Military News

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Nimitz Prepares for Underway with Fast Cruise

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Peter Merrill, USS Nimitz Public Affairs

June 29, 2010 - SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) successfully completed a 14-hour fast cruise June 28.

Fast cruise allowed Nimitz crew members to simulate life at sea and to reinforce the underway watch standards while still tied to the pier.

"This has been a great fast cruise, exactly what the crew needed," said Capt. Paul O. Monger, Nimitz commanding officer. "Since our return from deployment in March, this crew has been working hard to get the ship ready again, fast cruise is the last step to get this warship back to sea."

During the fast cruise, Sailors conducted a sea and anchor detail to simulate Nimitz getting underway along with executing underway watch team rotations and steering drills.

"It's good to flex the watch stations to see where everyone's at and to see how prepared we are to get underway," said Damage Controlman 1st Class (SW/AW) Scott Loendorf, Nimitz' assistant damage control training team coordinator.

The crew also participated in a man overboard drill, general quarters and flight deck drills.

The drills prepared Nimitz' Sailors to work as one entity, said Loendorf. They also introduced new check-ins, and refresh veteran Sailors, to the evolutions they will experience while at sea.

New Sailor or veteran, Nimitz is prepared for the job ahead, said Loendorf. "Motivation was way up. We put in some good effort and it was just awesome training."

Nimitz is scheduled to conduct sea trails, June 29 to test the ship's at-sea maneuvering and system capabilities to ensure mission capability.

Nimitz is the flagship for Carrier Strike Group 11. Nimitz returned home to San Diego March 26 after completing a successful eight-month Western Pacific deployment.

Taylor Arrives in Split, Croatia

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Edward Kessler, USS Taylor Public Affairs

June 29, 2010 - SPLIT, Croatia (NNS) -- USS Taylor (FFG 50) arrived in Split, Croatia, June 24, as part of a scheduled port visit to further strengthen the relationship between the United States and Croatia.

While in port, Taylor Sailors will participate in community relation (COMREL) projects, give out donated Project Handclasp materials, provide tours of the ship and participate in a baseball game against a local Croatian club team.

Cmdr. Lyle Hall, Taylor's commanding officer, will meet with Croatian Vice Adm. Zdravko Kardum, commander, Republic of Croatia Coast Guard and his staff.

"This promises to be a unique and valuable experience for us," said Hall. "We hope to gain a tremendous amount of insight with our Adriatic partners through our sharing of experiences and training techniques."

The COMREL projects involve giving the children from Maestral Orphanage a tour of Taylor and delivering Project Handclasp materials to the orphanage.

Taylor, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, is home ported in Mayport, Fla., and is on a scheduled deployment to the 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility.

One-of-a-kind MSC Ship Trains to Deliver Fuel to Shore

By Ed Baxter, Sealift Logistics Command Far East Public Affairs

June 29, 2010 - POHANG, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- The crew of Military Sealift Command offshore petroleum distribution system ship MV Vice Adm. K.R. Wheeler trained June 21-26 to do something that no other ship in the world can do: pump fuel to shore from a tanker as far as eight miles out to sea.

The training took place off the coast of Pohang, Republic of Korea, and gave the ship's crew, operators and shoreside support personnel an opportunity to practice the first and final phases of a complex evolution that allows the unique, MSC-chartered Wheeler to quickly and efficiently deliver fuel to Soldiers and Marines operating ashore where port facilities are inadequate or non-existent.

The 349-foot long ship is designed to operate as an at-sea pumping station, receiving fuel pumped to it from a commercial or military tanker at sea, and in turn, pumping that fuel to shore.

The exercise provided an opportunity to practice deploying and re-deploying the eight miles of yellow, flexible pipe that Wheeler carries aboard its weatherdeck wrapped around five, 35-foot-tall spools. No liquid was pumped during the training exercise.

Forty-four people participated in the evolution, which required close coordination from a diverse group of civilian and military partners. Wheeler's 26 civilian mariners - who work for a private ship company under contract to MSC - operate and navigate the ship, while eight civilian technicians assigned aboard Wheeler manage the petroleum distribution system. For this exercise, Military Sealift Command Office Korea, along with 10 Sailors from two MSC Reserve units oversaw the shoreside fuel reception infrastructure.

"Our units have never supported Wheeler or a mission like this before," said Navy Lt. Sal Lopez of MSC's Fort Worth, Texas-based Expeditionary Port Unit 113, one of the two MSC Reserve units participating in the exercise. "This is a great opportunity to train in something completely new." Sailors from EPU 109, which is based in Jacksonville, Fla., also participated.

"We sharpen our skills and become more proficient by doing this type of hands-on training," said Rick Bower, one of the eight contract personnel assigned aboard Wheeler whose sole mission is to manage the offshore petroleum distribution system. "We can more effectively deliver fuel ashore to our Soldiers and Marines when they need it."

