Friday, February 12, 2010

The Greatest War Stories Never Told: 100 Tales from Military History to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy

Search the annals of military history and you will discover no end of quirky characters and surprising true stories: The topless dancer who saved the Byzantine Empire. The World War I battle that was halted so a soccer game could be played. The scientist who invented a pigeon-guided missile in 1943. And don't forget the elderly pig whose death triggered an international crisis between the United States and Great Britain.

This is the kind of history you'll find in The Greatest War Stories Never Told. One hundred fascinating stories drawn from two thousand years of military history, accompanied by a wealth of photographs, maps, drawings, and documents that help bring each story to life. Little-known tales told with a one-two punch of history and humor that will make you shake your head in disbelief -- but they're all true!

Army Makes FMTV Competitive Re-buy Contract Award Decision

February 12, 2010 - The Department of the Army announced today that it has re-evaluated the contract award decision for its Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) originally made on Aug. 26, 2009. This change was based on Government Accountability Office's (GAO) recommendations. Accordingly, Oshkosh Corp. has been awarded a competitive, five-year requirements contract for production of up to 12,415 trucks, 10,926 trailers, and associated support and engineering services. The total estimated contract value at award was $3.023 billion.

The Army originally awarded the contract to Oshkosh, but BAE Systems, Tactical Vehicles LP and Navistar, LLC filed GAO protests against the contract award to Oshkosh.

GAO sustained portions of the Navistar and BAE protests on Dec. 14, 2009. The GAO recommended that the Army re-evaluate the offerors' proposals under the Key Tooling and Equipment Element and conduct a new evaluation of Navistar's past performance that adequately documented the agency's judgments, and make a new source selection decision.

The Army notified the GAO on Dec. 28, 2009, that it would comply with its recommendations to re-evaluate the proposals and make a new source selection decision. From Dec. 21, 2009, to Jan. 22, 2010, the Army re-evaluated the proposals in accordance with the GAO's recommendation. Subsequently, there was an Office of the Secretary of Defense peer review affirming the Army's reevaluation process.

For more information contact Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, Army Public Affairs at 703-697-7591, or at

Guard Brushes Off From 'Blizzard' of Callouts

By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 12, 2010 - More than 3,000 National Guard members in eight states continue to assist in the massive recovery efforts after back-to-back, history-making winter storms crippled the mid-Atlantic region this week. Thousands of government workers were off for almost five days during the closure of federal offices in the national capital region, but the Guard members have been on continuous duty since before the first storm's arrival Feb. 5.

In the nation's capital, about 150 soldiers and airmen from the District of Columbia National Guard continue to transport essential government personnel and support D.C. police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders.

"We have completed more than 500 missions over the course of these two storms," said Army Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard. "We've been operating 12 Humvees stationed at all seven metro police precincts throughout the city, fire stations and the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. The missions have been nonstop."

In addition to transportation, the D.C. Guard's mission includes logistics, communications, administrative, maintenance and operational support. Guard personnel have operated around the clock in 12-hour shifts.

With a possible third storm in the forecast, the D.C. Guard is prepared to continue its mission into next week.

"As long as the district requests our support, we will be there to do our job," Schwartz said. "This is what we do. I'm very proud of our men and women who volunteered to come in and help the District despite the severe conditions, the danger of driving and in lieu of even taking care of their own circumstances."

Surrounding the District, Virginia and Maryland had about 1,300 soldiers and airmen combined helping their states recover from crippling snowfall amounts of more than three feet in some areas, trapping residents in their homes and shutting out emergency access.


Maryland reported that more than 700 Guard members were assisting civilian responders in snow removal, health and wellness checks and transportation.

A team of Maryland soldiers also rescued a stranded motorist this week. They came upon David Page's vehicle and found the Baltimore resident had been stuck in his car for hours, said Army Lt. Col. Charles Kohler. Plows had piled snow around his car on both sides, making it almost impossible for him to get out.

"There were several vehicles which were abandoned on the roads, and we were checking them all to make sure that everybody was OK," Kohler said.

The Guardsmen gave Page food and water and transported him to a warm location, where he was able to call family members to let them know he was safe.

At one time, more than 150,000 residents were without power in Maryland, including three Guard armories. The soldiers and airmen will continue to assist stranded motorists, provide generator power to key areas and deliver fuel and water until these missions are complete, Guard officials said.

