Sunday, February 05, 2012

Coast Guard’s 2012 Ice Season Begins!

Written by the International Ice Patrol.

Icebergs, bergy bits or growlers. Whatever you call them, these massive chunks of ice – some the size of a small country – all pose a threat for ships transiting the North Atlantic. But thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard’s International Ice Patrol and their partners, mariners will have the information they need to stay safe, and out of harm’s way.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s International Ice Patrol took over the ice-reporting responsibility from the Canadian Ice Service on Wednesday, officially marking the start of the 2012 ice season. The Ice Patrol is now responsible for issuing daily iceberg analysis products, which provides key safety information for mariners transiting in Atlantic waters.

 Prior to 2011, the Canadian Ice Service published a daily iceberg analysis for Canadian coastal waters and the International Ice Patrol published a seasonal daily iceberg warning when icebergs threatened transatlantic shipping lanes. Last year, the services combined efforts to produce one daily iceberg analysis to be issued by Ice Patrol during their traditional season – February through July – and to be issued by the Canadian Ice Service for the remainder of the year.

Both the International Ice Patrol and Canadian Ice Service now operate under the North American Ice Service, or NAIS, a unified source of ice information for the U.S. and Canadian governments.

The move to NAIS’ unified source of iceberg products was a significant step in improving efficiency. By combining resources and improving effectiveness they have created a one-stop-shop for the maritime community to get critical iceberg information. Both ice services spent considerable effort in harmonizing the iceberg products to provide a seamless transition for the countless mariners that rely on iceberg information for safe navigation in the Atlantic.

The 2012 ice season will be a busy one for the Ice Patrol, and in the upcoming weeks their crews will deploy the first ice reconnaissance detachment of the season to Newfoundland to meet with Canadian partners and conduct initial reconnaissance for the season.

After surveying the iceberg population during their Newfoundland deployment, Ice Patrol members will be able to determine the outlook for the 2012 ice season.

Iceberg reconnaissance is conducted primarily with aircrews from Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., in an HC-130J Hercules airplane, the perfect platform for their mission. Using the aircraft’s specialized sensors, radar and visual observations are employed for iceberg detection and identification.

Last year’s ice season was comparatively lighter than previous years, based on the traditional measure of the number of icebergs passing south of latitude 48 degrees north. 2011 also provided distinctive threats to mariners, including an ice island that calved from the Petermann Glacier in August 2010. The ice calving produced several ice island fragments and hundreds of icebergs that traveled south along the coast of Labrador. Fortunately, most remained inshore and deteriorated north of Newfoundland without affecting major transatlantic shipping routes.

Another big part of the 2012 season will be commemorating 100 years since the sinking of RMS Titanic. The International Ice Patrol was established as a direct result of the sinking of RMS Titanic and commemorates the ship every year with a memorial wreath drop over the resting position. This year, in collaboration with the Titanic Historical Society, the Ice Patrol will conduct a special memorial drop of rose petals that were carried by museum visitors through Titanic exhibits.

Over the last century, Ice Patrol has established an enviable safety record – no ship heeding Ice Patrol warnings has ever collided with an iceberg. Ice Patrol strives to maintain that safety record throughout 2012’s ice season, with their Canadian Ice Service and National Ice Center partners.

Keep checking Coast Guard Compass in the upcoming months as we provide more updates from the International Ice Patrol and share the 100-year commemoration of the RMS Titanic.

This article first appeared on Coast Guard Compass, the official blog of the U.S. Coast Guard.

House Committee Leaders Visit USS Enterprise

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kristin L. Grover
Enterprise Carrier Strike Group Public Affairs

USS ENTERPRISE AT SEA, Feb. 5, 2012 – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California, Vice Chairman Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry of Texas and Navy Adm. Kirkland Donald, director of naval nuclear propulsion, arrived aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise today as the ship was underway in the Atlantic Ocean.

The visitors witnessed carrier operations at sea and met with members of the ship’s crew.

