Military News

Monday, April 13, 2009

On the Ground: U.S. Forces Add Farm Supplies to Iraqi Aid Missions

American Forces Press Service

April 13, 2009 - As the planting season gets under way in Iraq, U.S. forces there are adding agriculture supplies to regular humanitarian outreach efforts they conduct with Iraqi forces. The Task Force Bucca civil affairs team presented agricultural equipment April 11 to members of the Umm Qasr and Safwan farmers associations and town councils at Camp Bucca.

The forces presented six water trucks and eight tractors to Majid Talib Muzam, Umm Qasr Town Council president, and Munadhel Shanin Manahe, Safwan Town Council president, who accepted them on the towns' behalf. The project is part of a $2.34 million investment coalition forces made to assist the community's economy, which also included recent renovations to the Safwan Agricultural Center and the donation of seeds, generators, greenhouse kits and plastic sheathing.

Agriculture is Iraq's largest employer, and is the second-largest contributor to the country's economy, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development. As such, agricultural aid is "an effective engine for promoting stability through private sector development, poverty reduction and food security," said Army Col. David P. Glaser, commander of the 42nd Military Police Brigade and Task Force Bucca.

"For a long period, the agricultural sector has suffered the challenges of crop production being threatened by the shortage and saltiness of water and old agricultural machines," Majid said. "The borders need exceptional care and support and security protection to enable them to stand on their own again. We are celebrating in this occasion to thank all the hands who participated for their generous support."

Safwan and Umm Qasr each received three water trucks and four tractors. Each truck holds 4,000 gallons of water and will be used to distribute water to local farms to irrigate crops and strengthen the town's farming industry, official said.

The project will promote the legitimacy of the Iraqi government by working with coalition forces to provide a vital service to local communities, said Army Sgt. 1st Class John M. Miller of the 42nd Military Police Brigade, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Task Force Bucca civil affairs Team. The local economy will benefit from long-term jobs, business center development, agriculture initiatives and civic clean-up activities, he said.

"The three water trucks and four tractors each town will receive will contribute to the continued revival of agriculture that is critical to the sustained stability and security in Safwan and Umm Qasr," Glaser said.

Camp Bucca is a forward operating base along the Kuwaiti border near the port city of Umm Qasr, Iraq's southernmost city.

In other humanitarian missions, Iraqi soldiers, supported by Military Transition Team 336, delivered toys, school supplies, backpacks, a freezer and a message to the girls, ages 6 to 12, at Al Bestor School in Hariwab on April 2.

The message included lessons on looking both ways before crossing a street, time management and organization skills. These messages are the same ones American children receive, but Iraqi Maj. Abudil Hussein Kareem, a brigade commander, said it's important for Iraqi children to heed these guidelines as well.

"We went to the school because we cannot talk to all the adults, because they are past the phase of learning," he said. "We went to the school because the children work and build the future. We know they respond, because they are children and they are going to follow what we say. They will follow us."

"This was geared to educate the children of the dangers of running out in the road when convoys are present," Army Maj. Jon K. Thiessen, MiTT 336 operations officer, said. "Our vehicles are much heavier than normal road traffic and are unable to swerve rapidly. Anything we can do to lessen the risk of children getting into the roadway is a noble endeavor."

The Iraqi army donated the freezer to the teachers and the school supplies and toys -- stuffed bears and soccer balls -- were donated by U.S. citizens and aid groups and given to children.

"The Iraqis are trying to do so much with so little, and we are just trying to assist," Army Maj. Thomas Acklen, MiTT 336 executive officer, said. "The children are the next generation of Iraq. They are the ones that will make Iraq for Iraqis. This occasion was planned to help boost relationships between the youth of Iraq and their security forces."

Kareem said missions like this are important because they demonstrate to the Iraqi people that the army is not to be feared now as it was under Saddam Hussein's rule.

"I think when we visited the school today we showed them something - we showed the students we are friendly and we want to help them and we want to help their country," he said. "It helps the relationship between the army, the Iraqi government and the students. The students will grow up one day and know the army helped their country, their people and their future."

The American forces saw, firsthand, the impact of the aid mission.

"Any questions on how this operation was going and its value were answered by the smile of a little girl holding up a soccer ball," Acklen said. "If we can make a positive change in one child, then our job here is successful."

