Monday, March 29, 2010

Kandahar Ops Reflect Complexity, Subtlety

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

March 29, 2010 - More than 96 percent of the people of Afghanistan oppose the Taliban, but that doesn't mean the Afghan government and the coalition are home free.

While they want the Taliban out, they also want some things from their government and coalition forces, a senior NATO military official speaking on background said here.

"They also oppose corrupt government, and they don't find local government officials who don't deliver particularly impressive, and they don't like [international forces] that destroy their property or kill their neighbors," he said.

Three senior military officials briefed reporters traveling with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen is here for another first-hand look at the conflict that soon will have more American servicemembers in Afghanistan than there are in Iraq.

Coalition and Afghan security forces are building on successful operations in Helmand province to launch similar operations in Kandahar city and province. Kandahar is the second-largest city in Afghanistan and the spiritual home of the Taliban.

An official describing the enemy said roughly three-quarters of Taliban fighters fight in or near their birthplaces. This means there is a very small cadre that comes from outside the area. "What we've got is a homegrown problem," the official said. It is a complex problem, he said, exacerbated by ties of tribe and family.

Problems in the country are caused by the lack of military capacity and governance capacity, he said.

"More than anything else, it is the lack of capacity of this government to deal with the problems it faces. It is our biggest challenge," he said. "In the end, the Afghan people will decide that there is enough capacity, and it is their perceptions that we are working on right now."

The counterinsurgency strategy stresses protecting the population. "We can't shoot our way out of this," he said. If coalition forces kill two Taliban fighters, they might have created another 10 insurgents, because each of these people has brothers, sons, fathers and extended families who might seek revenge.

"In our strategy there is a bet, and that bet is that we, the coalition, can only get the Afghans to a certain place, and at some point they are going to have to deliver on the governance piece," he said. "The bet is that if we create the conditions if we partner, if we bridge, if we create the space they can deliver."

Partnership is key to success, and coalition forces are partnering with Afghan army units and Afghan police in the field as they conduct operations. The Afghan National Civil Order Police worked with Marines in the operation in Marja and came out with excellent reports, said officials.

Officials understand that even with the surge into the country, there will not be enough troops to impose peace, nor will there be enough units to partner with every Afghan unit. The idea is to "rob the oxygen" from the insurgency in key areas and create the conditions for the government to succeed.

Marja is not over yet, but it is going in the right direction, the official said. Bazaars are open, families are returning, and there are signs that the Taliban are having problems. Small numbers of Taliban are actually starting to come in. "They are frustrated," the official noted. "They saw the coalition really emphasize communication in Marja."

Shaping operations already have begun in Kandahar, officials said, and Afghan officials are briefing Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the operation. "He has to lead this fight," the official said. "He's very good when you get him out of the palace, and he has great effect as a tribal leader."

Part of the strategy is to "shura our way to success," he said. Afghan government officials must hold shuras meetings of influential community leaders with groups throughout Kandahar and its approaches, he said. The people have to ask for the operation, just as they did in Helmand.

"We're going to have to have a situation where they invite us in," the official said.

The success in Helmand has encouraged Afghans, and officials hope this transfers to Kandahar.

"The key is we have to be done by Ramadan," the official said. "We have to be in the 'hold and build' phase when that starts [in mid-August]."



Philips Medical Systems, Andover, Mass., is being awarded a maximum $77,172,660 fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for patient monitoring systems, subsystems, accessories, consumables, spare/repair parts, and training. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and federal civilian agencies. There were originally 17 proposals solicited with nine responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract is exercising the first option year. The date of performance completion is March 29, 2011. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (SPM2D1-09-D-8349).

Hitachi Medical Systems America, Inc., Twinsburg, Ohio, is being awarded a maximum $12,000,000 fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for radiology systems, components, upgrades, accessories, and installation. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and federal civilian agencies. The original proposal was Web solicited with 48 responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract is exercising the fourth option year. The date of performance completion is March 29, 2011. The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (SPM2D1-09-D-8331).


L-3 Services, Inc., Mount Laurel, N.J., is being awarded a $38,997,853 modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for integrated systems engineering support services in support of C4ISR and C2. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of the contract to an estimated $268,986,110. Work will be performed in Charleston, S.C. (40 percent); Norfolk, Va. (40 percent); San Diego (10 percent); and Washington, D.C. (10 percent), and is expected to be completed by September 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was competitively procured with proposals solicited via the Commerce Business Daily's Federal Business Opportunities Web site and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center E-Commerce Central Web site, with seven offers received. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, Charleston, S.C., is the contracting activity (N65236-04-D-6842).

