Saturday, June 30, 2012

DOD, Japan Move Forward on Osprey Fleet Upgrade

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – Working closely with the Japanese government, the Defense Department will replace CH-46 helicopters used by the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa with MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft for operations beginning in August.

At a Pentagon news conference today, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said U.S. officials have had “very good discussions with our Japanese allies” and have given them assurances regarding concerns about the aircraft’s safety record.

“But the important thing, we felt, was to be able to deploy these planes there, and that we will continue to brief them with regards to the operations of these planes,” the secretary said.

“Actually, we think we've reached a very good compromise here. … I think we've been able to relieve their concerns with what we've presented to them,” Panetta continued. “But we're going to continue to work with them. The good thing is that our ability to deploy these forces will certainly help us with regards to our whole rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region.”

Recent accidents involving an MV-22 and a CV-22 aircraft raised concerns about the fleet upgrade by the governor of Okinawa, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said June 20. Senior Defense Department officials briefed a Japanese delegation on the incidents at the Pentagon June 22.

On April 11 in Morocco, an MV-22 crashed while taking part in a bilateral military exercise. There were no casualties. Flight data indicates the aircraft performed as expected. In a statement, DOD officials said the U.S. Marine Corps determined the aircraft did not suffer a mechanical or material failure and there were no problems with the aircraft’s safety.

Earlier this month, a CV-22 crashed during a training mission in Navarre, Fla., leaving five crew members injured. A preliminary review uncovered no information that would preclude the aircraft’s continued operation, Pentagon officials said.

The Defense Department, including senior U.S. Air Force leaders, stands behind the CV-22's reliability and is convinced the aircraft is safe for operation, officials said in a statement.

The MV-22 Osprey operates with the speed and range of a turboprop, the maneuverability of a helicopter and the ability to carry 24 Marine combat troops. It travels twice as fast and five times farther than previous helicopters.

The Air Force CV-22 Osprey is a special operations variant of the aircraft. It can fly like an airplane and land like a helicopter.

In response to remaining safety concerns, officials said, the MV-22 will not fly in Japan until results of the investigations are presented to the Japanese government in August. During this time, Japan will be the only location worldwide, including the continental United States, where MV-22 flight operations will be suspended, they added.

The MV-22 Osprey has an excellent safety record and has logged more than 115,000 flight hours, the Defense Department statement said. About a third of those flight hours were flown during the last two years, the statement continued, and the Osprey achieved these flight hours performing combat operations, humanitarian assistance, training, and test and evaluation missions.

Basing the Osprey in Okinawa will strengthen the U.S. ability to provide for the defense of Japan, perform humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, and fulfill other alliance roles, the Pentagon statement said.

Commander to Oversee Colorado Wildfire Response

By Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. – A National Guard dual-status commander has been recently appointed to support wildfire response and relief efforts in Colorado, according to Defense Department and National Guard officials.

Air Force Col. Peter J. Byrne -- director of the joint staff, Joint Force Headquarters-Colorado -- was selected by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in agreement with Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, the Colorado National Guard reported.

"The dual-status commander will coordinate military firefighting efforts in the state," Hickenlooper said. "This commander operates as the liaison to make sure that we can take federal assets and airmen, soldiers, bulldozers, helicopters, Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems aircraft and get whatever tool we need."

Byrne, who is a Colorado resident, will work with fire incident commanders.

When agreed upon by the secretary of defense and the governor of an affected state, dual-status commanders can direct both federal active duty forces and state National Guard forces in response to domestic incidents, Defense Department officials said.

The unity of effort is intended to foster greater cooperation among federal and state military assets during a disaster.

The dual-status commander concept was most recently used in support of the NATO Summit in Chicago in May.

Byrne is a command pilot with more than 2,500 military flying hours and more than 145 combat hours, officials said. He was commissioned in 1984 and joined the Colorado Air National Guard in 1991.

"Working hand in hand with active duty forces is something the National Guard has performed seamlessly for more than 10 years in overseas missions," Byrne said. "Though the circumstances are tragic, bringing this experience of partnership to help friends, family and neighbors is a rewarding and natural extension of this valuable relationship."

According to Defense Department officials:

The nation's governors led the creation of this new opportunity for collaboration. Dual-status commanders ensure that state and federal military forces work together effectively together when states request federal forces. Through this improved partnership, military forces responding to the wildfires will be better able to avoid duplication of effort and support the needs of the incident and the American people.

The dual-status commander concept was codified in 2011, with 10 USC - 12304 as the usual and customary command and control arrangement for missions involving the simultaneous deployment of active duty, Reserve and National Guard forces in support of civilian authorities during major disasters and other emergencies.

Face of Defense: Guard Members Aid Flood-stricken Floridians

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens
Florida National Guard

LIVE OAK, Fla. – The Florida National Guard is supporting relief efforts in several counties affected by widespread flooding after Tropical Storm Debby dumped large amounts of rain during its slow journey across the state.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Adjutant General Air Force Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr. and several other senior state officials journeyed to Wakulla, Suwannee and Pasco counties to survey the flood damage and to talk to residents.

