Monday, April 20, 2009

Combined Maritime Forces, NATO Ships Help to Thwart Pirate Attacks

American Forces Press Service

April 20, 2009 - The British military support ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary Wave Knight, working in support of the Combined Maritime Forces, thwarted two April 18 pirate attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden, resulting in the release of 13 hostages and disrupting the activities of 14 Somali pirates. "This is a clear demonstration of how cooperation between more than a dozen international naval forces can result in the successful disruption of piracy activity," said Royal Navy Commodore Tim Lowe, deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces. "In the last 72 hours alone, coordinated efforts of six different nations resulted in the release of 49 innocent merchant mariners who had been held hostage by armed pirates, as well as the interception of 46 suspected pirates."

Lowe cautioned that naval forces will not be the sole solution to piracy, but said coordinated international naval efforts would continue to disrupt criminal acts of piracy.

While working in conjunction with international naval forces deployed to the region, Wave Knight's crew received a distress call at about 8 a.m. from Merchant Vessel Handy Tankers Magic, which was under attack by pirates.

The attack broke off before Wave Knight arrived, but the ship followed their skiff to a fishing dhow, a sailboat commonly used by natives along the African and Indian coasts. The dhow was later confirmed to be a pirate "mother ship." Via radio, Wave Knight ordered the dhow to stop and used a Royal Navy armed force protection team as well as the ship's own weapons team to provide cover. The pirate vessel complied.

Dutch warship HNLMS De Zeven Provincien, deployed as part of NATO's Standing Naval Maritime Group 1, arrived and its crew determined no pirates or hostages were aboard the vessel. Ultimately, 13 fishermen who had been held hostage by pirates since April 12 were freed and able to return home to Yemen.

Since the seven suspected pirates aboard the dhow were not captured in the act of piracy, they were released, but they were disarmed and their weapons were destroyed.

Two hours later, Wave Knight received a second distress call from Merchant Vessel Front Ardennes. Wave Knight arrived and successfully deterred the skiff, preventing the pirates from boarding the tanker. Following repeated warnings to move away, Wave Knight fired warning shots, which caused the pirates to break off their attack and flee the scene.

With the assistance of helicopters from the NATO task group ships HMCS Winnipeg and USS Halyburton, Wave Knight followed the pirate skiff for six hours, until relieved by the Winnipeg crew, who boarded the skiff.

Wave Knight provided fuel and landing facilities for the NATO warships' helicopters and was able to maneuver into a position to stop the suspected pirates, allowing Winnipeg's boarding team to disarm and then subsequently release the suspected pirates.

"RFA Wave Knight is a modern replenishment ship designed to be able to support a myriad of coalition maritime operations," said Royal Fleet Auxiliary Capt. I. N. Phillips, Wave Knight's commanding officer. "Our primary role is refueling and aviation operations, but we are fully capable of conducting anti-piracy operations in and around the Horn of Africa. We have been on station for over a year providing support to many nations, and we remain committed to helping ensure maritime security."

Twenty-three nations participate with Combined Maritime Forces to conduct maritime security operations throughout the region and help to set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment.

(From a Combined Maritime Forces news release.)

Thousands Honor Doolittle Raiders at the 67th Reunion

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

April 20, 2009 - Thousands of people, young and old, gathered to honor five of the nine surviving Doolittle Raiders at the 67th Reunion in Columbia, S.C., April 16-18. On April 18, 1942, the Doolittle Raiders, led by then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, became the first to bombard Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"Early on, everybody thought leaving the flight deck of the carrier was the biggest challenge of the trip," retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, Doolittle's co-pilot, said. "As it turned out, it was the easiest thing, and I had a special advantage because I was sitting next to the best pilot in the world. I admire all of the guys; I especially admire the man I was sitting next to, a fine man and a great pilot."

Cole said he grew up idolizing Doolittle. As a teenager, he added, he watched Doolittle conduct flight testing, and was amazed at his luck to fly with him. "I was amazed, dumbfounded and proud," Cole said. "I was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, where they had the first test base. I used to watch Col. Doolittle."

Cole said he doesn't consider himself a hero, but rather was "just doing my job" when he participated in the raid on Japan.