U.S. forces also held a humanitarian operation in northern Iraq's Baraia neighborhood near Samarra on March 31, providing basic necessities and plastic sheeting to help farmers.

Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division's 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, delivered several cases of Halal meals to families in the neighborhood.

"Baraia is an extremely impoverished area of Samarra, and local residents are not used to receiving humanitarian aid from government or coalition forces," Army 1st. Lt. Daniel Flynn, platoon leader, said. "The last time most of these folks saw people in uniform, they were kicking down doors and arresting people."

The local residents appeared cautious at first, but quickly warmed up to the soldiers when it became apparent they were there to help.

In addition to food and water, U.S. and Iraqi forces delivered several large rolls of plastic to help with cultivating crops. "It is difficult to grow here sometimes," said Abdul Hassani, a local farmer. "This will help us very much. We are very grateful."

The Baraia community is home to two small shops, a makeshift soccer field and several acres of farmland. Residents do not have access to clean drinking water, and draw their water directly from the Tigris River.

The nearby village of Rega, where a water treatment facility recently opened, has pledged to provide assistance to neighboring villages, including Baraia.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq, Multinational Division North and Multinational Division South news releases.)

Obama Commends Military, Other Agencies for Maersk-Alabama Captain Rescue

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

April 13, 2009 - President Barack Obama today praised the U.S. military for the Navy's successful efforts over the weekend to rescue the kidnapped captain of the Maersk-Alabama cargo ship from Somali pirates. "I am very proud of the efforts of the U.S. military and the many other departments and agencies that worked tirelessly to resolve this situation," Obama said during a visit to the Transportation Department here.

Capt. Richard Phillips was rescued by Navy SEALS aboard the USS Bainbridge yesterday after being held hostage for a reported $2 million ransom in a lifeboat about 18 miles from the Somali coast for five days. SEAL snipers shot and killed the three pirates holding Phillips captive.

Phillips and his 20-member crew were about 300 miles from the coast, when the pirates engaged. He offered himself to the pirates as a hostage to deter aggression toward his ship and crew, who eventually regained control of the ship.

"I share our nation's admiration for Captain Phillips' courage and leadership and selfless concern for his crew," the president said. "His safety has been our principal concern. And I know [the rescue] came as a welcome relief to his family and his crew."

Obama said the United States is "resolved to halt the rise of piracy" off the Somali coast and in the Gulf of Aden, where pirates have become more defiant and regular in their attacks against unarmed vessels.

"We're going to have to continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks," he said. "We have to continue to be prepared to confront them when they arise. And we have to ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes."

Piracy is a growing concern for the United States and internationally, but the issue may worsen without a solid solution, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters here today.

"If that last couple of days have taught us anything, it reinforces the fact that [piracy] is a complicated and international problem that needs to be addressed broadly," Whitman said. "I am fairly certain in the days ahead that this will be an issue that not only this department, but the government at large ... could be doing as a national [effort] and with other international organizations, and with allies in the region as well.

Whether it's humanitarian aide to Somalia or possible military training to Somalis, Whitman said, there's no shortage in ways and means the United States and international partners could approach the piracy issue and Somalia's lack of a legitimate government. The pure size of the region presents difficulties, he added.

"Clearly, it's a big challenge when you're talking about a coastline and body of water as large as it is, and you're dealing with a country that is largely ungoverned -- that certainly is a complicating situation," Whitman said.

"We'll just have to see in the days ahead," he added. "There are going to be a lot of smart people in this government that examine [the piracy issue] closely and see what else we might be able to do to prevent things like this from happening in the future, at least mitigate the number [of attacks] and seriousness."

Gates Says People Are His Top Budget Priority

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

April 13, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today that servicemembers and military families were his primary concern when formulating the fiscal 2010 defense budget recommendations. Speaking to a group of 30 students and faculty at the Marine Corps War College, Gates said he and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shared the same top priority.

"The chairman and I were in agreement that our first priority should be the people," Gates said. "If we didn't get the people part right, none of the rest of the decisions would matter."

The meeting here was the first stop on the defense secretary's round of visits this week to each of the military services' war colleges, where he is expected to discuss the strategy underlying his fiscal 2010 defense budget proposal.

