Topic: NAVY


Forwarded by Dave Benson

The piece is written by Bob Norris, a former Naval aviator who also did a 3-year exchange tour flying the F-15 Eagle. He is now an accomplished author of entertaining books about U.S. Naval Aviation including “Check Six” and “Fly-Off”. In response to a letter from an aspiring fighter pilot about which military academy to attend, Bob replied with the following:

12 February 2004

Young Man,

Congratulations on your selection to both the Naval and Air Force Academies. Your goal of becoming a fighter pilot is impressive and a fine way to serve your country.

As you requested, I'd be happy to share some insight into which service would be the best choice. Each service has a distinctly different culture. You need to ask yourself: “Which one am I more likely to thrive in?”

USAF Snapshot: The USAF is exceptionally well organized and well run. Their training programs are terrific. All pilots are groomed to meet high standards for knowledge and professionalism. Their aircraft are top-notch and extremely well maintained. Their facilities are excellent.

Their enlisted personnel are the brightest and the best trained. The USAF is homogenous and macro. No matter where you go, you'll know what to expect, what is expected of you, and you'll be given the training and tools you need to meet those expectations. You will never be put in a situation over your head. Over a 20-year career, you will be home for most important family events. Your Mom would want you to be an Air Force pilot…so would your wife. Your Dad would want your sister to marry one.

Navy Snapshot: Aviators are part of the Navy, but so are Black Shoes (surface warfare) and Bubble Heads (submariners). Furthermore, the Navy is split into two distinctly different Fleets (West and East Coast). The Navy is heterogeneous and micro. Your squadron is your home; it may be great, average, or awful. A squadron can go from one extreme to the other before you know it. You will spend months preparing for cruise and months on cruise. The quality of the aircraft varies directly with the availability of parts.

Senior Navy enlisteds are the salt of the earth; you'll be proud if you earn their respect. Junior enlisteds vary from terrific to the troubled kid the judge made join the service. You will be given the opportunity to lead these people during your career; you will be humbled and get your hands dirty.

The quality of your training will vary and sometimes you will be over your head. You will miss many important family events. There will be long stretches of tedious duty aboard ship. You will fly in very bad weather and/or at night and you will be scared many times. You will fly with legends in the Navy and they will kick your ass until you become a lethal force. And some days - when the scheduling Gods have smiled upon you your jet will catapult into a glorious morning over a far-away sea and you will be drop-jawed that someone would pay you to do it.

Remember, the hottest girl in the bar always wants to meet the Naval Aviator.

Bottom line, son, if you gotta ask… pack warm and good luck in Colorado.


P.S. - Air Force pilots wear scarves and iron their flight suits.


By Jack Dorsey, The Virginian-Pilot © July 26, 2005
Forwarded by

BENEATH THE GEORGE WASHINGTON — For those impressed by the view of an aircraft carrier from the top, where the 4½-acre flight deck forms the pinnacle of its design, the view from the bottom is awe-inspiring, too.

Almost like a deep mountain cavern, with smooth metal for its roof, the stern of the ship opens wide to house its propellers, shafts and rudders, then fades away into a narrow passage running forward just three feet off the bottom of the dry dock’s base.

With no more than three inches of space on each side of its hull, nearly all light, is blocked out, leaving the cave like, subterranean chamber resembling the entrance to a coal mine.

In a rare opportunity to see a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in dry dock, the crew of the Norfolk-based George Washington and Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard showed off the carrier’s freshly painted bottom Monday.

Click here for complete story [ ].


By Jug Varner

After saying “Semper Fi,” a Leatherneck may add, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” That sort of love and loyalty for one’s service also holds true about the Navy for me, and obviously for a lot of Navy people I know.

Those of us who were career Navy (in my case, during WWII, Korea and Vietnam eras) as well as those many non-careerists who were on active duty for a lesser period of time, consider serving our nation to be the highlight of our lives. That’s why I am now involved with the Golden Pelicans, a local squadron of the national Association of Naval Aviation (ANA), Washington, DC.

One of the better ways to get acquainted when you move to a new community is to join a group with whom you have something in common. To start with, I joined Sarasota Downtown Association because I wanted to meet some of the “movers and shakers” in town. One of the first persons I met was June Gordon, volunteer extraordinaire who is active in a lot of community groups here. When she found out I was a former Navy pilot, she said her husband Bill was, too, and suggested I might enjoy the Navy camaraderie of the Golden Pelicans. They invited me to a monthly noon luncheon meeting and I was tail-hooked.

Last summer, when the Commanding Officer moved to Arizona, I suddenly found myself as his replacement, and have been thoroughly enjoying being “back in the Navy again” - if only vicariously - with some very nice and interesting people who speak my language. But just as in the active duty Navy, recruiting never stops. In our case, it is looking for “younger members” such as those who served since Vietnam. The rest of us are getting a bit long in the tooth so we need to recruit our eventual replacements.

Early in June 2005, the ANA hosted its national meeting in San Diego and wife Bonnie and I greatly enjoyed being part of it. Fellowship with other squadron’s members and wives from cities across the country and other nations was special. In addition to making new friends, it gave us an awareness of what other squadrons are doing. Attending highly interesting ship and base visits, command presentations and social affairs along with active duty people brought us up to date on some of today’s Navy and Marine Corps. We were privy to a tour of MCAS Miramar, the USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3), and a special program aboard the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum USS Midway that commemorated the anniversary the Battle of Midway - America’s turning point to victory in WWII - and a salute to the attending survivors.

Among the many excellent presentations were:

  • the Coast Guard’s new role within the Department of Homeland Security
  • an update on the Navy’s role in the Pacific
  • a first-hand unclassified reports by participants of a Special Forces missions in Afghanistan and Iraq (the classified versions must have made Hollywood pale by comparison), and
  • a knock-your-sox-off briefing from an air group commander aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln about their heroic aircraft and personnel Tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia, dispelling the erroneous report by the liberal media that the ship was required to leave, which was totally false. Conversely, it was a very positive aspect to help save the people of the world’s largest Muslim populated nation, rewarded by many smiles and hugs for the Americans by those survivors.

At every turn we were constantly reminded of what great kids we have in our armed forces today and how proud America should be of their service. If the ANA awards presentation luncheon honoring sea service personnel from near and far is any indication, we are not running out of heroes.

Returning to this great Navy town where we once lived and served was highly enjoyable, although its population is perhaps ten-fold what it was when we were there on active duty and we hardly recognized downtown or the urban sprawl.

“You can’t go home again,” may be a true statement because of how things change during one’s absence, but if so, it is mainly because most of the people you knew are no longer there to share the return with you. However, visits to old familiar places stir many subconsciously buried memories of life experiences. Reviving them by your visit reprises your footprints in the sands of time for those eras in which you were a part of history in the making.


Five Navy torpedo bombers took off from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on December 5, 1945, and disappeared without a trace on the first leg of their mission. Despite a wide and concentrated effort at the time, search parties never located them.

Forty-six years later in 1991, a New York salvage firm thought they had found the famous “lost squadron” of TBM Avengers supposedly swallowed up by some mythical force in the Bermuda Triangle.

Their celebration was a wee bit premature, however. Navy research proved that the ones they found were not those of the ill-fated Flight 19, but similarly marked aircraft thought to have been dumped there, or the result of other crashes during training flights.

Salvagers located the sunken aircraft by accident while operating their submersible Deep See. They were searching for lost Spanish galleons in 750 feet of water, ten miles off the Florida coast.


This is the port bow of the Confederate Submarine being recovered from the sea floor by Friends of the Hunley, a nonprofit organization. They are being assisted by the National Geographic Society and the U.S. Navy at Charleston SC. For many interesting aspects of this recovery, go to the Friends of the Hunley website. []


Here’s and interesting site for anyone interested in the Navy, and a very nice tribute by a daughter to her Navy Dad.

Jennifer Boughton‘s Web Site [ ]


By JACK DORSEY, The Virginian-Pilot April 2004
From USS Independence []

The Navy is offering 25 decommissioned ships, including four aircraft carriers, to coastal states interested in turning them into artificial reefs.

One of the carriers is the Oriskany, a combat veteran of Korea and Vietnam, which could be sunk as early as this summer in the Gulf of Mexico. Plans call for it to come to rest in 211 feet of water, 22 miles offshore from Pensacola, Fla. The 888-foot, 30,800- ton carrier would be the largest vessel ever purposely sunk in the United States.

The three other flattops are the Forrestal, Independence and Constellation. The “Connie” was decommissioned last August after playing a key role in the war in Iraq. By making the offer, the Navy is looking to reduce the size of its inactive ship inventory. The reef program is an alternative to the more costly plan to cut them up for scrap.

For states, the ships could have appeal as reefs that would lure marine life – as well as recreational divers and fishermen. As attractive as an aircraft carrier reef might sound to local dive and tourist industries, Virginia likely won’t have one because of the wide and relatively shallow continental shelf off its shore, said Mike Meier, who coordinates artificial reef projects for the Virginia Marine Research Commission.

“A carrier would have to be sunk in at least 200 feet of water. That doesn’t show up until 50 miles off Virginia’s shore, a bit too far to make such a project profitable for dive boats,” Meier said. “A carrier just won’t cut it,” Meier might like to have some of the Navy’s smaller ships and says he would take all the worn-out subway cars anyone cares to give. Artificial reefs throughout U.S. waters have flourished in recent years, using everything from 80 of the Army’s old M-60 tanks, sunk in the Gulf of Mexico, to a Boeing 737 aircraft, sunk off Miami.

Virginia, like North Carolina, already uses railroad box cars, Navy Liberty ships, barges, military aircraft and some pre formed concrete structures, shaped like igloos, for artificial reefs. They are in the Chesapeake Bay and in the Atlantic, some as close as eight miles from shore off Chincoteague and Parramore Island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Neither state has anything like what’s on the Navy’s newest list, which, in addition to the aircraft carriers, includes 11 destroyers, five cruisers, two frigates, a dock landing ship, a patrol gunboat and the 530-foot long combat stores ship San Diego. These are ships that didn’t make the cut for foreign military sales or any other form of disposal.

Congress has set a deadline of 2006 for the disposal of more than 70 obsolete ships moored in the middle of the James River, off Fort Eustis in Newport News. An earlier plan to cut up as many as 13 of the ships in the United Kingdom has stalled because of environmental challenges.

Environmental concerns continue to be a stumbling block to the program. Virginia won’t accept any ships until the Environmental Protection Agency streamlines the process Even Florida, which is just months away from taking ownership of the Oriskany, is exercising caution because of the uncertainties with environmental rules and the high cost of getting the carrier ready for sinking.

The EPA has yet to come out with firm standards about how the Navy ships are to be cleaned, said John Dodrill, who coordinates Florida’s artificial reef program for the Fish and Wildlife Commission. Florida, which has more than 2,000 artificial reefs – 450 of them ships – doesn’t intend to accept the title to the Oriskany until the EPA gives its blessing and until the Navy tows the ship to the site and sinks it, Dodrill said.
The last large military ship sunk was the 510-foot dock landing ship Spiegel Grove in May 2002 off Key Largo, Fla. It was a near disaster.

A local tourist development group, aided by dive boat charter companies that took out bank loans for the project, raised $1.6 million. When the ship refused to sink – its stern was on the bottom but its bow trapped air and arched out of the water – another $300,000 had to be raised to finish the job. It came to rest on its side, not its bottom.

Another reef project, using the former 520-foot missile tracking ship Vandenberg, a member of the James River “Ghost Fleet” – has been delayed for nearly seven years while sponsors try to raise as much as $2 million to sink it off Key West, Dodrill said. With such costs rising, Dodrill said the U.S. Transportation Department’s Maritime Administration is proposing grant funding to clean some vessels. “If it’s cheaper to scrap a ship, they will do it,” he said. “But if they can provide the ship to a local government equal to or less than the cost of scrapping it, they will.”

That apparently is what the Navy has decided with the Oriskany. Following 25 years of service, it was decommissioned in 1975, stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1989 and sold for scrap in 1995. The contractor defaulted.

The ship was repossessed by the Navy and towed to the Beaumont Reserve Fleet in Texas, where more than 70 people, working nearly around-the-clock, are trying to get it ready for sinking, Dodrill said, adding,. “Today the Navy estimates it will cost in excess of $4 million to scrap it, so if they put as little as $2.1 million to $2.8 million into the ship to get it ready to reef, it is a money-saving option for them.”

Plans call for the Oriskany’s flight deck to be just 100 feet below the surface, with its steel superstructure rising to within 50 feet of the surface. The ship’s interior will be closed to divers for safety reasons. “We don’t want anyone penetrating the interior of the ship below the main deck and into the hangar bay,” Dodrill said.

Still at issue is how the Navy plans to sink the big carrier. The Japanese and American carrier war in the Pacific during World War II showed that it takes a lot to sink these ships, Dodrill said. “The Navy builds its ships to avoid sinking.”

© 2004


“While we all mourn the passing of K-141 and her crew, we should also reflect on exactly what her mission was.” - American Vet Search Newsletter

By Charles Smith, National Security and Defense Reporter, WorldNetDaily

K-141 is down. The Kursk, an Antyey type 949A nuclear attack submarine, was lost in the Barents Sea. The Kursk, one of eight active Oscar II class submarines, was the pride of the Russian navy and the leading edge of the new Northern Fleet.

Commissioned in 1995, the Kursk was the Northern Fleet's most powerful weapon. It made a high profile voyage to the Mediterranean in September 1999 and was due to return later this year as part of a planned Russian nuclear task group deployment to the Middle East. The August Russian naval exercise in the Barents Sea was designed to provide the West with good reason to remember the Kursk.

Reports now show the exercise was intended to showcase the Kursk as she performed her two primary roles, killing American carriers and submarines. The Russian navy exercise also drew a small crowd of interested observers in the form of two U.S. Los Angeles attack submarines, loitering in the shallow polar sea over 50 miles from the Kursk.

That fateful morning the Kursk reportedly completed a successful firing o her main killer, the Chelomey Granit missile, NATO code-named SS-N-19 “Shipwreck.” The Kursk and her sister boats carry 24 “Shipwreck” missiles.

The missiles are stored on each side of the huge submarine in banks of 12, hidden between the layers of the boat's thick twin hull skin. The “Shipwreck” missiles are stored in launching tubes external to the inner pressure hull where the 118 crewmembers worked and lived.

The “Shipwreck” missile fired by the Kursk that Saturday morning contained a 1,600-pound conventional warhead. It reportedly scored a direct hit against a Russian hulk target over 200 miles away. The “Shipwreck” is intended to strike U.S. carriers but can also be targeted against U.S. cities. Russian naval sources indicate that the “Shipwreck” missile can be armed with an H-bomb warhead equal to one half million tons of TNT, more than enough to flatten Los Angeles or New York City.

That fateful August Saturday, in the dim afternoon light of the arctic summer sun, the Kursk began her last performance, the simulated destruction of a U.S. submarine using the 100-RU Veder missile. The Veder, NATO code-named SSN-16A “Stallion,” is a rocket-boosted torpedo. The “Stallion” is launched from the huge 26-inch diameter torpedo tubes installed on each Oscar II class submarine.

The “Stallion” is so secret that no picture of the weapon has ever been published. The “Stallion” is fired from the submarine's torpedo tube but flies like a missile. The “Stallion” rocket booster ignites underwater once the weapon is clear of the submarine, sending the missile to the surface. The missile then flies to the target under rocket power where it finally ejects a lightweight torpedo at supersonic speed. The mini-torpedo then uses its own little parachute, slowing to drop gently into the water directly above the target. The mini-torpedo then homes in on the target submarine for the final kill.

The conventional “Stallion” fired by the Kursk was armed with a mini-220 pound explosive warhead. Jane's Defense reports that the missile can also be armed with a mini-nuclear warhead equal to 200,000 tons of TNT.

According to Jane's, the last moments of the Kursk were recorded as she prepared to fire the “Stallion”. Seismologists in Norway told Jane's that a monitoring station registered two explosions at the time the Kursk sank.

The first registered 1.5 on the Richter scale. A second, stronger explosion measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale equivalent to one to two tons of TNT was recorded just over two minutes later.

The “Stallion” rocket motor may have ignited inside the sealed torpedo tube just before firing. The “Stallion” may have jammed itself inside the torpedo tube as it was fired. In any event, the underwater rocket appears to have ignited inside the inner manned pressure hull.

The force of the “Stallion” rocket motor would have twisted the huge torpedo tube, melting through the metal walls within seconds, just enough time for alarms to sound and men to die. Then the small 220-pound warhead exploded, blowing a gaping hole in the twisted skin of the attack submarine. The submarine immediately fell forward as the icy water rushed to fill the forward weapon bay.

The last moments of the Kursk and most of her crew were filled with fire and ice as the vessel plunged into the cold arctic depths. The rush of cold water did not extinguish the fire since the “Stallion” rocket booster was designed to burn without air. The exploding warhead would have sent huge flaming chunks of the rocket booster into the forward weapon control room.

The force of the 14,000-ton submarine striking the bottom on the damaged torpedo bay was the final blow, detonating one of the many weapons inside upon impact. The force of the explosion inside the twin hull submarine ripped the starboard side open back to the sail. The manned areas forward of the reactor compartment, including the control room and living quarters, rapidly flooded, leaving no time for personnel in those compartments to escape.

This may not be the end of the story. There are now suggestions that the West should help Russia raise the Kursk. Yet, despite being broke, Russia continues to build and deploy the Oscar II submarine force. There are seven active Oscar II class boats. The latest, K-530 the Belgorod, is still under construction at the Severodvinsk Shipyard. Budget cutbacks have slowed progress on the boat to a standstill but construction continues. There are rumors that China is interested in buying K-530.

The Kursk sailed the Mediterranean in late 1999 as a show of flag to Russian allies such as Syria, Libya and Serbia. At the same time the Kursk was touring the Mediterranean in 1999, another Pacific Fleet Oscar II submarine was quietly cruising the western seaboard of the United States, within missile range of California, Oregon and Washington.


By Mike Gordon, The Honolulu Advertiser July 12, 2005
Forwarded by YNCS Don Harribine, USN (Ret)
LINK [ ]

It's no secret the Navy's most elite covert warriors, the SEALs, are a tough breed of sailor whose exploits are the stuff of legend. But when they gathered yesterday at Punchbowl to honor five Pearl Harbor teammates killed in battle in Afghanistan, their gruff exterior gave way to tears. All five SEALs died in connection with an ill-fated reconnaissance mission and failed rescue June 28 in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan.

Six other SEALs and eight Army commandos also died in connection to the missions that day. Only one SEAL was found alive, but his name has not been released. The loss of life eulogized yesterday at the National Memorial Cemetery
of the Pacific was the most the SEALs have experienced in a single day since they fought as commandos in World War II.

The pain it created was obvious on just about every face in the audience as each of the fallen SEALs was remembered by a friend.

Nearly 1,000 people attended the ceremony. Among the mourners was Warrant Officer Dave Bauer, a SEAL who spoke with powerful emotion about Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Daniel Healy.

Bauer, a bear of a man, seemed to crumple beneath the weight of his words. “As a father I can only hope my own sons can grow to become a man like Dan,” Bauer said, pausing to gather breath and whatever emotional strength he could muster. “He is a guy … you want to grow up to be like.” Bauer said he could not think of anyone else he would rather have at his side in battle than his friend Healy.

“All SEALs will be held to a higher standard for what Dan did,” Bauer said. “This man will live forever for all men who call themselves warriors.” The 36-year-old Healy was one of three Pearl Harbor SEALs who willingly jumped on the rescue flight.

Also on that flight were Machinist's Mate 2nd Class Shane Patton, 22, of Boulder City, Nev., and Quartermaster 2nd Class James Suh, 28, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Two of those they went to rescue were Pearl Harbor SEALs - Lt. Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., and Sonar Technician 2nd Class (Surface) Matthew Axelson, 29, of Cupertino, Calif., whose body was recovered Sunday. Axelson had been the last missing SEAL and the focus of an intense search by fellow SEALs, Marines and soldiers. He was added to the ceremony even though the Pentagon had not officially released his name.

Axelson's friend, Petty Officer 2nd Class Matt Leathers, stood before the audience yesterday and told them that all his buddies thought - and hoped - Axelson had somehow managed to escape and was making life difficult for the Taliban.

“We all expected a call from him saying 'Send me more ammo, I'm having a good time out here,' ” Leathers said. He said Axelson was one of the toughest men he had ever met. “We loved him and we still do and we always will,” Leathers said.

If there was a theme yesterday in the remarks made at Punchbowl it was loyalty. From sailors to admirals, the fierce devotion to each other outweighed all concern for personal safety.
When Murphy was remembered by Lt. Sean Chittick, a SEAL from Pearl Harbor, Chittick read comments sent to him from friends still fighting in Afghanistan. They said Murphy was a selfless, but humble leader who “put his men above everything.”

“Murph was afraid of nothing and excellent at everything he did,” Chittick said.

Chief Petty Officer Brian Mulholland spoke of Suh, a teammate with high standards and genuine kindness. He, too, died for his men. “On the day of his calling, he volunteered to go and retrieve his men,” Mulholland said. “No doubt he was the first in line.

“Last to be eulogized was Patton. His friend, Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Wulfsburg, called him “the smirking bad ass who inspired confidence in those around him.” His friend - whom he dubbed “the king of the pointless tattoos” because somewhere along the way he had “Welcome to Las Vegas” and a pair of stars inked into his skin - cared deeply about his mission as a SEAL. “He cared about pulling his own weight,” Wulfsburg said. “He cared about his platoon.”

In announcing posthumous commendations for the SEALs, which included Silver Stars for those killed on the ground and Bronze Stars for those aboard the helicopter, the Navy said the rescue team demonstrated “exceptional resolve” as it attempted a daring, daylight rescue nearly 8,000 feet above sea level.

Their plan was to swoop in aboard their MH-47 Chinook helicopter and make a rapid “fast-rope” exit from the helicopter to help their teammates, the Navy said. But enemy forces were superior in number and held a better vantage point.

The Navy believes a rocket-propelled grenade took down the helicopter. Again, the theme was loyalty. “Even if no one came back alive, the mission would have been worth it because SEALs leave no one behind,” said Rear Adm. Joseph Maguire, head of the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego.

“The men in the cockpit and the men in the back fully understood the great danger they were going into and they lost their lives trying to rescue their teammates,” Maguire said.

Their boss at Pearl Harbor, Cmdr. Todd DeGhetto, spoke of the SEALs as “my boys” and his voice cracked at times. He called them courageous warriors. “The Bible tells us there is no greater love than to give your life to another,” DeGhetto said. “But to enter the line of duty and a hailstorm of bullets knowing you may not come out alive, that's something else entirely.”

The ceremony peaked, as many of these do, with a missing-man flyover. But this time, the low rumble coming from the south belonged to four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the 25th Aviation Regiment at Wheeler Army Airfield. When they were deployed to Afghanistan, helicopters from the aviation regiment worked closely with the SEALs on many missions.

In tribute yesterday, they skimmed low over the crater before one veered away, circled back and hovered for a few moments above the mourners. Then it slowly tilted upward and rumbled into the distance.


From Navy Times
Forwarded by Forrest Pontenberg

The Navy phases out a workhorse aircraft.

To see this 4-minute presentation, turn up your volume and click here [ ]. When the title screen appears, click the arrow on the lower left corner to start the program.


By JO2 Robert Keilman, USS Kearsarge Public Affairs

USS KEARSARGE, At Sea (NNS) - For the first time, the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) conducted landing operations with the MV-22 Osprey.

The landing operations Dec. 7-13 was to qualify 23 Marine Corps pilots from Marine Tilt Rotor Test and Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 22 on day deck landings, as well as provide a “foundation” of experience for future operations.

“These operational landings are not only giving us a foundation for operations in the fleet, they’re also giving us time to find things that we don’t like about the Osprey and what we want done differently,” said Marine Corps Maj. Robert Freeland, an Osprey pilot and the assistant operations officer for VMX-22, located at Marine Corps Air Station New River, Jacksonville, N.C.

To complete their qualifications in accordance with the Marine Corps Training and Readiness Manual for air crew, the pilots performed a minimum of five landings on the ship’s port side of the flight deck; two spots on the forward end of the flight deck and two on the aft section. In addition to their landing qualification, the pilots performed a minimum of two short takeoff procedures.

Of all the landing spots on the flight deck, the most difficult is near the ship’s island, which narrows the landing space for the aircraft. However, with the skill of the pilots and the ship’s flight deck crew, the operation encountered no problems.

“Before the operation began, the flight deck crew was a little skeptical about the safety of the operation, because of all the news reports of incidents and accidents that occurred with the Osprey four years ago,” said Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Robert Sacks, Safety Department leading chief petty officer on board Kearsarge. “However, I think the operation went well, and I feel everyone else agrees.”

