Thursday, August 28, 2008

National Guard, NorthCom Prepare for Gustav Response

By Donna Miles and Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2008 – Thousands of National Guard troops are mobilizing as Tropical Storm Gustav moves toward the Gulf Coast, where it is expected to make landfall within days as a Category 3 hurricane.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (end of table) meets with Army Maj. Gen. A.C. Blalock, the Alabama National Guard’s adjutant general (center, left) and other state agency leaders Aug. 27, 2008, to discuss preparations for Tropical Storm Gustav, which is expected to be a Category 3 hurricane when it makes landfall. Thousands of National Guard members from states along the Gulf Coast have been mobilized or put on alert as the tropical storm gains strength and heads toward the United States. State of Alabama photo

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami predicted today that Gustav likely will become a “powerful hurricane” and move into the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 31. It is expected to become a Category 2 hurricane as it passes between Jamaica and Cuba, then to build to the Category 3 level as it approaches the U.S. Gulf Coast.

A Category 3 hurricane packs sustained winds of 111 to 130 mph.

Depending on Gustav’s path, forecasters said, it could make landfall anywhere between south Texas and the Florida panhandle.

U.S. Northern Command the conduit for requests for military assistance, is “anticipating and leaning forward” in preparation, command spokesman Mike Kucharek said.

Defense coordinating officers assigned in Federal Emergency Management Agency offices in Atlanta and in Denton, Texas, are serving as liaisons with state, local and other federal responders to ensure a quick response, Kucharek said.

All have “pre-scripted mission assignments” they are ready to carry out to ensure the response is well-coordinated and doesn’t leave any gaps, he said. In addition, food, water, generators and other supplies and equipment are pre-positioned at military installations in the region, ready to be moved where needed.

Meanwhile, governors along the Gulf Coast who remember the devastation when Hurricane Katrina hit the region on Aug. 29, 2005, are mobilizing their National Guard troops in preparation.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called about 3,000 Louisiana Army and Air National Guard members to active duty to support search-and-rescue operations, transport food, water and other logistic and provide security, said Maj. Michael Kazmierzak, state National Guard spokesman. Another 2,000 Guardsmen are on alert to support future mission requirements, if needed.

Guard security forces are preparing to deploy to New Orleans, where they would support the city’s evacuation plan, or elsewhere as needed, Kazmierzak reported. In addition, search-and-rescue assets are preparing to deploy to potential impact areas.

Other Guard troops are preparing to support shelter security missions across the state and to support highway lane-reversal missions in coordination with the Louisiana State Police, Kazmierzak said. Guard liaisons, engineer assessment teams and satellite communications teams are preparing to report to coastal parish emergency operations centers.

Meanwhile, the Louisiana Guard is working closely with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to track the storm, Kazmierzak said. It also is coordinating with Emergency Management Assistance Compact states to confirm that their assets are available to support relief efforts, if needed.

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry has authorized state active-duty orders for up to 5,000 Texas National Guard soldiers and airmen in support of the effort, Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada, Texas Military Forces’ public affairs deputy, reported. So far, 600 Guardsman have been activated.

Perry also requested 10 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and four OH-58 Kiowa helicopters for search-and-rescue missions and four C-130 Hercules aircraft for air evacuation.

Texas Task Force 1, a state search-and-rescue team, and Texas Guard members are reviewing swift-water rescue training procedures at Lake Decker in Austin, Texas, Moncada said. Meanwhile, the State Emergency Operations Center in Austin and Joint Emergency Operations Center at Camp Mabry are conducting twice-daily teleconferences with weather updates during each conference.

In Mississippi, composite teams of engineers and military police have been notified that they will be deployed to coastal areas as the storm approaches, said Tim Powell, Mississippi Guard public affairs officer. The teams will perform evacuations, search-and-rescue missions and support to civil authorities.

A search-and-rescue mission, if requested, will be a first for the Mississippi Guard since receiving its new UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopters, National Guard officials noted.

Another 500 soldiers will be stationed nearby as a rapid-response force – a strategy implemented after Hurricane Katrina. “Under our lessons learned, we've changed our plans and have now located more soldiers in coastal areas so they are already in place should they be needed," Powell said.

If needed, the soldiers will be ready to perform security patrols, clear roads and debris and operate distribution centers of water, ice and personal hygiene products. “We're planning and supporting for the worst, but hoping for the best,” Powell said.