Gates announced his recommendations last week, distributing the funds in accordance with what he characterized as the type of "complex hybrid" warfare he expects will be increasingly common. He allotted roughly half of his proposed budget for traditional, strategic and conventional conflict, about 40 percent for dual-purpose capabilities and the remaining 10 percent for irregular warfare.

In addition to the unique breakdown he outlined, the defense secretary's proposal seeks to move funding away from supplemental budgets and into the baseline budget. Gates said his suggestions were derived from his experience as defense secretary over the past two years.

"Everything that I found that needed to be done for the warfighter had to be done outside the base budget and outside the regular bureaucracy of the Pentagon," he said. "It seemed to me strange that the Department of Defense engaged in two wars, had to do all this stuff, in essence, off the cuff and not as part of a regular program."

Supplemental budgets accounted for the funding required to remedy problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; fielding more mine-resistant vehicles, or MRAPs; providing more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to warfighters; and countering threats from makeshift bombs. These additional, ad hoc, budgets also supported family programs, research and medical care for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, and other quality-of-life programs, Gates said.

"I couldn't understand why the building was so consumed with preparing for wars in the future and was so incapable of fighting the wars we were in," he said. "They were being funded in supplementals -- they weren't a part of the permanent budget of the Department of Defense. And so when supplementals went away, they would all be at risk."

Accordingly, Gates recommended the fiscal 2010 budget include $11 billion to increase the Army and Marine Corps end strength and to allow the Navy and Air Force to stop reducing the size of their ranks.

The other thrust of his proposed budget was institutionalizing the warfighters' needs by putting more funding in the baseline budgets of the individual services, Gates said.

The secretary recommended increasing funding for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for each service branch, a 5 percent increase in special operations forces, a $500 million increase for helicopter crews, maintenance, and other programs.

"People have said I'm too focused on the wars of today and too critical of those with 'next-war-itis,'" he said. "And what I tell them is I'm just trying to get the guys who are in the wars of today a seat at the table where the money is handed out."

Meanwhile, Gates said, the U.S. military needs to adopt a 21st-century outlook.

The days of World War II thinking and Cold War strategy have given way to an era of conflicts that blend conventional and irregular capabilities into a complex, hybrid warfare, Gates said. He cited Russia's use of special forces and cyber warfare before invading Georgia in August as an example. "They used all these aspects before their ground troops began moving into Georgia," he said.

Hezbollah also exemplified the concept through its ability to use makeshift explosives and launch small-scale terrorist attacks, all while possessing "more missiles than most countries," he said.

Gates' message to students and faculty members here was clear: "The service culture and mentality has to keep modernizing," he said.

"The Army can't keep thinking about how it's going to fight the Fulda Gap or Desert Storm all over again. The Marines have not had a major amphibious landing since 1950. The Navy keeps wanting to fight Midway again. And the Air Force just loves to fly with pilots in the cockpit," he said.

While no one is proposing a dramatic departure from the past -- such as completely abandoning manned aircraft -- the United States does need to think about how to combine its various means, Gates said.

"I think trying to figure out how you structure a military that provides you with the maximum flexibility for the broadest range of possibilities of conflict seems to me the challenge that faces the department and the services today," he said. "Because the kind of traditional conflicts we've experienced are, as the kids would say, 'So 20th-century.'

"And it's partly a matter of beginning to think about it, and beginning to budget for it," he added.


The Boeing Co., Seattle, Wash., is being awarded a $109,098,924 advance acquisition contract to procure long lead materials in support of P-8A low rate initial production (LRIP) I aircraft, and production line slots in support of P-8A LRIP II aircraft. Work will be performed in Seattle, Wash., (87 percent) and Baltimore, Md., (13 percent), and is expected to be completed in Dec. 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-09-C-0022).

The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a $45,433,000 ceiling-priced, undefinitized contract action to provide persistent Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) Unmanned Aircraft Vehicle (UAV) services in direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom land based efforts. Work will be performed in Bingen, Wash. (65 percent) and St. Louis, Mo. (35 percent), and is expected to be completed in Dec. 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $22,716,500 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-2. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-09-C-0050).

Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems, Portsmouth, R.I., is being awarded an $8,676,152 firm fixed price delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement to provide intermediate "I" level support equipment used for the AN/AQS-22 Airborne Low Frequency Sonar (ALFS), including reeling machine test benches, reeling machines and reel and cable assemblies. This equipment will support a variety of maintenance and testing tasks on the ALFS system aboard the MH-60R. Work will be performed in Johnstown, Pa., (90 percent) and Portsmouth, R.I., (10 percent), and is expected to be completed in January 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $3,000,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, N.J., is the contracting activity (N68335-07-G-0005).

Raytheon Co., Integrated Defense Systems, Tewksbury, Mass., is being awarded a $6,928,056 Task Order 0001 Phase 1A under a cost plus fixed fee, indefinite delivery indefinite quantity order contract for the preliminary design of a 100-kw class Free Electron Laser (FEL) device which can be used to demonstrate scalability of the necessary FEL physics and engineering for an eventual MW class Free Electron Laser device. The Office of Naval Research is the contracting activity (N00014-09-D-0353).

The Boeing Co.,. Directed Energy Systems, West Hills, Calif., is being awarded a $6,922,312 Task Order 0001 Phase 1A under a cost plus fixed fee, indefinite delivery indefinite, quantity order contract for the preliminary design of a 100-kw Class Free Electron Laser device which can be used to demonstrate scalability of the necessary FEL physics and engineering for an eventual MW class Free Electron Laser device. The Office of Naval Research is the contracting activity (N00014-09-D-0354).
General Dynamics, Electric Boat, Groton, Conn., is being awarded a $6,290,977 modification to previously awarded contract for Nuclear Regional Maintenance Department (NRMD) tasks in support of operational nuclear submarines. Work will be performed in New London, Conn., and is expected to be completed by June 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $6,290,977 will 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-4003).

HRL Laboratories, Malibu, Calif., was awarded on Apr. 9, 2009 a $ 40,204,842 cost plus fixed fee contract for research in quantum information science. Work is to be performed in Malibu, Calif., with an estimated completion date of April 11, 2011. Six bids were solicited and six bids received. Defense Advance Research Project Agency, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity (HR0011-06-C-0052).

L-3 Fuzing and Ordnance Systems, Cincinnati, Ohio, was awarded on Apr. 9, 2009 a $ 10,291,271 firm fixed price contract for the manufacture and production of M762A1 Electronic Team Fuze. Work is to be performed in Cincinnati, Ohio with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2013. Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web and one bid received. Joint Munitions & Lethality Contracting Center, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., is the contracting activity (W15QKN-09-C-0050).

Science, Engineering and Technology Associates Corp,. Arlington, Va., was awarded on Apr. 9, 2009 a $6,700,00 cost plus fixed fee contract for a "Real Time Regional Gateway Zones of Protection Workstation" The zone of protection program will develop, demonstrate, and deploy a ZOP workstation that tightly integrates robust models and simulation technologies with real-time intelligence and operational date. Work is to be performed in Arlington, Va., with an estimated completion date of Apr. 9, 2010. Bids were solicited by a broad agency announcement and four bids were received. Cecom Acquisition center, Fort Monmouth, N.J., is the contracting activity (W15P7T-09-C-P011).

Today the Air Force is awarding an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to Infoscitex Research, Development, & Commercialization, Dayton, Ohio for $12,730,000. This action will include an integrated contractor and government teaming arrangement to (a) define and accomplish specific research objectives; (b) provide scientific, technical, and program expertise to various research studies , e.g., developing test plans and protocols, conducting tests, performing data collection and analysis, writing test reports and research papers, networking databases and developing models; (c) procure subject to participate in human research papers; and (d) provided materials, equipment, and supplies to operate, modify, maintain, and develop specialized research facilities. At this time, $200,000 has been obligated. Det 1 AFRL/PKHB, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, (FA8650-09-D-6949, Task Order 0001).

Shamrock Foods Co., Commerce City, Colo., is being awarded a maximum $7,660,000 firm fixed price, indefinite quantity contract for full line food distribution. Other location of performance is in New Mexico. Using services are Army, Air Force and Marine Corps. There were originally six proposals solicited with six responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract is exercising the second of four one-year options. The date of performance completion is April 10, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM300-08-D-3220).