The Osprey was introduced to the Marine Corps in September 1999 to replace the CH-46E and CH-53D medium lift helicopters, but was put on hold during its testing phase after a mishap in 2000 killed 23 Marines. Since that time, Bell Helicopter Textron and Boeing have redesigned the aircraft, making it both lighter and safer.

The Osprey can now carry up to 24 combat-equipped personnel or a 15,000-pound load. It can vertically take off like a helicopter, and then rotate its engines 90 degrees, turning into a turbo-prop aircraft that can travel at speeds over 240 knots.


The following letter was in response to Tom Segal's recent article we carried here. This one was longer than the usual “brief comments” on that subject, but was so typical of our unsung wives and dependents who seldom get the credit they deserve. So I thought you might enjoy what Joyce C. Rusch, God bless her, has to say. Jug.

Letter From A Service Wife
Forwarded by BGen Bob Clements

My husband was stationed in Korea for three years, 1980-1983. I am a fourth generation Navy brat and Navy wife so I joined him with my two young babies in tow. It was a difficult tour for a young wife with two little ones. We were not allowed to live on base and we were advised not to bring our cars. I relied on taxis and the bus system.

It wasn't long and I noticed that Korea was desperately trying to learn English since the Olympics were going to be held in the near future. I along with other wives gave English lessons to many Korean well-to-do women.

I also taught at Dai Han paint and ink factory for a while but eventually my singing talents won me a place as the American star in a Korean USO show. I sang at all the bases for the young soldiers trying to give back to these fine men. Perhaps I helped a little in this far-off cold land. I hoped I did. I was and I am still amazed and grateful for the hardships they endured.

I didn't last too long in the Korean music industry mainly because I missed kissing my babies and rocking them to sleep. The weather was also a factor since the tour bus was not heated and the cold made my health suffer. I also must say I was frightened after we went over the Freedom Bridge/DMZ. I suddenly realized as our papers and my ID card were checked that this was real.

The darkness with only the bridge flooded in light seemed eerie as both Korean and American soldiers patrolled the short bridge span to the enemy side. Sure we had a small post or two but it didn't seem like they could stand for long. I felt that any quick attack would make safety a distant possibility. I could just read the papers now. Officer's wife killed or captured while traveling in a USO group. Although my intentions were good, my safety was important to my loved ones.

I guess growing up within the Navy lifestyle, whether living on base in my fathers home or living in Scotland and isolated duty with my husband, I had always felt safe. Now I realized that I wasn't and I had a family to think of.

I survived Korea with the culture differences, black market, rationing, and homesickness. I became strong in a land that was prepared for war. Not in the fact that I would fight anyone that would jeopardize my children's safety but that I could survive what I thought was a difficult hardship tour.

I have become fiercely patriotic and proud to be an American. I thank any Veteran wearing a hat stating where they were and in what war they fought. I wish I could do more to thank these fine men, my lifetime heroes.

I do want to shout to all that can hear that you can count on four votes for Bush from my family and another five from my parents and siblings. All I know in life is not to give up. I was brought up to be proud of America, to fight and vote for my rights. The soldiers that were on the plane with me coming home from Korea kissed the ground, American soil.

Sure, I didn't like Clinton, I was ashamed of this immoral man, and thankful he couldn't run another term. However, I will, always vote and stand up to all that threatens my freedom, my family, and my way of life. You soldiers have taught me how to live. You soldiers are my heroes and I will not let your sacrifices be in vain.

Grateful Retired Navy Wife/brat
Joyce C. Rusch


By Jug Varner

Mention NAS Glenview, Illinois to an old Navy pilot and chances are good that he has been there for training, operations, or a cross-country stop. He could tell you a sea story or two, about how he learned to fly there as a cadet, or made his first landing on a makeshift aircraft carrier on Lake Michigan, or first learned about radar at the 1950s-era Combat Information School, or participated as a Reserve Weekend Warrior during the Cold War — and surely about great times he had in nearby Chicago, where everybody loves the Navy.

The air station’s history spanned a timeline from the 1930s through WWII, the Berlin Airlift, Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Gulf War. When it fell victim to base closure in the mid-90s, the Navy agreed to turn the bulk of the property over to the surrounding Village of Glenview (pop. 40,000), retaining only a small complex of relatively new family housing units for use by military personnel assigned elsewhere in the area.

Following a $37 million expense for an environmental cleanup required before disposing of the property, the Navy began to systematically deed the remaining 1121 acres in parcels, after state and national regulators certified each parcel to be environmentally safe.

A gift of the land was made possible under a federal economic development conveyance to offset the community’s economic loss from base closure, as well as the initial cost to the community to prepare it for development. Village officials have painstakingly originated, and are now coordinating, a unique concept for integrating the property into their community. Voters approved a bond election to pay for development of infrastructure such as sewer lines, gas mains and roads.

When this ongoing massive redevelopment program is completed, Navy old-timers will be hard pressed to find any trace of the Air Station they once knew. Only two former Navy structures will still stand — the Chapel and Hangar One, and by then the hangar will have been converted to an entertainment mall.

With minor exceptions for a few modern buildings that would now cost more to covert than to destroy, about 110 structures were barracks-style buildings dating back to the 1930-40 era, and originally intended as temporary, but refitted or repaired to fill military need during the Cold War. All are being razed, and workers have already demolished most of the 300 acres of runways and aprons.

The last commanding officer provided miniature blocks cut from this runway as souvenirs to those attending the Navy’s official closing ceremony in September 1995. Village officials are considering how to commemorate the NAS history in a public display, possibly in the former Hangar One.

An incredible effort has gone into this project to bring together and execute the Master Plan, including complicated coordination with many government agencies and commercial, professional and business organizations. It may well stand as the classic example of how best to convert a military base to ultimate civilian use.

The redevelopment will bring: single and multi-family subdivisions; senior housing; retail centers; offices; warehouses; light industry; public works campus; post office; commuter rail station; prairie preserve; 20-acre lake; 140-acre park; public use campus; sports and leisure entertainment areas; two golf courses; streets; pumping stations; off-site drainage areas, and underground infrastructure.

Two of the busiest people I met there were former Navy pilot Don Owen, once stationed at Glenview and now the project’s Economic Redevelopment Director, and Assistant Village Manager Matt Carlson, the overall Project Director. They reminded me of the Donut man on the TV commercials who kept meeting himself coming and going.

Matt took me on a quick tour he was able to sandwich between a department head meeting and a group presentation to some VIPs. He answered my questions and pointed out physical changes in the making — while being overtaken and stopped by workers wanting decisions. He is like a walking computer with a huge database, and has the sense of humor to counteract the pressures of his demanding job. “It’s an exciting challenge to transform this property into the new Glenview community,” he said, ended the tour, “and I look forward to helping make it happen.”

It also will be exciting for me, as one who served two tours of duty at NAS Glenview, to return at some future date when that job is completed and see how everything turned out.


By Jug Varner

Sometimes you can be involved in a special history and not even know it!

During a trip to the nation's capital, I took time to return again to see the historic Washington National Cathedral. This magnificent European-style structure began in 1907, when President Teddy Roosevelt officiated in the ground breaking. President George Bush officiated in its completion in 1988.

It is the sort of place one can't fully appreciate in a single visit. Those who have been there know that many of its colorful glass windows, gargoyles and stone inscriptions relate to American life experiences. Even a moon rock brought back to earth by the astronauts is now embedded in one of the windows.

I'm glad now that I returned a third time because I discovered something connected with my own personal history when I walked down the stairs to the lower level lounge area. In the wall above the first landing, I saw a stone inscribed with the letters “GTMO.” Immediately, I wondered if this meant what I thought it did? Those letters are the code word for the U. S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Back in 1963, I served there as the Public Affairs Officer. One of my duties was coordinating visits of the congressional, military and civilian VIPs who came to this isolated post during that era of Cold War confrontations with Russia and Fidel Castro. Also, as Officer-in-Charge of the Armed Forces Radio-TV Station there, I frequently interviewed some of them on TV so that everyone on the base would know who visited and why they were there. One of those I interviewed was Reverend Francis B. Sayer, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral.

Seeing “GTMO” etched in stone some 30 years later, I asked one of the Docents about it. She said that Dean Sayer had that particular stone inscribed in 1964 in honor of the 10,000 military, civilian, dependents and Cuban refugees then populating that unusual community.

We had a saying back then that “Gitmo is unique.” From the results of his visit there, apparently Dean Sayer agreed.


By CDR Byron (Jug) Varner, U.S. Navy (RET)
During a return visit there in March 1996

The old saying, “you can hardly get there from here,” is true of Guantanamo Bay. First of all, one must obtain permission from the Navy Department. That requires time-consuming coordination and approval by various commands. Then, one must go to Norfolk Naval Air Station. “Gitmo,” as it is also known, is not a direct flight from most airline terminals.

I served on the Admiral's Staff there from 1963-1965 as Public Affairs Officer, and Officer-in-charge of the Armed Forces Radio and TV Station. My son Roy, who accompanied me on this trip as photographer, graduated high school there the year we left.

In the 1960s, military aircraft carried passengers to Gitmo from Norfolk. Today, a chartered commercial airline flies twice a week from Norfolk to Jacksonville, Gitmo, Jamaica and return, and passengers pay commercial fare. Another new wrinkle at Norfolk is the Marines' guard dog that sniffs everyone's luggage before it is loaded on the plane. Drugs were not a problem 31 years ago.

Sleet fell as Roy and I boarded the plane for the early morning departure from Norfolk, but we knew the usual balmy sunshine awaited us at our destination.


The regulated military air approach to Gitmo, from 12 miles out, afforded a birds-eye-view of the entire 45 square mile military reservation. It lies about 9 miles in an east-west direction along the southern coastline and five miles into Cuba's Oriente Province, at the eastern end of the island. This part of the Caribbean Sea is known as the Windward Passage where ships carrying 55% of all U. S. crude oil imports pass through.

From altitude it is easy to distinguish the 19-mile three-sided fence line — dubbed the “Cactus Curtain” by some news writer in 1959, after Fidel Castro's Communist forces started building fortifications around the base perimeter. It was a miniature version of the Soviet's “Iron Curtain” concept.

As the aircraft made its approach to land, we could see the old lighthouse and the main base facilities.

Also plainly visible was the huge 2-1/2 mile-wide bay area with the “water gate” entry into Cuba at Buqueron, the nearby town of Caimanera, Guantanamo City in the distance, and Guantanamo River opening into the bay.

From this vantage point it all looked about like it did the day we left it in 1965. Even the air terminal at Leeward Point seemed much the same when we landed, except for a paint job. Had we somehow entered the “Twilight Zone” and stepped back in time? As it turned out, that impression was illusory.

Journalist 3rd Class Mitchel Bone greeted us on arrival, helped with our luggage and drove us to the ferry landing for the ride across the bay to the main base. He was very capable and assisted us above and beyond the call of duty during our stay. We also appreciated the fine support of his boss, Chief Journalist Doug Coulter, the current public affairs officer. Surprisingly, his job no longer includes responsibility for radio and TV.

By the time we checked-in at Gitmo's Navy Lodge (something new to us) and checked out a rental car (also a new service), we had used nine modes of transportation — twelve if you count an elevator, escalator and foot-power. It included my personal car, a 727, Beechcraft 1900, taxi, van, 737, pickup, ferry boat and rental car. Before leaving, we would add a Humvee, helicopter and bus to this list.

Roy and I easily recognized old familiar landmarks, but we were amazed by all the new buildings and greatly expanded housing and school facilities. Most surprising, however, was seeing that popular American symbol of free enterprise — the “Golden Arches” — right there on the main thoroughfare, Sherman Avenue. In our absence McDonald's had established a restaurant in Gitmo! (I ate an egg McMuffin there every morning). A modern mall had replaced the old commissary and exchange buildings that once stood across the street. The outdoor lyceum still remains adjacent to those now vacant lots, however, and I remembered several talent shows, hootenannies and other productions I had coordinated on its stage.

The well-stocked shelves in the commissary were quite different from the old days when a United Fruit Company ship brought in fresh provisions every two weeks. The Navy wives bought the best of it within two or three days of its arrival. Despite its modern facade and bright interior, however, I knew I was in Gitmo when a bantam rooster crowed loudly as he strutted along the sidewalk near the main entrance.

Guantanamo Bay seemed strangely familiar yet vastly different — akin to going back to the old home town after many years absence and discover that everyone you knew had moved away. A brief nostalgic feeling came upon me because none of the people I served with were there to share it with me! Those friends and our mutual experiences were the reason the place always seemed so special. The Navy is not an institution, it is people — a lot of people who make it good and a few who have the opposite effect. At any rate, after 31 years absence I couldn't have expected any old shipmates to be there.

During our first day touring the base, we stopped at the Cuban Club Restaurant for lunch. My eyes hadn't quite adjusted from the bright sunshine to the dim interior when I was startled by a booming voice. “Hey Jug! What the hell are you doing here in Gitmo again?” It had to be someone I knew because only my Navy friends use my service nickname. Somehow “Jug” didn't seem dignified enough to carry into the business world when I retired from the Navy.

His voice was more familiar than his gray beard, but there sat Jack Neill at a table a few feet away from the food order counter. In 1963, he was the Chief Engineer to the Civilian Resident Officer in Charge of Construction (known as the ROICC in Navy jargon), and I could hardly believe he was still in Gitmo. Astonished and pleased to find a kindred soul, I immediately felt more at home.


Seeing Jack again brought to mind the incident on 6 February 1964, when Fidel Castro cut off the base water supply from the Yateras River, five miles farther into Cuba. The act was retaliation against the United States for its seizure of Cuban boats illegally fishing in Florida coastal waters. The immediate result of Castro's action was strict base water rationing and the beginning of water tankers shuttling from Jamaica, Norfolk and Florida to replenish the limited supply of stored water. There were no water wells on the base.

Next, Castro claimed we were “stealing water” from Cuba, so the base commander, Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley, ordered workmen to cut and lift from the ground a large section from the only two incoming Yateras water pipes near the Northeast Gate Command Post, proving them to be completely dry.

During that week, I had been escorting fourteen national media correspondents and TV film crews around the base, and they were on hand at the pipe-cutting to capture the story for international release.

After showing the world Castro was lying, Bulkeley had the ground pipes welded shut at both ends of the gap created by the removed pieces. He then ordered a large water gauge be erected down the hill facing the Cuban side, where Cuban militia could see it through their field glasses that were constantly trained on the American side. The needle, indicating zero, was a constant reminder of Castro's false claim.

The admiral was the same John Bulkeley who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his daring PT-boat rescue of General Douglas MacArthur from Bataan, during the early days of WWII. William L. White's book, They Were Expendable, recounted these heroics and film director John Ford made a motion picture of it, starring Robert Montgomery as Bulkeley and John Wayne as executive officer Kelly.

Today, Gitmo honors Admiral Bulkeley with several landmarks. The Marines named their Northeast Gate command post Bulkeley Hill, the Naval Construction Battalion (Sea Bees) designated their headquarters near Kittery Beach as Camp Bulkeley, and the Base Headquarters building is now known as Bulkeley Hall. On display there are several artifacts of his illustrious naval career.

On 25 February, I called his home in Silver Springs, Md., to tell him about our Gitmo trip. Mrs. Bulkeley told me he had been ill for some time, but that I caught him on one of his better days. His voice was softer but he had lost none of his gung-ho spirit, and he seemed to enjoy my brief report on present day Gitmo. I was doubly glad I called, because I learned a few weeks later that his 85-year-old heart failed him and his life ebbed away on 6 April 1996. This unique American hero received Full Honor Interment in Arlington National Cemetery on 19 April 1996.


The sequel to that water cut-off was the construction of a 1.5 million gallon sea water distillation plant to eliminate future reliance on the Yateras River and provide a quality water system under Navy control. As the Chief Engineer, Jack Neill coordinated this effort and completed it more than a year ahead of schedule.

He has been there through the years, overseeing a variety of projects including upgrading the water system to process an additional 2 million gallons per day. Since 1965, he has completed 640 projects costing $163 million — more than doubling the housing accommodations in the process.

Jack is a true-blue Texan with some worthy heritage to brag about. “Talk about a good set of orders,” he said with a laugh, “my great-great-grandfather, Col. Joseph C. Neill, commanded the Alamo before Col. William B. Travis relieved him to go join Gen. Sam Houston's forces. He escaped Travis's fate and helped win Texas independence from Mexico in the Battle of San Jacinto.”

In his office is a photo of a Texas flag flying from the flagpole at Northeast Gate. “How in the world did you manage that?” I asked. He replied in feigned seriousness, “Oh that was taken several years ago. A friend of mine was on guard duty there. He hoisted the flag one day when nobody was looking, and held it just long enough for me to snap the picture.”

He and wife Jo raised their family in Gitmo and seldom leave the base, even to visit their now grown children living in the states. The Neills love the area and say it reminds them of Texas. They especially like the climate and hope things will someday return to the way it was before Castro came to power. “I miss driving through the Northeast Gate, and flying over to Santiago once in a while,” Jack said wistfully. Pointing at a distant mountain we could see through the window, he added, “I'd dearly love to retire beyond that mountain over there.”

Jo remembered Roy's involvement in youth and school activities as well as the many community activities we all enjoyed together. “We don't seem to have as much community participation as we had then,” she commented. “Perhaps the fact that we now have Cable TV has made couch potatoes out of too many of us today!” That was a statement I heard several times.

Originally employed at the base from 1953-58, the Neills lived in nearby Guantanamo City, and Jack commuted to work everyday through Northeast Gate along with about 3,000 Cuban nationals. He has worked and lived on base continuously since 1963.


Some of the Cuban employees were second and third generation families of workers who came to the base in the early 1900s, following the original lease agreement with Cuba. Castro never has recognized that lease nor does he cash the annual lease payment checks, his method of contending the document is illegal.

Castro closed the gates to all motor traffic after he took over in 1959. He allowed the Cuban workers to continue commuting, but publicly reviled them as gusanos (worms) and other forms of low life. He subjected them to rigid, degrading personal search procedures each morning before they walked across the line to awaiting Navy busses and again in late afternoon when they returned to Cuba.

He also required them to exchange 90% of their American dollars one-to-one for Cuban pesos when the normal exchange rate was one-to-fourteen up to seventeen. This amounted to millions for the new Communist regime, but left the commuters with little buying power at home. They endured these hardships because there was (and is today) little income opportunity in Cuba. It was the only way they could provide for their families. Many had vested American retirement plans at the base.

Things began to change during the water crisis, however. The Navy terminated 970 commuters during the month following the water cut-off. President Lyndon Johnson decreed the base should become self-sufficient, and ordered a reduction in force of all Cuban commuters, replacing them with Jamaican workers. A number of commuters exiled themselves on the base for political reasons, rather than go back to Cuba.

Arrangements were made to allow 300 male workers to continue commuting until they retired. Those 300 now number about 22 and most of them probably will be gone within a year or so. Cuban guards continue their degrading search practices.


Approximately seventy-six exiles remain on the base at this writing, either working or retired. Most say they will die in Gitmo and be buried in the base cemetery near Cuzco Beach. Typical of these are men like Edgar Lewis, Selvin Reid, Patrick Duffus, and Claude McPherson, all of whom were in Gitmo when I served there, as were many others we didn't have time to locate or interview. Talking with these four, however, gave Roy and me a renewed appreciation for their courage, self discipline, and the ingrained culture of their Cuban homeland. They are educated, thoughtful people, worthy of our respect.

To a man, they all love Cuba and still have family connections there, but thoroughly dislike and distrust Castro and his Communist regime. Having spent all these years in exile status, they are grateful and loyal to the United States for the work opportunity and safe haven. I was heartened to see the Navy has honored its obligation to them after their lifetime of service to Gitmo, by providing housing and pensions.

EDGAR LEWIS is in his 70s, apparently in good health and operates his Trzyna Village Restaurant that features spicy Jamaican fare. Tryzna Village is a Jamaican housing area named after Public Works Center Captain Zbyszko C. Trzyna, USN, who served during our time there.

Mr. Lewis talked with us while we lunched at his place. I asked him if the sauce was hot and he smiled knowingly, suggesting “I'll give you a taste and you make up your own mind.” It tasted relatively mild so I ordered “Jerk Chicken” and poured on a liberal amount of sauce. Several bites later I realized the sauce had a delayed-action fuse. I gradually survived the heat detonation, but didn't opt for seconds.

In 1959-60, following several run-ins with Cuban police who falsely accused him of being a spy for the Batista regime and relaying information to the Navy, Edgar Lewis knew he must leave Cuba. He had been thrown in jail on one occasion and had his car impounded on another. He knew of others who were killed by exploding mines or Cuban gunfire while trying to escape in those early days, but he knew he must take that risk, one way or another.

Exiling in 1961, he worked as a clerk-typist at Base Headquarters and later as a translator and Cuban personnel director at Public Works, until his retirement in 1982 when he started his restaurant business.

He had applied for permission to take his wife and two children out of Cuba before he exiled but received no response. The approval came 13 years later in 1974. Meanwhile, he had married a woman who had exiled on the base and they had three children of their own. Nevertheless, he arranged and financed his first family's move to Boston and then relocated them to Los Angeles, set them up in housing and provided continued financial support. Then he returned to his wife and job in Gitmo. Their youngest daughter is attending school at Guantanamo Bay and their two adult children are in the States, well educated and with responsible jobs.

Lewis explained his plight. “My first wife never blamed me, she blamed Castro. She never remarried. I have done my best for her and those children, under the circumstances, and my conscience is clear. I've improved my life here and I owe a lot to Guantanamo.”

SELVIN REID at age 89 is not the oldest exile on the base, but he must be getting close. Current holder of that title is Oscar Muntoto, who possesses the local symbol of that honor: “The Walking Stick.”

Mr. Reid's wife of 51 years, Mosa, was at work when we first talked with him in their comfortable home. Fortunately, Roy stopped by again to talk with her, because she gave us one of her famous pecan pies. M-m-m-m good! She loves to bake and everyone else in Gitmo must love it when she does because, as she phrased it, “Giving makes me feel good.” Although they were married in 1944, she remained in Cuba until 1965, when he arranged her exile on the base to work as a beautician.

Reid is recovering from prostate surgery but it doesn't dampen his spirit nor sense of humor. Mentally sharp, he talked of his life in Guantanamo, saying “There's no place I'd rather be! Where else can you leave your door wide open and know your neighbors will take care of you?”

I asked him if he ever knew Alberta Findley, the Cuban maid who lived in our maids quarters and worked for us when we lived in Gitmo? We wondered how we could contact her. “Oh, yes, we knew Berta very well. She left here in the 70s and went to Jamaica. Poor Berta was so unhappy and died shortly after she got there.”

Selvin was born in Jamaica when it was a British Colony and moved to Cuba at age 18, working as a chemist's assistant in a sugar factory. While discussing this experience he commented that Cuba's current sugar crop is one of the best in years.

During the beginning of a major construction program at the Base in 1939, he took work as a mason's helper and because he spoke English well eventually took a job in 1941 as the first civilian employee at the Naval Air Supply Depot, McCalla Field. He continued in that organization until his retirement in 1981 and then worked several years as an annuitant.

One of Mr. Reid's prized possessions is the 40-Year Service award he received from the Secretary of the Navy (he actually worked longer) and he appropriately displays it for all visitors to see. He also takes pride in his well-loved children and is especially delighted that his grandson, an NROTC graduate of the University of Vermont, is now a Navy Lieutenant serving as Admiral's Aide aboard the USS Washington. Their oldest son served during the Korean War.

“I would choose this life again, its humble,” Selvin Reid said in parting. “I'm not a front page kind of guy.”

PATRICK DUFFAS was busy issuing ID cards when I met him at his office at Base Security, so we conducted our interview intermittently when he found time to talk. He has worked in this same job since 1953, commuting through the NE Gate until 1960. At that time, the Cuban Militia began harassing him about his job on the base.

“They accused me of working for the CIA” he explained, “but I kept telling them that all I knew about the CIA was that it stood for Central Intelligence Agency, that I was merely a filing clerk in the base security section. That was my only job. They didn't believe me and took away my pass and threw me in jail, once for two weeks and another time for a month — no charges, no proof, no nothing. They just didn't want me over here. I knew some of the Militia men and convinced them I had American money stashed away here and needed to come get it. So they gave me a pass to come pick it up and I never went back!”

He managed to get his wife and 8-year-old daughter across the line in May 1963, with a 2,000 peso bribe of one of the Cuban guards at the Northeast Gate. The man was in love with a commuting worker's pretty daughter who convinced the guard to help. Discussing the danger of the situation, Duffus said, “In those days they hadn't developed their mine fields yet, just soldiers with orders to shoot at anything that moved. The day before my wife came they killed a lady trying to come over, put her body in a sugar bag and dumped it in a hole.”