Of the thousands who gathered during the three-day reunion, many came to pay their respects for the raiders' symbolic act only a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Some of the attendees commented that this would probably be the last time the raiders would participate in a reunion in Columbia. Previous reunions of the Doolittle Raiders in Columbia were organized by the Celebrate Freedom Foundation.

"We consider Columbia the home of the Doolittle Raiders," said Ken Breivik, public affairs director for the Celebrate Freedom Foundation, who coordinated both the Doolittle Raiders' 67th "Where Victory Began" reunion, as well as the group's 60th reunion.
To pay tribute to the raiders, a visible reminder of the length of the USS Hornet's flight deck was displayed from the mouth of Columbia's Aeronautics Commission Hangar doors adjacent to a U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber, which displayed the official Doolittle Raider crest and the inscription, "Toujours au Danger" -- "Always into Danger."

As hundreds of spectators gathered at the hangar, four Doolittle Raiders -- Cole, retired Maj. Thomas C. Griffin, retired Lt. Col. Robert L. Hite, retired Lt. Col. Edward Saylor and retired Staff Sgt. David J. Thatcher -- passed the official Doolittle Raider crest to the 34th Bomb Squadron's flagship B-1 bomber's crew April 17 at the hangar.

Participating in the official passing of the crest was Brig. Gen. James Kowowski, commander of the provisional Air Force Global Strike Command. "President [John F.] Kennedy was quoted as saying that you can tell the character of the nation not only by the men that it produces, but by the men that it honors," Kowowski said.

For their raid 67 years ago, the Doolittle Raiders were drawn from the World War II versions of the 95th, 34th, 37th and the 89th reconnaissance squadrons of the 17th Bomb Group. Air Force Col. Carl "Buck" Shawhan, 28th Operations Group commander at Nellis Air Force Bas, Nev., oversees the present-day 37th and the 34th bomb squadrons.

"As airmen, we understand the significance of the original acts the Doolittle Raiders performed in World War II, and the original Doolittle Raiders were the first airmen to strike against Japan in World War II, flying their B-25 in a surprise attack against the Japanese mainland," Shawhan said. While it was a different time and era, the colonel said, he is awed by their ability to carry out such a bold raid 67 years ago.

"When they took off, they had no idea they would ever see their families again," he said. "They had no idea what kind of impact they would have." The attack had a substantial impact strategically on Japan's defenses, Shawhan noted, and was an uplifting moment in U.S. history.

"Zoom forward to the future: 2001, after 9/11, when the United States was attacked, people were ... wondering about our ability to defend ourselves," Shawhan said. He added that the modern day Doolittle Raiders were one of the first to attack against the Taliban in Afghanistan a month after the Sept. 11 attacks.

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Helen "Meg" Wildner, granddaughter of Doolittle Raider Lt. Carl Wildner, navigator of the raid's second B-25, will graduate from the academy in 2010, and reflected on the importance of the raid.

"Personally, the Doolitte Raid is definitely important to our history" she said. "It was a huge morale boost. Even after Pearl Harbor, it was an encouraging fact that we could stand up for ourselves and persevere. When you talk to the Doolittle Raiders, they don't necessarily consider themselves these huge heroes. They were just doing their jobs."

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

Mullen Addresses Suicides, Ops Tempo During Texas Visit

By Rich Lamance
Special to American Forces Press Service

April 20, 2009 - Suicide rates, operational tempo and homeless veterans were some of the topics facing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a news conference following a visit with wounded soldiers and their families at Brooke Army Medical Center here April 17. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, along with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, both of Texas, spoke to reporters following visits to the burn unit at BAMC, as well as to the Center for the Intrepid, the state-of-the-art rehabilitation center adjacent to the hospital.

The group met reporters following a visit to the new Warrior and Family Support Center, a 12,000 square-foot, $5 million facility opened Dec. 1, 2008, for injured servicemembers and their families.

"Brooke Army Medical Center is state-of-the-art and is considered the gold standard for health care for our wounded warriors," Cornyn said. "We're proud of the services here and the healing afforded our wounded service members and their families."

