Military News

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Buffalo Soldier Statue Rededication Opens Black History Month Observance

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 5, 2009 - The active-duty grandson of a Buffalo Soldier joined Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. here today to rededicate a statue honoring the soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments, all-black units made up of former slaves, freemen and black Civil war soldiers. The rededication of the Army's Eddie Dixon replica Buffalo Soldier statue at the Pentagon kicked off the Army's Black History Month commemoration.

"It is a time for all of us to celebrate the past, present and future contributions of all African-Americans to this nation," Casey said during the ceremony.

The Buffalo Soldiers were highly respected for their tenacity and bravery on the plains during the westward movement and in the Spanish-American War and World War I before being disbanded during World War II.

"They answered the call to service, and in doing so, left an inspiring legacy," Casey said.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Greg Browne, an operations noncommissioned officer at the U.S. Army Reserve Command at Fort McPherson, Ga., is among those younger generations who followed the Buffalo Soldiers' example. His grandfather, Pfc. Sylvanus S. Browne, served with the 9th Cavalry at the turn of the century, and became a commissioned officer in 1917.

The younger Browne said his grandfather's stories about his service filled him with pride and inspired him to join the Army. He enlisted in 1981, the same year his grandfather died, and he has worn the uniform through 28 years of combined active-duty and reserve service.

Today's ceremony felt great, he said, because it ensures the story of the Buffalo Soldiers -- his own family's story -- lives on.

"This is a story that must be told," he said. "I am going to carry it everywhere I go. I want my children to know. I think we have a responsibility to let the ones who come after us to know the history."

At the center of that story, Browne said, is the Buffalo Soldiers' commitment to service when the country needed them.

"It's something very, very strong and very, very powerful, and our family cherishes it," he said. "Everyone needs to serve the country."

Browne and Casey both noted President Barack Obama's call during his inaugural address for all Americans to serve in some capacity. Casey called it striking that Obama had highlighted "the willingness of our armed forces to sacrifice to find meaning in something greater than ourselves" as an example to the country.

The Buffalo Soldiers statue, and the story of service behind it, "represents the very heart of our president's call," Casey said.

"It represents service to the nation during a tough time -- service by Americans determined to make a better future for those who follow them," he added.

High School Students Take Day to Learn About 'IT' Jobs

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 5, 2009 - IT, or information technology, was the topic today for about 100 students, mostly from area high schools, as officials at the Pentagon hosted the 3rd annual IT Job Shadow Day. The day was designed to give students a unique opportunity to observe the federal IT work force and learn about federal agencies in support of the Federal Chief Information Officers Council's Information Technology Job Shadow Day.

It also helps to attract future federal IT employees to repopulate the work force, which could possibly lose a large portion of its members to retirement, said Joyce France, director of the Defense Department's Chief Information Officer Management Services.

"Currently, [the Defense Department's] civilian IT work force demographics mirror those of the overall federal work force," she said. "Both have a large retirement-eligible population -- over a third of the IT work force is over age 50." The department employs more than 3 million people, all of whom use information technology in the course of their jobs, she noted.

"From the desktop computer, to the most complex business and war-fighting systems," she said, "we are dependent on IT to perform our mission."

While the Defense Department competes with the rest of the federal government and the private sector for the highly skilled employees with the necessary business, technology and acquisition competencies, France said, she's seen a trend since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"We are finding that ... today's high school students have a sincere interest in wanting to serve their country by working for the federal government," she said. "Particularly at [the Defense Department], there is a real sense of mission, and the IT professional can play a critical role in helping the warfighters protect our nation."

The students, about 40 more than last year, spent the day with several Defense Department components in the national capital region. They learned about cyber security, forensics and the kinds of jobs the IT career field offers. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Indianapolis also hosted students from two high schools, France said, and 36 department agencies and 36 high schools overall participated in the IT Job Shadow Day.

"Each year, we continue to increase participation in IT Job Shadow Day and plan to expand the event worldwide," she added.

"I hoped to gain more knowledge about this field and working with the Department of Defense," said Sami Omer, a junior at Edison High School in Springfield, Va. "Actually talking to people who do work with the Department of Defense, [gave me] some of the inside tips and tricks and how to get your foot in the door. It's definitely been very insightful."

