Sunday, August 26, 2012

PCU North Dakota Reaches another Milestone; Launches its Crest

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Pre-Commissioning Unit North Dakota (SSN 784) launched its ship crest, an emblem that will be associated with the Virginia-class submarine during its entire service to the nation, Aug. 24.

The crest was created through a unique partnership between PCU North Dakota Commissioning Committee, and the submarine's crew.

"The acceptance of our crest is one of many important milestones our submarine and her crew will experience during the process of bringing her to life," said Cmdr. Doug Gordon, commanding officer, PCU North Dakota. "I want to personally thank the hard work of the PCU North Dakota Commissioning Committee for harnessing what both our submarine and namesake state symbolizes together. This crest will serve our submarine well in decades to come."

Historically a ship's crest combines Navy and submarine history with the rich tradition of the namesake state.

The North Dakota crest includes many elements which capture the essence and rich history of the "Peace Garden State." The crest includes sheafs of wheat, the first USS North Dakota (BB 29) at sea, an arrowhead shape, and the motto "Strength From The Soil" as indicated on the North Dakota Coat of Arms.

"This is an outstanding design that truly captures North Dakota's history as well as our heritage," said Bob Wefald, PCU North Dakota Commissioning Committee chair. "It also captures the dual meaning of six shooters and tomahawks for the two canisters of six Tomahawk cruise missiles each, which our second North Dakota will carry. The phrase 'Reapers of the Deep' ties in with the reapers of grain early in our state's history."

The USS North Dakota Committee spearheaded the crest design efforts in North Dakota. The contest began in February 2012.

The ship's sponsor Katie Fowler, wife of retired Vice Adm. Jeff Fowler, who attended the submarine's keel laying May 11, reflected on the crest and its meaning for the submarine and her crew.

"Selecting a ship's crest is a defining moment for a new ship. The crest will represent the ship, her crew, and its namesake for more than 30 years. It needs to reflect the warrior mentality of a warship's crew along with the enduring heritage of its name," said Fowler.

Fowler added that it was an extensive process to select the crest that would serve as its identifier.

"The process of receiving inputs from all ages in North Dakota, members of the crew, and Navy officials has produced many great symbols for consideration," said Fowler. "The thorough deliberation of the various inputs has helped reinforce important parts for the crest. In the end, we have a crest that will represent North Dakota well as the ship travels around the world, while motivating the warriors who serve in her."

More than 100 entries were submitted during the crest design contest. The top five entries were submitted to the crew of PCU North Dakota to be used in the creation of the final crest.

Gordon added that once they received the entries the Visual Information Service Center at Naval Submarine Support Facility helped bring all of the entries together.

"Jim Sikora, graphic specialist at the Visual Information Service Center, put a lot of effort into working with us to design our crest," said Gordon.

PCU North Dakota, the second ship named in honor of North Dakota, will be delivered by General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton and will be the 11th Virginia-class submarine when it is commissioned in 2014.

The only other ship to bear the name North Dakota was the Delaware-class battleship USS North Dakota, which was in service from 1910 to 1923.

Virginia-class submarines are designed to dominate the world's littoral and deep waters while conducting anti-submarine; anti-surface ship; strike; irregular; and mine warfare missions; as well as support special operation forces; and covert intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

McRaven Warns Special Ops Community about Disclosing Classified Information

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – The commander of U.S. Special Operations is expressing concern about former members of the community who he said “are using their ‘celebrity status’ to advance their personal or professional agendas,” and warned those who divulge classified information will be held accountable.

Navy Adm. William McRaven raised the issue in an email sent to the entire special operations community following several recent incidents involving former special operators. The latest was the announcement that a former Navy SEAL who participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden will publish a first-person account of the operation without first getting the book reviewed by the Defense Department for clearance.

“While as retired or former service members, they are well within their rights to advocate for certain causes or write books about their adventures, it is disappointing when these actions either try to represent the broader S.O.F. community, or expose sensitive information that could threaten the lives of their fellow warriors,” McRaven wrote.

