Military News

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cartwright Cites ‘Stark Realities’ at Conference

By Beth Reece
Defense Logistics Agency Strategic Communications Office

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 29, 2011 – Persistent global conflict coupled with efforts to reduce the nation’s $14 trillion debt will require the entire Defense Department to better align its decreasing resources, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.

Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright addressed Defense Logistics Agency professionals and industry representatives at the 2011 DLA Industry Conference and Exhibition.

The military will continue drawing down in Iraq until there are only about 10,000 service members left there by the end of this year, and surge forces in Afghanistan will start returning this year, Cartwright said. But as the military exits from these conflicts, others loom on the horizon, he said.

“Today, you have 2.5 million men and women in uniform supporting the persistent global disruption out there. I don’t really see that changing anytime soon,” the general said.

In Libya, for example, the military is contributing in ways America’s allies can’t, Cartwright said.

“And this conflict is not going to be a conflict of days and weeks any more than Iraq or Afghanistan were conflicts of days and weeks,” he added.

Meeting these global challenges in a financially tight future will require more than strategy or policy shifts, Cartwright said.

“We’re not going to change that by merely buying less, and then trying to match the same strategy against less resource. It’s just not going to work,” he said.

“People can say we’re going to fix acquisitions, or we’re going to fix requirements, or change the strategy and tweak it on the margins, and not do this or that, or we’re just going to cut money and see what happens,” Cartwright continued. “These are all things that we’ve had experience doing before, but the challenge that we face today really has no precedent.

“We’re either going to have to fundamentally change how we do business, or we’ll have to step back,” he said. “Those are the stark realities that face DOD right now.”

Changing the process by which the department categorizes and procures equipment can help ensure expenditures fit the military’s needs, both in the present and the future, Cartwright said.

“Today, we want 15 years to produce a truck -- that’s absurd,” he said. “Competitive edge exists in days, weeks and minutes on the battlefield, not years. If it takes us 15 years to build the next fighting vehicle and field it, and then the first conflict comes along and we have to do major modifications in order to adjust it to the conflict we’re in, it becomes irrelevant very quickly.”

The cost to the department then is incredibly higher compared to what is imposed on the enemy, he added.

To get away from the one-size-fits-all concept, military equipment will soon be placed in one of three tiers, Cartwright said. The first tier will include items urgently needed on the battlefield, regardless of cost.

“It’s a very difficult thing to say, but I don’t really care about how much it costs and I don’t care about performance,” he said of this category. “If I can save one life, I want it in the field now.”

On the opposite end of that is the development of a new bomber aircraft, Cartwright said.

“It’s going to take me time because I don’t want to screw it up,” he said. “Cost is very important, performance is important, but I’m willing to wait for the attributes that I’m going to need on the battlefield for the next 50 years.”

In between those tiers are hybrid programs in which equipment is built on the condition it will be adjusted or modified to fit the conditions of future conflicts, Cartwright said.

“We’ll work our way through that to make sure modifications and updates can occur in stride and that people are out in the field making those modifications as they occur, because we can’t afford to ship equipment back and forth, and it’s just too much delay,” he added.

Cartwright concluded by calling service members a national treasure.

“They are our youth, and they go out there and do this time and time again,” he said. “We owe a debt to them and to their families, probably a debt we can’t repay, but we have a moral obligation to try and never forget them.”

Comptroller Explains DOD Budget Challenges

By Tony D’Elia
Defense Logistics Agency Land & Maritime Public Affairs

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 29, 2011 – The sluggish growth of the economy will make it difficult to maintain current defense funding, the Defense Department’s chief financial officer told attendees at the 2011 Defense Logistics Agency Industry Conference and Exhibition here yesterday.

Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) Robert F. Hale said to expect anemic growth in the defense budget in the near future.

“There’s a rule of thumb that says you need a 2- to 3-percent growth [in the national economy] to maintain current forces,” Hale said, warning that there may be no growth in the DOD budget because of the current economic climate.

“My guess is we’ll end up with something like zero growth,” he continued. “Even a constant budget will be a challenge to implement.”

Hale said the same 2- to 3-percent growth is necessary if DOD wants to fund bigger and better weaponry.

“It’s because we want to buy the very best weapons so that we’re never in a fair fight,” he said. “Those more sophisticated weapons tend to cost more than the ones they replaced, and they also tend to push up the costs of training and maintenance.”

Health care and other costs add more pressure to the budget, Hale said.

“Military health care has gone up 10 percent a year, and fuel costs haven’t helped, either” he said.

Hale said he knows upcoming budgets will be leaner, and the challenge will be how department officials deal with it. “We’ll have to takes some risks, and stretch our dollars,” he said.