Eight Maryland Guardsmen were awarded state medals for storm assistance, which included delivering a baby, giving cardiopulmonary resuscitation to a heart attack victim and assisting a trauma patient.


The Virginia Guard reported this morning that 500 Guardsmen were on state active duty supporting a variety of storm-response missions, including transporting emergency responders to medical callouts, shelters and stuck vehicles.

Soldiers from Company A, 3rd Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team, and volunteer firefighters from the Luray, Va., volunteer fire department were dispatched Feb. 6 to aid a family in Rileyville who were stranded in their home without power.

Soldiers from Company G, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team, based in Norfolk, Va., conducted a patient transport mission Feb. 8 in Fairfax County.

County resident Olive Lewis was not able to make a needed medical appointment for kidney dialysis, so the Fairfax County Emergency Operations Center dispatched the Virginia National Guard to transport her.

"I appreciate the help of the Virginia Guard so much," said Glenda Lewis, Olive's daughter. "We would have ended up in the emergency room without this help."

Army 1st Lt. David Mummert of Yorktown, Spc. Jeremy Anderson of Virginia Beach, and Spc. Christopher Albertson of King William took part in the mission.

"This is why I joined the Guard," Mummert said. "I served on active duty and we had important missions, but the Guard is more in touch with people around you. You are getting the chance to make a contribution to your community."

Current Guard missions from the state's department of emergency management include transportation assistance, vehicle recovery and door-to-door health and wellness checks.


Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell said yesterday that his state's National Guard has teamed up with the department of transportation and local authorities, who are continuing to respond to the storms, which "hammered the state over the past week."

"The most serious problems we face continue to be in the southeastern region," Rendell said.

Pennsylvania had 1,500 soldiers and airmen on duty today conducting similar missions in their state. Their Humvees were seen in major cities, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and on snow-bound country roads conducting wellness checks on stranded residents.


More than 300 soldiers and airmen from the Delaware National Guard were activated and have conducted nearly 700 missions since Feb. 5, according to their Web site.

Guard officials said a state of emergency is still in effect today and task forces remain on state active duty. Their missions include transporting medical patients, assisting stranded motorists and helping the state's transportation agency clear the roads.

West Virginia

In West Virginia, Guard members were credited with saving lives by local law enforcement officials for their assistance in transporting responders to medical emergencies. They used four-wheel-drive Humvees with high ground clearances to plow through snow-covered roadways, which were under more than three feet of snow.

The state still had about 570 soldiers and airmen on duty today, manning emergency operations centers and supporting civil authorities.

Other states

In other parts of the country affected by winter weather, 15 Oklahoma Guardsmen are providing generators, food, water and cots to shelters in the state, and seven soldiers in South Dakota are helping local authorities in the Aberdeen area with re-establishing roads and utilities as well as conducting search and rescue missions.

In Arkansas, eight Guardsmen have completed their missions. They provided four-wheel drive ambulance support to Pulaski and Faulkner counties due to severe winter weather this week. The soldiers were responsible for vehicle operations and transportation of Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services personnel and civilian patients.

The missions were approved by Gov. Mike Beebe and tasked to the Guard by the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management. The 87th Troop Command, with headquarters at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Ark., was tasked to support MEMS in Pulaski County with three of the ambulances, 12 stretchers and six soldiers. The Faulkner County mission was tasked to the Guard's 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, with a fourth ambulance with four stretchers and two soldiers.

(Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith serves at the National Guard Bureau.)

Dr. Bud Mayer, Former ASD/HA, Dies

February 12, 2010 - A committed public servant, veteran of the Korean War, and an outstanding physician and psychiatrist, Dr. William “Bud” Mayer passed away this week, on the evening of Feb. 11. Mayer, who served as the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs from Nov. 18, 1983, to Apr. 21, 1989, was one of the Military Health System’s greatest leaders and made exceptional contributions to military medicine – always keeping the best interests of service members at heart.

What was probably Mayer’s earliest contribution to military medicine took place during the Korean War when, as a young major attached to Brooke Army Medical Center, he studied the records of more than 4,000 returning prisoners of war to analyze Russia’s “new weapon of control” – brainwashing. His groundbreaking lecture, delivered in October of 1956 to a group of his peers and supervisors at the Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory in San Francisco, began his career in military medicine.

