Military News

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Face of Defense: Airman Exemplifies Volunteer Spirit

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 10, 2008 - An airman at Scott
Air Force Base, Ill., is exemplifying the volunteer spirit with a hospital visitation program he hopes to expand bases nationwide. When a childhood friend died of leukemia, Air Force Staff Sgt. Jewell Hicks vowed to someday find a way to help children cope with long hospital stays. Now he's living up to that promise with the "Airman for Children" program.

Hicks, a communications noncommissioned officer with the 375th Communications Squadron, launched the program so airmen could spend their off-duty time visiting sick children at St. Louis Children's Hospital and Ranken Jordan Pediatric Children's Hospital, both in nearby
Missouri.

Twice per month, the volunteers visit each hospital, where they play games, read books, decorate cookies and work on arts and craft projects with the young patients, many suffering from serious injuries and illnesses.

"Basically, we do anything we can to take their minds off their illnesses and what they're going through," Hicks said. "For the hour or hour and a half that we are there, we want to take their minds off that."

Hicks said the children love the program, looking forward to every visit. But it's the volunteers, he said, who get the most out of it.

"It's very rewarding," he said. "Every time you go out there, it gives you a sense of accomplishment, knowing that you've helped somebody else and made a difference in somebody's life."

Now Hicks is setting his sights on expanding the program to other military installations. The
Navy plans to launch its own "Sailors for Children" program later this month at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., he said.

"I would love to expand this program Defense Department-wide. That's my goal, and that's what I'm determined to make happen," Hicks said. "This program is all about giving back, and it portrays the military in a very positive way in the community."

Admiral Calls Haiti Relief Effort 'Core Mission'

American Forces Press Service

Sept. 10, 2008 - The
Navy admiral who commands of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and the U.S. 4th Fleet said during a visit to the USS Kearsarge today that relief efforts like the one the amphibious ship is performing here are a core mission for U.S. forces in U.S. Southern Command. Kearsarge was diverted here from Santa Marta, Colombia, to assist the U.S. Agency for International Development in mitigating human suffering and loss of life in Haitian communities affected by tropical storms Fay, Gustav and Hanna and Hurricane Ike.

Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan will review U.S. Naval relief efforts from Kearsarge and visit ship personnel supporting relief operations in Haiti.

"Providing much-needed relief following a disaster of this scope is precisely why we're here," he said. "This is what SouthCom, the
Navy and 4th Fleet does - it is one of our core missions. It is so important to work together with partner nations and U.S. governmental agencies like USAID to help the people in this region after a natural catastrophe like this."

Kearsarge support to Haiti includes the movement of food, cargo and equipment between Port-au-Prince and Gonaives, Jeremie, Saint Marc, Port de Paix, Jacmel and Les Cayes.

SouthCom and 4th Fleet planners continue to work with interagency partners and their counterparts in countries affected by the recent devastating weather to assess recovery needs in the affected areas and identify additional U.S.
military units that may be able to provide assistance.

As SouthCom's naval component command, NavSo's mission is to direct U.S. naval forces operating in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions and interact with partner-nation navies. Operations include counter-illicit trafficking, theater security cooperation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,
military-to-military interaction and bilateral and multinational training.

Re-established on July 12, 4th Fleet is the numbered fleet assigned to NavSo, exercising operational control of naval assets supporting operations in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

(From a U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet news release.)

MILITARY CONTRACTS September 10, 2008

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

American Water Operations and Maintenance, Inc., Voorhees, N.J., is being awarded a maximum $329,710,455 fixed price, prospective price redetermination contract for assumption of ownership, operation and maintenance of the potable water distribution and wastewater collection systems. Other location of performance is Fort Hood, Texas. Using service is
Army. There were originally 340 proposals Web-solicited, with two responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is 2059. The contracting activity is Defense Energy Support Center (DESC), Fort Belvoir, Va., (SP0600-08-C-8250).

