Monday, December 21, 2015

NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance aircraft arrives at Edwards

By Rebecca Amber, Edwards Air Force Base Public Affairs / Published December 21, 2015

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- NATO's first Alliance Ground Surveillance aircraft arrived at Edwards Air Force Base Dec. 19 completing its first flight.

The test flight marked the start of six months of ground and airborne testing at Edwards AFB before the aircraft is sent to its new home in Sigonella, Italy.

NATO AGS is a derivative of the wide-area surveillance RQ-4 Global Hawk, with a few small changes in the communications software to meet certain criteria for operation in Europe.

"They've got a (few) differences, but it's very similar to a U.S. Air Force Global Hawk," said Roberto Garnica, from the Global Vigilance Combined Test Force and the NATO AGS project manager.

The first flight allowed the test team to observe the flying characteristics of the aircraft during a variety of flight performances and at varying altitudes.

According to Garnica, this test varies from other Global Hawk testing because the Global Vigilance CTF is not the executing test organization. While Edwards Range Control and safety officers will be present, responsibility for the test and aircraft falls on Northrop Grumman's team including the pilots, test conductors and directors.

"Because it is a Direct Commercial Sale to NATO, the Air Force is never going to own or possess it. So we are a participating test organization," Garnica said.

The first flight was an important milestone for Northrop Grumman Corp. and NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Organization members of NATO's Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency.

Northrop Grumman is scheduled to begin ferrying the first NATO AGS aircraft to Italy in 2016. The NATO AGS system will include five aircraft and European-sourced mobile and transportable ground stations that will provide data link connectivity, data processing and exploitation capabilities to multiple deployed and non-deployed operational users.

All 28 alliance nations will take part in the long-term support of the program, but it is initially being procured by 15 NATO nations: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the U.S.

The final product will be used for collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security.

Like the Block 40 RQ-4 Global Hawk, the unmanned aircraft has the ability to fly for up to 30 hours at a time. The high-altitude, long-endurance system will perform all-weather, persistent wide-area terrestrial and maritime surveillance in near real-time. The NATO-owned and operated system will provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to support a range of NATO missions such as protection of ground troops and civilian populations, border control, maritime safety and humanitarian assistance.

The aircraft is equipped with leading-edge technology, including the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program sensor. The MP-RTIP sensor will provide critical data to commanders during operations, in any weather, day or night. Utilizing the MP-RTIP sensor, the NATO AGS system will be able to fuse sensor data, continuously detect and track moving objects and provide imagery of selected objects.

A Honduran experience

By Senior Airman Westin Warburton, Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs / Published December 21, 2015

SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras (AFNS) -- On my flight to Honduras, I didn't have the slightest idea of what to expect. Sure, I knew my job, I knew the types of missions I'd be part of, but I was not prepared for the culture shock I received after landing in Honduras.

For the most part, Tegucigalpa, the nation's capital, isn't that different from an average U.S. city. Malls, movie theaters, fast food joints, you name it and they have it. As soon as you start driving down the road, however, life is quite different. Cars zoom by and dash over into your lane without notice. Motorcycle drivers squeeze through cars on small lanes. These are but a few sights that immediately welcome new members to Honduras.

It wasn't until my first chapel hike that I realized how well off we have it back in the States. I saw huts put together from found material and with no running water or electricity.

To me, I had jumped back in time.

Though these villagers live tough lives, they all held big smiles and were gracious for the food and supplies we hiked up to their village. At that moment, I was very humbled, but it was at my first medical readiness training exercise, that my entire perspective on life changed.

The MEDRETE I went on was deep into the Olancho Department of Honduras. The medical staff set up shop in a school in the middle of a village. When I walked onto the school grounds, it appeared as if it was abandoned but in fact it was still in use.

With trash everywhere and walls and ceilings falling apart, I couldn't believe how different life was for these Hondurans. Some walked miles upon miles just to receive basic medical attention, because of no other available way.

Standing there, watching the people receiving medications, tooth extractions and basic treatment, a wall broke down in my mind. It was then that I felt the most humbled I had ever felt in my life. Most of us take everything for granted in the States; I know I did prior to this experience.

Not once back home did I wash my hands and think about how thankful I am for running water. I never got in my car and drove to a supermarket thinking about how easy it is to get food. To be completely honest, I don't think I was thankful for any of the luxuries we have in the States, because I never experienced anything else.

Now though, I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to come to Honduras and meet so many great people. People who have shown me that happiness doesn't come from materialistic things or luxuries like running water and electricity. To them, their families, friends, and life are what bring them true happiness.

Face of Defense: Navy Corpsman Earns Fleet Marine Force Pin

By Marine Corps Sgt. Owen Kimbrel, 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade DoD News, Defense Media Activity

SOUTHWEST ASIA, December 21, 2015 — U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ambrose McGill, a hospital corpsman assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, earned his Fleet Marine Force Warfare insignia, Dec. 12, 2015, after completing demanding hours of dedicated study, practical applications and evaluations.

The rigorous course, designed to help sailors better understand their partner service, includes lessons about the Marine Corps ranging from Corps knowledge to infantry tactics. The FMF pin is awarded to sailors who show an ability and willingness to learn the next level of warfighting to more effectively support the mission of the Marine Corps.

From the day he arrived at his unit, McGill said he worked hard to earn his pin because it not only allows him to become more tactically proficient at his job, but it also gives him deeper insight into his unit.

 “It’s quite an honor, I’ve been with the Marine Corps for almost five years now and this has been something I’ve wanted to achieve since the first day I became a hospital corpsman,” he said. “This is the biggest achievement in my entire career.”

The arduous curriculum involves mastering approximately 400 pages of knowledge ranging from land navigation to the significance of distinguished Marines, such as Dan Daly. To qualify, a sailor must serve one year with an active-duty Marine Corps unit -- or two years for reserves -- pass a written test and the Marine Physical Fitness Test, and demonstrate skills used in service with the Marines such as weapon breakdown and familiarization, land navigation, combat communications. The final hurdle is an oral examination by senior enlisted sailors who are FMF qualified.

“This qualification says that you are qualified to serve with the fleet Marines and take care of the ‘Devil Dogs,’” Chief Petty Officer Casey Wheeler, the Navy senior enlisted leader with SPMAGTF CR-CC,said. “There is a vast amount of pride that comes with earning this pin.”

McGill said he spent months dedicated to earning the FMF pin.

“It’s good to be a great sailor, but it’s better to go above and beyond,” he said. “To sacrifice the additional hours to learn the extra knowledge and do everything you can to be proficient and an expert -- not only in your job, but also in the Marine Corps traditions and various tactical areas -- is something people should strive to achieve.”
McGill said he is happy to be part of a community of sailors who have earned the right to wear the FMF pin.