Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Defense Department Launches Science-related Online Radio Show

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2009 - Defense Department officials today launched "Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military," an online radio show. Armed with Science is a bi-monthly audio webcast, hosted on that discusses cutting-edge scientific research and development sponsored by various defense offices, and applications of science and technology to military operations.

Geoff Chester, public affairs officer for the U.S. Naval Observatory, helped to launch the program by discussing the nature of atomic time keeping, the observatory's master clock system, and why a precise time reference is critical to military operations.

"In our business, timing is literally everything," Chester said. "An error of three nanoseconds in timing translates to a position error of one meter for a precision-guided weapon." A nanosecond is three billionths of a second.

Precise timing also is crucial for the transmission of securely encrypted data over large-scale networks at high rates of speed, Chester said. The U.S. Naval Observatory is the exclusive provider of these time-scale references to the Defense Department, he added.

Located at, the audio webcast will feature interviews with scientists, administrators, and operators to discuss the importance of science and advanced technology to the modern military.

"The Armed with Science audio webcast is intended to promote science literacy throughout the Department of Defense," Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, DoD's director of new media, said. "This is a great use of social media to expand the realm of knowledge in scientific areas of concentration."

The next audio webcast is scheduled for Jan. 28. Mike Jeffries, Fleet Survey Team technical director and chief hydrographer, will discuss hydrography and the techniques and tools of ocean-bottom mapping, the use of expeditionary Fleet Survey Teams, and how the data they collect are used to build precise nautical navigation charts.

The full transcript and audio webcast from today's show will be available for downloading at

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)

Education Activity Names Delegates to Senate Youth Program

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2009 - Two students who attend Department of Defense Education Activity schools in Europe will attend the 47th U.S. Senate Youth Program's "Washington Week" in March. Michael Boone of Kaiserslautern High School in Germany and Luke Morange of David Glasgow Farragut High School in Rota, Spain, will join 102 other students from around the United States in the nation's capital March 7 for what some program alumni have called a "life-changing" experience, Rayne Guilford, Senate Youth Program director, said.

While all delegates rank academically in the top 1 percent of students their state, they also had to meet one very important criterion, Guilford said.

"They are selected, first of all, on the basis that they have already shown a demonstrated commitment to public service," she said. "You have to be serving in either an elected or appointed capacity with constituencies of some nature."

Boone is the student government president at Kaiserslautern High School. He's also a member of National Honor Society, plays varsity tennis and basketball, and is interested in pursuing an undergraduate degree in environmental engineering.

Morgan is student council president at David Glasgow Farragut High School. In addition to being a member of National Honor Society and the football team, he has participated in Missouri Boys State, an American Legion-sponsored program that exposes students to government. He plans to attend the U.S. Naval Academy and serve as a Marine Corps officer.

Guilford said "Washington Week" exposes the delegates to the highest-level elected officials in the country, including Senate leadership and most U.S. senators. And since President John F. Kennedy met with the program's first delegates in 1962, she added, every president has followed suit.

The visit also will include meetings with a Supreme Court justice and Cabinet secretaries or agency directors who will talk with the students about different paths in public service, Guilford said. The sessions usually include question-and-answer sessions, she noted.

The delegates even have a chance to chat up their state's U.S. senators during a reception in the middle of the week.

"Many of [the senators] spend a good amount of time getting to know them and congratulating them and encouraging them," Guilford said. "Some students are hired from this to be interns in Senate offices."

The students also will visit the Pentagon before laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns. Chaperoned by their military mentors who serve as guides and role models, the students also will get to take in some of the historical sites around the city.

The students are encouraged to use the $5,000 scholarship they receive as part of the program to continue studies in government, history and public affairs as part of their undergraduate studies.

More than 4,700 high school juniors or seniors have spent a week each spring in Washington learning the ins and outs of the American political process since the program began. The William Randolph Hearst Foundation makes it possible with a budget of just under $2 million.

"The original resolution stipulates 'no government funds shall be utilized,'" Guilford explained.

Elizabeth Anja Hartmann of Lakenheath High School in England and Michael V. Santivesci of Kubaski High School in Japan have been chosen as alternate delegates from DoDEA.