Some of the biggest challenges will be the freeze on civilian billets and contractor cuts, Hale said.

“We owe it to the public to streamline and hold down costs,” he said.

Incoming Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is the right person for the job, Hale said. “He has a strong knowledge of the budget, and has some strong managerial skills,” he said.

Hale also lauded the Defense Logistics Agency, its employees and its industry partners.

”We depend on the private sector and the 26,000 in the Defense Logistics Agency who make it happen,” he said. “We very much appreciate your support.”

First Trap for Eisenhower Since 2010 Cruise

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean Burgess, Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Marshall and Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Rob Rupp, USS Eisenhower Public Affairs

USS DWIGHT EISENHOWER, Atlantic Ocean (NNS) -- A pilot of the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA-131) "Wildcats," landed the first aircraft aboard aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (IKE) as squadrons began conducting training command carrier qualifications (CQ) off the Atlantic coast, June 28.

Two weeks ago, IKE departed Norfolk Naval Shipyard after a nine-month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) to return to their homeport at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.

Since leaving the shipyards, Sailors aboard IKE have been training in preparation for what is scheduled to be a monumental achievement in carrier qualifications.

"Today was a fantastic day," said Master Chief Gregg Snaza, IKE command master chief. "It's great to see the first bird on deck."

This first carrier arrested landing, or "trap," was performed in an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and marked the beginning of a long-awaited CQ for IKE and her crew who recently returned to home port.

An arrested landing is different from most aircraft landings and involves catching a hook attached to the aircraft on one of four steel cables stretched across the flight deck of a carrier. The "trap" brings the aircraft to a complete stop in roughly 325 feet.

During this CQ, pilots must successfully execute 10 "traps," along with four "touch and go's." A "touch and go" is when aircraft lands on the flight deck and immediately takes off without catching the arresting wire.

"Making this first catch is a result of nine months of preparation," said Master Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) Darrin Campbell, leading chief petty officer for IKE's Air Department. "Without the crew, or the rest of the fleet for that matter, none of this would be possible."

Aviation Boatswains Mate (Electronics) Third Class James Tilton from V-2 Division, Air Department, kept watch on the arresting wire engine one when the plane touched down.

"Usually I'm a hook runner," said Tilton. "After the aircraft lands and is clear of the arresting wire, the hook runner tells the deck edge when to retract the wire."

But today, Tilton was in the right place at the right time and assisted in making history on IKE.

"I wasn't expecting the aircraft to catch on engine one," said Tilton. "It brings back old memories, trapping aircraft again. It feels good knowing I'm doing my job."

Between Carrier Air Wing 3 (CVW-3) and Carrier Air Wing 7 (CVW-7), 630 traps are scheduled aboard IKE's flight deck during this CQ. This will be more "traps" than any other carrier has ever attempted in one qualification period.

"It's my first time catching fixed-wing aircraft aboard IKE," said Cmdr. William S. Anderson, IKE's air boss. "But it's outstanding to be out here doing it again."

CQ is a crucial part of putting IKE back to sea, so each landing is closely monitored by landing signal officers (LSO) and graded based on how well it was performed.

"It's been a long time since we've launched and recovered aircraft," said Snaza. "Today makes the transition for IKE's operational readiness. We're back."

SEALs visit Boys and Girls Club During Chicago Navy Week

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Pat Migliaccio, Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs

CHICAGO (NNS) -- SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Advanced Training Command (NSWATC) Detachment Little Creek spent the morning June 27 teaching and entertaining a highly-motivated group of young kids at the General Wood Boys and Girls Club of Chicago.

The Navy visit to the club began with a brief introduction by the SEALs followed by a couple of film shorts. Shortly thereafter, Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Joseph Jones assigned to NSWATC Det Little Creek gave a modified SEAL "Mental Toughness" presentation to the group of 75 children, ages six to 12 and then asked them if they were ready to take the SEAL challenge.

"The kids were very active and all of them had a huge smile on their face," said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Javier Keyser who is attached to Navy Recruiting District Chicago and assisted in the activity. "This definitely bodes well for our future. The kids had fun while given the opportunity to learn what the Navy is all about at an early age."

After an overwhelmingly positive response, the kids were partnered off with one another and then proceeded to perform pushups and sit ups while SEALs and other support personal coached them on and offered words of encouragement.

"One of our goals is to go out and bring Navy awareness to a diverse audience," said Jones. "Kids in the inner city, especially, have it tough because they also have to battle drugs and crime. The Navy coming here shows that we care about their future and well being. Hopefully, we made a difference and gave these kids other options in life."

