Military News

Monday, February 22, 2010

There is still time for your flu and H1N1 vaccinations

By LTG Eric B. Schoomaker,
U.S. Army Surgeon General

22-Feb-2010 - The annual or seasonal flu is waning quickly, accompanied by a gratifying diminution of new cases and hospitalizations attributable to the novel H1N1 or "swine" flu. In fact, the novel H1N1 flu may have supplanted the seasonal flu this year. By all accounts, this new flu has proven to be less dangerous and less contagious than we had all feared. I like to believe that the efforts which you all, the Army & DoD, the Federal, state, county governments and private healthcare system have undertaken to protect us from this flu are bearing results. Meticulous attention to hand-washing, limiting handshakes and other behaviors which may spread infectious materials, getting vaccinated against the novel H1N1 flu as well as the seasonal flu, social isolation when ill--such as staying home from work and school--and other efforts to reduce the spread of the virus may well be proving effective.

I fear that because the virus has been less injurious to most of us that we will lose sight of what these efforts have done to protect us all. Protecting yourself and your families from the H1N1 and the seasonal flu should be a personal and professional priority.

For those of you who have not received one or both of the vaccinations, we may see a rise in seasonal influenza or another wave of H1N1 influenza. If you have not gotten your immunizations, please do so NOW. The novel H1N1 vaccine has been very safe and very effective.

Protect yourself:

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow (not your hands).

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Viruses and bacteria ("Germs") spread this way.

• Avoid close contact with sick people if possible.

• If you are sick with flu-like illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care if you are very ill or for other necessities to sustain life. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick. Wear a mask when in close proximity to others.

Every opportunity which we have collectively to learn and practice these public and personal health efforts provides us with just that much more protection from future pandemic threats--natural, such as these flu epidemics--or man-made, as with a deliberate attack by a terrorist. Please continue your efforts to protect yourself, your families and friends and the community at large.

General Officer Assignments

February 22, 2010 - The chief of staff, Air Force announces today the following assignments:
Brig. Gen. Norman J. Brozenick Jr., assistant commanding general, Joint Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C., to director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments, Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Brig. Gen. Marshall B. Webb, commander, 23rd Air Force, and the director of operations, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla., to assistant commanding general, Joint Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C.

Brig. Gen. Michael J. Kingsley, military deputy director, Air Force Studies and Analyses, Assessments and Lessons Learned, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, D.C., to commander, 23rd Air Force, and the director of operations, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla.

Brig. Gen. Joseph T. Callahan, III, deputy director for politico-military affairs for Asia, Joint Staff, Pentagon, Washington, D.C., to military deputy director, Air Force Studies and Analyses, Assessments and Lessons Learned, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

Brig. Gen. Philip M. Ruhlman, commander, 36th Wing, Pacific Air Forces, Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, to director of manpower, organization and resources, deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.

Wisconsin Guard pilots play major role in Haiti relief

February 22, 2010 - The task of airlifting in supplies and cargo by fixed-wing aircraft as part of Operation Unified Response - the U.S. military's mission supporting earthquake-ravaged Haiti - has largely been the jurisdiction of the U.S. Air Force, but a small group of Wisconsin Army Guard aviators are taking on that role as well.

Three members of the Wisconsin Joint Force Headquarters' Operational Support Airlift Command Detachment 52, a C-26E fixed-wing aircraft unit, left Feb. 9 for Homestead Joint Air Reserve Base in Florida to assume an operational airlift support mission for approximately one month. The small aircraft and crew began shuttling personnel and supplies between Florida and Haiti on Feb. 11. Two new pilots replaced the crew Feb. 22 and will continue the mission until early March.

That mission began at the end of January with the Army National Guard's Operational Support Airlift Agency Command (OSAACOM) initially conducting multiple flights into Haiti each day, said Army Maj. Darrell Rasor, the officer in charge of the task force. "Up until about Feb. 10, it was two flights a day, and it's been from Florida to Port au Prince daily, which is roughly a six-hour trip," Rasor said. "We've been taking passengers from Homestead ... to Port au Prince and then picking up people in Port au Prince and bringing them back."