At the Pentagon Friday, Spokesman George Little told reporters defense officials have not read the book, but do expect to “assess it for the potential that it contains classified information.” Any possible prosecution over leaked material would be up to the Justice Department, he said.

Adm. McRaven acknowledged the benefit of reading other special operators’ stories. He noted that his thesis while attending the Naval Postgraduate School was based on “a rigorous examination of available literature” and provided background for his own book, “the Theory of Special Operations.”

“Most of these books were wonderful accounts of courage, leadership, tough decision making, and martial skill, all of which benefited me as I tried to understand our past and how it could affect missions in the future,” he said in his email.

McRaven also recognized the value of movies that provide insight into the lives of special operations professionals, noting that seeing John Wayne’s appearance in “The Green Berets” influenced his own decision to become a special operator. “Countless stories have been told through the medium of film that needed to be told and I am thankful that they were,” he wrote.

But he drew a distinct line between what he called “recounting a story for the purposes of education or entertainment and telling a story that exposes sensitive activities just to garner greater readership and personal profit.” It’s a line he said must be respected – even after leaving the military.

“Every member of the special operations community with a security clearance signed a nondisclosure agreement that was binding during and after service in the military,” he said in his email. “If the U.S. Special Operations Command finds that an active duty, retired or former service member violated that agreement and that exposure of information was detrimental to the safety of U.S. forces, then we will pursue every option available to hold members accountable, including criminal prosecution where appropriate.”

Current and former special operators have both a moral obligation and legal duty to submit their works for pre-publication security review. “We are fully prepared to work with any author who is looking to tell his story and wants a straightforward assessment of the potential security impacts of their work,” he wrote.

Addressing a related issue, McRaven expressed concern over “the growing trend of using the special operations ‘brand,’ our seal, symbols and unit names, as part of any political or special interest campaign.”

“Let me be completely clear on this issue: U.S.S.O.C.O.M. does not endorse any political viewpoint, opinion or special interest,” he wrote.

McRaven said he strongly encourages active-duty special operators to participate in the political process, as appropriate under ethics rules, and for retired members to do the same. “However, when a group brands itself as special operations for the purpose of pushing a specific agenda, then they have misrepresented the entire nature of S.O.F. and life in the military,” he said.

“Our promise to the American people is that we, the military, are nonpartisan, apolitical and will serve the president of the United States regardless of his political party,” McRaven emphasized. “By attaching a special operation’s moniker or a unit or service name to a political agenda, those individuals have now violated the most basic of our military principles.”

McRaven encouraged former special operators to “voice their concerns from the highest hilltop” when acting as private citizens. However, by claiming to represent a broader SOF constituency as they do so, “they do a disservice to all of their S.O.F. teammates who serve quietly and respectfully in support of this great nation,” he wrote.

“Our reputation with the American people is as high as it has ever been,” McRaventold the special operations community. “The sacrifices of our men and women downrange have earned us that respect. Let us not diminish that respect by using our service in special operations to benefit a few at the expense of the many.”

Ulchi Freedom Guardian Promotes Stability on Korean Peninsula

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – As the United States and South Korea observe the 59th anniversary of the armistice that brought an unofficial end to the Korean War, their forces are sharpening their defensive capabilities through the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise.

More than 30,000 U.S. and South Korean service members are participating in what Army Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of Combined Forces Command, called “a key exercise in strengthening the readiness” of the two militaries.

Named in honor of a Korean military leader who repelled an invasion by China’s Sui dynasty in the 7th century, Ulchi Freedom Guardian 12 kicked off Aug. 20 and continues through next week.

Seven United Nations Command states also are participating: Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Norway, officials said.

One of two annual Combined Forces Command peninsula-wide exercises, Ulchi Freedom Guardian is centered on readiness, deterrence and the ability to defend South Korea.

Driven by computer-assisted simulation, it is designed so senior leaders can exercise their decision-making capabilities, U.S. Forces Korea officials said, while also training commanders and staffs from both nations in combined planning, command and control operations, military intelligence, logistics and personnel procedures.

“It is based on realistic scenarios and enables us to train on our essential tasks with a ‘whole of government’ approach,” Thurman said.

