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The Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) Civilian-Military Community Relations (COMREL) Council gathered Nov. 8 at High Tides restaurant in the town of Colonial Beach, where military and civilian leaders enjoyed breakfast and discussed several issues affecting the region.

Over 60 people were in attendance for the COMREL Council meeting, which featured presentations on the proposed Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Mid-Atlantic Range, the Harry Nice Bridge improvement project, King George County Schools and the newly established King George-Dahlgren Rotary Club. An official from the Joint Warfare Analysis Center (JWAC), a supported command at Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren, briefed members of the council about his organization's role in national security.

The NSASP COMREL Council is a quarterly forum that brings military leaders together with civilian leadership from Charles County and the Town of Indian Head in Maryland, and King George County and the Town of Colonial Beach in Virginia.

"Good morning and welcome to Colonial Beach," said Fred Rummage, mayor of Colonial Beach. "I hope that this will not be your first and only visit here." Rummage, who will retire this year after his term expires, introduced Mike Ham, mayor-elect of Colonial Beach, to the council.

Candice Quinn Kelly, president of Charles County Commissioners and this year's co-chair of the COMREL Council, briefed the community about how Charles County recently honored a local soldier who went missing during the Vietnam War. The county is flying the POW-MIA flag everyday outside the Charles County Courthouse in honor of Francis Desales Wills, who went missing in 1966.

Kelly encouraged other jurisdictions to consider flying the POW-MIA flag to honor Wills and all veterans. "I hope that in some way this is a gesture from Charles County of how much we appreciate service to our country," she said.

Capt. Pete Nette, NSASP commanding officer, offered an update on a handful of initiatives. He announced preliminary plans for coordinating Dahlgren's 95th birthday celebration.

"We've organized a committee to work with the community and supported-commands on the installation," said Nette. "It's going to be a celebration thorough the year instead of one grand celebration."

He updated the council about the Joint Land Use Study currently being undertaken by King George County on behalf of the Navy and the completion of the Potomac River shoreline restoration at NSF Indian Head.

Nette also announced a contract award for the project to upgrade the steam distribution system at NSF Indian head. The new system will save energy and replace the coal-fired Goddard Power Plant with a natural gas-powered, nodal system. Construction is expected to be complete by 2016.

Mid-Atlantic UAS Coalition

The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act calls upon the Federal Aviation Administration to establish six new UAS test sites across the United States. Matthew Scassero, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic UAS Coalition, briefed the COMREL Council about his organization's efforts to create of a mid-Atlantic UAS test range.

"It is a three-state coalition of Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey, pulling together existing resources in a focused way to help the FAA figure out how to get unmanned aerial systems integrated into the national airspace," he said.

The coalition seeks to expand the UAS technology used extensively by the government agencies into public and commercial domains, said Scassero. "There's an $89 billion industry waiting for that airspace to be opened up to commercial systems. It is a huge industry basically waiting for clearance."

Helping the FAA develop the policies and procedures necessary to open up more airspace to UAS is the Mid-Atlantic UAS Coalition's goal. "With our existing resources, we can lead the nation in UAS services," said Scassero.

Harry Nice Bridge Improvement Project

Glen Smith, manager for the Harry Nice Bridge improvement project for the Maryland Transportation Authority (MTA), updated the COMREL Council about the much-discussed plan to upgrade the Potomac River crossing for Hwy. 301.

MTA's plan is still to replace the existing structure with a four-lane bridge with two-way bike lane, said Smith, but the fiscal crisis has prevented planners from setting a firm project timeline. "We have a lot of consensus for this project," said Smith. "Currently, there are no funds for engineering."

The project is a "top priority" of the Maryland Transportation Authority, said Smith, but his organization must first contend with the Inter County Connector and improvements to Interstate 95 around Baltimore. Smith, answering a question from an audience member, placed the estimated start of construction "beyond 2020."

Joint Warfare Analysis Center update

Robert Tolhurst, executive director for JWAC, briefed the COMREL Council about his organization's transition to Strategic Command (STRATCOM) from the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), which has been disestablished.

Tolhurst described for the audience a little about the precise technical support JWAC provides to warfighters, such as battle damage assessment.

King George County Schools Presentation

The new superintendent of King George County Schools, Robert Benson, briefed the COMREL Council about his past experiences as a professional educator and his goals as he settles into his new job. "I'm proud of my district and my community," Benson told the council.

Benson described some of the goals of modern education, such as the ability to read and write technically and to understand both declarative and procedural knowledge. The best way to achieve those goals is a child-centered approach that supports students and educators in the classroom, he said. "Research tells us that the best thing we can have is quality instructors."

King George-Dahlgren Rotary Club Report

Community-minded men and women, many of whom are employed at NSF Dahlgren, established a King George-Dahlgren Rotary Club in October. Roger Carr, chairman of the club's Service Projects Committee, briefed the COMREL about the club's goals and activities. "We're going to focus on literacy and education," he said.

Though the chapter is new, it has already participated in the King George Day of Caring, helped cleaned out Ralph Bunche High School, adopted a stretch of local highway and started a literacy project at Sealston Elementary School. The latter initiative will contribute $2,500 to a reading room project at the school to help students and teachers.

The King George-Dahlgren Rotary Club holds meetings every Tuesday at noon at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren Campus.