Club officials were also impressed with the Navy visit.

"I was really excited that the SEALs were here," said Jodi Johannes, grant coordinator at the club. "These kids have so much negativity in their life. Seeing the Navy and their positive attitude gave the children a strong role to model follow. It was great and encouraging to watch."

The primary mission of a boys and girls club is to have an open affordable facility available where parents can send their children to build character and develop social skills that will enable them to become productive caring citizens.

The visit coincided with Chicago Navy Week 2011, one of 21 Navy Weeks planned across America this year. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence.

George Washington Prepares For Worst with Mass Casualty Drill

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Justin E. Yarborough, USS George Washington Public Affairs

USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- Preparing for the worst of all possible scenarios, hundreds of Sailors from the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) were put through a life-like mass casualty drill as the ship transited across the waters of the western Pacific Ocean, June 28.

The drill was an all-hands effort involving Sailors from George Washington's Air and Medical departments, putting them to the test to quickly put out multiple simulated fires and to treat and evacuate dozens of shipmates with mock injuries and transport them from the flight deck to the ship's medical ward.

Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st Class (AW/SW) Mark Rodriguez, the ship's Air Bos'n, said the purpose of the mass casualty drill is to make sure that the ship's force is training in real life scenarios.

"Day in and day out we're flying and with this amount of aircraft on the deck, we can have an accident, a fire at anytime," said Rodriguez. "That fire could spread from aircraft to another, causing a lot of injuries, especially with the amount of people we have up here."

The drill began with a simulated aircraft fire spreading to another aircraft parked on one of George Washington's four aircraft elevator. This prompting the flight deck crew to jump into action and battle the blaze before it spreads even further.

"Our ultimate goal is to put out the fires and make sure all of the personnel casualties get to the designated casualty elevator and make it down to the hanger bay," said Rodriguez.

Once those mock patients arrive in the hanger bay, hospital corpsmen and medical officers organize the wounded by the seriousness of their injuries; the most severely wounded are given priority and taken to medial first.

"From there we start moving those too wounded to walk by stretchers to the medical ward and if needed, we'll activate the ship's walking blood bank," said Hospital Corpsman (SW) 3rd Class Anjuli Fine, one of Medical's first responders.

According to Fine, the walking blood bank is made up of ship's company who acts as George Washington's blood supply while the carrier is underway; those who are able to donate blood in emergency situations.

"Our goal is to treat and transport the injured, get them out of the hangar bays so the ship's force can continue to fight the fires without worrying about injured personnel caught in the way," said Fine.

While Rodriguez called the drill a success, there is always room for improvement, especially when a life is on the line.

"Today was a great training opportunity" said Rodriguez. "For Air department, it was the first time we've integrated the drill with our squadron shipmates since we've been underway."

"Getting out here today establishing a baseline with our actual training now and seeing where we need to be just gives us that opportunity to increase and become more beneficial with the training we have further on down the road," said Rodriguez.

On the medical side, Fine checks his report card and gives his shipmates a passing grade.

"I think we did really good today," said Fine. "We have been very fast and efficient lately and I think it's due to the quality of the corpsmen that we have aboard the ship. We all work great together."

The drill was held to help George Washington Sailors prepare for the upcoming Final Evaluation Period (FEP) inspection, but according to Fine, his biggest concern is always for the safety of his shipmates.

"Mishaps can easily happen," said Fine. "We've had fires on the ship before and drills such as this help to keep our readiness up so that in the event that this happens, our training will not have been in vain."

George Washington returned to patrolling the waters of the Western Pacific ocean on June 12, departing her forward operating base of Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka. Onboard are more than 5,500 Sailors from George Washington and Carrier Air Wing Five. George Washington's mission is to ensure security and stability in the Western Pacific and to be in position to work with our allies and regional partners to respond to any crisis across the operational spectrum as directed.

Successful training has Wisconsin Guard battalion in high spirits

By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Wisconsin National Guard

For many members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery, the recently completed annual training may be hard to beat.

"I had 20-year veterans saying - seriously - that it was their best AT ever," said Lt. Col. Steven Sherrod, battalion commander. "You have to take that seriously."

The 121st - a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) battalion headquartered in Milwaukee with subordinate units in Racine, Plymouth and Sussex - completed training at Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center, Wyo., the battalion's first annual training outside of Wisconsin since 1998. According to Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Kaluzny, the new training site was more than just a change of scenery.

"We wanted to challenge the troops with a different environment," he said. "Most of the Soldiers know Fort McCoy like the back of their hand - there's no challenge getting from point to point. Also, this post offers the opportunity for launcher crews to actually fire from multiple locations."