According to Col. Jeffrey Paulson, director of aviation and safety for the Wisconsin National Guard, Detachment 52 is the only C-26 aircraft flying relief missions at present for the National Guard.

"It was decided to reduce the footprint from two aircraft to one," Paulson said.

The unit usually transports tools, cargo and personnel supporting rebuilding efforts in Haiti. However, because of the configuration of the aircraft they fly, they can also take on flying VIP missions as well.

Paulson said that refueling in Haiti is not guaranteed, so flight loads have to be planned to ensure enough fuel remains to depart. Sometimes the crew will refuel at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo, he added.

As the need for supplies and materiel in Haiti lessens after the initial push, many flights of larger aircraft - such as the C-130 Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster III - have dropped off and the needed airlift missions have been picked up by the Army aviators, Rasor said.

The air crews from OSAACOM that are flying the missions rotate on a month-to-month basis.

"There are 11 of these C-26 aircraft total within the Army Guard, and we're rotating among the states that operate these types of aircraft," Rasor said.

One of the biggest challenges facing the crews has been the short amount of time to plan missions.

"There's really short notice - it's kind of on-demand direct support," Rasor said. "The missions are going every day but you don't know what you're carrying until about two hours prior to take off."

But Rasor said that a short lead time isn't that unusual. "That's pretty inherent with the Army general support aviation mission anyway," he said.

Paulson said that the Detachment 52 crew has had to temper its expectations with the reality on the ground.

"The schedule changes constantly," he explained. "Sometimes the flights are cancelled, but they remain available seven days a week."

As of Feb. 19, the crew had shuttled 2,100 pounds of cargo and 21 passengers, including a U.S. senator on a return flight. Paulson said that the aircraft spends a fairly short amount of time in Haiti - no more than 60 minutes, enough time to refuel and reload - due to the high flight tempo at Port au Prince.

Another challenge, Paulson said, is the weather. Florida is also experiencing colder weather, with temperatures in the 40s. But Haiti currently has temperatures in the 90s with high humidity.

Despite all the hard work, Rasor welcomes the opportunity to support the mission.

"We're trying to help the leadership [respond to the Haiti support mission] and kind of get the word out that we have these aircraft and these capabilities," he said.

Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy of the National Guard Bureau contributed to this release.

Army Teams Leverage Diversity in Haiti


By Army Sgt. Tony Hawkins
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 22, 2010 – U.S. special operations servicemembers used their diverse backgrounds and skill sets to help a nongovernmental organization deliver and set up nearly 100 tents for Haitian earthquake victims living in a camp here. The distribution was a joint operation between the 82nd Airborne Division, a U.S. Army Special Operations Command civil affairs team, and an organization named Shelter Box, which provided the tents that can house three to six people. Also included with the tents were blankets, a wood-burning stove, food, and a basic water purification system.

"Shelter Box and our team were able to distribute tents to most of the families that live here," an Army civil affairs team leader said. "We're making sure the ones we do have go to the neediest families first."

The team leader, a captain, asked that he and his fellow soldiers not be identified by name for security reasons.

The captain explained that priority went to families with small children, the elderly, and any other families who didn't have some kind of waterproofing, such as a large plastic tarp or a tin roof.

An operation such as this, involving several dozen soldiers and more than 100 Haiti residents, was enhanced by the special skills and talents exhibited by special operations servicemembers, officials said. One sergeant, a member of the civil affairs information support team, is a native Creole speaker.

"Every time I speak to someone I hear, 'I knew you were one of us!' or 'Look, she even smiles like a Haitian,'" the sergeant said.

Noting that she was born in Haiti and moved to the United States at a young age, the sergeant said she is honored and humbled to return to her birthplace to help displaced people.

"It really hits a chord with me, because this could have been me or my family," she said. "I'm so fortunate for having grown up in the U.S., but I'm thankful I get to come back here to help in any way possible."

