Maintaining Trust of Our Sailors and Families Residing in Public Private Venture and Government Housing

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From Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith

Trust and confidence are the foundational bedrock upon which effective command rests. These principles are directly tied to our mission; if we lose the trust of our Sailors, Marines and their families, if they are disconnected or distracted, the entire team suffers. The Sailors and Marines in our care must be confident that when they bring a problem to their chain of command – preferably to their division officer and their division chief – their command leadership will advocate tirelessly on their behalf.

We are facing an urgent issue affecting not only the trust and confidence of our Sailors and their families, but also their health, safety and well-being. As we have discovered, in some cases the condition of our government and public private venture family housing aboard our installations is not where it should be. Our Sailors and their families deserve safe, quality living quarters and commands must advocate for our Sailors and their families. To that end, we are prioritizing efforts to better understand our Sailors’ living conditions in on-base government family and PPV housing, to ensure that as residents, they are provided with the quality of life they have earned and deserve.Our Sailors and their families deserve safe, quality living quarters and commands must advocate for our Sailors and their families.

What went wrong? The government role in the privatized partnership arrangement has become too passive, leaving the day-to-day operation of the housing program to the residents and the private partners. We need to re-engage, especially at the command level, to advocate for our Sailors. CNIC, with support from OPNAV and NAVFAC, is on the job, already engaged in actions that will increase oversight of the partners, introduce improved quality assurance of the housing operations, follow-up on issues, add feedback mechanisms after trouble calls are closed out, focus on improved customer service, and begin a robust series of resident engagements ranging from email and social media outreach, town halls, and home visits by invitation. These efforts will be supplemented by command action on behalf of our Sailors and their families: 100 percent contact with all of your Sailors to invite them to specifically share their housing situation, experiences and unresolved issues. They may choose to decline these conversations, and they must not be pushed or pressured. During these conversations, for those in PPV or government housing, commands will offer to visit their residence if they desire. But visit or not, 100 percent of PPV residents will be engaged by their chain of command to ensure we understand their situation.

No later than April 15, 2019, every Sailor residing in PPV or government housing will be afforded an opportunity for a visit from their command at their residence. The purpose of these visits is threefold:

  • to raise our Navy awareness of family living conditions
  • to personally observe any issues affecting the home and to understand any actions being taken to address them
  • if a problem is found, to help your Sailor and their family get the problem resolved. In short, the purpose of the visit is to be their advocate.

This is not an inspection program; visits are to be strictly voluntary, by invitation only, and executed in accordance with the process set forth below.

Every Sailor with a PPV or government residence will be personally asked by their division officer if they would like to schedule a time for a visit from leaders in their command, ideally their division chief and division officer, to put eyes on any problems that the Sailor and their family are experiencing. It will be made clear to the Sailor that allowing the visit is purely voluntary and there will be no negative ramifications should either the Sailor or the Sailor’s family member decline a visit. Sailors and families will have an opportunity to ask any questions about the visit. If Sailors and families agree to a visit, a two-person team, ideally the Sailor’s division officer and division chief, will conduct the home visit. During the visit, command leadership will discuss how any problems are being resolved. The discussion should include the Sailor and all other adult family members living in the residence, provided the family member desires to participate.

For officers in PPV or government housing desiring a visit, use a similar approach, with at least one of the visiting team being senior to that of the officer whose residence will be visited (e.g., the respective department head for a division officer).

Finally, the command will vigorously assist families to get problems fixed, using existing procedures. If the Sailor declines a visit, the division officer will offer to discuss any housing issues with the Sailor or their family members by phone. In taking these steps, we will enhance understanding between the command and each Sailor and their family.

... the command will vigorously assist families to get problems fixed ...

Each team will consist of officers and/or chief petty officers only. In general, the most appropriate approach will be visits conducted by division officers and divisional leading chief petty officers. The uniform for the visit will be determined by the unit commanding officer. A minimum of one day prior to the scheduled visit, the senior member of the visit team will call or meet with the Sailor (or adult family member, if deployed) to be visited in order to confirm the time and date of the home visit.

