Wednesday, July 11, 2012

MQ-8B Fire Scout Training Facility Unveiled at Naval Air Station Jacksonville

By Clark Piece, Editor, Jax Air News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Northrop Grumman and Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing Atlantic (HSMWL) personnel hosted a ribbon-cutting reception July 10 for the new MQ-8B Fire Scout operator training facility at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

The facility is equipped with four mission simulators and an instructor's station, as well as separate classrooms.

After two years of operational testing with squadrons assigned to HSMWL, the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program is seeking to lock in its future with the Navy by providing a leading-edge simulator center.

Commander, HSMWL Capt. Doug Ten Hoopen said he was pleased to bring yet another training capability to NAS Jacksonville. "Our wing of Bravo and Romeo Seahawk helicopters is the only one in naval aviation to fly the Fire Scout. We began in 2010 with a 4th Fleet drug interdiction mission aboard the guided-missile frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8), where Fire Scout helped confiscate 60 kilos of cocaine from a fast boat."

The next MQ-8B success came from the 5th Fleet deployment aboard the frigate USS Halyburton (FFG 40). From off the coast of Somalia, Fire Scout provided an overland intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) platform for special operations forces.

Most recently, the frigate USS Klakring (FFG 42) deployed to the Horn of Africa area of responsibility with a Fire Scout.

"As the Fire Scout UAV program evolves, it will be part of what we call 'composite detachments' that deploy with a manned MH-60R Seahawk and an unmanned Fire Scout.

Also, with today's shrinking budgets, this new center allows us to train squadron personnel without incurring the travel, food and lodging expenses to send them to NAS Patuxent River, Md. Today, we're bridging the Fire Scout simulator capacity gap and improving the already robust training environment here at NAS Jax," said Ten Hoopen.

"For the past two years, operator and maintainer training has taken place here in temporary spaces among the H-60 Seahawk crews," Hoopen said. "In a few minutes, you'll see the leading-edge design of our new permanent simulator facility."

George Vardoulakis, vice president and program manager of tactical unmanned systems for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, welcomed the military and civilian guests.

"Fire Scout complements the Navy's manned helicopters by effectively extending the range and area of ship-based intelligence gathering operations," said Vardoulakis.

"Its modular architecture accommodates a variety of electro-optical, infrared and communications payloads that provide ground- and ship-based commanders with high levels of situational awareness and precision targeting support," he added. "The system has been in development for about 10 years and is particularly well suited to support littoral combat ship missions such as drug interdiction, anti-piracy, search and rescue, and reconnaissance operations."

He said that today's Navy is increasing its mix of manned and unmanned activities - and that this Fire Scout training facility will ensure operators are well schooled in executing its multi-mission capabilities.

According to a Northrop Grumman, the MQ-8B Fire Scout is an unmanned helicopter for U.S. Navy situational awareness and precision targeting. The unmanned aircraft is based on the Schweizer Model 333 two-seat manned helicopter. It can autonomously take off and land on any aviation-capable warship and at unprepared landing zones near battlefields.

Northrop Grumman has demonstrated MQ-8 Fire Scout radar capability to detect and track several targets with a Telephonics RDR-1700B radar system. The Fire Scout may eventually be armed with gun pods, Hydra 70-millimeter rocket pods and small missiles.

The MQ-8 Fire Scout is 30 feet long and 9.4 feet tall, with a rotor diameter of 27.5 feet. It can fly as fast as 125 knots and achieve altitudes of up to 20,000 feet.

Churchill VBSS Team Trains with Montenegrin Forces

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Chase, USS Winston S. Churchill Public Affairs

BAR, Montenegro (NNS) -- Visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team members of guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) displayed maritime interdiction tactics with the Montenegrin military during a coalition training exercise July 9.

The VBSS team and the maritime squadron of Montenegro's special forces each performed a simulated maritime interdiction operation (MIO) in order to compare strategies and further cooperation between the two allied militaries.

"Every military has different ways of solving problems. To observe a diversity of well-trained boarding teams interjects new ideas and keeps what you're doing fresh," said Lt. j.g. Edward R. Kellum, lead boarding officer of the Churchill team. "To see what the Montenegrin Navy is capable of and analyze the differences only adds another layer of competency to my team's ability to perform their mission."

In each event, VBSS teams boarded vessels belonging to their respective countries, the Churchill for the U.S. Sailors and a salvage tug for the Montenegrin special forces. Both teams executed boarding techniques to include crew members and sweeping the ship for contraband. Military leaders from Montenegro observed both sets of boardings.

"This was an excellent opportunity for us to see and compare our levels of tactics and equipment," said Montenegro navy Cmdr. Darko Vukovic, deputy chief of naval operations for Montenegro.

While the Montenegrin navy does not have VBSS teams, they utilize the maritime squadron special forces personnel to perform anti-piracy operations and combat smuggling and terrorism.

