USS Constitution Celebrates More than Two Centuries of Service

USS Constitution — Old Ironsides Salutes Boston Harbor

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The crew of USS Constitution – the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world – celebrated the ship’s 211th birthday and recognized the performance of her Sailors Oct. 21.

More than 100 people attended the celebration, including her crew, staff members of the USS Constitution Museum and invited guests for the annual “Grog Ceremony” on her decks. The party also included a birthday cake and the presentation of the Berenson Award, the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts Leadership Award, and Millerick Award.

In his remarks, USS Constitution Commanding Officer Cmdr. William A. Bullard III spoke of the ship’s history, legacy and role in today’s Navy and world.

“More than 211 years ago today the Unites States Navy, in a very real sense, let down its anchor right here in Boston, and that anchor is this ship,” he said. “Without that anchor holding that chain to the ground, that ship will drift off and drift into danger. For 211 years this ship has been the Unites States Navy’s anchor. It has kept us grounded and rooted in our tradition and in our heritage that has made us great.”

In an active service career that spanned more than half a century, USS Constitution served in the Barbary Wars, Quasi-War with France, the War of 1812 and the African Slave Trade Patrol. She fought in 33 engagements and emerged victorious in each.

“Every Sailor alive today who served or who has served in the United States Navy traces his or her professional heritage right here to these decks. If not for this ship, many of us including our guests, would not be here in the nation that we know today,” Bullard said.

The Berenson Award is given annually to the junior crew member who best exemplifies the spirit and ideals of the ship’s crew during her sailing days and has consistently demonstrated the highest standards of conduct, loyalty and dedication to the pride of the ship.

During the ceremony, crew member Postal Clerk 3rd Class Karl Hendrickson received the award.

“Known for giving historically detailed and entertaining tours, he represented USS Constitution, as well as the Navy, proudly and professionally,” the award citation noted. “Postal Clerk 3rd Class Karl Hendrickson was consistently hand-selected to give tours to senior military officers and high-ranking government officials, instilling in them a sense of pride in our Navy, USS Constitution and our country.”

Master-At-Arms 1st Class(SW) Manoj Ram was named the 2008 recipient of the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts Leadership Award.

According to his citation, “Petty Officer Ram was chosen by his peers as the Sailor who consistently displayed the finest leadership qualities and earned the highest respect and trust of all crew members.”

The Millerick Award is presented annually to the National Historical Center, Detachment Boston (NHC Det. Boston) civilian worker who in the past year demonstrated a mastery of craftsmanship of American ship-building heritage. It recognizes his outstanding service to the preservation of USS Constitution.

This year’s recipient was John Hinckley, as voted by his peers at NHC Det. Boston.

“For my crew, for those of us who love USS Constitution so much, I charge you to keep this ceremony up, let’s not keep it a secret,” Bullard concluded. “Let’s make sure that the Navy, the city of Boston and the country indeed know that this is going on. This is far too important and far too significant of an event to be kept to ourselves.”

Brian M. Brooks (NNS)


November 24, 2008 at 3:43 am

Patton’s Third Army Turns 90

Naval Calendar 2009

Naval Calendar 2009

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Patton’s Own celebrated 90 years of service to the nation on Nov. 7, 2008. Third Army was formed and forged during the closing phases of WWI, just four days after the signing of the Armistice Agreement. Since then, it has been a vital part of the nation’s defense. During World War II, under the command of Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Third Army spearheaded the breakout from Normandy in 1944, driving across northern France, attacking the German flank during the epic Battle of the Bulge and fighting its way to penetrating Germany’s western defenses.

Since 1983, Third Army has served as the Army component of U.S. Central Command, with responsibility for operations in a 27-country area stretching across parts of Africa, Asia and the strategically vital Persian Gulf. Following 9/11, Third Army became the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) for the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the build up and attack into Iraq in 2003. After serving as the CFLCC for Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, with the establishment of Multi-National Forces Iraq, Third Army assumed primary responsibility for uninterrupted logistical support and combined joint reception, staging, and onward movement of coalition forces deploying to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa.

November 13, 2008 at 3:45 am

Warfare and Human Evolution: The Connection

New Scientist has an interesting article in the November issue. “How warfare shaped human evolution ” postulates that organized warfare is not the aberration we (would like to) think it is. Rather, it is literally in our genes — a part of who we are and have always been.
That’s the message from a conference held last month on the evolutionary origins of war at the University of Oregon. Read the full article at New Scientist. 

