Thursday, October 14, 2010

Float plan helps save six lives

Search and rescue…. one of the Coast Guard’s oldest and most recognizable missions. On an average day, the Coast Guard rescues 13 lives and in 2009 the Coast Guard responded to more than 23,000 SAR cases and saved 4,747 lives.

On Sunday evening, one such SAR case lasted nearly 24 hours, covered about 3,200 square miles, and ended in the successful rescue of six men.

When Sharon McDade called the Coast Guard to report her husband, son and four other men were overdue from a fishing trip off the coast of New Jersey, she was able to provide the necessary information to help Sector Delaware Bay SAR planners put together a coordinated search effort. Aircraft from Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., and Air Station Cape Cod, Mass., along with the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Finback and rescue boat crews from Station Barnegat Light, N.J., began an aggressive search.

By Monday, watchstanders had worked with family members to positively identify the voice of one of the fishermen on a vague mayday radio call heard by Sector Southeastern New England. Watchstanders correlated McDade’s overdue boat information with the mayday call to confirm they were looking for the 32-foot boat, Black Magic, with six men onboard.

“We knew we had a genuine case with a good chance of survival,” said Senior Chief Bud Holden, an operations specialist and the Command Duty Officer on watch at Sector Delaware Bay when the initial call came in.

Without knowing what happened to the men and having only a general understanding of where they were planning to fish, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Nearly 24 hours after the search began on one of the last legs of their search pattern, the crew of the HH-6035 rescue helicopter from Air Station Elizabeth City caught the glimmer of a flashing light. As the crew investigated the source of the light, they found it was coming from the Black Magicwith all six men safely onboard. The boat had suffered mechanical problems and drifted about 120 miles east of Atlantic City.

Thanks to the men’s foresight to put together a float plan, a family member’s concerned phone call, the efforts of skilled Coast Guard SAR watchstanders and the cooperation of several Coast Guard rescue assets, the men are were safely rescued.

“The fact that these fishermen told their families where they were going, their route and intended fishing grounds really helped in search efforts,” said Holden. “Not to mention that they stuck with their plan and did not divert to other areas. This information was critical in search planning efforts, ultimately saving the lives of these men.”

CGC Finback, homeported in Cape May, N.J., with the help of the 47307 Motor Life Boat crew from Station Atlantic City, brought the Black Magic and the six men to Station Atlantic City Tuesday afternoon where they were reunited with their families.

While this SAR case ended well, it is still a cautionary tale.

“People running that far off shore need to ensure they have some sort of communication that does not require power, like an EPIRB,” said Holden. “A correctly registered EPIRB provides the Coast Guard with position information and can take the search out of search and rescue.”

Gates, NATO Defense Ministers Discuss New Strategic Concept

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, , Oct. 13, 2010 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his fellow NATO defense ministers are here to discuss myriad issues in advance of next month’s summit meeting of the alliance’s heads of state in Lisbon, Portugal.

While en route here from Hanoi, Vietnam, where he attended an expanded defense ministers meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Gates told reporters traveling with him that tomorrow will be a busy day for NATO’s North Atlantic Council, but that the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan won’t be part of the agenda.

“Obviously, Afghanistan will figure prominently in Lisbon, but not tomorrow,” he said. “The work that we have cut out for us in Brussels tomorrow really is about trying to move forward and reach final agreement on a lot of the other aspects of the summit that are important in terms of the future of the alliance.”

Reaching agreement on NATO’s new strategic concept -- with assured security and dynamic engagement at its center -- will be at the top of the list, the secretary said. Also, he added, the council will try to agree on committing to various “critical capabilities” -- among them missile defense, capabilities to counter improvised explosive devices, cyber defense, and aircraft command and control systems.

“There are about 10 of these capabilities that we believe we need to commit to as guidance for the defense planning process,” Gates said. “They wouldn’t all be locked in stone, but they certainly should be things that the alliance should focus on.”

There’s a proposal to slim down the alliance’s command structure to realize “significant efficiencies,” Gates said. NATO has 14 agencies, he explained, and a proposal is on the table to trim that number to three.

“With all these reform efforts and efforts to bring efficiencies, our position, of course, will be -- just like we’re doing in Washington –- that any savings realized as a result of these efficiencies be plowed back into these critical capabilities that I talked about,” Gates said.

Amid reports that some allies are planning defense cuts, Gates said he knows they must deal with the issue based on their own internal dynamics, but he’s worried that any such cuts would cause the alliance to look toward the United States to cover any gaps created.

“At a time when we’re facing stringencies of our own, that’s a concern for me,” he said.

On missile defense, Gates said he believes broad support exists for the phased, adaptive approach to missile defense in Europe that calls for increasingly capable sea- and land-based missile interceptors and a range of sensors to defend against the ballistic missile threat from Iran.

