Archive for the 'Maritime Matters' Category

Oct 2, 1992: (Very) Shortly After Midnight – USS SARATOGA – Part VIII

October 2nd, 2015 by xformed

This is the video of the talk given at Tactical Training Croup, Atlantic about April 1993, after having conducted certification of most all of the Atlantic Fleet NSSMS units. LCDR Don Diehl had sat through the Court of Inquiry, having been sent TAD from the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON as COMNAVAIRLANT’s subject matter expert on Combat Direction Center (CDC) Operations. Rather conducting a oral board on the operators on the ships, Don basically told the story of what happened, interspersed with questions of the people who manned the various stations to check their knowledge. In this manner, he helped convey the circumstances, so the other crews could learn from the mistakes. Don has since passed away, but he was a great inspector and instructor for the team across the several months we spent traveling the world together.



Category: History, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | Comments Off on Oct 2, 1992: (Very) Shortly After Midnight – USS SARATOGA – Part VIII

A Date with Destiny – Part IX

April 24th, 2014 by xformed

Since 2009, I’ve had a nagging voice in the back of my head that says “You should try to get recognition for LT Ray Everts. It’s been very insistent and persistent this past week. This year, I’m asking for an effort of the greater group of shipmates, who may be able to find some puzzle pieces. Keep reading, I’ll get to it. First a little background:

I began this story in 2007, 19 years after the fact because I realized it was a story worth telling of the professionalism of my shipmates on USS CARR (FFG-52) and the sailors from USS KENNEDY (CV-67) who saved those men in peril on the sea on April 24th, 1988. I wasn’t there, I reported aboard USS CARR (FFG-52) in late September that year, but in time for the awards to flow in. During that time I heard the first person stories of my crew.

For many years, it was an integral part of the history of the ship, but that ended as a story among a crew March 13, 2013, when the USS CARR (FFG-52) decommissioned. The story is alive around the web. Part of it here. As I sought out first my shipmates via Navy: Together We Served. I later reached out to those who may have been there, by dates listed aboard the USS BONEFISH (SS-582), USS KENNEDY (CV-67) and USS MCCLOY (FF-1038). While got some dry holes, I found LCDR Pete Wilson, USN who provided a detailed, multi-page input. All those stories, from the several sailors and officers who took the time to provide their view of history, added more context to the day.

Again, I began to tell a story of professionalism, but found a story of heroism, one that had not been reported for the record: It came first from a comment left by Jim Chapman in 2007: He had been the aircrewman in the back of Dusty Dog 613 right on top (they had been practicing dipping on BONEFISH when the fire occurred). Jim lives right near by and we met and he told me what was happening in the helo. They knew sailors were in trouble and needed help, and they did more than the helo was supposed to do, nearly resulting in a crash while trying to hoist more men. That takes guts to keep working a few yards off the water in extreme conditions. Thankfully they and the sailors they pulled aboard all are here to tell the story. In the April 2008 annual post, I recorded Jim’s story to share. He added to my view (and if you read his post, you’ll see he was clear about making sure I had the story right). Jim: BTW, I called CAPT Johnson about 2 years ago and pointed out you and your crew knew exactly what you were doing.

On April 15th, 2008, FT2(SS) Bill Baker left a comment on the 2007 post that told a story of heroism beyond even what the helo crew: LT Everts died in his lap, having safely gotten the boat to the surface, ensuring he didn’t add a collision with a surface ship to the already chaotic, deadly situation. He didn’t put on an EAB, as it would have obstructed his use of the periscope during surfacing. I emailed Pete Wilson, the former XO, and he said that was never related at the debriefings. That began the little voice in the back of my head. The April 2009 anniversary post quoted Bill Baker’s comments and put what history of Ray Everts I could track down via the internet.

Here’s my request to my shipmates and family members who may wander by here, it’s also three parts:

  • I’d like to find out how to contact LT Evert’s family. Sounds like he wasn’t married by the many comments, so I’m assuming his parents would have been the NOKs.
  • I want to mount a campaign to complete a virtual 1650 for the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, to acknowledge his selfless sacrifice for his shipmates, the 89 who survived.
  • Help to figure out who to submit this to in DoN, or possibly via the serving Congressional senator or representative.

Who’s in? Spread the word, reach out to commenters on other blogs (that’s another part of the story), let’s see if we can crowd source the answers and move forward to get this medal in the service record of Ray for the ages.

Leave your comments here, so it can be a group effort. eMail is nice, but this space can be the virtual bulletin board to share anything someone knows.

