL)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Firms Compete For Hovercraft Contract

Textron Shipyard Operations,located on the Gulf of Mexico,is a 600,000+ square foot facility,which the company says is ready to roll.Team Textron,consisting of Textron,Alcoa and L-3,claims it has the knowledge,experience and expertise to produce hovercraft for the U.S. Navy at the shipyard.It has streamlined the construction process with a highly efficient assembly station configuration,cutting time and effort by consolidation of production.
The shipyard is unique in the world in that it can produce 10 hovercraft a year-within budget,at weight and on schedule.From advanced shape cutters to automated robotic welders,hull and craft assembly line stations to the launch ramp and test area,the team has a fully functional set-up for fulfilling the contract in the New Orleans area,Textron asserts.
A rival team,Team SSC,consisting of Marinette Marine,Boeing,Oceaneering and Griffon Hoverwork is also pursuing the ship to shore connector contract.Team SSC says it is focused on availability,reliability,maintainability and total ownership cost of these U.S. Marine equipment and personnel transport hovercraft,which must get troops and armored vehicles such as tanks from amphibious assault ships to shore.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Elite Marines Defend Cairo Embassy

About a dozen members of the U.S. Marines' elite Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Teams(FAST) have flown to Cairo,Egypt to augment the Marine guards already protecting the U.S. Embassy there.The State Department has also added more agents from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to the cadre.The military plane the FAST members flew in on was then detailed to begin airlifting Americans out of the unstable city to safety in Larnaca,Cyprus.
Established in 1987,the FAST teams perform security missions as directed by the Chief of Naval Operations,presently Admiral Gary Roughead.FAST consists of two Companies plus a training Company,all of them based in Virginia.Primarily designed to conduct defensive combat ops,military security ops and rear area security ops,they also safeguard nuclear materials when nuclear-powered submarines are in port.
FAST have seen a heavy ops tempo since their inception,serving everywhere from Panama to Somalia.They conduct security patrols around perimeters,establish ambush positions along known avenues of approach,and practice close quarter combat skills in urban environments.Each FAST Company has 321 Marines,including Designated Marksmen.
The FAST Marines are armed with an array of firepower,such as 60mm mortars;M-16A2 rifles;M-16A2/M-203 40mm grenade launchers;Beretta M-9 9mm pistols and SMAW Anti-tank rockets.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Somali Piracy Update:South Korean SEALs Retake Freighter

In a remarkable predawn raid last Friday,South Korean navy commandos wrested control of the freighter Samho Jewelry back from Somali pirates,killing eight of them and arresting five.All 21 hostages on the freighter,which had been transporting chemicals from the United Arab Emirates to Sri Lanka,were freed in the five-hour operation that involved a destroyer and helicopter providing covering fire as the commandos used ladders to board the merchant ship.
The ship's captain was shot in the stomach by a pirate.Seok Bae-gyun,58,was flown off the freighter by a U.S. helicopter to a friendly nation for medical care.He was expected to make a full recovery.
So far this year,Somali pirates have seized four vessels.They currently hold a total of 31 ships with 716 hostages on board.An international flotilla,including U.S. Navy warships,continues to conduct anti-piracy patrols near Somalia,with sporadic successes such as the South Korean raid to show for its efforts.Four days before the raid,a U.S. Navy boarding party had disrupted a suspected Somali pirate operation in the Gulf of Aden.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Navy Halts Suspected Pirates

Last Monday,a boarding party from the destroyer USS Laboon(DDG 58)stopped a skiff sailing in the Gulf of Aden,off the coast of Somalia,which was likely perpetrating acts of piracy.The Laboon had been tailing the skiff for hours before the boarding party was dispatched.It seized fuel and equipment that Somali pirates use in their commandeering of merchant vessels.
The sailors reportedly witnessed the skiff's crew dumping weapons and ladders into the Gulf as the Laboon approached them.No arrests were made,NATO alliance sources said.The Laboon has been assigned to a NATO task force for anti-piracy and other missions since August 2010.It is armed with missiles and a Mk45 5-inch/54 caliber gun,as well as Mk32 torpedo tubes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More U.S. Marines Sent To Afghanistan

Another battalion of U.S. Marines are headed for Afghanistan.The 1400 combat troops are being deployed to solidify the NATO alliance position before the scheduled beginning of withdrawal this summer.This number of troops is within the limits already approved for the Obama surge,so no further authorization is required.
Even more combat troops may be sent to replace support personnel.The Afghan War is in a winter lull now in certain mountainous areas.Elsewhere,roadside bombs continue to take a heavy toll on allied forces.
The additional Marines will help stem the expected flow of Taliban militants across the border with Pakistan in the spring.The scheduled start of withdrawal of U.S. troops in July could consist of mainly a symbolic political gesture,if sufficient progress is not made on the ground by that time.
The Afghan War has wearied the American people with its constant stream of casualties over many years,although they are actually relatively low in number in comparison to those from other wars the nation has fought.A total of 2281 coalition forces have died in the war as of 12 January,and 9971 have been wounded.Vice-President Joe Biden just promised that U.S. troops would remain beyond the 2014 target date of full withdrawal,if the Afghans want them to.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hotel Magnate And Navy Vet

J.Willard Marriott,Jr. is Chairman and CEO of Marriott International,a prominent hotel and food service business.A native of Washington,D.C.,Mr.Marriott attended St.Albans School there and is a graduate of the University of Utah,where he received a banking and finance degree in 1954.
While in school,Mr.Marriott worked in his father's Hot Shoppes restaurant business.From 1954-1956,he served in the U.S. Navy as a supply service officer(LTJG) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Randolph(CV-15).
After his naval service,Mr.Marriott joined the family business full time,assuming leadership of its fledgling hotel operations.Following his father's death in 1972,he became head of the firm,which has grown to more than 175 hotels and resorts,three cruise ships and more than 1500 restaurants worldwide.
Mr.Marriott and his wife Donna have four children.
Marriott International(MAR)