In Florida, 9,000 National Guard members are available for hurricane response, but none have yet been called to active duty, reported Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michelle Thomas from the state’s National Guard public affairs office.

Five hundred Florida Guardsmen were activated for Tropical Storm Fay, with the last being released from active duty earlier this week, Thomas said.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley met yesterday with Army Maj. Gen. A.C. Blalock, adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard, and other state agency leaders to discuss preparations.

About 3,000 Alabama Guardsmen have been put on alert of a possible mobilization, said Army Staff Sgt. Katrina Timmons from the state National Guard public affairs office. “We are ready, in the event we are needed,” said Timmons. “We hope that’s not necessary, but we are preparing, just in case.”

(Army Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)

Minot Nuke Handlers Given Article 15s

Posted : Thursday Aug 28, 2008 13:25:11 EDT

The three missile officers at the 91st Missile Wing who fell asleep on July 12 while still in possession of classified components received non-judicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice on Aug. 28, officials said.

The two first lieutenants and one captain also lost their certification in the Personnel Reliability Program making them ineligible to work with nuclear weapons. And they were fined an unspecified amount from each of the next two months pay.

Two squadron commanders and several other officers at the wing received administrative actions for their roles in the incident involving classified components containing superceded missile launch codes for Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

Maj. Gen. Roger Burg, 20th Air Force commander, issued the Article 15s to the three officers who had just completed a 24-hour shift and were waiting in the rest area of the launch control center’s support building while awaiting permission to leave the secure zone.

Air Force regulations mandate at least two of the officers must remain awake while in control of these items.

“We hold everyone involved in this mission to the highest standards of performance and accountability every day, and we will not tolerate substandard performance,” Burg said.

Read the rest of he story at

CNN: Not so secret -U.S./Pakistan secret meeting.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senior U.S. and Pakistani military commanders held a secret meeting this week to discuss the growing Taliban and al Qaeda threat in Pakistan and Afghanistan, a senior U.S. military official said Thursday.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with the Pakistani Army chief of staff.

Word of the secret talks came as the Pakistani military said Thursday it had killed 23 militants in two attacks on Taliban fighters in the Swat valley of northwestern Pakistan.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a military spokesman, said one of the attacks involved an airstrike and artillery while the second involved ground troops. He provided no additional details.

This week's secret meeting "focused on ways to better work together to defeat extremists on the border and to help Pakistan deal with its own internal threats from extremism," the official said.

Those participating in the meeting included the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, and Pakistani Army chief of staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

The meeting, which took place Tuesday aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the Indian Ocean, was confirmed to CNN by the senior U.S. military official after details were first reported in the New York Times.

The talks also come amid a growing acknowledgment by U.S. officials that the Taliban has shifted tactics and is now conducting military-style attacks against U.S. troops.

The U.S. military, led by Mullen, has been pressing Kayani for months to crack down on militants in the border region in part because of the growing number crossing into Afghanistan to attack American troops. So far, there has been no reportable lessening of the flow of militants, according to several U.S. commanders.

"There is no diminishing of their ability to operate" in the border region, the official said.

And in recent weeks, the Taliban tactics have shifted.

For months, U.S. commanders had been saying the insurgents in Afghanistan were reduced to using terrorist hit-and-run and suicide-style tactics because they had no other capabilities. But now, the official said, that is changing.

Read the full story at

CNN Report: Putin Blames U.S. For Georgian War.

Russia (CNN) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of orchestrating the conflict in Georgia to benefit one of its presidential election candidates.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Matthew Chance in the Black Sea city of Sochi Thursday, Putin said the U.S. had encouraged Georgia to attack the autonomous region of South Ossetia.

Putin told CNN his defense officials had told him it was done to benefit a presidential candidate -- Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are competing to succeed George W. Bush -- although he presented no evidence to back it up.

"U.S. citizens were indeed in the area in conflict," Putin said. "They were acting in implementing those orders doing as they were ordered, and the only one who can give such orders is their leader."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino blasted Putin's statements, saying they were "patently false."

"To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate just sounds not rational," she said.

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood concurred, and labeled Putin's statements as "ludicrous."

"Russia is responsible for the crisis," Wood said in an off-camera meeting with reporters in Washington on Thursday. "For the Russians to say they are not responsible for what happened in Georgia is ludicrous. ... Russia is to blame for this crisis and the world is responding to what Russia has done."