Navy

Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding – Newport News, Newport News, Va., a sector of the Northrop Grumman Corp., is being awarded a $5,114,500,788 cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee, cost-plus-award-fee contract for the detail design and construction of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). The contract will include engineering; integration; related development efforts including drawing and work package development; advanced planning; design weight estimate; lifecycle support products and related logistics data; production planning; test and evaluation; further definition of initiatives to reduce CVN 78 class total ownership costs; and other data necessary to support construction of CVN 78. This contract includes one option which, if exercised, would bring the total contract value to $5,144,500,788. Work will be performed in Newport News, Va., and is expected to be completed by Sept. 2015. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington
Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-08-C-2110).

The Boeing Co.,
Seattle, Wash., is being awarded a $278,030,886 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00019-04-C-3146) to exercise an option for two P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) air vehicles, with mission systems in support of the System Development and Demonstration Phase of the MMA. Work will be performed in Seattle, Wash., (90 percent), and Wichita, Kan., (10 percent), and is expected to be completed in Sept. 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River Md., is the contracting activity.

General Dynamics Information
Technology, Fairfax, Va., is being awarded a $182,923,117 cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for approximately 1,934,590 hours of integrated logistics services (ILS) in support of technical analysis and investigations of Foreign Military Sales Programs. This work will be performed in Patuxent River, Md., (56 percent); Annandale, Va., (9 percent); Philadelphia, Pa., (7 percent), Jacksonville, Fla., (6 percent); the Philippines, (6 percent); Arlington, Va., (4 percent); and at various locations inside and outside the U.S. (12 percent); and is expected to be completed in Sept. 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposals; one offer was received. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00421-08-D-0013).

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Integrated Systems Sector, San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $32,903,698 not-to-exceed modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-07-C-0041) for the procurement of three low rate initial production Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle air vehicle units. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be completed in Oct. 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

BAE Systems, Armament Systems,
Minneapolis, Minn., is being awarded a $19,718,151 firm-fixed-price definitive contract for the procurement of 5,082 57mm Mk 295 MOD 0 Pre-Fragmented, Programmable, Proximity (3P) cartridges. The procurement of these rounds includes 82 first article units and 5,000 production units in support of the 57mm Gun Ammunition Program. Work will be performed in Karlskoga, Sweden, (60 percent); Raufoss, Norway, (23 percent); and Lindesberg, Sweden, (17 percent), and is expected to be completed by Sept. 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane, Ind., is the contracting activity (N00164-08-C-JM21).

Progeny Systems Corp.*, Manassas, Va., is being awarded a $13,268,390 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for engineering and technical services involving
Technology assessments, system design, software development, and hardware/software integration for undersea weapons and related undersea warfare combat and submarine platform systems. The concept for this SBIR is for development of a process to introduce commercially available components into existing systems. This process will provide the framework and methodologies for introducing upgrade and/or replacement components for obsolete items as well as for upgrades to the system to provide additional capability. This procurement will use the prototype products, processes and methodologies developed by Progeny Systems Corporation under the SBIR Phase I and II efforts. The processes and prototype products developed will apply to weapon systems used aboard submarines, surface ships, surveillance and air platforms. Progeny will design, prototype, demonstrate, and deliver a 112-element array, integrated fully into a torpedo system. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $45,545,198. Work will be performed in Charleroi, Pa., (50 percent), Manassas, Va., (23 percent), Middletown, R.I., (22 percent), and Salt Lake City, Utah, (5 percent), and is expected to be completed by Sept. 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. This effort is being awarded under a program for Small Business Innovative Research and is titled Topic No. N96-278, "Technology Infusion Methodology for Commercial-Off-the-Shelf Based Systems." The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-08-C-6272).

