Military News

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Satellite Collision Debris May Affect Space Operations, Cartwright Says

By Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 12, 2009 - The collision yesterday of two communication satellites has left a debris pattern that may affect future space operations, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a symposium here today co-sponsored by the George C. Marshall Institute and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Space Enterprise Council. U.S. Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, speaking on the national security ramifications of the collision between an American and a Russian satellite, said the event shows the need for better information sharing and space situational awareness.

The American satellite, owned by Iridium Satellite of Bethesda, Md., weighed about 1,200 pounds and collided with a Russian satellite that had been nonoperational for more than a decade. The crash happened 491 miles above Siberia. The collision was confirmed when the active U.S. satellite did not report in and the debris field was picked up by sensors.

"My worry is that debris field is going to be up there for about a year, so we're going to have to play a little bit of dodgeball," Cartwright said. "It's going to be a problem because it will take a month or two for the debris to settle down and for us to understand the scope of the field to be able to track it and understand where at least the larger objects are."

The debris will be around for some time because the satellites were in a high orbit around the earth, Cartwright said. Once the debris field has stabilized, there will be a pattern that all countries can use to navigate around, he said.

"It's a field of debris out there that's going to be out there for many years," he said. "The good news is once it's stabilized, it's relatively predictable. The bad news is, it's a large area. If we're denied that large area for use, it becomes a problem."

Many of the commercial and national security satellites, particularly communications satellites, rely on certain spacing between other objects in order to be effective, Cartwright said. Losing a spot because of debris could have a financial or operational impact on anyone wanting to use the space, he said.

"If that's going to be long term, that's a problem for us," he said.

The general said he hopes the incident will result in a better exchange of satellite orbit data between countries.
"I'd like to be able to find a way, not only with Russia, but with other nations to make sure that our exchange of data is more complete," he said. "We would be remiss to not take advantage of this and turn it into good."

The growing number of satellites require improved information sharing, Cartwright said. "It is a crowded place out there today," he said. "There is just no way around that. The need, first and foremost, for better situational awareness out there is something you have to actively pursue."

The need for space situational awareness has changed drastically in recent years, the general said. "It was acceptable five years ago to know something was out there and check on it every couple weeks," he said. "Those days are just not tolerable anymore."

Whereas countries previously could wait a few days or weeks to get satellites stabilized in their orbits, the current congestion in space pushes that timeframe down to seconds and minutes, he said.

(Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office.)

Project Sanctuary Provides Retreat for Military Families

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 12, 2009 - Whether it's sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows in the winter or standing in the middle of a creek fishing during the summer, a Colorado troop-support group is promising a week-long retreat full of fun and relaxation for 80 deserving military families this year. Project Sanctuary will give the military families a five-night, all-expenses-paid, therapeutic retreat in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The retreats will be co-hosted by the YMCA of the Rockies at the Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park, Colo.

"The stress on military families is enormous," Kristi Kinnison, director of development at Project Sanctuary, said. "We want to honor and help these families, relieving the stresses that they feel as a result of deployment."

Founded in November 2007, Project Sanctuary began offering military retreats in 2008 to support returning troops by strengthening the family as a whole. Combining medical and psychological services with group dynamics, team building, personal care and coping skills, these retreats offer fun, enjoyable, constructive opportunities for service personnel to reconnect with their loved ones, while providing support for positive reintegration into civilian life, Kinnison said.

Eight retreats are planned for this year, and 10 to 12 families will go together on each retreat. Snow Mountain Ranch allows each family to have its own cabin and then join the group at least daily in a lodge that houses the staff and volunteers. The lodge is the central meeting point for the entire retreat.

"Putting the families together helps them to know that they are not alone," Kinnison said. "Having the families experience a retreat together creates lasting support systems, creating a network with other families. Another benefit of bringing the families together helps bring different service branches together."

The retreats are based on using leisure, recreation and play to reduce barriers to participation and provide opportunities where the individual and families may choose to participate.

"All retreats will help families find peace within everyday rituals, including preparing meals and doing dishes," Kinnison said. "In the summertime, we take families hiking, white-water rafting, horseback riding and rock climbing, [and we also have] hay rides and roast marshmallows around campfires. In the winter, families go skiing, tubing [and] snowmobiling, experience sleigh rides, and build snowmen. Each family is given ample time to do their own thing and the facility is ideal as it includes many other recreational facilities."