The exercise enabled the crew to inspect and perform routine maintenance on the nine-layers of metal-lined, flexible fuel pipe valued at more than $25 million.

The first step in getting the pipe to shore was to run a line between Wheeler and the beach that would serve as a guide for the pipe. Upon arrival June 21, Wheeler's crew launched one of the ship's two, 45-foot amphibious watercraft, called a LARC, and positioned on the beach to serve as the shoreside anchor for that guiding line. The next day, the line was taken to shore in one of Wheeler's small boats and secured to the LARC's winch. The other end of the line was then secured to the pipe still aboard Wheeler and the LARC used its winch to bring in about 3,000 feet of Wheeler's pipe onto the beach where the pipe was attached to a receiving device called a beach terminal unit that delivers fuel to nearby storage facilities and is stored aboard Wheeler.

Over the next three days, Wheeler steadily deployed its pipe to shore at a rate of approximately 60 feet per minute. At the same time, the ship slowly moved forward at a speed less than one knot as the pipe was deployed to the seabed in about 70-100 feet of water.

By the afternoon of June 24, all eight miles of the pipe had been deployed and Wheeler immediately began to retrieve the pipe. By June 26, the entire pipe was back on board the ship.

In a real world scenario, Wheeler's crew can run the full length of pipe ashore, run a float hose to a tanker and be ready to pump fuel at a rate of about 1,400 gallons per minute - up to 1.7 million gallons in 20 hours.

Wheeler, part of Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadron Three and normally located in Guam or Saipan, stopped at nearby Busan June 27, for fuel and supplies. MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, U.S. merchant mariner-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships at sea, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces.

Family Matters Blog: Program Helps Military Families Adopt

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

June 29, 2010 - I met an amazing military family the other day that opened their hearts and home to three children. Air Force Master Sgt. Kipp M. Bourgeois and his wife, Christina, adopted their children, thanks in part to financial assistance from the Defense Department's adoption reimbursement program. The couple had been trying to conceive for more than a decade, but Christina's battle with endometriosis served as a barrier to their attempts.

They moved to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in 2000, and saw a fertility specialist who told the couple their only hope was in vitro fertilization. But at $15,000 a try and only a 30-percent success rate, as the doctor told them, the family just couldn't swing the cost.

They decided to look into adoption, specifically a special-needs adoption through the state. "Dealing with special needs wasn't an issue for us," Bourgeois told me.

They set their sights on two siblings, Emalie and Kameron, who were 4- and 3-years-old at the time. The state considered the children as having special needs due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and allergies. But the couple didn't think twice about their special needs or the fact that they would be accepting two children into their home rather than one.

"My wife fell in love with both of them, just based on their picture," Bourgeois recalled. "They just looked like they fit in our family." Since the adoption was done through the state of Nevada, the family's costs were minimal. Still, they had to pay about $2,000 out of pocket for fingerprinting, training classes and a lawyer to finalize the adoption. The couple turned to the Defense Department's adoption reimbursement program for financial help, joining thousands of other military couples who have received compensation to defray adoption costs through the program since 1991. In 2009, the program distributed nearly 650 payments throughout the services, totaling more than $1 million.

The program reimburses servicemembers for certain adoption expenses such as agency and placement fees, legal fees and medical expenses. Servicemembers who serve continuously on active duty for at least 180 days can receive up to a maximum of $2,000 per child, but can't exceed $5,000 per calendar year.

For the Bourgeois family, the money covered their out-of-pocket expenses almost entirely after their first adoption was finalized in 2003.

They again turned to the program for help on their next adoption, three years later.

Bourgeois was working with the birth mother and father at the time. When the birth mother found out she was pregnant, she was distraught, knowing her family wouldn't approve since she wasn't married, he said. Knowing they had adopted before, she called and asked the couple if they would take the baby.

Since this adoption was private, it was more costly, adding up to roughly $13,000, Bourgeois said. But between the department's reimbursement program and IRS tax credits, their out-of-pocket expenses were minimal.

Emalie and Kameron are now 14 and 12, and their youngest, SkylarRae, is 3.

While Bourgeois said he remains grateful for the resources that aided his family: "The love that [my children] return makes the money not even a thought in the end."

I'm grateful there are people out there like the Bourgeois family. Thanks to them, deserving children in need are able to grow up in healthy and happy homes.

If you're interested in adopting, don't hesitate to look into the adoption reimbursement program. The department also offers servicemembers who adopt up to 21 days of nonchargeable leave to be used in connection with the adoption. For more information, contact your local family support center or personnel office, or call Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647.