At the beginning of the visit, the purpose of the visit will be explained to both Sailor and family and any datasheet used to record the information gathered during the visit will be shown to both. It is important to note that these visits are not inspections; they are by invitation of the residents and specifically intended to allow residents to raise concerns. The Sailor and family may end the visit at any time and for any reason. If at any time during the visit, the team believes that the visit is unfolding in an unhelpful way, the team leader will end the visit and report back to the unit commander. Before departing the residence, the visit team will offer to address any issues raised during the visit and to commit to following up on the issue with the Sailor. For instances where a Sailor reveals issues in PPV or government housing but declines a visit, the command will assist the Sailor by contacting the installation commanding officer, executive officer, command master chief and housing director

Special considerations:

  • Be sensitive to privacy concerns. There may be Sailors and families who will feel a visit to their home is a violation of their privacy. We must respect this view. The goals and methods of home visitation must be presented in a positive manner to ensure families understand that the visits have been designed exclusively to ensure their health and safety and to promote their quality of life. Visits will only proceed with the informed consent of the Sailor (or adult family member living in the residence, if the Sailor is deployed). All commands will take measures to ensure that we build trust through this process.
  • There cannot be even the hint of retaliation or retribution. It should be the goal of every command that their Sailors bring these and other issues to their command leadership for resolution. Leadership, especially small unit leadership, should be eager to resolve these problems on behalf of their Sailors. These are often sensitive issues, often emotional, and each of us needs to adopt an attitude of seeking to understand and fix problems through frank and helpful conversations.
  • Leaders shall not attempt to be property managers, personal finance counselors or admin specialists. They need to stand side-by-side with the Sailor while engaging with the base CO and base housing office through existing processes if issues are raised.
  • For instances where a Sailor discloses issues with a private landlord not in PPV housing, you can help here too. Often, the best move is to direct the Sailor to meet with the local Region Legal Service Office who have legal assistance attorneys trained and experienced in local landlord-tenant law.

Unit commanders shall prepare implementation guidance required for visit teams from their command. Prior to beginning command visits, the cognizant staff judge advocate and/or offices of general counsel attorney shall be consulted.

No actions taken in support of this NAVADMIN shall replace business agreement manager responsibilities with regard to the ongoing execution of PPV operating agreements. Specifically, visit teams and commands shall not engage with PPV partners directly to ensure discrepancies are corrected. All necessary corrective actions shall be referred to installation commanders for action in accordance with existing approved procedures.

ISICs and TYCOMs shall ensure 100 percent of families of deployed commands are contacted and offered a visit. In all cases, visits shall be conducted no later than April 15.

Visits of residences aboard Army, Air Force and Marine Corps installations shall be recorded and issues referred from unit commanders to the respective host installation and passed as information to the appropriate regional commander area of responsibility.

CNIC and regional commands shall be available if requested to provide advice to installations and tenant commands on Family Housing policy, and associated legal concerns through April 15.

All home visitation records will be submitted to the designated representative of the unit commander, ISIC or TYCOM as appropriate.

Observations taken are not considered records for purposes of the Privacy Act, nor will the observations be made part of a system of records. However, all home visitation records will be handled and secured as if those records were personally identifiable information to protect the privacy of visited families.

All home visitation records will be destroyed no later than one year after the date of the home visit.

Observations recorded will not be used for the completion of evaluations and fitness reports.

CNIC is responsible for providing additional guidance and answering questions from commands in response to this NAVADMIN. Unit commanders shall address questions through host installations to the local regional commander prior to elevating issues and concerns to CNIC.

Unit commanders shall notify their chain of command when all Sailor-families have been contacted and when all visits are complete. Echelon Two commanders shall notify CNIC when 100 percent contact is achieved and when visits are complete. The master database for all PPV issues brought to leadership attention resides at the base housing office level, hence the importance of all issues being provided to the installation command and housing office team for tracking and is essential that we strengthen the bonds of trust and confidence with our Sailors and their families.

I realize this is an intrusive “ask” for a lot of folks who are already doing a lot of important work. However, it is essential that we strengthen the bonds of trust and confidence with our Sailors and their families. Let’s get to it.

Editor’s note: This blog was adapted from NAVADMIN 043/19 that was released Feb. 23, 2019.



