Wednesday, December 17, 2014

PHIBRON 5 Holds Change of Command Ceremony at Sea

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Christopher Lindahl, Amphibious Squadron 5 Public Affairs

GULF OF ADEN (NNS) -- The time honored title of commodore was passed from one senior leader to another during a change of command ceremony for Commander, Amphibious Squadron 5 (PHIBRON 5), Dec 14.

The formal program was held in the fo'c'sle of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), where Capt. Vic Cooper transferred the title and leadership of the storied, 60-year-old squadron, to Capt. Stephen McKone, who was promoted from deputy commander.

The ceremony's guest speaker was Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander, Task Force 51, who praised Cooper for his poise and actions in a speech to the attendees.

"The PHIBRON 5 and 11th MEU team have done extraordinary work in this theater," said Mundy. "It has been very important in demonstrating the unique capability of this blue/green team to be able to respond to a full range of possible operations. It's made it possible for America to remain a force for stability in this region."

Mundy continued to praise Cooper for the PHIBRON's humanitarian and operational exercises throughout their deployment, including a mission near the Hawaiian Islands where, just two weeks into their deployment, PHIBRON 5 ships responded to a potential disaster situation and relocated a group of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists ahead of the tropical storms Julio and Iselle.

"The most important part of what makes America different is the quality of leadership we produce, generation after generation, and Capt. Cooper is one of those leaders."

Following Mundy's remarks, Cooper was awarded the Legion of Merit for his superior performance as commander, PHIBRON 5. Cooper addressed the staff and thanked them for their support and work ethic.

"It has been a great honor to serve our five Squadron ships during my time as commodore of PHIBRON 5," said Cooper in his remarks. "The service members of the PHIBRON family have excelled at my every request and their pride in their work brings me great professional and personal joy. Capt. McKone has been an outstanding deputy and will continue that superb performance as Commodore. I am confident that he will continue to take great care of my PHIBRON family and that he will take this command to even higher heights."

Following Cooper's remarks, orders were read and command was transferred. After returning salute and assuming command, McKone addressed the crowd and was quick to thank Cooper and recognize him for his efforts.

"I couldn't have asked for a better mentor than Capt. Cooper," said McKone. "He has guided up to five ships, taken our three ships now through work-ups and into deployment, led a rescue effort of researchers and provided the command with outstanding leadership.

"As I assume command, I do so knowing how high Capt. Cooper set the bar and how hard I will need to work to maintain that level of excellence."

While the Navy no longer maintains a rank of commodore, the term still serves as a title for senior captains in command of amphibious squadrons, destroyer or cruiser squadrons, coastal warfare groups, submarine squadrons and aircraft wings. As commander, PHIBRON 5, McKone now bears that title as he leads the squadron into the future.

PHIBRON 5 is deployed as part of the three ship Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which is comprised of Makin Island, amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22), amphibious landing dock ship USS Comstock (LSD 45), and embedded Marines from the 11th Maritime Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and is currently assigned to U.S. 5th Fleet/Commander, Task Force 51.

PHIBRON 5 was established in 1954, purposed to assist with tactical planning strategies and operations. As part of the Makin Island ARG, PHIBRON 5 arrived in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility September 2014 to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

Breakthrough Capability Keeps Subs, Ships on Safe Track

By Office of Naval Research

ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- Interactive software that can dramatically cut the time it takes to plan safe submarine missions is crossing over to the surface fleet and is being installed this month on the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), officials announced Dec. 16.

Sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the technology adds speed and precision the process of finding the best routes around hazards in waterways around the world.

Sailors spend days or even weeks planning a successful navigation route for a mission. They collect maps and charts, analyze them, double check them and cross reference information that comes in various hard copy and digital forms.

Through partial automation and use of apps and widgets, ONR's Mission Planning Application technology can review thousands of chart markings in a fraction of the time, pinpointing potential hazards and creating optimal routes around rocks, reefs and other shallow spots. What now takes days could take just a few hours or less, freeing commanders to concentrate on safely executing the mission at hand.

"Our goal is for Sailors to be able to carry out a mision effectively and safely," said William "Kip" Krebs, program officer in ONR's Warfighter Performance Department. "This system merges a variety of crucial data so planners can integrate information ahead of time and the command team can focus on the critical operations at hand."

The easy-to-use tools synchronize navigation route plans to produce a visual composite of "what, when, where, why and how" for each mission. Relying solely on manual processes to gather, sort, search and maintain massive amounts of complex data is time consuming and subject to human error, officials say.

Last year, Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM-5) ran aground partly because errors in nautical charts went unnoticed. In 2005, Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine USS San Francisco (SSN-711) struck an undersea mountain that did not appear on a chart used by the submarine's crew. Information from other charts that noted discolored water -- indicating a possible obstacle -- was never transferred to the chart in use.

The installation on Mobile Bay will help researchers refine the mission planning technology for the surface ship community. ONR also will continue to work with the submarine community to ensure a successful transition to the fleet.

"This is a big deal for the submarine force," said Capt. John Zimmerman, program manager for Submarine Combat Weapons and Control Systems (PMS 425), which is working with ONR to get the software certified for use in the submarine fleet. "As a former commanding officer, I spent loads of time looking for the right charts, getting them approved and looking for all of those shallow spots, so the capability we're getting with this new system is critical."

