Military News

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Military Spouses of the Year for each Service Branch Announced

Voting Underway to Select Overall Winner

Military Spouse magazine today announced the five military service branch winners for its 2009 Military Spouse of the Year award, presented by USAA. The winners were Air Force wife Susan Webb of Glasford, Ill.; Army wife Misti Stevens of Fort Campbell, Ky.; Coast Guard wife Patricia Pruett of Miami, Fla.; Marine Corps wife Tanya Queiro of Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and Navy wife Christy Kuiatnyk of Ellerslie, Ga.

The five women were selected through an online vote held during the last three months.

Voting starts today to select one overall winner. All Americans are encouraged to vote online at www.msoy.milspouse.com, where you can find profiles of these amazing supporters of the Homefront. No registration, membership or fee is required to vote. This final phase of voting will continue through March 4.

The overall 2009 Military Spouse of the Year (MSOY) will be announced and honored nationally in the June issue of Military Spouse magazine and at the second annual MSOY Awards Ceremony to be held during the week of May 4, 2009 in Washington, DC, in conjunction with National Military Spouse Appreciation Week. Laura Bush and the spouses of generals, admirals, Congressmen, CEOs and ambassadors honored the 2008 Military Spouse of the Year at last year’s high profile event.

The winner will make additional public appearances, write a monthly column to appear in Military Spouse magazine, and maintain a blog during her reign, which will last through May 2010.

As part of the ceremonies, the five women will also be honored tonight during USAA’s Military Appreciation Night at the San Antonio Spurs basketball game. USAA has produced a special video, celebrity appearances and on-court tribute to honor the women.

The Military Spouse of the Year represents the millions of military spouses who are unsung heroes maintaining the Homefront, giving back selflessly to their communities, and providing support to our nation’s troops. Often, these spouses have full-time jobs and raise families too.

Procurement Reform Must be Government Priority, Gates Tells Senate

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - One of the main challenges facing the Defense Department is how the department acquires goods and services and manages the taxpayers' money, Secretary Robert M. Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee today. "A risk-averse culture, a litigious process, parochial interests, excessive and changing requirements, budget churn and instability and sometimes adversarial relationships" within the Defense Department and with other parts of government have now made acquisition reform a priority, Gates told the senators.

The secretary said defense officials must make the difficult procurement choices beginning with President Barack Obama's fiscal 2010 defense budget request.

"President Obama will present his budget later this spring," Gates told the committee. "One thing we have known for many months is that the spigot of defense spending that opened on 9/11 is closing. Two major campaigns ongoing, the economic crisis and resulting budget pressures will force hard choices on this department."

He noted that any necessary changes "should avoid across-the-board adjustments, which inefficiently extend all programs."

Now is the time to move forward, Gates said. The current situation is "one of those rare chances ... to critically and ruthlessly separate appetites from real requirements, those things that are desirable in a perfect world from those things that are truly needed in light of the threats America faces, and the missions we are likely to undertake in the years ahead," he said.

Gates said resolving the department's acquisition problems will take time.

"I have no illusions that all of this will be solved while I am at the Pentagon," Gates told the committee. "Indeed, even if I am somewhat successful on the institutional side, the benefits of these changes may not be visible for years. My hope, however, is to draw a line, and from here forward make systemic progress to put the department on a glide path for future success."

Gates said all services are feeling the effects of a small set of expensive weapons programs that have had repeated and unacceptable problems with requirements, schedule, cost and performance.

This is not a revelation, he said. Since the end of World War II, almost 130 studies have addressed procurement problems. While there is no "silver-bullet" solution, he said, "I do believe we can make headway. And we have already begun addressing these issues."

The department has begun to purchase systems at more efficient rates for the production lines. Gates said he believes defense officials can combine budget stability and order rates that take advantage of economies of scale to lower costs.

The old expression "close enough for government work" must take on new meaning, Gates said. "We will pursue greater quantities of systems that represent the 75 percent solution instead of smaller quantities of 99 percent exquisite systems," said he explained.