The abilities to speak the language and understand the local culture are invaluable skills that the sergeant said she gets plenty of opportunities to use during her current mission.

"I'm able to speak to people to provide them with information and instructions during the distributions," she said. "People see me and recognize me as a Haitian, so it gets their attention. They feel comfortable talking to me, so I can find out their needs and relay them to the commander."

Although she did provide some information to the members of the camp, most of the instructions were given to local people by a familiar face, the camp's chief, with the sergeant in the background assisting him. The distribution of the tents went off without incident and in an orderly fashion.

During the distribution, medical personnel from a Latin-American nongovernmental organization arrived to provide treatment to the camp's citizens. A civil affairs team staff sergeant who is a native of the Dominican Republic used his Spanish-language skills to coordinate operations between the organization and his team.

Haiti shares an island with the Dominican Republic, and the staff sergeant came back to Hispaniola with a working knowledge of the countries' cultures.

"This is my island," he said. "I know its history and understand the culture."

By providing better shelter to the families in the camp, the civil affairs teams helped to shift some basic priorities for people in the camps, so that residents can receive other aid by nongovernmental organizations in the future, such as treatment from the Latin-American doctors. The doctors have a long-term plan for the camp that includes daily visits to treat illnesses or injuries while other organizations regularly supply the camp with food and clean water.

After several hours, the distribution was completed without complications. As the tents were distributed, and after a quick lesson from a few U.S. soldiers, Haitians began setting up the shelters on their own.

The delivery of improved shelters allows for a smooth transition of aid distribution for people living in the camp, which is now very close to being turned over to nongovernmental organizations for continued humanitarian assistance, officials said.

(Army Sgt. Tony Hawkins serves in the Joint Forces Special Operations Component Command public affairs office.)

MILITARY CONTRACTS February 22, 2010

AIR FORCE

Northrop Grumman Defense Mission Systems, Inc., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $77,915,492 contract which will provide the maintenance and support of the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node system in support of overseas contingency operations through fiscal year 2010. At this time, $71,181,700 has been obligated. 653 ELSG/PK, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., is the contracting activity (FA8726-09-C-0010).

Boeing Co., Wichita, Kan., was awarded a $35,403,359 contract which will provide continuing contractor logistics support for the VC-25A aircraft. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 727 ACSG/PKB, Tinker Air Force Base, Nev., is the contracting activity (FA8106-09-C-0005).

Sierra Nevada Corp., Sparks, Nev., was awarded a $9,267,712 contract which will provide for the design, development, testing and evaluation of research and development prototype capability that improves mission effectiveness through the use of automated analysis for real time situational awareness and assessment. At this time, $148,455 has been obligated. AFRL/RIKE, Rome, N.Y., is the contracting activity (FA8750-10-C-0040).

NAVY

Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co., Inc., Honolulu, Hawaii, is being awarded $5,574,000 for firm-fixed-price task order #0002 under a previously awarded multiple award construction contract (N62478-09-D-4015) for repair of wharf S-20 at Naval Station Pearl Harbor. The work to be performed provides for selective removal work; concrete rehabilitation; marine concrete; refurbish marine hardware; concrete fender piles; fender system; hydro-pneumatic floating fenders; metal fabrications; coating of waterfront steel structures; pavement markings; oil spill containment booms; low pressure compressed air; water distribution; sanitary sewer; exterior salt water distribution system; electrical work; and incidental related work. Work will be performed in Oahu, Hawaii, and is expected to be completed by September 2011. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Six proposals were received for this task order. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Hawaii, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is the contracting activity.

Government Contracting Resources, Inc.*, Pinehurst, N.C., is being awarded a maximum $15,152,401 firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity base operating support services contract at Naval Support Activity Panama City. The work to be performed provides for facility management services; facilities investment services consisting of operation, maintenance, repair, minor construction and alteration services for buildings, structures and facility systems, water treatment services, backflow preventer maintenance, locksmith services, re-lamping services, roof inspections, fire protection, etc.; pest control; grounds maintenance; street sweeping services; and environmental services consisting of completing samplings and inspections. Work will be performed in Panama City, Fla., and is expected to be completed September 2014. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online Web site, with three offers received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast, Jacksonville, Fla., is the contracting activity (N69450-10-D-0761).