Texas Guard Prepares for Season's First Hurricane

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau

June 29, 2010 - About 2,500 members of the Texas National Guard are on standby in anticipation of Tropical Storm Alex, which is expected to become a hurricane and hit the lower Texas coast late July 1 or early July 2. The deployment of troops and the locations where they will go depends on future weather predictions and where landfall occurs, Texas National Guard officials said.

Texas Guard assets that may be employed include eight UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and crews, and three C-130 Hercules aircraft and crews that can assist with air evacuations if needed. Additionally, officials said, Guard members have vehicles capable of crossing high-water areas.

The Guard members would be working in support of local and state authorities, and in addition to providing evacuation capabilities, they also can bring medical personnel, communication equipment and security teams if those assets are needed.

"We continue to closely monitor this storm, and are preparing accordingly for its potential impact to our communities," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said on his website today. "Tropical Storm Alex is now in the Gulf, and it is imperative that residents pay attention to this storm, heed warnings from their local leaders, and take the steps necessary to protect their families, homes and businesses."

Sailors, DoD Police Graduate Pilot Police Academy at Naval Base Coronado

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class AC Rainey

June 29, 2010 - SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Sailors and Department of Defense (DOD) federal law enforcement officers graduated from a joint training course for the first time in the history of Navy Region Southwest at Naval Base Coronado June 25.

The inaugural Commander Navy Installations Command (CNIC) Navy Security Forces Training Course is a pilot program designed to standardize advanced law enforcement training among all law enforcement agencies within the Navy community.

"The goals of this program are to get all of our police officers and our enlisted folks, masters-at-arms, on the same training pace," said E.A. Rhodes, force protection program director for Navy Region Southwest.

The graduation, which took place at Murphy Canyon Chapel in San Diego, was the end of a nine-week journey for the 10 DoD federal police and two Navy masters-at-arms enrolled in the course. Due to the nature of their work environments (military bases inside the United States) cadets were tasked with complex training evolutions involving the study of both federal and state law, search and seizure techniques, weapons training, and many other areas of law enforcement and anti-terrorism/force protection instruction.

"In nine weeks you cover a lot of material," said Officer Daniel Siler, one of seven graduates from Naval Air Station China Lake Police Department. "We have to go over state and federal laws constantly because laws on base are very different than out in town. It was a good course."

"It was a lot more classroom time; a lot more law; way more law than our 'A' school," said Master-at-Arms Seaman Lindsey Bakke, a Sailor assigned to Harbor Patrol at Naval Base San Diego. "We got to go do different practicals, see really a whole different side of enforcement and protection all around."

Graduates received their badges, pinned on by their families and friends, and took the police officer's oath. According to their instructors, they also saved a vast amount of time in that preparation.

"This course gives the officers the credentials they need to hit the ground running. It usually can take an officer anywhere between three to four months after arriving at a precinct in order to get into a school to receive this kind of advanced training," said Paul Gonzalez, the course's lead instructor. Gonzalez added that once in the advanced schooling officers could be in that training for an additional four months. "Nine weeks is a lot faster than nearly a year," said Gonzalez.

Instructors and administrators will review and evaluate the class to prepare for future training sessions within Navy Region Southwest.

Preparation Key to Weathering Hurricanes

By April Phillips, Naval Safety Center Public Affairs

June 29, 2010 - NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The annual hurricane season began June 1, and some experts predict this could be a busy year for storms. However, the Naval Safety Center has storm preparation tips that could lessen the damage to life and property if a hurricane does come ashore.

With the first storm of the season, Tropical Storm Alex, churning in the Gulf of Mexico and nearing hurricane strength, concerns are starting to rise. Current predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show the storm moving away from the oil spill off the coast of Louisiana and toward south Texas, where it may make landfall as a Category 1 storm the evening of June 29 or the morning of June 30.

Derek Nelson, a Norfolk, Va. resident, who heads the Naval Safety Center's Media Division, recently helped put together a pocket-sized hurricane preparedness guide.

Nelson said preparation is important even when evacuation isn't necessary.

"Don't wait until the wind is blowing and the rain is pouring to get water and non-perishable food," Nelson said. "Track the storm as it approaches and prepare before landfall is imminent."

The Naval Safety Center advises inspecting yards and property well in advance of the storm. Remove any diseased or damaged tree branches and secure any objects that could become airborne from high winds.

However, winds aren't the only danger during a hurricane. Flooding is also a major concern.

"Here in Norfolk, the city publishes a map that shows the flood zone," Nelson said.

He recommended that residents of any city find out if they're in a flood-prone location. If so, move valuables to the highest level of the house.

Loss of electricity is a nuisance during a storm, but it can also be dangerous if there's no way to monitor the hurricane.

"Think about what will happen when you don't have electricity for a few days. Don't fill your freezer with food that will spoil. Also, keep a battery-operated radio handy with plenty of spare batteries," Nelson said.