Michelle Bruce, who attended the retreat last year with her husband, Air Force Tech. Sgt. David D. Bruce, and their three children, said she initially was skeptical of the retreat.

"We wondered what the organization was trying to sell," Bruce said. "To our complete surprise, we truly enjoyed ourselves. It was so wonderful. My husband, Dave, had just returned from deployment, a week prior to us going. As with many families, we were having a bit of a hard time reintegrating back to living together. The retreat was so fun, relaxing and romantic for Dave and me. It was truly life-changing for all of us."

Michelle Briggs, whose husband, Robert Briggs, is in the Iowa National Guard's 224th Combat Engineers, agreed.

"Bob was severely injured when a [rocket-propelled grenade] entered his [forward operating base] in Ramadi, Iraq," she said. "I have always been searching for retreats or meetings on how to help our family rebuild.

"For our family," Briggs continued, "Project Sanctuary was a hope with help of rebuilding our family, to show our kids that their dad is getting better, that he is still their dad. While we were there, our entire family hiked up a mountain, some two miles, and we did it as a whole family. We fished as a whole family again. We did everything as a whole family. This is what we are trying to do to help our family be whole again."

All retreats are in Colorado, and most participants reside in Colorado. Project Sanctuary tries to include at least one out-of-state family per retreat.

Program officials take retreat applications on a first-come, first-served basis. All servicemembers are considered, but servicemembers who recently have returned from deployment are ideal candidates, Kinnison said. Families may apply for a retreat by filling out an application at the Project Sanctuary Web site.

MILITARY CONTRACTS February 12, 2009

AIR FORCE

The Air Force is awarding a firm fixed price contract to ITT Corp., of Clifton, New Jersey for a maximum of $99,867,795 which covers the contract for 36 months. This action will support foreign military sales to Turkey. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 542 CBSSS/PKS, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., is the contracting activity (FA8540-09-C-0002).

The Air Force is awarding a firm fixed price contract to Research Associates for Defense Conversion, Inc. of Marcy, N.Y. for a maximum of $8,681,323. This action will provide design, develop and test advanced technical audio technology software to meet current and future audio exploitation requirements in support of both military and law enforcement missions. At this time, only $2,818,089 has been obligated. Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York is the contracting activity (FA8750-09-C-0067).

DEFENSE INFORMATION SYSTEMS AGENCY

ActioNet Inc., Fairfax, Va., is being awarded indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract with firm-fixed-price and cost reimbursable line items. The contract is for support personnel to implement and maintain the portion of the DISA Information System Infrastructure over which the DISA Information Systems Center has operational responsibility, known as the Core Enterprise Network (CORENet). The total ceiling of this contract is $78,660,729 over the two year base period plus three (one year) options. The Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization, National Capital Region, is the contracting activity (HC1047-09-D-0001).

ARMY

Lobar, Inc., Dillsburg, Pa., was awarded on Feb 11, 2009, an $11,435,000 firm fixed price contract for construction of an Army Reserve Center at Letterkenny, Pa. Estimated completion date is Jun 30, 2010. Bids were solicited on FedBizOpps with 11 bids received. Corps of Engineers, Louisville District, Louisville, Ky., is the contracting agency (W912QR-09-C-0018).

Hutchinson Industries, Trenton, N.J., was awarded on Feb. 11, 2009, a $9,602,715.43 firm fixed price contract for wheel and tire assemblies, potential quantity: 9,863. Work is to be performed at Trenton, N.J., with an estimated completion date of Dec 31, 2009. One bid was solicited and one bid received. Tank & Automotive Command-Warren, Mich., is the contracting agency (W56HZV-09-C-0288).

Army Armaments Incorporated, Hunt Valley, Md., was awarded on Feb. 11, 2009, a $9,323,216 cost plus fixed fee contract modification that exercises options for additional engineering services hours for Laser Designator Low Rate Initial Production and Tactical Common Data Link Interoperability Compliance and Universal Ground Control Station / Universal Ground Data Terminal Integration in support of the Shadow 200 Unmanned Aerial System. Work is to be performed at Hunt Valley, Md., with an estimated completion date of Apr. 30, 2010. One bid was solicited and one bid received. U.S. Army Contracting Command is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-08-C-0033).