Detyens Shipyards, Inc., Charleston, S.C., is being awarded a $7,438,196 firm- fixed-price contract for a post-shipyard availability of
Military Sealift Fleet Support Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE 5). This shipyard availability is primarily for ship alterations, including lube-oil-tank, second-deck-cargo and galley modifications; cargo hold overhead insulation; and deck air compressor and radar installation. Naval Sea Systems Command (PMS 325) provided funding to accomplish approved alterations during the post-shipyard availability. USNS Robert E. Peary's primary mission is to deliver ammunition, provisions, stores, spare parts, potable water and petroleum to the Navy's carrier strike groups and other naval forces at sea. The contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the total contract value to $9,117,061. Work will be performed in Charleston, S.C., and is expected to be completed within 75 calendar days. Contract funds will expire at the end of the fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via Military Sealift Command, Navy Electronic Commerce Online and Federal Business Opportunities websites, with two offers received. The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Fleet Support Command, a field activity of Military Sealift Command, is the contracting activity (N40442-08-C-3011).

Bath Iron Works (BIW) Corp., a General Dynamics Co., Bath,
Maine, is being awarded a $7,365,000 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-2307) to exercise an option for lead yard class services for the DDG 51 Class AEGIS Destroyer Program. This work will provide technical assistance to the follow yard in the interpretation and application of the detailed design developed by BIW Corp., the lead yard contractor. DDG 51 Class services include: liaison for follow ship construction, general class services, class logistic services, class design agent services and class change design services for follow ships. Work will be performed in Bath, Maine, and is expected to be completed by Sept. 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Advanced Acoustic Concepts, Inc.*, Hauppauge, N.Y., is being awarded a $7,022,551 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for program and configuration management, systems engineering, algorithm development, hardware and software development and testing, installation, deployment, recovery, and analysis in support of maritime and littoral area Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (C4ISR) and Anti-Submarine Warfare surveillance technologies. Work will be performed on a task order basis at the following possible locations: Hauppauge, N.Y.; King George, Va.; Bremerton, Wash.; Corpus Christi, Texas; San Diego, Calif.; Columbia, Md.; Virginia Beach, Va.; Middletown, R.I.; Lemont Furnace, Pa.; and Bozeman, Mont., and work is expected to be completed Sept. 9, 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This is a Small Business Innovation Research Phase III sole source contract in accordance with 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1) and FAR 6.302-5 as required by statute. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, San Diego is the contracting activity (N66001-08-D-0116).

Army

General Dynamics C4 Systems, Scottsdale, Ariz., was awarded on Sept. 5, 2008, a $34,244,205 firm fixed price contract. This is a 12-month effort to procure Land Warrior Systems, spares, and services in support of the 5th Brigade 2nd Infantry Division Stryker Brigade Combat Team (5/2 SBCT). Work will be performed in Scottsdale, Ariz., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 5, 2009. One bid was solicited and one bid was received. CECOM Acquisitions Center, Fort Monmouth, N.J., is the contracting activity (W15P7T-08-C-A-011).

Crown Roofing Services Inc, Kenner, La., was awarded on Sept. 7, 2008, a $9,000,000 firm fixed price contract. The St. Paul District, U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers is utilizing the Mobile District contract W91278-06-D-0028 in support of emergency relief due to Hurricane Gustav. Work will be performed in the following Louisiana parishes: Assumption, Iberville, LaFourches, Saint Charles, Saint James, Saint John the Baptist, East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Saint Martin, Saint Mary, Terrebonne, Ascension, and Livingston, with an estimated completion of Nov 30, 2008. Bids were solicited via the Web and multiple bids were received. St Paul District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St Paul, Minn., is the contracting activity (W91278-06-D-0028).

S&M and Associates Inc, Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded on Sept. 7, 2008, a $8,999,999 firm/fixed price contract. The St. Paul District U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers is utilizing the Mobile District contract W91278-06-D-0047 in support of emergency relief due to Hurricane Gustav. Work will be performed in the following Louisiana parishes: Assumption, Iberville, LaFourches, Saint Charles, Saint James, Saint John the Baptist, East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Saint Martin, Saint Mary, Terrebonne, Ascension, and Livingston, with an estimated completion of Nov 30, 2008. Bids were solicited via the Web and multiple bids were received. St Paul District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St Paul, Minn., is the contracting activity (W91278-06-D-0047).