Procurement needs to become as joint as the fighting force, he said.

"While the military's operations have become very joint, and impressively so, budget and procurement decisions remain overwhelmingly service-centric," he said. "To address a given risk, we may have to invest more in the future-oriented program of one service and less in that of another, particularly when both programs were conceived with the same threat in mind."

Part of that is the need to freeze requirements on programs at contract award and write contracts that incentivize proper behavior, Gates said.

"I feel that many programs that cost more than anticipated are built on an inadequate initial foundation," said he told the Senate panel. "I believe the department should seek increased competition, use of prototypes – including competitive prototyping – and ensure technology maturity so that our programs are ready for the next phases of development."

The department also must have enough personnel with the right skills to shepherd acquisitions forward, he said.

"Over the past eight years, for example, the Department of Defense has operated with an average percentage of vacancies, in key acquisition positions, ranging from 13 percent in the Army to 43 percent in the Air Force," he said.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have exposed the underlying flaws in the Pentagon bureaucracy, Gates said, noting that he has tried to correct those problems.

"I've spent the better part of the last two years focused on the wars we are fighting today, and making sure that the Pentagon is doing everything possible to ensure that America's fighting men and women are supported in battle and properly cared for when they come home," Gates said.

Gates said institutional priorities and cultural preference must be re-ordered. The bureaucracy still is "largely arranged to plan for future wars, to prepare for a short war, but not to wage a protracted war," he said.

"The challenge we face," he told the senators, "is how well we can institutionalize the irregular capabilities gained and means to support troops in the theater that have been, for the most part, developed ad hoc and funded outside the base budget."

Gates said the department must close a yawning gap between the way the defense establishment supports current operations and the way it prepares for future conventional threats.

"Our wartime needs must have a home and enthusiastic constituencies in the regular budgeting and procurement process," he said. "Our procurement and preparation for conventional scenarios must, in turn, be driven more by the actual capabilities of potential adversaries, and less by what is technologically feasible given unlimited time and resources."

Sometimes, he said, that means fielding weapons or technology quickly, even if its full potential has yet to be realized.

"The problem is there are two different mentalities involved," he explained. "The one is the typical culture in the Defense Department, which is 99-percent, exquisite solutions over a five- or six- or 10-year period, and the other is a 75-percent solution in weeks or months. And people approach problem-solving in very different ways when they have that different kind of experience. We've got to figure out how to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

He cited the obstacles he had to overcome to get mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles and more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets into the combat theater quickly.

"The question I keep coming back to is, why did I have to go outside the regular Pentagon bureaucracy in order to build MRAPs and to get additional ISR?" the secretary said. "We need to figure out a way where that happens within the institution and where there are institutional supporters of getting that kind of thing done in a prompt and timely way."

MILITARY CONTRACTS January 27, 2009

ARMY

Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Orlando, Fla., was awarded on Jan. 23, 2009, a $121,144,000 firm fixed price contract for construction of the FY09 Special Forces Complex, Eglin, Air Force Base, Florida. The work shall consist of the following: Project will require clearing, grubbing, earthwork and erosion control of approximately 350 acre containment site and 130 acre access road, construction of a road system and electrical and communications distribution, water wells and elevated water storage tanks, water distribution, wastewater collection and storm drain systems. Buildings to be constructed include the Group Headquarters, 4-Battalion Headquarters/Company Operations Facility, Combat Readiness Training Facility (GYM), a Group Support Battalion Headquarters/Company Operations Facility, a dining facility and audio visual equipment purchase and installation. Site work includes pavements, curb and gutter, sidewalks, site utilities and landscaping. Work will be performed at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., with an estimated completion date of Aug. 1, 2011. Bids were solicited on FedBizOps with seven bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District, Mobile, Ala., is the contracting activity (9W91278-09-C-0017).