“We just left the shelter here that has the citizens of Live Oak who lost their homes, who essentially lost everything,” Titshaw said. “Talking to some of the people, it was very gratifying to hear when they told me they were rescued by the Florida National Guard. It’s the reason we do what we do.”

The Florida National Guard participated in several rescues of residents from the flood waters in Columbia and Suwannee counties.

“The National Guard pulled up in a truck and I was like, ‘Thank God,’” said Michaela Solomon, a resident of Live Oak who, along with her children, was rescued from her home by soldiers from the Florida National Guard. “It was such a relief to know we were going to somewhere safe. It was just a blessing that the National Guard came to where we were.”

As of June 29, more than 70 Florida National Guard members have been called to duty in support of relief efforts, officials said. Due to rising flood waters, Guard members are providing high-water tactical vehicles to assist with rescues, evacuations and damage assessments in Suwannee and Columbia counties, officials said.

In addition to the high-water vehicles, officials said, the Florida National Guard is also assisting with communications in Suwannee County, providing an emergency response vehicle to provide internet and phone capabilities to the county’s Emergency Operations Center.

For soldiers from the 868th Engineer Company, Guard officials said, the flooding hit close to home, affecting many local soldiers in the tight-knit Live Oak-based unit. Officials said approximately half of the unit resides in the area and several of the full-time unit support staff members were affected by the storm.

The Florida National Guard is continuing to provide support as requested by the State Emergency Response Team, officials said, noting that Florida’s citizen-soldiers and airmen are trained and equipped for a wide range of life support, security and public safety missions, and can mobilize approximately 9,000 personnel if needed to protect lives and property during disasters.

President Nominates Grass as Next National Guard Chief

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. – President Obama has nominated Army Lt. Gen. Frank J. Grass, deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command, to receive his fourth star and serve as the 27th chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced here today.

If confirmed by the Senate, Grass would succeed Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the first four-star general to hold the assignment.   McKinley also became the first Guard Bureau chief to serve as a statutory member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

At a Pentagon news conference, Dempsey said McKinley “has done an outstanding job as the chief of the National Guard Bureau, helping to make sure our National Guard is tightly integrated with active duty personnel,” and he offered congratulations to both generals.

Grass was commissioned in 1981 after 12 years of enlisted service in the Missouri Army National Guard. In civilian life, he worked in the Army Corps of Engineers.

He has served in a wide variety of command and staff positions as a traditional Guard member, in the Active Guard and Reserve Program, and on active duty.

"I am thrilled and humbled by the opportunity, if I am confirmed, to lead the best National Guard in our nation's history - a force of more than 460,000 men and women proven on the battlefield and during domestic crises," Grass said.

"It is further humbling to be asked by the secretary of defense and the president to follow in General McKinley's footsteps,” he continued. “I look forward to ensuring the investment the American people have made in the National Guard as a ready and reliable operational force continues to pay dividends."

Grass has served as Northcom's deputy commander and as vice commander of North American Aerospace Command’s U.S. element since 2010.

(Karen Parrish of American Forces Press Service contributed to this article.)

Camp Pendleton Naval Replacement Hospital Construction Project Achieves Safety Milestone

By Jesse A. Lora, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest Public Affairs

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (NNS) -- Construction of the new Naval Hospital aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton reached a milestone on June 28 when more than one million man-hours of work was completed without a single Days Away, Restrictions, and Transfers (DART).

 "Safety remains the paramount concern during construction, and the project currently boasts a rate of zero DART incidences over one million cumulative man-hours of effort," said Lt. Cmdr. Stephen T. Padhi, NAVFAC Southwest senior assistant resident officer In charge of construction (ROICC) for Replacement Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration established DART and is used to calculate the number of days away from work, work activities that are restricted by an injury, or where a worker is transferred to another type of work due to an injury. The Navy/contractor team attributes this high safety rating to the cooperative culture of safety that has been firmly established on the jobsite.

"It is truly an honor for the entire blended hospital construction team to witness the results of the innovation and collaboration we have achieved to date," said Cmdr. Whit H. Robinson, NAVFAC Southwest resident ROICC for Replacement Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. "If there was ever a single theme that contributed to our success, it has been the clear sense of purpose and the incredibly strong desire by all team members to truly work together in order to achieve what many thought was impossible. This is all for those warriors that sacrifice everything for our freedom without even a thought of getting something in return."

Other significant milestones completed on the hospital project thus far include design completion, topping out of structural steel, substantial completion of the parking structure, completion of concrete placement for grade and deck slabs, start of exterior skin framing, and start of interior framing and drywall. The project has also garnered first place in the California Team Excellence Award competition for 2011, and took the Complex Project award at the 2011-2012 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Anaheim May 23.