BAE Systems Tactical Vehicle Systems, Limited Partnership, Sealy, Texas was awarded on Sept. 8, 2008, a $10,586,177 firm/fixed price contract for undefinitized contract action for 57 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launcher chassis in order to support the HIMARS production program. Work will be performed in Sealy, Texas, with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2009. Two bids were solicited and two bids were received. U.S.
Army TACOM LCMC, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (DAAE07-03-C-S023).

Olsson Industrial Electric, Springfield, Ore., was awarded on Sept. 5, 2008, a $14,216,293 firm/fixed price contract for upgrade of station services (electrical system) for the Dalles Dam in Dallesport, Wash. Work will be performed in Dallesport, Wash., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2010. Bids were solicited via the Web and three bids were received. U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers Portland District, Portland, Ore., is the contracting activity (W9127N-08-C-0023).

Technologist Inc, Arlington, Va., was awarded on Sept. 4, 2008, a $11,605,697 firm/fixed price contract for construction of facilities to support the ANCOP Patrol Unit and Urban Unit in Adraskan, Herat, and Afghanistan. Work will be performed in Adraskan, Herat, and Afghanistan with an estimated completion date of Aug. 16, 2009. Bids were solicited and two bids were received. U.S.
Army Engineer District, Afghanistan, is the contracting activity (W917PM-07-D-0016).

Senate Builders & Construction Managers Inc., Plymouth Meeting, Pa., was awarded on Sept. 9, 2008, a $8, 586,136 firm/fixed price contract for construction of 12 new magazines, small arms warehouse and administrative building with parking. Work will be performed in Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville Pa., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 5, 2009. Nine bids were solicited and two bids were received. U.S. Property and Fiscal Office for Pennsylvania, National Guard Bureau, Annville Pa., is the contracting activity (W912KC-05-D-0003).

Raytheon Co., Andover, Mass., was awarded on Sept. 9, 2008, a $29,215,727 cost/plus/award/fee contract. This effort provides mission support and system sustainment for various configurations of Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment (RAID) tower system. Work will be performed in Andover, Mass., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2011. One bid was solicited and one bid was received. U.S.
Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Contracting and Acquisition Management Office, Huntsville, Ala., is the contracting activity (W9113M-08-C-0153).

AIR FORCE

Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., of Woodland Park, Va., is being awarded a cost plus fixed fee contract for $9,536,128. This contact action will provide Technical Survivability and Vulnerability Analysis for Fourteenth
Air Force Intelligence Directorate (14 AF/A2). At this time $400,000 has been obligated. 55th Contracting Squadron, 55 CONS/LGCD, Offutt AFB, Neb., is the contracting activity (SP0700-03-D-1380, Delivery Order: 0280).

Raytheon Co., Missile Systems, of
Tucson, Ariz., is being awarded a cost plus fixed fee contract for $7,388,454. This action will provide Advanced Medium Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) Air Intercept Missile (AIM)-120C-3 through AIM 120C-7 Counter Advanced Electronic Attack (EA) Risk Reduction/Concept Refinement (RR/CR). At this time all funds have been obligated. 328th Armament Systems Group, Eglin AFB, Fla., is the contracting activity (FA8675-08-C-0247).

America Supports You: 2008 Family of the Year Flies High

American Forces Press Service

Sept. 10, 2008 - A positive attitude and giving back to their community has earned a
Colorado Springs, Colo., family the National Military Family Association's title of 2008 Family of the Year. Air Force Capt. Alex Gazzaway, his wife, Laura, and their children, Zachary, Parker, Grace, and Cameron, left a significant impression on their most recent duty station, Cape Cod Air Force Station, Mass.

Among many other volunteer activities, Captain Gazzaway developed a squadron recreational Web site to strengthen communication among squadron members, their families and newcomers. Laura Gazzaway was the elected vice president of the multi-service Cape Cod Spouses Organization, and was engaged in many basewide charity activities.