During their time aboard the more than 50-year-old ship, the visitors toured the navigation bridge, engineering and medical spaces, weapons assembly area and the hangar bay.

The guests also took part in a brief lunch with Enterprise Carrier Strike Group leaders and observed aircraft launch and recovery operations on the flight deck before departing the ship on a carrier onboard delivery aircraft.

Enterprise is underway to participate in exercise Bold Alligator 2012. Bold Alligator 2012, the largest naval amphibious exercise in the past 10 years.

Bold Alligator began Jan 30 and takes place afloat and ashore in and around Virginia and North Carolina. The exercise concludes Feb. 12.

Panetta Calls for Europe, NATO Defense Investment

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

MUNICH  – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta today called for European nations to match the United States’ vote of confidence in the transatlantic partnership, through investment in common defense and commitment to a long-term solution in Afghanistan.

Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke before some 10 heads of state and 40 foreign or defense ministers attending the 48th Munich Security Conference at the Bayerischer Hof hotel here.

Panetta challenged his European counterparts to match the U.S. in maintaining military capability in the face of budget constraints.

“Like most nations on this continent, America faces a fiscal crisis,” he noted.

America’s congressionally mandated $487 billion cut in defense spending over the next decade prompted a strategy that will result in a smaller but increasingly capable force, intent on emerging challenges in the cyber and space domains and focused on Asia and the Middle East, with a robust global presence and response capability, the secretary said.

Panetta emphasized NATO is one of the central alliances underpinning the U.S. strategy.

“I believe that today’s strategic and fiscal realities offer NATO the opportunity to build the alliance we need for the 21st century … the core of an expanding network of partnerships across the globe,” the secretary said.

The United States offers concrete proof of its commitment to Europe and NATO, Panetta said. As part of the phased approach to European missile defense, he said, the U.S. will station missiles in Romania and Poland; deploy four cruisers to Rota, Spain, capable of shooting down ballistic missiles; and contribute major funding for the Alliance Ground Surveillance system -- consisting of five Global Hawk intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles and ground-based control equipment -- agreed to this week during NATO defense ministers meetings.

The United States will also identify a brigade to serve as the nation’s land force contribution to the NATO response force, the secretary said.

“The NRF was designed to be an agile, rapidly deployable, multinational force that can respond to crises when and where necessary,” Panetta noted. “The United States has endorsed the NRF but has not made a tangible contribution due to the demands of the wars -- until now.”

A U.S. Army battalion will rotate twice a year to Europe for training, Panetta said, while two Army heavy brigades will be removed from European basing. Still, the U.S. Army presence in Europe will remain the largest anywhere in the world outside the United States, he added.

Army forces in Europe will decrease from roughly 47,000 soldiers to 37,000, defense officials said, with a total U.S. assigned troop strength in Europe of around 80,000, including Air Force, Navy and Marine troops.

Panetta said the United States would like to see European nations invest similarly in NATO’s current and future capabilities.

He cautioned against too-deep cuts under NATO’s “smart defense” initiative, aimed at combining nations’ military resources.

“Approaches like ‘smart defense’ help us spend together sensibly -- but they cannot be an excuse to cut budgets further,” the secretary said.

As the Chicago NATO summit in May approaches, he added, smart defense “should be part of a longer-term plan to invest in a NATO force for 2020 that is fully trained and equipped to respond to any threat and defend our common interests.”

The 50 nations contributing troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force must maintain their mutual commitment to long-term success in Afghanistan, to the end of security transition and beyond, Panetta said.

The international community must provide enough financial support to sustain Afghan army and police forces, he said.

Panetta said even as ISAF nations work to reduce the costs of Afghan forces over time, “we cannot shortchange our commitment.”

The NATO alliance has proven its 21st-century relevance over a decade of war, the secretary said.

Panetta quoted President John F. Kennedy’s remarks at the first Munich conference in 1962, highlighting Kennedy’s vision that one day the United States could partner with a revitalized Europe, “on a basis of full equality in all the great and burdensome tasks of building and defending a community of free nations."