To those who have, here, and on other blogs, added to this entire story, thank you. The connection of the internet has allowed this moment in time to become a fuller story than any one person has, and also has connected a few sailors from that day.

And to those, not on the sub, or the helos, or the whale boat, who scrambled to comfort and care for the sailors of the BONEFISH, your efforts were greatly appreciated (go back and skim the comments that have appeared over the years). BZ.

Category: "Sea Stories", History, Leadership, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | 3 Comments »

And then there are Shipmates from another hull

February 3rd, 2014 by xformed

Table of contents for A Cruise Book Comes Home

  1. And then there are Shipmates from another hull

I haven’t been popping in here much the last few years. My apologies.

I do have a very new twist on the things that this blog has done for me, and others. It’s been a connecting point and in December, and email arrived in my mailbox to the email address for this blog:

Subj: Cruise Book

I have a USS Milwaukee cruise book from the ’78-’79 cruise. There are some coffee (I’m assuming it’s coffee) stains on some of the pages covering the Ops department, but aside from that it’s in pretty good shape. If you would like to have it, send me your address and I can send it to you. Regards, Mark.

Mark hasn’t a clue mine was left behind in one of those unfortunate relationship breakups several years back, so he thinks it’s a nice gesture, but it’s far more than that, it’s a piece of personal history I never thought I’d see again. I’m exceptionally grateful for this simple gesture that means so much on this end.

I send the address and an offer to pay the postage. He turns me down and sends it compliments of another MSLF “fat ship” guy the same day.

Just short of a week later, it’s here. My time capsule, opened after 34 years. Ah, the memories, but I know most people landing here will fully comprehend what letters on a screen can’t convey.

There will be more on this, but some background:

I was the CDIO (Collateral Duty Intel Officer), which included the Intelligence Photography course. We had a developing lab and the chemicals on the ship, way back aft, starboard side below the main deck somewhere. Some of my OSs allowed me to come and learn how to develop film, and I spent some time there, and I seem to recall, we did our own pictures of the crew for the layout to save costs in production. I probably developed and printed a number of those in the book.

Another collateral duty assigned was as Public Affairs Officer. Yes, you guessed, the publication fell under my responsbilities. It didn’t hurt that I had been on the staff of my Senior Year’s yearbook, doing layout with the then girl friend, Palua, who roped me into such work. I did go willingly, if you have to ask.

I detached from MILWAUKEE very shortly after returning to Norfolk for my training for Pre-Comm LEFTWICH at FCTCL Dam Neck, but had a few weeks off before training began. I checked back aboard AOR-2 to finish the layout of the Cruise Book in that time.

As you see, this was much more than a memento of a cruise, it is evidence of my professional assigned duties as well.

Mark wasn’t a shipmate, but he served aboard USS SYLVANNIA (AFS-2) a few years ealier. I haven’t gotten the details of his procurement of “my” Cruise Book, but it matters not. The cruise of Oct 78-Apr 79 was with the USS SARATOGA (CV-60) BG, and USS SYLVANNIA was one of the units that supported us. While not directly assigned to the BG, the AFS units were on an altered deployment pattern, yet she sailed with us to resupply the BG units on numerous occasions and there are shots of her in the book.

The final background note for today’s post: The coffee stains (not bad ones, but noticeable) were on OC Division: I was COMMO for the cruise.

Category: Blogging, History, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | Comments Off on And then there are Shipmates from another hull

Farewell, CAPT Carroll LeFon, USN (Ret)

March 12th, 2012 by xformed

Updated: 3/12/2012 PM.

It’s been a week now, since the phone call from AW1 Tim popped up on my phone in the early evening. I was busy at Home Depot, so I figured “I’ll call him back tomorrow.” Later that evening, before shutting down for the night, I saw the back channel emails and listened to Tim’s message. As soon as the first “F-21 crash” hit my ears, I thought as they did, and s they did, prayed we wouldn’t hear the worst of news, yet still knowing, the minimum: The pilot had died. Bad news would be coming for someone.

I’m not sure exactly when I found Lex’s Blog, but this I know: It was some of the most engaging writing on the blogs, right up there with a Army National Guard CPT from California and the Army Tanker who rolled into Fallujah. All of them were real, and discussed life in the active duty word in terms I could connect with.