Cornyn stressed that the government has an obligation above simply keeping the nation safe.

"We know that these are challenging times when it comes to national security to our country, with new and emerging threats. ... But I believe ... that keeping our country safe is the No. 1 job of the federal government, then, keeping our commitments to those who wear the uniform and our promise to those who take off the uniform."

Cuellar also stressed the importance of care for wounded warriors. "When the parades are over, the music stops, and the confetti stops hitting the ground," he said, "we look at the care we provide our men and women. That's so important, and that's why we're here today."

Mullen faced the questions of a rapid rise in suicides within the military, primarily in the Army, since 2006. He told reporters that the answers start at the top.

"We are alarmed at the increase in suicides, particularly in the Army," he said. "In all services, the numbers are going up, and ... we are on a pace in 2009 to exceed 2008."

The chairman noted, however, that he was encouraged by a visit to Fort Hood, Texas, the day before.

"I was struck that there are 54,000 soldiers at Fort Hood, and there has been only one suicide since January," he said. "As tragic as each one is, that's a pretty remarkable number when you consider the number of soldiers who are there."

But as bleak as the numbers are, Mullen said, he believes there is a solution.

"I think the solution is leadership," the chairman said. "It's leadership at the top – and that is certainly going on at Fort Hood, but it's also leadership at the [noncommissioned officer] level. And I know the leadership of the services – especially the Army – is very focused on this, and I think that's really a big part of the solution."

But Mullen admitted that the services have been pressed hard during eight years of war and constant deployments.

"Our stress levels are up, and we have to realize that stress is driving a lot of this, and we've got to look at ways to relieve that stress," he said. "The first big step in taking care of our problem is acknowledging that you have one – and we do. Suicide is never easy, [and] solving it won't be easy. But everyone in leadership is focused on it."

Prompted by the recent deaths of two soldiers at BAMC from alleged causes still being investigated, and other cases involving recovering soldiers, Mullen addressed reporters' concerns about the issue.

"When we speak to those wounded soldiers, as well as those who are caring for them, it's clearly a delicate balance here," the admiral said. "In many cases, it's very tough and stressful times for individuals, and that's why coming here to family support is so important. It is important and uplifting. We try to pay a lot of attention to the symptoms that are there, and tragically, sometimes individuals are in a position where the downside occurs and we lose them."

During the session, another topic addressed by reporters was the concern about operational tempo and whether a larger Army might solve the problem of too little time at their home stations for soldiers between deployments.

"We're at, in the Army today, 547,000, which is the authorized end-strength increase from about 485,000 when these wars started," Mullen said. "It's my view that that's about right. And we just got to [574,000], and I'd like to settle out on that before I make any decisions on whether we should increase that."

The topic of operational tempo, Mullen said, is a critical issue for which he believes relief is in sight.

"As I look out within the next 18 to 24 months, I can see a time when units will have more time at home," he said. "I've pushed hard on leadership to make sure that when they are home, they're home -- so when they're home during that 12 months, they spend as much time home as possible. In fact, the term I use is 'home tempo.'

"We need to be paying attention with every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine," he added, to ensure they have time with their families between deployments.

"At the same time," he added, "these are units that are going to prepare for combat again, and they have to have the right amount of training to do that. So there's a delicate balance."

During the chairman's visit, he told the audience that he and his wife, Deborah, were especially impressed by the spirit and determination not only of the wounded soldiers, but also of the families many of the fallen left behind.

"Yesterday, my wife and I met with a dozen or so families who had lost their son or daughter or brother or husband or spouse," he said. "And in every case, we came away inspired by their strength. And it has never happened that a parent or a brother or a sister or a spouse hasn't said that he or she died doing exactly what they wanted to do. They are proud of their service, and so are we. We would not be the country we are without that.

"They know that, the families know that, and certainly any loss, under any circumstance, is tragic, and we work to prevent it as much as possible," he continued. "The extreme concern we have is suicide."

Concerns about wounded warriors who leave the service unable to find work also was a topic of discussion and one that Mullen said needs to be addressed before mistakes of the past are repeated.

"It's something I'm extremely sensitive and focused on," he said. "I call myself a 'Vietnam baby' – we did not take very good care of [servicemembers] coming out of Vietnam. We have a generation of homeless veterans which we still need to focus on.

In September, Mullen said, he sat down with about 20 homeless Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Los Angeles.

"And it's tragic in what they've been through to get there," he said, "and I want to do all I can to make sure we don't generate another generation of homeless vets. Our country – financial crisis notwithstanding – is rich enough and has the resources to take care of these young people who go off and fight our wars and do what we ask them to sacrifice so much."

Mullen said one of the Los Angeles veterans summed it up best: "You know I gave 100 percent. All I'd like is 100 percent back."

(Rich Lamance works at the Army and Air Force Hometown News Service.)

Holocaust Remembrance Day Shows Life's Decisions Matter, Mullen Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

April 20, 2009 - The top U.S. military officer called on servicemembers to use Holocaust Remembrance Day observances this week as an opportunity to reflect on the responsibilities of life, reminding them that the decisions they make matter. "The story of the Holocaust, however ghastly, offers us an opportunity to reflect on the responsibilities in life," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a message being aired on the Pentagon Channel.

"It's a chance to remember that what we do – or choose not to do – really matters," he said.

Mullen pointed to the example of Tibor Rubin, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor who went on to join the U.S. Army and earn the Medal of Honor for actions during the Korean War.

"He lost his family to the Nazis and later managed to survive his own ordeal in a concentration camp," Mullen said, referring to Rubin's two-year confinement at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, before he was liberated by American troops at age 15.

"After liberation, he became an American soldier and fought for his new country in the Korean War," Mullen said.

A private first class, Rubin was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division's 8th Regiment, where records show an anti-Semitic noncommissioned officer often assigned him to the most dangerous missions.

For his acts of bravery, including single-handedly defending a hill against North Korean soldiers for 24 hours so his company could safely retreat, Rubin was nominated three times for the Medal of Honor. The paperwork was never processed – again, because his bigoted NCO ignored orders to submit it, records show.

Rubin was taken prisoner again, this time by Chinese troops in 1950. He spent 30 months in another prisoner-of-war camp, helping to sustain his fellow prisoners as they began to give up hope.

As Mullen noted in his Holocaust Remembrance Day message, Rubin never learned to hate. "If you feel hate for your fellow man, you'll only hurt yourself," Mullen said, quoting Rubin.

Rubin's actions in Korea finally received their long-overdue recognition when President George W. Bush presented him the Medal of Honor on Sept. 23, 2005 -- more than 55 years after the fact.

"But the honor is ours to have had him in our ranks," Mullen said of Rubin.

The chairman encouraged servicemembers to recognize Rubin and others like him as they observe Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"As we pause to remember the 6 million who perished, let us also pause to celebrate the lives of those who survived -- who went on to teach us the great responsibility of life itself," he said. "It matters what we do."

Communities throughout the United States, Europe and Israel began commemorating the 44th Holocaust Remembrance Day yesterday, leading up to major observances around the world tomorrow.

VA Welcomes Veterans Home with New Web Site, Blog

American Forces Press Service

April 20, 2009 - The Veterans Affairs Department has launched its new "Returning Veterans" Web site at http:// to welcome home veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts with a social, veteran-centric Web site that focuses on their needs and questions, VA officials announced today. "VA is entering the world of Web 2.0, because that's where this generation of veterans is already communicating," said Dr. Gerald M. Cross, VA's principal deputy undersecretary for health. "We're opening our doors to them virtually to let them know what they can expect when they step through our doors in reality."

The Web site will feature videos, veterans' stories and a blog where veterans are encouraged to post feedback. The site also will restructure the traditional index-of-benefits format found on other VA pages into question-based, categorized, and easily navigated links by topic. This will allow veterans to find benefits of interest easily and discover related benefits as they explore, officials said.

"We hope our returning veterans find this site easy and helpful, but also engaging," Cross said. "As the site grows, we will be linking to veterans' blogs and highlighting more of their own stories from their own views. We are their VA, so we are eager to provide a forum for veterans to discuss their lives."

(From a Veterans Affairs Department news release.)