He was later recruited by former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger to improve the military’s medical system. He did that with great success and restored the vitality of DoD’s medical readiness for combat operations, which suffered greatly after the Vietnam War. In doing so, he completely changed the motto of military health care.

“Our primary mission,” said Mayer in December of 1986, “is to answer the question: Are we ready to go to war?”

During a time when the military medical system preferred recruiting family practitioners to physicians ready for combat medicine – in order to fill the peacetime needs of treating service members and their dependents – Mayer successfully redirected the goal of military medicine. As a result, he began shifting the responsibility of military family care and peacetime burden to civilian facilities and doctors. This initiative inevitably resulted in a complete revamping of what was formerly known as the CHAMPUS program into today’s military managed health care program, TRICARE.

Mayer made many great strides in making the Military Health System what it is today. In addition to giving the DoD a medical force ready for war, he began to address ways the Reserves could recruit doctors, he fought to change archaic ideas and medical practices concerning alcoholism, and even worked with then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, to eliminate the military discount on tobacco purchases.

Mayer made improving military medicine his life’s work. He lived it every day, he fought for it in uniform and in politics, and he wrote about it in his books “Beyond the Call” and “Memoirs of a Medical Icon.” He was an amazing man, a brilliant doctor, and a beloved leader.

Lynn Seeks Ways to Strengthen U.S.-Australia Pact

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 12, 2010 - Australia is already one of America's strongest allies, and Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III will visit the nation to see how the alliance can become even stronger. Lynn will meet with Australian leaders in Sydney, Adelaide and Canberra to discuss the scope and shape of U.S.-Australian military cooperation.

"Australia is a critical ally that is supporting the effort in Afghanistan in important ways, and we think we can work with them on future threats like cybersecurity," Lynn said during an interview aboard a military aircraft.

Tomorrow, Lynn will speak about U.S. cybersecurity concerns at a roundtable discussion with Australian academics, business leaders and political leaders during a forum at the Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney. The talk kicks off a five-day visit that was delayed 36 hours by blizzards in Washington.

During his visit, Lynn will discuss Afghanistan with Australian leaders.

"We are in a surge situation where we are trying to increase the overall effort," he said. "But the Australians are making a tremendous effort in Afghanistan already." Australia has about 1,550 servicemembers in Afghanistan and is contributing to the civilian operations in the country as well.

Lynn will discuss the Defense Department's Quadrennial Defense Review with leaders of the Australian defense ministry. The leaders will be familiar with the document, as two Australian officers were embedded with the Pentagon's policy office as the review progressed.

"I think they are going to be pretty familiar with the reasoning and the approach," Lynn said. "[But] I think it is still important to discuss it with their leadership."

"It's important for us to compare and contrast and discuss how our reviews approached things," Lynn said, noting the Australians completed a comparable review in May.

Looking to the future, Lynn said, many asymmetric threats and anti-access threats threaten both the United States and Australia, and the two nations can work to mitigate the effects. The deputy secretary also will discuss Australians' leadership in the region and the threats they see.

And U.S. and Australian leaders will share lessons learned from military procurement and acquisition. "We're going to talk with their people about their approach to acquisition reform and some of the things we're doing in terms of fixed-priced contracting and trying to establish firmer requirements earlier on in programs," Lynn said. Part of the Australian defense review was a pledge to modernize and recapitalize the force.

Australia also is a partner in the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter program, planning to buy 100 of the fighters.

"I am planning on walking them through the changes we've made in the program," Lynn said. "We really re-set the program, and tried to establish a baseline of development costs to get a more conservative estimate in production costs." The moves are designed to give the program – and the nations participating in it – more stability, he said.

Lynn is best known in the department for his work on cybersecurity. Some Australian government sites were overwhelmed by denial-of-service attacks earlier this week. Australia has the same concerns as the United States about a cyber attack and has established a command inside its defense ministry to defend this important infrastructure.

But it is a new fight in a new environment, Lynn noted. Terrorist organizations can launch cyber attacks, he said, but attributing attacks to groups or nations is tough.

"I think we'll get better at it, but it's an inherently difficult proposition," he said. "One of the purposes of this trip is to increase international cooperation, because the Internet doesn't respect national borders. The more shared warning, the more shared resources you devote to attribution, the better we're going to get at it."