Gates Picks Intelligence Official for New Post

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 22, 2010 - Letitia Long, deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, will serve as the next director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced today.

Long will assume the NGA leadership later this year, replacing Navy Vice Adm. Robert Murrett who is serving his fourth year at the agency.

Gates cited Long's unique qualifications for the new post, including more than 30 years of engineering and intelligence experience. She served as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, deputy director of naval intelligence, and as coordinator of intelligence community activities for the director of central intelligence, he noted.

Long will become the first woman to lead a major intelligence agency, Gates noted.

Murrett will remain at the NGA helm for several months to ensure a smooth transition, particularly in light of the agency's vital wartime mission and its planned move to Fort Belvoir, Va.

Gates praised Murrett's outstanding performance, service and achievements at the agency, nothing that he had extended him to serve an additional year at NGA.

The secretary recognized his affinity for NGA, an agency he had a role in creating when he was director of central intelligence. Decisions he made led to the creation of the national Imagery and Mapping Agency in 1996, which later became the NGA.

The NGA structure combined CIA and Defense Department elements to provide "a more centralized focus on this critical intelligence discipline," Gates said. NGA develops imagery and map-based intelligence solutions for U.S. national defense, homeland security and safety of navigation.

With headquarters in Bethesda, Md., NGA has major facilities in the Washington, Northern Virginia and St. Louis areas. It also provides global support to its intelligence community partners through NGA representatives stationed around the world.

Iran Concerns Middle Eastern Neighbors

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 22, 2010 - Just back from a trip to the Middle East, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today cited widespread concern about Iran's nuclear program, but emphasized the importance of diplomatic and economic pressure, rather than military action, to stem it.

"Let me be clear: We owe the secretary [of defense] and the president a range of options for this threat. We owe the American people our readiness," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said. "But as I've said many times, I worry a lot about the unintended consequences of any sort of military action."

For now, Mullen said, the "diplomatic and economic levers of international power" are the appropriate responses to Iran's actions in defiance of international law and the international community.

"Indeed, I would hope they are always and consistently pulled," he said. "No strike, however effective, will be, in and of itself, decisive."

Mullen cited concern about Iran as an overarching theme during his recent visit to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. All share the U.S. belief that Iran's nuclear program is headed on a path to achieve weaponization – a pursuit Mullen said further destabilizes the region.

"Like us, it isn't just a nuclear-capable Iranian military our friends worry about,' he said. "It's an Iran with hegemonic ambitions and a desire to dominate its neighbors. This outcome drives many of the national security decisions our partners there are making, and I believe we must be mindful of that as we look to the future, post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan."

Throughout his visit, Mullen said, he was encouraged that despite varying perspectives, each country shared a common goal of stability and security for the region. The chairman said he also was struck that U.S. military relationships in the region continue to strengthen.

"Our partners want to engage," he said. "They want to exercise and operate with us, and they want to pursue new and innovative ways to tackle common challenges there and around the world."

He cited the Egyptians' pride in the recent Bright Star exercise, with a goal of building on it in the future. Meanwhile, the Israelis are reaching out beyond the immediate region to the wider world to contribute unique humanitarian skills and capabilities. Mullen noted the Israeli military's medical contributions on the ground in Haiti.

The Jordanians continue to contribute to United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world, and have provided medical support in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mullen said he was impressed by a new special operations training center he toured, and its potential for preparing modern militaries for counterterrorism operations.

While in Saudi Arabia, Mullen learned of the valuable lessons the Saudis have learned working with the Yemeni government to deal with rebel leader Yahia Badreddin al-Houti and his followers.

And in United Arab Emirates, Mullen toured a new advanced training center that he said "provides virtually unimpeded training opportunities" to regional air forces while improving real-world tactical air coordination.