Vericor Power Systems, LLC, Alpharetta, Ga., is being awarded a $32,102,544 firm fixed price modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-08-C-4117) to exercise an option for the manufacture, testing and delivery of 24 ETF40B marine gas turbine engines for the Landing Craft - Air Cushion (LCAC) Service Life Extension Program fiscal year 2009 requirements. Work will be performed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and is expected to be completed by August 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Nan, Inc., Honolulu, Hawaii, is being awarded a $21,451,629 firm fixed price contract for the renovation of Pacific Regional Center (PRC) Building 130 and Sea Animal Research Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ford Island, Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Work will be performed on Ford Island, Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, and is expected to be completed by November 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with seven proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific, is the contracting activity (N62742-09-C-1307).

Tetra Tech EC Inc., San Diego, Calif., is being awarded $13,882,869 for task order #0018 to a previously awarded an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract (N62473-07-D-3211) for Remedial Action Contract (RAC V) for radiological support at Hunters Point Shipyard, San Francisco, Calif. The work to be performed is on site radiological support work to enable contractors to complete both chemical and radiological removal and remediation work. The contract also contains one unexercised option, which if exercised would increase the cumulative task order value to $14,390,495. Work will be performed in San Francisco, Calif., and is expected to be completed by April 19, 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The total contract amount is not to exceed $100,000,000 (base period and four option years). The Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity.

URS-IAP, LLC, Austin, Texas, is being awarded $11,253,117 for a cost reimbursement task order 0012 under a previously awarded multiple award construction contract (N62470-06-D-6009) for design and construction of a 2,150 square meter aircraft maintenance hangar and a 340 square meter telecommunications facility at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti. Work will be performed in Djibouti, Africa, and is expected to be completed by November 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Three proposals were received for this task order. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity.

General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine, is being awarded an $8,000,075 modification to previously awarded cost plus award fee contract (N00024-06-C-2307) to exercise an option for the accomplishment of Lead Yard Class Services for the DDG 51 Class AEGIS Destroyer Program. This option exercise is for additional Class Design Services and modernization support. The Lead Yard Contract will provide technical assistance to the Follow Yard in the interpretation and application of the detailed design developed by Bath Iron Works Corporation, the Lead Yard contractor. DDG 51 Class services include: Liaison for Follow Ship Construction, General Class Services, Class Logistic Services, Class Design Agent Services and Class Change Design Services for Follow Ships. Work will be performed in Bath, Maine, and is expected to be completed by April 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

New Balance Athletic Shoe, Brighton, Mass., is being awarded a $7,301,220 firm fixed price contract modification (0024) against a previously awarded firm fixed price contract (M67854-07-C-3053) for an additional 64,000 Marine Corps Running Suits. The Marine Corps Running Suit is an all weather jacket and pant suit for use by all Marines during physical training and for wear during liberty to enable its use as a recruiting tool. Performance, with estimate of percentages to be performed, will be based on use of three subcontractors: Excel Manufacturing, El Paso, Texas, (47 percent); Romo Productions, Santa Ana, Calif., (36 percent) and Summit Sportswear, Salem, Oregon, (17 percent), and delivery is expected to be completed by October 31, 2009. Contract funds will expire at the end of current fiscal year. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

The Air Force is awarding a cost plus fixed fee contract to Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio for an estimated $22,545,319. The objective of this task is to develop chemical/biological defense exercises or the Center for Asymetric Warfare, Naval Post Graduate School. At this time, $60,870 has been obligated. 55th CONS/LGCD, Offutt, Nebraska is the contracting activity (SP0700-00-D-3180, Delivery Order: 0583).

The Air Force is modifying a firm fixed price contract with Rockwell Collins Government Systems of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for $13,453,521. This action will modify and install 2 existing Global Air Traffic Management Program A & B kits to the OC-135B Open Skies Aircraft. 827 ACSG/PK, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma is the contracting activity (F33657-98-C-0036, P00108).

Oshkosh Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., is being awarded a maximum $8,336,790 firm fixed price contract for transfer cases with containers for the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is the Army. This was originally a sole source competition. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is April 20, 2014. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Warren, Mich., (SPRDL1-09-D-0007).