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Maintaining Trust of Our Sailors and Families Residing in Public Private Venture and Government Housing

New Mark VI Patrol Boat Command Opportunities: Q&A

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From Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Public Affairs

Last year, U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) learned of two new and exciting opportunities in the Coastal Riverine Force. Junior SWOs on track to successfully complete their second division officer tours were notified of the opportunity to screen for command-at-sea billets serving in one of the Navy’s newest platforms, the Mark VI Patrol Boat. Following in the footsteps of the PT boats of World War II and the Riverines in Vietnam, SWOs now have a cutting edge platform and new opportunities for small unit leadership. Additionally, department heads requesting to screen for command early were notified of an opportunity to be slated to serve as a Mark VI company commander, commanding three of the boats. Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) Public Affairs Officer Cmdr. Cate Cook recently sat down with Capt. Stan Chien, commander, Coastal Riverine Group 1, and Lt. Cmdr. Tim Yuhas, the second tour department head and early command SWO detailer at Navy Personnel Command, to learn more about this opportunity in the Coastal Riverine Force.

Q1. Tell us more about this new opportunity and how it came to be.
A1. (Yuhas) In August of last year, Commander Naval Surface Forces announced the first opportunity for post-division officers and post-department heads to screen for command-at-sea billets as Mark VI Patrol Boat commanding officers and company commanders. These billets add to our early command inventory of Patrol Coastal Ships (PCs) and Mine Countermeasure Ships (MCMs) located around the World. The surface warfare community values command at sea – it’s the pinnacle of leadership – and for a talented group of board-screened junior officers they get to command as early as year five of commissioned service. Mark VI Companies are located in Little Creek, Virginia, and San Diego and deploy forward to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet Areas of Responsibility. The Mark VI Patrol Boat commanding officer (lieutenant command) will have a crew of 11 people and be responsible for operating the 84-foot craft. The company commander (lieutenant commander command) will deploy with their three craft and provide operational command and control of the Mark VI as well as provide administrative and materiel support. They can expect to get underway with their company for one to three day patrols as the boats expand the operational reach of the Mark VI.

(Chien) The command position was created because operation of the Mark VI requires dedicated, resourceful leadership to safely maintain and fight these advanced patrol craft. The Mark VI is transforming the Coastal Riverine Force through extended reach and increased combat power. Currently junior officers that are part of the Mark VI crews are very capable of operating the platform, but the command position was created to attract the top performers of the surface community needed to seize the initiative and lead the Mark VI program through the maturation process required to fully integrate into the Chief of Naval Operations’ (CNO) Maritime Design.

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. (February 2, 2018) Capt. Stan Chien, commander of Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1, speaks during a change of command ceremony held onboard Naval Outlying Landing Field Imperial Beach Feb. 8. The Coastal Riverine Force provides a core capability to defend designated high value assets throughout the green and blue-water environment and provides deployable adaptive force packages worldwide in integrated, joint and combined theaters of operations (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Boatswain’s Mate Nelson Doromal/Released)

Q2. Who is eligible?
A2. (Yuhas) This is a tremendous and rewarding opportunity that is open to the best and most fully qualified officers. The screening for lieutenant commander command (Mark VI company commander, PCs, and MCMs) remains unchanged – in fact, the screening board does not define who is screened to which assignment; slating is a function of the officer’s timing, preferences and needs of the Navy.
Division officers who wish to apply for Mark VI Patrol Boat commanding officers must meet the following requirements:
a) Attain formal designation letter as a SWO
b) Serve at least 36 months in a ship
c) Complete at least one deployment
d) Complete Basic Division Officer Course
e) Complete Advanced Division Officer Course (nuclear-qualified officers exempt)
f) Earn their Engineering Officer of the Watch qualification
g) Demonstrate sustained skills in shiphandling and seamanship while assigned to their ship
h) Screen for department head
i) Complete the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command screening

Q3. Some SWOs are unfamiliar with the Mark VI. What can you tell us about this platform?
A3. (Chien) Mark VI patrol boats are the newest platform in Navy Expeditionary Combat Command’s inventory. Eighty-four ft. in length, the Mark VI is a highly capable platform whose primary mission is to provide capability to persistently patrol littoral areas beyond sheltered harbors and bays for the purpose of force protection for friendly and coalition forces and critical infrastructure. Missions include security force assistance, high value unit shipping escort, visit board search and seizure support operations, and theater security cooperation. Crew sizes are small at maximum of 12 personnel, affording an opportunity at small unit leadership not found elsewhere in the Surface Warfare community, coupled with a strong sense of camaraderie. The crew consists of two full watch teams, each with a patrol officer, boat captain, coxswain, engineer/gunner, navigator and communicator/gunner.