Sherrod said that the lone firing point suitable for rocket artillery at Fort McCoy restricts the battalion to "admin shoots" similar to a standard rifle range, in which technical skills are tested but tactical skills are not. Camp Guernsey's sprawling vistas, challenging terrain and hardy vegetation allowed the battalion to train in realistic conditions - spread out and moving. Each launcher was able to fire training rockets from designated firing positions in its own platoon area, independent of other launchers, firing platoons or firing batteries.

"We also were able to execute logistics support in the field as we should with the 108th Forward Support Company," Sherrod said. The 108th provides maintenance and supply support to firing batteries in the 121st. "In addition, we got the chance to work with the 115th Fires Brigade with whom we are aligned for training. They were a great help in training and logistics support."

Kaluzny said this year's annual training had two distinct phases. The first phase began at Fort McCoy, loading approximately 90 vehicles over the course of two days for transport to Wyoming. Bad weather and unfamiliarity with loading heavy equipment for transport did little to dampen their enthusiasm, he noted.

"They were motivated," he said.

Sherrod said that extensive planning allowed the battalion to meet the challenge of moving both vehicles and approximately 330 Soldiers more than 1,000 miles, as well as ensuring that food, lodging and training areas were prepared.

Kaluzny said that battalion Soldiers were looking forward to performing their military occupational skills at this annual training - not just the launcher crews, but the fuelers, maintenance section, water purifiers and anyone else whose job supports the overall mission.

Capt. Randy Gehrke, commander of the 108th FSC, agreed.

"This is my most fun AT ever," he said. "Just the place, the training, seeing everyone enjoying themselves."

Pfc. Bartholomew Nowak, a member of Battery C's fire direction center, enjoyed the training - even wearing the "full battle-rattle" of helmet, body armor vest and weapon throughout the field exercise.

"It's realistic," he said. "We're learning a lot. Whenever we do training like this I feel more prepared."

The battalion also was afforded the opportunity to shoot 162 training rockets, more than twice the number of rockets for annual training. Kaluzny said the battalion hoped to fire 121 rockets on June 24.

"They knew what they were here for," he said. "They were going to fire."

"This is the best attitude at the close of annual training I've seen since being the commander," Sherrod added. "Our [training] goals were largely reached and all personnel are safe and accounted for. Our battalion is ready, relevant and enthusiastic."

Sherrod appreciated the Wisconsin Army National Guard senior leadership's support for this annual training, which required more time, effort and money than training at Fort McCoy.

"The experience was worth the effort and money dedicated to it," he said. "This annual training was everything I had envisioned and more."

Gates Sends Message Thanking Troops for Service

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2011 – Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has sent a message to every post, ship, base and installation thanking service members and their families for their service.

In the message, which went out today, Gates said it has been “the greatest honor of my life to serve and to lead you for the past four-and-a-half years.”

The secretary retires from his position tomorrow. President George W. Bush nominated Gates as defense secretary in November 2006. When President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, he asked Gates to stay. The secretary is the only cabinet member ever retained by an incoming president from another political party.

After fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the interests and well-being of the men and women in the military has been the secretary’s highest priority. “Your dedication, courage and skill have kept America safe even while bringing the war in Iraq to a successful conclusion and, I believe, at last turning the tide in Afghanistan,” he wrote in the release.

For his whole time in office, Gates has signed the orders deploying troops into harm’s way. “This has weighed on me every day,” he wrote. “I have known about and felt your hardship, your difficulties, your sacrifice, more than you can possibly imagine.”

The secretary has traveled extensively in the past few weeks to meet with and thank as many service members as he could. He traveled to outposts in Afghanistan and Iraq shaking hands with troops and giving them his commemorative coins.

Even with the travel, “he still only reached a fraction of the force,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said. The message is his way to reach out to troops because, “he wants everyone in uniform -- active and reserve, deployed and not -- to know he is eternally grateful for their service,” he said.

In speaking with the troops in combat outposts and forward operating bases, the secretary has often choked up. “As anyone who has seen the secretary with troops can attest, I think it would be too difficult for him to deliver this message to the military without his emotions getting the best of him,” Morrell said.

Gates ended his message to the troops by saying they are the best America has to offer.

“My admiration and affection for you is without limit, and I will think about you and your families and pray for you every day for the rest of my life,” the secretary wrote. “God bless you.”

Thurman Wants to Bolster U.S.-South Korean Ties

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2011 – Army Gen. James D. Thurman told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he would work to strengthen the U.S.-South Korea alliance amid provocations and uncertainties from North Korea.