November 13, 2008 at 3:41 am

“Beach Jumpers”: SEAL Predecessors Hold Annual Reunion

Naval Special Operations

Naval Special Operations

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Beach jumper veterans from around the United States gathered at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado Nov. 7 for the 5th Annual Beach Jumpers Reunion.

Beach jumpers were U.S. Navy special warfare units in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, specializing in deception and psychological warfare, according to a former radioman who was part of the group.

“We were changed because we grew up with the experience of war,” said former Beach Jumpers Unit 1 member, Capt. Carl Kilhoffer.

It’s important to recognize beach jumpers, who quietly contributed to the security of our country, added Kilhoffer. “We knew the reality of severe injury and even death was a possibility for us. A possibility because we saw shipmates leave us forever.”

During the reunion, two wreaths were laid to honor beach jumper veterans who died serving their country in Vietnam.

“It hurts sometimes,” said James Franklin, former first class operations specialist and beach jumper, gazing at names engraved into the granite memorial. “It brings back a lot of memories. I know a lot of them on these plaques. It’s something that you won’t forget.”

“We were the unmentionables,” said Franklin. “We were in country (Vietnam) from ’64 to ’68 and it wasn’t supposed to be known. I had to prove to the [Veterans Administration] that I was overseas because the military has no record of our activity.”

Back then the beach jumpers were even more secretive than the U.S. Navy SEALs, added Franklin.

“We don’t get credit for what we did because we can’t talk about it,” he said. “But that was part of the game. We’re finding out now… we can talk about some of it, but we don’t know how much we can talk about so some of us are still tight-lipped.

“My kids didn’t even know what I was doing. My wife, before she died, would tell you that all she knew is that I wore camouflage makeup and stuff. She didn’t know what I did. She just knew I went overseas. It was hard for me.”

But they could get out anytime they wanted to, he said.

“It was strictly volunteer. You could say tomorrow I want out and…within 24-48 hours you were transferred out.”

“I think they deserve a lot more credit for what they did,” said Cryptologic Technician (Networks) 2nd Class Frank Mcanally, currently assigned to Navy Information Operations Command, San Diego, who served as an escort during the reunion. “The things that they did were great, and I applaud them for their actions.”

During the event, attendees viewed static photo displays, had lunch at Naval Air Station North Island and received a tour of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 41.

“I haven’t seen some of these guys in 40 years,” said Homer Ramsey, a former third class radioman and beach jumper. “It’s just great to reunite with them after all these years.”

Jason Zuidema (NNS)

November 13, 2008 at 3:31 am

Pathfinder Identifies Two Sunken Vessels During At-Sea Demonstration

Naval Calendar 2009

Naval Calendar 2009

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Military Sealift Command (MSC) oceanographic survey ship USNS Pathfinder (T-AGS 60) identified two sunken vessels during a joint, at-sea capabilities demonstration in Ukrainian territorial waters.

German coastal submarine U-18 was the first target the oceanographers identified using underwater video capabilities with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

The second ship is believed to be RUS Prut, a Russian minelayer that sank during World War I in 1914.

“The sea floor is a resting place for brave sailors, regardless of the country they come from,” said Dr. Serge A. Gulyar, head of the Underwater Physiology Department at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, who participated in the search.

The ship’s civilian oceanographers used equipment such as a side-scan sonar, multi-beam sonar and ROVs to locate the vessels. The sonars use sound pulses on the ocean’s floor to locate possible shipwrecks. The ROV is deployed underwater to verify the sonars’ findings.

“It was interesting using all of the state-of-the-art equipment,” said Gulyar. “As a physiologist, it was nice learning about all the technical parts of the underwater exploration.”

Civilian surveyors from the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO), a team of civilian oceanographers from the U.S.-base Institute of Exploration (IFE) and Ukrainian sailors, historians and surveyors headed the joint, at-sea demonstration.

“I am happy with the amount of work that we were able to accomplish during this survey,” said IFE Chief Scientist Katy Croff. “During this exploration we discovered many sonar targets that we hope to investigate and identify during future projects.”

MSC operates more than 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.

NAVOCEANO employs approximately 1,100 civilian, military and contract personnel and is responsible for providing oceanographic products and services to all elements within the U.S. Department of Defense.

Jenniffer Rivera (NNS)

October 9, 2008 at 2:38 am

MH-53s fly final combat missions

MH-53 Pave Low

MH-53 Pave Low

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Aircrews flew the remaining six MH-53 Pave Low helicopters on their last combat missions in support of special operations forces Sept. 27 in Southwest Asia.