Omer, who is interested in pursuing a career in information assurance, already had made up his mind that he was going to work for the government and work in the IT career field. The IT Job Shadow Day only served to reinforce that decision, he said.

Judson Wheeler, a senior, said he plans on becoming an Army Ranger, but if that doesn't work out, today's event has sparked an interest in the IT field.

"The forensic guy in there was actually pretty interesting," Judson said. "I might actually do that, kind of like a special agent-type thing, but working with IT." Judson splits his school day between Robert E. Lee High School and Edison Academy, where he participates in Army Junior ROTC. Both schools are in Springfield, Va.

Thomas Sterling agreed the opportunity gave him some background he wouldn't have been able to get any other way.

"I kind of want to integrate IT with military applications," he said. "[The day] gave me more of a background, something that you wouldn't get from Web pages or pamphlets. It was more in-depth." Sterling, a senior, splits his day between South Lakes High School in Reston, Va., and Chantilly Academy's Air Force Junior ROTC program in Chantilly, Va. He's applied to the Air Force Academy and received a congressional nomination.

The Pentagon's 3rd annual IT Job Shadow Day was co-sponsored by the Association for Federal Information Resources Management and by Junior Achievement.

MILITARY CONTRACTS February 5, 2009

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Oshkosh Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., is being awarded a maximum $11,760,286 firm fixed price contract for snow blowers. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Air Force. There were originally two proposals solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Jan. 15, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM500-01-D-0066-0023).

NACCO Material Handling Group, Greenville, N.C., is being awarded a maximum $7,307,085 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for forklifts. Other location of performance is Kentucky. Using service is Air Force. There were originally two proposals solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Mar. 15, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM500-01-D-0054).

Signature Flight Support Corp., Bedford, Mass., is being awarded a maximum $6,712,764 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for fuel. Other location of performance is in Massachusetts. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Federal Civilian Agencies. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Mar. 31, 2013. The contracting activity is the Defense Energy Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Va., (SP0600-09-D-0041).

NAVY

Rolls-Royce Engine Services, Oakland, Calif; StandardAero (San Antonio), Inc., San Antonio, Texas; and Wood Group Turbopower, LLC; Miami Lakes, Fla., are each being awarded firm fixed price, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts to provide depot-level repair for the T56 Series III engine. The award for Rolls-Royce Engine Services is $36,379,415; for StandardAero, Inc., it is $43,165,973; and for Wood Group Turbopower, LLC it is $47,608,704. The three major modules of the engine to be maintained and repaired under this contract will be (a maximum annual quantity of) 160 Power Sections, 180 Reduction Gear Assemblies, and 140 Torquemeters. Depot-level repair of T56 Series III engine modules is required to support fielded P-3 and derivative aircraft, as well as T56-powered C-130 and C-2 aircraft. Place of performance for Rolls-Royce Engine Services is Oakland, Calif.; for StandardAero, it is San Antonio, Texas; and for Wood Group LLC, it is Miami Lakes, Fla. These contracts are expected to be completed in February 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $5,816,296 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. These contracts were competitively procured via electronic Request for Proposal and four offers were received. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-09-D-0013; N00019-09-D-0014; N00019-09-D-0012, respectively).

Canadian Commercial Corp., General Dynamics Land Systmes - Canada (GDLS-C) is being awarded a $26,791,877 firm fixed priced modification to delivery order #0004 under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5028) for the purchase of Authorized Stockage List and Prescribed Load List parts to support 673 MRAP vehicles. The staging of these parts allows vehicles that have been damaged to be brought back to full mission capable in a minimal amount of time. GDLS-C uses a multitude of suppliers for these parts, both U.S. based and abroad. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

EnVetCo, Inc.*, New Bern, N.C.; Futron-SDVS LLC JV*, Wilmington, N.C.; International Public Works, LLC*, Mount Pleasant, S.C.; and Robra Construction, Inc.*, Virginia Beach, Va., are each being awarded an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity multiple award construction contract for general building type projects at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Base Cherry Point. The maximum dollar value, for the base period for all four contracts combined is $20,000,000. The total contract amount for all four contracts combined, including the base period and four option years, is $100,000,000. Futron-SDVS LLC JV is being awarded task order #0001 at $374,278 for interior and exterior repairs to Building 2628 at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Work for this task order is expected to be completed by Aug. 2009. All work on this contract will be performed in Jacksonville and Cherry Point, N.C., and work is expected to be completed Jan. 2014. Contract funds for task order #0001 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with 16 proposals received. These four contractors may compete for task orders under the terms and conditions of the awarded contract. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N40085-09-D-5336/5337/5338/5339).