“The linkage with national missile defense, so that both territories and populations are covered, is really more a matter of software –- of connecting the command and control of the different national capabilities,” he said. That would require only a modest financial outlay beyond what already has been approved –- perhaps 85 million to 150 million euros over 10 years, he added.

A defense ministers’ session of the North Atlantic Council will take place tomorrow morning, and they’ll be joined in the afternoon by the alliance’s foreign ministers for a joint session of the council. The foreign ministers will hold a separate meeting among themselves after that.

Gates: Resources Must Match Words in NATO Strategic Concept

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 2010 – Deeds and resources must match words as NATO formulates its strategy agreement for the future, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in Brussels today.

Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton discussed the new Strategic Concept that NATO leaders will debate and adopt at the Lisbon Summit in November. The two leaders made their statements during a closed-session meeting of defense and foreign ministers.

Both secretaries praised the draft proposal submitted by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

“The secretary general’s draft does a good job of capturing the complexity and uncertainty of today’s security environment, and strikes the proper balance between security concerns both in and out of area,” Gates said.

The new concept is the first update of NATO’s long-term security strategy since 1999.

Clinton said the concept “must express the alliance’s enduring commitment to protect freedom and security through collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security.

“[The concept] must demonstrate our renewed determination to meet emerging security challenges,” she continued. “And it must explain to our publics how NATO will continue to deter and defend against all threats to peace, prosperity or democracy –- including terrorism, proliferation and cyber attack.”

The draft concept strikes the right balance in disarmament and deterrence, NATO’s relations with Russia and the need to enhance NATO’s capacity for conducting civilian-military operations, the secretary of State said.

The concept will require resources to develop the capabilities needed, Gates said. “We will have to make sure —- at Lisbon —- that the words in the Strategic Concept will be matched by agreement to invest in the capabilities necessary to turn those words into reality,” he said. “I therefore very much welcome the alliance’s agreement to fund the critical capabilities we have identified as a matter of priority.”

Two emerging threats addressed by the draft concept are the threats from ballistic missiles and cyber attacks, Gates said.

“It is vitally important that we not only talk about these new threats in Lisbon, but act to counter them by agreeing to acquire the capabilities necessary to collectively defend against them,” he said.

The ballistic missile threat exists and will grow, Gates said, noting that NATO nations must agree to counter the threat.

“For the past year, ever since President Obama announced our new approach to countering the missile threat to Europe, the (NATO) alliance has worked on territorial missile defense. The studies have been done, the data are well-known and the affordability is clear," Gates said. "We can protect ourselves from ballistic missiles affordably, and over time increase protection over all parts of NATO Europe, consistent with the principle of the ‘indivisibility of security.’ It is time for a decision.”

The alliance also needs to bolster its cybersecurity defenses, Gates said. “Our vulnerabilities are well-known, but our existing programs to remedy these weaknesses are inadequate,” he said. “The new draft highlights this underappreciated new threat, though the language could be sharpened further.”

Gates urged the ministers to review NATO’s cybersecurity policy after Lisbon as a matter of priority. “We need to identify what more must be done to protect our vital information systems,” he said. “And then we need to agree to fund the capabilities that are necessary to protect these systems.”

The world is experiencing tough economic times, Gates said, but he urged NATO ministers in Brussels to be careful not to “hollow out” the alliance during restructuring efforts.

“The substantial reforms discussed by defense ministers this morning should, in time, produce savings that must be reinvested in new capabilities,” he said. “This is how we will keep the alliance modern, strong, effective and relevant.”

2010 Proves Banner Year for Recruiting

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2010 – The military services had a banner year for recruiting and retention in fiscal 2010, Defense Department officials said here today.

The services met their overall numbers, and exceeded qualitative goals, said Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

The Army had the highest recruiting goal with 74,500 new soldiers, and it recruited 74,577. The Navy had a goal of 34,180 sailors and recruited 34,140. The Marine Corps recruited 28,041 young men and women on a goal of 28,000. The Air Force recruited 28,493 airmen, topping a goal of 28,360.

All of the reserve components made their fiscal-year goals, with the exception of the Army National Guard. The Army Guard intentionally missed its recruiting goal in order to stay within end-strength limits.

The services also set quality records with 100 percent of the recruits in the Army and Marine Corps having a high school diploma. In the Air Force, the percentage with at least a high school diploma was 99 percent and in the Navy, 98 percent.

However, the services are not taking this success for granted, Stanley said.

“Recruiting is always going to be a challenge,” he said. “It’s still a challenge.”

While the high unemployment rate has helped spur recruiting, it was not the biggest reason young men and women decided to join the military, Stanley said.