Navy Announces Decision on Mayport Homebasing

Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Environment, B.J. Penn, today signed a record of decision for the Mayport Homeporting Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Navy's decision is to implement the preferred alternative, which is to homeport a single nuclear powered aircraft carrier (CVN) at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Mayport, Fla., and to complete associated infrastructure modifications. These include dredging, infrastructure and wharf improvements, and construction of CVN nuclear propulsion plant maintenance facilities.

Homeporting a CVN at NAVSTA Mayport reduces risks to fleet resources in the event of natural disaster, manmade calamity, or attack by foreign nations or terrorists. This includes risk to aircraft carriers, industrial support facilities, and the people that operate and maintain these crucial assets.

Mayport allows us to obtain the advantages of fleet dispersal and survivability without impacting operational availability. On the West Coast we experience some reduced operational availability associated with homeport dispersal. We lose operational availability during the additional transit time required to reach operational and training areas from the Pacific Northwest. By establishing a second CVN homeport on the East Coast, we can gain the dispersal advantage without the increased transit time. The proximity to training areas and transit time to operating areas is about equal from Norfolk and Mayport.

The EIS examined potential environmental consequences of constructing and operating facilities and infrastructure associated with homeporting additional surface ships at NAVSTA Mayport. It assessed 13 alternatives, including a "no action" alternative. The EIS evaluated resources in the Mayport area that may be affected by the proposed action, such as air and water quality, biological resources (such as marine mammals and threatened and endangered species), land use, cultural resources, and socioeconomics. The EIS also accounted for cumulative impacts from other activities in the Mayport area.

The Navy worked closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service throughout the consultation process and completed consultations prior to the final decision.

Air Force Begins Airlift of Peacekeeping Equipment to Darfur

By Eric Elliot
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2009 - The Air Force has begun airlifting Rwandan peacekeeping equipment and supplies from here to Sudan's Darfur region as part of a United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission. The first mission was completed today by the "Spirit of The Golden Gate," a C-17 Globemaster III transport jet deployed to Africa from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. Another Travis-based C-17 flew a second mission.

Each aircraft carried about 30 tons of cargo. In all, the Air Force will transport more than 150 tons of equipment and supplies, including nine oversized vehicles, water purification systems, water trailers, tents and spare parts.

"This equipment is essential to the successful completion of our mission in Darfur," Maj. Jill Rutaramara, spokesman for the Rwandan Defense Forces, said. "It will assist us in whatever we do there and improve the quality of life for our soldiers deployed to Darfur."

Rwanda has four battalions of peacekeepers in Darfur, totaling 2,566 personnel, with a goal of increasing the peacekeeping force to 3,200, Ruteramara said. The Rwandan peacekeepers are assigned to the hybrid United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID.

President George W. Bush announced the decision to airlift the equipment Jan. 5 as part of the U.S. government's ongoing support for international peacekeeping efforts in Darfur.

Since 2003, conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan has displaced an estimated 2.5 million people and led to an estimated 300,000 deaths, according to United Nations statistics. Since 2004, the United States has spent more than $15 million to airlift 11,400 peacekeepers and their equipment to and from Darfur and has provided more than $100 million to train and equip those forces, according to a White House fact sheet. Much of this support is coordinated through the State Department.

"I have provided a waiver to the State Department so they can begin to move 240 containers worth of heavy equipment into Darfur, and that the Defense Department will be flying Rwandan equipment into Darfur to help facilitate the peacekeeping missions there," Bush said. The State Department is transporting the 240 containers under a separate contract.

The military portion of the airlift is the first major mission planned by Air Forces Africa, U.S. Africa Command's air component. Air Forces Africa also is U.S. Air Forces in Europe's 17th Air Force, with headquarters at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

"This was a complicated project that ultimately took several months of interagency and interdepartmental coordination and planning," Maj. Greg Lococo, chief of operational planning for Air Forces Africa, said.