Over the many years of reading, along came the only line, highly factual novel: “Rythyms.” What an incredible read that was. I’ve told countless people “it reads better than a Clancy novel, and has enough detail to keep us (vets/military members) in it, yet he explains thing happening on the ship and in the cockpit so people with exposure to the life will understand.” Something about his way with words. He could seat you in the plane, make you feel the launch and the thrills and the boredom and the terror of night landings…

His blog became my “hub” or gateway to other websites in the MilBlogging world, being the first one I checked in for news, humor, analysis, and just life stuff that Lex would write.

I began admiring his writing from the words on the screen standpoint, but also saw something special…actually, many things:

  • He was a mentor: Many posts on his site are related to the advice he gave, or was asked on him. Not only did he had great answers, that he shared, he turned the commenters loose to help out. Oh, what amazing guidance, from the old school to the current crop of those in uniform. The comments on any post at his site are not to be missed.
  • He was a humble leader. Many of his stories were encoded with that understanding of “the system.”
  • Well read, beyond the NATOPS manuals and the like, in classical literature, philosophy, and history.
  • He was a leader who valued those working with him. The stories told that, but in this world of blogging, his site was a lot of him leading the way, then having those in the blogoshpere/virtual peanut gallery take over to
  • He was a man of conviction. Solid vision.
  • A family man, who cared deeply about his real family, and his extended ones.

The man was many things. I only briefly met him and spoke with him at the 2006 MilBlogging Conference. I sometimes emailed him, with questions, or things I found that may be of interest. Some links got published…..I had a response where they were appropriate.

He inspired me at many levels. I, having seen the opening line of his work “Rythyms,” commenced my own version, having stood my first watches as an assigned officer on a replenishment ship that ran with Battle Groups, and many a time, I was watching the carrier to our port side, first as a Junior Officer of the Deck, and later, as the Officer of the Deck, responsible for the comings and goings of the ships alongside, the helos off the aft deck and the supplies moving via “connected replenishment” (CONREP) or by helo (VERTREP). I learned a lot, and he story gave me a foothold by putting the eyes of the OOD of an AOR into the picture. The story is “Life in the Fat Ship Navy,” and is presently an uncompleted work. I have been fortunate enough to have received a few emails over the years, saying how I took tham back to many years ago, and got their minds churning, remembering the sounds, sights and smells of it all. A tribute to Lex’s style, which I endeavored to “mimic.”

But that wasn’t all. His virtual demeanor constantly made me think as to how I might communicate more fully, yet concisely. All of his writing was a model of how to do that….and it begged for being an absorbed quality.

Years ago, I stumbled upon “High Calling: The Courageous Life and Faith of Space Shuttle Columbia Commander Rick Husband”, a similar man, by my best recollections of the read. Devoted to their families, their profession and their faith. While Col Husband’s wife, Evelyn, penned that wonderful book, telling the story of a great man and leader and husband and pilot, Lex’s readers have been able to do this, telling stories of all manner of his life and interactions with others, and conveying how they were blessed by CAPT LeFon’s life. In a week, there are over 1400 comments on the Open Thread, put up by the only other person who could log onto Lex’s Blog, Whisper. If you’d like to see, as someone on Facebook pointed out, what the “dash” on your headstone represents, there are about 1400 descriptions there for the world to see.

—Updated portion—
Shortly after posting, I remembered a few back channel and out in the open discussions Lex and I had. We professionally “CPAed” (Closest Point of Approach) certainly by an association, if not within a few hundred yards of each other in the summer of 1979. It would have made Lex a 3rd Class Middie, on cruise aboard the USS NICHOLSON (DD-982). I was in the Ingalls Shipbuilding yard, as part of the commissioning crew of USS LEFTWICH (DD-984), still, at the time, uncommissioned. I recalled the USS NICHOLSON pulled in on the West Bank yard side for dry docking to repair damaged propeller. It seems she had been backing into a slip in GTMO during Shakedown training and found a coral head near the landward end. Turns out, Lex was aboard at least at the time of the grounding incident, but we found our connection via the Commanding Officer of NICHOLSON at the time. It seems the discussion was something about how “Black Shoe” leadership was so much different from that of the Aviation community. Of course, he could say this then, in the mid-2000s. Turned out I was on DESRON 32 when the same officer was the Commodore, and that, was something we shared in common, despite being separated by time, community and coasts across our careers.
—End Update—

We lost a great man. His wife and family are left with but a legacy, but also the gratitude of many who were positively touched in this life by a man who was larger than himself, yet never penned (typed) a word that would lead you to believe he was anything more than one of us….and in that, there is a great lesson for me.

