Thursday, February 19, 2009

Senior Leaders Salute Milestone Trident Submarine Patrol

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 19, 2009 - The Navy's top leaders and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were among senior officials who paid tribute to the crew of the USS Wyoming Trident strategic missile submarine during a ceremony here today. The USS Wyoming finished its 38th patrol on Feb. 11, marking the 1000th completed patrol of a Trident submarine since the first, the USS Ohio, embarked on its initial patrol in October 1982.

The Wyoming was commissioned in July 1996 and began its first patrol in August 1997.

Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter said he was honored to participate in the commemoration of the 1000th Trident patrol, noting the occasion "is a great day for our Navy and our nation." U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston from Georgia also attended the ceremony.

Tridents are nuclear-powered, Ohio-class submarines. At 560 feet long and 42 feet wide, Tridents are the largest submarines in the U.S. Navy's inventory.

The 14 nuclear-missile carrying Trident submarines based at King's Bay and other Navy ports provide more than half of America's strategic deterrent capability, King's Bay officials said.

Although the world has experienced many conflicts since the end of World War II in 1945, Winter said, America's strategic deterrent "has ensured that none of them became major wars."

The Navy's Trident force "forms a credible deterrent" to prevent major conflict and promote peace, Winter said, "because it provides high measures of reliability, availability and survivability."

Trident submariners "support a noble mission" and "should be proud" of their efforts, Winter said.

The Trident submarines and the sailors that crew them provide "the most capable and most credible deterrent that this nation has to offer," said Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Cartwright also praised the home-front efforts of the spouses of Trident submariners, as well as the spouses of all servicemembers.

"Without them, we could not do our job," Cartwright said of military spouses' contributions. "They deserve our eternal gratefulness as a nation."

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead arrived at King's Bay after visiting with other Trident submariners and families based at the Navy installation in Bangor, Wash.

The Trident force can trace its legacy to the Polaris nuclear missile submarine program developed in the late 1950s to counter the Soviet nuclear threat, Roughead said.

"What we needed was a credible deterrent, a stealthy deterrent; a deterrent that could survive any attack, regardless of what was thrown at us and one that would not be defeated," Cartwright said of the U.S. decision to introduce the Polaris submarines.

The world changed greatly in the intervening years, Cartwright said. Yet, "the one thing that hasn't changed, and the one thing we continue to need," he said, "is that strong, stealthy, formidable, confident deterrent" that Trident submarine patrols provide.

Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, hailed the achievement of the 1000th Trident patrol as a "day in the spotlight" for the Navy's Trident submariners.

Some people, Chilton said, thought the Trident mission would end with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

However, the world continues to be a dangerous place, Chilton said, noting that the missions of the Tridents and other submarines "are as equally important today, as they ever were during the height of the Cold War."

Meanwhile, "the true strength of the ballistic-missile submarine lies in the extremely talented and motivated sailors who have voluntarily chosen to serve in the submarine community," said Navy Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, commander of the U.S. Atlantic submarine fleet.

Navy Rear Adm. Timothy M. Giardina, commander of Submarine Group Trident, observed that the completion of the 1,000th Trident patrol also marks the completion of the 3,839th strategic deterrent submarine patrol stretching back to the era of the Polaris-missile submarine.

Giardina asked audience members "to keep in mind all submariners who are at sea and deployed around the world on strategic patrol."

A Trident's crew consists of about 160 officers and enlisted sailors. The original ballistic missile versions, such as the Wyoming, are nicknamed "Boomers," and they feature the designator SSBN. The Boomers are capable of carrying as many as 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear missiles. The vessel also carries Mark-48 torpedoes.

Trident submarines have two crews, called Blue and Gold, which rotate patrols. One crew is at sea for 60 to 90 days, while the other trains ashore. In this way, the vessels can be employed at sea 70 percent of the time, when not undergoing scheduled maintenance in port.

