Sunday, March 13, 2011

DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable: WWII Pilot Reflects on Pearl Harbor Attack

We scheduled a DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable with World War II Navy Cross recipient and fighter ace William E. "Bill" Davis for Wednesday, Dec. 8. Davis shared details of his October 1944 bombing attack that sunk the Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku. The Zuikaku held a special place in the minds of a Navy pilot in 1944. She was the last remaining aircraft carrier that participated in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Bills bombing run nearly cost him his life but he and his men sunk her, and, militarily, the closure for Pearl Harbor was now complete.

EODMU 11 Displays 'Wall of Fire' during NAF El Centro Air Show

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Benjamin Crossley, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West

El Centro, Calif. (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 (EODMU 11) detachments from Fallon, Nev., and San Diego constructed a pyrotechnics display for the 2011 Naval Air Facility El Centro Air Show in El Centro, Calif., March 12.

The two EOD units created three separate explosive acts including the "Wall of Fire," one of the main highlights of the air show. This was the second year Sailors from EODMU 11 participated in the event.

"This is a culmination of months of planning, logistics, explosives and testing," said Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician (EOD) Shawn Meyer.

Meyer said the first act was a simulated strafing run featuring a WWII-era Grumman F6F Hellcat, which resembled 22 mm rounds striking the ground. The effect was constructed with two lines of detonation cord and 150 1-lb TNT [Trinitrotoluene)] blasting caps placed 10 feet apart for a total length of 1,500 feet. Explosions were separated by a 42 millisecond delay.

At the end of the run, five bags filled with five gallons of a 50-50 diesel/gasoline fuel mixture were detonated for a larger explosion.

The second act was a bombing run that consisted of 40 bags of the 50-50 fuel mixture detonated in groups of five. Bags were linked together with detonation cord and placed on top of 1-lb TNT blasting caps for maximum effect. A Grumman F8F Bearcat flew over the explosions simulating the bomb drop.

A 1,500 foot "Wall of Fire" served as the final act of the EODMU 11 pyrotechnics display. The wall was composed of 96 bags of the 50/50 fuel mixture with a cluster of five bags at the end. All bags were wired together using detonation cord and a 1-lb blasting cap was placed under each of the 101 bags. An F/A-18 Hornet from Strike Fighter Squadron 122 (VFA-122) flew over the explosion to complete the effect.

"Wall of fire is symbolic of a bombing run by a historic aircraft, and we're just adding a little something extra for the crowd," said Meyer. "We get a good throwing effect of the gas and diesel when it goes into the air."

Meyer said safety is always of primary concern, and all explosives were detonated from a distance of 1,250 feet from the blast site to ensure the safety of the crew and spectators. All acts were detonated using hard wire and radio, with the final act using an old-fashioned TNT mine plunger.

"These guys really know what they are doing," said Rowdy Nixon, a fire inspector at NAF El Centro who was on site for the event.

The noise from the crowd after each explosion let the Sailors from EODMU 11 know that their display was a crowd pleaser.

"We always have a great reaction from the crowd," said Lt. Mark K. Anderson from EODMU 11. "Everyone loves it; they can feel the heat and hear the explosion."

Gates Pledges U.S. Help for Japan

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2011 – The United States is prepared to help Japan deal with the aftermath of the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck today “in any way we possibly can,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in Bahrain.

“I've been kept informed all day long about the tsunami in Japan, the earthquake and tsunami,” said Gates, who is on a trip through the Middle East and Europe. “As best we can tell, all of our people are OK, [and] our ships and military facilities are all in pretty good shape.”

The secretary said that although Japan is a very sophisticated country, “this is a huge disaster and we will do … anything we are asked to do to help out."

Gates joined President Barack Obama, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and other U.S. officials in offering condolences and aid to the Japanese people for the massive disaster that struck near the coast of Honshu.

Japan is, of course, one of our strongest and closest allies and this morning I spoke with Prime Minister [Naoto] Kan,” Obama said during a news conference here. “On behalf of the American people, I conveyed our deepest condolences especially to the victims and their families, and I offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed.”

Obama received a briefing this morning in the Oval Office on the earthquake in Japan and the tsunami warnings across the Pacific from several senior U.S. government officials.

“We currently have an aircraft carrier in Japan and another is on its way,” he said at the news conference. “We also have a ship en route to the Marianas Islands to assist as needed.”

U.S. embassy personnel in Tokyo have moved to an offsite location, the president added, and the State Department is working to account for and assist American citizens who are in the country.

Tsunami warnings have been issued across the Pacific, and initial waves from the tsunami have reached Guam and other U.S. territories, Alaska and Hawaii, and other areas along the West Coast.

“Here in the United States, there hasn’t been any major damage so far,” Obama said, “but we’re taking this very seriously and we are monitoring the situation very closely.”

Mullen offered condolences to the beleaguered nation.

“Thoughts and prayers to the people of Japan as they deal with the aftermath of this powerful earthquake,” he said on his Twitter feed. “Ready to help in any way we can.”

Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said the United States has a large number of military assets that include personnel, ships and aircraft on mainland Japan, on the Japanese island of Okinawa, and throughout the Pacific region.

He said 38,000 military personnel, 43,000 family members and 5,000 Defense Department civilian employees are assigned to U.S. Forces Japan.

“All of the different forces in Japan and in the surrounding area are going through 100 percent accountability checks,” Lapan said, adding that there are no reports of deaths or serious injuries among military personnel and no significant damage to ships, aircraft or facilities.

On his Twitter feed this morning, Noriyuki Shikata, deputy cabinet secretary for public relations and director of global communications at the Japanese prime minister's office, said the Japanese government requested U.S. forces in Japan to support efforts to rescue people and to provide oil and medical aid via the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, adding his thanks to the U.S. government.

