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UA grad to probe collision for Navy

A Little Rock native and graduate of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, will lead the U.S. Navy’s investigation into the June 17 collision of a Philippine-flagged container ship with the USS Fitzgerald, which resulted in the deaths of seven sailors. The Navy named Rear Adm. Brian Fort as the lead investigator Friday. Fort is commander of Navy Region Hawaii and commander of Naval Surface Group Middle Atlantic. Fort graduated from Little Rock Catholic High School in 1985 and the UA in 1989, receiving a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

He earned a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College, according to a biography of him at navy.mil. Fort is also a graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College. The collision occurred on a clear night about 64 miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, when the ACX Crystal crashed nose-first into the Fitzgerald’s right side, according to the Navy. The 29,060-ton ACX Crystal is about four times the size of the Fitzgerald, which is a guided-missile destroyer. The Fitzgerald suffered severe damage, including a large puncture below the ship’s waterline, opening the hull to the sea, according to a news release. The collision caused rapid flooding of three compartments that included two berthing areas for 116 of the 300 crew members on the ship.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, which is based in Japan, held a news conference Sunday saying there may be several investigations of the collision. Fort is leading what is known as the Manual of the Judge Advocate General investigation.

“The U.S. Coast Guard is to take the lead on the marine casualty investigation,” Aucoin said. “We recognize that there are other organizations who have equities in this incident, and we expect they will conduct their own separate investigations. … I will not speculate on how long these investigations will last.”

According to a news article from the U.S. Naval Institute, Fort’s job will be to guide investigators who are collecting data from the ship, interview the crew and evaluate other details. Fort’s past assignments include command of the Norfolk, Va.-based USS Gonzalez, command of Destroyer Squadron 26 — serving as the sea combat commander for the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group — and command of the Navy Nuclear Power Training Unit at Ballston Spa, N.Y. He also served as executive officer of the Navy Nuclear Power Training Unit in Charleston, S.C., as the Navy Federal Executive Fellow at the George Washington University Elliot School of International Affairs.

Fort graduated in 1981 from Our Lady of the Holy Souls Catholic School in Little Rock, which has pupils from preschool through eighth grade. According to a post on the school’s Facebook page, Fort is married to the former Kelli Laine Simpson, who is a 1986 graduate of Mount Saint Mary Academy in Little Rock and a 1990 graduate of the UA, Fayetteville, with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. They have two daughters. Madison is a graduate of Texas A&M University, and Olivia is a student at Virginia Tech University, according to the post.

Metro on 06/24/2017

21 state guardsmen bound for Balkans

Families and friends dressed in red, white and blue filled the 39th Brigade headquarters in North Little Rock to see off 21 Arkansas National Guardsmen for a nine-month mission Thursday morning. Among them, Shannan Rozenberg, who watched through tears the brief deployment ceremony for the troops heading to Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. It comforted Rozenberg to know that her husband’s mission, his third deployment, is a noncombat one. Nonetheless, it was difficult to say goodbye.

“It’s still not easy,” she said.

Thursday’s sendoff marked the final installment of the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s three-part deployment this spring. The 130 soldiers will support the Kosovo Force, an ongoing NATO peacekeeping mission that began in response to the end of the war between the Serbian government and its autonomous province of Kosovo. The initial purpose of the mission was to help that nation recover from the conflict by relocating displaced people, removing mines, providing medical assistance, protecting ethnic minorities and supporting the establishment of civilian government. Now, the mission’s purpose is to maintain peace across the Balkans. Brig. Gen. Kirk Van Pelt told the soldiers that their work will continue to stabilize the region.

“The peace and support operations that you are about to undertake will be instrumental in maintaining the local security and to ensure the safety of the citizens of Kosovo for the next year,” Van Pelt said.

Kosovo Force involves roughly 4,500 military members from 29 countries, according to the mission’s website. Thirty Arkansas National Guardsmen were sent May 8, and 80 were sent May 29, Lt. Col. Joel Lynch said. They serve as the headquarters staff in Kosovo, while the troops sent off Thursday will work in training, advisory, supply and administration. In addition to the 21 at the ceremony, two soldiers from the same brigade have already been sent over for training, and four are completing a postal mission in Germany, Lt. Col. Miriam Carlisle said.