General Dynamics Land Systems, Sterling Heights, Mich., was awarded on Jan. 21, 2009, a $80,741,022 firm fixed price contract for Award Program-Year Two(PY 2), Increment Two of the Abrams Multi-Year Contract for a quantity of 24 M1A2 Systems Enhancement Package Version Two (SEPv2) Upgrade Vehicles. This action also provides for Increment One of PY 3 for a quantity of 6 M1A2 SEPv2 Upgrade Vehicles. Work will be performed at Sterling Heights, Mich., with an estimated completion date of Jun. 30, 2012. One bid was solicited and one bid received. Tank & Automotive Command (TACOM) Life Cycle Management Command, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-06-G-0006).

DRS Sensors & Targeting Systems, Optronics Division, Palm Bay, Fla., was awarded on Jan. 26, 2009, a $10,520,387 firm fixed price contract for new work modification under the authority of Unusual and Compelling Urgency for 761 Driver's Vision Enhancer (DVE) TWV B-Kits (sensor assembly, display control module, and cabling) for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Program and 224 DVE CV B-Kits. Work will be performed at Melbourne, Fla., with an estimated completion date of Mar. 31, 2009. Bids were solicited on the WEB with three bids received. CECOM Acquisition Center, Fort Monmouth, N.J., is the contracting activity (W15P7T-04-C-J202).

Curtiss-Wright Electro-Mechanical Corp., Cheswick, Pa., was awarded on Jan. 22, 2009, a $9,406,162 cost plus award fee contract for cost overrun modification – Pulsed Power Supply and Hi Fidelity Breadboard. Work will be performed at Cheswick, Pa., with an estimated completion date of Jun. 30, 2010. One bid was solicited and one bid received. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Joint Munitions & Lethality Contracting Center, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., is the contracting activity (W15QKN-04-C-1103).

Biltwell Development Co., San Francisco, Calif., was awarded on Jan. 23, 2009, a $6,301,000 firm fixed price contract to construct and install a security booth, truck canopy, guard shack, truck control office, access roads, vehicle parking lots, and truck scale. Work will be performed at the Defense Depot Joaquin Complex, Tracy, Calif., with an estimated completion date of Feb. 9, 2010. Bids were solicited on the WEB with 11 bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District, Sacramento, Calif., is the contracting activity (W91238-09-C-0002).

Coiling Technologies Inc., Houston, Texas, was awarded on Jan. 23, 2009, a $6,082,898 firm fixed price contract for coil springs for the Armor Suspension Kit on High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle. Work will be performed at Houston, Texas, with an estimated completion date of Jul. 31, 2009. One bid was solicited and one bid received. Rock Island Arsenal, Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, Rock Island, Ill., is the contracting activity (W9098S-09-C-0002).

DEFENSE LOGISTCS AGENCY

Food Services Inc., Mount Vernon, Wash.*, is being awarded a maximum $42,500,000 firm fixed price, sole source, indefinite quality contract for full-line food distribution. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Navy, and Air Force. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is May 20, 2010. The contracting activity is Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM30009D3293).

NAVY

Cascade General, Portland, Ore., is being awarded a $13,895,891 firm fixed price contract for post-shipyard availability of Military Sealift Fleet Support Command dry cargo/ammunition ships USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE 6) and USNS Carl Brashear (T-AKE 7). 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. The ships' primary mission is to deliver ammunition, provisions, stores, spare parts, potable water and petroleum products 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 $17,855,609. Work will be performed in Portland, Ore., 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, 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 (N40442-09-C-3009).

Maritime Institute, Inc.*, San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a $6,650,518 firm fixed price, indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contract to provide qualified instructors and incidental material support for the Navy supply and engineering courses in the Norfolk Fleet Concentration Area. Training will be in support of the Naval Education Training Command/Naval Personnel Development Command. Work will be performed in Norfolk, Va., and is expected to be completed in Jan. 2014. Contract funds in the amount of $149,189 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via electronic Request for Proposal as a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business Concern set-aside, with five offers received. The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, Orlando, Fla., is the contracting activity (N61339-09-D-0001).

