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The South Potomac Civilian-Military Community Relations (COMREL) Council met May 9 at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) Dahlgren Campus, where representatives from several of the installation's supported commands briefed the community about how they serve the national defense.

Capt. Peter Nette, NSASP commanding officer, welcomed attendees before turning over the podium to Joe Grzeika, member of the King George County Board of Supervisors and the local host for the event. "We want to welcome you all," said Grzeika. "We're glad you are in King George [County]."

Grzeika, who also serves on the UMW Board of Visitors, praised the effort that led to the expansion of the university.

"We had the state of Virginia see the need to have a place ... to provide higher-level degrees, masters and doctorates, to the scientists and engineers right here in Dahlgren, because that workforce is so critical," said Grzeika. "We want to make sure [the UMW Dahlgren Campus] is a world-class research and development facility for the Navy and for the nation."

The presentations that followed illustrated how commands hosted on board Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren support the national defense.

"We've formatted the today's meeting as a Report to the Community by all the major military commands onboard the installation," Nette told attendees. "Our intent is to offer a comprehensive review of ... the [commands'] daily activities and how they integrate with Dahlgren and the community."

Marc Magdinec, deputy commander for Navy Air and Missile Defense Command (NAMDC), told attendees about how his command of 75 personnel has grown since NAMDC's founding in 2009. "Our mission has been evolving," he said. "We started out as integrated air and missile defense ... to defend against ballistic missiles, against air threats like cruise missiles and aircraft.

"When you see ships deployed around the world, our command is helping those folks make decisions about where they should be operating ... to defend against certain threats," he said. "We talk to people about how to use the systems we have in this very complex world. We also do assessments: our job is to figure out what the Navy does and does well and where our gaps are."

NAMDC's role in the national defense does not stop at the shoreline, and several European nations are evaluating whether or not basing Navy systems on land provides needed missile defense. "We're taking a ship and a capability and we're placing it on land, so we're able to protect against threats coming out of Iran into Europe," said Magdinec.

Capt. Sam Hancock, chief of staff for Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Field Activity, talked to the community about his organization's role in the military and told attendees about a challenging exercise being undertaken.

"This evening we have a test flight mission," said Hancock. "We're going to be intercepting a ballistic test missile in space this evening as we continue development of our future systems."

Hancock described how Aegis BMD refines anti-ballistic missile technology and equipment as part of the Department of Defense's overall anti-missile strategy. Aegis BMD's work is divided into three "pillars" of computer program development, missile development and hardware development.

Like NAMDC, Aegis BMD is actively involved in the "Aegis ashore" project to refine a sea-based system for use on land. The organization also maintains existing Aegis systems onboard ships and developing improvements and next-generation technology. "... All of that is being developed right here in Dahlgren," said Hancock.

Capt. Michael Smith, commanding officer of Dahlgren's largest command, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, continued the RDT&E theme. He described several of his organization's responsibilities in the areas of laser, high-power microwaves, ordnance and lethality testing. "We are the Center of Excellence for the Navy's surface combat systems," said Smith. "The areas we are working in are going to continue to grow even with the downturn in defense budgets."

Robert Tolhurst, executive director of the Joint Warfare Analysis Center (JWAC), described how JWAC provides "precise, technical solutions" for the operating forces across DoD. The organization evolved out of NSWCDD and employs similar, technical professions.

Capt. Donald Schmieley, commanding officer of the Center for Surface Combat Systems (CSCS), described how CSCS trains Sailors responsible for operating advanced combat systems. With a mission to train Sailors such as fire controlmen and sonar technicians, Schmieley expressed solidarity with UMW. "We're all about training," he said. "We are in the same business."

Schmieley told attendees about how CSCS manages 14 schools around the country, each with a mission to train Sailors on advanced combat systems. One of those schools, the Aegis Training and Readiness Center (ATRC), is located in Dahlgren. Capt. Ian Hall, commanding officer of ATRC, told the community about his organization's mission.

"What we do at the Aegis Training and Readiness Center is ... to train young men and women how to operate these very complex combat systems," he said. "We take technical concepts and technical equipment and break it down so someone with a high school education can understand it."

ATRC trains officers and enlisted Sailors and also offers team courses that provide guidance to crews. The command also hosts the largest number of service members in Dahlgren and was recently re-accredited, allowing students to continue receiving college credit for completing training. "We jealously guard those standards," said Hall.

The last command representative to speak was Ken St. Clair, deputy for the 20th Space Control Squadron Detachment One.

The command processes data collected from the Air Force Space Surveillance System, better known as the Space Fence. The multi-static VHF system monitors objects in orbit and collects 191,000 observations per day, on average. A series of transmitter and receiver sites along the 33rd Parallel allows the Space Fence to collect observations passively, 24-hours a day.

"Our system is unique ... in that it's an un-cued sensor," said St. Clair. "We don't have to look for objects. Our fence is sitting there all the time; if something passes through it, we pick it up."

The South Potomac Community Relations Council meets quarterly and includes representatives from military commands on NSF Dahlgren and NSF Indian Head, as well as community leaders and businessmen from King George County and and the Town of Colonial Beach in Virginia and Charles County and the Town of Indian Head in Maryland.

The Town of Indian Head will host the next COMREL meeting, scheduled for Aug. 2.