The Blue crew was aboard the Wyoming when it notched the 1,000th Trident patrol.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew F. Tammen, 22, and Navy Seaman Apprentice Sir Joseph Moses, 21, were among the Wyoming's Blue crew members who attended the ceremony.

Tammen, a four-year Navy veteran who hails from Braidwood, Ill., said he was pleased that his vessel goes into the record books as having completed the 1000th Trident patrol.

"We've had pretty high standards," Tammen said of duty aboard the Wyoming. "So, it's pretty good to be recognized for working really hard."

"I'm really proud of our guys," said Moses, who is from Florence, S.C., and has been in the Navy about a year. Moses volunteered for submarine duty "to do something different," he said.

The U.S. government agreed to reduce the number of its strategic-missile submarines as part of the 1992 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Consequently, four of the Navy's 18 Trident submarines were modified to exchange their nuclear missiles for Tomahawk guided cruise missiles. These vessels carry the designator SSGN. The first Trident ballistic-missile submarine, the USS Ohio, was commissioned in 1981. In 2006, the Ohio was converted into a guided-missile submarine.

Naval Submarine Base King's Bay was established in 1980, replacing a closed U.S. ballistic submarine facility that had been based in Rota, Spain. In 1989, USS Tennessee was the first Trident submarine to arrive at the facility. Another Trident training facility is based in Bangor, Wash.

'Military Saves Week' to Help Troops Cross Financial Hurdles

By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 19, 2009 - U.S. military members are affected by the global economic downturn, and the Defense Department is providing information and services to help troops and their families develop "good financial stewardship," a senior Pentagon official said today. The Defense Department recognizes Feb. 22 through March 1 as 'Military Saves Week.' It's an opportunity for military members to learn about initiatives and resources to prevent or overcome financial obstacles, said Arthur Myers, acting deputy defense undersecretary for military community and family policy.

Fun runs, contests, financial fairs and other activities are scheduled at most military installations to promote the campaign. Keynote financial speakers are scheduled at several installations, as well.

The military campaign is in its third year and is part of a nationwide effort to raise savings awareness and reduce the stressors related to poor financial habits. Military Saves promotes building savings and protecting credit to attain financial stability, Myers said.

"A person in the military may not make a lot of money, but they can try to save $25 a month," Myers said, noting that even that amount saved can make a positive difference. "We want to build wealth, not debt."

Although the campaign occurs once a year, financial assistance, services and information are available to military members year-round. Financial workshops through the local family support centers are available for one-on-one discussions, he said.

Also, Myers and his team offer 'road shows' that send financial experts to military installations. Financial experts can be found online, as well, through Military OneSource.

"[Financial services] are really working out, and we really find that our military personnel and their families are starting to get in tune to saving," he said. "I believe with the financial downturn, people are becoming more aware of the financial realities they face."

Through the road shows and support centers, Myers said, the department has found more troops than ever are taking advantage of military services, such as the Thrift Savings Plan, education assistance, shopping at commissaries and using Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs for entertainment and recreation activities.

"Our military personnel and their families have suffered in this downturn," Myers said. "But what we're seeing is military personnel and their families are taking more advantages of the services we already have."

In many cases, even with the various outlets the military offers for troops to save, servicemembers still face some of the same issues as the civilian community, he said. Military homeowners have found themselves going into debt or losing thousands of dollars on their homes when they change duty stations.

Servicemembers don't have to worry about job security amidst the financial crisis, but avoiding foreclosure and dives in the housing market can be more difficult for the military. They "can't wait out" the market like civilians can, Myers explained.

Mortgage experts are available to educate military families on homeowner issues and the impact mortgage disclosures have on credit ratings, he said.

Financial readiness equates to force readiness, Myers stressed. And with the armed forces engaged in two wars and various other interests throughout the world, the Pentagon can't afford for its troops to lose their focus, he said.

The department recognized the importance of financial readiness of its military members long before the current economic crisis, Myers said. As more military personnel become aware of financial requirements and programs available to them, they'll be better stewards of their money, he said.