Sonar Provides "Window to the World" for Submariners, Captain Says

By John Ohab
Special to American Forces Press Service

April 13, 2009 - The Navy's ability to harness sonar technology has allowed submarines to navigate more safely in the dark depths of the ocean while also allowing other ships to locate and identify them, said a senior Navy submariner. "Sonar is our only window to the world," Navy Capt. Jeffrey Currer, head of the Navy's Undersea Surveillance Branch, said. He discussed the various uses of sonar during an April 8 "Armed with Science" webcast on Pentagon Web Radio.

The word "sonar" originated as an acronym for sound, navigation and ranging technology. Navy submarines most commonly use "passive sonar," which Currer described as "listening devices" that detect sound released by objects in the ocean. Passive sonar is used to identify and classify these objects within the complex acoustic underwater environment, which consists of a mixture of sound waves produced by ships, electric cables, seismic activity and marine animals.

"Those classifications are a lot like fingerprints ... in some cases, because everything makes a noise that's all its own," Currer said.

Active sonar technologies emit their own sound pulse, known as a "ping," and detect reflections of the pulse off nearby objects. Operators measure the distance of an object based on how long it takes for sound pulses to return. Ships use active sonar to determine bottom depth for safe navigation, to locate the submarines of adversaries, and to identify ocean-bottom mines.

Currer said the Navy primarily uses passive sonar, because it doesn't give away the position of the ship. Active sonar is used by vessels sparingly because it could give away their location to potential enemy submarines, he explained.

Sound movement through the ocean depends on the depth, pressure, salt content and temperature of the water, as well as impediments such as marine life and geological features. Navy operators spend several years in training to understand marine acoustics and learn how to use sonar technologies effectively.

"It takes about a year just to train a sonar man today to operate his gear," Currer said. "It takes another year beyond that to make him what we would call proficient where he can operate it effectively. And it takes another four years above to what we'd call the master."

Computer simulations and synthetic training play an important role in mastering sonar capabilities. However, Currer said, it is difficult to replicate the environment and the variability in the ocean.

"It's still incredibly important that we practice in the environment, because it keeps throwing us curveballs that you may not predict," Currer said. "Our ability to see the underwater environment is directly reflective of where we train."

Currer, a graduate of the Naval Academy and a submariner for 25 years, described a unique bond that exists between sailors and the ocean.

"We spend a lot of time and money to make sure that our effect on the ocean is minimal," he said. "We consider ourselves protectors of the world, and the world includes the environment."

(John Ohab holds a doctorate in neuroscience and works for the Defense Media Activity's Emerging Media directorate.)

Face of Defense: Guardsman Hopes to Make Difference in Africa

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kati Garcia
Special to American Forces Press Service

April 13, 2009 - For U.S. Africa Command's new deputy director of operations and logistics, the words "I can't do it" won't cut it. Not from his soldiers, not from the people he serves with, and certainly not from himself.

And this Army National Guardsman, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt "Rose" Barfield, knows what it means to be able to "do it."

Barfield was encouraged by a friend to enlist in the Army National Guard fresh out of high school at the age of 17. He served for five years as a soldier in the Kansas Guard while working toward his degree at the University of Kansas.

At 21, he found himself with a commission from the ROTC detachment at Kansas and quite possibly a whole lot more than he bargained for.

When Barfield had just 18 months of commissioned service under his belt, his platoon commander was relieved of duty. "They said to me, 'Have we got a job for you," the general recalled, "and then I was the only second lieutenant in my infantry company. That was my trial by fire."

Barfield was forced to learn on the job, but it's not a road he recommends.

"Learning on the job is not a good thing," he said. "What you don't want your fellow soldiers and leaders to do is to learn trial by fire. There are enough instances out there where they will have to do that. You want to remove as many obstacles as possible. Give them as much information as possible so they can put their best foot forward."

Barfield said he believes being a strong leader is about life's lessons. He encourages his soldiers at every level to take the information they have and pass it along.

"It's hard to make decisions – genuine, hard-hitting decisions – if you don't know what is required of the soldiers who carry out those decisions," he explained. "I was on the other end of that for five years. I know what happens when you have bad leadership. I know what happens when you have absent leadership.