Air Forces Africa's 722nd Expeditionary Air Base Squadron was responsible for working with the Rwandan Defense Forces to prepare the vehicles and equipment for the deployment, conducting airfield operations focusing on cargo movement as well as ironing out the logistical details associated with the mission. The squadron includes specialists from the 615th Contingency Response Wing based at Travis, and U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany.

"We've been impressed by the professionalism of the Rwandans," said Air Force Maj. Sang Kim, 722nd Expeditionary Air Base Squadron commander. "The work done here is essential to enable the [Rwandan Defense Forces] to execute their mission in Darfur."

The airlift was provided by aircraft and crews from the active-duty 60th Air Mobility Wing and the Air Force Reserve's 349th Air Mobility Wing from Travis.

"From planning through execution, this was a great experience for our unit," said Air Force Col. Lida Dahnke, commander of the 404th Air Expeditionary Group at Air Forces Africa and parent unit to the 722nd. "Once our planners had assembled all of the pieces to the puzzle, we still had to work through the processes of putting them all in place to execute the mission."

More than three months of extensive planning and preparation made the mission "fairly seamless for us," said Air Force Maj. Sean Pierce of the 301st Airlift Squadron, aircraft commander for one of the two C-17 transport planes.

The mission also represents the first large-scale peacekeeper support mission for U.S. Africa Command since it was formally activated Oct. 1. Previous support missions in support of peacekeeping in Darfur were conducted under the direction of U.S. European Command, which had responsibility for Africa prior to Africom's activation.

"The U.S. military has been working with African nations for years," said Vince Crawley, an Africom spokesman. "The command wants to add value to what the U.S. military has been doing -- that is helping African partners develop their security capabilities in order to promote security and stability throughout the continent."

(Eric Elliot works in the U.S. Africa Command public affairs office.)

Shinseki Promises Transformation If Confirmed to Head VA

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2009 - President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs promised senators today that if he is confirmed he will transform the department into a 21st-century organization. Retired Army Gen. Erik K. Shinseki told the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs he is fully committed to fulfilling Obama's vision to transform the department.

VA is the second-largest Cabinet agency, and has a budget of around $95 billion to serve the nation's 25 million veterans. The department has a wide range of clients, from recently wounded veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to an aging population of vets from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. VA oversees medical care, home loans, the GI Bill of Rights, employment and other benefits for veterans.

"Transformation is always challenging for any organization, and I use the term transformation rather than incremental change," Shinseki told the committee. Transformation is particularly challenging for organizations that have complex missions and are steeped in tradition, he explained, and he promised the department will look at fundamental and comprehensive processes as it girds for these new challenges. He noted he served as Army chief of staff as the service began a similar transformation.

"Positive leadership, dedication and teamwork on the part of all in the organization allowed all of us to redefine the challenges we first perceived to be opportunities," he said.

Shinseki vowed to put in place a precise strategy for VA reflecting Obama's vision. He acknowledged he has much to learn about the department, and said he looks forward to "gaining the valuable input and insights from its dedicated employees, the veterans and the organizations that serve those veterans."

The department must have three attributes, Shinseki said. It must be people-centric, results-driven and forward-looking.

"Veterans are the centerpiece of our organization," he said. "We will design, implement and sustain programs that serve them. Through their service in uniform, veterans have sacrificed greatly, investing of themselves in the security, the safety and the well-being of our nation.

"They are clients that we represent," he continued, "and whose well-being is our sole reason for existence."

The department's charge is to address veterans' changing needs over time and across a full range of support that the U.S. government has committed to providing them.

The VA work force must be leaders and standards-setters in their fields, Shinseki said. In some areas, he said, this already is true, while other areas need work.

"From delivering cutting-edge medical treatment to answering the most basic inquiry, we will grow and retain a skilled and client-oriented work force," he said.

The measure of VA's success is the timeliness, quality and consistency of services and support provided to veterans. "We will set and meet objectives in each of those areas," Shinseki said.

He also promised the department will be a good steward of the taxpayers' money.

"We will challenge ourselves to do things smarter and more effectively," he said. "We will aggressively leverage the world's best practices, its knowledge base and emerging technologies in such areas as health care, information management and service delivery."