When told that many diplomats in the United States and Europe blame Russia for provoking the conflict and for invading Georgia, Putin said Russia had no choice but to invade Georgia after dozens of its peacekeepers in South Ossetia were killed. He told Chance it was to avert a human calamity. First-person accounts from the center of the conflict

The former Russian president, still considered the most powerful man in the country, said he was disappointed the U.S. had not done more to stop Georgia's attack.

Putin recalled he was watching the situation in Georgia and South Ossetia unfold when he was at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games on August 8.

He said he spoke to U.S. President George W. Bush, also attending, who told the Russian prime minister he didn't want war -- but Putin spoke to CNN of his disappointment that the U.S. administration didn't do more to stop Georgia early in the conflict.

Read the full story at

Amarillo Built NEW UH-1Y Helicopter Okayed To Take To Skies

Marines will soon fly in the first newly engineered Huey helicopter the Corps has introduced in more than 35 years.

Known as the UH-1Y, the helicopter can fly faster, farther and ferry more troops and gear than older models, offering commanders more options when planning operations, according to program manager Col. Keith Burkholz. It will enhance the Corps’ ability to perform reconnaissance, provide secure escorts, scramble quick-reaction teams and place troops in hostile territory.

“You can carry eight combat troops with 250 pounds of gear each plus a crew of four, a full load of gas and suppressive weapons,” Burkholz said. “If you loaded that configuration into a Huey today, it would not physically be able to take off.”

The $20 million UH-1Y gained initial operating capability Aug. 8 after more than a year of testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The helicopter is built by Amarillo Texas-based Bell Helicopter-Textron, which also manufactures the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey.

The new Huey was designed alongside a new Marine attack helicopter: the AH-1Z, also known as the Super Cobra.

They were designed with roughly 84 percent interoperability, meaning many of the primary parts and components can be swapped between the two aircraft. That will yield savings in maintenance and logistics.

Both new aircraft boast modern avionics systems, but the Huey has better range and lift capability.

“The Yankee [Huey] can take twice the payload, twice the range, and the Zulu [Cobra] can either travel twice the range with the same payload or carry twice the payload with the same range,” compared with current models, Burkholz said.

Across the fleet, there are 12 new Hueys being tested, trained on or preparing for deployment. A contingent is in Southern California preparing for a January deployment with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the amphibious assault ship Boxer.

Burkholz could not specify where the MEU would deploy. But “we routinely have MEUs supporting operations in Iraq or Afghanistan,” he said.

While the Osprey is expected to remain the Corps’ workhorse for the next 30 years, the Huey will serve as a utility helicopter designed to maneuver around tighter spaces and land on smaller ships at sea, Burkholz said.

And though it’s not designed for special operations, it will be rated for those missions, he said.

The Corps is expected to acquire 123 Huey helicopters over the next eight years.

Tinker AFB AWACS Gets New Commander.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Tinker Air Force Base’s 552nd Air Control Wing has a new commander.

Col. Patricia D. Hoffman assumed command of the wing that flies the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System planes during a ceremony Wednesday on the base near Oklahoma City.

Hoffman replaces Brig. Gen. Lori Robinson, who is leaving Tinker to assume a new position at the Pentagon. Lt. Gen. Robert Elder, the commander of the 8th Air Force, presided over the change-of-command ceremony.

Earlier in her career, Hoffman served as an air battle manager aboard an AWACS jet.

Russia: Aid to Georgia Is Viewed as "Declaration Of War."

Moscow has issued an extraordinary warning to the West that military assistance to Georgia for use against South Ossetia or Abkhazia would be viewed as a "declaration of war" by Russia.

The extreme rhetoric from the Kremlin's envoy to NATO came as President Dmitry Medvedev stressed he will make a military response to US missile defence installations in eastern Europe, sending new shudders across countries whose people were once blighted by the Iron Curtain.
And Moscow also emphasised it was closely monitoring what it claims is a build-up of NATO firepower in the Black Sea.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) meets with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - the 'real architect' of the Georgia conflict - and the Security Council (unseen) in Sochi yesterday
The incendiary warning on Western military involvement in Georgia - where NATO nations have long played a role in training and equipping the small state - came in an interview with Dmitry Rogozin, a former nationalist politician who is now ambassador to the North Atlantic Alliance.
If NATO suddenly takes military actions against Abkhazia and South Ossetia, acting solely in support of Tbilisi, this will mean a declaration of war on Russia," he stated.

Yesterday likened the current world crisis to the fevered atmosphere before the start of the First World War.
Rogozin said he did not believe the crisis would descend to war between the West and Russia.

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