Q4. When looking at what might be called the “traditional” career track of a SWO, the opportunity to command a Mark VI comes after a SWO’s second division officer tour at sea – a time when many SWOs are assigned a shore tour. What would you say to an officer who is hesitant to follow their second division officer tour with another tour at sea?
A4. (Chien) This new opportunity is not going to be for everyone – but if you are someone who thrives at sea and in leadership positions, we would consider it a privilege to have you join our team in the Coastal Riverine Force. The platform provides a unique opportunity to experience a small, tight knit community that integrates with other Navy units such as Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). Your experience in the “blue water” fleet will contribute significantly to the design of future mission sets realizing the full capability of these outstanding boats.

(Yuhas) Every situation is different – as such, Division Officers approaching the end of their 2nd DIVO tour need to assess their personal and professional goals. From the professional standpoint – you are correct – one can expect to leave their 2nd DIVO tour – spend approximately six months in their training pipeline before reporting to their craft. They will go through workups and should expect to have two deployments over the two year window they will be in Command. Our community has always valued “WUK” – water under the keel – there’s only one way to get WUK and that is at sea! I had a great friend and phenomenal SWO once say to me “Experience comes only after you need it” and it is the truth! You must build your experience base to become – more experienced! Why wouldn’t you want to start that as early as possible? By putting your name in the hat and being screened for early command – whether that is lieutenant or lieutenant commander command – you’ve signaled your intent and so has the Navy by trusting in you to lead our future. As that leader you will ensure our combat readiness and the solemn stewardship of our nation’s most prized possession – its sons and daughters. Who wouldn’t be humbled and honored by such an opportunity?

Q5. What are the professional and personal benefits of requesting to screen for Mark VI Patrol Boat Command? Will this tour make SWOs more competitive than their peers when it comes to future screening and promotion boards?
A5. (Chien) As any SWO knows, look for opportunities to lead early and often if you want to break out from the pack. The Mark VI Patrol Boat commanding officer tours are going to be extremely challenging but rewarding – there is no better place to hone your leadership and shiphandling skills while leading a dedicated team of Sailors than in the Coastal Riverine Force on one of the Navy’s newest platforms. The Surface community has generally rewarded those officers who command early with additional opportunities at the O-5 and O-6 level… and we expect to see the same thing for our Mark VI early command officers.

(Yuhas) When it comes to future promotion and screening boards, PERS-41 is working to ensure precepts are updated to clearly articulate to a board the value of Mark VI Command. We believe that an officer who has been screened by community leadership and successfully completes Command will be very competitive at any screening board. Further it’s worth noting that in a case where an officer screens but is not slated, that officer’s records will be updated with an early command screening code. That officer should also make sure that the words “SCREENED FOR LT COMMAND” are at the top of every FITREP that follows until they are screened for the next higher milestone. There are two reasons why an officer might be screened but not slated: their career timing and billet availability. If this happens it is not considered a negative reflection of that officer’s record, nor is there any indication of non-selection in the officer’s official record. By applying for Early Command, your record will get a hard look by some of our community’s strongest leaders. These are the same people who sit on commander command boards, etc. – it’s a free look to see how you are doing!

GUAM (April 6, 2017) A MK VI patrol boat, assigned to Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1 Detachment Guam, maneuvers off the coast of Guam April 6, 2017. CRG 1 Detachment Guam is assigned to Commander, Task Force 75, which is the primary expeditionary task force responsible for the planning and execution of coastal riverine operations, explosive ordnance disposal, mobile diving and salvage, engineering and construction, and underwater construction in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alfred A. Coffield)

Q6. Aside from individual benefits, how will the Surface Warfare Community benefit overall from this initiative?
A6. (Chien) The surface warfare community will see real dividends from this early command opportunity. The junior officers selected to command Mark VI Patrol Boats will have a tremendous opportunity to mature their leadership, tactical and shiphandling skills throughout their tour with the Coastal Riverine Force. As these men and women grow in their Navy careers and advance to positions at sea with more responsibility, the skills they honed in the Mark VI will enhance the operational effectiveness of any ship in which they serve.