The mission-planning software was developed under the Capable Manpower Future Naval Capability program, which aims to deliver advanced technology to the fleet in just five years.

In addition to PMS 425, the Mission Planning Application system is the result of partnerships with Naval Research Laboratory, Naval Oceanographic Office, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific, Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems, U.S. submarine force, Royal Australian Navy, and industry.

Experts will be discussing technologies like the Mission Planning Application and more at upcoming Naval Future Force Science and Technology EXPO in February, where many of the innovative technologies coming to fruition for the Navy and Marine Corps will be on display.

ONR provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs more than 1,000 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.

Grissom completes 'flawless' transition to commercial fuel

by Staff Sgt. Ben Mota
434th ARW Public Affairs

12/16/2014 - GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. -- The smell of jet fuel in the morning remains the same, but something different is putting thrust behind Grissom's tankers.

Following an Air Force cost savings initiative, Grissom Air Reserve Base transitioned from JP-8, a jet fuel used specifically by the Department of Defense since the late 1970's to Jet-A, a commercial grade jet fuel.

"The primary reason for the conversion from JP-8 to Jet-A was to save the Air Force money," said Matt Snyder, Grissom's contracted fuels manager. "Jet-A is approximately two cents cheaper because it does not require segregated transportation and storage and is open to competitive sourcing."

While two cents at the pump does not sound like a lot, it adds up quickly, explained Snyder.

"During fiscal year 2014 Grissom's tankers used approximately 4.8 million gallons of fuel and transferred another 2.9 million gallons of fuel during aerial refueling," he said. "That adds up to a savings of $154,000 per year."

While the amount of jet fuel Grissom uses changes annually, one thing that remained the same was the maintenance to the aircraft.

"The transition from JP-8 to Jet-A was flawless," said Chief Master Sgt. Chad Weisend, 434th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent. "The new fuel looks, smells and functions exactly the same as the old jet fuel and did not require any changes to the maintenance of the aircraft."

Despite the similarities between JP-8 and Jet-A, additives have to be mixed in to bring the commercial fuel to military specifications.

"Antistatic additives, a corrosion inhibitor and an icing inhibitor are added to Jet-A prior to it arriving here," explained Snyder.

After the fuel arrives at Grissom it undergoes a series of quality control checks to ensure the fuel meets military specifications.

"Since we've began receiving the new fuel we have conducted routine quality control inspections without any issues," he added. "The fuels are interchangeable so the transition was simple."

According to the Defense Logistics Agency, the Air Force purchases more than one billion gallons of fuel annually within the continental United States, therefore the transition will save the Air Force an estimated $25.5 million in annual fuel costs and will help eliminate excess infrastructure, provide energy security and create operational flexibility for the Department of Defense.

Grissom is home to the 434th Air Refueling Wing, the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command, as well as three Army Reserve units. Airmen, Soldiers and Marines routinely deploy from Grissom around the world in support of the Department of Defense mission and U.S. strategic objectives.

Naval Special Warfare Recruit At Army-Navy Game

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abraham Loe McNatt, Naval Special Warfare Group 2 Public Affairs

BALTIMORE (NNS) -- Sailors assigned to Naval Special Warfare Group TWO (NSWG-2) and Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR (NSWG-4) displayed operational equipment and challenged spectators to pull-ups at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore before the Army vs. Navy football game, Dec. 13.

As part of a military expo, Sailors from Naval Special Warfare (NSW) set up displays on the main walk into the stadium that included all-terrain vehicles, an explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) robot and bomb suit, and was highlighted by special warfare combatant-craft crewmen's (SWCC) new Combatant Craft Assault (CCA), medium-range, maritime interdiction boat.

"It's outstanding to meet with both the parents and graduates of the Naval Academy and West Point," said Capt. Duncan Smith, director of NSW SEAL & SWCC Scout Team. "Many families have brought their teenagers out to expose them to the services and as a result we've had the opportunity to spend time with several high school athletes who are curious about NSW. To have such awesome equipment on display like the SWCC team's CCA and to have active-duty SEAL and SWCC team members, not just people who have served, but who are currently serving, interacting with these high school athletes and their families is a fantastic thing to witness. This is a rare opportunity for young men to interact with active SEAL and SWCC team members and help them plant the seed to serve in the SEAL teams or special boat teams."

As thousands of people made their way to the stadium, the NSW display was always busy, often with dozens of people gathered to cheer on others as they performed the pull-up challenge. People of all ages, from little kids to retired vets looking to prove they've still got it, participated in the challenge.

"It's been an awesome day and it goes way beyond recruiting," said an East-Coast based SEAL. "We've been able to spend time with so many families and veterans and just have a really good time showing support for the services. It's not something that SEALs get to do on a regular basis, so it's been a blast."

Special warfare combatant-craft crewmen's CCA was on display right outside the main gates of the stadium. Stairs were set up next to the boat so visitors could get as close as possible and look inside.

"This is the latest and greatest piece of equipment in the SWCC community," said an East-Coast based SWCC team member. "It's safe to say that people have never seen anything like it, this is the first time we've brought it anywhere for the general public to see."

The NSW displays were organized by the SEAL & SWCC Scout Team, whose mission is to identify and engage high-quality potential SEAL and SWCC candidates, inform them about careers in NSW, and assist them with the recruiting process.