Archive for December, 2011

FRIDAY FOTO (December 30, 2011)

Golden Treatment

U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Ed Early

The Royal Canadian Navy submarine HMCS Victoria awaits a deperming treatment in the magnetic silencing facility on U.S. Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Bangor, Washington. The HMCS Victoria , named for the capital city of the province of British Columbia, is a long-range, diesel electric patrol sub based in Esquimalt, Vancouver Island on Canada’s Pacific Coast.

Deperming, also known as degaussing, reduces a ship’s electromagnetic signature as it travels through the water, making it less detectable by magnetic detection vessels and enemy mines. The process pulses very high electrical currents through copper cables wrapped around the boat’s hull and superstructure — hence the golden glow.

For more photos of the HMCS Victoria, click here for the Royal Canadian Navy’s website.

We’d like to take this opportunity to wish a very Happy New Year to all our friends. See you in 2012!

December 30, 2011 at 10:12 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Happy Holidays Around the World

NORAD Tracking Santa

As we write this, Santa Claus is somewhere over New England on his annual whirlwind trip around the world dispensing toys and other presents.

We know this because NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, is tracking the jolly old elf through one of the most effective radar detection systems the world has ever seen. The joint U.S.-Canadian air and space defense operation headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, has been keeping an eye on Santa’s yearly itinerary since 1955 when a child’s errant call to a department store hotline was answered at the air defense command by an Air Force colonel with a sense of whimsey. What started out as a kind gesture has turned into a tradition involving hundreds of volunteers including First Lady Michelle Obama.

But that’s not all the defenders of liberty and democracy doing this holiday season. From North Carolina to Japan, from Bahrain to Arizona and lots of places in between, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard are keeping people safe, spreading a little seasonal cheer in their communities and bringing joy to some deserving little people. Below is a sample of some of the doings.Please click on the photos to enlarge them.

Your 4GWAR editor wishes all our visitors a happy and safe holiday season … and urges you all to keep watching the skies — you never know who may be flying by.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken

More than 2,000 guests are entertained by 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band, accompanied by the Craven Community Choir, during the annual Christmas Concert 2011 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda Huntoon

Santa Claus greets sailors and their families a San Diego, California after landing in a Navy HS-60F Seahawk helicopter for the Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 10 and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 children’s Christmas party. The First Class Petty Officer Associations from both commands sponsored the event, which included bounce houses, balloon, animals, and gifts from Santa.

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mike Morris, 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron Loadmaster Flight Non-commissioned officer in charge, pushes a pallet of fuel onto a C-17 Globemaster III prior to a mission Dec. 23. The 816th EAS airdropped 40 pallets of fuel to remote forward operating bases in Afghanistan. The fuel will be used for generators, heaters and vehicles. Morris is deployed from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C.

U.S. Army photos by Staff Sgt. Sharilyn Wells

Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division — and toys — prepare for the 14th annual Randy Oler Toy Drop at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The toy drop is an annual event where soldiers donate new, unwrapped toys and also get a chance to train and jump with international jumpmasters. The donated toys are distributed to underprivileged children within the community.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Martin Platek

U.S. Marine Corps Medium Helicopter Squadron 764 (HMM-764) of the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, flew CH-46E helicopters into the Grand Canyon, over Supai Village, during the beginning stages of Operation Havasupai. HMM-764’s mission was to  join the Flagstaff Community Toys For Tots Organization in delivering Santa Claus and toys to children of the Havasupai tribe, as well as conduct training operations throughout  the Grand Canyon.

Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Martin Platek

Here’s a bird’s eye view of the rough and remote country the Marine helos visited.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cynthia Z. De Leon

Children from the Bahrain School sing Christmas carols to U.S. service members and civilian employees at the Naval Support Center on the Middle East island nation.

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

Sometimes the troops and their families are on the receiving end of holiday generosity. More than 800 tree growers and their customers donated about 900 trees to Fort Bragg soldiers through the Christmas Spirit Foundation’s Trees for Troops program. 

December 25, 2011 at 12:54 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 23, 2011)

Going, Going, Gone

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lynette Hoke

A line of mine resistant vehicles known as MRAPS forms the last convoy of U.S. service members entering Kuwait from Iraq. The 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Greywolf, was the final unit to leave on Dec. 18.

Nearly 4,500 troops have been killed in Iraq since 2003. More than 30,000 more were wounded.

For the last several months, U.S. troops have worked to reposition what were then 50,000 service members and 2 million pieces of equipment remaining in Iraq, said Army Gen. Loyd J. Austin III, the last commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq.

To see more photos of the last convoy out of Iraq, click here.

December 23, 2011 at 7:06 pm Leave a comment

FLASHPOINT AFRICA: Election Fallout in Congo, Ivory Coast

CONGO: Here We Go Again

Dem. Rep. of Congo

The recent presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo may be pushing that vast Central African nation into a new phase of violence. The top two candidates in a field of 11 contenders are each claiming they won.

The incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, claimed electoral victory in the Nov. 28 vote and on Friday (Dec. 17), the Central African nation’s Supreme Court upheld that claim despite reports of numerous irregularities at the polls and in the vote-tallying across the vast country.