While he has evacuated the city several times in advance of storms, Nelson recognizes that most people won't have to take that drastic step. However, it's important to have a plan, just in case. Find an inland evacuation location well in advance, and make sure everyone in the family knows what to do and when to act.

"It's a lot easier to take a little time and energy to be prepared than to try to figure out what to do once it's too late," he said. "The regret you'll have will far outweigh the effort it takes to get you and your family ready for the storm."

NAS Kingsville Eyes Tropical Storm Alex

By Jon Gagné, Naval Air Station Kingsville Public Affairs

June 29, 2010 - NAVAL AIR STATION KINGSVILLE, Texas (NNS) -- Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville set Condition of Readiness 4 (COR 4) June 28 in preparation for the arrival of tropical storm force winds from Tropical Storm Alex on the South Texas coast.

COR 4 is a normal destructive weather condition that is set when tropical storm or hurricane force winds are expected within 72 hours.

NAS Kingsville Commanding Officer Capt. Mark McLaughlin, who assumed command of the air station June 25, set COR 4 for the air station following a teleconference with Navy Region Southeast, and the Navy's weather command in Norfolk.

"It looks like Tropical Storm Alex's projected path has the brunt of the storm coming ashore south of Brownsville and Kingsville will not be in the direct path but we're still going to proceed with caution as the storm is over the Gulf of Mexico," McLaughlin said. "At this point, we're going to be securing potential missile hazards, making plans to protect aircraft and property, and ensuring our personnel have time to take care of their homes and families in case the storm should intensify."

As of noon June 28, the National Weather Service forecasts Tropical Storm Alex to intensify into a Category 2 Hurricane before making landfall somewhere near the Texas-Mexico border. A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the coast of Texas south of Baffin Bay to the mouth of the Rio Grande River. The Mexican government has issued a similar warning from the mouth of the Rio Grande River to La Cruz, Mexico.

As of noon June 28, Tropical Storm Alex was located near 20.3N, 91.7W with an estimated minimal central pressure of 989 mb. Maximum sustained winds registered 50 miles-per-hour (mph), and the storm is moving north-northwesterly at about 6 knots. Projected landfall is expected from South of Baffin Bay to the Mexican border at about 7 a.m. central time July 1, as a Category 2 Hurricane.

Tropical Storm-force winds are expected for the Brownsville, Texas area by 9 a.m. June 30, and as far north as Baffin Bay just south of Kingsville, by 6 p.m. Storm surge potential for the watch area is 4-6 feet, with a rainfall potential of 6-8 inches, with isolated 10-inches or more for coastal counties.

At present, entry points into the air station are operating as normal, and all base facilities are operating normal hours.

MILITARY CONTRACTS June 29, 2010

AIR FORCE

Carnegie Mellon University/Software Engineering Institute, Pittsburgh, Penn., was awarded a $994,997,561 contract modification which will provide software research and development pertinent to national defense. At this time, no money has been obligated. ESC/PKE, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., is the contracting activity (FA8721-05-C-0003-P00108).

ARMY

BAE Systems, Sealy, Texas, was awarded on June 24 a $24,859,697 firm-fixed-price contract. This contract is for up to a total of 130 high mobility artillery rocket system launchers chassis with increased crew protection cabs and applique armor. This contract modification is for 63 vehicles, leaving the government with the option of ordering the additional 67 vehicles. Work is to be performed in Sealy, Texas, with an estimated completion date of June 30, 2011. One bid was solicited with one bid received. TACOM Contracting Center, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-08-C-0460).

General Dynamics C4 Systems, Inc., Taunton, Mass., was awarded on June 25 a $9,002,017 firm-fixed-price contract for computer hardware. Work is to be performed in Taunton, Mass., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 7, 2010. One Business Opportunities Portal sole-source bid was solicited with one bid received. CECOM Acquisition Center, Fort Monmouth, N.J., is the contracting activity (W15P7T-10-C-G409).

W.M. Jordan Versar, JV, Newport News, Va., was awarded on June 25 a $7,185,824 firm-fixed-price contract for construction of West Gate and construction of LaSalle Gates at Langley Air Force Base. Work is to be performed at Langley Air Force Base, Va., with an estimated completion date of June 24, 2012. Six bids were solicited with three bids received. Norfolk District Corps of Engineers, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (W91236-08-D-0056).

American Ordnance, LLC, Middletown, Iowa, was awarded on June 24 a $6,117,147 firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement to exercise Option 2 for the 81mm propelling charges; 861,570 of M220. Work is to be performed in Milan, Tenn., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2013. Bids were solicited via the national technology industrial base with four bids received. Army Contracting Command, Rock Island Contracting Center, CCRC-AC, Rock Island, Ill., is the contracting activity (W52P1J-09-C-0029).