Still, attribution never will be perfect, he acknowledged.

Setting the parameters for a discussion of the cyber threat also is problematic. "One of the difficulties in the cyber world is the definition you use: what's an attack? Do they have to do physical damage? Is intelligence gathering an attack? Does somebody have to get hurt? These are all questions we are wrestling with," the deputy secretary said.

"We are in the early stages of defining the doctrine on cybersecurity, and I think even the basic concepts of what constitutes an attack and what's an appropriate and proportional response are things we are still working through," he said.

These issues must be raised with allies, he said, but it is hard to do so until the United States can define for itself some of the basics.

"It's something we are working on in the interagency process -- with the Department of Justice on the legal concepts, and working with the Department of Homeland Security on how we protect both the 'dot-gov' world as well as critical infrastructure in the private sector," Lynn said.

Interstate Compact Eases School Transitions

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 12, 2010 - An interstate agreement is easing the school transition process for military children, many of whom will attend six to nine schools over the course of a parent's military career, an education official said. The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children is a cooperative effort among states -- 27 as of today -- to address some of the administrative challenges military children face when moving to a new school.

"The compact smoothes out the bumps in the road for military children as they move from one school district to another," said Ed Kringer, director of state liaison and education opportunities directorate for the Pentagon's office of military community and family policy. "The goal is to ensure students can move ahead with their education wherever they go."

Participating states work together to ensure uniform standards for processes including records transfer, course placement, graduation requirements, extracurricular participation, entrance and exit testing, and entrance-age requirements.

The compact started in 2006 as a collaborative effort among the Defense Department, Council of State Governments and other stakeholders. It's now regulated by the states and overseen by an interstate commission.

Officials initially aimed for 10 states to sign on, but the outcome far exceeded their expectations, Kringer said. In one year, they had 11 states participating, and by 2009, 25 states had signed on. California and New Jersey are the latest to join. These 27 states contain 81 percent of the nation's 630,000 military children, Kringer noted.

"We're very proud of this compact," he said. "This has been, by far and away, the most rapidly accepted interstate compact in history. We attribute much of the success to the fact that this compact doesn't cost very much, doesn't have a negative side; it just helps military children."

The compact reflects input from parents, teachers, school administrators, military families, and federal, state and local officials, Kringer said. It attempts to address the many challenges that arise due to multiple military moves and other military life-related challenges.

Many military families have problems, for instance, with the lag time for receipt of records at the their new school, Kringer said.

"This has always been a stumbling block," Kringer said. "If a child moves to a new school and the records don't follow for a few months, the student's in limbo." The compact, however, requires the school to send an official record within 10 days of request.

"It can be an unofficial record, but it has to contain enough information for the gaining school to make decisions," he said.

Another area of concern is graduation requirements, Kringer noted. "A student may be on track to graduate in School A, but now moves to School B with different graduation requirements," he said. "We're not asking schools to change their standards. We simply want the gaining school to look at the courses and see if they're similar enough to satisfy requirements." If they're not, then the gaining school can work with the sending school to ensure on-time graduation, he added.

Course placement is another hot topic for military families. Under the compact, if a student is in an honors program in one state, the gaining school's officials should assume that student also is qualified to be in the equivalent program at their school.

"They can decide to later test the child and remove him from the program if he's not qualified, but we're asking the school to presume the child is qualified," Kringer said. "This prevents children from losing out on months of time when they could be taking advanced courses needed to be competitive for college."

While the intent of the compact is to address problems experienced by active-duty students, it also encompasses the challenges of Guard and Reserve children whose parents have been called up. "If a parent is about to deploy, we ask the school to be flexible with excused absences," he explained.

While extensive, these are just a few of the military-related challenges the compact addresses, Kringer noted. The compact also includes provisions for special education services, extracurricular activities, tuition and attendance for out-of-area students, enrollment age requirements, exit exams, powers of attorney and immunizations.

For the road ahead, Kringer said, defense officials are looking to expand the compact's reach into additional states. But since the compact is a legislative process, it may take some time before all states come on board, he acknowledged.

In the meantime, Kringer encourages parents of military children to educate themselves about the compact, and be aware of the states it applies to, so they can be advocates for their children.