Raytheon Technical Services Co., LLC, Customized Engineering and Depot Support, Indianapolis, Ind., is being awarded a $32,398,357 cost-plus-incentive-fee contract to provide engineering and manufacturing development of a non-pyrotechnic multi-purpose bomb rack for carriage and release of weapons and stores employed on BRU-33, BRU-41, BRU-42, and BRU-55 bomb rack. Work will be performed in Indianapolis, Ind., and is expected to be completed in September 2014. Contract funds in the amount of $5,168,598 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposals, with three proposals received. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-10-C-0048).

ADS, Inc.*, Virginia Beach, Va., is being awarded a $21,320,000 firm-fixed-price delivery order against General Services Administration (GSA) schedule contract (GS-07F-5965P) for the procurement and delivery of back up iron sights (BUIS) P/N: 25650-1. The BUIS is a single flip-up rear sight for use with the M4 carbine and M16 rifle. It is designed to occupy space behind the eyepiece of a day scope and has the capability of flipping up for use in the event of a primary sight failure. Work will be performed in Virginia Beach, Va., and is expected to be completed March 2015. Delivery order funds in the amount of $21,300,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This delivery order was competitively procured with quotes solicited via the GSA e-Buy Web site, with five offers received. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity for delivery order M67854-10-F-1063.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., is being awarded a $17,709,161 cost-plus-fixed fee contract for a follow-on contract for the United Kingdom technical services in support of the TRIDENT Strategic Weapons System. Work will be performed in Sunnyvale, Calif. (70.69 percent); Cape Canaveral, Fla. (12.54 percent); St. Marys, Ga. (2.58 percent); Bremerton, Wash. (0.81 percent); and other locations inside and outside the United States (13.38 percent). Work is expected to be completed March 31, 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. Strategic Systems Programs, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity (N00030-10-C-0026).

ArmorWorks Enterprise, LLC*, Chandler, Ariz. (N62583-10-D-0323); Southern California Gold Products, Inc.*, Oxnard, Calif. (N62583-10-D-0346); and American Defense Systems, Inc.*, Hicksville, N.Y. (N62583-10-D-0347), are each being awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price multiple award contract for up-armoring solutions of civil engineer support equipment for the Naval Facilities Expeditionary Logistics Center. The base year and each of the four option years have a not-to-exceed amount of $10,000,000. The maximum dollar value for all three contracts combined shall not exceed $50,000,000. The work to be performed includes all labor, materials, and services necessary to design, engineer, fabricate, integrate armor systems and sub-systems, and testing requirements. The contractor is responsible for shipping and transportation of all the equipment identified within each individual task order. Work will be performed at various contractor sites within the continental United States. The contract ordering period will be for a base year plus up to four option years, with an expected completion date of April 2015. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online Web site as a small business set-aside under the North American Industry Classification System 336992. There were seven proposals received as a result of this solicitation. These contractors will compete for task orders under the terms and conditions of the awarded contract. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Specialty Center Acquisitions, Port Hueneme, Calif., is the contracting activity.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Maritime Systems and Sensors, Manassas, Va., is being awarded a $9,517,017 cost-plus-incentive-fee modification under previously awarded contract (N00024-04-C-6207). The modification is for the fiscal 2010 tactical local area network effort to support work to procure production for the Virginia Class submarine combat control three-bay structurally integrated enclosure. This option is to be used for shipsets seven through ten. Work will be performed in Manassas, Va., and is expected to be completed December of 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity.


WRS Infrastructure & Environment, Inc., Tampa, Fla., was awarded on Mar. 22 a $30,224,400 firm-fixed-price contract for the construction of westbank and vicinity, New Orleans, Louisiana hurricane storm damage risk reduction systems Lake Cataouatche, western tie-in WBV 72: east-west levee St. Charles Parish. Work is to be performed in St. Charles Parish, La., with an estimated completion date of Aug. 13, 2011. Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with four bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, New Orleans, La., is the contracting activity (W912P8-10-C-0062).

Raytheon Co., Integrated Defense Systems, Andover, Mass., was awarded on Mar. 23 a $20,476,695 firm-fixed-price contract to provide technical assistance in support of Foreign Military Sales case. Work is to be performed in Andover, Mass., with an estimated completion date of March 31, 2011. One bid was solicited with one bid received. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Missile Logistics Division, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W31P4Q-08-C-0301).

HX5, LLC, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., was awarded on March 25 an $18,000,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity firm-fixed-price contract. This contract is for research and development, science & engineering and related logistical and administrative support services for all engineering reach and development center laboratories and other local Corps entities. Work is to be performed in with an estimated completion date of March 31, 2014. Bids were solicited via the Federal Business Opportunities Web site with four bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ERDC Contracting Office, Vicksburg, Miss., is the contracting activity (W912HZ-09-D-0001).