His daughter is 41 now and lives in a house he owns in Clearwater, Fla., but her 12-year-old daughter lives with Mr. and Mrs. Duffus and attends school in Gitmo. He has a 73-year-old brother who is one of the remaining 22 commuters.

When asked when he planned to retire, he shook his head and said, “No way! I'm 70 now and could have retired some time ago, but I want to continue working and living here as long as I can. I have no plans to retire and just sit around playing dominoes, with no real purpose in life. We are treated very nice here, I love my job and we have no complaints whatsoever.”

When I told him my daughter Vickie and son Roy worked in summer jobs at the base Supply Depot in 1963-64, Duffus went to his extensive card file and found their original applications.

CLAUDE McPHERSON talked with me three times — first at the PAO office, then in his home and again during dinner at the Cuban Club. Of Jamaican descent and serious demeanor, he has a wry sense of humor and is highly respected by the exile community and the civilian and military personnel who know him.

When asked how he was enjoying his retirement, he responded dolefully, “Oh, man, I was doing very well before I retired, but then all the screws that held my body together rusted and fell apart!” At age 73, he stood erect and looked in excellent shape to me, however.

The first job McPherson had at Gitmo was with the Frederick Snare Corporation, contractor for the massive 1939-1943 construction project. The majority of the buildings and facilities existing at Guantanamo Bay when I first saw it in the 60s were built during that project, including our living quarters M-115 on Huntington Point.

Recalling those times McPherson said: “I came to Guantanamo Bay on my 19th birthday, June 28, 1941. There were 9,000 contractor and 4,000 government employees commuting by train from Guantanamo City to Caimanera and Buqueron, where we took boats to the base. All together we were a mixture of

Cuban, Spanish, Chinese, Indian, French, Haitian, Jamaican, Puerto Rican and Latin people involved in this undertaking and we worked in 12-hour shifts around the clock during the war. I worked for Public Works Transportation by then.

“The base was a staging area for convoys to Europe, anti-submarine patrols looking for German U-boats, and other such Navy missions, so there were ships everywhere, including the merchant ships that came to pick up sugar at Buqueron for transport to the States.

“Cuba committed its entire sugar crop to the United States for the duration of the war at a fixed rate well below the world market price. It was a major financial and resource contribution to the war effort. Cuban sugar and molasses were important ingredients in making alcohol, explosives, synthetics and other essential products.”

McPherson progressed through various jobs in Public Works and continued commuting from Guantanamo City until 1960, when he realized he must exile rather than live under Castro's oppression. One day he decided not to return with the other commuters and has remained an exile ever since. His wife and children stayed in Cuba. He brought his mother from Jamaica to live with him from 1974-1984, but he eventually had to take her back and put her in a nursing home there. I learned that his mother was a good friend of our maid Berta, who stayed in the McPherson home to recover from illness before leaving Guantanamo.

At the time of his retirement in 1993, 52 years and 5 months from the time he was first employed, Mr. McPherson held the position of Manager of Real Estate Facilities and worked closely with Jack Neill's department as well as others. The Navy provides him with a nice little house near Coronaso Point where he invited me to come accept some special mementos to take with me — two Cuban cigars, a 1958 series fifty peso Cuban banknote, a $20 Jamaican banknote, a copy of the 1903 U.S-Cuba lease agreement excerpt, a pamphlet he produced about Cuban geography and history and several other items.

With a broad smile he told me, “I have saved the best for last. It is a rare item, absolutely the best research you will find about this base!” Then, with a flourish, handed me a well-worn copy of the History of Guantanamo Bay, 1904-1964. I almost hated to tell him that my office published that book in 1964, primarily through the efforts of my Chief Journalist Dan Koze. So I thanked him and said how much I appreciated his thoughtfulness before I turned to the title page and pointed to my name there. His smile faded.

“That is you? You published this?” he asked incredulously. Then we both burst into laughter. When he regained his composure, he said as if chastising himself, “All the time I thought I was really doing something wonderful for you.” I told him he had done something wonderful for me, more than he knew!

A trip back to Cuba via Jamaica was first on Claude's agenda after retirement. He visited with his wife and children, friends and relatives, all of whom were suffering from Castro's economy. He depleted his savings considerably giving money to his wife and children and “lending” to his old friends — knowing it was a gift because they could never repay the debt. Then he returned to his real home in Gitmo to be among his real friends.


Having spent many hours at WGBY during my tour of duty in Gitmo, I anticipated this revisit with great pleasure — only to be disappointed. The new station we built at Morin Center is still there — almost like it was the day we left, except for additional radio studios. Otherwise it is a shell of its former pulsating activity. Today, everything is automated and there are no live telecasts. The TV studio now serves as a large storage room housing some of the equipment we once used.

No doubt cable TV brings more immediacy to the news and Gitmoites can stay in touch with things back home a bit easier, but part of the joy of living there in the 60s was the community participation and feeling of oneness we experienced in our live TV broadcasts. Automation may be more efficient and cost effective, but WGBY has lost that “human touch” and that's a shame.

We had no cable TV, no computers, no copiers, laser printers or other electronic gadgets that are so much a part of our lives today. All of these make for improved journalistic endeavors, of course, and a more readable product. In our day we completely wore out two mimeograph machines each year publishing the daily Gitmo Gazette and daily Spanish Gazette in that same location. We also published a weekly Gitmo Review at the local government printing office.

Our source of news was from an AP and UPI teletype machine that clattered its stories onto a roll of newsprint 24-hours a day. We did have the luxury of four electric typewriters, at least one of which was being repaired, usually in make-do fashion. Supplies from the states came slowly if at all.

A bright and cheerful Chief Journalist Audrey Michaels, current officer-in-charge, gave us a guided tour of WGBY, telling us she will soon return to the states and retire from the Navy. With her great personality and journalistic talent, it was too bad she wasn't in Gitmo in the 60s when her attributes would have been better used.


On the first night, we went to the officer's club for dinner. Except for redecoration it seemed the same and its large patio overlooking the bay was as enticing as ever. The dining room brought memories of many social functions enjoyed there, including my “wetting-down” party when promoted to Commander. Today, however, it is known as the Bayview Club and is open to officer, enlisted and civilian alike, as are all service clubs on the base. The famous old structure that once was the Chief Petty Officer's Club now awaits demolition — the end result of providing too much termite food over the years. The Chiefs now meet in the basement of the Bayview Club.

Club manager Harry Sharpe, a Cuban exile who worked on the base during the 60s, stopped by our table to renew acquaintances. When he left, a lady at a nearby table introduced herself as Judy Davis, an instructor at Navy Campus. She overheard me tell Mr. Sharpe who we were and why we were here, so she invited us to join her table for dinner. We met her husband Dan, an associate professor with Troy State University, and their friend Ron Wilkinson, a civilian contractor's representative. Our conversation covered numerous subjects comparing then and now and gave Roy and me fresh ideas about people and places to include in our visit.

Judy and Dan are two of a number of locals involved in restoring the old lighthouse for a Guantanamo Bay Museum. I later met Commander Rick Wagner, the Public Works Officer who heads the restoration committee. He gave me a guided tour of the former Coast Guard residence at the lighthouse, where the artifacts will be displayed. Caught up in their enthusiasm for the project, I volunteered to send them a number of Gitmo mementos of the 1960s I had collected.


The Navy Campus where the Davises and others teach is a new concept to one who has been away from active service as long as I have. It is a great opportunity to advance one's education, whether for a GED high school diploma or on-campus credit hours toward an associate, bachelor's or master's degree — particularly for unaccompanied personnel stationed in Gitmo, where there is ample time to pursue those objectives without too much competition from other off-hour activities and distractions. Of course, family members and station personnel can also benefit.

Mary Ackerman, local administrator of this world-wide program told us more about it when we visited the campus. They conduct evening classes at the former high school facilities on Chapel Hill and have a current enrollment of 374 students, which is expected to increase later this year. Troy State University, City Colleges of Chicago, and Central Texas College are the current on-campus institutions, but special services are also provided by off-campus institutions for correspondence courses, SAT, GRE, certificate exams and other needs. All instructors have master's or doctor's degrees and work on a contract basis. Station personnel with master's degrees or better may serve as adjunct instructors as the need arises. Service personnel have enrollment priority but family members and non-U.S. employees may enter if space is available.


The Navy has evacuated families three times in Gitmo's history — first during WWII, again during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and finally during the recent Haitian-Cuban refugee crisis. Some current residents, who experienced the last one, feel strongly that the evacuation was unnecessary, but military commanders dispute that assessment. Nonetheless, each evacuation was a hardship on the school system. Enrollment is expected to normalize this fall.

Timing of this trip provided an odd coincidence relative to my initial arrival in April 1963. Then, the evacuated families had begun their return the previous December as the base was returning to normal operations, and the bulk of the students arrived the following summer. Now, we learned that evacuated families began returning in December as the base gets back to normal, and school officials expect the greatest influx of students this summer. The past is prologue.

Named for Admiral William T. Sampson of Spanish-American war fame, the Gitmo school system is the oldest in DOD's world-wide network and the only one located on Communist soil.

When we left here in the 60s, all grade levels attended the old Chapel Hill school facility. Roy's graduating class numbered about twenty-three students and the totals gradually increased in later years along with the overall school population. Jack Neill and his forces constructed new buildings to accommodate them - an elementary school in 1975 and a high school ten years later. Familiar with only the old school, we were greatly impressed with the replacement buildings and fine athletic facilities.

In the 1960s, all sports were intramural. Now, the Gitmo school competes with other Caribbean area schools in sports and academic events.

High school students in their final year aren't too willing to leave school at mid-term and graduate somewhere else. Thus many stayed behind with relatives or friends when their families returned to Gitmo, resulting in a 1996 Senior Class numbering only three students, all male — probably the all-time low record for Gitmo's graduating class.

Dr. Donna S. Warner is the new principal of both high school and elementary school. This veteran of the DOD school system came here from Panama in November to meet the tremendous challenge of rehabilitating facilities damaged by the Joint Task Force's use of the high school as headquarters during the refugee crisis. She retrieved student records sent to Washington, D. C., during evacuation, hired new faculty and practically reorganized the system from ground zero.

All teachers went to other locations when the families left in September 1994, so most new ones are here for the first time. One of the few “old-timers.” Home Economics teacher Nelda Williams, was back in Gitmo for the fourth time. I'd say she is one lady who knows the right place to be!

One of the two things Roy hoped to accomplish during this visit was fulfilled when Dr. Warner presented him with a surplus copy of his class yearbook she found in the library. He had lost his somewhere along the way. We had to depart before he could accomplish the other — locating the like-new yellow and black '53 Mercury coupe he purchased in his junior year from graduating senior Ed Thompson. He looked for it along the streets and at the junkyard for old rusting vehicles, but to no avail. It may have ended its life as a target at the Marine gunnery range.

Gitmo now has a modern recycling system for paper, cans, plastics, glass, etc., and a U. S. recovery company periodically takes it away by barge. What is not recycled or incinerated is placed in a local landfill in accordance with EPA requirements.

A lot of things change over time, but the Marines still have that esprit de corps that sets them apart from the other services. Everything is still spit and polish, and quality. Except for their vehicles, it seemed much the same as when I left Gitmo. Their mission to defend the base has not changed, they know their business and they do it well. It renewed my spirit to know that some service traditions live on and I was glad to be among them again.

Colonel Joseph Composto, Commanding Officer of the Marine Barracks, is one of the more impressive Marines I have met. His intellect is brilliant and his background experience notable, having served in JAG billets as well as various field and staff assignments. Despite being at this post for a relatively brief time, he seemed to know as much about the background and history of the base as anyone else we talked with.

Following an interesting and informative interview late one afternoon, we met the following morning and he personally escorted us on a tour to the Northeast Gate. From there we drove along the fence line to the Water Gate (not an actual gate, but an imaginary line), where international ships pass through the bay into Buqueron to off-load products and pick up sugar. We stopped at various outposts and returned through the gunnery range back to Camp X-ray - where refugee trouble-makers were kept until sent home to Haiti or Cuba.

For some strange reason, Roy had always wanted to ride in a Humvee, and on this day he got his wish. Actually, it is HMMWV (pronounced Humvee) — a Marine acronym for “High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle” — which is their replacement for the old reliable Jeep that got its start in WWII. The Humvee is an all-purpose vehicle that can be configured in various ways. Its wide-track wheels gave a more comfortable ride than one might imagine. Thinking about it the following day, Roy wondered, “If I'd have asked would they have let me drive it?” I told him, “Probably not.”

Bulkeley Hill was about the same as I knew it, the pipes at the water cut-off site are still exposed, but the gauge is gone from the hill. Razor-sharp “concertina” wire is in evidence everywhere, but all is quiet at the Northeast Gate except twice each day when the commuting workers enter and depart.

The fence line looked somewhat different from the way I remembered, primarily due to growth of vegetation and a widened strip of “no-man's land” along the perimeter. Since our time, the Cuban Frontier Brigade moved back from their original line and continue to upgrade their emplacements to this day. The old Cuban Gate that faces the American Gate stands unoccupied about 100 feet away.

Reminding Col. Composto of the many fence line incidents that took place in my time, when Cubans taunted our Marines by throwing rocks and bottles at them as they drove along the line, I asked if any of that still occurred. He said, “There seldom is any trouble of that sort anymore, partly due to the distance between outposts, alternating routes our troops take along the line, special measures they take with night lights and other means to let the Cubans know that the Marines know their location. Also, a periodic face-to-face meeting of opposing commanders has made a difference.”

In an effort to defuse trouble before it starts, the two senior Cuban militia officials occasionally meet with the Marine Barracks Commander and the Naval Base Commander half-way between the two Gates. In brief conversation, each side alerts the other about any problem the other is causing that can be corrected, and of any unusual training activity planned that could be mistaken for overt action or threat.

With their high mountain lookout advantage, there is little on this side of the fence the Cuban militia cannot see, but the Marines vary their routine enough to keep them guessing. The Cubans also know that we have much better intelligence sources than they have. At one time, they operated a beer house on one of the mountains where the incentive was for customers to look down on the base through telescopes.

Gitmo may have the largest land mine field in the world, with more than 30,000 on the U. S. side and that many or more on the Cuban side. The major difference is that the Marine minefield maintenance personnel constantly rehabilitate their fields, but the Cubans never check or replace theirs. Locating and replacing mines is tedious and dangerous work for these Marines, but they receive extensive training here and in the States. The expected life of such mines are from eight to twelve years.

Cuba's newest land mines were laid thirteen years ago in a major expansion of their fields, following the 1983 U. S. action in Grenada. Many of their mines are now exposed by soil erosion, and the Colonel pointed out a number of them as we drove along the line. He said from one to three Cuban mines explode every day. Occasionally one of our own goes off, usually when a deer or other wildlife creature steps on them. Each incident is investigated, however. We saw numerous iguana and hutias or “banana rats” as we made our fence line tour.

A profusion of wildlife exists and regulations prohibit hunting, capturing or harming Cuban rock iguana, brown pelican, owl, hawk, key deer, sea turtle, dolphin, porpoises, seal, whale, snook, manatee, starfish, black coral snake and other animals, some of which are on the endangered species list.

One of the most prominent animal habitats is in a tree adjacent to Base headquarters at Bulkeley Hall, where a large pack of banana rats nest. They look more like a marmot than a rat and are interesting to watch — but reek of foul odor. Like many protected species, these have become destructive pests.

Having made a number of helicopter trips around the base perimeter in my time, I scheduled other activities while Roy and Journalist Bone made their first such ride during a Marine inspection flight. It was a special experience for both of them, providing Roy another great photo opportunity which he loved. We came home with more than five hundred color slides.


Operation Sea Signal started in June 1994 under the command of a Joint Task Force (JTF-160) during the political unrest in Haiti. Haitians by the thousands set out in home-made rafts and make-shift boats headed toward the U. S. and to other islands in the Caribbean. The Coast Guard rescued many of them and took them aboard the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort anchored off Port Royal, Kingston Jamaica, where the JTF staff operated on shore. Increasing numbers soon made it necessary to transfer the operation to Gitmo, despite little warning or advanced preparation.

About the same time, Fidel Castro announced that Cuban asylum seekers would not be impeded or opposed by the Cuban government and thousands of fleeing Cubans joined the Haitians in the mass exodus. Many of them also came by boats of all kinds and were referred to as “balseros”, or boat people.

What began as a trickle developed into a stream that became a sea of humanity inundating the base so rapidly in such overwhelming numbers that food, housing and sanitary facilities were totally inadequate. The normal Gitmo population of about 7,000 increased at one point to more than 50,000 by Cuban and Haitian refugees, critically endangering local water and electrical capabilities and hampering fleet training and other normal operations.

Most refugees arrived with the expectation of a short wait and then moving on to the United States, as they had been led to believe, or had imagined it would be. Although Cubans and Haitians were fleeing oppression, each had different cultures, problems and purposes and were isolated in nine separate facilities. Cubans outnumbered Haitians by three to one. The complicated political and logistical situation required internment camps for them, rather than their anticipated “quick stepping stone to freedom.” Initial camp conditions coupled with their frustration led to the Refugees' well-publicized demonstration.

The Joint Task Force operation was separate and apart from the normal base operations, although it received considerable assistance from base activities. It was staffed by military and civilian personnel representing the Defense Department, State Department, CIA, Immigration Services, Justice Department, Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations whose interest and lines of authority converged. In addition to the Coast Guard efforts, more than 55 major Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine commands across the U. S. were involved in the operation.

Before its conclusion early in 1996, such diverse interests as the International Red Cross, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Relief Corporation and International Organization for Migration were also involved.

Sea Signal became a phased operation, its character constantly changing, hinging on U.S. policy changes, political and international dynamics and the internal decisions of the forces and organizations executing it.

The Marine Barracks' involvement in the Joint Task Force efforts during this time was only as external security guards around the migrant camps. Their real test came during the riots, when they manned roadblocks to protect base residents and quelled the uprising of some 2,000 migrants from several camps in September 1994. One group of agitators, at the height of emotions, charged the Marine guards and tried to grab their rifles.

The Marines showed great restraint by not firing at the crowd. Instead, they responded with bayonets, slightly nicking two or three leaders of the charge. At the sight of blood, things immediately changed, the crowd got quiet and the demonstrations stopped. The participants gradually wandered back to their camps and the situation returned to normal. This near-violent event justified the official decision concerning the evacuation of families.

Once the JTF eliminated major camp problems, constructed sanitary facilities, systemized the general routine and improved overall communications, peace reigned among the migrants. The scope of the operation was mind-boggling and broadly included all facets of security and wide range of support services, medical treatment, medical clinics and education, religious ministry, special mail processing, satellite telephone service, education and vocational services, recreation, and other needs. Spanish broadcasting efforts were expanded and arrangements were made to bring in special entertainment, including an appearance by singer Gloria Estefan and actor Andy Garcia.

The Cubans established their own camp governments, elected leaders and generally became good citizens. Some volunteered to assist in various jobs around the base. Given free reign within their own boundaries, many fished along the shore, improvised clever items to make their lives easier and even built small parks, religious art works and interesting memorials to their plight and to their U. S. benefactors in appreciation for the temporary housing, food and care.

Typically, the U. S. and international media coverage of this situation highlighted the sensational and sent incomplete, negative, and distorted sound-bites to viewers around the world. Those of us in the States saw or read little about the positive efforts of the refugees or the many Gitmo residents who volunteered their own time and effort to help make life a bit more normal and comfortable for these itinerants.

One total effort by NavBase personnel was the highly successful Operation Love The Children, founded and directed by Petty Officer Michael Dean Gold. Volunteers brought children of all ages out of the camp environment to visit in their homes and play with their children, expressing love and care to brighten their lives.

A plaque permanently mounted at the elementary school reads: “In memory of thousands of Cuban and Haitian children who laughed and played on these playgrounds during the Migration: Safe Haven, and the volunteers who cared enough to give them back their childhood for a while.”

Other volunteers demonstrated to those in the camps how to use educational tools such as play dough, how to play basketball and other games and provided education services.

In the midst of it all, the Fleet Training Command ended its 56-year tenancy at Gitmo and relocated at Mayport, Fla., near Jacksonville. Part of this was attributed to cost-cutting and part to the changing mission of the base. Several functions are continuing here, such as port services, air and supply operations and perimeter security, but some experts fear the loss of Guantanamo's incomparable sea training area could lessen the effectiveness of future fleet readiness.

The final phase-out of JTF-160 operation was the paperwork to “parole” of all migrants — 29,000 of whom went to the States under the policy announced by Attorney General Janet Reno in May 1995. The remainder returned to their homeland or went elsewhere.

This phase-out required dismantling and cleaning-up camp areas, shipping materials elsewhere and storing a portion of it at Gitmo, should future events require the need to reactivate the operation. One thing is for sure: the trial and error experience taught how it should be done properly if there is a next time.

Cost of this convoluted exercise has been estimated to be five billion dollars, or more. With the involvement of so many agencies, the actual amount may never be known. One wonders if the cost was worth it, or how our politicians can justify such expense in light of our national deficit, and the untended domestic needs in our own country.


From 1941 to 1975, Gitmo's Base Commander held the rank of Rear Admiral. Since then it has been a Captain's billet. Captain James R. Cannon, who reported here in mid-95, was away from the base during our visit so we missed the opportunity to meet him.

We talked at length with Commander Carl Albury, Chief of Staff, who enlisted in the submarine service in 1963 and came up through the ranks in a variety of surface and shore billets that has given him a broad Navy background. Along the way, he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in Business Administration and currently teaches at Navy Campus in his off-hours.

One of his hobbies is history. “We need to study history so we won't make the same mistakes over and over again,” he said. Astute in his observations, CDR Albury gave us his definition of the difference between the Haitians and Cubans: “The Cuban is looking to find a way to improve his life. The Haitian is just trying to survive.”

Sometime last year before the families returned, Navy Times and other news sources carried conflicting stories about the demise of Gitmo for lack of a real mission — since the Fleet Training Group had gone. Albury said he thought much of this was conjecture, based on misinformation, but he doubted that the base would be closed because it is too important to give up. Gitmo is one of the last American outposts in the Caribbean and the Navy's presence here is an indication of continued resolve in this region.

When Admiral William J. Flannagan, Jr., Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, announced the families' return, he also said: “Future plans for the base call for a gradual reduction in military manning, and a scaling-down of facilities to fit a revised mission.

“Traditionally, the primary focus of the Guantanamo mission was fleet training. Now, and for the foreseeable future, Guantanamo Bay will serve as a logistics facility, supporting air and sea operations in the Caribbean, and limited joint exercises.”


Time ran out before we were ready to leave and many stories were left untold. The trip was an enjoyable contrast of then and now for us.

If you have a favorite place you've wished to see again, go for it!

Byron D. Varner

Among numerous species of wildlife in Guantanamo Bay are several on the endangered list, including the Jutia, or Banana Rat shown in a tree near Bulkeley Hall (left). Also included here are the ever present Iguana (middle) and the Brown Pelican (right).


By Kathleen T. Rhem, American Forces Press Service

U.S. NAVAL BASE, GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) 4-1-05 — Navy public works officials here are combining ancient and modern technologies to build cost savings into the base’s energy program. Four huge, white wind turbines now stand guard over Gitmo from John Paul Jones Hill, the base’s highest point.

“This is the world’s most ancient philosophy, combined with state-of-the-art technology,” said CDR Jeffrey M. Johnston, the base’s public works officer. “Harnessing the wind is arguably the first technical thing man ever did.”

Standing some 26 stories high, the four three-blade turbines are among the base’s most noticeable features. But they are there for much more than just to improve the scenery. Base officials estimate the four turbines will provide as much as a quarter of the base’s power generation during the high-wind months of July through October.

Unlike most U.S. military bases in the United States and overseas that get power and water from municipal sources, Guantanamo Bay is completely self-sustaining. It receives no power or water from Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

“This is the last of the great independent military installations,” Johnston said. “That’s not to say that all installations should go back to ‘independent steaming.’ It makes a lot of sense to use tax dollars to regionalize, but it just doesn’t work here.”

Before the wind turbines, the base operated its diesel-fueled generators around the clock to produce electricity. Since the turbines went into operation in early 2005, they have provided up to 12% of the power. Johnston noted that spring is the “slack-wind period” and that the turbines would be able to produce more power by July. In a fortuitous coincidence, the time of day when the highest average winds blow is during the base’s peak energy-usage period - about 4 p.m., Johnston said.

In addition to generating power, the turbines have significantly cut down on emissions of greenhouse gases created by burning diesel fuel. Using the wind turbines would have the same effect as taking 2,500 cars off Guantanamo Bay’s roads for a year – quite significant for an installation with a total population of about 10,000 people.