Intelsat General Corp., Bethesda, Md.,is being awarded a $6,198,264 firm fixed price contract for on-orbit Ultra-High-Frequency (UHF) Satellite Communication (SATCOM) services. These services will be provided via the Skynet satellite constellation and the Leased Satellite (LEASAT) satellite #5. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to an estimated $34,837,260. Work will be performed in Bethesda, Md., (50 percent) and Hertfordshire, United Kingdom, (50 percent), and is expected to be completed by Feb. 2010 (Feb. 2014 with options exercised). Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity (N00039-09-C-0018).

Lockheed Martin Systems Integration Owego, Owego, N.Y., is being awarded a $5,967,984 firm fixed price delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-09-G-0005) to provide Integrated Logistics Support for the MH-60S Common Cockpit. Work will be performed in Owego, N.Y., (89.75 percent) and Norfolk, Va., (10.25 percent), and is expected to be completed in Jan. 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.

Correction: Contract awarded Jan. 23, 2009 to Garvey Precision Machine, Inc., Willingboro, N.J., (N65540-09-D-0010) should have stated that the amount of the expiring contract funds were $61,909.

Army Adding Legal Experts to Combat Sexual Assault, Harassment

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - Army Secretary Pete Geren has approved adding legal personnel to help combat sexual assault among soldiers, which he deemed "repugnant to the core values" of the Army. The Army's Judge Advocate General Corps, or JAG, is expected to hire 15 new prosecutors and a dozen trainers with prosecution or sexual assault litigation expertise in an effort to prevent and more effectively prosecute sexual assault and harassment.

"We see the crime of sexual assault as a crime that goes beyond just the criminal act," Geren told reporters yesterday during an Army roundtable at the Pentagon. "We see it as a crime that destroys unit cohesion."

In addition, the Army Criminal Investigation Command also aims to hire 30 special investigators to focus on sexual assault and harassment cases.

"Our special agents, and supervisors, will be working shoulder-to-shoulder with those highly qualified experts on our most challenging and complex cases," Army Brig. Gen. Rodney Johnson, head of the Criminal Investigation Command, said.

The influx of legal staff represents what Geren described as a three-pronged approach to rooting out sexual assault, a strategy that also includes encouraging soldiers to step up preventative measures and an Army education campaign.

On the prevention side, soldiers are encouraged to participate in "bystander intervention," which hinges on the idea that each Army member has a moral duty to protect a fellow soldier being harassed or assaulted.

To increase awareness about the problem, Army commanders will receive sexual assault prevention kits comprising DVDs, posters and other relevant information to disseminate among soldiers.

The renewed vigor in tackling the problem aims to increase soldiers' confidence and trust in the system, Geren said.

The secretary said 1,800 soldiers have been punished for sexual assault since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Of the 9,000 crimes investigated by the Army last year, 15 percent were sexual assaults, with 137 cases going to criminal trial, Johnson said.

Lt. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, the Army's deputy chief of staff, said sexual assault was the most underreported crime worldwide. Roughly one third of female victims in the Army report abuse, compared to 18 percent of civilian women, he said.

Geren said the Army hopes to become the leader in preventing and prosecuting sexual assault, much in the way it has become a paragon of equal opportunity employment.

"We're hopeful that in a few years we'll look back on this and see that we've made major steps towards accomplishing these goals," he said.

Face of Defense: Soldier Overcomes Hardship, Keeps Desire to Serve

By Army Sgt. 1st Class J.B. Jaso III
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - From the waves of California to the deserts of Iraq, Army Spc. David Denson always has had a desire to serve others. Through tragedy and hardship, the 37-year-old infantryman, surfer and single father never gave up on that quest.

Denson's determination began at a young age. People told the Oceanside, Calif., native that he couldn't surf the Southern California waves with the professionals. However, Denson dedicated his youth to surfing. He surfed hard and started his professional surfing career.

"I busted my butt," Denson said, in regard to the effort it took to surf at the professional level. "I wasn't Tom Curren [a professional surfer], but I got to where I wanted to be."

Where he wanted to be was in surfer's paradise: Hawaii.

Denson moved to the island of Kauai in 1991, where he surfed the crystal-clear Hawaiian waters and adapted to the culture there.

Just months after Denson moved to Kauai, Hurricane Iniki struck in September 1992, destroying his home and all of his belongings. Despite his personal misfortune, Denson said, he felt the need to do everything he could to assist his new community.

"It doesn't take much to be a part of a community," he said. "My parents taught me to be a good guy and do what is right."

He gave up surfing to help to rebuild homes, and he became a Salvation Army volunteer.

During this time, Denson learned about Hawaiian cultures and traditions. Assisting him was Hawaiian native Leiliwin Kalei Mahuiki. Mahuiki and Denson fell in love and married in September 1995.

While they raised their four girls, Denson became an activist for Hawaiian rights. "I assisted in researching the issues that the Hawaiians believed in," he said. "I wanted to make my family proud and be a good role model for my kids."

But in 2001, tragedy struck. Denson and his pregnant wife were involved in a vehicle accident that led to the death of his wife and unborn child.

"I was devastated," Denson said after the accident. "I learned how fast life can change and what's important.

He said he worked hard to raise his four daughters, now 7 through 12 years old. The girls are fluent in their native Hawaiian language and, like their dad, they all surf.

In 2006, Denson decided it was time to continue his selfless service to those in need, and joined the Army.

"Spreading freedom to another country is similar to sticking up for the Hawaiians," Denson said.

Denson now is deployed to Iraq, serving as an infantryman with Multinational Division Baghdad's Company A, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment. For the past 14 months, he has assisted Iraqi security forces in securing the northern Baghdad region. This additional security has allowed the Iraqi government to provide much-needed essential services -- medical aid, education, water and electricity -- to the residents.

"We're trying to make a difference in people's lives," Denson said.

Denson has connected well not only with the local populace, but also with the younger soldiers in his squad. "The guys call me 'Dad,'" Denson said. "I enjoy working with the young soldiers and watching them grow."

"He is a person everyone goes to as a mentor," Army Sgt. Nathan Taylor, Denson's squad leader, said. "He is respected, and everyone knows he has a wealth of knowledge because of his previous experiences."

As he completes his 15-month tour in Iraq, Denson said, he is looking forward to spending time with his girls.

"I tell my girls that terrorists don't tend to the needs of the people," Denson said. "We did the right thing here, making the time to do the right missions."

(Army Sgt. 1st Class J.B. Jaso III serves in the 25th Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.)

N.Y. Guard Provides Helicopter Training to Canadian Aircrews

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Steven Petibone
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - New York Army National Guard members offered hands-on CH-47 Chinook helicopter training to Canadian air force aircrews readying for deployment at a flight facility here last week. Aviation soldiers from the Guard's Company B, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, who returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan in April, used their Chinooks and the upstate New York snow to train the Canadians on Afghan flying conditions.

The snow was a stand-in for the ubiquitous Afghan dust, Army Capt. Eric Fritz, instructor pilot for the battalion, explained. Fritz put together a two-week training program to prepare the Canadians for an upcoming Afghan deployment.

Members of the Canadian air force's 408th and 430th Tactical Helicopter Squadrons will be operating Chinooks in theater. The Canadian aircraft already are 6,000 miles away in place in Afghanistan.

"Everybody jumped at the opportunity to provide the training and transmit Company B's experience and information to the Canadians," Army Col. Michael Bobeck, aviation officer, said. "It makes everybody operate safer and allows us to accomplish the mission."

The first week of training focused on classroom briefings, battlefield scenarios and daylight-flying operations, and the second week was spent perfecting night-flying skills. The training plan culminated with a simulated air assault. All training flights took place within 100 miles of the flight facility here.

Landing and taking off in the light snowfall provided the Canadians with the same experience they'll get coping with the ever-present dust in Afghanistan, Fritz said.

"The New York National Guard has been very accommodating, because it's all been last-minute for us," Canadian air force Capt. Martin LeFrancois, 430th Squadron, said. "Now that we have six Chinooks waiting for us in Afghanistan, the training program that they prepared for us will be really beneficial."

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Steven Petibone serves in the New York National Guard.)

Gates Cites High Demand for Guard's Domestic Mission

By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - The National Guard must be able to meet its domestic responsibilities in addition to its operational missions, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee today. "The demand for Guard support of civil authorities here at home remains high," Gates said in a statement to the committee. "For example, the 'man-days' that Guardsmen have spent fighting fires, performing rescue and recovery, and other duties increased by almost 60 percent in 2008 as compared to 2007."

To compensate, the Defense Department has "substantially increased" support for the Guard and Reserve, which for decades had been considered a low priority for equipment, training and readiness, the secretary said.

"Today, the standard is that the Guard and reserves receive the same equipment as the active force," Gates said. "For [fiscal] 2009, the base budget request included $6.9 billion to continue to replace and repair the National Guard's equipment."

Gates said the Commission on the National Guard and Reserve, a panel created by Congress four years ago, has also helped to ensure that both reserve components are better trained, manned, and equipped for this new era.

"We have taken, or are taking, action on more than 80 percent of the commission's recommendations," Gates said.

For example, the panel suggested a combined pay and personnel system to fix problems that arise when Guard and Reserve members shift from the reserve pay system to the active duty system. Gates said the Defense Department now is launching that integrated system.

Shortly after he became the secretary of defense, Gates implemented mobilization policies that are more predictable and conducive to unit cohesion.

"I have tried to ease, to the extent possible, the stress on our reserve components," he said. "We have provided greater predictability as to when a Guard member will be deployed by establishing a minimum standard of 90 days' advance notice prior to mobilization. In practice, on average, the notification time is about 270 days.

"There is no longer a 24-month lifetime limit on deployment," he continued, "but each mobilization of National Guard and Reserve troops is now capped at 12 months."

The goal is five years of dwell time for one year deployed. "We have made progress towards this goal, but are not there yet," Gates acknowledged.

He added that the ratio of dwell time to mobilization for the Army National Guard this fiscal year is just over 3-to-1.

Finally, Gates said the percentage of Army soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who are Guardsmen or reservists is currently about half what it was in the summer of 2005.

"Reliance upon the reserve component for overseas deployment has declined over time," he said.

(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

Navy Ship Assists Effort to Deter Pirates

By Navy Seaman Chad R. Erdmann
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - As part of Combined Task Force 151, the crew of guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan is coordinating efforts of more than a dozen nations operating in the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. The region's Combined Maritime Forces established CTF 151, a multinational counter-piracy task force, earlier in the month to create a lawful maritime order.

"In our first two weeks on patrol, we have coordinated and deconflicted our efforts with a host of other navies," Navy Cmdr. Steve Murphy, commanding officer of USS Mahan, said. "Though we sail under different flags and command arrangements, we share a common goal of promoting maritime security in the region.

"Under the guidance of CTF 151, we are sharing information and applying lessons learned; and in my estimation, we are making a difference," he said.

Naval ships and assets from more than 20 nations have been invited to join CTF 151.

"Piracy is a pernicious problem that has been going on in this region for quite some time," Murphy said. "We understand that our efforts alone cannot guarantee safety in the region. It is a broad international effort and
includes promising actions taken by the commercial shipping industry to protect themselves, and ongoing efforts to establish stability ashore."

In August, the Combined Maritime Forces, with headquarters in Bahrain, created the maritime security patrol area in the Gulf of Aden to support international efforts to combat piracy. This helps channel the shipping activity and maximizes the efforts of the combined naval activity, concentrating counter-piracy activities within a specific maritime corridor.

"As part of CTF 151, Mahan's mission is to safeguard the free flow of commerce by deterring and disrupting piracy," Murphy said. "The officers and crew of Mahan are well trained, and they are dedicated to providing maritime safety and security as part of a broad international effort."

The Mahan crew monitors maritime traffic, performs routine queries of vessels and conducts visit, board, search and seizure operations.

"[We are] proud to be among the first units to support the CTF 151 mission," Murphy said. "The crew works hard each day to protect the constant flow of merchant traffic through this volatile region and is prepared to act against suspected pirates and bring them to justice."

(Navy Seaman Chad R. Erdmann serves in the Combined Task Force 151 public affairs office.)

Technology to Enable, Not Replace Warfighters, General Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - Robots are helping to save warfighters' lives as they bring incredible new capabilities to the battlefield, but probably won't ever replace humans in combat, the commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command said yesterday. Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, who also serves as NATO's supreme allied commander for transformation, told a Brookings Institution audience here that he doesn't see any time in the foreseeable future when human beings won't be central to warfighting, despite technological advances.

"War is fundamentally a social problem that demands human solutions, despite the American penchant for a purely technological solution," he said during a session about the impact of new robotic technologies on warfare.

Telling the audience he's "no Luddite" -- a reference to an 18th-century English movement that opposed technological change -- Mattis said he's a big advocate of technology that gives warfighters a leg up on the battlefield.

He shared a story about a visit to Iraq, when he encountered an explosive ordnance disposal team standing in formation beside a hole in the ground. Inside the hole were pieces of a robot that had survived six earlier blasts, but was destroyed by the seventh. "They were actually burying the robot," he said. "That robot had saved their lives."

Mattis pointed to other valuable uses of robots, including unmanned aerial vehicles that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities as well as attack capabilities. The time is coming, he said, when an unmanned medical evacuation craft will be able to land in a "hot" landing zone to extract wounded troops.

But Mattis emphasized that technology alone can't fight and win wars. "I want the best possible technology in the hands of our troops," he said. "But the idea that this is going to solve the problem of war is a little silly if you study history."

That's because although technology has altered the character of war, "the fundamental nature of war has not changed," he said.


War remains complex and ever-changing, with multiple variables injected through human will, imagination, courage and the enemy's attempts to exploit weaknesses. Reducing the process to a mathematical model loses sight of the critical human component.

"In my experience," Mattis told the audience, "mechanistic approaches to war don't work."

With more than 35 years of service, Mattis said he sums up what he's learned about war in three words: "Improvise, improvise, improvise."

"Each war brings its own character, and you never know an enemy until you fight them," he said. "So you are going to have to fight them and improvise to the specific situation." That's something he said demands human interface.

Overreliance on technology also can create vulnerabilities in the event that technology fails. Mattis cited the widespread military use of GPS technology -- a capability he said the military fought tooth and nail when it was first introduced, but now would be hard-pressed to operate without.

The question of the enemy shutting down GPS has become a question of "when, not if," Mattis said. "We may see a lot of robots sitting in the warehouse" when that happens, he said.

But Mattis said there's another potential consequence to Americans' desire for purely technological solutions to wage bloodless wars. It could send an unintentional message that the stakes being defended simply aren't high enough to commit human beings. It also could mistakenly signal a lack of will to an enemy or potential enemy.

"From a Marine point of view, we cannot ... lose our honor by failing to put our own skin on the line to protect the realm," Mattis said. "There comes a point when you put your young folks at risk because you think it is important enough for your way of life to defend it."

Army First Sergeants Share View From the 'Top'

By Army Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - An Army first sergeant's role is not unlike that of a performer attempting to keep several plates spinning atop poles. When he forgets to tend to one of the plates, all of them begin to crash down. At least, that's how 1st Sgt. Mark Wokasch describes his job. "One of the hardest parts about being a leader is following up on every situation that soldiers have," Wokasch, the top noncommissioned officer for 10th Mountain Division's Headquarters Support Company, Division Special Troops Battalion, said. "A lot of soldiers have many problems, and as leaders, we're always the guy that's standing there spinning the plates on the spindles."

Army 1st Sgt. Clifford Lo said he agrees with the metaphor. "That's true. I'm always putting out fires," he said. "Things come up that either should have been taken care of, or just came up last-minute."

The nickname "Top" is given to first sergeants because they serve at the highest noncommissioned officer level, mentoring and training enlisted soldiers. Their role is that of a caretaker and problem solver.