Minnesota Guard trains Norwegian youths

By Spc. Alicia Phillips
Minnesota National Guard

(2/17/10) -- A group of 60 Norwegian Home Guard youth, who arrived here on Feb. 12, enjoyed a week of intense Army training and finished off with a weekend of sightseeing and shopping in Minneapolis. They came to Minnesota with great expectations. For them to come here is a “big deal,” said Marthe Brendefur, one of the students. “Everyone hears great things about this in Norway.”

While they are here, they build a great sense of esprit de corps in their platoons and achievements. Values, such as honor, duty, and camaraderie, are reinforced through their daily activities and competitions.

Many of the youth build such strong bonds with the Minnesota cadre they meet that they later send messages and gifts back with current participants to be given to their old cadre leaders.

They compete with other platoons daily to earn the right as the “hooah” platoon. The winner of the coveted “hooah” battle streamer attaches it to their guidon, proudly displaying their achievements for the day.

Whenever a platoon wins the banner, their mascot, which is a teddy bear dressed in military fatigues, receives a promotion in rank. The goal is to get the mascot to general officer.

Of all of the activities they have participated in, among the most popular and widely anticipated was the ride on the CH-47 Chinook helicopter, qualifying with the M16 and M4 rifles and shopping.

“The best part of this exchange is meeting new people and seeing the differences between our cultures,” said Jonas Salthammer, a Norwegian Home Guard member.

In Norway, all youth are required to serve as a conscript for one year after high school. One such youth is Anders Ofstaas, nicknamed “Highspeed,” because of his gung ho attitude and desire to succeed. He has decided to join the Norwegian army and become a paratrooper.

These teenagers are highly trained, disciplined and motivated, Guard officials said. This becomes evident when they are seen on the range or in the field.

“They are very hard core, and very motivated. When you see that kind of motivation, esprit de corps and can do attitude it is absolutely awesome,” said Staff Sgt. John Hugh, a military police officer and platoon sergeant for the white platoon. “It has been a pleasure training them … I couldn’t have asked for a better group of young people to train in my life.”

The 65th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima


By Petty Officer William Selby

February 22, 2010 - As our crew drove down Interstate 95 South toward the National Museum for the Marine Corps for the 65th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, I tried to figure out just how to ask someone to recount what has to be one of their most horrific memories.

We arrived at the museum about 45 minutes before the ceremony and my nerves were shaky at best. I’ve photographed several high profile officials as well as athletes but these men had my palms sweaty and my tongue twisted. They have lived to tell about a war and battle that I’ve only read about in history books as the worst war of the 20th century. I can’t think of words that would describe the level of respect that I have for these veterans.

After I composed myself, I scanned the room and saw many emotions and expressions of pride. These veterans weren’t afraid to cry; they seemed proud, as if to say, “I’ve been through hell, but I’m a Marine and I survived.”

Charles Smith was the first Marine veteran I interviewed. He gave a very firm handshake, smiled and introduced himself in a very low voice. I asked him to explain what the ceremony means to him. About five seconds into his response, Charles began to get emotional, which was a recurring theme among these brave men. Charles explained that recalling friends who lost their lives at Iwo Jima gets him emotional every time he thinks about it.

I thought I was finished with my interviews. But while I was looking at battle artifacts in the museum I ran into another retired Marine. “Hello there,” said retired Marine John J. Fuller or “Jack” as he asked me to call him.

I asked why he wasn’t out enjoying the ceremony. Bingo! Jack spent a good 10 minutes recounting his dramatic experience at Iwo Jima and more. Jack served in B Company, 1st Battalion, 21st Regiment, 3rd Marines. His company started with 250 men and by the end of the battle, only eight of them had survived. All the officers in his company had been killed, so Jack led them, and he continued to do so after the battle. Jack served in the military for 33 years and retired as a colonel in the Army National Guard.

The honor and sacrifice of Col. Fuller and all the men that I talked to today has left me in awe and I thank them for their service.