Raytheon Co., IDS, Huntsville, Ala., was awarded on March 25 a $12,985,000 firm-fixed-price contract for the Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Plug-and-Fight (P&F) A-Kit design definition to develop an integrated set of components/platform end item preliminary engineering change proposals for the development of IAMD P&F A-kits that integrate government furnished equipment IAMD B-Kits. Work is to be performed in Huntsville, Ala., with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2011. One bid was solicited with one bid received. AMCOM Contracting Center, Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W31P4Q-10-C-0267).

Walbridge, Detroit, Mich., was awarded on March 23 a $11,485,000 firm-fixed-price construction contract for a training support center at Fort Riley, Kansas. Work is to be performed in Fort Riley, Kan., with an estimated completion date of July 29, 2011. Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with four bids received. U.S. Corps of Engineers, CECT-NWK-M, Kansas City, Mo., is the contracting activity (W912HN-09-D-0023).

Evergreen Helicopter, Inc., McMinnville, Ore., was awarded on March 23 a $10,015,620 firm-fixed-price contract for helicopter support and services for U.S. Army Hawaii, islands of Oahu and Hawaii. Work is to be performed in the islands of Oahu (40 percent) and Hawaii (60 percent) with an estimated completion date of March 23. Twenty-five bids were solicited with two bids received. Regional Contracting Office, Hawaii Fort Shafter, Hawaii, is the contracting activity (W912CN-08-D-0013).

Lockheed Martin Corp., Owego, N.Y., was awarded on March 23 a $9,420,975 firm-fixed-price contract for an award undefinitized contractual action modification for the update and completion of the integrated logistics support effort for the light armored vehicle command and control variant upgrade program. Work is to be performed in Owego, N.Y., with an estimated completion date of Feb. 28, 2011. One bid was solicited with one bid received. TACOM LCMC, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-05-C-0383).

Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc., Columbia, Md., was awarded on March 23 a $7,990,190 time-and-material contract for service contract of Sustainment of the Mobile Parts Hospital (MPH) in Southwest Asia. The MPH is a self-contained, self-sustaining mobile manufacturing system that efficiently fabricates standards and unique parts at or near the point of need to enhance soldier readiness. Work is to be performed in Sterling Heights, Mich. (16.6 percent), and Southwest Asia (83.4 percent), with an estimated completion date of March 22, 2011. One bid was solicited with one bid received. TACOM Rock Island, CCTA-AR-FB, Rock Island., Ill., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-10-C-0279).

Caesar Rodney School District, Camden, Del., was awarded on March 25 a $7,803,955 firm-fixed-price contract. This contract modification is to exercise option period one for comprehensive education program, grades K-12, servicing eligible dependent children of Department of Defense personnel residing on Dover Air Force Base. Work is to be performed in Camden, Del., with an estimated completion date of June 30, 2011. Bids were solicited via the Federal Business Opportunities Web site with one bid received. Department of Defense Education Activity, DDESS, Peachtree City, Ga., is the contracting activity (HEVAS6-09-C-0001).

Trumbull Corp. and Brayman Construction Corp., JV, Pittsburg, Pa., was awarded on March 24 a $7,317,340 firm-fixed-price contract. The Pittsburg district is modifying the Charleroi River wall contract for producing and delivering concrete that meets the requirements of the Charleroi River wall contract for construction of another feature of the Charleroi locks and dam project. The work will be concurrent with construction of the river wall and extend beyond completion of construction of Charleroi River wall to completion of concrete placement of the upper and lower guard walls. This work includes continued operation and maintenance of the concrete batch plant and concrete conveyor system, and continuing environmental compliance measurements and environment control representative for the batch plant after completion of construction of Charleroi River. Work is to be performed in Charleroi locks and dam, Belle Vernon, Pa., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2011. Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with three bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineer District, Pittsburg, Pa., is the contracting activity (W911WN-04-C-0003).

Cares Environment Services, Brooklyn Park, Minn., was awarded on March 23 a $7,296,790 firm-fixed-price contract for Birdland Park levee system improvement project, Des Moines River. Work is to be performed in Polk City, Iowa, with an estimated completion date of Aug. 2, 2012. Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with eight bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, Rock Island, Ill., is the contracting activity (W912EK-10-C-0067).

Vet Industrial, Inc., Bremerton, Wash., was awarded on March 24 a $7,219,300 firm-fixed-price construction contract. This contract is for the design and construction of approximately 16,900 square feet of additions to the existing fiscal 2008 Medical Dental Clinic. Work is to be performed in Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., with an estimated completion date of April 30, 2011. Bids were solicited via the Federal Business Opportunities Web site with three bids received. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District, Seattle, Wash., is the contracting activity (W912DW-10-C-0007).