NAVY

Northrop Grumman Corp., Electronic Systems Defensive Systems Div., Rolling Meadows, Ill., is being awarded a $10,339,316 cost plus fixed fee, firm fixed fixed price indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to provide software and hardware upgrades and services in support of the Litening Targeting Pod used for the EA-6B, AV-8B and F/A-18 aircraft. Services to be provided include defining requirements, designing functional enhancements, testing developmental operational flight programs (OFPs), delivery of six completed OFPs for Fleet use, and incidental services, studies, analysis and demonstrations. The estimated level of effort for this contract is 22,341 man-hours. Work will be performed in Rolling Meadows, Ill., (75 percent) and China Lake, Calif., (25 percent), and is expected to be completed in Feb. 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif., is the contracting activity (N68936-09-D-0022).

MKI Systems Woodbridge, Va., is being awarded a $9,268,615 task order to provide professional technical support to the Ground Transportation and Engineer Systems (GTES), MRAP JPMO. This includes contractor support directly to the PM; MRAP Category I, Category II, and Category III Leaders; Systems Integration and Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) Manager; PM for Spiral Development; Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Manager and Functional Leaders for Acquisition, Logistics, Engineering, Test & Evaluation and Safety. This effort builds upon existing contract support that will remain in place. The MRAP Vehicle Program has seen significant increases in the numbers of vehicles required, the volume of activities associated with Acquisition Category (ACAT) 1D transition and the demands for rapid acquisition and fielding of MRAP vehicles. Contract support under this task order will include comprehensive professional program management services for all MRAP vehicles and associated systems. Key support includes preparation and updates of ACAT 1D acquisition documentation and other business and administrative services; engineering services and requirements analysis including spiral technology development/insertion; GFE integration; test and evaluation; production support; logistics analysis support, FMS and JPMO security. Many of the programs under this PM include high priority United States Marine Corps (USMC), Joint Service and FMS requirements with extensive Congressional, Department of Defense (DoD), Department of the Navy (DoN) and USMC interest. Work will be performed in Stafford, Va. Work is expected to be completed in Nov. 2009. Contract funds will expire: $9,268,615 on 30 Sept. 2009. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-02-A-9008-0071).

Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Pascagoula, Miss., is being awarded an $8,999,980 modification to previously awarded contract for systems engineering, design and technical services to support the detail design and construction of the DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class Destroyers. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Miss., and is expected to be completed by Dec. 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-06-C-2304).

EG&G Technical Services, Inc. Germantown, Md., is being awarded an $8,900,613 task order to provide immediate and on-going acquisition and technical support to the Joint Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle Program (JMVP). This includes contractor support directly to the Joint Program Manager (JPM), deputies, and product and functional team leaders. This effort will include comprehensive Joint Program Management services for all MRAP vehicles and systems, systems engineering and production support, test and evaluation, integration, transportation, logistics, and acquisition management support. Key events include expedited testing, integration, fielding, and training for MRAP vehicles; concurrent integration of system and component improvements to both MRAP and related low density vehicles, and comprehensive assessments, selection, and fielding of other Improvised Explosive Device (IED) countermeasure equipment, all in response to Urgent Universal Needs Statements (UUNS) generated by the Operating Forces (OPFORs). The Secretary of Defense designated the JMVP the highest priority DoD acquisition program. The program has exceptionally high Congressional, DoD, and joint Service interest and requires a highly competent and agile program management structure to respond to a myriad of urgent and priority requests for information and action. The program has transitioned from a Component rapid deployment capability to an ACAT ID program that is currently producing, fielding, upgrading, and sustaining life-saving vehicles for Warfighters. Work will be performed in Stafford, VA. Work is expected to be completed in November 2009. Contract funds will expire on Sept. 30, 2009. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-02-A-9011-0076).

Nan Inc., dba Ocean House Builders, Honolulu, Hawaii 96819, is being awarded firm fixed price Task Order 0004 at $8,825,260 under an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity design-build multiple award construction contract for construction of a new Youth Center at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Work will be performed in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and is expected to be completed by Nov. 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Five proposals were received for this task order. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Hawaii, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is the contracting activity (contract number N62478-08-D-4009).

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Thermo Pac LLC, Stone Mountain, Ga., is being awarded a maximum $23,473,590 firm fixed price contract for various food items. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Navy, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Federal Civilian Agencies. There were originally 30 proposals solicited with 3 responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Feb. 13, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa. (SPM3S1-06-D-Z135).