NAVY

Navistar Defense, LLC, Warrenville, Ill., is being awarded a $13,407,071 firm-fixed-priced delivery order #0014, modification #03 under previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032) for the procurement of spare parts - authorized stockage list, prescribed load list, battle damage assessment repair, and deprocessing - for the independent suspension system for the MaxxPro vehicles; DASH engineering change proposal (ECP) Phase III upgrade, production; remote weapon station system upgrade; and collateral material/BII (unique). The objective of the aforementioned spare parts and ECP upgrades is to sustain operation of the DASH vehicles in Afghanistan. Work will be performed in West Point, Miss., and is expected to be completed by the end of January 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Archer Western Contractors, Ltd., Atlanta, Ga., is being awarded a $9,333,929 firm-fixed-price task order #0003 under a multiple award construction contract (N40085-08-D-9739) for construction of a field training facility at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The work to be performed provides for design and construction of a one-story pre-engineered academic instruction facility; a one-story battalion aid station; range toilet facilities; fire protection storage tank; and a laundry facility. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, N.C., and is expected to be completed by December 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Five proposals were received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity.

A-T Solutions, Inc., Fredericksburg, Va., is being awarded an $8,900,000 firm-fixed-price contract for Mobile Counter Improvised Explosive Device Interactive Trainers, a mobile, immersive learning environment for counter improvised explosive device awareness training. Enlisted personnel and junior officers are trained to recognize and defeat improvised explosive devices under complex attack scenarios. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $17,800,000. Work will be performed in Glendale, Calif. (67 percent), and Fredericksburg, Va. (33 percent), and is expected to be completed by October, 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $3,875,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured with three proposals solicited and one offer received via the General Services Administration eBuy Web site. The Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Keyport, Keyport, Wash., is the contracting activity (N00253-10-F-0054).

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Troy Co.*, Seattle, Wash., is being awarded a minimum $6,580,813 fixed-price with economic price adjustment for gasohol, fuel oil, and low sulfur diesel. Other locations of performance are various locations throughout Montana. Using services are Army, Air Force, and other federal civilian agencies. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 33 responses. The date of performance completion is July 30, 2013. The Defense Energy Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-10-D-4540).

Associated Petroleum Products, Inc.*, Tacoma, Wash., is being awarded a minimum $12,480,294 fixed-price with economic price adjustment for gasohol, biodiesel, fuel oil, and low sulfur diesel. Other locations of performance are various locations throughout Washington. Using services are Army, Air Force, Navy, and other federal civilian agencies. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 33 responses. The date of performance completion is July 30, 2013. The Defense Energy Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-10-D-4530).

Mansfield Oil Co.*, Gainesville, Ga., is being awarded a minimum $7,478,568 fixed-price with economic price adjustment for gasohol, fuel oil, and low sulfur diesel. Other locations of performance are various locations in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Montana. Using services are Army, Air Force, and other federal civilian agencies. The original proposal was Web-solicited with 33 responses. The date of performance completion is July 30, 2013. The Defense Energy Support Center, Fort Belvoir, Va., is the contracting activity (SP0600-10-D-4535).

Wisconsin Guard artillery battalion rockets into 21st Century

By Army Staff Sgt. Brian Jopek
112th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

June 29, 2010 - With the last rocket's glare, the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery gave proof last week at Fort McCoy of their Soldiers' unflagging determination to certify on the military's most advanced field artillery weapon system.

The 121st Field Artillery - with batteries in Milwaukee, Racine, Plymouth and Sussex - took full advantage of a window of opportunity to train on and fire the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS. Members of Battery A, who deployed to Iraq with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team in 2009, were not required to take part in this year's annual training but volunteered to do so for the opportunity to certify on the HIMARS.

"They wanted to be in on the tip of the spear or the tip of training and do a live fire mission with the HIMARS at Fort McCoy," said Battery A Commander Capt. Harvey Hubbard.

According to Lt. Col. Steve Sherrod, 121st Field Artillery commander, the battalion was not scheduled to field the HIMARS for a couple of years.

"Because of deployments and active duty rotations, we were asked to move forward and take an active duty slot for fielding the system this summer," he explained. "As a lifelong artillery man, to get this new, latest cutting edge equipment is very exciting for the Soldiers and for me."

From the side, the HIMARS looks like it could be your average, everyday military issue from the Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) family of trucks that has become prevalent in the U.S military in recent years. However, the HIMARS replaces the tracked M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, the battalion's primary weapons system since 2003.

Staff Sgt. Kelly Shurilla of Milwaukee is a section chief on one of Battery A's HIMARS. Shurilla was in the active army for three years and has done eight years with the National Guard - all with the MLRS, with the exception of 2006, when the 121st deployed to Kuwait to perform convoy escort duties throughout Iraq.