Alliant Ammunition and Powder Co., LLC, Radford, Va., was awarded on March 22 a $6,935,880 firm-fixed-price contract for 718,000 propulseur d'appoint a poudre (PAP) 7993 granular propellant. PAP is a single-base granular propellant used in the M231 and M232 modular artillery charge system. Work is to be performed in Radford, Va., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2012. Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with three bids received. Army Contracting Command, Rock Island Contracting Center, CCRC-AR, Rock Island., Ill., is the contracting activity (W52P1J-09-G-0002).

Wisconsin employers get first-hand look at Soldiers' training

By Sgt. Andy Poquette

March 29, 2010 - Nearly 30 employers from around Wisconsin gathered at Fort McCoy Saturday (March 27) to observe mobilization training for Soldiers from the 724th Engineer Battalion. Together with the Wisconsin Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, these employers were able see firsthand what their employees do in the National Guard.

"I have such a greater degree of respect now for the qualifications of any of my staff who serve in the military," said Carol Holinka, warden of the Oxford Federal Correctional Institute. "After seeing everything involved in their training, I have such a better understanding of their tactical and training experience."

The employers' introduction to military life began with a flight to Fort McCoy via UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and a hearty welcome by the commander of the 724th Engineer Battalion, Lt. Col. Dave O'Donohue.

"First, I want to thank each of you for taking the time to participate in this event," O'Donahue said. "We have a tough mission, and your support allows our Soldiers to concentrate on the mission while they know that they don't have to worry about their job back home. Every day we are sending Soldiers outside the wire to keep the roads safe, and without 100 percent focus, these Soldiers can't do their job."

Employers witnessed a variety of events and operations, including a tour of the 724th Engineer Battalion's Forward Support Company (FSC) area of operations. Capt. Matthew Kelly, FSC commander, explained the company's capability to distribute supplies, recover damaged vehicles and provide maintenance support for the battalion. Before leaving, the employers had an opportunity to take pictures with their Soldiers and sit inside Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) and recovery vehicles.

The party also watched how 724th Soldiers react when they encounter a possible Improvised Explosive Device (IED) during the battalion's route clearance training.

724th Command Sgt. Major Scott Genz said it was important for employers to see for themselves the training their employees take part in.

"As a traditional National Guard Soldier, I know how important it is to have the support of your civilian employer," Genz said. "It's a great thing for employers to see what Soldiers do so they can understand the mission. The training we go through now is much more realistic than it has been in the past. We have better equipment and more team-based training. It's important for employers to see that."

The day culminated with an employer/employee Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) luncheon at the training site Contingency Operating Location (COL) Freedom.

"This experience was a real eye-opener as to what Soldiers actually do during training," said Nate Smith, owner of Smith Sheet Rock and Construction in Pulaski, Wis. and employer of his brother, Pvt. Logan Smith. "After seeing everything they do, to deny employment of a Soldier because of their military duty means you lose out on all the great qualities and training that Soldier has."

Master Sgt. Gregory Wendt of Headquarters Company - a contractor sales manager at Menards - also enjoyed lunch with his employer Doug Stuart, an assistant general manager at Menards in St. Croix Falls, Wis.

"It's difficult to explain what you do to your employer, and because I work in intelligence, I can't talk about much of what I do," Wendt said. "But this experience allowed Doug to actually see what my unit does."

"This was a great experience," Stuart added. "Even though we will be losing Greg for a year, we know he will be coming back, and this really helped me understand everything he does as part of his training."

Nearly 400 Soldiers in the 724th Engineer Battalion mobilized in March in preparation for their upcoming tour of duty in Iraq. The affected Soldiers are part of the Headquarters Company in Chippewa Falls, Company A (Forward Support) in Hayward, the 273rd Engineer Company (Sapper) in Medford and 950th Engineer Company (Clearance) in Spooner and Superior. The mobilization, including time scheduled for additional training at Fort McCoy, is expected to last about one year. The Soldiers will spend about ten months of the year-long mobilization in Iraq.

Nations Find Peace on Athletic Field

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

March 29, 2010 - Nations may not always see eye to eye in the political arena, and militaries may find it difficult to agree in how to manage conflicts around the globe. But one area where armed forces may find a common ground is in their enthusiasm for sports and competition.

Members of the board of the directors for the International Military Sports Council, also known as CISM, kicked off their annual weeklong meeting today at Bolling Air Force Base here to discuss sporting events and issues for the next year.

The U.S. Defense Department hosted this year's board, which is made up of directors from 17 countries and represents an organization of 132 national militaries, including those of North Korea and Iran.

The program promotes goodwill among the armed forces through sports and physical fitness, and often is the only chance for various militaries to build their international relationships, Air Force Maj. Gen. Darren McDew, vice director for strategic plans and policy for the Joint Staff and the U.S. delegation chief for CISM.

"CISM presents a great opportunity for countries to interact with each other on a military-to-military basis, and sometimes it's the only venue where we have our respective militaries operate together," McDew said. "We have many, many wonderful things in common, and sports is a wonderful way to celebrate those commonalities."

