Tuesday, August 12, 2014

B-52 aircrews hone long-range ISR capabilities during PANAMAX 14

by Charles Ramey
Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

8/12/2014 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Airmen from Air Force Global Strike Command recently took advantage of a multinational U.S.. Southern Command-led exercise to hone their long-range reconnaissance capabilities.

The 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, flew a B-52 Stratofortress bomber on a nonstop mission from the United States to the U.S. Southern Command area of operations Aug. 12 during PANAMAX 2014 - an annual U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise series that focuses on ensuring the defense of the Panama Canal.

An almost entirely simulated exercise, the 15.5-hour long-range B-52 sortie, which originated at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, and ended at Barksdale Air Force Base, was the lone exception. Flown by the 96th Bomb Squadron, the seven-person aircrew exercised providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support to forces defending the Panama Canal from a myriad of threats.

"The Panama Canal is one of the most strategically and economically crucial pieces of infrastructure in the world," said Col. Gregory Julian, U.S. Southern Command spokesman. "The 17 partner nations participating in this exercise benefit from the collaborative efforts to ensure the safety and security of the Panama Canal and this exercise is designed to test their responsiveness, foster cooperation, and increase interoperability among them."

For Air Force Global Strike Command, PANAMAX is an opportunity to familiarize aircrews with the U.S. Southern Command region and train in a unique mission set not normally associated with bomber operations.

"The B-52 can be modified with additional equipment that allows it to be an especially valuable ISR platform because of its ability to conduct long-range surveillance flights," said Lt. Col. Robert Bender, chief of AFGSC's Current Operations Branch. "PANAMAX is an excellent opportunity for our aircrews to exercise these capabilities in an operational training environment."

For aircrews, the ability to work in an unfamiliar environment, hone ISR capabilities, and test aerial command and control capabilities during PANAMAX were invaluable.

"I had only worked in the SOUTHCOM AOR once before this exercise," said Capt. Jonathan Morse, one of two aircraft commanders on the mission. "[PANAMAX] allowed crew members that have not operated in a different area of operations to gain valuable experience and bring that back to the B-52 community. I believe it also made SOUTHCOM better aware of our capabilities and confident that they can call upon our B-52s when in need."

Morse's fellow aircraft commander during the mission, Capt. Michael Marchand, agreed the training was valuable. "Going down south, working with our partners and helping build the global reach of our platform is a great experience," he said. "It's great to work outside a familiar AOR, build upon our expertise and be able pass that on."

"In order to maintain the readiness of our forces, it is important to provide the opportunity for them to train and operate their capabilities in various geographical locations and environments," said Maj. Gen. Scott Vander Hamm, commander of 8th Air Force (Air Forces Strategic), located at Barksdale Air Force Base, and the Joint Functional Component Commander for Global Strike, U.S. Strategic Command, located at Offutt, Air Force Base, Nebraska. "Having a U.S. bomber presence and participation in a variety of multinational and joint exercises also demonstrates U.S. commitment and capability and contributes to security at home and abroad."

Football legend Herschel Walker tackles mental health at JB Charleston

by Senior Airman Tom Brading
Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

8/12/2014 - Joint Base Charleston, S.C. -- Herschel Walker, Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL running back, arrived at Joint Base Charleston, Aug. 6, 2014, as part of a full day visit of tours and speaking engagements.

The College Football Hall of Famer shared his struggles of tackling mental illness with Airmen and Sailors. Walker has battled dissociative identity disorder for years, but turned his struggle into strength by sharing his story to help others get help.

Walker was born in Wrightsville, Georgia, in March, 1962. He grew up in a Christian family, and was one of seven children. Unlike his siblings, it was difficult for the two-time pro bowler to fit in with his peers.

"I didn't love myself or who I was," said Walker. "I had a stuttering problem; kids would pick on me because of the way I talked or because of my weight."

Things changed in Walker's life through the strength he found spiritually and socially. His mother was influential in his early development. She would say, "If you're going to do anything, do it well."

He did. He fought back against the struggles of adolescence by pushing himself to be better, both academically and athletically. He was valedictorian of his high school class and earned a scholarship to the University of Georgia. From there, the rest is history. He led the Georgia Bulldogs to a national championship and a three-year record of 32 wins and only two loses, winning the Heisman Trophy along the way. His jersey has since been retired at the University of Georgia.

He went on to have a celebrated professional career, dedicating many seasons to professional football. He is still ninth in NFL history with 18,168 all-purpose yards, and if his three seasons in the United States Football League were taken into consideration, he would surpass Jerry Rice as the best of all time.

However, in the whirlwind of accomplishments ... something was wrong.