That vision is “closer than ever” to realization, the secretary said, but emphasized NATO must remain prepared, as the United States has committed to remaining prepared, to deal with global threats as they occur.

Navy Misawa Sailors Complete Lone Sailor Snow Sculpture

By Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Daniel Sanford, Naval Air Facility Misawa Public Affairs

SAPPORO, Japan (NNS) -- After fours days of enduring sub-freezing temperatures and driving snow, the Navy Misawa Snow Sculpture Team completed its 'Lone Sailor' sculpture Feb. 4, just in time for the 63rd Annual Sapporo Snow Festival here.

The six-man team, comprising Sailors assigned to Naval Air Facility Misawa or one of its tenant or deployed commands, worked diligently through the week to create the sculpture from nothing more than a six-foot-by-six-foot block of compressed snow - give or take a few inches.

"The block's measurement weren't quite as advertised," said Snow Team Leader Christopher "Billy" Knox, who sketched out the intended design on graph paper prior to arriving in Sapporo. "Transferring the sketched draft of the Lone Sailor from graph paper to the block was a bit of a challenge because we had to make adjustments on the fly. But once we made compensations for its actual size, it was easy to chalk up some proportionate graphing lines."

Following the tedious process of measuring and drawing out equally distanced horizontal and vertical lines, the team used the lines to draw out the design on the snow using markers. Upon completion, the team began to sculpt.

Carefully sheering away excess snow and ice, it wasn't long before a Navy white hat began to take shape.

"Once we got an idea of how it would all look, we started chipping away and eventually began making some headway," said Cryptologic Technician Collection Seaman Herschel Moore, a native of Bandera, Texas, and snow team member. "I think the biggest challenge arrived when we had to make the face. Ensuring the face and ears were even on both sides took some effort."

Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Zachary James said his biggest challenge was working in the Sapporo weather.

"The cold," said the Seattle native. "Out here in the elements, eight hours at a time, it can take its toll. You're dealing with frozen hands, frozen toes, but we're dressed warm and in layers so it hasn't been very detrimental."

By the end of the first day, a human form began to take shape, and with every subsequent day, progress was made before the team retired each night.

"The team's performance has been outstanding," said Knox, who hails from Chapin, Ill. "They are extremely motivated; a lot of heart and soul went into this whole project."

The team's prodigious effort also drew an audience of onlookers each day. Team members were inundated with questions and photo requests, which they were always willing to provide with a smile.

"The fellas love interacting with the locals that passed by each day," said Knox. "Many of the spectators were very curious about what we were making, where the original 'Lone Sailor' is located, and the overall meaning of it. It may have slowed down our progress some, but getting the opportunity to interact with the Japanese people is the most gratifying part of this whole project."

Every member of the team seemed enamored with Sapporo and its citizens.

"The city has been amazing," said Moore. "The people are so nice and kind, they go out of their way to make you feel welcome."

That may be the reason Knox decided to add a late addition to the sculpture's base. On the final day of sculpting, Knox added a small display made of snow just underneath the sculpture's chin. On it, he carved out the Japanese Kanji symbol for friendship: "tomodachi."

"We may not speak the same language, but I think we understand the important relationship we share with each other, " said Knox. "We want the locals who come out and see the sculpture to know that our hearts and friendship is here with it. We're happy to live and serve in Japan."

This is the 29th year that Navy Misawa has sent a delegation of Sailors to Sapporo to build a sculpture and represent the base during the festival. The 63rd Annual Sapporo Snow Festival runs from Feb. 6-12, 2012.

The 2012 Navy Misawa Snow Sculpture Team consists of Knox, James, Moore, Aviation Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Alvin Zuilan, originally from San Diego, Electronics Technician 2nd Class James Johnston, originally from Kaneohe, Hawaii, and Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Trevor Teschel, a native of Pensacola, Fla.

To follow the Navy Misawa Snow Sculpture Team's progress, check out the NAF Misawa Facebook page