Q7. What kind of officer is the Coastal Riverine Force looking for to command its Mark VI patrol boats and companies?
A7. (Chien) For both the company and patrol boat command positions, we’re looking for bold, innovative and tactically-astute officers who are comfortable in positions of great authority and responsibility. The crews are small, so we need officers who can build a cohesive bond with and among the crew. Most importantly, and in keeping with the CNO’s focus upon toughness, we need officers who can fight and win with this incredible new patrol boat. The Coastal Riverine Force is professional group of Sailors with a unique mission spanning a variety of missions not found in any other communities. Coastal Riverine sailors will deploy to various locations throughout the world, in unit sizes ranging from five sailors to over 200, fulfilling the missions of embarked security teams, aircraft security teams, port and maritime infrastructure security, landside security, high value unit escorts and overt unmanned aerial systems surveillance missions.

Q8. What is a typical tour like?
A8. (Chien) Mark VI Patrol Boat tours will be 24 months in lengths and located in Little Creek and San Diego. Mark VI crew members should expect to deploy for seven out of every 18 months to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operations. Deployments to 5th fleet will be to Bahrain where Mark VI’s conduct exercises and operations with the Explosive Ordnance Disposal community and Joint units, provide High Value Unit escorts, maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions, littoral patrols, and support to maritime interdiction operations. Deployments to 7th fleet vary significantly from 5th fleet due to the geography of the Pacific. Mark VI deployments initiate from Guam and the main effort will be to expand the range and capabilities of the Patrol Boat to participate in Theater Security Cooperation efforts.

Q9. What does the training pipeline look like for the new Mark VI Patrol Boat Commanding Officer position?
A9.  (Yuhas) Slated Mark VI commanding officers can expect to go to the Surface Warfare Officers School for a portion of the Surface Commanders Course (SCC) – take a revised command assessment, attend Command Leadership School at The Naval Leadership and Ethics Center, also in Newport, and then proceed to NECC for follow-on training in order to give them the foundation they need to be successful. For those slated to lieutenant commander command, the pipeline will look much the same as it currently is: senior officer legal, command leadership, SCC, Shipride, TYCOM Indoctrination, command assessment (as needed) and NECC training (as appropriate). The pipeline for Mark VI commanding officers will generally take six months. Company commander training may take a little longer based on course availability.

Q10. If you could go back in time to the days when you were a Lieutenant, would you have pursued the opportunity to command a Mark VI patrol boat? If so, why?
A10. (Chien) Without hesitation. Trailblazers who compete for these positions have the opportunity to join an exclusive club comprised of some the Navy’s most respected leaders who also cut their teeth leading small, fast boats at sea. Just look at President John F. Kennedy and Adm. John D. Bulkeley…no one can deny the legacy they created in their leadership of small boat crews as Navy lieutenants during World War II. This is an incredible opportunity for a young officer and I would have considered it an honor and a privilege to have been given the chance to lead a small boat crew at sea.

(Yuhas) I wish it was available when I was leaving my DIVO tours! Command of a PC was challenging and yet the most rewarding tour I have had in the Navy so far. How awesome would it be to drive and lead a crew of Sailors in today’s version of a PT boat!

Q11. What should a DIVO and SWO do if they’re interested?
A11. (Yuhas) The first step is meeting all the prerequisites we discussed earlier – once you meet them please reach out to me so I can send you some templates for the Command Board that you will need to complete as well as the letters you need to get which will clear your way for the Early Command Board. The board is held semi-annually in June and November. I’m standing by to help get you into command – please send me an email ( or give me a call and we can talk (901.874.3485)!

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (Feb. 14, 2018) Lt. Cmdr. Tim Yuhas poses for an environmental portrait in his office at Navy Personnel Command at Naval Support Activity Mid-South. Yuhas details board-screened Early Command officers to MK VI, Mine Countermeasure and Costal Patrol Ships around the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matthew Riggs/Released)



See the original article here:

New Mark VI Patrol Boat Command Opportunities: Q&A

Armed with Science Saturday: Space Matters


When someone asks you if you want to go see a rocket launch, what else can you say except ABSOLUTELY.

Graphic: Artist’s rendering of Orbital’s Antares medium- class space launch vehicle. (graphic by Orbital Sciences)

Artist’s rendering of Orbital’s Antares medium-
class space launch vehicle. (graphic by Orbital Sciences)

Which, incidentally, is exactly how I responded when I was given the opportunity to get a (reasonably distanced) front row seat to the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket launch at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

As many of might already have noticed, space is sort of a big deal to me.  The chance to reach out and touch the stars.  To be a part of something greater than the world in which we’re tethered.  To move forward as a species.