But second-place finisher, Etienne Tshisekedi, rejected the high court’s findings, proclaiming himself the winner. The 79-year-old Tshisekedi is calling on the DRC’s security forces and civil servants to ignore Kabila’s orders.

The elections were the first organized by the DRC government since the end of a bloody civil war in 2003 — and only the third vote that could be described as “democratic” since the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Both Belgium and France have criticized the vote as highly flawed as has the U.S.-based Carter Center which sent observers. But regional leaders in Africa accepted the outcome and urged opposition parties in the DRC to do the same. The DRC is the second-largest country in Africa (after Algeria), the fourth most populous (after Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt)  and holds vast mineral wealth in gold, diamonds, cobalt, copper and oil.

Kabila is set to be inaugurated tomorrow (Tuesday). Tshisekedi plans to take the oath of office Friday (Dec. 23.) Observers fear the political standoff could lead to violence – even civil war – as it did in Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) earlier this year. (see next below)

IVORY COAST: Ex-President in the Dock

Ivory Coast in Africa

While things appear to be returning to normal in the West African nation of Ivory Coast following months of political stalemate and bloodshed following a contested presidential election, there are still reports of political violence.

At least six people were killed in the western part of the country over the weekend in clashes between armed youth and security forces.

Such clashes with former rebels-turned-government forces have been on the increase since the end of the civil war that left more than 3,000 people dead following last year’s election crisis.

Then incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down following a failed re-election bid in November 2010 poll. Forces loyal to the election winner, Alassane Ouattara, rebelled. With the help of French and U.N. troops, they captured Gbagbo in his forified compound. Ivory Coast, also known as Cote d’Ivoire, is a former French colony and French troops are stationed there.

Earlier this month, was spirited out of the country and now awaits trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity. Meanwhile, Ouattara’s political party won parliamentary elections which Gbagbo’s party boycotted. Ouattara has vowed to unite the country, once the strongest economy in in West Africa and one of the world’s leading cocoa producers. But he has been criticized for not prosecuting violence committed by his supporters during the rebellion.

December 19, 2011 at 9:51 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO Extra (Dec. 16, 2011)

Putting the ‘A” in SEAL

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Michael Harding

U.S. Navy SEALs exit the back of a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules transport plane during a recent training exercise near Fort Pickett, Va.

December 16, 2011 at 10:35 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 16, 2011)

Rush Hour Traffic?

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rasheen Douglas

We keep thinking there’s a joke here somewhere about how many F-16s it takes to change an enemy’s lightbulb — but we’ll let that pass.

What this photo really shows is more than two dozen F-16 Fighting Falcons from the U.S. Air Force’s 35th, 80th and 466th Fighter Squadrons demonstrating an “elephant walk” formation as they taxi down a runway at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. The Dec. 2 exercise showcased Kunsan AB aircrews’ capability to prepare aircraft quickly and safely for a wartime mission. The F-16s were fully fueled and armed but did not take off.

The 466th Squadron is temporarily assigned to Kunsan from Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

Please click on the photo to get a bigger image — and if you’d like to see a photo slideshow of this exercise, click here.

December 16, 2011 at 10:26 am Leave a comment

IRAQ: The (Not So) Long Goodbye

This Way Out

The war in Iraq is over — for now.

U.S. troops held the formal ceremonies today (Dec. 15) ending their presence in Iraq after almost nine years of battle, ambush, raid and roadside bombs.

“This is not the end,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in Baghdad Dec. 15,  “This is truly the beginning,” he added, reminding Iraqi leaders they have a “committed friend and committed partner.”

End of Mission ceremony in Baghdad. Defense Dept. photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

“Over the next few days, a small group of American soldiers will begin the final march out of Iraq,” said President Barack Obama, who made ending the war a campaign promise.

But there are plenty of critics in Iraq and the U.S. who think civil war could break out after all the U.S. troops leave because of sectarian/political violence.

“It is the end for Americans only,” a Iraqi newspaper columnist said recently, according to the New York Times. “Nobody know if the war will end for Iraqis, too,” he added.

By the numbers: more than 4,500 U.S. service members killed, another 30,000 were wounded. In all, the U.S. spend nearly $1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000) on the Iraq war.

Coalition forces lost more than 300 troops from countries like Britain, Italy, Poland, Spain, Ukraine and Denmark, . One can only guesstimate how many Iraqis died in the 2003 invasion and the subsequent orgy of sectarian violence and insurgency that swept the country to near-chaos in the mid 2000s. . Most sources place it at 100,000 or more.

The U.S. is packing up the last of its equipment — like the mine-protected vehicles pictured below. Scores of bases have been evacuated and turned over to the Iraqis.

Defense Dept. photo

In this picture, soldiers with the 68th Transportation Company perform maintenance checks on heavy equipment transportation trucks at a motor pool on Contingency Operating Base Adder. The unit loaded the trucks up with military equipment bound for Kuwait.