"Passing that information along – especially the right information – is an obligation," he continued. "It's not a suggestion; it's as obligation. That is what I try to mentor to any and everybody -- not just my officers, but enlisted troops and [noncommissioned officers]. I try to pass on what I know."

And information is by no means a one-way street for Barfield. "At the same time, I get an opportunity to go back and relearn and reinforce my lessons, or in some cases drop the lessons I have learned," Barfield said. "Life is a constant learning process, and so is the military."

In his view, the two are linked.

"You learn more about yourself in the military than any profession out there," Barfield said. "This is both a professional and personal. At the end of the day, you should feel good and believe in what you're doing, or you should go do something else."

Barfield is a father of three with a long resume after 31 years of service. His wife, Patricia, is an Army colonel. His eldest son, Galen, is a senior airman in the Air Force Reserve, and his younger son and daughter both are in the middle of promising high school careers.

Barfield has served both as a Guardsman and on active duty, and his awards include the Legion of Merit, a Bronze Star and the Meritorious Service Medal with eight oak leaf clusters. He returned from a tour in Afghanistan eight months ago, and he found one element in particular is key in joint-service operations.

"It comes down to one thing Рcommunication," he said. "I know it sounds clich̩, but it really isn't. One of the hardest things that we do as individuals Рtake the soldier or the military piece completely out of it Рis to communicate. You need to come in with an open mind. You need to think. 'What is it I need to learn from the other services to work with them?' You're not going to learn it by books, and you're not going to learn it by osmosis. You're only going to learn it by having one-on-one conversation."

Barfield said he realizes certain terms and traditions are unique to each military service, and no one is expected to lose those when the services work together.

"You're never going to give up those things that are unique to your service," he said. "But this joint thing is here to stay, and you need to work within that. There is plenty of work for everyone. It's all about managing egos and expectations. It's all about life's lessons."

Good leadership yields good soldiers, the colonel added.

"Your enlisted soldiers and your NCOs will do anything you ask them to do, as long as they have good leadership," he said. "In my mind, those officers who were enlisted make the best officers. I constantly remind myself where I've been, and try not to lose the perspective that whatever decisions I make, someone else has to live with it."

Barfield said he wants to make a difference while serving with Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.

"There are maybe one or two moments in your life where you get an opportunity to make an impact that will be universal and historical," he said. "And we're here. It's hard for me to contain my excitement just thinking about it -- that I'm part of this. ... History is being written, and we are the author. From private to the general, every one of us has a piece of that."

The task force employs an "indirect approach" to counter violent extremism in the region by conducting operations to strengthen partner-nation and regional security capacity to enable long-term regional stability, prevent conflict and protect U.S. and coalition interests.

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kati Garcia serves in the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa public affairs office.)

Navy's Rescue Mission 'Textbook,' But Piracy Still Looms, Gates Says

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

April 13, 2009 - The U.S. military's rescue of a kidnapped American ship captain yesterday was "textbook," but the issue of piracy is likely to worsen in the absence of a systemic solution, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today. Off the Somali coast yesterday, U.S. special operations snipers on the USS Bainbridge shot and killed three pirates who had held hostage the captain of the Maersk-Alabama cargo ship on a lifeboat for five days. Military officials said Capt. Richard Phillips' life was in imminent danger at the time of his rescue.

"It was textbook," Gates said of the operation. "They were patient. They got the right people and the right equipment in place, and then did what they do."

Gates, speaking at the Marine Corps War College here, said two groups of military operators were involved in the rescue -- one based in the region and one based in the United States -- with each requiring separate authority from President Barack Obama. "And the approval was given virtually immediately in both cases," Gates said.

Despite the operational precision of the rescue, however, the question of how to deal with the broader issue of piracy still looms large, with 111 incidents reported last year on the east coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, according to the International Chamer of Commerce."Is there a way to deal with this in a systemic way that reduces the risk and brings the international community together in a productive way to deal with the problem?" Gates said. "I think we're going to end up spending a fair amount of time on this in the administration, seeing if there is a way to try and mitigate this problem of piracy."

Gates said the historical case of Southeast Asia's solution to its piracy problem does not generally apply to the current Somali-based issue. In Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries, for instance, central governments played a role in stemming piracy, he said.

"[They] acquired some capabilities -- and we helped them in some of those capabilities in terms of surveillance and patrolling -- and because each of those countries has a functioning government, the piracy problem in Southeast Asia has been dramatically reduced," he said.