"This is a relatively new process, especially for those states that recently joined," he said. "It will take some time for the states to fully understand the compact and what it includes. Parents should be prepared for a situation where the school doesn't understand."

In that case, Kringer recommends that parents talk to a school counselor or military school liaison. "This is a work in progress," he said. "But it's also another tool in your toolkit to take care of your children."

D.C. Guard Completes 500 Blizzard Missions

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 12, 2010 - Soldiers and airmen of the District of Columbia National Guard continue to help in the wake of back-to-back storms that dumped several feet of snow on the nation's capital. At times, blizzard conditions were so bad that even plows were advised to get off the roads. Meanwhile, Guard members were delivering police, firefighters, paramedics, doctors and nurses to work.

"We have completed more than 500 missions over the course of these two storms," said Army Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard. "We've been operating 12 Humvees stationed at all seven Metro Police precincts throughout the city, fire stations and the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. The missions have been nonstop."

The D.C. Guard's mission included 60 transportation personnel, along with additional soldiers and airmen providing indirect support in the form of logistics, communications, administrative, maintenance and operational support. Guard personnel operated around the clock in 12-hour shifts.

With a possible third storm in the forecast, the D.C. Guard was prepared to continue its mission into next week.

"As long as the district requests our support, we will be there to do our job," Schwartz said. "This is what we do. I'm very proud of our men and women who volunteered to come in and help the district despite the severe conditions, the danger of driving and in lieu of even taking care of their own circumstances."

Guard families always are supportive when their spouses and loved ones are called to duty, the general noted, adding that they deserve just as much credit for supporting this mission.

Despite having two of its major units -- the 547th Transportation Company and the 113th Wing -- deployed in Iraq, and the 113th Security Forces Squadron deployed to Saudi Arabia, the D.C. Guard has been able to do everything district officials asked of it on the home front, Schwartz said.

(From a District of Columbia National Guard news release.)

Utah ANG aircraft, crew participates in Morocco air show

By Airman 1st Class Lillian Chatwin
Utah National Guard

(2/1/10) -- The Utah Air National Guard's KC-135 Stratotanker and flight crew participated in the Aeroexpo Marrakech 2010 here at the Royal Air Forces Military Base from Jan. 27-30. The KC-135 from the 151st Air Refueling Wing was showcased as a static display at the international air and trade show. En route to the show, the KC-135 also refueled two F-16 Fighting Falcons from the South Carolina Air National Guard. The two F-16s demonstrated their capabilities in the air show.

The objective of U.S. participation in the air show is twofold: to demonstrate support to the Moroccan decision to purchase 24 F-16 aircraft and to support U.S. Africa Command's strategic engagements in the region.

"The Moroccan's purchase of the F-16s is positive," said Col. Dar Craig, commander of the 151st Operations Group. "Their F-16s will have a high impact for maintaining stability in the region."

The Utah National Guard and Morocco have been working together through a NG State Partnership Program (SPP) since 2003. The SPP's mission is to link NG units with partner countries for the purposes of fostering mutual interests and establishing habitual long-term relationships.

The program encourages the development of economic, political and military ties between Utah and Morocco through military-to-military, military-to-civilian, and civilian-to-civilian exchanges. As such, it is one of the Utah ANG's roles to participate in events, like air shows, that help strengthen military ties.

Maj. Gen. Brian L. Tarbet, who has been the Adjutant General of the Utah National Guard since 2000, has overseen the Utah SPP since it was first initiated.

"We have learned a great deal from our Moroccan counterparts," said Tarbet. "This is a bi-lateral relationship where we learn from each other. We learn best practices, and it has broadened our perspective."

The Aeroexpo Marrakech 2010, focused on the developing aeronautical industries in Morocco, is hosting more than 40 delegates and diplomatic authorities, mostly from Africa, at the show.

Participation in this event has provided the U.S. government with the opportunity to expand its network of partners by opening dialogue with other Central and West African nations.

The Utah ANG also participated in the first edition Aeroexpo Marrakech in 2008.

The Moroccan military's delivery of F-16s is scheduled for 2011. Tarbet said he anticipates the Utah ANG's KC-135 may be working closely with Morocco in the future.

"We will be working with refueling because the Moroccans refuel with drogues and the F-16s have to be refueled with booms," said Tarbet. "We also want to be a part of the team that ferries the F-16 delivery across."