Electronic Warfare Offers New Jobs for Tech-savvy Professionals

By Jamie Findlater
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 12, 2009 - A new career field makes room for 1,600 full-time electronic warfare professionals for the active-duty Army, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard, a senior officer said yesterday during a Defense Department Bloggers Roundtable conference call. The "29-series" electronic warfare specialty became an official career path Jan. 26, said Col. Laurie G. Moe Buckhout, chief of the electronic warfare division in Army Operations, Readiness and Mobilization.

"There's been a sea change, a huge paradigm shift in the understanding of electronic warfare," she said. "For decades, it's been run from the air, and now that you have an asymmetric ground battle -- not the Cold War anymore -- people are beginning to understand that there are a plethora of targets in any square kilometer on the ground, ... and we have to protect ourselves and be able to attack from a ground point of view."
Creation of the career field gives the Army the largest professional electronic warfare cadre of all of the services, and arguably one of the largest among the NATO countries, Buckhout said.

The new positions will be distributed throughout the force, from the four-star-command level down to battalions, and most electronic warfare practitioners will be in brigade combat teams, she added.

"A brigade combat team will have an enlisted, warrant, and officer at each team who is in charge of the nonkinetics within the targeting cell," Buckout explained. "[The Army's Training and Doctrine Command] spent a couple of years analyzing this beast inside and out, and the final analysis was we simply have to have electronic warfare officers, and the Army has to bite the bullet in force structure to build them in."

An electronic warfare noncommissioned officer can rise to be a sergeant major, a warrant officer can rise to be the W-4 or W-5 rank, and a commissioned officer can rise to be a lieutenant colonel or colonel, Buckhout said.

A number of pilot courses are running at Fort Sill, Okla., to train soldiers in the field of electronic warfare. One officer pilot course has been completed, another is under way, and warrant and enlisted courses are planned for April, the colonel said.

"We're getting a whole lot of volunteers from the field every day," she said. "NCOs, officers and warrants all want to play in this, because they see it as certainly the way ahead to go from kinetics to non kinetics."

The young officers and enlisted soldiers looking to join the career field see it as a way to expand into whole new technologies, Buckhout told the bloggers.

The colonel cited the words of President Barack Obama in explaining the new direction. "We must adapt and make tradeoffs among systems originally designed for the Cold War and those required for current and future challenges," she said, quoting Obama. "We need greater investment in advanced technology, ... like unmanned aerial vehicles and electronic warfare capabilities."

The Army's new electronic warfare career field puts those words to work, Buckhout said. "Like the new commander in chief said," she told the bloggers, "this is a way to get out of old-style Cold War business and to get into something new. That is right in line with the Army way ahead, our mantra is change."

For two years, Fort Sill has been running a skill-identifier course to train interested servicemembers, some of whom are Navy and Air Force members who have been filling necessary electronic warfare slots for the Army.

"They have trained a couple of thousand joint personnel, and in fact, all of the Navy and Air Force guys who go over to theater to fill in as Army [electronic warfare officers] go through those courses, because they do such a good job and bring them up to speed on ground [electronic warfare]."

Ground electronic warfare is different, she said, because of the need to find very specific target areas.

"The Air Force and the Navy have for a long time been flying high-altitude, airborne electronic attack capabilities ... that have a huge footprint on the ground," Buckhout explained. Many of these capabilities were designed to suppress enemy air defense, protecting strategic assets, bombers and long-range strike capabilities from ground-to-air missiles and other ground-to-air threats.

"If we want to go after a target on the ground,... or if we want to stop an [improvised explosive device] from blowing up,... [for the] Air Force or the Navy airborne platforms, it's like trying to hit a mosquito with a sledgehammer."

The Army needs to "apply surgical on-the-ground assets to complement the capability of emitters and collectors to target enemy communications," she added.

In future years, Buckhout explained, the career field will continue to grow.

"The field first started with IEDs as the focal point, but we quickly learned that they were just the tip of the iceberg," she said. "We are seeing electronic attacks [on communications]. We're seeing directed energy capabilities. We're seeing laser capabilities. We have something called active denial systems that puts out a directed energy pulse that is harmless, but not something you want to get in front of.

"There's a whole lot of technology in the area. Again, it's not something that most folks are reading about in the Washington Post..., but it's actually very accessible. It's at high-technology levels that can be quickly used by the services."

For more information, soldiers can contact Army Lt. Col. Frederick Harper at the Computer-Network Operations-Electronic Warfare Proponent at 913-684-8538 or frederick-harper@us.army.mil, or Army Lt. Col. James Looney, Fires Center of Excellence director of training and doctrine, at 580-442-2832 or james.looney@us.army.mil.

(Jamie Findlater works in the Defense Media Activity's new media directorate.)

Lynn, Other New Defense Leaders Assume Posts

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 12, 2009 - Just like any other federal employee, Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III had to in-process through personnel and take the oath of office before starting work this morning, Pentagon officials said. The Senate confirmed Lynn by a vote of 93-4 yesterday. As deputy secretary he will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the department.

Lynn served as the Defense Department's comptroller during the Clinton administration.

The deputy secretary joins three other officials in President Barack Obama's administration who have begun serving in Pentagon posts: Robert Hale, comptroller; Michele Flournoy, undersecretary for policy; and Jeh Charles Johnson as general counsel. The Senate confirmed all three Feb. 9, and they began work the next day, Pentagon officials said.

After leaving the Clinton administration in 2001, Lynn was a senior vice president at the Raytheon Company. Because he served as a lobbyist for the defense contractor, Lynn required a waiver from Obama before being considered as deputy secretary. Concerns about this delayed his confirmation.

Lynn will recuse himself from any Defense Department decisions pertaining to Raytheon, the fifth-largest company doing business with the department with around $12 billion in contracts.

Oklahoma Guard Aids Community After Devastating Tornado

By Army Capt. Geoff Legler
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 12, 2009 - Tornado season in Oklahoma started more than a month early Feb. 10, as a tornado struck the town of Lone Grove. The Category 3 tornado damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes and local businesses and took the lives of at least nine residents.

Local and state emergency management officials spent the evening searching the hardest-hit areas for survivors before forwarding a request to Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry for a limited call-up of Oklahoma National Guard members to assist local law enforcement.

Army 1st Lt. Jeremy Gonzalez and 27 other local Guard members reported yesterday to the Oklahoma Army National Guard Armory in Ardmore, where they received a mission briefing before making the six-mile drive to Lone Grove.

By 10 a.m., the soldiers were providing security at entry control points near the hardest-hit areas of Lone Grove.

Army Spc. Timothy Steely was assigned to an entry control point less than a mile from a 60-unit mobile home park that was destroyed by the half-mile-wide twister.

Steely, who returned from an eight-month deployment to Iraq in October, said he was glad to be of help to people in his local area during this difficult time.

"I spent eight months trying to make Iraq a safer place, and now I am more than happy to be here helping my fellow Oklahomans when they need it most," he said.

That afternoon, Henry thanked the Oklahoma Guard for its quick response and said the citizen-soldiers of Oklahoma are always there when the state and its people need them.

Army Col. Robbie Asher, the Oklahoma Guard's chief of staff, praised the quick response of local Guard members.

"Once again, the men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard have answered the call from their citizens," he said, "and they responded in the most efficient manner that I have witnessed in many years. The Oklahoma National Guard is a community-based organization. We could not exist without the support of our local communities, and we will always be there to support them when they need it most."

Oklahoma Guard soldiers are scheduled to be in Lone Grove until Feb. 16, when the governor will re-evaluate the security situation to determine if they should remain on state active duty any longer.

(Army Capt. Geoff Legler serves in the Oklahoma National Guard public affairs office.)

Vella Gulf Crew Captures More Pirates in Gulf of Aden

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 12, 2009 - American forces operating in the Gulf of Aden have foiled another instance of piracy and captured nine suspects, Defense Department officials said today. The Navy's USS Vella Gulf added to its haul of pirates after foiling an attack on the Marshall Islands-registered motor vessel Polaris yesterday, when the crew of the guided-missile cruiser captured seven pirates.

The Vella Gulf is the flagship of Task Force 151, which has been operating in the region since Jan. 8.

The Vella Gulf received a distress call from the motor vessel Premdivya, an Indian-flagged vessel transiting the region, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. The radio message said the ship was under attack by individuals in a small skiff who were attempting to board the vessel.

The Vella Gulf launched a helicopter to the scene. "When the helicopter arrived, it signaled the skiff to stop immediately," Whitman said. "The skiff did not stop, and so the helicopter fired a warning shot."

The suspects, who are assumed to be Somali, continued to flee. The helicopter crew fired a second warning shot, and the skiff stopped.

"The Vella Gulf and a second destroyer --– the USS Mahan --– closed immediately and intercepted the skiff," Whitman said. "They searched it and seized weapons, including a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher."

The boarding parties took the pirates aboard the Vella Gulf. They will remain aboard the ship until they are transferred to the supply ship USNS Lewis and Clark.

U.S. officials are collecting the necessary evidence and will make a decision regarding further transfers, Whitman said.

The United States signed a memorandum with the government of Kenya to prosecute pirates. "We've not yet had the chance to work out all the details of the implementation," Whitman said.

The spokesman stressed that these men are not prisoners of war and are suspected pirates conducting criminal activity.

"One of the ways we want to stem this type of activity is to ensure there is a cost to being pirates," he said. "We have proceeded with countries in the region to identify ways to bring them to justice."

Anti-piracy American forces in the region are operating under a United Nations Security Council resolution. Countries and organizations around the world are contributing to this effort.

Pacific Command Boss Shares Strategic Goals

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

Feb. 12, 2009 - U.S. Pacific Command remains vigilant toward the Chinese military while also working toward building a cooperative relationship, Pacom's top officer told Defense Department bloggers and online journalists yesterday. "When I talk to Chinese military and diplomatic leaders about the growth of their military, they come back and say to me [that] all they want to do is protect what is theirs, Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating said during a Defense Department Bloggers Roundtable conference call. "We certainly understand that as a strategic goal. We share that same strategic goal."

Keating said Pacom officials are encouraging China to work with them. "We want them to understand that there is plenty of area for us to cooperate so as to develop better understanding between their military and ours," the admiral said.

Despite a willingness to work with China's military, Keating said, Pacom still is watching the development of Chinese submarine technology closely. "We're keeping a very close eye on both their numbers, their quantity and their quality," Keating said. "Their quantity is increasing gradually; their quality is not insignificant."

He added that the U.S. Navy enjoys a dramatic technological advantage over all other countries that have submarines. More than 250 submarines maneuver in Pacom's area of responsibility on a given day, Keating said.

Meeting challenges in the Pacific, however, requires multiple partnerships, Keating said. The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than 3.5 billion people, and it encompasses more than half of the Earth's surface. Pacom officials are working on multilateral solutions with all allies, partners and other countries in the region so that they can meet challenges together, he said.

"We are committed to security, stability and prosperity," Keating said. "A word that we hear from time to time by other countries in our AOR is they want to be a part of the 'coalition of the committed,' not just part of the 'coalition of the willing,' and we think that is a good phrase."

To encourage that growth, every day, "members of our command are taking part in bilateral and multilateral activities that support Pacific Command's commitment to an engagement strategy based on partnership, readiness and presence," Keating said.

Keeping maritime domain and the lanes of commerce open and accessible is one of the principal goals for partner nations, Keating said.

"Tens of millions of containers transit the waters of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean each year," he said. "Our interest in maritime domain security is profound." Roughly 80 percent of the oil that passes through the Strait of Malacca is bound for China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, he added.

To help increase understanding of Pacom's mission, Keating pointed the bloggers to the command's social media presence.

"We're embracing the new technology," he said. "The value we place upon our ability to spread information in an accurate, timely manner ... is very high. And we're doing our best to use the media that are available - to use old and new."

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the Defense Media Activity's new media directorate.)

Army Recruiting Remains on Track Despite Challenges

By J.D. Leipold
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 12, 2009 - Despite challenges in recruiting 17- to 24-year-olds, Army leaders said yesterday the service is on track to meet recruiting goals this year, and will not lower standards to do so. The Army faces major challenges in recruiting from the under-24 demographic group, due to education, health and conduct deficiencies, said Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commanding general of U.S. Army Accessions Command.

Those challenges, he told reporters at a Pentagon media roundtable discussion, disqualify seven of 10 military applicants.

"We think education is a strategic issue for the country," Freakley said. "Nationally, we have a 70 percent high school graduation rate. We have not lowered our standards, but the goals from the Office of the Secretary of Defense are that 90 percent of those who come in the all-volunteer force have graduated from high school."

Last year, 83 percent of Army recruits were high school graduates.

"Our second challenge is with health," Freakley said. "Of 32 million 17- to 24-year-olds, 3.2 million of them are childhood obese -- that's 10 percent. Several years ago, one in 20 Americans was obese, but that's closing in soon on one in four."

Freakley said many of those 3.2 million have childhood diabetes or muscular skeletal issues and that the youth of today have 8 percent less bone mass, which translates to stress fractures from running and more youth using prescription drugs.

The third issue the Army is facing is bad conduct. Young people disqualify themselves from entering the military because of events that happened in middle or high school.

"We're trying to change the landscape as we look and work in this environment," the general said. "Educationally, we have a program, 'March to Success' which helps young people get online and do better with standardized tests.

"We have a 'Planning for Life' program where we go into schools and talk about strong bodies, strong minds, strong souls and try to keep them focused on completing high school," Freakley added. "Our recruiters are getting into schools, serving as role models and counselors, setting standards and examples, so we're working on this in every way we can."

To put the matter in context, Freakley cited two famous war heroes. "Audie Murphy, World War II Medal of Honor awardee, and Alvin York, World War I Medal of Honor awardee, would not be eligible to come into today's Army," he said.

Maj. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commander of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, said the Army took in 170,000 men and women last year, which is about the size of the population of Newport News, Va.

So far in fiscal 2009, which began in October, the regular Army is at about 105 percent of goal, and the Army Reserve is at 112 percent of its goal, Bostick said.

"It's the best start we've had in about six years," he said. "I'm fully confident we'll accomplish the 78,000 mission for the regular Army and 26,500 mission for the Army Reserves."

Bostick said recruiting has gone especially well in the medical and Special Forces areas, adding that in 2008 a medical recruiting brigade consisting of five medical battalions scattered throughout the country was stood up. He also said the Army has achieved 100 percent success with Special Forces recruiting and created a special missions brigade. Recruitment of chaplains and warrant officers also has been high.

While the poor economy has created hardships on soldiers as it has every American, Bostick said, historically, as unemployment rises, the Army tends to see improvement in some areas of recruiting. Yet, "less than three out of 10 young men and women are qualified to serve, so we still must deal with that, whether it's education, obesity or misconduct as they were growing up."

Even so, he said, the quality of the U.S. soldier has never been better.

"Everyone who serves in the Army is fully qualified to serve. One hundred percent of our soldiers have high school diplomas or GEDs," Bostick said. "The aptitude of our soldiers is higher than the average American walking the streets throughout the cities and towns across America, and eight of 10 soldiers require no waivers."

The general added that the Army has what he considers a very sound process that looks at young Americans and makes the determination that if they made a mistake in their lives and recovered from it, they deserve an opportunity to serve.

For potential recruits who've made more serious mistakes, Bostick said, the applicants go through a 10-level decision process ending with him or another general officer who makes the final determination on suitability, whether the waiver is for medical or character reasons.

Maj. Gen. Arthur M. Bartell, who is charged with recruiting officers as commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command, said the Army was on track to meet its mission of commissioning 4,500 officers for fiscal 2009. For fiscal 2010, that number will increase to 5,100, and in fiscal 2011, officer growth will top out at 5,350.

"More than 60 percent of our lieutenants come through the ROTC program," he said. "In a word, what makes the ROTC experience special is diversity – that's geographic, educational, gender and ethnic diversity. Diversity exposes young Americans to a community of ideas that we find in our traditional college campus environment."

Characteristics of athleticism, high mental aptitude and leadership are characteristics the Army wants its future officers to possess, he said, adding that ROTC is present at 273 colleges and universities and represented in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Bartell said the Army hasn't had to change its standards of quality for new officers, nor does he see that changing in the future, despite recruiting challenges.

(J.D. Leipold works at Army News Service.)

Arkansas Guard Supplies Generators to Ice-stricken School District

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

Feb. 12, 2009 - Generators from the Arkansas Air National Guard have enabled the school district here to resume classes after an 11-day break. Classes were cancelled after an ice storm swept through northeastern Arkansas Jan. 26. About 500,000 state residents lost power as a result.

Arkansas Guard officials said 13 generators were brought in Feb. 9 from the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith, on the other side of the state, and hooked up later that day.

The generators were accompanied by 15 unit members, and were set up at both the high school and elementary school campuses.

"These guys came in and did a professional job, and we appreciate them so much," Ed Winberry, the school superintendent, told the Piggott Times. "They left two technicians with us to keep things running smoothly."

He added that only 31 students were absent from classes in an area where power has not returned for many residents.

"Do what you need to do. We'll have school, and if you can't get them here, we understand," Winberry told the parents of absent students.

In addition to power generation, about 150 Arkansas Guard members remain on state active duty to distribute blankets and cots and provide shelter, shower and laundry facilities.

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