Atherton Construction, Inc., Las Vegas, Nev., was awarded on Jan 9, 2009, a $76,949,440 firm fixed price construction contract to replace family housing (Phase 8-9) Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Work will be performed at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., with an estimated completion date of Aug 5, 2012. Bids were solicited on the Web with three bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District, Kansas City, Mo., is the contracting activity (W912DQ-09-C-4008).

Atherton Construction, Inc., Las Vegas, Nev., was awarded on Jan. 9, 2009, a $15,181,932 firm fixed price construction contract for whole house remodel, Wayne Manor at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Work will be performed at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., with an estimated completion date of Oct 4, 2010. Bids were solicited on the Web with one bid received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District, Kansas City, Mo., is the contracting activity (W912DQ-09-C-4000).


General Dynamics, Electric Boat Corp., Groton, Conn., is being awarded a $34,892,258 cost plus incentive fee contract for the preparation and accomplishment of the FY09 dry-docking and selected restricted availability of USS Providence (SSN 719) at the contractor's facility, Groton, Conn. The contractor will perform advance planning, design documentation, engineering, procurement, ship-checks, fabrication and preliminary shipyard work and/or any other work necessary to prepare for and accomplish the necessary alterations and repairs, maintenance, testing and routine work. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $39,780,633. Work will be performed in Groton, Conn., and is expected to be completed by Sept. 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $34,892,258 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-09-C-4404).

Oak Point Associates, Biddeford, Maine, is being awarded a maximum $7,500,000 firm fixed price, indefinite quantity architect engineering contract for civil, structural, architectural, mechanical, and electrical services in support of projects within the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic Northeast area of responsibility. Work will be performed at various Navy and Marine Corps facilities and other government facilities within the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic Northeast AOR including but not limited to Maine, (90 percent), N.H., (5 percent), and Vt., (5 percent), and is expected to be completed by Jan. 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with seventeen proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N40085-09-D-7026).

P & S Construction*, Lowell, Mass., is being awarded a $6,312,000 firm fixed price construction contract to renovate the interior of Luce Hall. Work willinclude mechanical, architectural, plumbing and the removal of asbestos, lead and hazardous material. The work will be performed in Newport, R.I., and is expected to be completed by Feb. 2010. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with three bids received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N40085-09-C-7029).

Force Protection Industries, Inc., Ladson, S.C., is being awarded a $5,935,232 firm, fixed, priced modification to previously awarded delivery order #0005 under contract M67854-07-D-5031 for the purchase of CDRL A043 PHST – Preservation and Packaging, CDRL A044 PHST – Validation Report, CDRL A045 PHST – Special Packaging Instruction, and 15 additional Field Service Representatives (FSR) – OCONUS to support the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Category I Cougar vehicles in OEF. Work will be performed in Ladson, S.C., and in the OEF area of responsibility, and work is expected to be completed by Apr. 1, 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.


The Air Force is awarding an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to Lockheed Martin Corporation, Fort Worth, Texas for $49,750,000. This contact is for the Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Research and Evaluation program. At this time, $584,168 has been obligated. AFRL/PKDA, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity (FA8650-09-D-7906).


GE Medical Systems Information Technologies, Wauwatosa, Wis. is being awarded a maximum $43,200,000 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for parts, training and accessories for patient monitoring systems and subsystems. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and federal civilian agencies. There were originally 17 proposals solicited with nine responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is January 13, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa. (SPM2D1-09-D-8300).

Task Force Prepares for Horn of Africa Mission

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2009 - Leaders preparing to deploy to Djibouti next month are getting a sense of the challenges they will face as the next headquarters staff at Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa during a realistic training exercise at U.S. Joint Forces Command's Joint Warfighting Center here. A week-long mission rehearsal exercise kicked off Jan. 10, culminating training that began in May to prepare to Navy Rear Adm. Anthony M. Kurta and his core staff for the mission they will assume next month.

The computer-assisted command post exercise is the fourth for Joint Forces Command since the mission began in 2002 to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in East Africa and Yemen, explained Army Col. Michael Rose, chief of the center's operations group.

But in other ways, it's a first, with members of U.S. Africa Command -- which became fully operational in October -- participating in the training, both in Suffolk and at Africom's Stuttgart, Germany, headquarters. The Horn of Africa mission previously had been U.S. Central Command's responsibility.

Directly in synch with Africom's mission statement, Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa focuses on operations that blend defense, diplomacy and development. The goal, Rose said, is to build capacity within African nations so they can keep extremism from taking hold.

"What we are doing is trying to prevent conflict and promote regional stability," he said.

To prepare deploying joint task forces for challenges ahead, Joint Forces Command begins a broad training program months before the deployment that continues after they arrive in the theater.

The mission rehearsal exercise, conducted just a month before deployment, brings the pre-deployment training to a crescendo in an exercise Kurta called "very reflective of the environment we will see on the ground in Djibouti."

As the exercise reached its fourth day, Kurta and his staff were dealing with everything from the day-to-day nuts and bolts of making the joint task force work to higher-level planning operations at the strategic and operational level.

Rose's team kept the staff on their toes by hitting them with every notional "what if" in the book – often simultaneously. Tanzania was hit by a cyclone and asked for an assessment team to evaluate the situation. Extremists threatened to attack a water-drilling team operating in Kenya. U.S. citizens and third-country nationals in Eritrea were under threat due to a border dispute, requiring Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa to support a noncombatant evacuation.

"What we are doing is presenting a whole bunch of problems for the Horn of Africa staff to have to deal with, to come up with courses of action, brief them to the commander, and then the commander makes a decision about what course of action to purse," Rose said.

Army Brig. Gen. Sanford E. Holman has seen the mission rehearsal exercise from both sides of the fence. Before becoming vice commander of the Joint Warfighting Center, he went through its training before becoming deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa in 2007. Holman offered his firsthand assessment of the value of the training to deploying task forces.

"This gives them the opportunity to go through their standard operating procedures, their tactics, techniques and procedures and get them ready," he said. "And by the time they finish this exercise, they are ready to deploy."

Kurta called the training Joint Forces Command provides -- particularly its use of best practices and lessons learned in training scenarios -- a key to the task force's success. "We are certainly ready to take on that mission," he said.

His staff shared his sentiments. Navy Capt. Mark Davis, head planner on the new combined joint task force staff, welcomed the exercise as an opportunity to prepare for his first mission outside the submarine force.

"It's remarkable how real it is here, and how realistic the scenarios are that we are being exposed to," he said. "This gives me the confidence to say that on Day One, I can hit the ground running."

Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Leo McCray volunteered for his second deployment to Djibouti, but said the exercise is giving him new insights, too. "This gives the staff an opportunity to build relationships that will be important when we arrive in the theater," he said.

With 21 years of service under his belt, including service on four ships, McCray said he's hard-pressed to come up with a more fulfilling mission than what awaits the combined joint task force staff in Djibouti.

"The beauty of it is, this is not combative. This is humanitarian, and we are there to help," he said. "The great thing about this mission is that you get to see the fruits of what you have done. That makes it all really heartfelt."

National Guard Prepares for More Inaugural History

By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2009 - The 372-year-old National Guard has provided inaugural support for every American president since George Washington. This year won't be any different. Much like the militiamen who crossed their states' borders to escort the first president to his swearing-in ceremony in Manhattan in 1789, today's Guard members have traveled to the District of Columbia from their home communities.

Participating states include Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Kentucky, Tennessee, Iowa and New York, in addition to the District of Columbia's National Guard. The Guard members will help to provide a safe and ceremonial inauguration for President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20.

It's a service that the militia has provided to every American president, Guard historians here said.

"The military presence at the first inauguration was the militia," said Renee Hylton, National Guard Bureau historian. "The militia was a very important local institution.

Militia members had fought under Washington in the Revolutionary War, so it was natural they would want to help to install him as first president under the new Constitution. Though no parade was planned, the militia was the only military part of the procession of dignitaries who accompanied Washington on the streets of New York City.

Months of hard work and planning, driven by tradition and today's security environment, have joined the Guard with civil authorities, active military components, the Secret Service and others to help bring Americans' vote for Obama to fruition.