"Everyone was telling me I was doing great things, but, I couldn't see it," said Walker. His larger than life presence and list of accomplishments has now become a driving force against the stigmas often associated with seeking help for mental illness.

"Hershel Walker is an extraordinary individual who achieved success despite his external and internal challenges," said Maj. Sonia Pons, 628th Medical Group Mental Health flight commander and JB Charleston Director of Psychological Health. "His intent is to disseminate how unaddressed stressors and issues can impair your mental health. Acting sooner than later is the best prevention to mental illness or catastrophic outcomes."

In addition to sharing his story with service members, Walker was able to experience the mission at JB Charleston by touring the Air Base and Weapons Station to see first-hand how diverse the Team Charleston mission is.

Walker has worked with numerous charitable organizations and in 1981, he became the first Academy of Achievement honor student to return to the annual program as a recipient of the Golden Plate Award. In 2002, he was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and selected as the second greatest player in college football history (just behind the legendary Red Grange.)

In addition to a celebrated football career, Walker found notoriety as a mixed martial artist in 2010-2011, when he joined STRIKEFORCE and made his MMA debut, compiling a 2-0 record.

Now, Walker remains a spokesperson for programs specializing in mental health and addiction treatment for service members. And he has visited more than 80 military installations, sharing his story of hope to more than 37,000 troops on behalf of the Patriot Support Programs of Universal Health Services.

Makin Island ARG, 11th MEU Arrive in 7th Fleet Area of Operations

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Lindahl, Amphibious Squadron Five Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- More than 4,500 Sailors and Marines with the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR), Aug. 11, after departing San Diego July 25.

Sailors and Marines from the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted an emergent recovery of 11 researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from the Papahnaumokukea Marine National Monument Aug. 8.

The operation assisted the researchers in retreating from imminent danger of Hurricane Iselle that is expected to impact Lisianski Island, Laysan Island and the Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

"We work with NOAA and we're out here almost every summer in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands working with Hawaiian Monk Seal pups doing mostly population assessment," said Carrie McAttee, a NOAA researcher. "We've been here since June and we were supposed to be here until September."

The recovery was prompted by the threat of Hurricane Iselle, the first hurricane to strike the Hawaiian Islands in more than two decades, which threatened the safety of the researchers, who were not equipped to withstand the extreme conditions of the looming storm.

USS Makin Island (LHD 8), USS Comstock (LSD 45), and USS San Diego (LPD 22) each deployed rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIB) that traveled more than four miles and endured challenging seas but safely reached their destination. Once the boats reached the coastline, they carefully maneuvered to receive the researchers and their gear without affecting the endangered marine life below.

Getting the researchers onboard safely was a top concern. "It was important to us to ensure this was a safe evolution for all involved," said Capt. Vic Cooper, commodore, Amphibious Squadron Five. "We carefully considered the safety of the researchers, our Sailors and Marines, equipment and the environment, every step of the way."

Once all researchers were accounted for, the RHIBs returned to their respective ships and the researchers were given a warm welcome, a place to shower, dry clothing and a meal.

"It was quite impressive how quickly it all happened," said Kristine Meise, a NOAA researcher. "You guys were really efficient in getting here and getting us on board. We definitely want to thank everybody that we've met on the ship."

All of the researchers were grateful for the Navy and Marine Corps' commitment to lending a helping hand.

"Anytime we have the opportunity to help those in need, we will do our very best," said Capt. Alvin Holsey, commanding officer, Makin Island. "Our Navy makes a difference everyday throughout the world, and today we were proud to be able to make a difference here."

Capt. John Menoni, San Diego's commanding officer, echoed those thoughts.

"This is what the Navy is all about, helping others in need and being ready when called upon," said Menoni. "The San Diego team has shown our ability to accomplish anything and work together to get the job done."

The researchers were then flown to Midway Island. Although remote, Midway provides shelter for the displaced personnel and access to a runway if further evacuations are needed.

"Keeping ahead of the storm required rapid planning and swift execution by our pilots and air crews," said Lt. Col. Jason Holden, commanding officer of the 11th MEU's aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced). "This was a great opportunity to render aid to those in need and to exercise our capacity to respond quickly to emerging events."

Papahnaumokukea Marine National Monument is the single largest conservation area under the U.S. flag and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. It encompasses 139,797 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.

Makin Island ARG is on a scheduled deployment to promote peace and freedom of the seas by providing deterrence, humanitarian aid, and disaster response while supporting the Navy's maritime strategy in the U.S. 7th and 5th fleet areas of responsibility.

Vella Gulf Arrives in Romania

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones, Navy Public Affairs Support Element East Detachment Europe

CONSTANTA, Romania (NNS) -- The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) arrived in Constanta, Romania, for a scheduled port visit, Aug 11.