L-3 Services, Inc., Germantown, Md., is being awarded an $11,842,031 task order #0070 under previously awarded firm fixed price contract (M67854-02-A-9010) to provide acquisition, logistics, and administrative support as program management assistance for the Program Manager for Training Systems (PM TRASYS) located at the Central Fla., Research Park, Orlando, Fla. PM TRASYS continues to support Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) and Training Education Command (TECOM) requirements to identify, develop, and field material and non-material solutions as the training systems manager. This support task includes work across the Live Training Systems functional and project teams; Live Training Systems Integrated Program Management, Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) Systems, Range Instrumentation Systems (RIS), Range Training Aides Devices & Simulations (RTADS), Field Operations, and emerging hybrid live-simulated training environments. The focus for Live Training Systems efforts responds to requirements requested by TECOM to support pre-deployment training/alternate training venues and the Marine Corps' operational force capabilities. This includes providing program, logistics, and administrative support for mapping MCSC Product Groups systems acquisition to training requirements, determination of most efficient training methodologies, and implementation and technical documentation for acquisition of training systems and training support. Work will be performed in Orlando, Fla., and work is expected to be completed in Feb. 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $11,660,572 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Harris Corp., RF Communications Division, Rochester, N.Y., is being awarded a $9,419,550 indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity, firm fixed price contract for man pack radios, dismount kits and extended warranties. Harris Corp. will be required to deliver up to 250 Falcon III AN/PRC-117G Man Pack Radios, up to 250 dismount kits, and up to 250 extended warranties (7years) if maximum quantities are ordered. This effort is in support of the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) in deployed locations worldwide. Without these radios and the associated warranties, the TACP airmen can not perform their mission which is the terminal control of combat aircraft supporting close air support missions directly in support of ground forces. The work will be performed in Rochester, N.Y., and is expected to be completed by Feb. 2011. 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 (N00164-09-D-JS08).

George Mason University, Fairfax, Va., is being awarded a $7,176,093 cost no fee research and development contract for counter Improvised Explosive Device (IED) research. The contractor will perform research and develop models and methods to enhance the ability of The Joint Improvise Explosive Device Defeat Organization Operations Research Systems Analysis to execute its mission. This contract contains options which, if exercised, will bring the total value of the contract to $10,395,241. Work will be performed in Fairfax, Va., (96 percent) and Bowie Md., (4 percent), and work is expected to be completed Jan. 2012. Contract funds will not expire at end of current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured under an Office of Naval Research Broad Agency Announcement 08-001 Long Range Broad Agency Announcement for Navy and Marine Corps Science and Technology dated Sept. 5, 2007. Office of Naval Research, Arlington, Va., is the contract activity (N00014-09-C-0419).

AIR FORCE

The Air Force is awarding a firm fixed price contract to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of San Diego, Calif., for an amount not to exceed $81,273,117. This effort is for two MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and two Mobile Ground Control Stations for the Italy Foreign Military Sales customer. At this time $40,049,760 has been obligated. 703 AESG/SYF, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity (FA8620-05-G-3028).

The Air Force is awarding a cost plus fixed fee contract to Boeing Satellite Systems Inc., of El Segundo, Calif., for $10,248,866. This action will develop a system concept through the performance of trade studies, modeling and simulation, system analysis, and requirements definition to provide a comprehensive approach that addresses formulation of an architecture providing high-value capabilities for the Department of Defense. Det 8 AFRL/RVKS, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico is the contracting activity (FA9453-09-C-0338).