Each turbine is anchored in “a giant, swimming pool-sized block of concrete, through which 22 soil anchors are drilled into the mountain,” Johnston said, explaining that the soil anchors are sunk 30 to 40 feet deep, then sealed with grout - essentially nailed to the mountain. They’ are rated to withstand winds up to 140 miles per hour – equivalent to a category four hurricane. “If we get to the point where those blow down, that will be the least of our worries, because the rest of the base would probably suffer far more serious damage.”

Completely automated in their functioning, each turbine independently senses the wind direction, turns into the wind, and controls the pitch of the blades. If they “chase the wind” and get to four full rotations, they will shut themselves down temporarily, stablize, and turn back on.

The turbines were funded through an energy performance savings contract with Noresco, a Massachusetts company specializing in energy solutions. Through this contract, Noresco provided all up front costs and the Navy will repay it from energy savings over an extended period.

The base also is realizing other cost-saving improvements through this contract. Officials are working with Noresco to replace two older diesel generators with more efficient models that will further reduce emissions and greatly lower maintenance requirements.

A bi-product of this contract is improvement of the energy-distribution system. Before recent upgrades, if a problem occurred somewhere along the line, it tripped the power on the entire base. A new, more robust system helps control outages and limits them to specific areas.


By Jug Varner

As one who served in Guantanamo Bay in years past, I can't believe what is happening there today. We have turned this great training facility into a detention camp for almost 30,000 Haitians and Cubans, none of whom want to be there and many of whom are little else than trouble makers.

If the decision wasn't bad enough, the expense of it is even worse. It is costing us a fortune to look stupid to the rest of the world. Why are we trying to tell these countries how to run their domestic program anyhow, when our own is so bad and getting worse? That money could be far better spent to solve some of our own domestic or military problems. If defense money is so critical that we are closing bases and downsizing our forces, where is the money coming from to support this ridiculous situation?

There is a simple solution, but I'm not sure those in power are smart enough to do something simple. Why not just take the Cubans to the base's main gate and let them all walk home. Then put all the Haitians on a ship, deliver them to “our” restored Haitian President, and say, “you take care of your people.” Then load our forces aboard and come home.

If the new Republican Congress wants to change things for the better, one thing they could do is rise up against committing our forces to foreign action unless it is for real military purposes and an actual threat to America's security. We can't afford to be the world's housekeepers.

The word came down in late November that the families might never be able to return to Gitmo. What a shame. As long as we have a base there for training operations, the families should be a part of it — as they have been for most of this century except for emergencies.

They were evacuated in WWII and again during the Cuban missile crisis of the 1960s, but that was eminent danger. This current problem is one which our own government created. Among other errors was sending the wrong people home. Send Cubans and Haitians home and bring the families back!


National Museum Of Naval Aviation Symposium
From an AP story in the Sarasota Herald Tribune 5/7/04

NAS Pensacola, FL - Satellite-guided weapons that let U.S. pilots bomb Iraqi targets through sandstorms and other bad weather earned high praise here during the annual Naval Aviation Symposium.

Veterans of the Operation Iraqi Freedom also recalled their ability to fly off aircraft carriers when the sandstorms grounded most planes, plus some close calls and a threat by President Bush to fire a top general if Saddam Hussein unleashed weapons of mass destruction.

Naval aviation’s finest hour came during the sandstorm that began March 25, 2003, said Captain David Rogers, then-operations officer for the Combined Forces Air Component. Superiors told a carrier battle group commander, “If you don’t fly, people are going to die,” although conditions at sea also bordered on unsafe, said Rogers, a native of Parshall, CO.

Navy pilots bombed tanks and other targets with the satellite-guided weapons, although they were unable to see them. Iraqi soldiers then began shedding their uniforms and surrendering. “They realized we had capabilities they never even dreamed of,” Rogers said.

The symposium at the National Museum of Naval Aviation included the induction of Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell, a retired Navy Captain from Lake Forest, IL and Horseshoe Bay, TX, and three other new members into the Naval Aviation Hall of Honor. They are: retired Marine BGen Robert Galer, of Frisco TX, a WWII ace; retired Coast Guard CDR Stuart R. Graham, of Naples, Maine, a pioneering helicopter pilot; and retired ADM James L. Holloway, III, of Alexandria, VA, Chief of Naval Operations in 1974-78. All were present except Galer, who was ill.

Rogers said he was in the next room but heard President Bush speak to now-retired General Tommy Franks, then Commander of the U.S. Central Command, at a White House briefing before the war. “He said, ’If there is one event where we have a weapon of mass destruction go against either our neighbors or our troops, then I’m finding a new unified commander,’” Rogers said.


By Jug Varner

Best wishes to all of our Navy men, women and dependents on Navy Day, 27 October 2005.

Here is how Navy Day came into being:

Concerned about disarmament in the years following WWI, the Navy League of the United States sponsored the first national observance of Navy Day in 1922 to give recognition to the naval service.

The Navy League of New York proposed that the official observance be annually on 27 October in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was born on that day and is historically associated with America's Great White Fleet.

On December 16, 1907, the United States Battle Fleet began a journey that concluded by circumnavigating the globe. While navies today travel throughout the world as part of their standard mission, such a feat had never been attempted before 1907.

Perhaps such brashness on the part of the United States might have been attributed to its recent debut on the world stage as victor in the Spanish-American War, or perhaps, as his detractors claimed, President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt just wanted to demonstrate “Big Stick” Diplomacy.

Regardless of purpose, the cruise of the Great White Fleet truly ushered in the “American Century.”

For an in-depth look at this naval history, click on []


From the Naval Historical Center

The United States Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which the Continental Congress established on 13 October 1775 by authorizing the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America.

The legislation also established a Naval Committee to supervise the work. All together, the Continental Navy numbered some fifty ships over the course of the war, with approximately twenty warships active at its maximum strength.

After the American War for Independence, Congress sold the surviving ships of the Continental Navy and released the seamen and officers.

The Constitution of the United States ratified in 1789, empowered Congress “to provide and maintain a navy.” Acting on this authority, Congress ordered the construction and manning of six frigates in 1794, and the War Department administered naval affairs from that year until Congress established the Department of the Navy on 30 April 1798.

Not to be confused with the Navy Birthday or the founding of the Navy Department is Navy Day. The Navy League sponsored the first national observance of Navy Day in 1922 designed to give recognition to the naval service. The Navy League of New York proposed that the official observance be on 27 October in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, who had been born on that day.

In 1972 Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt authorized recognition of 13 October as the Navy’s official birthday. In contrast to Navy Day, the Navy Birthday is intended as an internal activity for members of the active forces and reserves, as well as retirees, and dependents.

Since 1972 each CNO has encouraged a Navy-wide celebration of this occasion “to enhance a greater appreciation of our Navy heritage, and to provide a positive influence toward pride and professionalism in the naval service.”

Click on the following links for more information:

History of Navy’s Birthday. []
Officers of the Continental Navy and Marine Corps []
Vessels of the Continental Navy []
Congress and the Continental Navy [ ]
Chronology and Documents [ ]
Bibliography, the American Revolution [ ]
Bibliography, American Revolution Naval Officers [ ]


By Andrew Koch, Jane’s Defense Weekly Bureau Chief, Washington, DC, January 11, 2006
Forwarded by Dick Blaisdell

New U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Mullen sees the naval services playing important roles in the coming years, especially with the concept of sea basing for all the armed services.

With the availability of bases from which U.S. troops can operate “drying up” around the world and the limited amount of time they can stay at the remaining ones, Adm Mullen says the ability to use ship-based forces will play an increasingly vital role.

Building a navy with the right force structure, size and composition to meet tomorrow's needs such as sea-basing “is my biggest challenge”, he notes. “The centerpiece of that future is a stable shipbuilding account. The fact that we had four ships in the FY 2006 budget was the bottom of the heap as far as I am concerned. We have continued to get a smaller and smaller navy and, in my view, from a risk standpoint it is as small as we can get.”

“The navy has been working on formulating architecture for the future fleet that incorporates war fighting requirements, affordability concerns and industrial base issues, and that plan is being incorporated into the forthcoming Quadrennial Defense Review,” he explains.

“A common problem is the practice of cutting available funding for a given shipbuilding program by 30 percent or more from the time it enters the five-year Future Years Defense Budget to the time the program is actually executed, he explained. “Everybody in the business likes to pay for other things with the shipbuilding funding account. That has got to stop. Once stability is achieved, the expectation is for industry to start reducing costs through better planning.”

To reach the new force structure architecture, the navy is also going to be forced to cut shipbuilding costs in ways it has not been able to do in years. Adm Mullen notes that the service has already chopped an estimated $300 million off the cost of each DD-X destroyer through reducing operational requirements. “DD-X is a very strong program technically and in risk reduction. I recognize that it is not inexpensive and that we have got to take some of the requirements out to make it affordable,” he said.

He added: “I am going to do the same thing with the CVN-21, with the LHA-R and with every single ship we are building, including submarines. I cannot afford to build all of my systems to 'objective' requirement specifications. My very steady approach on this will be to buy to 'threshold' because there is clearly not enough money.”

According to Adm Mullen, the navy will also seek to save future shipbuilding funds by extending the lives of existing ships and through the greater use of existing designs. “We need to modernize, to get full service life out of our fleet and we often have not done that,” he noted. For example, he says that “we lost our way on sea-basing because it became heavily programmatic, based on the MPF-F ship that was originally looking at new designs.” Now he says MPF-F will “leverage current hulls.”

Likewise, the navy has been struggling with the costs of keeping its submarine force structure and needs to start building two boats per year or see that number drop. However, Adm Mullen said: “If we do not get them down to $2 billion per submarine, it is not affordable.” Still, he rejects the notion that the navy move away from a pure nuclear-powered submarine fleet. “It is my view that there is not much of a place for diesel submarines in our navy. The tyranny of distance and sustainability is something that nuclear power has solved for us in a very positive way.”

After solving force structure plans for ships, Adm Mullen says he will turn his attention to similar efforts in other parts of the service. “Step one was to do this for ships. Step two is to do it for aircraft. “The navy is also looking at its personnel force levels, which according to Adm Mullen constitute 60 to 70 percent of all navy investment.

“People are my most important resource and my most expensive resource,” he said, noting that formulating a personnel strategy is his next big body of work. “I have got to understand the right end-strength for us on the military side and I have to answer that question on the civilian side.”

Creating tomorrow's U.S. Navy will involve “more interoperability requirements across joint and coalition nations including greater international cooperation,” Adm Mullen says. He has talked about the need for extending cooperation to allies so that together these partners can achieve “the 1,000-ship navy.” In discussions with such partners about cooperation on global maritime security, Adm Mullen says he “found their appetite for this to be very high,” noting particular interest in regional initiatives. “To make such initiatives effective,” he notes, “our investment needs to be such that for operations, doctrine, training and exercises we are able to leverage that capability.”

To enable that coalition interoperability, Adm Mullen says the allies “need to exchange information in key areas or on key systems, not every system. CENTRIX, the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System, is an example of that. We are now pressing hard on this.”

He cited plans to put automatic identification systems on all US Navy ships as one example of how this information sharing can be achieved. “What that provides is an opportunity for a pretty good wide-area shipping picture that was difficult to get before. This is an international requirement and it will be an international technology.”

Adm Mullen says this cooperation should include a continued close relationship with the U.S. Coast Guard. Noting that he is a big supporter of the National Fleet Policy, he said: “We have to work together from the operational concepts that we have to the training that we do and the ships that we buy.”


Forwarded by Bill Thompson

For a photo review of the Navy in 2005 CLICK HERE [ ]


By Patricia Sullivan, Washington Post Staff Writer September 17, 2006

Retired Navy Captain Jay Coupe Jr., 65, who died Sept. 13 of liver cancer at Manor Care nursing home in Potomac, never hesitated when presented with an opportunity to squeeze a little enjoyment out of life.

He had a serious job — he was a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and had escorted U.S. prisoners of war home from North Vietnam in 1973 — but the Navy officer firmly believed in winking at pomposity, even if it required chutzpah.

For continuance of this interesting recap of one who lived his life to the full, click HERE. [ ]


By Byron D. Varner, CDR, U.S. Navy (RET)

Several years ago I wrote the following article to honor a life-long friend who survived being a POW of the Japanese during WWII. With the need for appreciation of our military patriots and our president and nation in our struggle against the terrorists of the world, I am reprinting this article for those of you who want to know the true meaning of the word “hero.” Fortunately, we have plenty of new ones proving themselves everyday:

I can understand our youth being caught up in hero worship of sports and movie stars, but it seems strange to me when adults make heroes out of these overpaid sports figures and decadent show business personalities. The truly great Americans, those who daily perform wonderful things for their neighbors, communities, and humanity in general, must not appeal to this materially minded segment of our population.

As one who grew up in the hard times of the 1930s depression years and went to war in the 1940s, 50’s and 60s, I would like to tell you about a different kind of hero. His name is Charles (Tim) McCoy.

Quitting high school soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II, McCoy enlisted in the submarine service at age 17. Men were needed badly to build up our rapidly depleted forces early in that war, and recruiters were a bit loose on minimum age requirements — if a kid knew how to get around the rules.

In a few months Tim was a seasoned crewmember on the submarine USS Grenadier. They called him “Skeeter,” at first, because of his diminutive size and his busy habit of being everywhere at once. Like many young teenagers, he hadn’t attained his full growth, but he soon added several inches height and gained weight on Navy chow. Eventually his Navy nickname became “Tim,” after the cowboy movie star of that era.

In April 1943, the Grenadier was on patrol from Singapore to Rangoon, when Japanese bombers scored a direct hit on the sub and all hands had to abandon ship. A Japanese Corvette picked them up and delivered them to Padang, where enemy officials subjected them to four months of day and night physical and mental torture, then shipped them like animals to Singapore.

Placed in a camp there, the Japanese continued the awful torture for two more months before putting the POWs on board the Asama Maru. Crowded down into a poorly vented hold, with little food or water and no toilet facilities or medical attention, the rough voyage became a 12-day journey of misery and despair. Beatings and deprivation continued until they reached the southern island of Japan. Tim’s unit went to a POW camp near Fukuoka, Japan.

The Japanese did not recognize the terms of the Geneva Convention for POWs. Instead, they provided scant food rations that barely sustained life, and withheld Red Cross relief packages from their captives. Thus, constant hunger made food uppermost in the thought of every prisoner.

Of his many incredible experiences, one that typifies Japanese cruelty was the time Tim was crucified. This incident occurred in winter, when his work assignment was unloading soft cargo from ships. The large, loosely woven bags contained soybeans and other raw foods. This large weave gave him an idea of how to sneak some of this fresh “manna from Heaven” back to share with his group.

Somehow he located a small piece of hollow bamboo and made an angular cut at one end. This would be his “retriever.” Then he took a pair of tattered navy dungarees, tied a knot at the bottom of each pant leg, and laid the denim pants over his shoulders. This would be his “receptacle” for the loot. He hid both objects underneath his thin Japanese issue quilted cotton jacket, and passed through the work gate unnoticed by the guards.

Hoisting each bag of soybeans to his shoulders, he would turn away to shield his face from view of the guards on the dock. When he felt it safe to do so, he daringly jabbed the bamboo through the woven sack, sucked soybeans into his makeshift bamboo siphon, and forcefully blew them into the knotted pant legs. It was a slow, cautious effort in the course of lifting many bags, to make sure the guards did not catch him in the process of this risky operation.

Unfortunately, he got greedy. When the bean-filled legs expanded the jacket, he did not realize he looked a bit too plump to be a half-starved POW. Suspicious guards searched him when he tried to pass through the gate upon his return to camp.

The brutal reward for McCoy’s efforts was another terrible beating and lashing him to a tall “cross” for three days and nights — above a sign that read: “Bean Thief” — for all passing POWs to see what Japanese “justice” could be for those who broke the rules.

With all the cruel and inhumane treatment suffered throughout his internment, Tim never gave the enemy the satisfaction of any answer other than his name, rank, and serial number. Knowing his iron will and resolve as I do since our childhood days in Texas, I feel certain the enemy could have beaten him to death and he never would have told them more.

Liberation finally came, after some two and one-half years, and he arrived at the San Diego Naval Hospital for treatment and rehabilitation. He was gaunt and in bad physical condition, yet in surprisingly good spirits, busily formulating a plan to build his body back to normal. For one who had never been much of an athlete before he joined the Navy, Tim’s plan was rather unusual, to say the least.

During that war, every major military installation had a service football team made up of former college and professional players. Some were physical training instructors and others were there temporarily while undergoing war training. These were the best teams in the nation, with a never-ending supply of good talent available from college and pro players leaving school to serve their country.

The Pacific Submarine Command team was the one McCoy selected to workout with, once he gained some weight and felt strong enough. The hard work not only improved his body, he actually made the team — and in the process, became one of their better players.

Considering the ordeal of surviving a POW camp, nothing seemed impossible to him, if he wanted to attempt it. But he never talked much about his POW experience, trying as best he could to put that behind him and, as he liked to say, “go ever onward and upward.”

Years later, after he had become successful in business, I had occasion to be his guest at a national reunion of submarine veterans in San Antonio. There, I met several of his surviving Grenadier POW shipmates. It was an emotional and heart-rending reunion. Even at this late stage of their lives, some had never fully recovered from the war experience, and had terrible recurring dreams about it. Few had successful civilian lives.
Afterwards, I asked Tim, “How did you manage to find peace of mind and get back to normal after such a harrowing experience?”

He paused a long moment before saying words to this effect: “As much hate and resentment as I had built against those people, I knew I had to do something or I would never get over it. I prayed a lot about it. Most of the Japanese were extremely cruel to me, but a few actually tried to help me, despite risking serious punishment by their superiors if caught. This was especially true in one of the factories where I worked for some time. To some extent, they, too, were victims of the war.”

Then he made a statement of discovery that others obviously had not been able to discern: “Searching my soul, I came to realize that to forgive is to set the prisoner free, and that all the hate I had for these people could only make me a prisoner of my own thought. So, I forgave them. I simply forgave them, put it all behind me as best I could, and got on with my life.”

And that is exactly what he did. He completed a Navy career from seaman to commissioned officer, and went on to a productive and financially rewarding civilian career as an insurance executive.

Still active and in his late 70s, Tim maintains a positive outlook on life, a desire to do good things for others, and a “never say die” spirit that kept him alive during the worst moments of his younger life. He has given a small fortune to his church and other charities.

Since turning his business over to his son Timothy, he spends a lot of his time as a motivational speaker. And, if anyone could motivate you, it would be Tim McCoy.

In my humble concept of an American hero, Tim is “the real McCoy,” and I am proud that he calls me his life-long friend.


By Journalist Seaman Ryan Valverde, USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs

ABOARD USS BONHOMME RICHARD (NNS) — The joint military Development Test Command (DTC) tested a newly-developed gas mask aboard this ship during Aug. 1-13, while steaming to and from Seattle.

“Eachl branch of the military is currently testing the Joint Service General Purpose Mask (JSGPM) to determine its effectiveness in the field,” said John Strang, a DTC staff member. When approved, the mask will replace the Navy’s current MCU-2P model. “This is the only ship in the Navy testing the masks,” he added. “Bonhomme Richard is very versatile. It deals with many different aspects of the battlefield, from the flight deck to the well deck.”

Twenty-nine Bonhomme Richard personnel from different departments of the ship carried the mask for eight hours each day and wore it for two days during the 13-day test period. Each kept a daily log noting the durability, comfort and their ability to perform duties while wearing it. “We wanted to test the mask in their working environment to ensure that the war fighter could still accomplish the mission with it,” Strang said.

“Along with the Navy, damage control gear also is constantly changing,” said Damage Controlman 1st Class Christopher Preston - one of a few qualified JSGPM instructors Navy-wide. “This test-run of the new mask will allow the actual deck plate runners a chance to give their input on equipment they will be using.”

Test participant Yeoman 3rd Class Jenny Hernandez said the mask would be a welcome change. “With the old mask, every time I would take it off, my hair would get tangled in it. The design of the skullcap on the new model makes it much more comfortable to wear and easier to take off.”

“It is great to be involved with something that could potentially change how the Navy battles a CBR attack,” Hospitalman Philip Keehn added. “I have been wearing the mask during sick call and around the ship.”

Storekeeper 2nd Class (AW) Kenneth King volunteered to do this testing because, “I thought it would be gratifying to know that this ship was the first to wear these masks and that we made a difference.”

Strang said Bonhomme Richard’s personnel were very motivated and interested through the entire test period. “We know wearing these masks and the accompanying gear can become inconvenient at times, but the participants made our jobs easier, and it says a lot about them and the ship as a whole.”

The Bonhomme Richard is currently in the Advanced Phase of its training cycle and is scheduled to deploy as the flagship for Expeditionary Strike Group 5.

The DTC team’s next test site was scheduled at Fort Campbell, Ky.


On January 27, 2006, Buena Vista Pictures (a division of the Disney Studios) will release ANNAPOLIS, a feature film that purports to be about life at the Naval Academy. This picture was made without the support of the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense.


1. Disney News Release - August 2004:

“Disney has abruptly canceled plans to film the movie Annapolis at the U.S. Naval Academy and government buildings in Maryland and will instead move the production to Philadelphia, the Baltimore Sun reported today.

“A spokesman for Gov. Robert Ehrlich indicated that Disney was wooed by Pennsylvania's tax incentives intended to attract moviemakers. “The governor and the administration will take a very close look at how to prevent this from happening again,” a spokesman for the governor told the Sun. “I would not rule out a legislative solution in the next session.”

“The newspaper also indicated that Disney's decision may also have been affected by the U.S. Naval Academy's foot-dragging in agreeing to allow scenes to be shot on its campus.

“The Sun reported that Navy officials have acknowledged that they were concerned about scenes in the film that involve a plebe's romance with a female upperclassman. But a Naval Academy spokesman remarked after the cancellation: “We're surprised by the news and disappointed that a movie about the Naval Academy would be filmed somewhere else.”

2. Excerpts from story in the U.S. Naval Academy’s Blue and Gold Officer info bulletin website - December 27, 2006:

“Various Navy offices have been approached by Disney and their publicity affiliates to participate in screenings and promotional activities of the film Annapolis. Our policy is that we do not participate in promotional events for motion pictures which we declined to provide filming support.

“The Navy Chief of Information (CHINFO) was initially approached for assistance with this production. In preparation of the script, the producers were given several research opportunities at the Naval Academy and were allowed to film the “I Day” induction of the Plebe Class. When the script was presented for support, it was reviewed by NAVINFO WEST and the Naval Academy. Extensive notes were provided to the producers - who provided additional drafts of the script to the Navy.

“Unfortunately, the story depicted in the script did not accurately portray the Academy, its standards for training, and its methods of shaping midshipmen mentally, morally and physically for service in the U.S. Navy. Based on this, the producers were not allowed access to the Academy grounds or provided with any other support for the filming.

“Navy personnel should avoid the appearance of support to the film as members of the Department of the Navy. Anyone attending a screening or promotional activity for the film should not attend in uniform.”


By Jug Varner

On my way to the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, across the bay from San Diego, the familiar sight of Pacific Ocean waves washing over the beach reminded me how cold that Alaskan current water can feel - not just in January, but in August as well. Being in “sunny” California doesn't seem to make much difference to the water.

The purpose was to follow-up on my review last year of Roy Boehm's book, FIRST SEAL — his personal account of how the Navy's elite SEAL (SeaAirLand) program got its start. I wanted an up-close-and-personal look at its rugged BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training and the men who attempt to conquer it.

One thing I knew going in was that I could forget about one Hollywood film version of the SEALs, G.I. JANE. In the first place, women are not accepted as students here. The movie stretched other realities as well, for the “sake of entertainment.” It was typical film maker's “faction” — fiction based on fact — but the closest it came to the truth was how difficult it is to become a SEAL.

A large blue and gold sign mounted on a wall of the training headquarters building says it all in this simple message: “The only easy day was yesterday.” None of the hardy souls who train in this cold ocean water day and night will argue about that! And, certainly not those in the fifth week of Phase I, known as “Hell Week” — a mentally and physically exhausting five and one-half days of train-to-the-breaking-point effort. As if the mental and physical anguish isn't enough, a maximum of only four hours sleep is allowed during the entire period.

Getting through week five is no guarantee for successful completion of the rest of the course, but the possibilities are improved for those with an intense desire to succeed. They've now learned the human body can perform ten times more work than the average person thinks possible. Nothing is certain, however, until all the mental and physical obstacles have been overcome in all three-phases of this fast-paced 25-week course. As the sign on the wall implies, each succeeding day becomes more of a challenge.

Physically, the ideal applicant is one who excels in running and swimming, but just being a model of physical excellence is not enough. Even top-notch athletes fail here if they lack the mental toughness, motivation, perseverance and other such requisites.