"[We're] the ones who make stuff happen. In order to let the officers do their job, we have to ensure we do ours, make sure we uphold a standard and move along everyone as [they're] supposed to," Lo, the first sergeant for the 445th Civil Affairs Battalion's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, said.

The view from the top can be quite a sight, with first sergeants overseeing a hundred soldiers or more.

"[We are] with the soldiers on a daily basis ... to make sure that [NCOs] conduct training with them, conduct daily business, conduct inspections," Wokasch said.

After 19 years in the Army, Lo said, it's a never-ending quest to improve.

"The learning doesn't stop where we are," Lo, a San
Francisco native, said. "We're always adjusting, learning. ... You can always get better [than] where you are. Just because you're good, that doesn't mean you should stop [improving]."

In fact, Lo said, his No. 1 rule in life is always to find ways to advance and to grow. In his view, first sergeants should never be afraid to learn, even from their own junior soldiers, whether it be in a firefight or in the daily job.

Wokasch said his top priority is to take care of soldiers' families. Family relationships affect every aspect of a soldier's life, he said, so he makes it a point to ensure soldiers are staying in touch and handling family matters back home.

"That's a big rule of mine to follow. If your family is not
straight, a lot of other things won't be straight in your life," he said.

"I try to make sure that soldiers understand that family is very important," he continued. "If they don't follow through with it, they'll see down the road a lot of things will fall apart, whether it's their job or conducting daily business."

Communication and an understanding of soldiers' needs are vital components of a first sergeant's job, Lo said. But with such a heavy workload, the first sergeants must rely on others to help.

"You can only have time to really mentor anywhere between maybe five and eight soldiers [at a time]," Lo said. "So you think as a first sergeant, you try to work with your senior enlisted first, so that way they [can] pass down their knowledge to the lower enlisted."

With so many plates on the line, it's always better to have a few extra hands to help out with the spinning, he explained.

(Army Staff Sgt. Michel Sauret serves in Multinational Division Center.)

Marine Corps Museum Attracts Half-million Visitors in 2008

American Forces Press Service

Jan. 27, 2009 - The National Museum of the Marine Corps here has maintained its position as a top Virginia attraction, with more than 500,000 visitors recorded in 2008, museum officials said. In its second full year open to the public, the museum's attendance was bolstered by attracting Marines and families not only from the region but also from across the nation. Since it opened to the public in November 2006, more than 1.2 million visitors have visited the museum.

"We are extremely pleased, though not surprised, by the number of visitors we received in 2008," Lin Ezell, the museum's director, said. "Today people are looking for economical ways to spend time with their families, and as a free, cutting-edge and educational attraction located off I-95, we provide a great and convenient destination for them."

The museum soon will expand to include three additional galleries with exhibits interpreting the periods from 1775 through World War I, each featuring new, state-of-the-art, visitor-immersive experiences. Construction on the new galleries, which are expected to open in spring 2010, already has begun. In the meantime, the museum remains open, with several exhibits moving temporarily within the building and remaining on public display, including combat photographs of the global war on terrorism and a Pioneer unmanned aerial vehicle.

New exhibits and artifacts will be coming soon to the museum, including the Marine Corps flag that survived the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon, and the traveling exhibit "Memories of World War II," which includes photographs from the Associated Press archives. The black-and-white photography exhibit will be on display at the museum from Jan. 30 to March 29.

With funding provided by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation and its donors, the adjacent Semper Fidelis Memorial Park also will expand in 2009, with the addition of a new chapel slated to open in September. The $5 million nondenominational chapel is made possible by a gift from the Timothy Day Foundation of Phoenix, Ariz., and will be a quiet and contemplative space where visitors can honor the sacrifices of those who serve and have served the nation. The structure will evoke images and memories of the improvised field chapels familiar to all servicemembers.

For more information on the museum, go to www.usmcmuseum.org or call 1-877-635-1775.

(From a National Museum of the Marine Corps news release.)