Each year, CISM holds 18 to 24 championships worldwide. CISM also sponsors the Military World Games every four years. Events for both include boxing, cross-country, wrestling, volleyball, soccer and basketball, to name a few.

India hosted the 4th Military World Games in 2007, and for the first time in history, more than 100 countries were together in peace. Brazil will host the next games in July 2011, when at least 110 nations are expected to compete, Italian army Maj. Gen. Gianni Gola, CISM president, said.

Considering the emerging conflicts and crisis throughout the world, this level of involvement is "truly fantastic," Gola said.

"The idea to use sports to bring together the fantastic ancient, and at the same time modern, idea [of athletic competition] it works every time," he said. "As military organizations, we are crossing challenging times. Many armed forces of the world have suffered, too many conflicts have risen. But at the same time, we have created outstanding expectations from the point of view of sports."

Among those expectations are "sports for peace," Gola said. He explained that although the council receives much support from the International Olympic Committee for the military competitions, the goal of the council goes beyond sports.

"From the other point of view solidarity, development, technical assistance, humanitarian [and] peacekeeping activities, this is kind of the second pillar of our main goal," he said.

The role of military sports can take nations a long way in peace-keeping processes, he said, noting that the United Nations acknowledged CISM as an important facet in the global efforts for peace.

Even when nations don't entirely agree on policies and actions, they must find an area to be united. Sports and athletic competition can be that area, and lead the way for peace on a global front, he added.

"If you want to go fast, walk alone," he said, "but if you want to go far, walk together."

Wisconsin's Falcons fight in Florida sun

By Airman 1st Class Ryan Roth
115th Fighter Wing

March 29, 2010 - Following a similar flight path of migrant snowbirds, Wisconsin Air National Guardsmen departed the cool Wisconsin weather in March on a mission to the southernmost part of the United States.

Approximately 145 Airmen of the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing spent almost two weeks gaining valuable training as their F-16 Falcons sparred against Navy F-18 Super Hornets and F-5 Tigers here.

The weather was a perk, but the true advantage at the Naval Air Station was the increased airspace and the ability to fight different types of adversaries.

"This is great training that we do not experience back home," said Lt. Col. Steve Kensick, 176th Fighter Squadron director of operations. "A lot of our pilots have not fought a dissimilar asset like a Hornet, and this is great training for them."

There are three types of missions flown here - basic fighter maneuvers, more commonly known as dog-fighting; air combat maneuvers which involves two F-16s versus one F-18; and air combat training that involves three or four F-16s versus any number of adversaries.

"When we do a dog-fight, it is full-on - he is fighting his best, I am fighting my best," Kensick said. "We do not formally keep score, but we normally debrief after each mission and see if our guy won."

Maj. Chris Hansen, a pilot with 176th Fighter Squadron of the 115th Fighter Wing, had never flown against a Super Hornet until this training exercise. He was grateful for the experience. "The Super Hornets are extremely capable and this opportunity provided valuable training for me," he said.

Hansen said there were many differences between the two aircraft in terms of weight and thrust, which he witnessed first-hand for the first time that day.

Lt. Phil Taggart, a Navy F-18 pilot from the Strike Fighter Squadron 213 (VFA-213) stationed at Virginia Beach, was preparing for his first training exercise with an F-16.

"Coming to Key West brings a new perspective on how our tactics work, and it is interesting to see how that works against an adversary who does things slightly different," Taggart said.

Key West provides a win-win scenario for service training from across the United States. At the forefront of the Air Force are the fighter jets and the pilots who fly them. These pilots have at their wing tips an air range that spans nearly 134,000 square miles.

"We have an airspace here that we do not have at Volk," Kensick observed. "We can also go supersonic from near surface to 50,000 feet."

Long before the pilots trained in the skies above Key West, Airmen were preparing to make this exercise a successful one. It is not a simple process to deploy a detachment of eight F-16s, including pilots and support personnel, some 1,500 miles from its home base.

Preparation for this year's training exercise began just after last year's training exercise finished, said 1st Lt. Christy Kasten, 115th FW maintenance operations officer. Every year they learn and adapt after studying the after-action reports, she added.

It takes a team to ensure as many as eight F-16 fighters are ready for missions each day. Maintenance, supply, operations, services and others all helped make the F-16s ready for flight.

"Our job is to supply operations with as many mission ready aircraft as possible," Kasten said. "At Truax we have so many different shops who work separately. At a deployment in Key West where we are all in close quarters, it is very easy to see what others are doing and see the larger picture."

NAS Key West is a transient pilot training facility for tactical aviation squadrons. The airfield hosts aviation squadrons from around the country on a regular basis.

The air station provides an opportunity for members of all services to work together. Navy air traffic controllers run the landing strip and taxiways.