"It is challenging to balance work, family and community involvement, but we try to intertwine the kids in everything we do," the captain said. "We consider it a way to give back to the community and create fun family memories. It is rare that we do an activity without the whole family involved."

The couple's children participated in numerous activities such as Base Clean-Up Day, holiday food drives and Cub Scout fundraisers.

The family was honored at a reception here yesterday that included
Military leaders and association sponsors among the attendees. The family also will receive $1,000 and will have the opportunity to present $500 to a charity of their choice whose work benefits Military families.

Each year the National
Military Family Association recognizes outstanding military families through its Family Award program. The award recognizes those families who have made the most of the adventure of Military life and conquered its challenges.

The NMFA Family Award is given to 12 families who exemplify the best of the military family lifestyle. Each winning family will receive $500, and one will be chosen as the NMFA Family of the Year. Winners from the past 12 months include:

-- Kotchman Family, retired
Army: Donald, Anne, Sarah, Paul, Tommy;

-- Duessel Family,
Navy Reserve: Andrew, Carolyn, Alec, Nicole;

-- Killen Family,
Navy: John, Sandra, April, Angel, Don;

-- Gonsalves Family,
Army: Ryan, Janet, Brittany, Nathan;

-- Baker Family, Air National Guard: Wayland, Jennifer, Kelcee, Kolten, Krysta, Jhustin, Jhianna, Jhaydann;

-- Lehnen Family,
Navy: John, Jennifer, Kathryne, Lindsey, Jacob, Isaac;

-- Taliento Family,
Army: Michael, Tami, Christian, Emily;

-- Fricke Family,
Army National Guard: Craig, Melissa, Nathaniel, Samuel, Joel, Raquel, Kelsey;

-- Lopez Family,
Army: Kristopher, Valerie, Nevaeh, Randy, Celeste, Alysa;

-- Sanders Family,
Air Force: Jimmie, Lisa, David, Bryson; and

-- Wolfe Family,
Air Force: David, Doniel, David, Chayne, Aspen, Michael, Johnny Irish.

To nominate a family for the NMFA Family Award, visit the National
Military Family Association's Web site.

National
Military Family Association is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

(From a National
Military Family Network news release.)

Gates Cancels Air-Refueling Solicitation

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 10, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has cancelled the competition for the $35 billion
Air Force tanker contract. Gates told the House Armed Services Committee today that he decided the contract cannot be awarded by January, and that rather than award a contract that will be contested, the better idea is to let the next administration make its decision.

"It has now become clear that the solicitation and award process cannot be accomplished by January," he said. "Thus, I believe that rather than hand the next administration an incomplete and possibly contested process, we should cleanly defer this procurement to the next team."

The
Air Force had awarded the contract for what's known as the KC-X to the Northrop-Grumman/EADS/Airbus consortium, which prompted a protest from rival bidder Boeing. The General Accountability Office found irregularities in the awarding of the contract, and Gates determined to re-open the bidding process on July 9.

Gates told the representatives that the department has been trying for seven years to find the proper way to replace the current fleet of KC-135 tankers. Over that time, the process has become most complex and emotional, Gates said, partly because of Defense Department mistakes.

"It is my judgment that in the time remaining to us, we cannot complete a competition that will be viewed as fair and competitive in this highly-charged environment," the secretary said. "I believe the resulting cooling-off period will allow the next administration to view objectively the
military requirements and craft a new acquisition strategy for the KC-X as it sees fit."

Gates said he's been assured that the current KC-135 fleet can be adequately maintained to satisfy
Air Force missions for the near future, and sufficient funds will be recommended in the fiscal 2009 and follow-on budgets to maintain the KC-135 at high mission-capable rates.

Recruiting Success Puts Year-End Goals Within Reach, Official Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Sept. 10, 2008 - With less than three weeks left of the fiscal year, all four
military services met their active-duty recruiting goals for August and hope to maintain that momentum to reach their year-end goals, Defense Department officials said today. The Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force all met or exceeded their recruiting goals for the 15th consecutive month in August, according to new figures released today.