Ulchi Freedom Guardian is part of an ongoing focus on strengthening the U.S.-South Korea alliance while preparing South Korea to assume wartime operational control of its forces from the United States in 2015, officials said.

Thurman told the House Appropriations Committee this spring the U.S.-South Korea alliance is “as solid as ever,” and said it serves as the foundation for the combined readiness of the two militaries. The general said he and his South Korean military counterparts are guiding military leaders and units of both militaries “to work and train closely with one another on a daily basis, and that effort builds combined strength, faith, and trust -- qualities that are essential for us to successfully accomplish our mission in Korea.”

Training exercises like Ulchi Freedom Guardian, carried out in the spirit of the Oct. 1, 1953, ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty and in accordance with the armistice, advance those efforts, U.S. Forces Korea officials said.

“These exercises also highlight the longstanding military partnership, commitment and enduring friendship between the two nations, help to ensure peace and security on the peninsula and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Northeast Asia region,” they said.

Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2012 comes at a time of transition on the peninsula, with the new and relatively untested North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, continuing Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told American Forces Press Service he considers North Korea the most pressing trouble spot in Pacom’s vast area of responsibility.

“If there is anything that keeps me awake at night, it’s that particular situation,” the admiral said. “We have to ensure that we maintain as much of a stable environment on the Korean peninsula as we can.”

Toward that end, Locklear relies heavily on Thurman’s leadership to ensure that South Korean and U.S. forces remain strong.  In March, he emphasized the importance of the U.S.-South Korean alliance in deterring aggression and maintaining security and stability and offered assurances of an “unwaverable” U.S. commitment to the alliance.

USS Columbus Completes Deployment to Western Pacific Region

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ronald Gutridge, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- Friends and families of the crew from USS Columbus (SSN 762) gathered at the submarine piers to welcome back the Los Angeles-class submarine as it returned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam after completing a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific region, Aug. 23.

While deployed, Columbus executed a wide range of operations in support of Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet. In addition, the crew conducted several training exercises, contributing to the nation's strategic posture in the Western Pacific region.

"Columbus' 2012 deployment was very successful," said Cmdr. David Youtt, Columbus commanding officer. "We executed fleet and national tasking as well as numerous exercises and theater cooperation with our regional allies. Our crew gained extensive experience operating in vastly different environments and engaging with different cultures. We are a better ship and crew as a result and are better prepared to face future operations.

"The crew performed superbly through deployment," said Youtt. "Each Sailor faced everyday with enthusiasm and professionalism that was second to none."

 During the deployment, 28 Sailors qualified in submarines and are now entitled to wear the submarine warfare insignia, also referred to as "Dolphins", after completing a rigorous qualification process that included in-depth understanding of submarine construction and operations, and also practical assessments of the Sailor's ability to combat a wide range of casualties that could be encountered while on board the submarine. A majority of the crew also completed advanced qualifications, including engineering watch supervisor, diving officer of the watch and chief of the watch. These qualifications provide greater watch bill flexibility and help ensure that Columbus' performance will remain strong.

 "This deployment offered significant experience and training for the young Sailors that will be the leaders of our Navy," said Youtt. "More than half the crew deployed for the first time and are now experienced future deployers."

 Despite steaming more than 40,000 nautical miles in support of the nation's defense, the crew enjoyed several memorable port visits which included Guam, South Korea and, Japan.

Columbus also conducted a time-honored ceremony of "Crossing the Line" where 100 Sailors earned the title of "Shellback" for crossing the equator for the first time.

 "I really learned allot about submarines and my job on this deployment, but the best part is when I became submarine qualified and got my Dolphins," said Electronics Technician Seaman (SS) Jonathan Diquattro from Columbus, Ga. "The experience I gained and the places we visited makes my first deployment something I will never forget."

 Columbus is the 51st Los Angeles-class submarine and the twelfth improved version of this class, which includes a vertical launch system for Tomahawk cruise missiles and an improved hull design for under-ice operations. It completed a post shipyard availability in June 1994 in Groton, Conn. after initial construction and shakedown operations. In September 1994, the ship conducted an inter-fleet transfer to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and joined the U.S. Pacific Fleet Submarine Force.