Now that’s something I want to be a part of, and the Antares rocket launch was a way to make that happen.

So why is the Antares rocket such a big deal, you ask? Let’s break it down.

First of all, it’s a rocket.  Rocket = big deal.

This is no ordinary rocket.  This is one in a series of rockets that are being used – quite fiscally responsibly, I might add – to push the human race out of lower Earth orbit and into the Solar System.

Antares is a two stage vehicle, with optional third stage, that provides low-Earth orbit (LEO) launch capability for payloads weighing over 5,000 kg.

Antares is one of 10 projects with the same point and purpose: risk-reduction missions designed for easy resupply services to the International Space Station.  It has the added benefit of delivering substantial payloads into a variety of low inclination, low-Earth, sun-synchronous and interplanetary trajectories.

It has streamlined vehicle/payload integration and testing via simplified interfaces to reduce time from encapsulation to lift-off.

It can also accommodate major payloads, so it can carry more things than the average rocket might.  It’s also capable of launching single and multiple payloads.

So I guess you could say it’s a multi-tasking rocket.

Phil McAlister, NASA Commercial Spaceflight Division director says, emphatically, that the American aerospace industry is not on the decline, but rather it’s on the rise.

“There’s a lot of anxiety about America’s place in space and whether we can still do things in space that we want to do,” he says.  “I think [the Antares rocket] represents another step in that capability.”

And speaking of capability…

It’s low-cost, reliable access to space.

Let’s take a look at the statistics.  The Antares is a medium-class space launch vehicle designed by Orbital Sciences in conjunction with NASA.  It’s designed to provide responsive, low-cost and reliable access to space.

Getting ready to head to the launch pad, the Antares rocket hangs out with my new friend Larry long enough to snap a pic.

Getting ready to head to the launch pad, the Antares rocket hangs out with my new friend Larry long enough to snap a pic.

Getting ready to head to the launch pad, the Antares rocket hangs out with my new friend Larry long enough to snap a pic.

It’s liquid oxygen/kerosene fueled, so it incorporates both solid and liquid stages and flight-proven technologies to meet medium-class mission requirements.

According to Orbital, “These proven launch technologies, along with hardware from one of the world’s leading launch vehicle integrators, combine to provide cost-effective access to a variety of orbits for civil, commercial and military medium-class payloads.”

Basically, this is a cheaper way to get things into space.

Budgets are a big thing on people’s minds these days, and there’s no wonder.  It’s hard to balance the pursuit of space exploration and scientific innovation on a tighter budget, but thanks  to rockets like these, we have the opportunity to just that for a fraction of the cost.

Going green doesn’t just mean recycling your water bottles.

Mike Laidley is the Deputy Director for Antares for Orbital Sciences, and he says that the rockets are being built with a responsible budget in mind.  Some parts are even being used from other missions, re-purposed for the sake of fiscal responsibility, and even just common sense. Use what you already have is a good strategy when it comes to being efficient and affordable in many cases.

Rockets are really no exception.

“It’s certainly good to take an asset like an old ICBM and turn it into something productive, rather than just having it destroyed,” he explains.

The Department of Defense has a part of humanity’s space mission.

If you think the Department of Defense doesn’t have a hand in protecting our friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) skies then you would be wrong.  The DoD is involved in the space program in more ways than you would think.  From the science and engineering that goes into the equipment, to working on satellites and ballistic missiles, even laser technology, the Defense Department is an active participant in shaping the technological future.

The military in particular could benefit when it comes to having a leg (or booster) up in the area of aerospace.  However, the focus isn’t just on space.

“We have a number of strategic programs,” says Hal C Murdock, the ATK Director of Strategy and Business Development.  He’s also a former Navy pilot, so Hal has a personal interest when it comes to supporting our military forces.  He currently works in the defense and commercial department of the Aerospace group.  Hal explained that the relationship ATK has with Orbital Sciences Corporation (the Antares rocket-maker) and the Department of Defense matters not just to the aerospace industry, but also to our country’s defense.

“The most prominent of those [programs] is the Trident II D5 submarine launch ballistic missile program,” Hal explains.  “We produce all three solid rocket motor stages for the D5.  We also produced all three stages for the minuteman 3 solid rocket motor propulsion system for that strategic system.”

This is all very important for the strategic defense of our country, Hal says.  “We are also involved in missile defense.  A number of areas within ATK support the Missile Defense Agency.  We produce all three stages of the ground based, mid-core defense missile system.”