While some Americans — and certainly plenty of Iraqis — think its taken too long for Obama to unwind the Iraq operation, others like Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) think the total withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of the month is premature. McCain, who ran against Obama for the presidency and lost in 2008, thinks the U.S. departure opens the door for growing Iranian influence — especially among Iraq’s Shia Muslim minority.

December 15, 2011 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Iran Won’t Return Downed Drone

Finders Keepers

Not only is Iran refusing a U.S. request to return a downed unmanned spy plane, the Islamic Republic is demanding an apology from Washington for violating its airspace.

Photo: Islamic Republic News Agency

On Monday (Dec. 12) President Obama told reporters the U.S. had asked for the drone to be returned – as if. But it took only a day for officials in Tehran to say “نه” (No.) In fact, Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi was reported by Iranian media as saying the drone will remain in Iran “as part of its assets,” the New York Times reports.

Iran first announced that it had shot down the aircraft on Dec. 4, 140 miles inside its territory and identified it as an R-170 Sentinel, one of the newest and most secretive of U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Tehran later changed its story, saying it had brought the high-flying aircraft – not by missile strike or gunfire – but by hacking into the UAV’s control systems and forcing it to land. Iran broadcast video of what it said was a Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

In video and photographs made publuic last week, Tehran showed its captured prize although drapery covered the drone’s landing gear, so it was hard to tell if it was an actual RQ-170 or some sort of mockup created for publicity and propaganda purposes, as some observers claimed.

Meanwhile, Iran, still furious about the drone – said to have been flown out of Afghanistan to spy on Iranian nuclear weapons developments – is demanding an apology from Washington, saying that must happen before Tehran even considers giving the drone back.

Iran is now claiming it is in the final stages of deciphering the drone’s top secret radar-evading technology. According to news reports, Iranian officials say they are nearing completion of reverse engineering the unmanned aircraft to unlock its secret stealth technology. Iranian news organizations say Russian and Chinese officials have asked to inspect it.

However, the folks over at Aviation Week say the information Iran can glean from the downed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is minimal.

In video and photographs made public last week, Tehran showed its captured prize although drapery covered the drone’s landing gear, so it was hard to tell if it was an actual RQ-170 or some sort of mockup created for publicity and propaganda purposes, as some observers claimed.

Meanwhile, Tehran is complaining loudly about the violation of its airspace by a U.S. drone. The Afghan ambassador to Iran was summoned to the foreign ministry to hear complaints about Afghanistan’s part in the incident. The drone is believed to have been operated by the CIA out of an airbase in Afghanistan.  Iran also says it is going to the United Nations to complain about the incident.

Reports by the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press indicate the U.S. was considering a covert strike to destroy the drone and its high tech equipment.

December 13, 2011 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO Extra (Dec. 9. 2011)

The Boys of ’41, 70 Years On

U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Barker

Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011 marked the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. We thought we’d do something special to note the somber occasion.

Above is a color photo of some of the survivors of the attack by the Japanese Imperial Navy. It was the day Second World War came uninvited to the United States. These gentlemen were really just boys then, 17, 18, 19-years-old. Now they are very old men who have seen amazing things in their lifetime: the atomic age, jet air travel, television, 3D movies, mini skirts, men walking on the Moon, cell phones, laptop computers, 3D movies again and, unfortunately, several more wars. But nothing like the one that dropped in on them that sleepy Sunday morning seven decades ago on the island of Oahu when more than 2,400 people died.

Below is a black and white archival photo from that awful day. To see more photos from 1941, click here. To see more color photos of the 70th anniversary photos in Hawaii, click here.

U.S. Navy photo, National Archives collection

This photo show sailors rescuing a survivor from the water alongside the sunken battleship USS West Virginia during the Japanese air attack on the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.When the bombing and firing ceased, four U.S. battleships (the West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma and California) had been sunk, three more (Tennessee, Maryland and Pennsylvania) were damaged and another, the Nevada, was run aground. Two destroyers and one other ship were sunk. Three cruisers were damaged and another destroyer and 188 aircraft were destroyed. More than 100 others were damaged.

Military casualties were 2,402 killed (more than 1,100 of them on the Arizona) and 1,247 wounded. Fifty-seven civilians also were killed and 35 were wounded.

To read a poignant story about a 90-year-old Army Air Corps veteran who barely survived that day and then went on fly in a B-17 and get shot down during the Battle of Midway, click here.

If you want to read all the stories and see the photos from the Pearl Harbor commemoration ceremonies in Hawaii and elsewhere, click here.

December 10, 2011 at 12:42 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 9, 2011)

Practice Makes Perfect

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michael Petersheim)

Even when they’re at sea, the Marines have more than enough to keep busy. Here we see Marines  of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducting rifle movement drills below deck aboard the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), an amphibious  assault ship.  The 24th MEU is taking part in  Composite Training Unit Exercise 2011 scheduled to take place through Dec. 21.

The training is meant to develop cohesion between the 24th MEU and Amphibious Squadron 8 in conducting amphibious operations, crisis response and limited contingency operations while operating from the sea. These Marines are assigned to Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

December 9, 2011 at 8:08 pm Leave a comment

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