"The problem is easier to deal with when the surrounding land -- as in the case of Southeast Asia and the Straits of Malacca -- is controlled by real governments that have real capabilities, which is not the case in Somalia," he explained. "So it is a serious international problem, and it's probably going to get worse."

Gates, emphasizing the limitations of a purely military approach, said some have suggested bypassing the central government of Somalia and instead establishing relationships with officials of functioning local governments there.

"There is no purely military solution to it," he said. "And as long as you've got this incredible number of poor people and the risks are relatively small, there's really no way in my view to control it unless you get something on land that begins to change the equation for these kids."

Gates noted the four pirates involved in kidnapping the Maersk-Alabama captain were 17 to 19 years old, and he cited the dangerous combination of untrained youth and arms.

"Untrained teenagers with heavy weapons," he told the group of 30 students and faculty members at the Marine Corps War College. "Everybody in the room knows the consequences of that."

Gates underscored that the piracy issue will likely be an important agenda item in coming weeks.

"All I can tell you is I am confident we will be spending a lot of time in the situation room over the next few weeks trying to figure out what in the world to do about this problem," he said.

Military Doctor Cites Need for Early Intervention of Autism

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

April 13, 2009 - A Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences faculty member discussed Autism Awareness Month and the importance of early, proper diagnosis and treatment of children. "Parents should feel confidence in raising questions about whether their child has autism," Dr. Janice Hanson told "Dot Mil Docs" listeners during an April 9 webcast on Pentagon Web Radio. "They are often the first ones to raise concerns and to raise them in a way that a pediatrician can sort out whether to be concerned, how concerned to be, and what to do about it next."

According to Autism Speaks, a science and advocacy organization dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism, early intervention is critical to gain maximum benefit from existing therapies. While there are no effective means to prevent autism, no fully effective treatments, and no cure, current research suggests that early educational intervention for at least two years during the preschool years can result in significant improvements for many children with autism-spectrum disorders.

Hanson said children can be diagnosed with autism by age 3, but parents might notice changes in a child as young as 6 months. Three categories of characteristics describe a child with autism, she said.

"Before complete diagnosis of autism, a child would show some symptoms in ... [each of] three areas: communication, social interaction, and stereotypical behavior," Hanson explained. The three categories that go along with a diagnosis of autism include delayed speech or language; differences in social interaction, such as avoiding eye contact or misunderstanding social cues; and stereotypical behaviors such as playing with toys with a ritual behavior or rocking over and over again.

"Autism is a disorder of communication and social interaction," the doctor said. "There is a range of disorders actually that fall within a spectrum that we call pervasive developmental disorders. The range goes from classic autism, with a fairly significant difference in communication and social interaction, to Asperger's Syndrome, which is more mild and sometimes more difficult to diagnose.

"Also included in the spectrum is a group of children that don't exactly fit the criteria, but have many of the characteristics," she continued, "and they are called children with pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified."

Hanson said the number of children diagnosed is hard to pin down with current data.

"That is actually a subject of debate and research as we speak," she said. "I just read a study that summarized 43 studies in the literature from the last several decades, trying to pin down what that number might be, so what we have is a range of numbers. The greatest number would be about one child out of 150, and this would be the most broad use of the diagnostic categories, which would include children with autistic diagnoses all along that spectrum from the most severe to the most mild."

Hanson said whether the number of diagnoses is increasing is another controversial subject.

"There has been a lot of controversy for the past 10 to 15 years about whether the incidence of autism is increasing, and if so why," she said. "Some people think yes, it is definitely increasing. Others think we have improved our ability to identify these children and we've changed our criteria to include broader numbers."

The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences is working toward educating and training physicians and nurses to accurately diagnosis autism early.

"We have a medical school and a graduate school of nursing that educates and trains physicians and nurse practitioners to work in the military health system, and that is where I am on the faculty," Hanson said. "We do an intense, focused job of providing education for these students, not only about autism, how to diagnosis, and what to watch for, but also about the military environment and the special challenges for military families.

"We are trying very hard to send new doctors into our military health system with a strong awareness of when to refer, where to refer and how to get a child accurate diagnosis and effective interaction," she added.

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