Troop-support Group Specializes in Adaptive Clothing

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 5, 2009 - A troop-support group that provides clothing specially adapted for wounded troops recovering in military hospitals, will roll out a new line of garments later this year. "We are working on wheelchair garments and halo shirts," Michele Cuppy, president of Sew Much Comfort, said. "We are also working on dress pants that will look more like off-the-rack pants. With the talented seamstresses we have, we will be taking special requests for these items."

Since 2004, Sew Much Comfort, based in Burnsville, Minn., has provided adaptive clothing and comfort accessories to injured servicemembers throughout the United States, Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. The clothing, made using fabric-fastener openings, allows injured servicemembers to dress themselves easily and provides ready access to the injury or wound area by the servicemember, medical staff or family.

In 2006, Sew Much Comfort volunteers received top honors from the "Newman's Own Awards" program and were invited to the White House by then-President George W. Bush.

The groups' major focus this year is to incorporate wheelchair and dress pants garments into their clothing line, as well as to become more "visible and available" at all the major military hospitals across the world, Cuppy said.

"We want to make sure, no matter what the wound or injury is, troops know that there is clothing available for them," she said. "We believe these new garments will allow injured servicemembers to easily dress themselves and feel more comfortable in public. All garments appear as normal civilian attire, which makes possible a more natural and comfortable recovery."

Lisa Schroeder of Beaumont, Calif., whose son, Army Sgt. Christopher Schroeder, broke his arm in Iraq, said she was very pleased with the clothing her son received last year.

"Our son broke his right elbow and left wrist in Iraq and was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for surgeries," Schroeder said. "My worries were for his recovery and how soon we could arrive to help him. We had no time to think of practicalities like clothing. Sew Much Comfort adaptive shirts were one of the biggest blessings for him. He wanted some 'real' shirts to wear while recovering, and we were so happy when someone brought the care package of shirts to his room."

With the help of more than 1,500 volunteer seamstresses, Sew Much Comfort made nearly 30,000 pieces of adaptive clothing and comfort accessories last year. Cuppy said the program's seamstresses are the driving force behind her organization.

Sew Much Comfort volunteers include ambassadors who deliver the clothing to the hospitals. Medical personnel also call and request clothing to be sent to them, Cuppy noted. This year, Sew Much Comfort has added an online order form on its Web site so servicemembers can order clothing directly.

"With our distribution facility, we are able to grab from the shelves and ship in two to three days," Cuppy said.

Logistics Agency Leads in Recruiting Students With Disabilities

By Tonya Johnson
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 5, 2009 - The Defense Logistics Agency hired 91 college students with disabilities under the federal government's Workforce Recruitment Program in 2008, more than any other federal agency. The jointly sponsored Defense and Labor department program matches students with disabilities with internships at government agencies or private-sector companies. Since it started in 1995, about 4,500 students have participated, and more than 350 of them have been interns at DLA, officials said.

The Army hired the most WRP interns from 2004 to 2007, Famia Magana, director of DLA's Equal Employment Office, said. With 86 hires in 2008, the Army had the second-highest total in the federal government. Magana said DLA officials set a goal to make the most WRP hires in 2008.

"The fact that we have achieved No. 1 status within the federal government for the 2008 WRP cycle means that what we're doing is working," Magana said. "Last year, we came in second place and hired 51 students." The agency's strategy, implemented over the past five years, is driving better results, she said.

"We have dramatically increased the agency's participation in this program and increased the participation of individuals with disabilities and targeted disabilities within DLA," she added.

The Workforce Recruitment Program is the only recruitment and referral program that connects federal-sector employers nationwide with highly motivated post-secondary students and recent graduates with disabilities, Eric Spanbauer, manager of DLA's disability program and WRP, said. "[These students] are eager to prove their abilities in the workplace through summer or permanent jobs anywhere in the enterprise," he said.

The program helps DLA officials meet the agency's goal of a 3 percent representation of people with targeted disabilities within its work force, he added.

Representatives from DLA headquarters and the field activities visit colleges and universities to meet students and explain the agency's mission during the recruitment phase of the program's cycle.

Students wishing to participate in WRP must be enrolled at an accredited institution on a full-time basis and be seeking an undergraduate, graduate or doctoral degree. The 14-week summer program offers interns a chance to participate annually until the summer after graduation.

DLA interns have worked in a variety of offices, including public affairs, human resources, general counsel and equal employment opportunity, and most come in at the GS-4 or GS-5 level.

One of the goals of the program is for interns eventually to be hired as full-time employees, Magana said. Many WRP interns who meet eligibility requirements can be hired noncompetitively through the Schedule A hiring authority. Interns also can apply for the DLA Corporate Intern Program, a two-year training program that employees enter as GS-7s and graduate from as GS-11s, with experience in multiple areas of the agency's business operations.

Magana said she encourages hiring officials and managers to take advantage of WRP and has received positive feedback from both interns and supervisors who have participated in the program.

"I would challenge DLA hiring officials to consider WRP candidates to fill their hiring needs," she said. "They are highly qualified, and their turnover rate is low once they get their foot in the door and show their capabilities."

Defense Department officials allocate the number of individuals an agency can hire under this program each year based on a dollar value. If an agency does not hire the interns allocated, then other agencies can receive the additional unused funds. Agencies also have the option of hiring more individuals than the Defense Department will pay for under the Workforce Recruitment Program by funding the extra positions themselves.

In 2008, DLA received $640,000 to hire students under the Workforce Recruitment Program. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and the Defense Distribution Center each hired 19 interns. The two organizations also requested additional slots -- DSCP and DDC funded two and three interns, respectively, from their own budgets.

DLA's 2009 allocation calls for 68 funded positions, but Magana said she hopes the agency can surpass last year's results and hire more than 91.

"The number of WRP hires is only limited by how the agency embraces the program," she said. "It just makes sense to hire qualified people from this program to work in different occupations to support the warfighter."

The program kicks off in mid-March, when hiring officials can access a database of more than 1,800 students screened to participate in the program.

(Tonya Johnson works at the Defense Logistics Agency public affairs office.)

Face of Defense: Sergeant Gives Kidney to Fellow Airman

By Air Force Master Sgt. Darryl Bush
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 5, 2009 - On April 30, 2008, Air Force Staff Sgt. Andrew Jones became what some would call the "ultimate wingman." Jones, a senior controller in the Maintenance Operations Center of the 58th Maintenance Operations Squadron here, gave one of his kidneys to Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam Johnson, a fellow controller who had been in total renal failure for more than 22 months.

Johnson was suffering from a rare autoimmune disease known as IgA nephropathy, which meant his body had turned against itself and his immune system was killing his own kidneys. He was undergoing long and painful dialysis treatments to remove the toxins from his blood that his kidneys no longer could.

"Adam would come to work on Monday and he would just be puffy. There's no other way to describe it," Air Force Maj. Mark O'Reilly, 58th MOS commander, said. "His skin was ashen, and there were bags under his eyes, but through it all, he never let it affect him or his professionalism."

Johnson's family all submitted to screening tests, but none were found to be a viable donor. Six members of the 58th MOS also volunteered to undergo screening; however, all but one were quickly eliminated. The sixth, another MOC controller, passed all but the last test before finding out that she, too, was not a viable donor.

After almost 18 months of dialysis, the prospects of finding a kidney were starting to dim.

Then, in the summer of 2007, Jones joined the MOC team as a weapons system controller. He heard about Johnson's fight for life and his need for a kidney, and without any hesitation, he volunteered to undergo the screening process.

The screening process is long and arduous. Besides the many compatibility tests and invasive procedures to ensure a donor kidney will be accepted by its host body, potential donors also must undergo many hours of counseling and psychological screenings. The tests are for the safety of both the donor and the recipient and are meant to ensure the donation is being made under proper legal and ethical circumstances.

For Jones, this meant that many tests had to be performed after long nights as the senior controller during the midnight shift. Then, finally, on April 1, doctors cleared Jones to donate one of his kidneys to Johnson.

"At first, I thought it was an April Fools joke," Jones said.

The surgery took place April 30. For six hours, doctors worked to remove the kidney from Jones and implant it into Johnson.

"The kidney 'pinked up' immediately," Lorissa Johnson, the recipient's wife, said. "Before long, the color returned to Adam's face and his energy started coming back. He had so much energy the nurses had to threaten to tie him down to keep him in bed!"