The Utah ANG also participates in many humanitarian efforts in Morocco, and this trip was no exception. Among the KC-135's additional cargo were 50 school-kits, which were offloaded and given to a local orphanage January 24. The school kits were assembled and donated by the spouses of the Utah NG senior enlisted leaders.

When visiting the KC-135 flight crew at the air show, Tarbet complimented the Utah ANG with a historical perspective.

"Our SPP with Morocco got off to a great start because of the ANG," said Tarbet. "In 2004, the northern coast of Morocco suffered a devastating earthquake. Within 48 hours, there was a Utah ANG KC-135 sitting on the deck filled with donated emergency-response supplies. That got us off to a start that was hard not to succeed with. We've just deepened and strengthened those ties ever since."

The Utah NG also participates in several other humanitarian efforts in Morocco.

As part of Operation African Lion, an annual three-week deployment in Morocco, the Utah NG sends equipped medics to travel to remote locations to treat thousands of locals in need of care.

Other Utah NG projects include building schools, women's centers, and libraries, drilling wells that provide clean water, agriculture and pet-farming education, and most uniquely, a youth exchange program where Moroccan families and American military families exchange youth who participate in the 10-day cultural immersion program.

"Perhaps the highlight of our relationship with Morocco is our youth exchange program," said Tarbet. "We trust each other with our kids, which is very substantial."

Morocco holds the longest standing treaty with the United States. They were also the first nation to recognize the independence of the United States from Great Britain in 1777. The Utah SPP was the first U.S. partnership in North Africa, and the first between a state and a predominantly Muslim nation.

Troops Carry Out 'Cool' Mission in Antarctica

By Ian Graham
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 12, 2010 - While the U.S. East Coast feels the closest it has come in many years to "extreme" weather, some servicemembers are facing real cold as they support the National Science Foundation's efforts in Antarctica. Air Force Col. Paul Sheppard, commander of the 13th Air Expeditionary Group and deputy commander of Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica, provided details of the mission from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, on the Pentagon Channel podcast, "Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military."

Sheppard discussed Operation Deep Freeze and the major contributions by servicemembers in support of the National Science Foundation, including coordinating strategic and tactical airlift, sealift, emergency response and aeromedical evacuation.

"Operation Deep Freeze started with the Navy in the mid-'50s and is a military-centric operation on the continent of Antarctica," Sheppard said. "Then, under international treaty, the world community started moving toward declaring the Antarctic an open continent for science research only, and no development. So ... science started to take the lead for all U.S. interests in Antarctica."

The Defense Department provides logistics support, especially heavy airlift and sea power, that can't be contracted elsewhere, Sheppard explained. The military component in Antarctica makes up only about 10 percent of the manpower there, he said.

The extreme climate in Antarctica give Sheppard and his troops some unique challenges.

"Almost everything we work with is a piece of metal equipment. ... We have to worry about metal fatigue and brittleness of metal -- we're talking about ships and airplanes and all the support equipment that goes along with that. And our big problem environmentally is temperature," Sheppard said.

He said the limited weather forecasting available on Antarctica creates a problem or two, both in temperature management and in planning and carrying out operations.

"That's what gives us our biggest problem operationally and safety-wise -- not knowing for certain what the weather trends are going to be over the course of the day or week," he said. "So blizzards -- we call them 'Herbies' down here, the massive blizzards that have hurricane-force winds -- those type of events create a danger for us, for aviation and every aspect of life on the continent."

Newcomers to the camp, military and civilians, undergo a few nights of on-site survival training, a course known at McMurdo as "happy camper school." Program participants camp in the snow, build snowcaves and learn how to protect themselves from extreme conditions. The military crew also goes through barren-land training in Greenland, learning to survive in a number of simulated scenarios.

"If you're going into the field, you get training," Sheppard said. "But if you're staying here in at McMurdo and you're working within the infrastructure of this town, then you don't need the extreme weather survival training."

Sheppard himself has had to use his survival training. During one mission to place a fuel cache in an open-snow area, an axle on his plane shattered.

"Cold weather makes metal brittle, and this axle had been manufactured incorrectly, and it broke," he said. "And the nose wheels went up into the wheel well of the airplane, and the plane fell down on top of the nose ski, luckily.