“We’re going to do this mission, and we’re going to be back soon,” Carlisle told the families. “Sooner than you think. I hope.”

The troops fly today to Fort Bliss in Texas for training before splitting up to leave for either Pristina, Kosovo, or Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Van Pelt thanked the families for their sacrifices.

“It’s your love and support that allow these soldiers to do what they do to serve our country and our nation,” he said. Toddlers in their mothers’ laps waved small American flags. One soldier put his arm around his wife. His young son, sitting on the other side, grabbed his hand from behind the chair.

The Arkansas National Guard drills one weekend a month, so most of the members deployed Thursday have full-time jobs. Rozenberg’s husband will leave his job as a school superintendent in Bearden.

Living in a town with fewer than 1,000 people an hour and a half from Little Rock, Rozenberg isn’t part of a family support group. But this deployment will be easier than past ones, she said, because she’ll be able to video chat with her husband every day. She also knows it’s what her husband is meant to do.

“He could have retired 10 years ago, but he loves it,” Rozenberg said. “He’s going where he needs to go. He needs to do his part.”

Metro on 06/23/2017

21 Arkansas guardsmen bound for Balkans

Families and friends dressed in red, white and blue filled the 39th Brigade headquarters in North Little Rock to see off 21 Arkansas National Guardsmen for a nine-month mission Thursday morning. Among them, Shannan Rozenberg, who watched through tears the brief deployment ceremony for the troops heading to Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. It comforted Rozenberg to know that her husband’s mission, his third deployment, is a noncombat one. Nonetheless, it was difficult to say goodbye.

“It’s still not easy,” she said.

Thursday’s sendoff marked the final installment of the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s three-part deployment this spring. The 130 soldiers will support the Kosovo Force, an ongoing NATO peacekeeping mission that began in response to the end of the war between the Serbian government and its autonomous province of Kosovo. The initial purpose of the mission was to help that nation recover from the conflict by relocating displaced people, removing mines, providing medical assistance, protecting ethnic minorities and supporting the establishment of civilian government. Now, the mission’s purpose is to maintain peace across the Balkans.

[EMAIL UPDATES: Get free breaking news alerts, daily newsletters with top headlines delivered to your inbox[1]]

Brig. Gen. Kirk Van Pelt told the soldiers that their work will continue to stabilize the region.

“The peace and support operations that you are about to undertake will be instrumental in maintaining the local security and to ensure the safety of the citizens of Kosovo for the next year,” Van Pelt said. Kosovo Force involves roughly 4,500 military members from 29 countries, according to the mission’s website.

Thirty Arkansas National Guardsmen were sent May 8, and 80 were sent May 29, Lt. Col. Joel Lynch said. They serve as the headquarters staff in Kosovo, while the troops sent off Thursday will work in training, advisory, supply and administration. In addition to the 21 at the ceremony, two soldiers from the same brigade have already been sent over for training, and four are completing a postal mission in Germany, Lt. Col. Miriam Carlisle said.

“We’re going to do this mission, and we’re going to be back soon,” Carlisle told the families. “Sooner than you think. I hope.”

The troops fly today to Fort Bliss in Texas for training before splitting up to leave for either Pristina, Kosovo, or Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Van Pelt thanked the families for their sacrifices.

“It’s your love and support that allow these soldiers to do what they do to serve our country and our nation,” he said.

Toddlers in their mothers’ laps waved small American flags. One soldier put his arm around his wife. His young son, sitting on the other side, grabbed his hand from behind the chair. The Arkansas National Guard drills one weekend a month, so most of the members deployed Thursday have full-time jobs. Rozenberg’s husband will leave his job as a school superintendent in Bearden. Living in a town with fewer than 1,000 people an hour and a half from Little Rock, Rozenberg isn’t part of a family support group. But this deployment will be easier than past ones, she said, because she’ll be able to video chat with her husband every day. She also knows it’s what her husband is meant to do.

“He could have retired 10 years ago, but he loves it,” Rozenberg said. “He’s going where he needs to go. He needs to do his part.”

Metro on 06/23/2017

References

  1. ^ EMAIL UPDATES: Get free breaking news alerts, daily newsletters with top headlines delivered to your inbox (www.arkansasonline.com)
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