Military News

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Extending the reach: refueling the air-policing mission

by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Wilson
48th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs


5/28/2014 - KEFLAVIK, Iceland  -- The U.S. Air Force is executing the NATO mission of Icelandic Air Policing from Keflavik International Airport, Iceland, and a major part of the operation is aerial refueling.

Among the Airmen deployed with the 48th Air Expeditionary Group are those specialized in operating and maintaining the KC-135 Stratotanker from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England.

"With us here they can go faster, they can go farther, they can go longer," said Capt. Norman Popp, KC-135 pilot.

During the air policing mission, F-15C Eagles deployed from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, are tasked with maintaining air sovereignty over Iceland and its waters by intercepting threats or unknown aircraft trespassing into Iceland's airspace.

The aerial refueling mission allows the F-15s to perform at higher speeds and longer distances by providing the fuel necessary to perform their duty.

Popp said, some of the potentially threatening aircraft near Iceland have very long ranges and can fly for a long period of time, which is what makes the refueling mission so vital to the U.S. F-15s maintaining air superiority in the region.

"The fifteens can't do that," he said about long flight times. "So if we go airborne to support them, we can basically keep the fifteens airborne as long as they need to be."

While deployed for Icelandic Air Policing, the fighter and refueling units are operating out of the same building. This has presented an opportunity for the two units to work more closely together.

"There is a benefit because we will often get requests from fighter units, that to us are completely crazy, but they don't know what our requirements are," said Popp. "We start making guesses as to what they're trying to do because we don't know.

"But being able to work so closely with them here, we can see what each other is doing," he said.

This free flow of communication has yielded benefits for both flying communities during the training they are accomplishing while deployed.

"Since the start of this mission we have made several changes to the profile of what the tanker is flying and when and where the fighters get their gas," said the captain. "I think the biggest one has been how much the fighters get, because at the start they were planning to get 20,000-30,000 pounds of fuel each training mission. Based on what we've been able to do for them they have started upping their request into the 60,000-pound range."

Navy Curator Says Every Day Promises New Discovery



From Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- When it comes to working in a controlled environment, it's not unusual to have special badges and keypad entries. For Julie Kowalsky, safe-cracking skills come in handy.

Kowalsky, a curator with the Collections Management Division (CMD) at the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), has hundreds of antique and historical weapons locked in a temperature-controlled room behind a vault door with a combination-spin lock. And sometimes the lock on that 1915 vault door manufactured at York, Penn., can be a bit temperamental.

Behind that door are the most precious artifacts of the collection Kowalsky manages at the storied Washington Navy Yard, the historic small arms and ordnance vault.

Kowalsky unlocks a cabinet within the vault to show the embossed pistols given to the crew of the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser USS Texas (CGN 39) for its Sept. 10, 1977 commissioning by former Navy officer and future presidential candidate Ross Perot.

She slides open a drawer and a gold-plated AK-47 assault rifle lies gleaming under the florescent lights. Made in Iraq, it was seized during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The room holds a variety of weaponry, from Civil War pistols, Japanese ceramic grenades and ceremonial swords from famous admirals. The staff does not have the facilities to allow the items to be shown to the public, but they are available to researchers (by appointment). For now, the curators are on a mission to re-catalog and photograph each item to allow the public to see the items digitally online.

From Volunteer to Employee

History seems a natural path for Kowalsky, a native of Pontarddulais, Wales. She met her future husband, Michael, an American working for Lockheed-Martin, in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. Kowalsky moved to the U.S. in 2000 where the couple married and settled in a rural area near Manassas, Va.

Kowalsky then received an internship reviewing transcripts for users and workers at the 9/11 Family Assistance Center. One of her duties was assisting Srandis "Randy" Papadopoulos, a historian at NHHC, conduct oral interviews of Pentagon survivors for a Defense Studies Series about the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.

Kowalsky volunteered at NHHC in 2004 while working on her master's degree in U.S. history at George Mason University. Five years later, when a permanent position came open, Kowalsky joined the Collections Management Division team, the curators responsible for cataloging and maintaining more than 157,000 artifacts. They also keep track of artifacts in its robust loan program like Adm. Isaac Hull's gold-embossed ceremonial sword from the War of 1812 and bells. Lots and lots of ships' bells.

"People are passionate about ships' bells," Kowalsky said.