“As we look at where we are right now in terms of the challenges facing us, it’s more to it than the economy,” he said. “To a person -- serving their nation, doing it with honor, being patriots -- seems to be the recurring theme that comes up every time we look at and talk to those who are wearing a uniform today, and we’re still proud to have that in our active and our reserve components, and our Guard.”

Stanley said the propensity of Americans to enlist is higher than it has been in the past. Still, he said, there are difficulties. Only three of every 10 Americans in the prime recruiting group of 17 to 24 years of age are even qualified to enlist, he added. Many candidates, he said, are disqualified for medical, educational or conduct reasons. Also, he added, the military and private industries are in competition for these prime recruits.

“We know that as the economy turns, our business will get a little tougher,” said Maj. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., the commander of Army Recruiting Command. “But I believe if we set the conditions now in the Army like we're trying to do and focus on quality of life, taking care of our soldiers and our families and focusing on those tools that allow them to recruit in difficult environments, then we’ll be okay.

“But the bottom-line premise for all services,” Campbell continued, “will be that three in 10 is the number that we’re going to have to choose to look at in 17-to-24-year-olds.

Navy Honors Killed, Injured in USS Cole Attack

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2010Navy officials, current and former crew members and families of the fallen gathered today at Norfolk Naval Station, Va., to remember the 17 sailors killed and 39 others wounded in the al-Qaida attack on the USS Cole 10 years ago today.

Suicide bombers launched the surprise Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the Arleigh Burke-class, Aegis-equipped guided missile destroyer as it was anchored in Aden, Yemen, for a routine refueling stop. The attackers detonated an explosive-laden boat against the ship’s port side, tearing a 40-by-40-foot hole in the hull and sending seawater gushing into the engineering compartment.

The attack was the deadliest assault against a U.S. naval vessel since the Iraqis attacked the USS Stark on May 17, 1987.

Retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold, the Cole’s commander during the attack, recalled the impact of the blast.

“There was a thunderous explosion. You could feel all 505 feet and 8,400 tons of guided missile destroyer violently thrust up and to the right,” Lippold said during a recent radio interview. “Lights went out, and within a matter of seconds, I knew we’d been attacked.”

During today’s ceremonies, Navy Adm. J.C. Harvey Jr., commander of USS Fleet Command, saluted the Cole crewmembers’ quick response and valor as they fought to keep the ship afloat and tended to the wounded while defending against a feared follow-on attack.

Harvey said the attack underscores the importance of always being trained and prepared, and he praised the sense of vigilance that has been passed down to subsequent USS Cole crews.

After 14 months of upgrades and repairs following the attack, the USS Cole made an overseas deployment in November 2003. The ship later deployed to the Middle East in June 2006.

The USS Cole, which recently returned to its Norfolk homeport after a deployment that took it through the Gulf of Aden, shows no visible evidence of the deadly attack that occurred a decade ago. But below its decks are regular reminders, including a blackened U.S. flag that survived the attack and 17 gold stars that line the ship’s “Hall of Heroes” passageway.

As a ship’s bells rang 17 times during today’s ceremonies, the names of the fallen 17 sailors were read aloud:

* Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, 21, a hull maintenance technician from Mechanicsville, Va.;

* Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow, 35, an electronics technician from Morrisville, Pa.;

*Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis, 19, a mess management specialist from Woodleaf, N.C.;

* Seaman Timothy Lee Gauna, 21, an information systems technician from Rice, Texas;

* Seaman Cherone Louis Gunn, 22, a signalman from Rex, Ga.;

* Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels, 19, of Norfolk, Va.;

* Petty Officer 2nd Class Marc Ian Nieto, 24, an engineman from Fond du Lac, Wis.;

* Petty Officer 2nd Class Ronald Scott Owens, 24, an electronics warfare technician from Vero Beach, Fla.;

* Seaman Lakiba Nicole Palmer, 22, of San Diego, Calif.;

* Seaman Joshua Langdon Parlett, 19, an engine room fireman from Churchville, Md.;

* Seaman Patrick Howard Roy, 19, a fireman from Cornwall on Hudson, N.Y.;

* Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Shawn Rux, 30, an electronic warfare technician from Portland, N.D.;

* Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronchester Manangan Santiago, 22, a mess management specialist from Kingsville, Texas.;

* Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Lamont Saunders, 32, an operations specialist from Ringgold, Va.;

* Seaman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., 26, a fireman from Rockport, Texas;

* Ensign Andrew Triplett, 31, of Macon, Miss.; and

* Seaman Craig Bryan Wibberley, 19, of Williamsport, Md.

Today in the Department of Defense, Thursday, October 14, 2010

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates is traveling.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn has no public or media events on his schedule.