"We have dealt with all branches, including the Coast Guard, Marine, Air Force, Navy, and Army," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Hanson, an air traffic control specialist at NAS Key West.

These training missions prepare the pilots and crew for real-world conflict as they test the capabilities of their fighter jets against other opponents.

U.S. Crew Rescues Somali Mariners

By Navy Ensign Colleen M. Flynn
Combined Maritime Forces

March 29, 2010 - The crew of a U.S. Navy ship saved 30 men, women and children off the coast of Somalia March 25. USS McFaul, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer on a seven-month deployment in the Gulf of Aden, was conducting a routine patrol about 100 miles off Somalia's north coast in support of counterpiracy operations when the crew spotted a small skiff.

The 30 people onboard had been stranded with no food and very little water for nearly four days since departing the Somali coast, they said. The skiff had suffered engine failures in both outboard motors.

"Once we recognized there was no threat, noticeable engine failure and lack of food and water, it was evident they desperately needed our help," the ship's boarding officer said. McFaul's embarked translator facilitated communication between the Somali mariners and the boarding team.

The McFaul crew immediately took the Somali mariners onboard and prepared to return them to their homeland, offering them a place to sleep, blankets, water and food to make them feel as comfortable as possible for the two-and-a-half-day journey back to Somalia.

Abdulrahman Ali Barhaaye, one of the elders rescued from the skiff, offered thanks. "We gave up hope until we saw you," he said. "We are alive, hopeful, and glad to be here."

Helping the Somali mariners became a shipwide event, whether repairing the skiff's engines or supplying the rescued mariners with food, water, shelter, life jackets and blankets.

"This was a rewarding experience," one of the boarding team members said. "They appreciated our efforts and were very thankful."

On the morning of March 27, McFaul returned the 30 Somalian mariners safely ashore with their repaired skiff at the small fishing village of Ceelaaya.

USS McFaul is assigned to Combined Task Force 151, which is a 24-nation task force established in January 2009 to conduct counterpiracy operations.

Shinseki Cheers on Disabled Vets at Winter Sports Clinic

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

March 29, 2010 - Walking among skiers preparing to hit the slopes here during the first day of the National Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki noticed a long row of lonely wheelchairs just beyond the staging area. "Look!" he told photographers capturing the event. "There's your picture all those abandoned wheelchairs. That's what shows what's taking place here is all about."

Their owners were all out enjoying a crystal-clear Colorado morning on Snowmass Mountain, the secretary noted, with any thoughts of disability abandoned along with their wheelchairs.

Anticipation filled the air as they assembled at the base of the mountain, scores of volunteer ski instructors adjusting their adaptive skis and offering tips, and in some cases, reassurance.

"When I walk around the first-timers, I can tell they are as anxious as all get-out," Shinseki told American Forces Press Service. "They don't say they are, but it is in their voices.

"And I have stood in a lot of assembly areas where people are getting ready to go on an operation," he continued, recalling his 38-year Army career that culminated with service as Army chief of staff.

"I know what an anxious voice sounds like," the secretary said, "so I tell them, 'Don't think about it. Do it. At no other time in your life are you going to fall ... and have everybody on the slope running over to help pick you up. This week is about making you feel good about yourself, so do it all.'"

Watching it unfold slopeside this morning, Shinseki posed for photos with participants and thanked volunteers for their support.

He helped William Fry, among the first wave of skiers to hit the slopes on a monoski, to fasten his ski bib bearing the number 186. A former Air Force technical sergeant who suffers from multiple sclerosis and memory loss, Fry returned this year for his third winter sports clinic.

What keeps bringing him back, he said, is the sheer fun of whizzing down the slopes, wind in his face. "When you're out here, speed is everything," he said.

But Fry said he's also struck by the support participants receive at every level from the Veterans Affairs secretary himself, to the VA Department staff to the hundreds of volunteers who return to the clinic again and again every year.

"It doesn't matter if you were officer or enlisted, where you're from or what service you were in," he said. "Everybody is out here together, having fun."

That fun is rehabilitative, Shinseki said, and a vital part of the care VA provides disabled veterans.

As the clinic encourages participants to focus on what they can do rather than what they can't, Shinseki said, it helps set them on a path to live life to its fullest. He called that a critical step in VA's aggressive effort to prevent a downward spiral that leads too many veterans to depression, suicide and homelessness.

"This is so important," the secretary said of the clinic, now in its 24th year. "If we don't do this, I can see that 400 lives are not going to be quite the same."

Sandy Trombetta, the clinic's founder and director, called it a positive way to bring veterans particularly about 150 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, many just learning to live with their disabilities into the broader network of VA services available to support them.

"The sooner we can get these men and women engaged in quality-of-life, self-actualizing activities, the better," he said. "It sets the tone for the future so they realize that they can raise a family, volunteer, get a job. They can do anything they want to do."