Currently, Hal tells me, they are working on a program called the large class stage for the Air Force.

“We’re getting ready to do a static fire, and what that means is that you put the rocket motor in a test stand.  Then we ignite it and test it on the ground before it would ever fly.  So for this program we have the first stage – the test stage for the large class stage.”

Now when you think about what’s large and what’s small, it might be a little skewed when you’re talking about rockets.  When we talk about large class stage we’re talking about a 92 inch diameter rocket motor.  It’s very big.  The first stage is over 100,000 pounds.

“It weighs a lot,” Hal aptly points out.  “So the Air Force, though a development program called the propulsion applications program, asked us to design and test a first stage and a third stage for this system.  So we’re going to be testing that in May.  So that’s one of the things we’re exercising; the capabilities of the company, all the way from preliminary design through propellant formulation and winding and casting the solid rocket motors.  It’s very exciting for us and it’s hopefully very exciting for the Air Force.”

But the coolest part about this has to be this bit:

A rocket like this one is going to the moon this summer.

Yeah, that’s right.  We’re going back to the moon.  Well, we’re sending rockets back to the moon.  Orbital is working on a high energy space launch vehicle known as the Minotaur V.

Photo: Minotaur V provides cost-effective support of small GEO and lunar missions. (Source: Orbital Sciences)

Minotaur V provides cost-effective support of small GEO and lunar missions. (Source: Orbital Sciences)

The Minotaur V (provided by the same people who brought us the Antares rocket) is a five stage evolutionary version of the Minotaur IV space launch vehicle (SLV) to provide a cost-effective capability to launch U.S. Government-sponsored small aircraft into high energy trajectories, including Geosynchronous Transfer Orbits (GTO) as well as translunar and beyond!

Translunar is a cool way of saying back and forth to the moon.  Now, I know there’s been a lot of “why haven’t we returned to the lunar surface in a while?” questions circling the internet (although I paraphrase, as Y U NO GO MOON is a little less loquacious).  Well the Minotaur plans to rectify that situation.  So when is this rocket supposed to be gracing the moon with its presence?

Sources say sometime later this year, as a matter of fact.

NASA has awarded a contract to the Orbital Sciences Corporation, managed by the Air Force’s Space Development and Test Wing (SDTW), to use a Minotaur V to launch the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) Mission from the Wallops Island, Virginia (in late 2013). The Minotaur will launch the LADEE spacecraft into a highly elliptic orbit where it can phase and time its trajectory burn to the moon.

The Minotaur family of rockets are provided by Orbital Sciences and managed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Space Development and Test Directorate Launch Systems Division located at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico.

Welcome to (what I believe is) the next generation of space exploration.  I cannot wait to see what we can accomplish.

This is just the start of what presumes to be a more fluid and effective transition from planet-to-solar system transitions that our space program has in store.  As I mentioned in a previous story of mine, there are some plans in place that look as far as a billion years out when it comes to space.  We still have a long way to go before Star Fleet Academy is seen in San Francisco, but I think Phil McAlister said it best:

(Graphic by Jessica L. Tozer)

(Graphic by Jessica L. Tozer)

Because when it comes down to it…


“This should not be NASA’s story.  This should be your story.  Told by you.” – Charles F. Bolden, Jr, NASA Administrator

And you know what?  He’s right.  This isn’t about watching a rocket leave the earth.  It’s about watching science in action.  It’s about moving forward as a species.

Stephen Hawking said, “I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I’m an optimist. We will reach out to the stars.”

I’m an optimist, too.

This is about moving toward more advanced space travel capabilities, mighty defense systems and furthering our understanding of life, the universe and everything (beyond knowing the answer is 42, of course).  And that, my friends, is what makes this amazing science journey well worth it.

To the stars and beyond, Antares rocket.  We’re right behind you.

Jessica L. Tozer is a blogger for DoDLive and Armed With Science.  She is an Army veteran and an avid science fiction fan, both of which contribute to her enthusiasm for technology in the military.


Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DoD website.

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War Dogs


Photo: U.S. Air Force SGT David J. Filchak the handler for Turbo, a military working dog and beagle, inspect a car for narcotics.  Turbo is a narcotics detecting working dog for the base and has been right 95 percent of the time.