A record number of more than 7,000 citizen-soldiers and -airmen are involved in missions to support the district's civil authorities for inauguration-related parades and ceremonies. Another nearly 3,000 are in direct support to Virginia and Maryland as they assist with traffic and other activities in the area. It's a vast increase from the number of militia that escorted Washington.

"For the first inaugurations, nobody was really sure what was the appropriate level of pomp and circumstance," Hylton said. "Tradition built up slowly over the years. The first parades were much smaller, but had proportionately more bands and music. ... It was a big spectacle for the public. There was no television; a parade was a big deal."

For at least one state, providing civil and ceremonial support to grand-scale celebrations is "just another day," Army Lt. Col. Rich Goldenberg, a New York Guard spokesman, said.

Goldenberg explained that New York Guard members often are involved in large-scale celebrations that draw millions of people to the city.

"We have been marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade for more than 150 years," he said. "It's nice to be a part of our city's celebration and history. And another role is our state's New Year's Eve celebration at Times Square, where the Guard provides support to civil authorities, including Army military police and Air Force security forces."

But the presidential inauguration is historically unique, Goldenberg said, because the Guard is involved in both the ceremonies and support to civil authorities.

"I cannot think of another significant event where the Guard was both a key component of the celebration and of its security," he said.

Guard members will march in the official inaugural parade, a tradition begun by members of the Virginia militia when Virginian James Monroe was inaugurated in 1817. The Guard's musical units, bands, color guards, salute batteries and honor cordons will add to the ceremonies.

The recently reactivated Massachusetts Army Guard 54th Volunteer Regiment, a ceremonial unit representing the first black Civil War regiment, will march in honor of the nation's first black president. The 54th Massachusetts, which suffered heavy casualties assaulting Confederate Fort Wagner on the South Carolina coast, was portrayed in the movie "Glory."

Still larger numbers of Guard members will provide mission support to civil authorities, including communication, transportation and security. Guardsmen also will stand by with crowd-control units as well as quick-reaction forces and chemical, biological and radiological response experts. Still others will provide logistical support.

(Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

General Underscores Commitment to Fielding Unmanned Aerial Systems

By Megan Orton
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 14, 2009 - The Air Force is "all in" with regard to unmanned aerial systems, and the service's leaders understand Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' direction to field the systems in the combat theater as fully and quickly as possible, the commander of 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern said Jan. 12. Air Force Lt. Gen. Norman R. Seip participated in a teleconference with online journalists and bloggers.

"Next year, the Air Force will procure more unmanned aircraft than manned aircraft," the general said. "So I think that makes a very pointed statement about our commitment to the future of UAS and what it brings to the fight in meeting the requirements of combatant commanders."

Seip said the Air Force has 85 percent of its theater-level UAS capability deployed in support of operations in Southwest Asia. The other 15 percent are stateside to train UAS pilots and for operational test and development. The Air Force is doing all it can to speed up the UAS pilot training process, he added.

Additionally, he said, teams at the Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., are developing countermeasures for potential enemy use of unmanned aerial systems.

"When, in the future, we encounter a near-peer or asymmetric threat, or a terrorist organization that has the UAS capability, we're going to certainly need to be working toward active techniques so that we can counter those capabilities," he said.

These techniques will be essential for the Air Force to dominate airspace when needed and allow for freedom of maneuver for ground forces, the general explained.

Seip also updated the group on maintenance issues surrounding A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air-support fighter jets following a technical order issued in October requiring immediate inspection and repair of wing cracks in a portion of the A-10 fleet.

Though 40 percent of thin-skinned A-10s are grounded, he said, 12th Air Force still is able to provide warfighters with the close-air support they need in the combat theater. Repairs should be completed by June, he said.

Seip noted 12th Air Force's busy pace in supporting the war on terror and continuing its ongoing mission as the air component for U.S. Southern Command.

"It is an exciting time in both 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern," he said, "as the Air Force continues to fight the long war on terrorism as well as support its 'soft-power' commitment in South [America], Central America and the Caribbean."

With headquarters at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Air Combat Command's 12th Air Force controls conventional fighter and bomber forces based in the western United States.

(Megan Orton works at Air Force public affairs.)