"Hopefully, one day, we'll be out of business, because everyone will be financially responsible," he said.

MILITARY CONTRACTS February 19, 2009


BAE Systems Land & Armaments L.P., York, Pa., is being awarded a $22,278,348 cost plus fixed fee contract for technical, engineering and management support (TEAMS) services in support of the Assault Amphibious Vehicle family of vehicles. This contract contains options, which if exercised, will bring the contract value to $41,623,445. Work will be performed in Quantico, Va., (52.07 percent), Santa Clara, Calif., (21.1 percent); Sterling Heights, Mich., (13.03 percent); Albany, Ga., (8.21 percent); and Ladysmith, Va., (5.59 percent), and and work is expected to be completed Feb. 18, 2010, (Aug. 2014 with options). Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This is awarded on a sole source basis. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-09-C-6006).

National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., San Diego, Calif., is being awarded an $8,099,383 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-4402) for the repair and alteration for the Non-Docking Scheduled Availability of the USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52). The contractor will furnish the material, support (electrical, crane, and rigging), and facilities necessary for the maintenance and modernization of the LSD/LPD class ships. This availability includes inspection and preservation of the Potable Water Tank, repair of the Ballast Tanks, and the 5-year strength and integrity inspection of the Auxiliary Boiler No. 2. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be completed by Apr. 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $7,556,652 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Southwest Regional Maintenance Center, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity.

Terex Corp., Stafford, Va., is being awarded a $7,170,746 firm fixed price delivery order # 0016 under previously awarded contract (M67854-05-D-5145) for 11 cranes and associated items. Work will be performed in Zweibrucken, Germany, and work is expected to be completed by Jun. 2010. Contract funds will not expire by the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors, Manassas, Va., is being awarded a $7,151,431 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-06-6243) to exercise an option for engineering services in support of Virginia-class Combat Control 3-Bay Structurally Integrated Enclosure production. Work will be performed in Manassas, Va., (90 percent) and Syracuse, N.Y., (10 percent), and is expected to be completed by Apr. 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity.


Hardaway Construction Corp., Nashville, Tenn., was awarded on Feb. 17, 2009, a $15,613,400 firm fixed price construction contract for construction of the Gardner Hills Elementary School at Fort Campbell, Ky. Estimated completion date is Apr. 30, 2010. Bids were solicited on FedBizOpps with nine bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District, Louisville, Ky., is the contracting activity (W912QR-09-C-0013).

Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., Hurst, Texas, was awarded on Feb. 18, 2009, a $7,030,290 commercial firm fixed price contract awarded on urgency for three (3) Bell 407 Standard Configuration Helicopters. Work is to be performed at Hurst, Texas, with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2009. Bids were solicited using sole source with one bid received. U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-09-C-0018).

National Guard Gears Up for 2009 Hurricane Season

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 19, 2009 - "One team, one fight" is the mantra for local, state and federal leaders preparing for a 2009 hurricane season that forecasters say could include nine major storms. "If that forecast is even close to being accurate, the timing of this [workshop] is vital to us being ready," Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said today at a hurricane planning workshop here. "The American public expects this team to pull together to do the job right."

For the first time, the Guard workshop was co-sponsored by U.S. Northern Command and attended by key leaders from partner agencies.

National Guard leaders from 11 hurricane-prone states have met annually for several years to coordinate plans and exchange ideas for the upcoming storm season. This year was the first time they were joined by so many federal and state partners -- a team drawn from 27 states, five major commands, three territories and the District of Columbia.

"This is an historic event," said Army Maj. Gen. Stanhope Spears, the adjutant general of the South Carolina National Guard, which hosted the workshop.

Air Force Gen. Victor E. "Gene" Renuart Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, and Bob Powers, acting assistant administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster operations, attended the workshop, as did leaders from U.S. Army North, 1st Air Force, the Department of Homeland Security and other military and federal agencies that would team up in the aftermath of a storm.