Category: History, Leadership, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy, Stream of Consciousness | 3 Comments »

67 Years Ago: Battle Off Samar

October 25th, 2011 by xformed


USS HEERMANN (DD-532) at the Battle off Samar (click for the larger image)

It is the last great sea battle to be fought. It demonstrated much of humanity, the determination of both sides in a massive world war, the individual bravery of men on small ships who charged head long into death, so that those they were tasked with escorting could complete their mission. The Japanese bravely pushed to wipe General MacArthur’s “I Have Returned” landing at Leyte Gulf back into the sea, using the remaining surface forces of battleships and cruisers, only to be defeated by a ambushes the night before in the inland seas of the Philippine Islands, and on the morning of this day, 67 years ago, the likes of CDR Evans, CDR Hathaway, LCDR Copeland and their crews, while aircraft from the escorted CVEs made runs from above, many without bombs and some without even gun ammunition.

Rather than rewrite the story today, I will refer you to the work I produced in 2004, on the 60th Anniversary of this battle.

As I studied this battle more, I came across two other famous battles in history. I discussed them here, as they all have a common thread and a common day.

Side note: I found someone who, as s tribute to a friend, built an 8′ replica of the HEERMANN out of legos! That’s some kind of dedication.

Category: History, Leadership, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | 1 Comment »

Project 2996: CAPT Gerald DeConto, USN

September 9th, 2011 by xformed

I didn’t know him, yet our service times crossed, and career paths were the same: Surface Warfare Officers.

He died on 9/11/2001 in the Pentagon. He had made his way up the ranks from his graduation from the Naval Academy in 1979, to having had command of the USS SIMPSON (FFG-56).

When he died that day, ten years ago, he already was taking action as a result of the attack on the US. As reported in the Washington Post:

As director of the current operations and plans branch of the Navy Command Center, Capt. Gerald F. DeConto, 44, was organizing the Navy’s response to the World Trade Center attack when he died in the crash at the Pentagon.

In the aggregate of the comments in an online guest book for the victims of 9/11, I’d say this: He respected and was respected by those who served with him and he would go out of his way to help a shipmate move ahead in life.

I see he was the Executive Officer of the USS LAKE EIRE (CG-70), not just any old Executive Officer’s job. I was in a pre-commissioning crew as a division officer, and I had had my fill of the non-naval duties required in such an assignment. CAPT DeConto obviously was up to that challenge, and a commenter in the guest book indicated he did well.

That had to be a quite an assignment, but he had several challenging ones, beginning with his assignment to the mine sweeper USS EXCEL (MSO-439) right out of the Academy. Those are small ships, and the crew is as well, but all the duties of a large ship happen on a small shop, too. The junior officers on small ships learn a lot fast.

A native of Sandwich, MA, he had been blessed to have spent the weekend prior to 9/11/2001 with his mother. That, given the naval life, was quite a blessing from my view.

CAPT DeConto, thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Category: 2996 Tribute, History, Leadership, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | 3 Comments »

Close Air Support for Special Operations: Buy American or foriegn?

April 8th, 2011 by xformed

Considering the economics of keeping jobs at home, if you will, but there is a larger issue: Keeping the capability to fully control the construction and support for military equipment operated by our Military.

As was the case of the recent replacement air refueling tanker, we are heading for another major acquisition for the Military, this time for small, capable turbo prop aircraft to be used in the type of combat we have seen for longer than the decade of the GWOT/”Foreign Contingency” we have been engaged in since the Korean Conflict.. These aircraft are to used in very forward areas in support of the Special Operations teams (Green Berets and SEALs most specifically), where large, modern aircraft, designed to also be superior air combat fighters are:

1) Too fast
2) Too expensive to operate
3) Need too much support
4) and generally need really long runways.

I received an email with a guest post discussing this matter, where the competitors for the contract are Hawker-Beechcraft (US firm) and Embraer (Brazilian firm) for the USAF Light Air Support Aircraft work.

Pragmatically, Hawker-Beechcraft are already producing the AT-6 Texan II, which is in use as an Air Force trainer. Logistically, the USAF has parts, procedures and trained ground crews, not to mention pilots in this airframe. What’s not to like from a bean counter stand point with that, let alone a serious warfighter, who knows it’s the logistics that count after the first load of ammo is expended?

So, here’s something from Emily to chew on regarding this issue:

The most basic respect our country can give to Americans bravely serving in the Armed Forces is providing them with the proper tools so they can be prepared and equipped to handle any combat situation. In the past, supplying this need has always been met through American ingenuity. We design, build, and sell the equipment that is used the world over. America has always set the trends in the defense industry.

However, recent actions by other countries are in danger of circumventing this competitive defensive advantage that America has held. By subsidizing private companies, foreign competitors have an unfair advantage over American ones. These actions undermine fair competition in the marketplace and put American manufacturing at a disadvantage.

We have seen this trend played out over the last several years as the American icon, Boeing competed with EADS, it’s European competitor to replace the Eisenhower-era refueling tankers for the Air Force. After much public outcry, the Pentagon made the right decision and awarded the contract to Boeing.

Today, we have another, very similar competition. Hawker Beechcraft, headquartered in the heart of Kansas, is competing with a Brazilian company, Embrear, to build planes that will be utilized in combat zones like Afghanistan. Embrear, like EADS, receives substantial support from the Brazilian government, allowing them to offer an artificially low price for their planes. What is especially troubling is that the Brazilian government has publicly opposed the War on Terror and American efforts against Iran and Venezuela, but now seeks to profit from that same U.S. commitment to military strength.

Recently Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) sent a letter to the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee requesting an investigation of the global competitiveness of the U.S. business jet industry. Jenkins remarked:

“In a down economy, which has been particularly hard on the aviation industry, it is very concerning that foreign government backed companies have launched new product lines into the business aviation market. It is important that we know whether these foreign companies are receiving illegal governmental subsidies to alter the playing field. The aviation industry is important to both the Kansas and the American economy and we must ensure their competitive edge is not being unfairly diminished.”

We need to ask ourselves – where should our defense spending go? To middle America, to states who are struggling to recover from the recession that has rocked our country? Or to South America, namely a country who calls itself an ally but has shown no support in our efforts to fight terrorism?

Boeing won their fight, let’s make sure Hawker Beechcraft does too.

Our special operations teams need this capability. In Vietnam, the SEALs and units like VAL-4 worked closely on operations in mutual support.

Call to action: Make a decision on what’s right for our Military and let your Congressmen know.

Category: Air Force, History, Marines, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy, Political, Supporting the Troops | 1 Comment »

Do You Have Any Pensacola Fight Training Stories?

March 16th, 2011 by xformed

If so, are you willing to share? Yes, you have your opportunity now to relive those days and share them in print!

Via the WRAP Pac crew, I was asked if I could get the word out that published author Bob Taylor (“A Few Good Memories”) has embarked on a second writing project to collect and edit your stories.

He has a site up: Getting Your Wings to allow for easy input, but his email address is roarta at hotmail.com.

Time to ante up and share your personal history, high and low jinks with the rest of the world. Just remember, it’s all for the sake of history.

For those reading this, with and without your personal experience in Pensacola, please pass it along to your shipmates and family members and friends who may be connected with those who would like to participate.

Category: Blogging, History, Marines, Maritime Matters, Military, Navy, Public Service | Comments Off on Do You Have Any Pensacola Fight Training Stories?

2/25/2011 “WRAP Pack” CNA and Birthday Celebration

March 11th, 2011 by xformed

As is the manner of it is to gather every other Saturday AM, last time we met, we celebrated the birthday of two of our members (2 USMC (Ret) Colonels), as well a recognition of the Centennial of Naval Aviation (CNA).

If you have an excellent eye for history, there is some of them in the video…..

The creator of the document that became known to me as the “EDORM” (Engineering Department Regulation and Organizational Manual) is present,

along with the high time and most traps pilot in the Vought F7U Cutlass. A RA-5C NFO, several P2V/P-3 pilots, three “‘Shoes,” two Army types from the Vietnam Era, a A-1 pilot with VA-196, and a Navy Cross recipient are all around the table, as well as the two senior Marines, who both flew in WWII.

Category: Army, History, Marines, Maritime Matters, Military, Military History, Navy | Comments Off on 2/25/2011 “WRAP Pack” CNA and Birthday Celebration

Calling Naval Air Professionals in Dallas and Chicago Areas!

December 20th, 2010 by xformed

SteelJaw Scribe needs some help tracking down retired Naval Aviators (in Chicago) of NFOs (in Dallas) to conduct interviews with 1/c Midshipmen.  Active duty, reserve of retired status sufficient. O-4 to O-6 needed.

His post is up here. If you can lend a hand t0 help the future, drop him a line!

Category: Maritime Matters, Military, Navy, Public Service, Supporting the Troops | Comments Off on Calling Naval Air Professionals in Dallas and Chicago Areas!

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