"It's a good feeling to get a direct comparison with a special forces squadron," said Gunner's Mate 3rd Class (SW) Devon Dusseault, a Churchill VBSS team member. "It's great to see what they're capable of and integrate those tactics into our own."

The Montenegrin navy consists of 341 personnel, according Vukovic. He said he believes close training like this will pay even great dividends for Montenegro in the future.

Winston S. Churchill is on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of Maritime Security Operations (MSO) and theater Security Cooperation (TSC) efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. Hue City is deployed as part of Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (CSG), which includes CSG 8, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), guided- missile destroyers USS Farragut (DDG 99), USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), and USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109), the seven squadrons of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, and Destroyer Squadron 28.

Don’t Miss Your Medical News Away from Home

By the staff

While medical providers are deployed, on vacation or away from home for an extended period, they can still stay up to date on medical news. Several military and related subject publications offer online versions of printed materials, including newsletters delivered right to a smartphone, so no need to miss a single story.

Journals such as Federal Practitioner, a peer-reviewed journal for military health care professionals, offer online subscription services that give readers access to e-mail alerts and full text articles.  The Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, or AMSUS, offers an online version of its International Journal of AMSUS. AMSUS also comes in an e-mail news briefing format. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies also offers e-mail updates on a range of topics. The United States Army Medical Department Journal archives its issues online for free viewing. Other Army Medical publications are available online, some dating back to the 1980s. The National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine also provides a searchable online catalog of journals, audiovisuals and other resources.

If you know of a medical journal of interest to military medical professionals that features online content, please share a link in the comment section of this blog post on the military health system Facebook page.

Guard and Reserve Family Fitness Program Supports Healthy Living

By the Staff

A new program lends support to the families of deployed members of the National Guard and Reserve by helping them lead healthier, more active lifestyles.   First Lady Michelle Obama and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition have announced the new fitness initiative in support of America’s National Prevention Strategy as well the First Lady’s initiatives, Let’s Move! and Joining Forces.

The program partners with trade associations representing fitness professionals and health clubs.  The associations are providing free services such as personal training, fitness instruction and free 6-month health club memberships for certain family members of deployed Reservists and National Guard members.   Clubs may also provide additional benefits such as childcare, children’s programming, group classes, discounts for veterans, and discounts for active duty families.

Service members and their families can learn more online about this effort and find participating fitness instruction. They can also find participating clubs online.

For more information about Joining Forces and how military families can lead healthier and more active lifestyles, visit the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition.

Wisconsin Soldiers complete annual training, continue to stand ready

By Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue
Wisconsin National Guard

After more than 10 years of continuous deployments, Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers continue to train and maintain their skills and proficiencies at stateside bases during annual training.

For some Soldiers in the 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery, this year's annual training is also a chance to hone their skills for deployment. Bravo Battery of Plymouth, Wis., is expected to deploy later this fall to conduct a field artillery mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

But Bravo's mission at present is to take part in traditional field training with the rest of the battalion.

"We shoot, move and communicate - that's what we train on during annual training," said Maj. Paul Kapinski, the battalion's operations officer assigned to Headquarters Battery.

The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) battalion - consisting of the Milwaukee-based Headquarters Battery, Bravo Battery, and Battery C and the 108th Forward Support Company in Sussex, Wis. - worked together to accomplish eight missions, firing 30 training rockets across Fort McCoy June 28.

Fire missions originate at the brigade or battalion level and are sent to the battery and platoon level. The launcher vehicles pull out of hiding places to fire one of three types of missions: "on my command," "when ready," and "time-on-target." Then it's off to a new hiding place until the next fire mission comes down.

To meet the annual certification requirement, HIMARS units must successfully complete tasks down to the individual launcher and ammo section. This year, however, over the course of this and an earlier annual training session in April, the 121st achieved battalion certification.

Helping the artillery crews in the field is the 108th Forward Support Company's job, working behind the scenes to provide fuel, food and ammo to all HIMARS crews.

"We're pretty much on call for everything," said Sgt. Ashley Mullis, a heavy vehicle driver for the 108th. "If it wasn't for the forward support, they wouldn't be able to complete their mission. That's a big sense of accomplishment for us."

1st Sgt. Arthur Pronschinske, the senior enlisted leader for the 108th, said working toward a common goal is what drill and annual training is all about.

"It just hones their skills ... coming together as a larger picture," Pronschinske said. "They are a deploying unit and we want to support them so they can accomplish their tasks for deployment."

The last time the battalion deployed in 2006, it was to perform a convoy escort mission. Soldiers in Battery B are looking forward to finally deploy using the skills they devote most of their time to perfect.

"I don't believe the Wisconsin artillery has ever been used as an artillery unit in a contingency plan," Kapinski said. "It could be pretty historic for the battery."