Vella Gulf's presence in Romania and the Black Sea reaffirms the United States' commitment to strengthening ties with NATO allies and partners, while working toward mutual goals of promoting peace and stability in the region.

During Vella Gulf's second port visit to Constanta, the Romanian chapter of the Navy League will hold a barbeque for visiting Sailors. The port visit also coincides with Romanian Navy Day.

"Vella Gulf looks forward to a second port visit to Constanta, especially during Romanian Navy Day," said Capt. Robert Katz, Vella Gulf's commanding officer. "A dedicated relationship with partners, such as Romania, demonstrates our commitment to the collective security of our NATO allies."

Following her departure from Constanta, Vella Gulf is scheduled to participate in the at-sea portion of Romanian Navy Day.

Vella Gulf, homeported in Norfolk, Virginia, is conducting naval operations with allies in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in order to advance security and stability in Europe.

U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.

USS Michigan Visits Singapore during Western Pacific Deployment

By Lt. Jennifer Charlton, USS Michigan (Gold) Public Affairs

SINGAPORE (NNS) -- The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) arrived in Singapore, Aug. 10, for a visit as part of its deployment to the Western Pacific.

"The crew has a relentless spirit and has worked tirelessly on this deployment to ensure success," said Chief of the Boat, Command Master Chief Paul Coffin. "This port visit to Singapore will allow some much deserved rest and relaxation for the crew."

With a crew of approximately 160, Michigan can conduct a multitude of missions that showcase the latest capabilities of the submarine fleet.

"The entire Michigan team has worked diligently to ensure a successful and safe deployment," said Capt. Benjamin Pearson III, Michigan's commanding officer. "It is extremely important for our submarines to maintain presence and capability in the region ensuring operational readiness is maintained."

Michigan is more than 560 feet long and displaces over 18,000 tons when submerged. It is one of four Ohio-class submarines converted into guided-missile submarines. Michigan is one of the largest, stealthiest and most versatile submarines in the world and is capable of performing a wide variety of missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, naval special warfare support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and irregular warfare.

For some of the crew members, this is their first time visiting Singapore.

"This will be my first liberty port visit since I have joined the Navy and entered the submarine force," said Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Nikki Camat. "I just earned my submarine qualifications this deployment cycle and I am very excited to see Singapore for the first time."

Michigan's homeport is in Bangor, Washington and is currently forward deployed to Guam.

Multilateral Exercise SEACAT 2014 begins in Singapore, Continues throughout Southeast Asia

From Commander, Task Force 73 Public Affairs

CHANGI NAVAL BASE, Singapore (NNS) -- The 13th annual Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercise commenced at the Republic of Singapore Navy's Multinational Operations and Exercises Center (MOEC) Aug. 11.

Focused on regional cooperation to address shared maritime security challenges like piracy, smuggling and other illicit activities at sea, SEACAT brings together liaison officers from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and the United States to collaborate and coordinate practical responses to a number of realistic scenarios.

"As maritime nations that depend on the free flow of commerce at sea, we share an interest in addressing these challenges and recognize that none of us has enough resources to do it alone," said Rear Adm. Charlie Williams, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet's Task Force 73 and executive agent for SEACAT, who delivered opening remarks at the MOEC.

During the five-day command post exercise (CPX), liaison officers will receive simulated reports of suspect vessels in the Straits of Singapore and Malacca, the Andaman Sea or the South China Sea. After sharing information from all available sources, such as Singapore's Information Fusion Center (IFC), Malaysia's International Maritime Bureau (IMB), or the Philippines' Coast Watch System, the LNOs will develop and implement response plans during a concurrent field training exercise (FTX). Based on the situation, aircraft and ships from participating navies will investigate and conduct on scene boardings as necessary.

This year's exercise incorporates maritime search and rescue scenarios as well as participation by regional coast guards, like the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).

"We're all mariners here and I'm pleased that organizations like Malaysia's MMEA are part of the mix this year," said Williams. "Coordination between navies, coast guards and marine police is a big part of getting after maritime security challenges, especially those that overlap with international and territorial waters."

Several staff members from the forward deployed Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 were also on hand to participate as U.S. LNOs and to run the CPX scenario.

"For the second year in a row, DESRON 7 is looking forward to participating in this year's SEACAT exercise," said Capt. Fred Kacher, DESRON 7 commodore. "Exercises like this help to strengthen partnerships so we are ready to respond as one team to challenges whenever they arise in this incredibly important maritime region."

SEACAT, which began in 2002 under the name "Southeast Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism," was renamed in 2012 exercise to expand the scope of training among regional navies and coast guards. Participating U.S. forces include staff from Commander, Task Force 73, DESRON 7, guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) and a P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft.