Thursday, May 19, 2011
U.S. Navy photo by Andrew Revelos
The most recent iteration of the COMREL, now in its third year of operation, covered a wide range of issues affecting Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren and NSF Indian Head and the surrounding communities in King George and Charles Counties, and the towns of Colonial Beach and Indian Head.
After a breakfast, the Pentagon Division of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps opened the meeting program with a presentation of colors.
Joe Grzeika, chairman of the King George County Board of Supervisors, welcomed the 50 guests in attendance. He thanked NSASP commands and commemorated the military's recent success killing the nation's most wanted terrorist.
"It's a pleasure to host this meeting of the COMREL," said Grzeika. "We enjoy the fellowship and the partnership with the base and our community. Every day we thank the men and women in uniform who protect us and keep our freedom safe. It was demonstrated once again how proficient the armed forces of this country are when they took down Osama bin Laden. Every one of these [servicemembers] have a part in that."
Grzeika also praised the cooperation among the local communities and Naval Support Activity South Potomac to provide comprehensive emergency services in the region. The longstanding "mutual aid" system shares emergency service resources among civil and military authorities, allowing the region to better respond to crises.
Partnership Across Communities
Recently-elected Indian Head Mayor Dennis Scheessele reflected on the importance of the council. Scheessele is the current co-chair of COMREL Executive Committee, a post which rotates regularly between the leadership of the four South Potomac regional governments participating in the council.
"As Joe said, we're a partnership across the river and communities, from Colonial Beach and Indian Head, and the counties," said Scheessele. "We share common support for base activities, the missions of the two bases on either side of the river that are part of Naval Support Activity South Potomac."
Capt. Catie Hanft, commanding officer of NSA South Potomac, set the meeting's agenda.
"We have a great variety of topics," said Hanft. "Reports from both military/mission related projects, as well some unique youth and educational programs that benefit area families and communities on a broad scale."
One such program highlighted at COMREL was the local Pentagon Division of the U.S. Sea Cadet Corps, a youth organization officially recognized by the Navy and the Coast Guard. The mission of the USNSCC is "...through organization and cooperation with the Department of the Navy, to encourage and aid American youth to develop, train them in seagoing skills, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance and kindred virtues," according to the USNSCC charter.
USNSCC Warrant Officer Ken Crater, commanding officer of the local USNSCC Pentagon Division, presented the benefits of his organization to community leaders.
"We provide a drug and alcohol-free environment, foster leadership abilities, broaden horizons through hands-on training and guide them to becoming mature young adults," said Crater. The USNSCC Pentagon Division's was founded on Sept. 11, 2001.
STEM Camp Previewed
Jane Bachman, with Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division's Human Systems Integration Division, updated community leaders on the upcoming Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Summer Academy to be hosted at Dahlgren at the end of June.
The weeklong program, which debuted in 2006, offers local students a chance to not only broaden their understanding of STEM, but to see how those skills fit into military missions. The academy is open for middle school students and is sponsored by the National Defense Education Program.
Bachman announced a significant change in this year's program. As part of the STEM Summer Academy, the newly created junior mentor program will challenge high school students to lead academy participants while conducting their own STEM research projects.
Grzeika commented on the opportunities the academy provides local students. "The STEM Program is critical to our success as a nation in the future," he said, after the meeting. Grzeika saw the STEM Summer Academy, together with the coming University of Mary Washington Graduate Center, as a vital part of the region's educational efforts.
COMREL also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Air Force Space Surveillance System. Developed in 1961 by the Office of Naval Research in response to the Soviet Sputnik satellite launch, the system's radar has provided the nation's space operations with vital capability tracking objects orbiting Earth, according to Scott Leonard, operations officer with the Air Force's 20th Space Control Squadron Detachment One, the unit in charge of the mission since 2004.
"We see something about 200,000 times per day and [process] 6 million pieces of data per month," said Leonard, who said his command monitors roughly 16,000 objects orbiting earth.
The final presentation at the COMREL dealt with the changes underway at NSF Indian Head, where construction of a new, decentralized steam plant is scheduled to begin next year. According to Cmdr. Douglas King of NSA South Potomac's Public Works Department, the plant will increase energy saving by 41 percent compared to the existing Goddard Power Plant, in operation since 1957.
King told the COMREL that the new plant promises benefits for the surrounding community, such as reducing the number of supply trucks travelling on local roads, minimizing pollution, and bringing natural gas suppliers and infrastructure to Indian Head.
King also presented updates on the Navy's enhanced use lease project aboard NSF Indian Head. The project encompasses two separate sites on the installation, one designated for power generation and the other for a data center. Navy released the final request for qualification in early April, and bids on the project are due June 7, King told the council.
The next quarterly COMREL Council meeting will be hosted by the Town of Indian Head in August.