"They made it more efficient, easier to understand and fail-safe," said Shurilla, who has taken part in at least a hundred MLRS fire missions during his career. "Everything's quicker, from the computer software to the hydraulics working the launcher itself."

Hubbard lauded the HIMARS' accuracy.

"With the right resources, we can drop a missile in the windowsill of a building," he said.

While the HIMARS has half the firepower of the MLRS, its lighter payload and wheeled chassis provide key advantages over its predecessor in speed and transportability by air in an aircraft such as the Air Force's C-130 Hercules, which is designed to operate on short grassy runways if necessary. The Hercules can land in remote areas bigger planes can't and unload a HIMARS, which then has the capability to roll into firing position in a matter of seconds.

"I really don't see any disadvantages to the HIMARS," Shurilla said.

The 121st Field Artillery's HIMARS crews are now fully trained and certified on the system following completion of the battalion's annual training, which included a two-day live fire by all three firing batteries.

Hubbard has 19 years in the artillery himself, working with everything from 105 millimeter and 8 inch howitzers to the MLRS. He said he does like the traditional artillery pieces but appreciates the addition of HIMARS to the Wisconsin Army Guard weapons inventory.

"With smaller rounds you get more bangs, but HIMARS brings the 121st into the 21st century," Hubbard said. "A lot of active duty units are dying to get this system."

Hubbard said that as Battery A personnel prepared for their deployment with the 32nd Brigade, they did not know the 121st would be getting the HIMARs. This year's fielding and live fire certification, along with a planned annual training at Camp Guernsey, Wyo. next year to train with the 115th Fires Brigade, means a lot for the Soldiers who did not have artillery missions on their latest deployment, he said.

"It's good because they can get back to the standard mission set of the artillery," Hubbard said. "This system is used in Afghanistan and the Soldiers can train to use it in a combat environment."

On the civilian side, Hubbard works for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Milwaukee and says he has the best of both worlds - he gets to serve with other veterans currently in uniform and in his day job at the VA gets to work with veterans from World War Two and later conflicts.

"It's really an honor to be out here," said Hubbard. "As a commander, I couldn't have fallen into a better deal."

"Save a Life" Tour Visits Navy Region Northwest

From Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest

June 29, 2010 - EVERETT, Wash. (NNS) -- The Save a Life Tour (SALT) visited installations around Navy Region Northwest (NRNW) June 21-30 providing alcohol awareness training and education about the dangers of drinking and driving.

According to their website, SALT is the most advanced high-impact alcohol awareness program in the nation. The event opened with a 20-minute video showing results of drunk driving along with facts and figures. The video also featured the Jacqueline Saburido story to show how drunk driving not only affects the victims, but their friends and families as well. Participants were required to take a 10-question alcohol survey during the event.

"I think everybody in the Navy knows not to drink and drive, but when you see a program like this, the sad stories, the bodies strewn over the highway, it just drives home the point better," said Cmdr. Dean Grant, Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Everett commanding officer, from Jefferson, S.C. "We all need to be reminded of the seriousness of drinking and driving. It's very effective, and it's a good reminder."

Operations Specialist 1st Class (SW) Darrel Upton, Naval Station Everett command Drug and Alcohol Program advisor, from Houston, who helped coordinate the events, said he likes to be inventive in his training, and when he found out about SALT two years ago he wanted to get it to the region installations.

"If more bases got involved with programs like this, I think our numbers [of alcohol related incidents] would go down," said Upton. "It's a very impressive set-up."

After the presentation, participants were invited to use a multimillion-dollar drunk-driving simulator. The simulator uses a gradual system that raises the difficulty level from 0, completely sober with no delay in reaction time, to 11, approximately a .34 blood-alcohol content in a 165-pound person, resulting in a one second delay in the gas, brake and steering of the vehicle according to Christopher Rich, a SALT manager, from Dayton, Ohio, who lost a sister to a drunk driving accident when she was 16.

"That simulator is outstanding. At first you sit there driving and everything's good, but the next thing you know you start swerving all over the place. I'm a pretty good driver, I've never gotten a ticket in my life, but with that I would've gotten tickets all over the board," said Damage Controlman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Dennis Cherry, assigned to NOSC Everett, from Oklahoma City. "This is a great learning tool to deglamourize [alcohol], especially for our younger Sailors."

The program runs three tours throughout the U.S., visiting military bases, high schools and colleges along with overseas military installations. Each tour runs for 10 months out of the year in five-month shifts with a month long break in-between.

According to Rich, the feedback he gets tells him the program is working.

"People usually call me back and tell me their numbers went down [after our training]," said Rich. "If we get just one person, then it's worth it, but, in a way, that's not good enough for me; I want to get everybody, but it's not really possible."