In conversations with students and staff members in each phase, I sensed the intensity and goal orientation of each participant. Officer and enlisted students go through the same courses and classrooms together as a unit. The training staff members are assigned here after several years on SEAL teams and other advanced experience. Enlisted men serve as instructors and officers are in charge of each phase. All of them show by example and do everything they expect their students to do. As Yogi Berra once said, “Its deja vous all over again.”

RM2 Andrew Buchanan is in his second year as an instructor. I asked him to compare then and now. His response was: “Coming back here after seven years of SEAL experience, I understand the reasoning behind what the students go through, but as a student I was unaware. Today, I have noticed maturity is higher. We have more enlisted students with college degrees. I was not quite 18 when I attended training, so I had a lot to learn, the hard way. I played sports in high school and was a fairly good swimmer, but I had no idea how tough and demanding this would be. My advice to those interested in coming here is to learn all you can about it beforehand and prepare yourself physically. Don't just come in blindly hoping for the best.”

SEAL Recruiters provide a booklet for interested applicants entitled, BUD/S WARNING ORDER . It describes the program and explains how to qualify, where to apply, and how to prepare physically and nutritionally in advance of arrival. It outlines a recommended nine-week preparation regimen building up to: Running a minimum of 16 miles each week; Performing 6×30 push-ups, 6×30 sit-ups and 3×10 pull-ups three times each week; and swimming side stroke, without fins, continuously for 35 minutes, three times each week. Before the BUD/S basic training begins, students undergo an intense two-week physical training and indoctrination. The words of wisdom are: “Be prepared.”

Phase I includes physical conditioning through weekly four-mile timed runs in boots, timed obstacle courses, and swimming in the ocean with fins for distances up to two miles. Small boat seamanship is also a part of this phase. The first four weeks prepare students for Hell Week and its hard-earned values of motivation and teamwork. They devote the remaining three weeks to conducting hydrographic surveys, preparing hydrographic charts, and more physical training.

To a man, Hell Week is considered the toughest challenge, although none would admit that any week was not difficult. LTJG Allyn Sullivan, Providence, R.I., came here from duty as a surface warfare officer aboard an LSD. His pre-Navy sports included cross-country running, wrestling and martial arts. He considers himself an above-average swimmer, but a better runner. He said, “Hell week was absolutely the hardest thing I've ever done, but I'm glad I went through it. I proved a lot to myself in the process.” Sullivan is the senior rank in his class and serves as its officer-in-charge. He believes the course has helped him in leadership, organizational skills, and handling stress.

ENS Brad Truesdell, Boca Raton, Fla., enrolled in NROTC at the University of Colorado and spent his junior and senior summer training at the Mini-BUD/S screening program to secure the opportunity to come here. “I'm just in my third week now, so I still have Hell Week ahead of me,” he said. “My brother, a GM2, is a SEAL. He told me all the “horror stories” about it, but I'm determined to make it no matter how tough. I figure if he made it I can, too! I'm fortunate to have gone through Mini-BUD/S, and have prepared myself physically, so I'm in good condition — so far.”

Truesdell's good preparation, positive attitude and strong desire impressed me, but nothing is certain in BUD/S. A telephone call to headquarters after his week in Hell satisfied my curiosity and confirmed my belief that he would pass.

One who had been there and done that, STG3 Stephen Kupcha, Deptford, N.J., remembered Hell Week as being appropriately named. “No matter what you read or hear about it, the actual experience is unlike what you expected.” Kupcha was in the final phase, looking forward to completion. “Phase one was an awakening for me. In school I was good at track and football, but I was a weak swimmer and ocean swimming here was a real problem early on. So were those “drown proofing” exercises. Then, after initial difficulties in Phase II, I actually began to enjoy swimming.”

Physical training continues in Phase II, as BUD/S students spend the next seven weeks learning Combat SCUBA Diving — both open circuit (compressed air) and closed circuit (100% oxygen) procedures. Progressive dive schedules emphasize basic combat swimmer skills in tactics to complete a combat objective. This phase qualifies BUD/S students as combat divers — a skill that sets SEALs apart from all other Special Operations forces.

Phase II Diving Instructor BM1 Joseph Perez, Humble, Tex., told me he saw a SEAL presentation while he was in Recruit Training ten years ago. “When I found out I was qualified, I signed up and went straight to BUD/S from Boot Camp. My dislike for water and heights was a big challenge, but I hung in there and made it through. Being a member of a SEAL Team gave me confidence, self-discipline, appreciation for my teammates, and a sense of accomplishment that has changed my life. I enjoy being an instructor here, setting the example.”

LT Michael Ryan is the officer-in-charge of Phase III - a ten-week course in demolition, reconnaissance, weapons, and tactics. It includes land navigation, small-unit tactics, rappelling, military land and underwater explosives, and weapon training. Physical training is more strenuous. Run distances increase and students must lower their times for running, swimming and the obstacle course in order to pass. Everything they have learned here comes together during the final four weeks of this phase.

In the isolated environment of San Clemente Island several miles off the coast, students spend seven-days-a-week in hands-on training. They use explosives, M-60 machine guns, M-14 rifles, and M-20 grenade launchers. They practice patrolling, live fire, movement, ambushes, mock missions, mission planning and rehearsals. Ryan said the attrition rate in this phase is about ten percent during this phase averages about ten percent, mainly due to injury or safety problems. The highest attrition is in Phase I.

On average, for every 100 officers who enter, 30 won't complete the course. For every 100 enlisteds, 70 will not finish. I asked why there was such a difference, since they all go through the exact same training. There was no specific answer, because physical ability, mental toughness and desire can change the equation. Officer students are older, more experienced and better educated. The screening process is more complex of officer applicants, so they are initially better qualified. Generally, enlisted students are younger, less mature, and have less classroom experience. Those who come here from the fleet, or with higher education, or both, are more likely to succeed.

Graduation is a well-deserved, proud moment to savor, but it's only the beginning - a mere interlude until the next level where they pick up where they left off.

“The fat lady never sings for the SEALs” might be another appropriate sign for the training building's wall, because it never ends for the SEALs. From here they are assigned as members of a SEAL Team or SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team, continuing the perpetual cycle of physical training and advanced training. It is ever onward and upward, honing their skills to the ultimate level possible. Their total numbers represent less than one-percent of the Navy and their jobs are the most demanding of any military special force. Anyone can claim to be #1 — but a SEAL knows he is! Pride in that fact lasts a lifetime.

Before leaving this beehive of activity, I met Master Chief Bob Bender, then in the paper process for Navy retirement. His first assignment after becoming a SEAL was with UDT-12 , and is still indelibly etched in memory. “In that group was a big hulk of a man who took it upon himself to look out for me and help me along the way, because I was the smallest guy there. He was a heck of a nice guy and really helped me a lot. His name was Jim Janos and he eventually became famous. You probably know him as Jesse 'The Body' Ventura, Governor of Minnesota.”

To find out more call toll-free1-888-USN-SEAL.


“Standing amongst them, I was never more
proud to call myself an American Sailor.”

By Admiral Mike Mullen, U.S. Navy

I made a day trip to the Gulf Coast this past weekend to visit with and thank our Sailors for the extraordinary work they are doing in the recovery and relief effort. I spent time in at the Seabee base in Gulfport, NSA New Orleans and NAS/JRB New Orleans, as well as aboard HARRY S TRUMAN, BATAAN, TORTUGA and IWO JIMA. It was at once both a grim and an incredibly uplifting experience. Here are some of my impressions:

First, the pictures on TV don't even begin to do justice to the scope of the devastation. I saw whole neighborhoods completely obliterated; the only evidence they ever existed at all being the faint outline of cement blocks that once formed the foundations of houses.

I saw massive casino barges in Biloxi thrown hundreds of yards inland, wooded areas so shredded they looked from the air like a spilled box of toothpicks, and much of New Orleans still a tepid, festering lake. There were very few people on the streets that weren't military or emergency workers.

Comparing it to a war zone is not at all a stretch.

Things are starting to turn around. The Joint Task Force has really taken shape, becoming more efficient and more organized every day.

Communications across the region have improved dramatically. Dewatering efforts are proceeding ahead of the projected pace. And currently rescue teams are finding fewer and fewer people in need of immediate help.

The Navy's contribution to this success has been critical. I don't need to tell you that. We've been there since practically before the storm made landfall — BATAAN chased it in weathering 12-14 foot seas and began flying search and rescue missions within hours of the storm's departure — and we are still there making a difference.

Joe Kilkenny is doing a bang-up job as the JFMCC. He's got a plan, and he is executing it with great effectiveness.

The Seabees are repairing infrastructure and clearing debris at such a pace they have actually inspired local citizens to feel more optimistic about the future.

Sailors from TORTUGA are going door-to-door looking for and rescuing the house-bound.

Helicopter aircrews from TRUMAN and BATAAN are still delivering food and water and other basic necessities.

SHREVEPORT Sailors are cleaning up the St. Bernard Parish Courthouse.

In fact, just about all our ships pierside are housing and feeding and caring for people in need.

Then there's IWO JIMA, who put up POTUS overnight on Sunday. Pierside at the Riverwalk, IWO has become a command center, hospital, airport, hotel and restaurant all rolled into one.

I ran into VADM Thad Allen in the p-way. Thad, as you may know, is the senior federal officer on scene, running the whole show. He said, “Mike, you should consider renaming this ship “The City of New Orleans.” That says it all.

I couldn't help but sneak a smile, having just given a speech up in Newport about the power of naval forces to win hearts and minds by serving as “cities at sea.” I used our contributions to the international effort in the wake of last December's tsunami as my prime example in that speech. How little did I realize we'd be doing that sort of work on our own soil so soon.

It just goes to show you how very unpredictable this world really is. But, as I made sure to tell the Sailors I talked to, it also goes to show you how very flexible and adaptable naval forces really are.

If you want a picture of the future of sea basing, consider the image of BATAAN, a Mexican amphibious ship and a Dutch frigate anchored offshore sending boatloads of supplies to the beach… or HST anchored not far off and the only things flying off her flight deck are helicopters… or Mexican and U.S. Sailors, side by side, combing the beach and clearing debris… or a Joint Task Force, with significant civil and non-governmental agencies represented, headquartered aboard a U.S. Navy ship, led by a two-star Army general reporting to a three-star admiral in the Coast Guard, who is also headquartered aboard that same ship.

Perhaps the most moving thing I did Saturday was visit with a group of ombudsmen in Gulfport.

Many of them had lost everything. They were hurting, barely getting by on their own, and yet here they were at the FFSC looking for ways to help other Navy families. You could see the desperation and the hope on their faces, hear it in their cracking voices. Tough on the heart, to be sure, and yet somehow good for it at the same time.

I was humbled just to be in the room with them. You want to talk about courage? These ladies had it to spare.

There are, we estimate, about 10,000 Sailors affected by the hurricane in some form or fashion. There may be more. I pledged to those ombudsmen our Navy's full support in getting them and the families they represent back up on their feet. We have a lot of work to do to return their lives to some sense of normalcy, but we need to make it the highest of priorities.

It is most certainly mine I can assure you. And I know I can rely on your support.

Again, truly an unforgettable day. In the face of unspeakable disaster and suffering, our Sailors have stood tall and helped provide relief to thousands. They are not alone, of course. It's a total team effort, involving city, state and other federal agencies, not to mention our sister services, allies and relief organizations. But they have accorded themselves well as part of that team and reflected nothing but the very best back on each and every one of the rest of us.

At NAS New Orleans I came across a bunch of Seabees working feverishly on the wooden platform for what was going to be a temporary dining facility. It was a contract job, but the contractor was having problems rounding up the necessary manpower and resources. The Seabees didn't ask permission, didn't wait for orders. They simply rolled up their sleeves and went to work.

“Hey, they needed help,” one said. “And we know how to do this stuff.”

We do, indeed, know how to do this stuff, and we are doing it exceptionally well. Standing amongst them, I was never more proud to call myself an American Sailor.


Mike Mullins, CNO, 12 Sep 2005


Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen has announced his selection of MCPO Joe R. Campa to succeed MCPO Terry D. Scott as Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy.

The Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) is the senior enlisted person in the Navy. The MCPON serves as an advisor to the Chief of Naval Operations and to the Chief of Naval Personnel in matters dealing with enlisted personnel and their families.

Campa currently serves as Command Master Chief for Joint Task Force, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He will assume his new position July 10, 2006.

Click here [ ] to read his impressive biography.



This is the way we do it in the NAVY [ ]!

It takes a special breed to fly them, get them ready, get them airborne, keep them flying, recover them, and prepare to go again! It isn’t easy, but it is certainly worth the effort, satisfaction, patriotism and accomplishment of serving our nation in today's perilous world.

If you want to serve your country in time of need, fly, live, work and be part of this great Navy tradition, CLICK HERE [ ].


By Nicole Sours Larson, The Beacon. Forwarded by Dick Blaisdell

More than three years of planning reached fruition when the Naval Training Center (NTC) Foundation kicked-off its capital campaign and 2004 preservation work on the historic core of the former naval activity, under the direction of architect Ralph Roesling of Roesling Nakamura.

The foundation is charged with restoring 26 buildings as a civic, arts and cultural center after City formally transferred the buildings. Buoyed by grants of $5.85 million in redevelopment funds from the City and $300,000 from the California Office of Historic Preservation, the foundation has launched a $15 million capital campaign to fund the first phase of redevelopment.

“We have a very good start on the fund-raising and we have private prospects that will materialize,” said Marc Kasky, interim executive director of the NTC Foundation.

A non-profit culinary school sponsored and operated by unions, will provide training to employees to upgrade their skills and also offer cooking classes to the public. Other non-profit organizations considering relocating to the Promenade Center include a naval museum, a Mexican and Latin American art museum, a dance company consortium, a family playhouse theatre and a children’s undersea camp. There will be at least one restaurant in the center, as well as several cafés, in addition to restaurants located in the adjoining retail center.

The foundation plans to turn the old Naval Training Center library into “flexible mixed-use space” for temporary exhibitions, private and corporate functions, weddings and meetings, said Marianne Gregson, director of marketing and communications for the foundation. Meeting and classroom space will also be available to outside groups throughout the complex. “We would love to have a consortium of artists’ studios,” she said.

An added advantage to the Promenade Center is that the City requires the foundation to offer below-market rents, at “always affordable rates,” she said. At least one building is currently planned to be office space for small non-profits.

Much of the model for the Promenade Center comes from Fort Mason, the base conversion project in San Francisco, where Kasky served as executive director for 20 years, developing and running the non-profit cultural center. Prior to becoming interim executive director for the foundation, Kasky served as a consultant to The Corky McMillin Companies for planning the cultural center and setting up the foundation.

Point Loma resident Ann Walker, a San Francisco native, is enthusiastic about the NTC Foundation and the Promenade Center. Her interest in the cultural center mushroomed once she learned of Kasky’s role. “I was very familiar with what he’d done at Fort Mason, and how much the project had done for the city. It’s for the people who live in the city… and over the years it’s proven itself,” she said.

The organization she founded, the California Art Museum, settled on an old barracks as a suitable site. Newly organized, the museum will have as its main focus the watercolors of the early California school of scene painters, a style originating in California. She has determined that only one major museum of watercolors, located in Sweden, exists in the world.

An artist herself, Walker developed the concept for the museum after serving on the foundation’s Civic Communications Committee, whose members were charged with developing innovative ideas for using the buildings to attract both local residents and visitors. “We intend to be just a visual arts museum dealing with painted or sculpted surfaces, watercolors, oils, murals and sculpture, not decorative arts,” she said. Kasky urged local residents to become involved in the cultural center.

“The biggest and most important challenge… is to communicate to the public-at-large that this is their project, and its success, will be greatly influenced by their involvement,” Kasky explained. “Their ideas, the participation of their organizations, and contacts they can make for the project are all important.”

Of the untold thousands of U.S. Navy personnel who trained or served at NTC San Diego before it fell to the axe of base closure in recent times, some may welcome the opportunity to have their name embedded on a brick in the main promenade now under construction. Information is available on the Foundation Web site at [].


By Jug Varner
The United States Navy and the USS Constitution Museum have partnered in a national education outreach program known as “Old Ironsides Across the Nation.”

Started in 2000, with planned visits to one region of the country each year from 2001 to 2006, this collaboration shares the exciting stories of Old Ironsides with students, teachers, and others who may be unable to visit Boston Massachusetts, USS Constitution's homeport. The 205-year-old vessel is the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world. (see USS Constitution)

Old Ironsides no longer leaves the safety of Massachusetts Bay and will not be traveling to the Central U.S. However, Old Ironsides Across The Nation will bring members of USS Constitution's active duty Navy crew and a replica of the ship's gun deck to cities throughout the country, providing a glimpse of life at sea to people outside of Boston.

Museum staff will conduct teacher workshops, and distribute the Museum's award-winning curriculum All Hands on Deck: Learning Adventures Aboard “Old Ironsides.” USS Constitution's crew and museum staff will visit area schools and offer public presentations “Old Ironsides'” illustrious career.

The regions are:

  • Summer 2001: Region I (IL, IN, KY, MI, OH, PA, WI, WV)
  • Summer 2002: Region II (AL, DC, GA, FL, LA, MD, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA)
  • Summer 2003: Region III (AR, IA, KS, MO, NE, OK, TX, U.S. Virgin Island)
  • Summer 2004: Region V (AZ, CA, CO, NM, NV, UT, WY)
  • Summer 2005: Region IV (AK, HI, ID, MN, MT, ND, OR, SD, WA, Puerto Rico, Guam)
  • Summer 2006: Region VI (CT, DE, MA, ME, NH, NJ NY RI, VT)

At the end of each regional visit those citizens can enter a free public lottery from which 100 winners will go aboard USS Constitution for a tug-powered “Salute to the Central U.S.” cruise in Boston.

To find out more about our visit, or to find out how you can help, please e-mail us here or call 617-426-1812 x131.

See also []


Recently, Japan mobilized its navy - not for a drill, but to hunt for a nuclear submarine in Japanese waters. Officials in Tokyo say the sub was Chinese. Officials in Beijing say only that they're investigating. Officials everywhere else say both nations played a dangerous game, because nuclear subs are nothing to fool around with.


By Christopher Call, [] November 15, 2004

Nuclear-powered subs are, literally, dangerously advanced. Just tour America's current underwater workhorse - the Los Angeles-class attack submarine - and see.

The Hull

All modern subs have the same sleek, torpedo-like hull - designed to reduce drag as the sub moves through the water. Gone are the gun emplacements, deck rails, and other accessories of the World War II era. Today, even the rivets and seams have been minimized. The final product is a hydrodynamic form that maximizes speed and efficiency better than any other combat vessel in the world.

Beneath the sleek, slippery shape is a metallic frame that must withstand the immense pressures that subs endure while submerged. The hull of a Los Angeles-class sub is pretty much a tube of thick, high-tech, low-carbon steel. This enables it to dive up to 1,500 feet (about 450 meters) before reaching the perilous “crush depth.” Acoustic tile cladding covers the hull's steel like a skin, dampening the sound of the sub as it moves through the water.

Engine Room

Nestled in the rear of a Los Angeles-class sub is the S6G, a full-fledged nuclear reactor. Nuclear reactors are a major improvement over the old diesel engines used in subs before 1955. They're certainly more powerful - the S6G produces 26 megawatts, enough to power 18,000 homes. And unlike diesel engines, the S6G can run while the sub is submerged, negating the need for batteries. In fact, the sub can power itself for an estimated 10 years before refueling and can cruise submerged for months.

This nuclear power flows into twin turbines that produce 35,000 horsepower. The turbines, which sit on a sound-dampening rafting system to minimize noise, turn a single shaft-driven propeller, also designed to operate as quietly as possible. Although their actual top speed is classified, Los Angeles-class subs are believed to be capable of 32 knots (almost 37 mph or 60 km/h) while submerged.

Of course, the problem with using a nuclear reactor is the possibility of a nuclear explosion or meltdown as the result of error, malfunction, or combat damage. There is also concern that reactors on sunken subs could slowly leak radioactive material into the water. Several nuclear submarines, Russian and American, lie at the bottom of the ocean. Those sites are tested frequently, and although results indicate little or no radioactive release, the environmental threat remains.

Torpedo Room

A Los Angeles-class sub comes equipped with four torpedo tubes capable of firing up to 26 launched weapons. The typical complement consists of 14 torpedoes, 8 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and 4 Harpoon missiles. The standard torpedo, the MK-48, is self-guided, with the remarkable ability to reattack if it misses its target. The 650-pound (300 kg) warhead can sink virtually any vessel within five miles (8 km).

The sub's Tomahawk cruise missiles can strike 1,000 miles (1,600 km) away, delivering a 1,000-pound (450 kg) warhead with startling accuracy. And Harpoon anti-ship missiles can strike and sink surface ships within 70 miles (110 km). All told, attack subs contain as many pounds of high explosives as they do pounds of crew.

Ballistic missile submarines, or “boomers,” carry something far more ominous: up to two dozen medium or long-range ballistic missiles, each with a powerful nuclear warhead. Their chilling mission: to deliver first-strike or rapid-response blows to strategic targets around the world by launching from concealed locations at sea.

Sonar Room

Submarines have no windows. Like deep-sea life, they cruise through the ocean depths completely blind. Instead, submarines use their ears to navigate - they use sonar. Sonar, or “sound navigation ranging,” is both passive (listening to the sounds things make underwater) and active (bouncing sound waves off underwater objects to detect their distance, size, and shape).

Inside the bow of a Los Angeles-class sub are 1,000 passive-sensor hydrophones that can hear sounds from miles away. Underneath this array is a transducer that emits the pings needed for active sonar. The sonar array is housed in a glass-reinforced plastic bow - rather than the steel surrounding the rest of the sub - so that sound waves can penetrate. The array is backed by a baffling system that eliminates sounds coming from the sub itself. The sub can also tow sonar arrays at a distance, extending its “ear.”

Backing up the ship's sonar system is a collection of powerful computers that swiftly analyze incoming signals. These computers eliminate background noise and isolate specific sound types to classify the source of a sound, as well as its distance, bearing, and speed.

The Sail

The tower that projects up off the hull of a sub is commonly called the “sail” or “conning tower.” It holds much of the sub's surface communication and sensory apparatus, including a pair of periscopes that allow it to view the surface while still submerged. The primary periscope on a Los Angeles-class sub comes equipped with a telescopic lens, still and video cameras, and infrared vision, as well as a radar-dampening coating to prevent detection. The second periscope, used when attacking ships, is smaller and harder to detect visually.

In addition to the periscopes, several retractable antennae provide the sub with a global positioning system, radio reception and transmission, and navigation radar. There is also a snorkel mast that allows the sub to operate an auxiliary diesel engine and replenish its air, although today's subs can actually make their own air by splitting water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen gas.

With all this technology at his command, a skipper at the “con” - directly below the sail - controls one of the most formidable weapons on Earth. Yet advances still remain. In fact, Los Angeles-class subs face a new competitor that is faster, quieter, and even more heavily armed.

That competitor is the U.S. Navy's newest attack sub: the Virginia-class, designed to eventually replace the 51 Los Angeles-class subs now in service.

Want to learn more? Take a virtual tour of a Los Angeles-class sub at [] [],123 South 6th Street, Marshall, Illinois 62441, USA.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Write to us at []. We read every note and answer as quickly as possible.


Forwarded by Slim Russell

Here are some great photos of the sinking of the decommissioned USS ORISKANY (CV-34), taking the stripped-down 888-foot former aircraft carrier to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico to form an artificial reef 24 miles off the coast of Pensacola, FL.

The actual sinking [ ] took approximately 37 minutes on May 17, 2006.

The small boat on the flight deck contained a generator and electronics to set off the explosions. The operation was designed so that this small boat would float free after the carrier sunk (last photo).


By Lynette Wilson, Pensacola News 2-16-06

The 888-foot aircraft carrier Oriskany is going down, and this time there appears to be no barriers in the way. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced its approval to allow Florida and the Navy to scuttle the ship about 23 miles off the Pensacola coast.

Telephones in Pensacola dive shops began ringing the minute divers picked up on the news that the world's largest artificial reef project finally is moving ahead.

“The Oriskany will become the Mount Everest of diving,” said diver Bryan Clark, 43, of Pensacola. “There is nothing remotely like it in the world. We are going to be the center of the diving universe for some time to come.”

Projected sink dates have slipped by since September 2004, while the EPA evaluated any potential danger from the ship’s 700 pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) primarily in its electrical wiring. Studies have shown PCBs cause cancer, but the Oriskany study resulted in the decision that the wiring will not pose an unreasonable risk to human or marine life.

In early Spring a ship will tow the Oriskany to Pensacola from Beaumont, Texas, where it rode out the 2005 hurricane season. Officials will scuttle it before the 2006 hurricane season begins in June, said Pat Dolan, deputy director of communications for the Naval Sea Systems Command.

Retired Vice Adm. Jack Fetterman, who has pushed to have the Oriskany sunk here, described his mood Wednesday as euphoric. “I just think it is a tremendous event for Pensacola,” he said.

A 2004 Florida State University study estimated Escambia County will see $92 million a year in economic benefits from an artificial reef.

Dolan said the total cost to sink the Oriskany, including environmental remediation and preparation, towing, risk studies and port fees is estimated at $19 million.


By Mark D. Faram, Staff Writer, Navy Times, October 24, 2006

Sailors can get ready to kiss their paper service records goodbye. Navy officials have announced a new electronic service version of the enlisted personnel record that can be viewed on the Web by sailors as well as their commands, if they have secure computer access.

Each person will be able to view his or her personnel, training and awards data without visiting their personnel office. Effective immediately, all active-duty and Reserve enlisted sailors can request a user account to view their service record.

Once they have access, sailors will be able to do basic updating of their personnel data, such as next of kin, address and e-mail addresses. Changing and correcting other information, such as anything impacting pay or awards, for example, will still have to be done through a sailor’s personnel support detachment.

Command master chiefs and other leadership at a sailor’s command can also get read-only versions of a record. Officer paper records were eliminated years ago, and officers have been verifying their information electronically through BuPers Online ever since. How or if this new version will impact officers is not yet clear.


By William Cole, The Honolulu Advertiser - February 28, 2006
Forwarded by YNCS Don Harribine, USN (Retired)

PEARL HARBOR - Hawaii finally has an aircraft carrier. But it could be sunk in a military exercise. At 820 feet, the ship is smaller than the full-fledged flattop that Sen. Daniel Inouye, (D-Hawaii) has sought to be based here. The mini carrier comes with no crew, no aircraft and certainly no multimillion-dollar economic impact.

The amphibious assault ship Belleau Wood is the latest and largest addition to the Pearl Harbor ghost fleet, a little-publicized but very visible collection of decommissioned Navy ships that are sold to other countries, mothballed for possible re-use, headed for the scrap pile or designated to become targets in “sink exercises.”

Touring the Middle Loch harbor where 39 ships, barges and various other craft are stored is a nostalgic and sometimes spooky journey through Navy and maritime history.

“It’s kind of eerie. You think back to the times you were on the ship, and you think of all the people, in the passageways and mess deck, talking story,” said Luis Gaytan, a marine inspector for the facility who from 1995 to 1997 was aboard the Cushing, a destroyer now in the ghost fleet.“

There are always stories that if you go on there, sometimes you hear noises. You hear voices that are sometimes left behind,” the Ewa Beach man said. “It seems like the spirits are down there and haven’t gone away.”

Walter Leonard, the director of the Navy inactive ship facility, remembers the Navy skipper who visited, twice, over the years to see his former ship, the destroyer Hoel. “He just wanted to come out and see his ship and make sure we were taking care of it,” Leonard said.

The Navy facility, which has a fiscal 2006 budget of $3.5 million, is one of three remaining bone yards for decommissioned vessels.

Leonard said the others are in Bremerton, WA and Philadelphia. “There once were a lot more,” he said. “There was one in Guam, one in Norfolk, Va., and many others. But as our inventory of ships has decreased, we’ve closed a number of them.”

The Middle Loch facility, renamed four times since Leonard started working there in 1967, is now known as the Inactive Ships On-Site Maintenance Office.

It was created after World War II, when the Navy suddenly had a surplus of dry docks and ships in such places as Pearl Harbor, Guam and the Philippines. Retired carriers go to Bremerton, which has extra-deep draft, Leonard said.

Middle Loch is about 30 feet deep where the Belleau Wood is tied up. The ship contingent includes a cruiser, two destroyers, a destroyer tender, a combat store ship, an amphibious transport ship, two amphibious cargo ships, a dock landing ship, three tank landing ships, an amphibious assault ship and a Coast Guard cutter.

The longest stay has been by the YRDH-6, a 151-foot by 35-foot non-self-propelled hull workshop that arrived in 1946, and remains in use as that today. The Belleau Wood, which came into Middle Loch on Nov. 16, deployed to the Persian Gulf in 2004 with helicopters and AV-8B Harrier jump jets. More than 60 combat sorties were flown off its flight deck.

In 1992, landing craft and helicopters from the ship delivered trucks, bulldozers, portable toilets, water purification equipment and food to victims of Hurricane Iniki on Kauai. The flight deck now is empty except for an anchor. The island, or superstructure, normally the nerve center of many watchful eyes, is devoid of people, flags and pennants.

Once swarming with aircraft, the hangar bay, longer than a football field, is vacant, as is a mess hall with its red metal chairs and Formica-topped tables. Leonard said the Belleau Wood won’t go back into service, and either will be scrapped or sunk. Despite such fate, inactive ships sometimes get a final chance at glory on the big screen. For the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, a tugboat was positioned behind a mothballed destroyer and in the movie it appeared that steam was coming out of the destroyer’s stacks. In the more recent Pearl Harbor, diesel fuel was set afire in drums beneath a hatch to make it appear that a ship was on fire, Leonard said.

Editor's note: Belleau Wood should not be confused with an aircraft carrier. She is a Tarawa Class Amphibious Assault Ship (General-purpose) and was decommissioned on 13 October 2005. For more information, click this link [ ].


From CO, NAS Pensacola and acting regional commander - Captain John Pruitt, USN
Forwarded by ANA.


  • A majority of base roads are impassable.
  • Generator power to selected buildings only.
  • Reported damage to every building on station - 90% suffered significant damage.
  • Currently no power - no water - no sewage.
  • Sporadic gas leaks exist all over the base.
  • Phone landlines restored on limited capability this morning
  • Internet connectivity - website still down. ETR sometime this afternoon.
  • Base Public Affairs Office destroyed - photo lab destroyed.
  • Naval Air Technical Training Center is completely under water.
  • Pensacola Naval Air Station Museum structure held up. S-3 President Bush flew aboard USS Abraham Lincoln is intact and undamaged.
  • Coast Guard station reported destroyed.
  • Air Station Cemetery intact.
  • Approximately 10% of power lines are down - conservative estimate.
  • Runways are capable - Air Control tower structure ok - Radar is down


  • All personnel attached to the base are present and/or accounted for. No reported injuries.
  • 2900 sailors are stationed at local shelters in the community. Working with the American Red Cross to unload supplies and food.
  • No one allowed on base due to power lines being down - Base restricted only to Emergency and disaster relief personnel.
  • Florida National Guard from all over the state is inbound for relief efforts. ETA this afternoon.
  • NMCB 1 Seabee detachment (48 Personnel) from Gulfport left Gulfport, MS at 0200 but has not yet arrived due to road damage outside of the base.
  • Seabee detachments also scheduled to arrive Saturday AM and Sunday AM.
  • OIC of Seabee detachment OIC is RADM Wayne Shear


  • Media availability via conference call today at 1530 EST - RADM Shear and Capt Pruitt.
  • Harry White to coordinate via cell phone/land line.
  • Phone interview with NPR conducted yesterday - disconnected midway through - unclear if ever aired.
  • No interviews on base until the environment is safe - aiming for media availability on base tomorrow or Sunday.
  • Imagery - Pictures taken of the base by PAO - Working with NMCI to transmit those photos to MEDIACEN and CHINFO.

POC - LT Robert Lyon, USN - CNATRA PAO - Corpus Christi.
NETC personnel off line - no contact. Not allowed on base at NAS Pensacola.


  • All Blue Angels operations are on hold.
  • Scheduled show this weekend in Nantucket is canceled.
  • Every member of Blue Angels reporting damage to their homes.
    - Currently working on return plan to Pensacola.
  • All shows for the next week are on hold.


  • Every hangar at Whiting is missing its roof.
  • Aircraft damage in hangars is suspected. Full BDA still ongoing.
  • No one other than emergency personnel are allowed on base.
  • Two-thirds of all primary air training is held at NAS Whiting.
  • Primary and helicopter training held at NAS Whiting completely down for approximately two weeks.
  • Current plan is to move training operations to Meridian, MS. No damage at all reported at Meridian.

POC: Stacey J. Byington - Base PAO. Phone: 228-761-2164.
Commanding Officer - CDR Steven Rea, USN

  • USS Yorktown (CG 48) u/w as scheduled.
  • USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) & USS Stephen W Groves (FFG 29) still pier side. Ships are both re-manned. 100% space walkthroughs complete. No damage, structural external or internal reported.
  • Electrical Power to the pier and ship shore power restored.
  • All personnel present and/or accounted for. No reported injuries.
  • Minimal damage at NAVSTA reported.
  • Several small trees uprooted, tree limbs broken off, and two light poles toppled around the base. Part of the roof of MWR eatery blown off, and minor wind damage to some base signage reported.


  • PCUs - USS James E Williams (DDG 95) u/w for Hurricane avoidance.
  • Remainder of ships, USS Halsey (DDG 97), USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) and USS San Antonio (LPD 17) report no damage. All personnel present and/or accounted for.

Photos at []


By William M. Welch, USA TODAY March 8, 2006
Forwarded by YNCS Don Harribine, USN (Ret)

In the two years since the USS Midway found a permanent dock in San Diego Harbor, it has become a major tourist attraction. Nearly 900,000 people boarded the aircraft carrier in its first year of operation, rejuvenating shops and restaurants on the waterfront. The ship is booked years in advance for functions at up to $30,000 a pop.

Now the Navy has another ship it wants to bestow on a West Coast port: the big World War II battleship USS Iowa. But the ship has run into rough sailing and a harsh political headwind in the city the Navy thought would be an ideal home: San Francisco.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 to spurn the ship. Supervisors who oppose the offer say they don't want a ship from a military in which openly gay men and women cannot serve. They also say they don't want it because they oppose the Iraq war, which city voters condemned in a 2004 ballot question. “I don't think the climate has improved for tying a 10-story warship, or gun, to the waterfront,” Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval says.

Veterans in the former Navy town are saying enough is enough. “It's outrageous, even for San Francisco,” Ingrid Sarembe, a Vietnam War-era vet and commander of an American Legion post in the city, says of the opposition to the Iowa. “And we have some pretty outrageous things going on here.”

Read the rest of the story by clicking HERE [ ].

Meet the Board by clicking HERE [ ].

… and read this letter from a thoughtful and logical citizen:

Fri, 10 Mar 2006
Dear Supervisors,

Please take a few minutes to read to this short statement in support of locating the USS Iowa in San Francisco. I am a third generation San Franciscan and my younger brother spent four years on the Iowa serving as a medic during WW II.

Like the WWII memorial in Washington DC, the display of these venerable warships represents a salute to the men and women who fought to preserve freedom in that distant war. I strongly believe that accepting the Navy's gift does not compromise those of you who are against the Iraq campaign and the policies of the current administration. It really is a museum item worthy of display in our beautiful and important city.

My brother has looked forward to once again board his ship, not in Stockton, but in his beloved San Francisco. Please reconsider your present position. This may be hard thing to do, having gone on record opposing the gift.

Nevertheless, I appeal to those of you who so voted to choose the harder right than stick with the easier wrong.

Henry B Stelling, Jr
MGen USAF (Ret)

… and another from a senior veteran forwarded by

Sat, 11 Mar 2006

Bob - I do believe strongly that malignancy against a nation's military — its uniformed people and its sacred monuments and mementoes — is promulgated by defeatists and/or implementers of vested interest.

As you know, I'm a WW2 vet. Just two years ago I had the honor of visiting the venerable U.S.S. Arizona with all “hands” buried at Pearl Harbor… and the U.S.S. Missouri anchored nearby.

As I stood at the rail of the Arizona monument peering at the still surfacing oil slick I wept. So stirred was I at the memory of those heroes of whom I first heard when as a lad of 16 I listened to the radio announce on Dec. 7 the Japanese attack and its devastating results.

I saluted and departed, proud that this monument perpetuated the memory of what had happened there and who was left behind.

It would have been and should be the same with another great veteran ship denied entry to The Port of San Francisco. I suppose if the commercialism of “The Titanic” or even of “The Queen Mary” at Long Beach, California were attached to such a vessel, it would not only be welcomed but exploited to Nth degree by the city fathers of San Francisco.

Patriotism and gratitude should have been justification enough.

I despair at such limited mentality.

“Doc” Ellis


By Dan Steber, Naval Safety Center Public Affairs, 4/18/2006
Forwarded by YNCS Don Harribine, USN (Ret.)

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) — The Naval Safety Center and other Navy commands are helping National Geographic with a series called Seconds from Disaster, which shares major historical events that had tragic results.

The current Navy story deals with the 1967 fire aboard USS Forrestal (CVA 59). The special will show what happened, how Sailors valiantly fought to save the ship, and what lessons were learned that led to modern safety features.

“This is a chance to show the good that came from a tragic event,” said Cmdr. Bob Standley, head mishap investigator at the Naval Safety Center and a key player in the National Geographic special. “My role was to walk the viewer through the mishap, through the eyes of a modern-day mishap investigator. It was interesting to review an old mishap and to share what the Navy learned from that experience.”

The show will include recreations of various events from that day. Rather than use local actors, Sailors from USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67), USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and the Farrier Firefighting School will appear in the show.

Capt. Dave Lepard, an ordnance expert at NOSSA Indian Head, Md., also helped with the production. “As an ordnanceman, I’m very aware of the USS Forrestal fire,” he said. “It was a watershed event. I read about the incident, researched it, and learned about the mishap that changed the way we do business at sea. I wanted to make sure we did a job that was right for the Navy and for those who lost their lives that fateful day in July.”

“My biggest thanks for all the hard work you all did getting us in to all the places and to meet all the people we needed to see,” said Margaret Beckett, the show’s producer. “Everyone, but everyone we encountered in the U.S. Navy was enthusiastic, helpful and I think many went out of their way to help us. I hope you will enjoy the end product!”

The show is tentatively titled “USS Forrestal Fire - July 29, 1967.” Current plans are for the show to air during the late summer.

click here for related story [ ].


Forwarded by RAdm Steve Barchet, U.S. Navy (Ret) via BGen Bob Clements USAF (Ret)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Vice Adm. (ret.) Albert H. Konetzni Jr. recently testified before the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), the panel reviewing proposed military base closings. He served as Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, 2001-2004, and Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 1998-2001.

AMERICAN military history records many instances of poor readiness or non-availability of war-fighting equipment when conflicts broke out. (More on that below.)

In that light, consider these facts:

  • American submarines perform many missions - but serve as the premier anti-submarine weapons platform in the U.S. Navy inventory today.
  • There are 400 submarines in the world today; about half are friendly.
  • China has a larger submarine force than the United States.
  • China is building at least five new nuclear fast attack submarines and two new ballistic-missile nuclear submarines today - greatly enhancing Chinese capabilities.
  • Nineteen submarines were launched last year worldwide - nine of them in China.
  • And… the United States has launched just four submarines in the last five years.

I've often wondered how many U.S. submarines were lost because of faulty torpedoes during the first two years of World War II. Less than half of our torpedoes actually functioned in combat - but the Navy's high command refused to admit the problem until late in 1942.

As important - would the war in the Pacific have ended sooner if we had reliable torpedoes early in the conflict?

Underscoring the tragedy (a scandal dramatized in the 1958 war drama “Run Silent, Run Deep”) was that the problem - faulty torpedo exploders and a failure to achieve proper run depths - well-known in the fleet, but the Navy's leaders back in Washington wouldn't believe it.

In fact, until late 1943 it took an average of 12 torpedoes to sink a single enemy ship. Several naval officers risked their careers by voicing great concern about the problems to naval leadership - all to no avail.

Intellectual arguments, analysis and tests were ignored - and many American submariners lost their lives. It wasn't until early 1944 that the needed modifications were made.

Sixty years later, the U.S. submarine force is once again facing a situation that will diminish its effectiveness as an instrument of national defense - if not result in the effective demise of this proud force.

The Navy, which has already been shrinking its submarine force, now proposes to compound the damage by removing the infrastructure necessary to train, develop and maintain that force - by closing the Naval Submarine Base in New London, Conn., and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Me. The closures will accelerate the demise of our powerful submarine force.

The closure of the Portsmouth facility will leave the Navy with inadequate capacity to maintain our submarines, reducing the public shipyard structure to one shipyard on the East Coast. All at a time, as a result of aging, our Los Angeles and Trident class submarines will require extra maintenance and modernization.

Every facet of submarine warfare is represented at New London - initial and ship training, maintenance, tactical development, undersea medicine, laboratories, major defense contractors - creating a powerful synergy that enhances each function. Losing that base will eradicate a vital Navy center.

That closure will also reduce our strategic flexibility: East Coast submarines deploy to the Pacific via the North Pole. New London is perfectly geographically situated to continue this practice as well as to support operations in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.

What is particularly troubling about the drive to close these critical facilities is the sudden shift in the analysis behind the U.S. military's approach to the structure of our armed forces, and its relationship to the budget.

Our submarine force has been the subject of 14 studies in the last 12 years. These studies are time-consuming, but for the most part they are appropriate and welcome - we should be ready to justify the billions of dollars that the taxpayers spend on submarines; if we can't, the money should be taken away.

Repeatedly, the submarine force has been able to show a solid case - both in real world “peacetime” operations and in speculative wartime usage - that provides a firm basis for the American taxpayer to be comfortable that this money is not being wasted.

But more recent studies are different: The pragmatic and balanced approach favored in the past - one that understood the need to maintain a force ready for war - seems to have been replaced by a “reverse-engineered” analysis that starts with a fixed dollar amount, then finds and attempts to design a force structure that fits the budget.

This approach threatens to damage national security; most of the analytically driven studies have shown a need for from 55 to 75 submarines. But the most recent Navy review in March put the numbers at 37 to 41.

This disparity needs to be further analyzed and resolved before we disable the U.S. Navy's Submarine Force by shutting down its infrastructure. If America can't afford a submarine force as a nation, the people of America need to know it now.

I hope that we as a nation will agree on the proper size of our Submarine Force before we decide to close important infrastructure. If we do otherwise, we imperil our national security.


From ComNavForCenCom Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) - At approximately 3 p.m. local time Jan. 21, the U.S. 5th Fleet captured a group of suspected pirates in the Indian Ocean, approximately 54 miles off the central eastern coast of Somalia.

After receiving a report of an attempted act of piracy from the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur on the morning of Jan. 20, the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) and other U.S. naval forces in the area located the vessel of the suspected pirates and reported its position. Churchill then shadowed the vessel through the night and into the morning of Jan. 21.

At 8:03 a.m. local time Jan. 21, Churchill began querying the pirate vessel over ship-to-ship radio. Churchill requested that the crew leave the vessel and board the two small boats the vessel had in tow. Following repeated attempts to establish communications with the vessel to no avail, Churchill began aggressive maneuvering in an attempt to stop the vessel. The vessel continued on its course and speed.

At 11:31 a.m. local time, Churchill fired warning shots. The vessel cut speed and went dead in the water.

At 1:02 p.m. local time, Churchill issued a warning via ship-to-ship radio that it would begin taking further actions to force the crew to respond to questioning and depart the vessel. At 2:21 p.m. local time, Churchill fired additional warning shots, and at that time the crew of the suspected pirate vessel established communications by radio and indicated that they would begin sending personnel to Churchill via their small boat in tow.

At 2:54 p.m. local time, the master of the pirate vessel started sending members of the crew to Churchill. U.S. Navy Sailors from Churchill then boarded the suspect vessel and discovered small-arms weapons on board.

By Steven Donald Smith, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2006 – Pirates are not a thing of the past. They are alive and well, and roaming the seas in search of booty. And U. S. Navy and Coast
Guard officials are determined to stop them from threatening Americans and American interests.

When average Americans think of pirates, they probably conjure up an image of a snarling, rum drinking, eye-patch wearing, 18th century
drunkard with a parrot perched on his shoulder.

This perception is in need of an update. Following a century of decline, piracy is increasingly on the rise. “Although piracy has existed almost as long as
shipping and trade, it appeared to have been eliminated by the end of the 19th century. But piracy had not disappeared.

During the 1970s and 1980s, attacks on merchant ships began to increase, and piracy became a problem that could no longer be ignored,” an official from the
International Maritime Organization, an agency of the United Nations, said.

Incidents of piracy have become even more prevalent over the last two years, especially off the coast of Somalia and in the South China Sea.

In 2004, 330 incidents of piracy were recorded worldwide, of which almost 180 took place in the South China Sea, but “the actual extent of the incidents is very difficult to gauge and there may have been other unreported cases,” IMO officials stated. “The number of reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in waters off the coast of Somalia has increased alarmingly… and is becoming increasingly common,” an official said.

“Most of the incidents have reportedly occurred at distances ranging up to 180 nautical miles off the Somali coast, and the reported information suggests a
pattern of well-organized and coordinated activities. “

The U. S. Navy is attacking the issue head-on. In an attempt to make the seas safer for commerce and to thwart terrorist activities, the Navy conducts maritime security operations in various parts of the world.

“The primary focus of (such operations) is preventing terrorists from using the seas as a venue from which to launch an attack or to move people, weapons
or other material that support their efforts,” Naval Forces Central Command spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Breslau said.

But “our maritime task forces are always prepared to respond to mariners in distress, whether they are under attack by pirates, experience engineering
causalities, or have medical emergencies.

Several incidents of piracy aimed at international shipping off the Somali coast have been reported over the past year, including an attack on a Western cruise ship in November and a Jan. 22 incident in which pirates reportedly fired on a commercial cargo ship before hijacking the vessel.

The pirates are currently demanding ransom for the release of the 20 crew members and the vessel, International Maritime Bureau officials said. Pirates have even hijacked humanitarian aid vessels, such as a ship loaded with foodstuff headed to Somalia under the auspices of the U. N. World Food Program, IMO
officials said.

“In today's world, ship safety and security are inseparable. Events have made us all aware of the vulnerability of transport networks and the potential
they hold to be either the targets or the instruments of terror. ” IMO officials said. Even though acts of piracy are not common in American waters, the U. S.
Coast Guard is vigilant in preventing them from becoming so.

Aside from combating drug trafficking and protecting U. S. ports and marine transportation system from terrorism, Coast Guard officials emphasize the
importance of stopping the spread of piracy into American waters to protect U. S. citizens and the flow of commerce. “By its very definition, piracy is about

Our job is law enforcement,” Dan Tremper, a Coast Guard spokesman, said. “We're always on patrol — 24/7. We've got sharp eyes on the water with the goal
of protecting the American people and our economic interests.”

See also: COAST GUARD. [ ]


By Vicki Ferstal, Suburban writer, 20 Sep 2003
From P38Bob

A relic of one of this nation's greatest tragedies — 24 tons of steel from the World Trade Center - has been transformed into a symbol of this country's military might. This steel was superheated and poured into a casting mold to create parts of the hull and anchor castings of the future U. S. Navy amphibious transport dock ship USS New York - a 684-foot-long vessel to be built at the Northrop Grumman Avondale shipyard in New Orleans.

The transformation took place in the small town of Amite, La., population 2,000, which houses Amite Foundry & Machine Inc., one of the largest steel foundries in the South. “Thanks to the skill and hard work of the Amite Foundry and Machine workers, a piece of our city will travel the world in democracy and freedom,” former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani wrote in a letter read at the ceremony.

Joining the various dignitaries at Tuesday's event was Richard Torrens, petty officer second class in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Torrens, who lives in the Bronx, lost a niece when the Twin Towers collapsed in the Sept. 11 terror attacks. She died on the cusp of her 28th birthday. Torrens, who works full-time as a New York City sanitation worker, spent time at Ground Zero searching for her remains. “This means a lot to New York,” Torrens said. “To some, it's a closure.”

Foundry operations manager “Junior” Chavers has worked at the Amite site for 38 years, but has never had a job quite like this. “When the material arrived here, it was an experience I can't describe,” he said. “When I laid my hand on it, the hair on my neck stood up.” Chavers was one of the three foundry workers who suited up in silver fire-and heat-resistant suits to guide the huge bucket carrying the molten steel onto the mold. A few other workers manned the enormous gantry crane, draped with an American flag that carried the bucket from the fire pit to the casting mold.

Dotty England, wife of former Navy Defense Secretary Gordon England (now deputy secretary of Homeland Security) had the honor of pulling the lever to pour the molten steel. “For all who will serve on the USS New York and for all who suffered from the attacks of 9-11, let us never forget,” she said.

The audience cheered as Chavers and his crew, enveloped by sparks and smoke, guided the white-hot steel into the casting mold. “Never forget” will be the motto of the USS New York.

The vessel will be able to launch and recover any helicopter in the Marine Corps inventory as well as the MV-22 Osprey, a vertical take-off and landing aircraft. It will carry 361 crew and 699 troops and be used in a variety of expeditionary and special operations, including amphibious and air warfare, command and control, humanitarian relief and noncombatant evacuation operations. “Whenever this ship sails, the spirit and memory of those lost on 9-11 will go with it,” said Hansford T. Johnson, acting Secretary of the Navy.

“In our nation's adversity, the inner strength of our people has been reborn,” said Vice Adm. Philip Balisle, Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command.


From Blue Angels Public Affairs

PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) — Sailors from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit TWO (MDSU2), along with the crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Cypress, have recovered a Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron F/A-18 Hornet that crashed near Perdido Key in early December.

Cypress, a 225-foot buoy tender home ported in Mobile, Ala., was on scene within hours and first patrolled the crash site to pick up floating debris and secure the area for investigators. For the next week, MDSU2 personnel localized the wreckage from aboard USNS Apache ) using sector-scanning sonar.

MDSU2, from Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va., dispatched members from their area search detachment Dec. 13. The crew deployed an unmanned underwater vehicle named Reamus, which pinpointed the exact location of the Hornet that same day.

Coast Guardsmen from Coast Guard Station Pensacola and Sailors from Naval Air Station Pensacola assisted MDSU2 by transporting their gear and personnel to the cutter, as well as piloting smaller vessels during the recovery effort.

Eighteen MDSU2 divers and four enlisted Blue Angels deployed with the 54-person Cypress crew on Dec. 14. Three hour-long dives yielded loose debris, such as wing flaps and landing gear, from the jet. Two more dives were completed Dec. 15 to securely rig the jet, allowing a Cypress crane to pull the bulk of the fuselage aboard at approximately 4 p.m.

“The plane was mostly intact, which is unusual in these operations,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Annon, the MSDU2 diving officer for the recovery. “Working with the Coast Guard is not something we normally do, and it was great. It was a good dive overall, because we knew going in that the pilot was safe,” the Madison, Ind., native said.

Lt. Ted Steelman, 32, from Star, Idaho, was flying the unnumbered jet on a routine training flight Dec. 1 when the incident occurred. Following his ejection, he was evaluated at the Pensacola Naval Medical Center and released that same evening.

Prior to the recovery, Cypress had spent the last several weeks repositioning 80 navigational aids near U.S. ports in the Gulf of Mexico following Hurricane Ivan. The cutter is responsible for maintaining navigational aids from Apalachicola, Fla., to the U.S.-Mexican border.

“This was quite a different operation than we are normally used to,” said Cypress First Lieutenant, Chief Warrant Officer Michael Hoag, a 22-year veteran from Jones, Okla. “We blended with the Blues and MDSU2 in a couple of days, and I was amazed at how we became one crew.”

Hoag added that lifting the jet was a complex process while trying to maintain a stable salvage platform in the choppy seas. The aircraft was extracted from approximately 40 feet of water and transported aboard Cypress to a secure location at NAS Pensacola Dec. 16, where investigators will examine it.

The cause of incident remains under investigation.


An old friend and shipmate from active Navy days sent this. It is unlikely that many anti-military, anti-war or other such naysayers log onto this Website more than once, so it may be like “preaching to the choir,“ but I thought I should share it with you.

Captain Larry Hamilton, U.S. Navy (Ret) wrote: My nephew is currently serving his second tour on the staff of an Expeditionary Strike Group embarked on the USS TARAWA - now enroute to Hong Kong and Singapore on their return to San Diego. They were on a routine cruise until an earthquake hit Pakistan on October 8, 2005. The Navy sent the TARAWA to the area and RADM LeFever and staff went ashore to command Disaster Assistance Center Pakistan, the U.S. Military humanitarian efforts from Islamabad. On January 6, 2006, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld ordered the admiral and his staff to remain in Pakistan through the winter. There are currently 870 service personnel representing all services remaining in Pakistan. My nephew was one of those chosen to return to the ship before it started home.

The following are LTJG Brian Hamilton‘s comments about his experience:

“To summarize my stay in Pakistan, I would say it was well worth it. I'm glad to have had the chance, and I truly believe we did/are doing an excellent job out there helping those in need.

“I've received a couple emails from you saying how not everyone back home is against the military and support what we're doing. Good. If these disillusioned Americans could really see what the Armed Forces are doing for people around the world, they might think differently.

“It's frustrating that the media prefers to highlight the occasional mistake or bad apple that might come along instead of inspiring America with the remarkable jobs the men and women in the military carry out every day. Did you know at one point we had over 1200 people in Pakistan for the relief effort? Most of those people were living in tents up in the mountains with the sick and dying, trying (often in vain) to save just one more person every day.

“We've got service members in Iraq, Afghanistan, UAE, Qatar, etc., and the farthest reaches of international waters just to make this world a safe place. We are there for every catastrophe, every conflict, and every natural disaster the earth has to offer. These men and women (sometimes boys and girls) are giving their lives for the freedom and well being of other countries.

“Name me one other country in the world that does that on a continuous basis.

“Do me a favor: the next time you hear someone bad-mouthing the military or the USA, let them know you have a friend serving proudly and that they can leave anytime they want. And the next time you see someone in uniform, say ‘Thank you.’ You would never believe how much that means to them.

“I don't mean to rant, but sometimes it gets to me.”


By Jug Varner

While I try to be fair in representing all branches of our military forces on this website, I hope you will forgive an occasional push I give to my beloved Navy. It is a compulsory urge over which I seem to have no control.

One doesn’t appreciate change when he or she is a part of it, as much as when standing afar and seeing it more objectively from a distance in time and place.

I remember what a great difference I saw in the Navy when, five years after WWII, I was recalled for duty in the Korean War. Then, after I retired in 1968, the changes I saw during rare visits to Navy ships or installations thru the years always impressed me.

That’s why I say, if you have been away from the Navy even a few years, you probably wouldn’t believe the quality of the officers and crews in the fleet today, nor the fantastic changes in our SHIPS AND AIRCRAFT [ ].

Thanks to Howard Rien, U.S. Navy (Ret),, who forwarded this Sea Power presentation.


Forwarded by JayPMarine

This may seem amazing to anyone who wondered how they loaded the USS Cole onto that Norwegian transport. If you have sound, turn it up and listen to the music. Just click on []and follow the instructions… particularly the “DO NOT” warnings.


**Original author unknown as of Jan 4, 2005

**To Jug 8-25-06: Just thought you'd like to know that this first poem was written by my Air Force Pilot Training Class 61-F classmate, Capt. Michael Larkin, TWA, RET, and first appeared in Air Line Pilot magazine in Jan. 1995. To the best of my knowledge, the first web publication was on my site dedicated to our class [ ].
Pappy Rawl
USAF Pilot Class 61-F
Website [ ].

I hope there's a place way up in the sky
Where Naval Aviators go when they die.
A place where a guy could buy a cold beer
For a friend and comrade whose memory is dear.

A place where no black shoe or pork chop could tread,
Nor a Pentagon type would e'er be caught dead!
Just a quaint little 'O' club; kind of dark, full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke.

The kind of place, where a lady could go
And feel safe and protected by the men she would know.
There must be a place where old Navy pilots go
When their wings get too weary, and their airspeed gets low.

Where the whiskey is old and the women are young,
And songs about flying and dying are sung,
Where you'd see all the shipmates you'd served with before,
And they'd call out your name, as you came thru the door,

Who would buy you a drink, if your thirst should be bad
And relate to the others, “He was quite a good lad!”
And then thru the mist you'd spot an old guy
You had not seen in years, though he'd taught you to fly.

He'd nod his old head and grin ear to ear,
And say, “Welcome shipmate, I'm pleased that you're here!
For this is the place where Naval Aviators come
When the battles are over, and the wars have been won.

They've come here at last to be safe and afar
From the government clerk and the management czar,
Politicians and lawyers, the feds and the noise,
Where all hours are happy, and these good old boys

Can relax with a cool one, and a well-deserved rest!
This is Heaven, my son, you've passed your last test!

Here's a different approach under a similar title. Although you non-aviators may not understand all of the abbreviations, you will no doubt get the gist of this wishful thinking embedded in the heart of the select few fortunate enough to have flown for the Navy.
Forwarded by Slim Russell

Original author unknown

Everybody's a Lieutenant except God. He is a Lieutenant Commander.
You only come to work when you are going to fly.
You fly three times a day except on Friday.
You never run out of gas.
You never run out of ammo.
Your missions are one hour long (or longer if you desire) and no briefings are ever required.
Sorties are air-to-air or air-to-ground, your choice.
You shoot the guns on every mission…
You are always on TDY, and there are no check rides.
It is always VFR, and there are never any ATC delays.
You can fly out of the MOA and down to 10 feet AGL...if you want.
There are no “over G's.”
There is never any Squadron Air Ops, Shore Patrol or Tower Duty.
You always fly overhead landing patterns with initial approach at 20 feet, then break left.
You can go cross-country anytime you desire… the farther the better.
There are no ORIs.
There are no additional duties.
There are no Friday AOM's, but Friday Happy Hour is mandatory.
There are no flight surgeons.
There are no Staff Jobs.
“Happy Hour” begins at 1400 hours and lasts until 0200+ hours.
The LSO is the bartender. They are all big bosomed, friendly blondes.
Beer is free, but whiskey cost a nickel.
The bar serves only Chevas Regal, Jack Daniels and Beefeaters… plus 500 kinds of beer.
The Girls are all friendly and each Naval Aviator is allowed three.
There are no fat women, and the thin ones look like Sophia Loren.
Country and Western music is free on the jukebox.
You never loose your room key and your buddies never leave you stranded.
The sun always shines, and you can put your hat in your pants pocket.
Flight Suits are allowed in the Officers Club at all times.
Functions requiring mess dress attire never occur.
The Exchange always has every item you ask for, most being free.
There are never any crosswind landings, and the runways are always dry..
Control Tower flybys for wheels-up checks can be made at 600 kts.
There are never any noise complaints.
Full afterburner climbs over your house are encouraged.
Fitness Reports always contain the statement, “Outstanding Officer.”
All air traffic controllers are friendly and always provide priority handling.
The airplanes never break.
“ACE” status is conferred upon all Naval Aviators entering Heaven.


By Jug Varner
June 1994 Visit

The scene is Induction Day in July: 1,100 young men and women stand shoulder to shoulder and repeat the Oath of Office together. Now they are “plebes” and tomorrow they begin a seven-week training program known as “Plebe Summer” — a preface to the four years ahead that will challenge them morally, mentally and physically.

Their 17-hour days of heat, sweat and humidity begin with 0530 reveille and for the next 49 days they learn the value of teamwork. They also learn to wear a uniform, march in formation, use firearms, develop seamanship and navigation skills, send and receive flag signals and Morse code, compete in sports, run obstacle courses, practice damage control, stand watches and find the meaning of “can-do” spirit. When it is over, they are leaner, harder, lighter and ready for what may be the most difficult year of their young lives. They are ready to enter the first academic year at the U. S. Naval Academy, Annapolis.

As Maryland's capital city for 200 years, Annapolis once served briefly as the capital of the United States. It is surrounded by Chesapeake Bay and the Severn and Magothy Rivers. Baltimore or Washington, D.C., is a mere 30-mile drive and coastal cities from Norfolk to Boston are within easy reach. The quiet countryside of the Eastern Shore provides much to explore and enjoy. Annapolis still retains a small town atmosphere where shopkeepers know their customers by name and people walk leisurely down Main Street. It offers a variety of historical, cultural and recreational opportunities.

Entering the Naval Academy's scenic grounds, known as the Yard, one notes the architectural contrasts that reflect the colorful history of this 249-year-old institution. Designated a National Historic Site, the Yard's tree-shaded monuments commemorate academy graduates' courage and contribution to naval history.

In 1845, Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft established a Naval School at Ft. Severn, near Annapolis. Fifty students attend the first classes taught by four officers and three civilian professors. Five years later it became the United States Naval Academy and adopted a curriculum still in effect today — four consecutive years at Annapolis with at-sea training in the summer. During the Civil War, the Navy moved the academy to Newport, R.I., but returned to Annapolis in 1865.

Over the years the academy gradually expanded from ten acres to its present 338-acre complex and 4200 midshipmen brigade. One thing that has not changed, however, is the basic mission: “To develop midshipmen morally, mentally and physically; to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty; to provide graduates who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.”

Commander John Paul Jones, the legendary Revolutionary War naval hero, is enshrined in the Chapel of Midshipmen. This “Cathedral of the Navy” offers a serene place atop the Yard's highest ground for midshipmen to worship. Two massive bronze doors grace its entry and two anchors from the first armored cruiser, USS New York, flank the long steps to the chapel.

Inside, majestic windows of stained glass symbolize Navy ideals and remind naval officers of their commissions — one to God and the other to country. The words of the Navy Hymn, “Eternal Father Strong to Save,” dominates the altar. The congregation concludes every service by singing the Navy Hymn.

A single pew, cordoned off in blue velvet with a single burning candle, is dedicated to the memory of all Prisoners of War and those missing in action.

During the first academic year, plebes take the same courses. These include leadership, fundamental naval science and engineering, chemistry, English, naval aviation, surface and submarine warfare operations and calculus. Eight percent of a plebe's time is spent in physical fitness. Men take boxing and wrestling, women take self defense. Everyone takes swimming.

Middies refer to their Bancroft Hall residence as Mother B. There, upper class midshipmen and squad leaders frequently question plebes on military knowledge and current events as part of their professional training. They call these oral quizzes “come-arounds.”

As plebes progress through these difficult months of transition from civilian to military, they make friends amongst their squad of 12 and their larger company of 110 in classrooms, on playing fields and in Mother-B.

Fall sports provide diversity and recreation as plebes attend home football games and the annual Army-Navy game in Philadelphia. Local families in the Plebe Sponsor Program open their homes and refrigerators to the Midshipmen so they can relax on Saturdays.
Plebe year winds down in the spring with the ritual scaling of Herndon Monument's greased granite sides. One by one, as body upon body stacks up like building blocks, plebes struggle as a team until one of them makes it to the top and replaces a plebe's cap there with an upper class midshipman's hat. The act signifies “no more plebes!”

Summers bring training at sea on the Yard Patrol craft or sailing sloops. Midshipmen learn shipboard duties as they steam up and down the Chesapeake Bay or go north or south to other naval bases on the East Coast. Standing deck, operations and engineering watches are all part of sea duty. They also get an introduction to the Marine Corps for one week and spend three weeks in leadership training at the Marine Base, Quantico, Va.

When Plebes become “Youngsters,” or third class midshipmen, (sophomores), they can pursue courses in their newly-elected academic major and are required to study navigation and naval engineering. The 600 military and civilian professors are experts in their fields.

Having completed most of the initial training, there is now time for sports, extracurricular activities and community service projects. Midshipmen engage in 33 intercollegiate and 20 intramural sports during an academic year as well as a variety of professional and activities. However, the pressures of full academic courses and professional development will carry through until graduation.

First class (senior) midshipmen have the responsibilities of running 36 companies, taking care of business around the Yard, studying and enjoying more freedom and privileges. By this time they are excited in anticipation of their Navy career field assignments and in February they learn where they will spend the next six years. Midshipmen generally choose aviation, conventional or nuclear surface warfare, submarines or service in the Marine Corps. There are other careers such as in intelligence, cryptology, oceanography, geophysics, medicine, engineering, supply, aviation maintenance, salvage and rescue, etc.

Wherever they go, the training never ceases, including the opportunity for graduate study and future assignment to war and staff colleges.

Commissioning week is equivalent to graduation at civilian universities, but more so. The entire Yard relishes the week-long celebration of concerts, dances, baccalaureate services, parades, the Superintendent's garden party, and presentation of prizes and awards, that culminate in the best ceremony of all — graduation and commissioning of new Navy Ensigns and Second Lieutenants.

A breath-taking flight demonstration by the Navy Blue Angels precision flight team adds the final touch!


By James G. Zumwalt, a Marine veteran of the Persian Gulf and Vietnam wars. July 30, 2005

On July 23, at the U.S. Naval Academy, a true American hero was laid to rest, where his service to country first began. The broad makeup of the large audience gathered to pay respects reflected the high esteem in which this hero was held. Many combat veterans, of all ranks and military services, were present.

They paid tribute to a man whose life exemplified the warrior ethos of courage, loyalty, duty and honor. Prominent among them was a group representing the bravest of the brave — recipients of America's highest battlefield honor, the Medal of Honor (MOH).

They, along with a host of other veterans, were there to honor MOH recipient Vice Adm. James Stockdale, 81. Yet even the MOH recipients present felt humbled by the actions giving rise to Adm. Stockdale's medal as the senior prisoner of war (POW) during the Vietnam War.

In his eulogy, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Bill Crowe noted Adm. Stockdale's actions involved not a single act of courage on a single day but an aggregate of consistently courageous actions over 7½ years of incarceration.

It is important we long remember Adm. Stockdale's actions, not only for the courage he exhibited but for the lesson he leaves us today as we fight a new enemy in a new era.

Having flown 200 combat missions over North Vietnam, Adm. Stockdale's luck ran out in September 1965 when he was shot down and captured. His captors and angry villagers beat him, eventually wrenching his shoulders from their sockets, shattering his leg and breaking his back.

After he was taken to Hanoi's infamous Hoa Lo Prison, known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” his brutal treatment continued. Realizing the senior military prisoner's cooperation would ensure all POWs cooperated, his captors sought to break Adm. Stockdale first. Adm. Stockdale, however, simply would not be broken.

Despite beatings, torture, two years in leg irons and four years in solitary confinement in total darkness, he refused to betray his country and fellow prisoners. When the North Vietnamese planned to use Adm. Stockdale in a propaganda film, he grabbed a wooden stool, repeatedly smashing it into his face to disfigure himself and prevent the enemy from using him as an unwilling tool to criticize his country. He paid a high price for his defiant act, serving two years in leg irons.

When interrogators later threatened to torture his fellow prisoners if he did not cooperate, Adm. Stockdale — left alone in the interrogation room — removed a picture of Ho Chi Minh from the wall, broke the glass and used the shards to slash his wrists. Passing out in his own blood, he preferred to take his life rather than subject his subordinates to additional torture.

As his MOH citation states, his captors became “convinced of his indomitable spirit.” Torture of all POWs then abated.

Many personal beliefs empowered Adm. Stockdale to endure and survive his ordeal. His study of the great philosophers, his belief in God, his belief in country, his belief in and love of family — all imbued him with an inner strength, enabling him to succeed where weaker men would have failed.

The family bond that continued to feed Adm. Stockdale's indomitable spirit as a POW was exhibited, too, by his wife, Sybil. She wrote him weekly, knowing it was doubtful many letters would be received, yet hoping some would get through. She organized the POW wives to provide a support base from which each might gain strength and confidence that, one day, their husbands would return. Each letter she wrote her husband, concluded with the salutation: “May God keep you, dearest, all the lonely nights. The wind is still, the moon shines down on Western hills. God keep you, dearest, 'til the light.”

That light would not shine for Adm. Stockdale until March 1973 when he, among the longest-held group of American POWs in U.S. history, finally returned home.

There is a stark and vitally important lesson to be gleaned from the life of Adm. Stockdale — a lesson by which we must live today. He demonstrated, in confronting a determined 20th-century enemy, that an unwavering commitment and willingness to sacrifice self on behalf of others eventually can overcome an enemy's resolve. It is a lesson we must bear in mind as we confront our 21st-century enemies as well.

It is said a nation's greatness is determined by how it honors its warriors. But it is also true a warrior's greatness is determined by how he honors his country. By this measure, Adm. Stockdale — the warrior the enemy could never break — leaves behind the legacy of a very great man.

This article was mailed from The Washington Times
( For more great articles, visit us at

Copyright © 2005 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Note to Readers: A final tribute to Admiral Stockdale would be for the Navy to name a future ship for him. If you support such an effort, please write to the US Navy at the address:

PEO Ships
Attention: Ms. Alicia Aadnesen
Building 197, Room 3W3990
1333 Issac Hull Avenue, SE
Washington Navy, Yard, DC 20376-2101


You may have received this item from your own sources; but if not, I am sure you will be as impressed as I was with the writer's realization of what is really important in our busy, day-to-day lives. It came to me umpteenth-hand, and I regret that none of these included the originator's name. But thanks, whoever you are for the


I sat in my seat of the Boeing 767 waiting for everyone to hurry and stow their carry on and grab a seat so we could start what I was sure to be a long and uneventful flight home.

With the huge capacity and slow moving people taking their time to stuff luggage far too big for the overhead, and never paying much attention to holding up the growing line behind them, I simply shook my head knowing that this flight was not starting out very well and although I had a great bunch of meetings while conducting business on this trip, it was quickly becoming tarnished with these delays in my getting home to my loved one whom I had not seen in several days.

The meetings although fruitful were long and I had not slept well, not to mention those blasted new shoes that rubbed a blister on my heel. I was pretty focused on my issues and just felt like standing up and yelling for some of these clowns to get their act together and focus on taking their seats. Knowing I couldn't say anything that would really help, I just thumbed thru the sky mall widget magazine from the seat pocket in front of me. You know it's really getting rough when you resort to the overpriced and mostly useless sky mall crap to break the monotony and inconvenience of the trouble I was going through.

With everyone finally on board and seated, we just sat there with the cabin door open and seemingly no one in any hurry to get us going, even though we were well past our scheduled take-off time. The paper work had not yet come to the flight deck. The attendants just stood around talking. No wonder the airline industry is in trouble I told myself. Don't they realize we have some place we are supposed to be? We should be treated with more importance. After all, we are the customers, right?

Just then, the attendant came on the intercom to inform us all that we were being delayed. As she paused, the entire plane let out a collective groan. She resumed her announcement. “We are holding the aircraft for some very special people who are on their way to the plane and the delay should not be more than five more minutes. Their connecting flight has traveled a long way and we would get underway just as soon as possible.”

Now, I have had this happen to me before and more often than not, I had to catch the next flight or even go to another carrier to get to my destination. Still, I was grateful for the times when they waited for me, so I thought that I would go back to my sky mall pages and try to forget just how much I was being inconvenienced.

As the word came from a scrambling attendant down the connecting tunnel to the main cabin door I thought that maybe she had some information that would let us know why we had been sitting there for over thirty minutes. Had someone finally given word that after waiting six times as long as we were first promised, I was finally going to be on my way home? Why the hoopla over these folks? Just get their butts in a seat and lets hit the gas, I thought to myself.

After a few minutes we were all “locked on” when the attendant came back on the speaker, semi expecting some celebrity or sport figure to be announced as the reason the aircraft was delayed so long. I thought, “Who cares. Let's go.”

She announced in a loud and excited voice, “We are being joined by several United States Marines returning home from Iraq.” Then, just as they walked onboard the entire plane erupted into applause.

The Marines were a bit taken by the surprise of the 340+ people cheering for them as they searched for their seats. It didn't stop. They were having their hands shook and touched by almost everyone who was within an arm's distance of them as they tried to push thru the aisles. Whistles, cheering, an occasional “oorrahh”… one elderly woman kissed the hand of a Marine as he passed by her, and the applause didn't stop for a long time as they continued toward the back of the aircraft.

When we finally got airborne I am sure I was not the only civilian checking his conscious as to the delays in getting home from my hard business meetings, finding my easy chair and remote, a cold beverage, and tending to my blister. In fact I felt pretty stupid, as I am sure many did. After what these men had done for all of us, and I had been complaining silently about “me” and “my issues”?

It sure made me realize that, as much as I told myself I didn't take for granted some of the everyday freedoms I enjoy and the conveniences of the American way of life, and that it sometimes seems like a personal attack on one of us when things don't go exactly right, I was doing exactly that. I was taking it for granted. I took it for granted when others who had really paid the price for my ability to moan and complain (even if it was just to myself), let alone a few minutes delay to me, so that those heroes could go home to their loved ones.

I attempted to get my selfish outlook back in order and minutes before we landed I suggested to the attendant that she announce over the speaker a request for everyone to remain in their seats until our hero's were allowed to gather their things and be first off the plane. The cheers and applause continued until the last Marine stepped off and we all rose to go about our too often taken for granted everyday freedoms.

I felt proud of them. I felt it an honor and a privilege to be among the first to welcome them home and say “thank you for a job well done.”

I vowed that I would never forget that flight or the lesson learned. I have said it before but I can't say it enough, THANK YOU to those VETERANS and ACTIVE SERVICEMEN AND WOMEN who may read this, and a prayer everyday for those who cannot because they are no longer with us.




By CDR Byron (Jug) Varner, U.S. Navy (RET)

PASCAGOULA, Miss., June 24, 2000 – “When this ship is commissioned next year, she will be a vessel of war,” former U. S. Senator Bob Dole of Kansas said here this morning, “and also a vessel of values…imbued with both firepower and moral power, in times of conflict and of peace.”