Meanwhile, recovery for Jones was painful, at times making even breathing unbearable. Family, friends and members of the 58th MOS stood by him, and despite the struggles, Jones never complained or regretted the decision.

"I felt that, for whatever reason, I was meant to be in the MOC and to help [Johnson]," Jones said.

Johnson said he'll always feel gratitude toward Jones.

"It is truly a humbling experience to have to ask someone outside of my family to give up an organ," he said. "[Jones'] decision to donate rescued me from a miserable existence on dialysis. His gift gave me my life back and saved my military career, and I will always be grateful for that."

Both sergeants have fully recovered and continue to work side by side in the MOC.

(Air Force Master Sgt. Darryl Bush serves in the 58th Maintenance Operations Squadron.)

Kentucky Guard Delivers Meals, Water to Storm Victims

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 5, 2009 - Kentucky National Guard troops are delivering record numbers of meals and bottled water as part of the relief effort supporting citizens affected by last week's ice storm. "This is a huge undertaking on the part of the Kentucky Guard," Air Force Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, the state's adjutant general, said. "Our citizen-soldiers have delivered more than 450,000 meals so far to local communities, and we are on schedule to bring in 285,000 meals every day in the foreseeable future."

In addition to the meals, nearly a million bottles of water have been handed out in regions where residents have no access to clean water. A half- million bottles of water are coming in on a daily basis.

"We are working around the clock to get critical supplies to the citizens of Kentucky," Tonini said. "There is nothing more important than making sure everyone has food and water and a way to keep warm."

About 4,000 Kentucky National Guard troops remain on duty, removing debris and running communications sites in addition to delivering essential supplies. Most of the effort is in western Kentucky, where dozens of communities remain without power.

Restoration of electric power to water plants, communications facilities, shelters and homes remains a top priority. Troops are working with state and local crews in clearing road and gaining access to damaged power transmission lines. Guard members also are conducting wellness checks. Eighty-nine of Kentucky's 120 counties have been cleared or do not require assistance.

(From a Kentucky National Guard news release.)

Pirate Hijacking Resolved Peacefully; U.S. Monitors Situation

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 5, 2009 - Pirates today released the Ukrainian ship Faina, which they had held for ransom along with its 21-member crew and cargo since hijacking the vessel off the coast of Somalia in September. The ship's crew was released unharmed, and the U.S. military is monitoring the situation, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

"I think that it is always a good outcome when there are not lives that are lost," Whitman said of the hijacking's peaceful outcome.

Seagoing pirates operating off the coasts of Somalia and Yemen have preyed on commercial shipping, often holding captured vessels, cargoes and crews for millions of dollars in ransom money. The problem seemed to worsen until last month's stand-up of a multinational, anti-pirate consortium known as Combined Task Force 151.

The pirates who hijacked the Faina reportedly were paid a sizable ransom that was air-dropped aboard the hijacked vessel.

The pirates may have gotten away in this instance, but that doesn't take away from the fact that piracy is a crime, Whitman said.

Piracy "is a troubling and concerning activity, as we've talked about in the past; it's an illegal activity," Whitman said.

"But, I guess if there's any silver lining," Whitman continued, "it's that in most of these cases to date, [the] crews have ultimately been released unharmed."

The Faina was transporting an estimated $30 million of Russian military equipment to Kenya when it was intercepted Sept. 25 by pirates cruising off the coast of Somalia.

Kenya is an east African nation that faces the Indian Ocean. Kenya's neighbors include Ethiopia and Somalia to the north and northeast, Uganda and Sudan to the northwest, and Tanzania to the south.

U.S. authorities were not concerned that the military equipment aboard the Faina was to be delivered to Kenya, a U.S. ally in the region, officials said. In fact, the Kenyan government announced recently that it would try pirates captured by the U.S. military.

The key Pentagon concern in the days after the Faina's hijacking was that the ship's cargo could be sold to terrorists.

"Our concern is making sure that this cargo does not end up in the hands of anyone who would use it in a way that would be destabilizing to the region, and we have committed significant resources to make sure those objectives are met," Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters Sept. 30.