But they don't always care for them properly. Her division's tasks include making sure those organizations with NHHC ships' bells on display properly care for them, and not put cement in the bell under the mistaken assumption that would keep it intact, according to her colleague artifact loan officer Constance Beninghove.

"There are more proactive ways of protecting it," she said.

If Kowalsky is seen scrolling through eBay during working hours, it's probably because she received an alert that someone put a naval artifact up for sale.

"It keeps us busy," Kowalsky said.

The CMD has been re-cataloging its artifacts to get a digital update and picture of each artifact and to be sure they are stored properly. It's a daunting task, but it has its perks.

Kowalsky was assigned to catalogue items in some old Smithsonian cabinets that hadn't been touched since they were acquired in the 1960s. As she went through the drawers, she noticed a brown manila envelope and opened it. Inside were two hand-written letters, dated 1789 and 1804, from British Adm. Lord Horatio Nelson. One was a letter responding to a sailor who had asked for a character reference, and another had the esteemed British naval legend inquiring about prisoners of war.

"It was just the bees-knees," Kowalsky said. "It's like it's always Christmas morning, unwrapping that present to see what gift is inside."

Creating a Connection to History

After working within the general collection for several years, she got the opportunity to work with the historic small arms collection in 2011.

"I didn't know one gun from another, but I have since learned," she admitted. "I liked the technology and the evolution of weapons, and the social and cultural aspects of them as well."
One of those items tucked away in the artifact room is a laptop that survived the 9/11 blast in the Pentagon. Its melted casing and keyboard is a stark reminder about those who were lost during the three attacks, of which 67 were British citizens working in the stricken World Trade Center.

"It makes you reassess things," Kowalsky said of the 9/11 artifacts, including a Pentagon clock that stopped at the moment of impact. "Just looking at the security check list to know who checked in and who didn't come out..."

One of the oldest weapons in the collection is a trophy cannon called "San Bruno" on display in Leutze Park, a Spanish 6-pounder Saker cast by Andres Melendez in 1686. They have a collection of machine guns that range almost from an early 1860s Gatling gun to that gold-plated AK-47.

And perhaps the oddest-looking weapon: a Cold War-era briefcase gun.

Kowalsky likes finding that connection from an artifact to how it relates in history. Among her favorites are World War I-era British Vickers and German Maxim machine guns because they are symbolic of the rapid evolution in machine gun development, where significant strides in military technology impacted the way war was conducted, forcing conventional methods and strategies of warfare to be reinvented to take into account new technology.

"Being born in Britain and having a grandfather who served in the First World War, the war still has a significant impact in the consciousness of the country," Kowalsky said. "It was also a time of significant social and cultural changes in Europe, so it is a fascinating time period to study."

Kowalsky tells of cataloging a pair of curling tongs from one of the two German sea raider ships Kronprinz Wilhelm and Prinz Eitel Frederick, interned at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth at the beginning of World War I.

"Artifacts tell us the story of those ships held in port," Kowalsky said. "The everyday objects are the historical objects of tomorrow that inform our understanding of a time period long after the people who lived through those times are gone. To see a tangible example of history informs the viewer in ways a document or a photograph often fail to do and can very often enlighten those trying to understand how something worked and adds important context to historical documents."

During a tour for new employees, often part of her duties, Kowalsky holds the cover (Navy-speak for hat) of Adm. "Bull" Halsey, the last five-star fleet admiral, who gained fame during World War II. Her research on Halsey earned him her admiration.

"He seemed like a 'to heck with convention, let's get it done,' type of guy," Kowalsky said. "I would have liked to have met him. I think we'd have something in common."

She developed another close connection to a 1907 United States Naval Academy graduate while working on the collection of Olympic medals that had been donated to the Naval Historical Foundation in 1967 by his widow. Capt. Carl Osburn earned 11 medals -- five gold, four silver and two bronze -- in rifle marksmanship competition over three Olympics from 1912-24. He also had a distinguished career in the Navy.

While conducting research, she found information that described Capt. Osburn during his Naval Academy days as being "quiet, reflective and a good listener," and one who was "never known to show much excitement over anything." But it also reflected a sense of humor, in that he "once made a speech of ten words, but as his roommate fainted, he hasn't tried it since."

"I think he epitomizes the maxim slow and steady wins the race," Kowalsky said. "He has a special place in my heart."