Guardsmen Fight Floods in Three States

By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
National Guard Bureau

March 29, 2010 - As North Dakota begins to draw down the number of National Guard members fighting floods, at least three other states are calling up personnel for the same mission. In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick has placed about 50 soldiers and airmen on state active duty.

In a news conference yesterday, Patrick said the Guardsmen will provide support for flooding that may occur as another March "nor'easter" threatens to dump several inches of rain across the already-soaked state.

"[They] are eager to assist the citizens of the commonwealth," said Army Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter, the Massachusetts adjutant general. "The commonwealth can rely on our diverse capabilities, our strategically located units and our quick response during times of need."

The immediate tasks the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency gave to the National Guard have been completed, according to a news release from the Massachusetts Guard. Soldiers worked throughout the night March 28 delivering 1,200 pre-filled emergency sandbags from Camp Edwards to Littleton and filled an additional 2,000 sandbags at the state highway department in Lexington.

The National Guard continues to fill, load and haul sandbags from Camp Edwards on Cape Cod, to Lexington and Littleton, awaiting further requests from MEMA, Guard officials said. The Massachusetts National Guard's 79th Troop Command, located in Rehoboth, is coordinating the movement of filled sandbags from Lexington to areas designated by MEMA.

Heavy rain is expected to fall over western portions of Connecticut, Massachusetts and southwest New Hampshire today.

Guard officials reported that Connecticut has provided a liaison officer to the state emergency operations center to monitor forecasted heavy rainfall and possible flooding. No report has come as yet from New Hampshire.

In South Dakota, two Army Guard members remain on duty after a peak of 60 over the weekend. They were responsible for conducting sandbagging operations. Guard officials said they may get other mission assignments from state emergency officials.

South Dakota is experiencing major flooding throughout the Red River Valley after heavy snowfall and rains in the last few months.

In North Dakota, about 70 soldiers and airmen also remain on duty in the Red River Valley area. At the peak, more than 700 Guardsmen were called up to fight floods throughout the state. In Fargo and Cass counties, dike-effectiveness patrols continue to monitor the water level, and quick response forces also provide immediate response to dike and levee breeches and seepage. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact with the Minnesota Guard has ended, and all Minnesota troops have been released by the state.

The remaining soldiers and airmen in North Dakota also will conduct reset and recovery of personnel and equipment.

Shinseki Urges Disabled Vets to Conquer Mountain, Doubts

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

March 29, 2010 - Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki opened the 24th Annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic here last night, encouraging participants to conquer the mountain and prove to themselves what they're able to achieve. Shinseki challenged more than 400 disabled veterans participating in the six-day clinic to move beyond their personal comfort zones and press their limits as they learn adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing and try their hand at rock climbing, scuba diving, trapshooting, snowmobile, sled hockey, wheelchair fencing and other activities.

In doing so, he urged them to seek answers to two questions: "What's possible?" and "Can I do more than I think?"

The answers could become life-changing, he said, noting several disabled veterans who faced doubts about what they could do but proved their potential by earning positions on the 2010 U.S. Paralympic team.

"Life may have changed for these athletes, but they did not," Shinseki said, calling on veterans at the winter sports clinic to be inspired by their example.

Shinseki said he recognizes that for some participants, especially first-timers, pressing beyond their comfort level is a threatening proposition. He urged them to put any concerns aside and take advantage of every opportunity offered to them at the clinic.

"This week is about making you feel good about yourself, so do it all," he told them. "You are going to feel the exhilaration and healing power of these mountains."

Calling the clinic an extension of "the superb rehabilitative care" veterans receive at VA medical facilities across the country, Shinseki said it be more than just a week of adventure and fun.

"It's about deciding how you live the other 51 weeks of the year," he said. "So let's go conquer that mountain!"

The clinic, co-sponsored by the VA Department and Disabled American Veterans, is open to U.S. military veterans being treated at VA facilities for traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, neurological problems and other disabilities.

Disabled American Veterans National Commander Roberto Barrera called the clinic a highlight of the year for many of the nation's most profoundly disabled veterans.

"There is no event that comes close, either in terms of participation or the availability of rehabilitative events for the veterans who make the journey," he said.

While pushing their limits during a full range of activities this week, the veterans also will get to mingle with 2010 Olympic gold medalist Bode Miller and five-time Olympic Alpine skier Casey Puckett.

Retired Army Cpl. Alan "Doc" Babin, who was seriously wounded in March 2003 while serving in Iraq, is among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan participating in this year's event. Babin, a medic with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Battalion, 325th Infantry, was rushing to aid a wounded solder when he was hit by small-arms fire that blasted through his stomach.

