Tripoli: Then and Now

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By Capt. Kevin P. Meyers
Commanding officer, PCU Tripoli

Having just passed the 30-year mark of service to this great Navy, I have seen quite a bit of history and experienced many memorable events. There are moments which give you pause, due to their timelessness and their place in our Navy’s heritage. The christening of a ship, for me, is one of them.

I recently had the honor to attend the christening of the future USS Tripoli (LHA 7) in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Tripoli’s sponsor, Lynne Mabus, wife of our 75th Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, deftly shattered the bottle of sparkling wine across the ship’s bow. Those in attendance or who watched the video of the event know that was a “home run” swing if there ever was one.

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (Sept. 16, 2017) Ship's sponsor Lynne Mabus, smashes a bottle of sparkling wine against the bow of the future amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA 7) during the ship's christening ceremony. Also pictured, left to right, are Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss.; Capt. Kevin Meyers, Tripoli's prospective commanding officer; acting Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Dee; Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias; and former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy Huntington Ingalls Industries by Lance Davis/Released)
PASCAGOULA, Miss. (Sept. 16, 2017) Ship’s sponsor Lynne Mabus, smashes a bottle of sparkling wine against the bow of the future amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA 7) during the ship’s christening ceremony. Also pictured, left to right, are Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss.; Capt. Kevin Meyers, Tripoli’s prospective commanding officer; acting Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Dee; Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias; and former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy Huntington Ingalls Industries by Lance Davis/Released)
PASCAGOULA, Miss. (May 1, 2017) The future USS Tripoli (LHA 7) is launched at Huntington Ingalls Industries. Tripoli was successfully launched after the dry-dock was flooded to allow it to float off for the first time. Tripoli incorporates an enlarged hangar deck, enhanced maintenance facilities, increased fuel capacity and additional storerooms to provide the fleet with a platform optimized for aviation capabilities. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
PASCAGOULA, Miss. (May 1, 2017) The future USS Tripoli (LHA 7) is launched at Huntington Ingalls Industries. Tripoli was successfully launched after the dry-dock was flooded to allow it to float off for the first time. Tripoli incorporates an enlarged hangar deck, enhanced maintenance facilities, increased fuel capacity and additional storerooms to provide the fleet with a platform optimized for aviation capabilities. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The Sailor in me is filled with a range of emotions; I feel all at once humbled, proud and excited. I am humbled by the sheer magnitude of this 45,000-ton mighty warship, proud beyond measure to be her first commanding officer and lead this amazing crew, and excited at our future endeavors.

During time-honored traditions like a ship’s christening, the best way to appreciate what the future holds is to fully appreciate where the past has brought us.

As a student of history, the comments by Vice Adm. Walter E. “Ted” Carter, 62nd superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, in his remarks at christening were enlightening. He spoke fondly of the Tripoli Monument, which now sits on the grounds of the Naval Academy.

For a bit of context, the ship’s name, Tripoli, harkens back to our nation’s first foreign conflict, the War with the Barbary Pirates. In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson dispatched ships instead of paying tribute and our nation’s flag was raised on foreign soil for the first time. The Marine Corps Hymn celebrates the bravery of our early Marines with the line “To the shores of Tripoli.” LHA-7, the future USS Tripoli, will be the third to bear the name.

The Tripoli Monument, I learned, is actually our nation’s oldest military monument. Carved in Livorno, Italy, in 1806 to honor the heroes of that war, it was brought to the United States aboard USS Constitution. Its first home was the Washington Navy Yard, where it sustained damage there during the War of 1812. It was then moved to the west front terrace of the U.S. Capitol, facing the National Mall in 1831, and stood there until 1860 when it was moved to the Naval Academy.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Sept. 15, 2017) The Tripoli Monument is pictured at the U.S. Naval Academy (U.S. Navy courtesy photo/Released)
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Sept. 15, 2017) The Tripoli Monument is pictured at the U.S. Naval Academy (U.S. Navy courtesy photo/Released)

As I reflect on the christening of LHA-7 Tripoli and the Tripoli monument, I find it an interesting juxtaposition. The monument—with its column, sculptures and mass of stone—resting stoically on the Naval Academy campus the last 157 years and the enormous mass of steel – Tripoli. The Tripoli Monument honors the brave men who fought our Nation’s first war centuries ago, I trust the Sailors and Marines who serve aboard Tripoli will continue to honor their forbearers. What a proud day for our Navy and our nation!


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Tripoli: Then and Now

Reserve F-16 Pilot Helps Squelch Wildfires Across West

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A small and maneuverable Beech King Air, like the one flown by Lt. Col. Paul Delmonte while on the job with the U.S. Forest Service, pulls away after leading a tanker to a retardant drop spot over a wildfire. During peak fire season, May to October, forest service lead plane pilots can assist in putting out as many as 60 fires. (Courtesy photo)

By Kari Tilton
419th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Air Force Reserve F-16 pilot Lt. Col. Paul “Buster” Delmonte flies several types of aircraft as part of his full-time civilian job, but instead of dropping bombs he delivers an entirely different kind of weapon.