"I no longer had an airplane," Sheppard said. "I just had a huge snowmobile, and there was no place to go. So, we parked the airplane next to the fuel drums and shut down.

"We set up our camp, not knowing how long we'd stay there," he continued. "And then we started to set up to stay for a long time before someone could come and get us. It was dead silence, and you realized you were someplace in the middle of nowhere and [had] no idea how you were going to get out of there or when you were going to get out of there."

Sheppard's story ends well. A rescue crew arrived 20 hours later and brought everyone to McMurdo safe and sound.

Another danger in Antarctica is crevasses, deep niches in the ice that can be fatal for a person on foot or a ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft in take-off. But the Defense Department and National Science Foundation have been working together for the past eight years on a crevasse detection radar.

They've also been developing equipment for their LC-130s that will allow for easier snow take-offs. By adding high-tech eight-bladed propellers with electronic propeller controls, Sheppard said, they'll be able to actually create some lift on the plane while it's stationary. This will allow a heavily laden plane to take off on snow easier, as the propellers are picking up some of the weight before takeoff.

Advances like these not only help to move cargo and save money on fuel, but also improve safety for the crews in Antarctica, Sheppard said.

"People don't realize that the continent itself has a land mass of the continental U.S., plus Mexico," he said. "It's mind-boggling how large it is." In his survival story, Sheppard recalled that he was relatively close to McMurdo, about 400 miles into the barren snow fields. But without the kinds of advances being made there, he said, "[everyone there is] at the mercy of the continent."

Much of the mystery of Antarctica comes from a broad lack of awareness, Sheppard said. For example, he said, most people don't know that most of the continent is covered with an ice cap that's up to two miles thick.

"The continent is at high altitudes, around 10,000 feet or higher, and that it is the coldest, windiest, driest, cleanest place on Earth," Sheppard said. "And the geography of the continent is truly spectacular, with the ice caps and then the mountain ranges. And that's what the international community wants to do, is keep it that way -- the cleanest place -- and do science.

"And it has every natural resource that you can imagine down here – but no one can have it," he added with a laugh.

(Ian Graham works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Airmen, Soldiers Continue Deliveries to Haiti

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Jason J. Brown
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 12, 2010 - Airmen and soldiers assigned here and at Fort Lee, Va., loaded nearly 70 tons of gear and supplies and more than 70 soldiers aboard two C-17 Globemaster III transports Feb. 8 and 9 in support of Operation Unified Response in Haiti. The 633rd Logistics Readiness Squadron team worked alongside airmen from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and soldiers from Joint Base Langley-Eustis and Forty Lee to load the gear and people aboard C-17s from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.

Air transporters from the 633rd LRS have worked around the clock since Jan. 14, ensuring the aircraft are properly loaded, said Air Force Master Sgt. Anthony McCray, the squadron's air terminal operations superintendent. The team performed joint inspections with deploying units and validated all aircraft load plans for proper weight distribution and sequencing.

Soldiers loaded vehicles, palletized cargo and gear as troops from Fort Lee's 530th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion boarded en route to provide security, fuel systems and water purification management in Haiti.

"The Air Force trains soldiers through an affiliation program how to load aircraft properly," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Harris, a 21st Airlift Squadron loadmaster. "They knew exactly what to do and really helped expedite the process."

Airmen use planes that are most readily available to carry cargo and people from support bases to Haiti and back. As a result, crews from around the country man aircraft from different bases, all while visiting installations that serve as hubs.

"We need to be able to respond as quickly as possible, so when the alert comes in, we take whatever plane is available," said Air Force Airman 1st Class Alex Bartels, a loadmaster from Travis who accompanied the Hickam-based C-17. "It saves time and money and helps us be as efficient as possible."

The Haiti relief operation has kept the 633rd's airmen very busy.

"Last year, we moved approximately 1,500 tons of cargo," said Air Force 2nd Lt. Larry Ingersoll, the 633rd LRS officer in charge of air terminal operations. After the Jan. 12 earthquake, the squadron's airmen moved 746 tons of relief supplies in only 25 days, just 7 percent of the year.

Since the beginning of the operation, 633rd LRS Airmen have loaded 24 aircraft with cargo and more than 200 people bound for Haiti.

(Air Force Airman 1st Class Jason J. Brown serves in the 633rd Air Base Wing public affairs office.)