Americans in affected areas who need to contact the State Department can do so by e-mail to or The State Department also is posting the latest travel information for the affected areas on the World Wide Web and via Twitter.

MSC Ships Support Operations during Pacific Horizon 2011

By Sarah Burford, Military Sealift Command Public Affairs

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (NNS) -- Two Military Sealift Command ships will wrap up operations in support of Exercise Pacific Horizon 2011, off the coast of Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 13.

Maritime Prepositioning Ship USNS SGT William R. Button (T-AK 3012) and aviation logistics support ship SS Curtiss (T-AVB 4) are helping the U.S Navy and Marine Corps test their ability to move combat equipment between ship and shore, without the benefit of a developed port.

The exercise began March 1, and helps prepare Navy and Marine Corps forces to conduct at-sea transfers of equipment from sealift platforms to ships and shoreside locations via surface craft.

Pacific Horizon 2011 is part of an annual training plan for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Expeditionary Strike Group 3, Naval Beach Group 1, Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 1, Naval Amphibious Construction Battalion 1 and the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 39.

Approximately 2,500 Sailors and Marines are participating in the exercise, assisted by 64 U.S. merchant mariners who make up the crews of Button and Curtiss.

During the exercise, Sailors and Marines moved approximately 200 pieces of Marine Corps field equipment using an Improved Navy Lighterage System, or INLS, which comprises motorized and non-motorized barges that ferried cargo between ship and shore.

Equipment included trucks, power trailers, 20-foot containers and Humvees from Button, which sat anchored approximately three miles off the coast of Camp Pendleton's Red Beach. The equipment was then returned to the ship during the end phase of the exercise.

"Having these two ships here for us to train with is an outstanding opportunity for us," said 1st MEF Sgt. Maj. Randal Carter. "These crews are professional and provide us an excellent opportunity to train and to learn in an environment that is a lot like the areas we, as Marines, operate in during our missions."

Operations began March 2, with the arrival of Button and Curtiss off Red Beach. The crews participated in a pre-operations and safety brief, and a safety drill on the first day in preparation for the start of equipment discharge. In addition, a nine-section roll-on/roll-off discharge facility (RRDF) was delivered and attached to the Button's stern ramp by Navy personnel.

From March 3-5, Button's crew of 31 merchant mariners, along with the military, off-loaded tracked and wheeled vehicles from the ship's cargo hold, down the ramp, across the RRDF and onto a motorized causeway ferry for delivery to the beach staging area. The ship's three deck cranes were used to transfer non-motorized cargo. The cargo was staged on the beach after delivery, before being returned to the ship during the exercise's final phase from March 6-10.

"These kinds of training exercises are always valuable to us," said Capt. David Eddy, USNS Button civilian master. "They help us iron out wrinkles, to learn how to move around on the decks with different kinds of cargo and to best figure out where things should go to make the mission move forward smoothly."

Eddy said one of the challenges he's faced in other exercises had been arranging for the necessary interface between civilian mariners and the military units working with the ship. For Pacific Horizon 2011, Marines and Sailors from the participating units were on board Button for its transit from the East Coast. This gave the ship's civilian crew and military personnel the time to plan and discuss issues unique to this operation.

Curtiss and its crew of 33 civilian mariners were featured in a separate part of the exercise, while the ship operated 20 miles north of Button off Red Beach. There Curtiss was used as a platform from which to conduct helicopter operations with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 39. These operations were a continuation of a scenario the Marines played out on the beach. The scenario began as a humanitarian aid and disaster relief mission, and then changed into a security operation with the Marines, as simulated local forces impeded relief efforts. Throughout the operation, cargo continued to move between ship and shore.

In response to the Pacific-wide tsunami warning after the earthquake off the coast of northern Japan March 11, Button and Curtiss temporarily departed their respective operating areas and proceeded seaward as a precautionary measure against a potential West Coast tsumani. Following a relatively minor water surge observed in the morning, the ships returned to the coastal areas and resumed the exercise.

Operations are scheduled to conclude March 11, with the ships departing the area March 13. Button will continue on to the Marine Corps Blount Island Command in Jacksonville, Fla., and Curtiss will return to reduced operating status at its layberth aboard Naval Station San Diego, Calif.

MSC operates approximately 110 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world, and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.

Yokota Community Assists Diverted Passengers

From a 374th Airlift Wing News Release

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan, March 11, 2011 – Airmen and volunteers are helping more than 500 commercial airline passengers whose flights were diverted here after a magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck today off the Japanese coast.

Several commercial aircraft were diverted here after Narita International Airport in Tokyo closed.

Some 11 aircraft landed at the base, and more than 500 passengers were transported to the base recreation center where food, water and cots were available. Volunteers from base organizations, including the Red Cross and Boy Scouts, are helping to get the passengers settled, officials said.

A Red Cross website called "Self and Well" is available for people who register to let family and friends know they are safe.

"The 374th Airlift Wing is prepared and ready to assist during this time of crisis," said Air Force Col. Otto Feather, 374th Airlift Wing commander.

U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka and Branch Clinics Resume Normal Operations

By Ben Avey, U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka Public Affairs

YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka and its Branch Health Clinics in Atsugi, Sasebo, Iwakuni, Yokohama, and Camp Fuji have resumed normal operations. Hospital services will be available during their normal hours of operations.

Out of an abundance of caution, routine outpatient services were temporarily suspended at the core hospital facility in Yokosuka following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami warnings.

Emergency Services have remained operational without interruption. Inpatient wards including the maternal infant and newborn unit, multi-service ward unit and intensive care unit have remained operational without interruption.

Additional safety precautions have been implemented in the event of aftershocks or additional tsunami warnings.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to our close friends in Japan during this difficult time and we are standing by to assist if needed.