The last mission, a SOF logistical resupply and passenger movement throughout central and southern Iraq, marks their last combat mission before the airframe retires after nearly 40 years in the Air Force inventory.

“We really feel like we are standing on the shoulders of giants,” said Lt. Col. Gene Becker, the 20th Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron commander and a MH-53 pilot of 13 years. “(We owe it to) the folks, who over the past 40 years, have built the capability of this aircraft and the mission. We were just the lucky ones to be here at the end.”

“We felt a great responsibility to close the MH-53’s remaining months in the Air Force in a professional, disciplined and safe manner,” he said. “At the end of the last mission, we felt like we achieved that goal. A goal, that we believe, was the best way to honor those (who contributed to) the last 40 years of this magnificent helicopter.”

HH-53s, with their unique special operations mission and capabilities, have played a vital role in several operations during a career spanning four decades. The MH-53 was the lead command and control helicopter during a raid of Son Tay prison camp in 1970, a mission linked to improving conditions for prisoners of war in North Vietnam.

Again, in 1990, MH-53s led the way for Army AH-64 Apaches during an airstrike, which opened the air war in Operation Desert Storm. And since March 2003, the MH-53 has played a crucial part in special operations missions supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The 20th ESOS MH-53 helicopters and their crews have provided much of the vertical lift, direct action and logistical resupply to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq.

According to Air Force Special Operations Command officials, the MH-53 costs too much to maintain, fly and keep in the fight because of its age. Although its flying safety record is good, it has reached the end of its service life.

“It is a bittersweet ending,” said Tech Sgt. Corey Fossbender, a 20th ESOS MH-53 aerial gunner and a crewmember on the lead helicopter during the final mission. “These birds have been around for so long. Our maintenance (teams) have basically been magicians keeping them in the air.”

Sergeant Fossbender, who has spent 13 of his 16-year career in the MH-53 community, said he will miss the camaraderie the helicopter crews shared the most.

“It wasn’t just a job, it was a brotherhood,” he said. “A legacy is going away. With all the history they have been apart of, it’s sad to see them go.”

The six-man MH-53 crew consists of two pilots, two flight engineers and two aerial gunners.

“Most of the MH-53 crewmembers will head to AFSOC’s new weapons systems like the CV-22 (Osprey), AC-130 (Gunship) … and (MQ-1) Predators,” Colonel Becker said. “Some will head over to Air Combat Command and fly the HH-60G (Pave Hawk), and a few will retire.”

Senior Master Sgt. Mark Pryor, the 20th ESOS superintendent, will retire after more than 28 years; half of which he served as a flight engineer on the PMH-53.

“I don’t think it has had an opportunity to sink in,” Sergeant Pryor said. “When I grabbed those throttles and pulled them off for the last time and realized this is the last time I will fly on the Pave Low and work with this group of guys, it was bittersweet. The MH-53s are retiring, and then I retire. It’s a perfect ending to a wonderful career.”

From Iraq, some of the MH-53s will become relics of the past when they become displays in Air Force museums. Others will go to the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

“As the Pave Low goes on to retire from combat today. She goes out, as she came in — the very best,” Colonel Becker said.

Andrea Thacker (AFNS)

October 9, 2008 at 2:33 am

Defense contributions help NASA’s 50-year legacy

As the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration celebrate its 50th anniversary this week, Defense Department personnel also can take a bow for the key role they have played in lending technology and expertise to NASA’s space exploration and research mission.

NASA began operations on Oct. 1, 1958, just a few days short of the one-year anniversary of the Soviet Union’s successful Sputnik I launch. Concerned about the race for technological superiority in space, U.S. officials debated long and hard over whether the space program should be placed under military or civilian control, historical documents show.

Ultimately, NASA was established as a new civilian agency that borrowed heavily from the Defense Department and other government organizations as it built its own capabilities.

One doesn’t have to look hard to see the deep connection between NASA and DOD, beginning with the astronaut program. In fact, President Dwight D. Eisenhower almost assured that connection when he decreed that all astronaut candidates be test pilots with college degrees.

All seven original astronauts — known as “The Mercury 7” because they were chosen for Project Mercury, the nation’s first manned space flight program — came from the military. Alan Shepard, Walter Schirra and Scott Carpenter were Navy aviators; Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Gordon Cooper and Donald “Deke” Slayton were Air Force pilots; and John Glenn flew in the Marine Corps.