Osburn held the record for the most Olympic medals until swimmer Mark Spitz tied it in 1972, with nine gold medals of the 11 he earned. American swimmer Michael Phelps currently holds the title at 22 medals, including 18 gold. After the 2014 Olympics, 90 years after Osburn won his last medal, he still ranks 20th in the world among the top multiple-medal winners.

Kowalsky has found being a curator suits nicely with her personality of "everything in its proper place," finding items that had been misplaced and getting them back where they should be.
"At the end of the day, just knowing one more piece is where it belongs and is OK, that is satisfying," she said.

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy's unique and enduring contributions through our nation's history, and supports the Fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services.

NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, nine museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

Gettysburg Honors Veterans in Namesake City



By Ensign Kiley Provenzano, USS Gettysburg Public Affairs

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (NNS) -- Sailors aboard guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64) participated in the 147th annual Memorial Day parade held at the Gettysburg National Cemetery May 25.

The ship's ceremonial color guard traveled from their homeport in Florida to their namesake city in Pennsylvania to carry the colors for the parade. The event, hosted by the Gettysburg Joint Veterans Memorial Day Commission, is one of the nation's oldest continual observations of its kind.

Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Christiana Ortiz, was honored to return to Gettysburg after participating in the parade last year.

"I am so proud to return to Pennsylvania and to be able to celebrate this weekend here," said Ortiz.

Gettysburg Sailors took the opportunity to talk about their jobs with several local Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) units. Having just returned from a nine-month deployment to the Mediterranean

Sea and Arabian Gulf, the Sailors had many stories to share.

"It is always a unique opportunity to share our experiences with the future of our Navy," said Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) Adam Dixon. "Events like these remind us why we do what we do each day we come into work. Their support, year after year, is incredible and inspiring."

The parade is not just a way to remember veterans, but also a way to honor those that continue to sacrifice and serve in today's armed forces.

"I cannot even put into words what this parade means to us," said Quartermaster 2nd Class Brandon Shannon. "We are absolutely honored by the Joint Commission's invitation and the opportunity to represent our ship today."

Gettysburg, home ported in Mayport, Florida, celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg last year.

Commander Fleet Activities Chinhae Holds Change of Command



By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Lynn F. Andrews, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea, Public Affairs

CHINAE, Republic of Korea (NNS) -- Commander Fleet Activities Chinhae (CFAC) held a change of command ceremony, May 27 with more than 300 Sailors, families, members of the local Korean community, and military leaders from the Republic of Korea navy in attendance.

Cmdr. Michael Weatherford relieved Cmdr. Quinn Skinner as commander.

Weatherford first reported to CFAC in 2012 to serve as the executive officer. As the incoming commanding officer, he spoke about his vision for the base and its personnel.

"To the crew, you are the engine that makes everything purr and I look forward to this ride with you over the next two years," said Weatherford. "It will be all of you that will make this tour rewarding."

Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander, Navy Region Korea, was the guest speaker for the ceremony and highlighted the notable accomplishments by the CFAC team over the past two years.

"CFAC provides vital front-line support for forward deployed naval forces of all flavors including our ships, submarines, aircraft carriers, and aircraft," said Franchetti. "The professionalism and hard work of all of your Sailors and Navy civilians enables these forces to exercise and engage with our friends and partners in the Republic of Korea navy, and ultimately strengthens the bonds of our alliance."

Skinner assumed command of CFAC in June 2012. Under his leadership, the base received multiple awards including the housing Platinum "A List" award for achieving the highest levels of customer satisfaction in 2013, for the 12th consecutive year.

In 2012, the CFAC fire and emergency services department was selected as the Small Fire Department of the Year across all U.S. Navy installations worldwide. Additionally in 2013, the base won the Small Command Overseas, Navy's Flagship award for Community Service, Health, Safety, and Fitness.

"You, the Sailors and employees on this base, whether at CFAC or tenant commands, have worked together to achieve extraordinary things," said Skinner. "What makes it extraordinary is that you all chose to work together. You could have been content to mind your own business and do only your assigned tasks, but instead you worked together to go above and beyond what was asked of you, with results never before achieved in the history of this base."

Skinner also personally thanked Sailors, civilians, families, and members of the local Korean community for their support and friendship during his command tour.

"Both my wife and I will miss all of you and we will treasure the friendships we made here, both Korean and American," said Skinner. "Cmdr. Weatherford has been a driving force of excellence since the day he arrived. I know both CFAC's mission and all of you individually will prosper under his leadership."