Thurman testified today as part of his confirmation hearing to become the top allied commander in South Korea.

Thurman currently leads U.S. Army Forces Command. If confirmed, he will succeed Army Gen. Walter Sharp as the commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and commander of U.S. Forces, Korea.

Over the last year two notable provocations have increased tensions between North and South Korea. The North sank the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, killing 46 South Korean sailors in March 2010. In November, a North Korean artillery barrage that targeted the island of Yeongpyeong killed two civilians and two South Korean marines.

Officials said the provocations were likely caused by Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, trying to cement his claim as the successor to his father.

North Korea’s economy is in shambles and the country is a pariah in the world. Yet it remains dangerous. In prepared testimony, Thurman noted that North Korea retains the fourth-largest military in the world, with more than 1 million active duty troops and 5 million reservists.

More than 70 percent of North Korea’s military forces are arrayed along the De-militarized Zone. North Korea has stationed up to 250 long-range artillery guns that could strike the South Korean capital of Seoul -- one of the world’s great metropolitan cities with almost 25 million people.

Yet, North Korea’s military capability is declining. North Korean tanks are no match for U.S. and South Korean weapons systems, said Thurman, noting that North Korea has more than 1,700 aging aircraft, 800 naval vessels and 13,000 artillery systems.

Nonetheless, though North Korea’s weaponry may suffer from neglect and its troops may be poorly trained, there are many of them, and sheer numbers, too, can provide a military capability, the general said.

The North Korean nuclear program also poses a grave concern on the peninsula, Thurman said. North Korea continues to develop its nuclear capabilities, revealing earlier this year that it has an operational uranium enrichment facility. The North Korean regime has worked to proliferate nuclear and missile technology to Iran, Syria and others. Thurman said that he will work to see if he can strengthen the proliferation security initiative on the peninsula.

Thurman said there are both challenges and opportunities on the Korean peninsula.

“Recognizing that a strong United States-Republic of Korea alliance is one of the most important factors for maintaining peace and security on the peninsula and in the region at large, I will -- if confirmed -- continue the work of my predecessors directed at sustaining strong ties with our Korean partner,” he said.

USS Constitution Participating in Boston Harborfest

From USS Constitution Public Affairs

CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to USS Constitution will participate in the 30th anniversary of Boston Harborfest, June 29-July 4.

"This is one of my favorite times of the year," said Cmdr. Tim Cooper, Constitution's 71st commanding officer. "For the entire Harborfest event, we will be showcasing more aspects of the ship's history. Visitors will have the opportunity to see my crew perform a variety of time-honored maritime evolutions they wouldn't normally see during other times of the year, so I look forward to a great turn-out."

Sailors will be performing boarding pike and gun drills pier-side to the ship throughout the festival with sessions at 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. For the days of June 29 and July 4, sessions will begin at 2 p.m. The drills will simulate to visitors how Sailors prepared and fought in battle at sea during the age of sail.

"The public really enjoys the show we put on every year we do this," said Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 2nd Class (AW/SW) Jason Keith, boarding pike/gun drill coordinator. "But while it's meant to be entertaining, it's also very important we educate folks just how violent combat at sea was during the age of sail."

Constitution will also host the annual Sunset Parade, July 1. The parade celebrates the connection between Constitution's representation of naval heritage and New England's patriotic heritage.

"This will be my first time participating in the Sunset Parade," said Fireman Jessica Rodriguez. "I was told a lot of people attended it last year. It means a lot to people here. As a Sailor, I'm glad that I'm representing the Navy for the people of New England who are also so proud much of the history to our country's Navy began right here in this area."

Finally, Constitution will wrap up Harborfest by getting underway the morning of Independence Day with its 2011 lottery winners. During the underway, Sailors will exchange a 21-gun salute with Fort Independence on Castle Island and a 17-gun salute to the city of Boston in the vicinity of Coast Guard Station Boston.

Later that evening, Constitution's color guard will also perform in the Boston Pops July 4th concert.

Harborfest is a six-day long Fourth of July festival that showcases the colonial and maritime heritage of Boston. The festival strives to honor and remember the past, celebrate the present, and educate the future with reenactments, concerts and historical tours.

Constitution is located in the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. She is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors a year.

This Day in Naval History - June 28

From the Navy News Service

1794 - Joshua Humphreys appointed master builder to build Navy ships at an annual salary of $2,000.
1814 - USS Wasp captures HMS Reindeer.
1865 - CSS Shenandoah captures 11 American whalers in one day.
1970 - USS James Madison (SSBN 627) completes conversion to Poseidon missile capability.