Delmonte, the 466th Fighter Squadron commander, is an aerial firefighter and aviation safety manager with the U.S. Forest Service. Between May and October each year, he flies above fiery mountain ranges to drop smokejumpers and direct the delivery of fire retardant.

He’s currently in Durango, Colo. with more than 1,400 forest service personnel to extinguish the West Fork Complex Fire, which as of today has consumed more than 83,000 acres. He’s also working alongside Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard aircrews deployed there with specially equipped C-130s that are dropping thousands of gallons of retardant on the blazing wilderness area.

Just like flying in a combat zone, conditions above wildfires are often rough and the drop zones are always challenging.

“Typically, we drop the smokejumpers over tight clearings in the forest canopy,” Delmonte said. “It takes about 30 minutes to empty the plane and it can be challenging to maneuver through narrow canyons while steering clear of trees and other obstacles.”

“If the fire is big, often times smoke combined with the angle of the sun will make it extremely difficult to see,” he added.

When transporting smokejumpers, Delmonte flies either a DHC-6 or DC3-TP aircraft. Both are known for their ability to fly at slow speeds and in tight circles. The smokejumpers jump from the aircraft, parachuting into rugged terrain to reach areas that are hard to access by road.

When fire retardant is the weapon of choice, Delmonte flies as “lead plane” in a Beech King Air, a smaller, highly maneuverable aircraft. His role is to orchestrate the location and timing for large forest service tankers to drop the retardant, foam or water.

“We have a smoke generator onboard – similar to airshow aircraft – so we can mark the start point and designate the best course for the tankers,” Delmonte said. “Piloting the lead plane is much like being an F-16 FAC-A (forward air control – airborne). I get the objectives and priorities from the ground incident commander and then go to work sequencing other aircraft over the target.”

The forest service can send Delmonte anywhere in the U.S., but he typically covers hot spots in the western U.S. like New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Montana and California where wildfires are most common in the hot, dry summer months.

During a busy season, a lead plane pilot can assist in putting out as many as 60 fires, he said. So far this year, he’s been called to New Mexico, California, Idaho and Colorado.

But with weather reports calling for a record-setting heat wave across the western U.S. this weekend, things are likely just warming up.

“I expect I’ll get busier real soon, as July and August are typically our biggest months,” he said.

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Reserve F-16 Pilot Helps Squelch Wildfires Across West

National Park Week (Military Pass)

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It’s almost here…

Did you know that National Park Week is April 20-28, 2013?

Did you know that there are 401 national parks? That they include seashores, battlefields, historic homes, archaeological sites, and spectacular natural areas?

Did you know there is at least one national park in every state?

Did you know that 99 percent of counties in America have recreational facilities such as playgrounds and trails funded by the National Park Service’s Land & Water Conservation Fund?

So, if you are looking for something fun and fantastic to do with family and friends, head out to America’s national parks where millions of stars light up the dark night sky, deer and antelope (and a few other critters!) play on the wide open range, and history is an unbelievable experience, not an exam.

The National Park Service is proud to once again join with the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, to present National Park Week, a presidential-proclaimed celebration of our national heritage.

Be sure to pick up your free military pass to national parks! For more information, check this out:


Video provided by the National Park Service YouTube Channel

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Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in Afghanistan

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Story by Sgt. Ashley Bell

Photo: A message on sexual assault awareness prevention appears on the back of a T-shirt worn by a participant in the 5K Run/Walk during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month at Kandahar Airfield in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, April 1, 2013. The goal of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ashley Bell.

A message on sexual assault awareness prevention appears on the back of a T-shirt worn by a participant in the 5K Run/Walk during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month at Kandahar Airfield in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, April 1, 2013. The goal of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ashley Bell.

National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is observed every April not only among civilians but also in the military. This year at Kandahar Airfield, the month is kicked off with a 5K run/walk in support of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

“I was actually shocked seeing the turnout,” said Senior Airmen Kevin Buettner, a unit victim advocate in the Air Force. “We had approximately 520 people sign up and over 400 people showed up to run.”

Sgt. 1st Class Mark Millare, an equal opportunity adviser and a sexual harassment and assault prevention officer for the Third Infantry Division, said Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is about driving cultural change and awareness in our Army, the Department of Defense and even the nation.

“It is an opportunity for everyone to continue and renew the fight against sexual assaults,” said Millare. “Bottom line, everyone needs to be aware of this problem and everyone can help prevent this crime. An active bystander is the first step to changing the culture.”

The goal of the program is to raise awareness and promote the prevention of sexual violence through special events and educational awareness. Several events have been scheduled throughout the month of April in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Millare wanted service members and civilians to know and understand that sexual assaults are preventable.

“Most of the sexual assaults begin as sexual harassment and if we can intervene at this stage, we can succeed,” said Millare. “It will give victims the confidence to report it and avoid tolerating it as a military necessity. It will also send a signal to the perpetrators that these actions are wrong, against policy and will not be tolerated; hopefully it will prevent this individual to continue to do wrong.”

The military services received a total of 3,192 reports of sexual assault during fiscal year 2011. This represents a one percent increase since fiscal year 2010, when there were 3,158 reports of sexual assault.

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Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in Afghanistan