The long list of military members who became “firsts” at NASA didn’t stop there. John Glenn, who flew 59 combat missions during World War II and another 63 during the Korean War before joining the Naval Air Test Center, made history at NASA as the first American to orbit Earth on Feb. 20, 1962.

Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, got his initial flight training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., in 1949 and 1950, then went on to fly 78 missions over Korea during the Korean War. His words as he stepped from the Apollo 11 lunar module on July 20, 1969 — “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” — are an indelible mark in NASA’s history.

Neil Armstrong’s fellow Apollo 11 crewmembers had deep military roots, too. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1951, before serving as an Air Force fighter pilot during the Korean War.

Michael Collins, who orbited the moon as Armstrong and Aldrin walked on its surface, also got his commission at West Point before joining the Air Force and receiving flight training at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.

Thirty years later, Eileen Collins — no relation to the Apollo 11 astronaut — made NASA history in 1999 aboard the Columbia as the first woman to command a space shuttle. An Air Force colonel, she graduated from Air Force undergraduate pilot training in 1979. She was attending Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., when NASA selected her for its astronaut program.

Military members have participated in NASA’s great triumphs as well as its deep tragedies, including the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters.

Four servicemembers were among the seven Challenger crewmembers killed when a fuel tank exploded 73 seconds after launch on Jan. 28, 1986. Michael J. Smith, the pilot, was a Navy captain; Francis Richard “Dick” Scobee and Ellison Onizuka were Air Force lieutenant colonels; and Gregory Jarvis was an Air Force captain.

Again, five U.S. military officers, as well as an Israeli officer, died when Columbia disintegrated over Texas as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on Feb. 1, 2003. That incident killed Navy Cmdr. William C. McCool, the pilot; Air Force Col. Rick D. Husband; Air Force Lt. Col. Michael P. Anderson; Navy Capt. David M. Brown and Navy Capt. Laurel Clark. Israeli Air Force Col. Ilan Ramon and Kalpana Chawla, the only civilian on the mission, also died.

But the connection between the military and NASA goes far beyond the astronaut program.

From its inception, NASA officials looked to the Defense Department and other interagency, academic, industry and international partners to build the agency’s capability, Roger D. Launius, curator for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, noted in an article written for NASA’s 50th anniversary magazine.

The military had been looking to space and the development of rocket technology and expertise since the closing days of World War II, Air Force Space Command officials noted. NASA officials were anxious to tap into this expertise, and quickly absorbed several ongoing military efforts into its organization. These included the space science group of the Naval Research Laboratory in Maryland that would form the core of the new Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. NASA officials also incorporated the Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed for the Army by specialists at the California Institute of Technology, and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Huntsville, Ala., where Wernher von Baun’s engineering team was developing large rockets.

Shortly after its formal organization, NASA specialists took over management of space exploration projects from other federal agencies, including the Air Force.

“These activities relied fully on the expertise and resources of the U.S. Air Force in seeing them to fruition,” Launius wrote.

One of NASA’s earliest borrowings from the military came in the form of launch vehicles originally developed to deliver nuclear weapons.

“Most of the launchers used by NASA during its formative years originated as military ballistic missiles,” Launius wrote. “It was, and remains, the fundamental technology necessary for civil space exploration, and it came largely from the military.”

Meanwhile, officials at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, another organization Eisenhower created in response to the Sputnik launch, have provided critical expertise that has benefited NASA throughout its 50-year history.

Defense Department officials stood up DARPA to find and quickly develop advanced technology for the military so the United States would never again suffer a technological surprise by another nation.

Initially, DARPA scientists and engineers concentrated on the first surveillance satellites that ensured U.S. presidents had accurate intelligence information on Russian missile program activities, historical records show. But DARPA experts advanced other space projects as well, developing the Saturn V rocket that ultimately enabled the United States to launch the Apollo missions to the moon.

As they observe its 50th anniversary, NASA personnel can look back on its many accomplishments that have brought mankind a better understanding of the solar system and universe. As they advanced this research, NASA scientists and engineers, like those in the military services and DARPA, have pushed the technological envelope in everything from weather forecasting to navigation to global communications.

Speaking at the recent NASA 50th anniversary gala, Neil Armstrong looked back on the agency’s history and its future.

“The goal is far more than just going faster, higher and further,” he said. “Our goal, indeed our responsibility, is to develop new options for future generations, options for expanding human knowledge, exploration, human settlement and resource development in the universe around us.”


October 9, 2008 at 2:25 am

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