U.S. Air Force SGT David J. Filchak the handler for Turbo, a military working dog and beagle, inspect a car for narcotics. Turbo is a narcotics detecting working dog for the base and has been right 95 percent of the time.

Story by Brittany Brown
Edited by MC2 Bryan Niegel

Have you ever wondered when or how military working dogs became what they are today? As a dog owner and lover I have always been fascinated by working dogs and how well trained and obedient they are. It is hard enough to get my dog to listen when I call her name or to stop her from chasing a squirrel up a tree. I always wonder, How do the trainers get them to behave so well? And how do the whole program got started in the first place.

Dogs have been associated with the U.S. Army since its inception, but their role was primarily that of a mascot or in some other unofficial capacity. Not until World War II did the Army make the connection official. In January 1942, members of the American Kennel Club and other dog lovers formed a civilian organization called Dogs for Defense. They intended to train dogs to perform sentry duty for the Army along the coast of the United States. Aware of this effort, Lt. Col. Clifford C. Smith, chief of the Plant Protection Branch, Inspection Division, Quartermaster Corps, met with his commander, Maj. Gen. Edmund B. Gregory, and suggested that the Army use the sentry dogs at supply depots. Gregory gave his approval to an experimental program, and on March 13, 1942, Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson approved Gregory’s application and created the K-9 Corps.

Controlled aggression exercise

Master-at-Arms Seaman Apprentice Randy Tallman, assigned to Commander, Navy Region Southwest, acts as a military working dog moving target during a controlled aggression exercise Jan. 10, 2013 in San Diego. The exercises are conducted to train the dogs in subduing noncompliant suspects. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mark El-Rayes

Check out these facts about the K-9 Corps and military dogs:

    • The K-9 Corps initially accepted for training thirty-two breeds of dogs. By 1944, that list had been reduced to seven: German shepherds, Doberman pinschers, Belgian sheep dogs, Siberian huskies, farm collies, Eskimo dogs and Malamutes.
    • The Quartermaster Corps experimented with training dogs to locate casualties on the battlefield. Dogs were first tested for this at Carlisle Barracks on May 4, 1944. Ultimately, the Army abandoned this program because the dogs did not or could not make a distinction between men not wounded, men who had received wounds, or men who had died.
    • Well over a million dogs served on both sides during World War I, carrying messages along the complex network of trenches and providing some measure of psychological comfort to the Soldiers. The most famous dog to emerge from the war was Rin Tin Tin, an abandoned puppy of German war dogs found in France in 1918 and taken to the United States, where he made his film debut in the 1922 silent film The Man from Hell’s River.
Photo: U.S. Navy Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Christopher Coolahan and Military Working Dog Meky, assigned to Camp Lemonnier Base Security, participate in controlled training exercises at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Jan. 30, 2013. Military Working Dogs are used to apprehend suspects, perform searches, and detect explosives and narcotics. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Nick Strocchia

U.S. Navy Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Christopher Coolahan and Military Working Dog Meky, assigned to Camp Lemonnier Base Security, participate in controlled training exercises at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Jan. 30, 2013. Military Working Dogs are used to apprehend suspects, perform searches, and detect explosives and narcotics. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Nick Strocchia

  • The top canine hero of World War II was Chips, a German Shepherd who served with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division. Trained as a sentry dog, Chips broke away from his handlers and attacked an enemy machine gun nest in Italy, forcing the entire crew to surrender. The wounded Chips was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and the Purple Heart–all of which were later revoked due to an Army policy preventing official commendation of animals. 
  • After World War II, the Military Police Corps took over responsibility for training military dogs. They have continued to serve with distinction in other conflicts.
  • It is estimated that the Army employed 1,500 dogs during the Korean War and 4,000 in the Vietnam War.
  • Gabe, a retired military dog who completed more than 200 combat missions in Iraq, was namedAmerican Hero Dog of 2012 at the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards in Los Angeles.
  • Every military working dog is a non-commissioned officer – in tradition at least. Some say the custom was to prevent handlers from mistreating their dogs; hence, a dog is always one rank higher than its handler.
Photo: Paris, a coalition force military working dog gets ready to attend a transition shura in Khak-E-Safed district, Farah province, Afghanistan, Feb. 23, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau

Paris, a coalition force military working dog gets ready to attend a transition shura in Khak-E-Safed district, Farah province, Afghanistan, Feb. 23, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau


Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DoD website.

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War Dogs