"This is the first of what I think will be many, in the future, joint hurricane planning workshops," Renuart said. "It gives us an opportunity to pull together the National Guard Bureau and U.S. Northern Command as we prepare. It gives us a chance to pull together not only the [Defense Department], but the civilian responders."

The hurricane workshop came just three weeks after the latest batch of National Guard leaders graduated from a Joint Task Force Commander Course taught at Northcom headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., to prepare for a unified response to just such a domestic crisis as a major hurricane.

"For us to work jointly to achieve the desired results of being prepared to assist the citizens of the United States -- in this case with natural disasters -- that's what we're being paid to do," McKinley said.

Joint local and regional planning conferences have been held in the past, Renuart said, but Hurricane Katrina changed the paradigm when it struck in 2005.

"We learned after Katrina that the only way to ensure that you don't repeat those lessons is to pull together all of the players and to pre-plan the kinds of responses that'll be necessary," Renuart said. "Clearly, the governors, the state emergency managers, the adjutants general will have the lead, ... but bringing in the federal partners ... allows us to integrate our efforts ahead of time so that the response can be more effective and certainly more timely."

"You don't want to exchange business cards at the scene of a disaster," McKinley added. "You want to know your counterparts well before that disaster so you have the connectedness to work the interagency process that is vital to a successful operation."

This South Carolina barrier island, which hosts more than 2.4 million visitors each year, is on the front lines among almost a dozen states prone to the potentially deadly and damaging storms.

Hurricane planners meeting here this week wore Army and Air National Guard, and active Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force and Coast Guard uniforms. But they said Hilton Head's residents do not care how responders are dressed or what agency they are from -- they just want an efficient, unified response to save lives and property after a storm.

Workshop attendees strengthened existing relationships, discussed force package planning for supported and supporting states, and heard about existing hurricane response capabilities and gaps to be fixed.

Enlisted leaders and adjutants general broke off to discuss preparedness at all levels of the chain of command.

All incidents are local, planners said, meaning it all starts with a 911 call to a local agency, and local responders are the first in the breach.

In the event of a major hurricane, that response is quickly supplemented with additional state and federal resources, such as 460,000-strong National Guard and Northcom personnel working in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Defense Department assists FEMA and other federal agencies when requested and approved by the president or the secretary of defense.

"FEMA is a small agency," Powers said. "We do not go in and provide direct FEMA support for most of the things that we do. Most of the work that the federal government provides comes from across all federal agencies. The Department of Defense and the National Guard Bureau are two very, very key players."

One team, one fight means, in part, a timely and efficient response when needed, Powers said.

"This is a large step in our maturation process," Powers said. "It's the first time that we've brought together such a large group from across the National Guard, from across the Northcom resources."

No other organization has the National Guard's combination of size, skills, training and experience, dispersion across states, command and communications infrastructure, and the legal flexibility to support civil authorities at a moment's notice, officials said.

The National Guard is the nation's first military responder, working with state emergency management divisions, emergency operations centers and civilian agencies and authorities to respond to natural disasters and other major incidents as required in accordance with each state's emergency response plan.

But the National Guard also is not a panacea, and Northcom and other agencies supply additional capabilities and capacity. Northcom, for example, can draw upon thousands of active-duty military forces from throughout the nation.

"Each have unique capabilities," Renuart said, "but some of the ... tools that Northcom brings would be in the areas, for example, of pre-incident aeromedical evacuation, ... post-incident airlift support, of added search and rescue capabilities, of incident-assessment capabilities."

When a state and the emergency management assistance compact have exceeded their capacity, the Defense Department can be helpful, Renuart said.

After an interstate highway bridge collapsed in Minnesota last year, Defense Department salvage divers responded. "That capability only exists in one place," Renuart said.

Each state has unique capabilities and needs, Renuart noted, and it's important to know what those are ahead of a disaster.

After Hurricane Katrina, the National Guard sent about 50,000 citizen-soldiers and -airmen from every state and territory to Louisiana and Mississippi.

Today, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact between states is a key tool enabling the Guard to deploy and respond as needed from anywhere in the nation to anywhere in need, officials said.

Although the workshop focused on hurricanes, much of the discussion also applied to other incidents such as earthquakes, wildfires or terrorism, planners said.

"The customer is our families, our communities, our homes," Renuart said. "It is no-fail. Trust me, my mom will call me if her house is being threatened and we're not out there to help. There is no more important mission than responding when Mother Nature whips up on us."

(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill serves in the National Guard Bureau.)

Ballistic Missile Defense Efforts Tied to Iran, Gates Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 19, 2009 - A NATO ballistic missile defense system wouldn't be needed if Iran didn't pose a threat, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today. "We continue to be very concerned about the Iranian missile threat, particularly as they continue to work on what we believe are weapons of mass destruction," Gates told reporters following the beginning of the NATO defense ministers meeting here.

NATO has agreed to a ballistic missile defense that would protect against a launch from Iran. The Czech Republic will host a radar for the system, with the missiles based in Poland.

Russia adamantly has opposed the system.

"I told the Russians a year ago that if there were no Iranian missile program, there would be no need for the missile sites," Gates said.

The Iranian launch of a low-Earth-orbit satellite Feb. 2 shows the nation is building up its capability to launch payloads farther and more accurately.

"The fact is that with the economic crisis, Afghanistan and Iraq, the administration has not yet reviewed where it is on a whole range of issues, including relationships with our allies, the missile defense program and our relationship with Russia," the secretary said. "These things are all tied together, including Iran."

The secretary said he hopes that with a new administration, the prospects for cooperation from Russia will improve.

"We will continue to move forward," Gates said. "We also are very interested in continuing to persuade the Russians to partner with us in this endeavor."

U.S., Poland Sign Special Ops Memo of Understanding

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 19, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich signed a memorandum of understanding today that will increase cooperation between the two countries' special operations forces. The two men signed the document during a ceremony before the start of the NATO defense ministers meeting here.

Gates said the memorandum is part of the U.S.-Polish partnership to help to modernize the Polish military. U.S. and Polish special operations forces already have a close working relationship, and this memorandum builds on a declaration of strategic cooperation that the United States and Poland signed in August, officials said. That commitment was to help the Polish military with modernizing and professionalizing its force.

The memorandum "underscores the growing cooperation between U.S. and Polish special operations forces," Gates said during the signing ceremony. "We will expand and deepen our cooperation and deepen our opportunities to work together toward common goals."

The Polish special operations command is expanding, and Gates vowed the United States military "will help in any way we can." Part of the agreement assigns an American special operations liaison officer to the Polish headquarters.

Poland's special operations force is as a separate service in the country's military structure. The force has about 1,500 personnel, and Poland hopes to grow the capability to 3,500 by 2012.

"Poland has a unique special operations capability, and they work very well with us," an American officer said, speaking on background. The force has five squadrons today and will grow to nine, said the officer.

The American liaison will help the force grow and share experiences and advice with the Polish force from U.S. Special Operations Command, based in Tampa, Fla.

U.S. Special Operations Command has partnerships with five countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Poland and Jordan. Only Poland has an official memorandum of understanding.

Polish special operations forces have worked alongside U.S. personnel since the fall of the Warsaw Pact. Polish troops have helped in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq, and now are in Afghanistan with a presence of roughly 1,600 military personnel, including 100 special operations soldiers. They are concentrated in Ghazni and work under direction from Combined Joint Task Force 101 in Regional Command East.

The memorandum signed today is aimed specifically at helping the Polish force stand up a senior staff headquarters, building English-speaking capabilities and enhancing training opportunities, officials said.