"SALT really gets the message out there to our Sailors," said Chief Electrician's Mate (SS) Randy Smitha, Naval Base Kitsap Bangor Trident Training Facility instructor. "The videos they show is a real wake-up call for service members and we hope to send the right message out there that drinking and driving is dangerous."

Atsugi Sailors Compete in JMSDF Swim Meet

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brock A. Taylor, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West Det. Japan

ATSUGI, Japan (NNS) -- A group of Sailors assigned to Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi participated in a friendly swim competition with Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) sailors June 28.

This year marks the third time that U.S. Sailors competed in the annual event, which featured swimmers from a handful of JMSDF commands. NAF Atsugi Sailors, including the installation's Commanding Officer Capt. Eric Gardner, were invited to take part and show off their swim skills.

"The JMSDF put on a great show here. They're entire fleet air wing is out here taking part, and it's just an honor that we can be a part of this too," said Gardner.

The competition was divided into several events, ranging from 50 and 100 meter freestyle and breast stroke events, as well as group relay races. The final event, a rank relay, offered both sides a chance to show off their swimming skills with sailors E-1 to O-6 exchanging laps.

The JMSDF brought out their elite swimmers, taking top place in most of the events. Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class (NAC) Sean Small, from Destin, Fla., said that although Atsugi Sailors were outmatched by the top-notch JMSDF swimmers, he still had a good time.

"This is definitely their competition," Small said. "They showed up with a smile on their face and even though we got our butts handed to us, it was still nice to show up."

Small added that some of the best U.S. Navy swimmers were unable to compete, because many are assigned to Carrier Air Wing 5, and currently embarked aboard aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), supporting operations in the Western Pacific. He hopes that in the future more Americans will continue to participate.

"I think it's something in the future; now that we see how it is we can put a team together and be more competitive."

Help for military children: Illinois governor signs state law easing school transitions

by Bob Fehringer
U.S. Transportation Command Office of Public Affairs

6/29/2010 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- The governor of Illinois signed the Educational Opportunity for Military Children Act into law today during a formal ceremony here. Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, the commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, served as host for Gov. Pat Quinn's visit.

The law is designed to make it easier for military families with school-aged children to transition to and from various schools.

With the governor's signature, Illinois also becomes the 35th state to join the nationwide Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.

The Council of State Governments, education and military family experts, and Department of Defense officials developed the interstate compact. States that sign on to the compact agree to work collectively with other compact states to create uniform standards of practice regarding the transfer of records, course placement, graduation requirements, redundant or missed testing, entrance-age variations and other transition issues.

"Governor Quinn, this is an especially great day for the state of Illinois, the 35th state to sign this military education compact," Gen. McNabb said. "It is also a great day for Scott Air Force Base to have you here to actually put pen to paper and make this compact a reality."

The governor followed General McNabb at the podium.

"In our state of Illinois, we had to adjust the law to make sure that the children of our heroic servicemembers would not be penalized in any way shape or form because their mom or dad is traveling and mobilized across the country and across the world," Governor Quinn said. "That's what the interstate compact is all about."

"Military families sacrifice a great deal in service to our nation when their loved one serves," said Dr. Cynthia Doil, the Scott AFB school liaison officer. "Military children oftentimes pay the greatest price. They transfer from school system to school system oftentimes losing credits for courses taken, their grade point averages often suffer, and they constantly face the unknowns of their class rank as well as their ability to qualify for advanced placement classes.

"The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children legalizes to a great extent that which many of us have been advocating for many years," Doctor Doil said, "to level the playing field for our highly mobile children."

Wendy Bence and her husband, Col. Christopher Bence, have moved their family 13 times in 23 years. They have been following the compact's progress.

"Children of military families change school systems an average of nine times, from kindergarten to senior high school year," Mrs. Bence said. "By signing the compact, it ensures, at local levels, that the children of military families are afforded the same opportunities for educational success as other children and are not penalized or delayed in achieving their education. The compact will benefit students entering as well as leaving Illinois."

Chief Master Sgt. Penny Boggis has been stationed at Scott AFB for two years.

Her daughter, Kelsey, was required to take classes she had already accomplished at past schools and receive seven immunizations in the same day in order to start school on time, Chief Boggis said.

Kelsey said a friend, who arrived here at the same time, with nearly an identical school history at the same Colorado high school, but attended a different Illinois school, was required to attend summer school for two years to meet graduation requirements.

"This is a big step forward in how we support the education of military children at Scott Air Force Base and across Illinois," Chief Boggis said. "The Interstate Compact will hopefully provide for more flexibility in accepting test scores, grades and coursework from previous out-of-state schools and enable students transferring in to Scott AFB to continue their education without undue disruption and stress. Well done Illinois. Thank you."

Dr. Nancy Gibson, the superintendent of O'Fallon School District 90, first attended a strategic planning meeting with DOD and Department of Education officials a few years ago, when she learned of issues presented to military families who must move often. "Some of the barriers that prevent an easy transition could be eliminated or reduced by furthering the understanding of what these issues are," Doctor Gibson said. "And I have come to understand that.

"I am the superintendent of the elementary district in O'Fallon and we have many military families and children in our school district," Doctor Gibson continued. "So I think this legislation is very important. I think it will help eliminate some of the artificial barriers that are present and make moves for military families a lot easier."

AF outlines special developmental education programs for officers

By Staff Sgt. Steve Grever
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Officers have until Aug. 31 to apply for special developmental education programs available for the 2010-2011 academic year.

The four programs include the Olmsted Scholarship Program, White House Fellowship Program, Mansfield Fellowship Program and Information Assurance Scholarship Program.

Olmsted Scholar Program

The Olmsted Scholar Program provides an opportunity for Air Force line officers to study in a foreign language at an international university abroad. This program provides officers with an in-depth understanding of foreign languages and cultures so they will be knowledgeable and sensitive to the viewpoints and concerns of people around the world as they progress with their Air Force careers. The program involves cultural immersion as well as studying at the university in the native language. More information about the program is available at the George and Carol Olmsted Foundation website at www.olmstedfoundation.org.

White House Fellowship Program

The White House Fellowship Program provides officers with first-hand experience of the nation’s governing process. Annually, 11 to 19 U.S. citizens are selected to work full time for one year as special assistants to senior executives in cabinet-level agencies or in the executive office of the president. White House fellows also participate in an active education program that includes candid, off-the-record discussions with prominent leaders. Fellows also study U.S. policy in action both domestically and abroad by participating in policy study-trips.

Mansfield Fellowship Exchange Program

The Mansfield Fellowship Exchange Program awards two-year fellowships to U.S. federal government employees to develop an in-depth understanding of Japan, learn how its government works and establish relationships with their counterparts in the government of Japan as well as in the business, professional and academic communities. Each year, up to 10 fellowships are awarded to qualified U.S. government officials. The fellows spend a year working full time in Japanese government offices, preceded by a year of full-time, rigorous language and area studies training in the United States. After working in Japan, fellows are required to serve at least two additional years in the federal government where it is anticipated they will continue to work on projects involving Japanese issues.

Information Assurance Scholarship Program

The Department of Defense established the Information Assurance Scholarship Program to increase the number of qualified personnel entering the information assurance career field. This program was established to meet the nation’s increasing dependence on information technology for warfighting and the security of its information infrastructure. The program covers the cost of tuition, fees and books. Additional information on participating schools, entrance pre-requisites, requirements, eligibility and specific degrees is available at www.defenselink.mil/nii/iasp.

More information about these programs is available the Air Force Personnel Center personnel services website at http://gum.afpc.randolph.af.mil under Officer Developmental Education Programs.

RIMPAC 2010 Officially Opens

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Mark Logico, Commander Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Top military leaders from 14 partner nations held a press conference to officially launch the 2010 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise at Lockwood Hall on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam June 28.

Adm. Patrick Walsh, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT); and Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, commander, Combined Task Force welcomed the participating foreign navies as they announced the official start of the month-long exercise.

"For us to be able to hold this exercise today represents a substantial commitment by the countries that are participating and represented here," said Walsh. "Our goal is to ensure a reciprocal level of commitment in terms of training opportunities for those who are here."

The exercise will bring to together units and personnel from Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.

"It's an honor to stand here before you with the leadership that we have from each of the 14 nations that are represented in the Rim of the Pacific exercise 2010," said Hunt. "Throughout the one month period, a tremendous gathering of like minded nations will be working together to secure the maritime domain in a way that we have not been able to achieve in the past. We really look forward to the exercise."

Walsh said that information sharing is a key enabler and a force multiplier which is one of the key points of the exercise.

"It gives us opportunities when we have the ability to communicate with each other to take full advantage of the respective capabilities that each nation brings to the sea," said Walsh.

During the exercise, participating countries will conduct gunnery, missile, anti-submarine, and air defense exercises, as well as maritime interdiction and vessel boarding, explosive ordnance disposal, diving and salvage operations, mine clearance operations, and an amphibious landing.

Hunt said that the exercise will also emphasize littoral operations with ships like littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1), the French frigate Prairial (F 731) and the Singapore frigate RSS Supreme (70).

RIMPAC is the world's largest multinational maritime exercise, and will take place in the waters around the Hawaiian Islands. The exercise is themed "Combined Agility, Synergy and Support," and marks the 22nd exercise in the series that originated in 1971.