“This great ship is named for one great individual,” Dole said, “but it will brandish the spirit of an entire generation of Americans.”

Senator Dole, currently serving as chairman of a committee to raise funds and build a national World War II memorial, delivered the principal address during a patriotic, traditional maritime christening ceremony at Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding today, during which the U.S. Navy's newest Aegis guided missile destroyer, BULKELEY (DDG 84), was christened in honor of a true naval hero.

Some 1,000 guests heard Senator Dole call the ship's namesake, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Vice Admiral John Duncan Bulkeley, USN, (1911-1999), “a courageous warrior, an inspirational leader, and a fine human being. I am here as a World War II veteran, because this ceremony is about honoring John Bulkeley and all the real American heroes who served at that time. I don't believe there could be any better inspiration for a warship than Admiral Bulkeley,” Senator Dole said. “He, and the generation from whence he came, exemplified the Navy's badges of honor, courage and commitment — in the Second World War and beyond.”

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi accompanied his former colleague to Ingalls for Saturday's event. “This ship is being named ftrue Navy heroor a resourceful and courageous World War II combat veteran, Admiral John D. Bulkeley. It is very appropriate that the principal speaker on this occasion is also a World War II combat veteran, whose courage and sacrifice for our country during times of war, and whose thoughtful leadership in our nation's Capital, are well known and deeply appreciated,” said Senator Cochran.

Five Ship Sponsors smash bottles of champagne at Bulkeley's bow, christening the ship in a time- honored naval tradition.Three daughters of Vice Admiral Bulkeley, Joan Bulkeley Stade, of Oakbrook Ill.; Regina Bulkeley Day of York, Neb; Diana Bulkeley Lindsay, of Olney, Md.; daughter in-law Carol A. Bulkeley, of Virginia Beach, Va.; and Sarah C. Fargo, wife of Admiral Thomas B. Fargo, USN, Commander-in-Chief, U. S. Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor, Hi., christened DDG 84 “in honor of Vice Admiral John Duncan Bulkeley, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, an outstanding leader of men, a gallant and intrepid seaman, and in the name of the United States of America.” Mrs. Hilda Alice Bulkeley, widow of Vice Admiral Bulkeley, and Carla Fargo, of Coronado, California, sister-in-law of Mrs. Fargo, were the ceremony's Matrons of Honor. Ingalls Shipbuilding photo.

Bulkeley was a PT boat pioneer who used his four-boat Squadron to evacuate General Douglas MacArthur and Philippine President Quezon from Corregidor and Bataan, Philippine Islands, in 1942. In command of Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) Squadrons Three and Seven during the defense of the Philippines, Bulkeley evacuated the two high ranking officials while destroying several Japanese planes, surface combatants and merchant ships.

Promoted to Lieutenant Commander, he took part in the landings in the Trobiand Islands in July 1943. He then commanded PT boats patrolling the beaches during the Allied landings on Normandy in the Atlantic Theater of Operations. During the August 15, 1944, landing of General Alexander M. Patch's 7th ARMY by Admiral J. Kent Hewitt's Western Naval Task Force on the southern coast of France, Bulkeley, as Commanding Officer of the destroyer USS ENDICOTT, sank two German corvettes attempting to escape from the harbor at Toulon. About a dozen of Bulkeley's former ENDICOTT shipmates were at Ingalls for Saturday's christening.

Bulkeley remained in the Navy after the war, rising to the rank of Rear Admiral in June 1963 and was named Commander, Navy Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Several who served with him at Gitmo also attended the christening ceremonies here.

He became President of the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV), the team responsible for testing new ships before final acceptance into Fleet duty, in 1967, and served in that assignment for 21 years. He retired from active duty as a Vice Admiral in 1988.

The 509.5-foot, 9,300-ton ship will operate primarily with aircraft carrier battle groups, but also will provide essential escort services to Navy and Marine Corps amphibious forces and auxiliary ships, as well as conduct independent operations. The Bulkeley will have a total of 383 officers and crew. Commanded by CDR Carlos Del Toro, USN, of New York.

Construction of DDG 84 began at Ingalls on May 25, 1998. The keel was laid May 10, 1999. When completed at the end of 2001, DDG 84 will home port in Norfolk, Va., assigned to the DDG 84. Ingalls Shipbuilding photo U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

Admiral Thomas Fargo, Commander-in-Chief, U. S. Pacific Fleet, said Admiral Bulkeley has been an inspiration for all who follow and go down to the sea in ships. “He was a fearless leader for each of those 68 years of service to his country, whether he was guiding his men in the most dangerous combat conditions or ensuring the readiness of the ships for its sailors. For our country, there is no doubt that a ship which marries this awesome capability with the courage and commitment of John Bulkeley will be hugely beneficial to the security of our nation.”

Carolyn Howland Becraft, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Manpower & Reserve Affairs, also praised the leadership of Bulkeley, saying, “Vice Admiral Bulkeley was among the 'best of the best' in Navy leaders. This ship's officers and crewmembers have a fine tradition to uphold, and I know they will do it well.”

Vice Admiral Henry C. Giffin III, USN, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, spoke of the importance of Aegis destroyers to the Navy's fleet. “The investment we are making in this ship and ships of this class will help us ensure that DDG 84's motto, 'Freedom's Torch,' will continue to burn brightly in our country in the future,” he said. “Courage and standards of excellence were the trademarks of Admiral Bulkeley. For as long as this ship is in commission, her crew will carry the reputation of being ready to fight and the standard bearer of excellence.”

Rear Admiral William R. Schmidt, USN, who followed Bulkeley as the President, Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV), praised the dedication Bulkeley gave during his tenure as INSURV president, saying, “no name, in the 132-year history of INSURV is more revered than Admiral John Bulkeley…a true naval legend. His motivation and driving force as president was the well-being and the safety of our sailors, as well as ensuring that our ships were ready for sustained combat at any time This is the legacy that Vice Admiral John Bulkeley left us.”

Rear Admiral William W. Cobb Jr., USN, Program Executive Officer, Theater Surface Combatants, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, said the most important thing about the Navy's newest Aegis destroyer is the crew that will sail her into fleet duty. “Our Navy is far greater because of Admiral Bulkeley's 21 years on the Board of Inspection and Survey,” he added.

Rear Admiral John M. Kelly, USN, Director, Theater Air Warfare, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, said the christening passes Admiral Bulkeley's spirit on to the Navy's newest capital ship. “This ship when deployed will provide the critical forward presence needed to execute our national strategy around the world, an Aegis ship equipped with the finest combat system at sea anywhere in the world today,” said Admiral Kelly. “Thanks to Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding for building a world class, capital ship, a fast ship, ready to go 'In Harm's Way,' a ship worthy of the name 'destroyer'.”

Captain Harry Rucker Jr., USN, Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, Pascagoula, called the christening “a great Navy day and a fine day to name a front line surface combatant after one of the nation's finest heroes.”

“In some way every surface ship in the Navy Fleet today has Admiral John Bulkeley's fingerprints,” said Jerry St. Pé, Chief Operating Officer of Litton Ship Systems and Executive Vice President of Litton Industries. “So it is only fitting that the Navy decided to build a ship that also bears the Bulkeley name. The Navy also knew    that any ship that was going to carry the name of John Bulkeley had to be built to the absolute highest possible standards. And I can tell you they selected precisely the right shipyard to do that. And we thank the Navy and we are proud of the challenge.”

“Admiral Bulkeley always expected, demanded — and got, the best in every ship he and his INSURV team accepted for the Navy,” said Ingalls President Pat Keene. “We at Ingalls have been building quality into Aegis ships for more than two decades and we continue to enhance a reputation of making each ship in its class better than the previous one.”


By Ralph Ranalli, Boston Globe Staff, August 17, 2006
Forwarded by YNCS Don Harribine, USN (Ret.)

There was no distress call, no indication of enemy depth charges exploding, or bulkheads breached - just a dead silence that stretched from a few days into more than 60 years.

The USS Grunion (SS 216) disappeared in July 1942, leaving 70 American families grieving and the three sons of skipper Mannert L. “Jim” Abele, without a father. Abele's boys — ages 5, 9, and 12 and living in Newton when their father disappeared — grew up and built their own lives.

But, they dwelt on the fate of their father. At 2 a.m. yesterday, a grainy sonar picture e-mailed via satellite appeared in Bruce Abele's inbox, appearing to finally show what they had been searching for much of their adult lives: the outline of an oblong object believed to be the Grunion deep in frigid Alaskan waters.

If the discovery is confirmed, it would signify a triumph of luck and perseverance and put to rest a quest for clues, financed by the personal fortune of one of the Abele sons, that has spanned decades.

Read all of the story HERE [ ].


By Journalist Seaman Joseph Caballero, Fleet Public Affairs Center Pacific 1/31/06

SAN DIEGO (NNS) — The newly-commissioned Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) entered its Post-Shakedown Availability (PSA) period Jan. 17 completely certified and surge-deployable in the shortest time period in Navy history.

Moored at NAS North Island CA prior to commissioning as the U.S. Navy’s newest ship, Halsey honors Fleet Adm. William “Bull” Halsey Jr., who commanded South Pacific Force and South Pacific Area during World War II.

Halsey is the 47th ship of 62 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and is capable of fighting air, surface, and subsurface battles simultaneously. The ship contains a number of offensive and defensive weapons designed to support maritime defense needs well into the 21st century.

Click here for the full story [ ]


Originally considered for scrapping, or sinking as an artificial reef, the amphibious assault ship USS Belleau Wood was instead used as a target ship in the Pacific Fleet exercise RIMPAC 2006, as described in the following article:

By William Cole, The Honolulu Advertiser, July 13, 2006
Forwarded by YNCS Don Harribine, USN (Ret)

The USS Belleau Wood, an aircraft carrier-like ship and the largest to be sunk in Rim of the Pacific naval exercises (RIMPAC), put up one last fight 50 miles northwest of Oahu. So did the 511-foot ammunition ship USS Mauna Kea, named after the Big Island landmark and the tallest mountain in the Hawaiian chain.

Both decommissioned ships were pummeled with missiles and bombs from other ships and aircraft yesterday as the month long multi-country naval exercise continued. Both were still afloat in the late afternoon.

“They are going to keep shooting at them until we run out of whatever ordnance we brought,” said Capt. Jill Votaw, a RIMPAC spokeswoman. The endurance of the vessels is testimony to their design and a rare opportunity to test weapons like missiles at sea.

In the case of Belleau Wood, an amphibious assault ship, the resilience also is a reflection of its sheer size: 833 feet and displacement of 39,300 tons. Commodore Bruce Donaldson, commander of the Canadian Fleet Pacific and the RIMPAC deputy commander, said that while computer modeling is an important and cost-effective tool, personnel only can be effectively evaluated under live-fire conditions.

“Live missile firings also give the ship's technicians and combat teams confidence in their equipment, a critical factor and a morale booster for those who may be called upon to sail into harm's way,” Donaldson said in a release.

Eight nations, more than 40 ships including the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, six submarines, 160 aircraft and almost 19,000 service members are participating in the 20th RIMPAC exercise. These naval forces have conducted this operational exercise off Hawaii since 1971.

Canadian ships Algonquin and Vancouver fired SM-2 anti-air and long-range Harpoon missiles in the “sink exercise” involving the Belleau Wood and Mauna Kea.

An 80-foot sludge removal barge was sunk on Sunday, the Navy said, and the combat stores ship USNS Mars is expected to be sent to the bottom - in this case more than a mile deep - next week. At least eight decommissioned Navy ships, most of them frigates and destroyers, have been sunk northwest of Kauai since 2000 during RIMPAC exercises.

The USS Mobile Bay, South Korean and Canadian P-3C Orion aircraft, and U.S. Navy aircraft were expected to shoot at the Belleau Wood and Mauna Kea. Submarine torpedoes were being reserved “unless nothing else will make it go down,” Votaw said. “One well-placed torpedo could take it out.”

Votaw said the Belleau Wood wasn't used for an artificial reef because of the depth in the target area and because “it's not going down in one piece. It's going down, hopefully, in a lot of little pieces.”

To meet environmental standards, all fuel, oil and other fluids are removed and the lines are flushed before sinking.

The Navy said its policy is not to release photos of the sink exercises.

Scott Watson, 41, of Lakeland, Fla., who served on the Belleau Wood from 1986 to 1990, attended the decommissioning in October in San Diego. “It's such a big part of your life. It's almost like you grew up on a ship,” he said, “and you make a lot of good friends.”

In 1992, landing craft and helicopters from the ship delivered trucks, bulldozers, portable toilets, water purification equipment and food to victims of Hurricane Iniki on Kauai.

In 2004, it deployed to the Persian Gulf with helicopters and AV-8B Harrier jump jets. More than 60 combat sorties were flown off its flight deck.

Watson served on two Western Pacific deployments and says he is glad the ship is being sunk and not scrapped.

“It's doing its last duty,” he said. “I'd rather see her on the bottom than turned into a bunch of Buicks. It's a more fitting resting place.”


If ever you hear that the people in our military are pampered and overpaid, instead of the truth - grossly underpaid and under appreciated - send them a copy of this article:

For those unfamiliar with carrier operations, the barricade is a huge net, 20-feet high that stretches across the flight deck to 'catch' planes that must land in extreme circumstances, such as the one described below. How rare is a barricade incident? A skipper of the USS Eisenhower stated, “I watched 36,000 landings in three years - and none required the barricade.” When it does occur, however, it can be a deadly experience.

This pilot's report is described in aviation and shipboard lingo unfamiliar to the average person. But with the editor's occasional parenthetical assists, it is discernible by most readers as a dramatic, well-told tale.


Sent by 1stAdmPAO. Pilot's identity not included.

Greetings Slacker Landlubbers!

This is to share with you the exciting night I had on the 23rd. It has nothing to do with me wanting to talk about me and it has everything to do with sharing what will no doubt become a better story as the years go by.

So, there I was manned up in a hot seat for the 2030 launch about 500 miles north of Hawaii. My bird was parked just forward of the nav pole and eventually I was taxied off toward the island where I did a 180 (degrees of turn) to get spotted as the first one off the cat (catapult). There's another Hornet from our sister squadron parked ass over the track in about a quarter of the way down the cat.

Eventually he gets a move on, they lower my launch bar and start the launch cycle. All systems are go on the run-up and after waiting the requisite 5-seconds or so to make sure my flight controls are good to go, I turn on my lights.

As is my habit I shift my eyes to the catwalk and watch the deck edge dude and as he starts his routine of looking left, then right, I put my head back in the rest. I hate to say this, but the Hornet cat shot is pretty impressive, equivalent I would say to a gassed-up KA-6. As the cat fires, I stage the afterburners and am along for the ride. Just prior to the end of the stroke, there's a huge flash and a simultaneous boom! And my world is in turmoil.

My little pink body is doing 145 knots or so and is 100 feet above the black Pacific. And there it stays — except for the airspeed, which decreases to 140 knots. Somewhere in here I raised my gear which is interesting since it is not a Hornet “off the cat” boldface. It is however, if I recall correctly, an Intruder boldface. Oops! The throttles aren't going any farther forward despite my Schwarznegerian efforts to make them do so.

From out of the ether I hear a voice say one word: “Jettison.”

Roger that! A nanosecond later my two drops and single MER, about 4,500 pounds in all, are black Pacific bound. The airplane leaped up a bit but not enough. I'm now about a mile in front of the boat at 160 feet and fluctuating from 135 to 140 knots. The next comment that comes out of the ether is another one-worder: “Eject!” I'm still flying so I respond, “Not yet, I've still got it.”

Our procedures call for us to intercept on speed which is 8.1 alpha and I'm fluctuating from about 8-1/2 to 11, or so. Finally, at 4-miles ahead of the boat, I take a peek at my engine instruments and notice my left engine doesn't match the right. Funny how quick glimpses at instruments get burned into your brain. The left rpm is at 48% even though I'm still doing the “Arnold” thing. I bring it back out of afterburner to mil. About now I get another “Eject!” call.

“Nope, still flying.” CAG (carrier air group commander) was watching and the further I got from the boat, the lower I looked. At 5-1/2 miles I asked tower to please get the helo headed my way as I truly thought I was going to be shelling out (ejecting).

At some point I thought it would probably be a good idea to start dumping some gas. As my hand reached down for the dump switch I actually remembered that we have a NATOPS prohibition regarding dumping while in burner. After a second or two I decided, “Screw that,” and turned them on. Major “Big Wave” Dave Leppelmeier joined up on me at one point and told me later that I had a 60-foot Roman candle going.

At 7 miles I eventually started a very slight climb - a little breathing room. CATCC (air control) chimes in with a downwind heading and I'm like, “Ooh. Good idea,” and throw down my hook. Eventually I get headed downwind at 900 feet and ask for a rep. While waiting, I shut down the left engine. In short order I hear Scott “Fuzz” McClure's voice. I tell him, “OK Fuzz, my gear's up, my left motor's off and I'm only able to stay level with minimum burner. Every time I pull it back to mil I start about a hundred feet per minute down.”

I just continue trucking downwind trying to stay level and keep dumping. I think I must have been in burner for about 15 minutes. At ten miles or so I'm down to 5000 pounds of gas and start a turn back toward the ship. I don't intend to land but don't want to get too far away. Of course as soon I as I start in an angle of bank I start dropping like a stone so I end up doing a 5-mile circle around the ship.

Fuzz is reading me the single engine rate of climb numbers from the PCL based on temperature, etc. It doesn't take us long to figure out that things aren't adding up. One of the things I learned in the RAG was that the Hornet is a perfectly good single engine aircraft. It flies great on one motor. So why the hell do I need blower to stay level? By this time I'm talking to Fuzz (CATCC), Deputy CAG on the flight deck, and CAG on the bridge with the Captain. We decide that the thing to do is climb to 3,000 feet and dirty up to see if I'm going to have any excess power and so be able to shoot an approach.

I get headed downwind, go full burner on my remaining motor and eventually make it to 2000 feet before leveling out below a scattered layer of puffies. There's a half moon above which was really, really cool. I start a turn back toward the ship and when I get pointed in the right direction, I throw the gear down and pull the throttle out of AB.

Remember that “flash/boom” that started this little tale? Repeat it here. I jam it back into AB and after three or four huge compressor stalls and accompanying decelerations the right motor comes back. I'm thinking my blood pressure was probably up there about now and for the first time I notice that my mouth feels like a San Joaquin summer. That would be hot and dusty for those of you who haven't come to visit.

This next part is great. You know those stories about guys who dead-stick crippled airplanes away from orphanages, and puppy stories and stuff and get all this great media attention? Well, at this point I'm looking at the picket ship at my left, 11 o'clock at about two miles, and I say on departure freq to no one in particular, “You need to have the picket ship hang a left right now. I think I'm gonna be out of here in a second.” I said it very calmly but with meaning. The LSO's (landing signal officers) said that the picket immediately started pitching out of the fight. Ha! I scored major points with the heavies afterwards for this. Anyway, it's funny how your mind works in these situations.

OK, so I'm dirty and I get it back level and pass a couple miles up the starboard side of the ship. I'm still in min blower and my state is now about 2500 pounds. Hmmm. I hadn't really thought about running out of gas. I muster up the nads to pull it out of blower again and sure enough…FLASH, BOOM! I'm thinking that I'm gonna end up punching (ejecting) and tell Fuzz at this point “Dude, I really don't want to do this again.” Don't think everyone else got it but he said he chuckled. I
leave it in mil and it seems to settle out.

Eventually I discover that even the tiniest throttle movements cause the flash/boom thing to happen so I'm trying to be as smooth as I can. I'm downwind a couple miles when CAG comes up and says, “Oyster, we're going to rig the barricade.”

Remember, CAG's up on the bridge watching me fly around doing blower donuts in the sky and he's thinking I'm gonna run out of JP-5, too. By now I've told everyone who's listening that there a better than average chance that I'm going to be ejecting. The Helo bubbas, God bless 'em, have been following me around this entire time.

I continue downwind and again, sounding calmer than I probably was, I call, “Paddles, you up.”
“Go ahead” replies LT “Max” Stout, one of our CAG LSO's.
“Max, I probably know most of it but you want to shoot me the barricade brief?”

After the fact, Max told me they went from expecting me to eject to my asking for the barricade brief in about a minute and he was hyperventilating. He was awesome on the radio though, just the kind of voice you'd want to hear in this situation.

He gives me the brief and at nine milesI say, “If I turn now will it be up when I get there? I don't want to have to go around again.”
“It's going up now Oyster, go ahead and turn.”
“Turning in, say final bearing.”
“Zero six three,” replies the voice in CATCC. Another number I remember
— go figure.

OK, we're on a 4-degree glide slope and I'm at 800 feet or so. I intercept glide slope at about a mile and three quarters and pull power. Flash/boom. Add power out of fear. Going high. Pull power. Flash/boom. Add power out of fear.

Going higher, I mentally flash back to LSO School: “All right class, today's lecture will be on the single engine barricade approach. Remember, the one place you really, really don't want to be is high. Are there any questions?”

The PLAT TV video is most excellent as each series of flash/booms shows up nicely along with the appropriate reflections on the water. “Flats” Jensen, our other CAG paddles is backing up and as I start to set up a higher than desired sink rate he hits the “Eat At Joe's” (wave-off) lights; very timely, too. With visions of the A-3 dancing in my head I stroke AB and cross the flight deck with my right hand on the stick and my left thinking about the little yellow and black eject handle between my legs.

No worries. I cleared that sucker by at least ten feet. By the way my state at the ball call was 1.1. As I slowly climb I say, again to no one in particular, “I can do this.” Max and Flats heard this and told me later it made them feel much better about my state of mind. I'm in blower still and CAG says, “Turn downwind.”

After I get turned around he says, “Oyster, this is gonna be your last look so turn in again as soon as you're comfortable.” I fly the DAY pattern and I lose about 200 feet in the turn and like a total dumb ass I look out as I get on centerline and that night thing about feeling high gets me. I descend further to 400 feet.

I got kinda pissed at myself then as I realized I would now be intercepting the 4-degree glide slope in the middle. Flash/boom every several seconds all the way down. Last look at my gas was 600-and-some pounds at a mile and a half.

“Where am I on the glide slope Max” I ask, and hear a calm “Roger Ball.” I know I'm low because the ILS is way up there and I call “Clara.” Can't remember what the response was but by now the ball's shooting up from the depths.

I start flying it and before I get a chance to spot the deck I hear “Cut, cut, cut!” I'm really glad I was a paddles for so long because my mind said to me, “Do what he says Oyster” and I pulled it back to idle. The reason I mention this is that I felt like I was a long way out there, if you know what I mean. My hook hit 11 Oyster paces from the ramp, I discovered later. The rest is pretty tame. I hit the deck, skipped the one, the two and snagged the three wire and rolled into the barricade about a foot right of centerline.

Once stopped, my vocal cords involuntarily yelled “Victory!” on button 2. The 14 guys who were listening in marshal said it was pretty cool. After the fact, I wish I had done the Austin Powers' “Yeah Baby” thing. The lights came up and off to my right there must have been a gazillion cranials.

Paddles said that with me shut down you could hear a huge cheer across the flight deck. I open the canopy and start putting stuff in my helmet bag and the first guy I see is our flight deck chief, a huge guy named Chief Richards, and he gives me the coolest look and then two thumbs up. I will remember it forever. Especially since I'm the Maintenance Officer. The first guy up the boarding ladder is CAG Paddles. I will tell you what he said over beers someday. It was priceless and in my mind one for the ages.

I climb down and people are gathering around patting me on the back when one of the boat's crusty yellow-shirt chiefs interrupts and says, “Gentlemen, great job but 14 of your good buddies are still up there and we need to get them aboard.” Again, priceless!

So there you have it fellas. Here I sit with my little pink body in a ready room chair on the same tub I did my first cruise in 10 years and 7 months ago. And I thought it was exciting back then.

You're probably wondering about the engine problems. When they taxied that last Hornet - the one that was ass over the cat track, they forgot to remove a section or two of the cat seal. The (safety) board has not finished yet but it's a done deal. As the shuttle came back it removed the cat seal, which went down both engines during the stroke.

Left engine N1 basically quit, even though it is in pretty good shape. It was producing no thrust, and during the wave-off one of the LSO's saw “about 30-feet” of black rubber hanging off the left side of the airplane. The whole left side, including inside the intake is basically black where the rubber was beating on it in the breeze. The right engine, the one that kept running, has 340 major hits to all stages. The compressor section is trashed and, best of all, it had two pieces of the cat seal, one about 2-feet and the other about 4-feet long, sticking out of the first stage and into the intake. God Bless General Electric! By the way, ECAMS data showed that I was fat — had 380 pounds of gas when I shut down.

Oyster, out.