U.S. Army Col. Bogdan Gieniewski is the U.S. Special Operations Command liaison. He speaks Polish and works daily with Polish leaders to set up the command, and he sponsors education and training with U.S. forces for the Polish special operators.

"This is a very professional force that brings everything to the operation," he said. In addition to combat troops, the Polish force has its own air assets and logistics support. The Polish forces can get to the fight and sustain themselves, he added.

Chairman Checks Out Nuclear Mission at North Dakota Base

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 19, 2009 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff noted the progress Air Force officials have made in the service's nuclear weapons program during a visit here yesterday. In a town-hall meeting with Minot airmen, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said he came to see for himself the improvements the Air Force has made in its nuclear program in the wake of incidents that led to the resignations of the Air Force's top civilian and military officials.

One of the incidents involved a bomber flying from here to Barksdale Air Force Base, La., while mistakenly armed with nuclear missiles.

"We've had significant challenges in the nuclear enterprise," Mullen said, noting the high priority officials have placed on straightening out problems. "A lot of progress has been made, but we're not there yet," he added.

Mullen's trip to the home of the 91st Missile Wing and its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles came just two months after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited the base to learn more about the nuclear program. The chairman said that although he'd come to check out progress in the nuclear mission, the chance to visit with the base's airmen was the most important part of his visit.

"You are really why I came here," he said. "You are part of the best military this [country] has ever fielded."

The admiral also offered his thanks to military spouses for their support and sacrifices, and he cited possible instability related to the world financial crisis as a factor that poses important challenges in the months and years ahead.

The financial crisis will create instability not only in places officials easily can anticipate, Mullen said, but also in other places where the potential for instability isn't as easily predictable. "I'm extremely concerned about this," he said.

As they play their part in helping the U.S. military meet the challenges that lie ahead, Mullen told the airmen, they must keep in mind that being good leaders is part of their responsibility.

"Everybody is a leader," he said. "I would ask that you ... figure how to mentor someone who's coming up behind you, and then get out of their way and see how [great they can be.]"

King's Bay Training Facility Prepares Trident Submariners

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 19, 2009 - The officers and enlisted members who serve aboard the U.S. Navy's Trident strategic missile and guided-missile submarines are elite sailors requiring specialized training and skills. Fresh-faced sailors just out of basic submarine school at Groton, Conn., as well as "old salts" who've notched several Trident patrols are taught and re-taught those skills at the Trident training facility here, said Navy Chief Petty Officer Mark Rector, a spokesman for the facility.

Tridents are nuclear-powered, Ohio-class submarines, Rector said. At 560 feet long and 42 feet wide, Tridents are the largest submarines in the U.S. Navy's inventory.

The $1.2 billion training facility here was opened in 1987. At more than a half-million square feet, Rector said, it is the second-largest building in the Defense Department, after the Pentagon.

"We have everything here, from a 'virtual' nuclear-reactor control room ... all the way up to simulated missile tubes, where we can simulate the launching of missiles," Rector said.

The King's Bay facility also teaches sailors how to drive, or pilot, Trident submarines, Rector said, as well as how to extinguish shipboard fires and control flooding. The facility's equipment, he said, is "identical to what they would use aboard their submarine."

The duration of courses offered at King's Bay ranges from a few hours to up to two years for the assistant navigator's course, Rector said.

Trident submarines have two crews, called Blue and Gold, which rotate patrols. One crew is at sea for 60 to 90 days, while the other trains ashore. In this way, the vessels can be employed at sea 70 percent of the time, when not undergoing scheduled maintenance in port, Rector explained.

Trident sailors returning from sea duty take refresher training that's used to re-certify their skills before they embark on their next patrol, Rector said.

At the end of their re-certification training, the sailors "are 100-percent ready to take that submarine at sea, at 100-percent operational capability," Rector said. Attention to detail "is everything" in the Navy's submarine fleet, he added.

"If you make a mistake while out to sea, you risk killing a shipmate or losing your submarine," Rector explained. "None of those [possibilities] are acceptable; we have to make sure that we do not make mistakes."