"I wasn't expected to survive after I was shot," said Babin, who endured more than 70 surgeries and spent two and a half years in hospitals, unconscious most of the time.

As he returns to his third winter sports clinic, Babin has proven the value of never giving up. He has competed in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, medaling in quad rugby, and a motorized wheelchair rally. He also reached his personal weightlifting record.

"You have to keep moving along and find your new normal," he said.

Chairman's Corner: Solidly Behind New START Treaty

By Navy Adm. Mike Mullen
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

March 29, 2010 - As I stated during a March 26 news conference, the vice chairman, the Joint Chiefs, our combatant commanders around the world, and I stand solidly behind this new START treaty. We greatly appreciate the trust and confidence placed in us by the president and by Secretary Gates throughout this process. We are also satisfied with our opportunity to provide counsel, make recommendations, and to help shape the final agreements.

We also recognize the trust and confidence this treaty helps foster in our relationship with Russia's military, a trust complementary to that which the President has sought to achieve between our two countries. Indeed, I met with my Russian counterpart, General Makarov, no fewer than three times during the negotiation process. Each time we met, we grew closer not only toward our portion of the final result, but also toward a better understanding of the common challenges and opportunities our troops face every day.

The new START deals directly with some of the most lethal of those common challenges -- our stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons. By dramatically reducing these stockpiles, this treaty achieves a proper balance more in keeping with today's security environment, reducing tensions even as it bolsters nonproliferation efforts.

It features a much more effective, transparent verification method that demands quicker data exchanges and notifications. It protects our ability to develop a conventional global strike capability, should that be required. Perhaps more critically, it allows us to deploy and maintain our proven strategic nuclear triad -- bombers, submarines and missiles -- in ways best suited to meeting our security commitments.

In other words, through the trust it engenders, the cuts it requires, and the flexibility it preserves, this treaty enhances our ability to do that which we have been charged to do: protect and defend the citizens of the United States.

I am as confident in its success as I am in its safeguards.

Elementary students reach out to North Dakota Guardsmen

By Spc. Chris Erickson
North Dakota National Guard

(2/11/10) - Christian Gardner, a third grader at Washburn Elementary School, misses his uncle.

The North Dakota Army National Guard Soldier, Spc. A.J. Richards, is serving a yearlong deployment to Kosovo with the Kosovo Force (KFOR) 12’s Multi -National Battle Group-East.

But long distances haven’t kept the two from catching up. Christian hears from his uncle regularly, and so does his entire third grade class.

Richards is just one of many Washburn-natives, who have gone off to serve their country, and he has an entire school behind him.

“I still wish he was here though,” Gardner said.

Holly Becker, principal at Washburn Elementary, proposed the idea of having her students correspond with military members from Washburn earlier this year. Both students and teachers alike have reacted enthusiastically.

Visitors can observe this by walking the school’s halls and seeing the photos of service members hung on classroom doors in addition to a variety of patriotic artwork designed and created by the students.

“It’s been good,” Becker said. “The kids have been excited.”

Each classroom, from kindergarten through the sixth grade, have “adopted” service members to send letters and packages to, including members of the N.D. National Guard’s KFOR 12 and 2-285th Aviation Company in Iraq, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps.

Tracy Jaeger’s first grade class routinely sends gifts and words of encouragement to their sponsored service members, including U.S. Air Force pilot, Zac Miller, who is stationed stateside in Abilene, Texas.

At Christmas, the children sent cards and care packages to the Airman along with a photo of the class standing next to the words “Merry Christmas” etched into the snow outside their school. In return, the children have been receiving photos from their military pen pal and see some of the far-off locations he has been to. Jaeger tries to incorporate the photos and letters into her lesson plans. Miller, who will spend some time in Iraq, plans on sending the first graders photos of the desert in Iraq, which they will examine during their social studies class.

“Hopefully, it bridges the gap for them,” she said. “For my kids, it’s kind of abstract because it’s (Iraq) so far away. But they (the students) think it’s well worth it.”

Becker said the service members have been staying in touch with the classrooms in a variety of ways, including the use of internet applications like Facebook and Skype.

“My hope is this will continue on. Hopefully, the Soldiers will come back and visit the classrooms,” she said.

Richards made good on this request recently when he visited his nephew Christian’s third grade class. Christian said it’s good to hear about the way his uncle is helping kids in Kosovo.

Family members always ask Richards if there is anything he needs overseas. The Guardsman continually makes request for items he can give the children of Kosovo.

“I think it’s cool,” Gardner said.

He’s also pleased to learn that his uncle will soon be promoted to the rank of sergeant.

Suzanne Richards, Richards’ mother, is thankful to the small town of Washburn, as a whole, for its attitude towards its service members.

“It brings tears to my eyes,” she said. “It’s amazing to me to live in such a tight-knit community and to see the support they give.”