The
Marine Corps, with 4,206 new accessions, attained 118 percent of its monthly goal. The Army boasted the most recruits – 10,093 – reaching 101 percent of its August goal.

The
Navy and Air Force both met their goals with 4,141 and 2,763 accessions, respectively.

Meanwhile, five of the six reserve components met or exceeded their August goals. The
Army National Guard recruited 5,807 new soldiers, 100 percent of its goal, and the Army Reserve achieved 98 percent of its goal with 3,107 accessions.

The Air National Guard reported 1,101 new airmen, 119 percent of its goal, and the
Air Force Reserve signed on 729 members, exceeding its August goal by 36 percent.

The
Navy Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve both met their August goals, with 517 and 520 accessions, respectively.

Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez called the 15th consecutive month of recruiting success a sign that the all-volunteer force, now 35 years old, remains solid.

"These numbers demonstrate the continued willingness of young men and women to serve their country in uniform – a willingness that is critical to America's defense, especially during a time of war," she said.

Texas Guard Begins Evacuating Patients Before Hurricane Ike Hits

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cheryl Hackley
Special to American Forces Press Service

Sept. 10, 2008 - The Texas National Guard began evacuating special-needs patients from the Corpus Christi area this morning in preparation for Hurricane Ike, expected to make landfall in Texas on Sept. 13. Nine Air National Guard C-130 transport aircraft from three states are configured for medical air evacuation and performing the operation, evacuating people in at-risk areas from coastal winds and storm surges associated with hurricanes, state officials said.

"We're evacuating ... special-needs patients from Corpus Christi area hospitals and transporting them to Bryan-College Station," said
Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Perry, deputy commander of the 136th Airlift Wing based in Fort Worth, Texas.

Special-needs patients include those requiring others for routine care, people with physical or developmental disabilities such as blindness or hearing impairment, and those require assistance with mental health disorders, officials said.

Six National Guard medical crews are supporting the mission, including three from the 109th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron in Fort Worth, two from the 142nd AES in New Castle, Del., and one from the 137th AES in
Oklahoma City. The aircraft, if configured for litters, can hold up to 72 patients and six air evacuation crew members.

One aircraft each from the 166th Airlift Wing from
Delaware, 145th AW in Charlotte, N.C., and one from the 109th AW in Scotia, N.Y., are in Texas for the evacuation efforts in addition to the six from the 136th Airlift Wing, Perry said.

Crews are expected to fly these missions for the next 36 hours, and the flight one way is about an hour and 25 minutes long.

President Bush announced an emergency declaration today and ordered federal aid for 25 counties in south Texas to supplement state and local response efforts due to emergency conditions resulting from Hurricane Ike as of Sept. 7.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry authorized the call-up of up to 7,500 Texas National Guard soldiers and airmen to support local, state and federal emergency management officials earlier this week.

At 5 p.m. EDT today, Ike's center was about 720 miles east of Brownsville, Texas, moving northwest at 8 mph. Maximum sustained winds near the center were 100 mph.

"Strengthening is forecasted, and Ike may become a major hurricane in the central Gulf of Mexico," said Al Mongeon, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. After Ike makes landfall, the National Guard is ready to provide life-sustaining assistance to the affected areas, said
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada, a spokeswoman for the Texas National Guard. This may include establishing points of distribution, search and rescue operations and debris mitigation, she explained.

The National Guard search-and-rescue response package on alert consists of 60 high-profile vehicles, 10 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and five OH-58 Kiowa helicopters.

Less than two weeks ago, the
Army and Air National Guard evacuated nearly 17,000 Gulf Coast residents by land and air, including 325 special-needs patients, before Hurricane Gustav made landfall.

The 142nd AES was part of that support effort and had only a short break at home before heading back to Texas to help set up the mobile aeromedical staging facility at the Corpus International Airport.

(
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cheryl Hackley serves at the National Guard Bureau.)