A Trident's crew consists of about 160 officers and enlisted sailors. The original ballistic missile versions are nicknamed "Boomers," and they feature the designator SSBN. The Boomers are capable of carrying as many as 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear missiles. The vessel also carries Mark-48 torpedoes.

Inside the training facility's bridge operations room, Navy Lt. j.g. Walter McDuffie, the assistant operations officer assigned to the Trident ballistic-missile submarine USS Maryland's "Blue" crew, used a computerized training program to "direct" his surfaced submarine. The bridge is the outside observation post located atop a submarine's uppermost structure, called the sail.

Some training, Rector noted, can be performed only at sea.

Meanwhile, with his virtual glasses in place, McDuffie "watched" his submarine cruising along the water's surface and communicated his observations to shipmates in the control room below.

The computerized training program, McDuffie said, provides "a great experience, without the actual consequences that could happen out in the real world."

The U.S. government agreed to reduce the number of its strategic-missile submarines as part of the 1992 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Consequently, four of the Navy's 18 Trident submarines were modified to exchange their nuclear missiles for Tomahawk guided cruise missiles. These vessels carry the designator SSGN. The first Trident ballistic-missile submarine, the USS Ohio, was commissioned in 1981. In 2006, the Ohio was converted into a guided-missile submarine.

Naval Submarine Base King's Bay was established in 1980, replacing a closed U.S. ballistic submarine facility that had been based in Rota, Spain. In 1989, USS Tennessee was the first Trident submarine to arrive at the facility. Another, smaller, Trident training facility that serves submariners based on the West Coast is located at Bangor, Wash.

The U.S. Navy has not lost a submarine since the Atlantic Ocean sinking of the USS Scorpion in 1968, Rector said.

"That is due to the training programs that we now have in place," Rector said.

'Adopt a U.S. Soldier' Links Volunteers With Deployed Troops

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 19, 2009 - A Colorado-based group is connecting deployed troops with volunteers eager to "adopt" them. Since its inception four years ago, "Adopt a U.S. Soldier" has connected more than 100,000 servicemembers to 265,000 supportive Americans who have sent them regular care packages, wrote letters and, on occasion, run errands for family members.

"It's been such a privilege to work with this organization and see it grow to what it is today," Ann Johnson, the group's founder and chief executive officer, said. "We are committed to our soldiers. We love them. We will continue to do this work for them and their families."

Johnson started the group when her son, Paul, was stationed in Iraq. She asked her friends if they would help to support his unit. They agreed and sent nearly $3,000 of care-package items. Johnson extended her support to other deployed troops, and the program began.

Jacob Poehls,8, and his mother, Nora Hall -- both group volunteers -- were featured recently on the NBC Today Show, along with their adopted servicemember, Marine Corps Sgt. Balthazar Pineda.

Hall said it was a privilege for her son, who has a learning disability, to have a Marine pen pal. The experience has given him confidence as well as a reason to work on his reading and writing skills, she said.

Beth Ann Alitt, of Encinitas, Calif., who also has adopted several soldiers over the years, said she feels as if she is now an official "Army mom."

"Since I've started, I've met so many soldiers and their families," she said. "You adopt one. He returns home. Then you adopt another and another. You send care packages. You e-mail. You do things with their kids; you just instantly become a part of their family."

Satin Modesitt of Vero Beach, Fla., said the program establishes a lasting connection to the soldier.

"It is so rewarding when your soldier comes home," Modesitt said. "You are just so relieved. You just feel like it is your son, brother, daughter or sister. This has just been an amazing thing for my family. We have grown, along with the military families we've touched."

To join the group, volunteers can register online at the Adopt a U.S. Soldier Web site.

"We try to make the process as easy as possible," Johnson said. "The great thing about this is you can adopt more than one soldier, and many soldiers are adopted by others so you can share in your commitment."