CFAC is the only U.S. Navy base in the Republic of Korea and is located on the southern coast of the peninsula with approximately 120 Sailors and their families on station.

CFAC's mission is to provide on-peninsula service, expertise and material support to the fleet, Sailors, Department of Navy civilians and the U.S.-ROK alliance through joint armistice, training exercises, and contingency operations.

Prompt, Precise, Prepared: The Way of George Washington's Personnel Department




By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Oscar Albert Moreno Jr.

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Inside an office on the third deck of the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) lies the ship's personnel office, diligently working around-the-clock to guarantee Sailors receive all their Navy benefits.

Personnel specialists aboard George Washington make Sailors a priority to ensure documents are accurately and promptly processed.

"When it comes to our work, we try to keep everything on schedule and precise," said Personnel Specialist 3rd Alex Parkes, from Silver Spring, Maryland. "Our timeliness is an overall representation of our department; we look better the more efficient and effective we are."

For about three grading cycles, George Washington's personnel department was graded 100 percent by the Field Exception Group, the afloat training group for administration departments that grades departments in terms of performance.

"Our department is graded on how fast and accurate we process paperwork," said Parkes. "Our three perfect scores prove how hard our department works."

Personnel also ensure that Sailors get their pay in an accurate and timely manner.

"We find joy in making sure all our Sailors are taken care of," said Personnel Specialist Seaman Jared Batemon, from Sallisaw, Oklahoma. "Sailors don't perform to their best ability if their minds are worried about their next paycheck."

Each Navy member is given benefits according to different situations, such as Family Separation Allowance, where a Sailor can be entitled to 250 dollars after 30 days of being out to sea; Overseas Housing Allowance, where Sailors ranked E-5 and above are authorized to live off base with accommodation; and Hazardous Flight Pay, where Sailors from all pay grades that have spent more than 40 hours on the flight deck are authorized extra pay. Along with pay issues, personnel also deal with leave chits, screenings and advancements.

"There are many things that Sailors have on their minds on a daily basis," said Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Briana Battlebaker, from Newport News, Virginia. "If we can at least take away the stress of paperwork being routed correctly, then I feel that we are doing the best we can do."

The crew on board the ship can rest easy knowing that the award-winning personnel office will ensure that George Washington Sailors receive the best service.

George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region

Prompt, Precise, Prepared: The Way of George Washington's Personnel Department



By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Oscar Albert Moreno Jr.

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Inside an office on the third deck of the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) lies the ship's personnel office, diligently working around-the-clock to guarantee Sailors receive all their Navy benefits.

Personnel specialists aboard George Washington make Sailors a priority to ensure documents are accurately and promptly processed.

"When it comes to our work, we try to keep everything on schedule and precise," said Personnel Specialist 3rd Alex Parkes, from Silver Spring, Maryland. "Our timeliness is an overall representation of our department; we look better the more efficient and effective we are."

For about three grading cycles, George Washington's personnel department was graded 100 percent by the Field Exception Group, the afloat training group for administration departments that grades departments in terms of performance.

"Our department is graded on how fast and accurate we process paperwork," said Parkes. "Our three perfect scores prove how hard our department works."

Personnel also ensure that Sailors get their pay in an accurate and timely manner.

"We find joy in making sure all our Sailors are taken care of," said Personnel Specialist Seaman Jared Batemon, from Sallisaw, Oklahoma. "Sailors don't perform to their best ability if their minds are worried about their next paycheck."

Each Navy member is given benefits according to different situations, such as Family Separation Allowance, where a Sailor can be entitled to 250 dollars after 30 days of being out to sea; Overseas Housing Allowance, where Sailors ranked E-5 and above are authorized to live off base with accommodation; and Hazardous Flight Pay, where Sailors from all pay grades that have spent more than 40 hours on the flight deck are authorized extra pay. Along with pay issues, personnel also deal with leave chits, screenings and advancements.

"There are many things that Sailors have on their minds on a daily basis," said Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Briana Battlebaker, from Newport News, Virginia. "If we can at least take away the stress of paperwork being routed correctly, then I feel that we are doing the best we can do."

The crew on board the ship can rest easy knowing that the award-winning personnel office will ensure that George Washington Sailors receive the best service.

George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.