Archive for the 'Jointness' Category

AAFMAA – Another Resource for Military Members and Families

October 1st, 2013 by xformed

Via na email request, I found another organization that is of help to our service members and their families.

A fact website is here. Take a look at the description of an financial services company that has been in place since Custer’s Last Stand in 1879.

This is not an endorsement, nor do I use them, nor did I get compensated. I like to share resources when I run across them with my readers.

Here’s Kara’s intro from the website:

Secure our Military Families during Reduction in Force

In my job at AAFMAA, I get calls from friends in the military seeking guidance about what to do for their families if they are affected by the drawdown—big choices about life insurance, retirement benefits, survivor services and much, much more. Many military members across our country face choices in the days ahead that could have a permanent impact on the security of their families. The costs of poor decisions could be high and they know it.

As a blogger on the issues facing our military service members, you know that poor decisions are caused by bad information. You can help protect these men and women by informing them about their rights and their options. We at AAFMAA believe that the only way to combat uncertainty is with certainty.

I’ve assembled a few potential storylines below about the questions many will be asked and how AAFMAA can help answer them. Any of these stories could be the difference between a secure financial future for your readers and one that is less so.

I hope you can help spread the word that members of the military do have rights and they do have a choice.

I know I speak for many when I say that if you served your country—if you put your life on the line for your country—then household budget issues like higher life insurance premiums should never stand in the way of family security. Have a look and feel free to borrow anything you like, or to contact me if you need any additional information.

Thank you.


Take a look and see if they can help you and/or your friend and their familes out.

Category: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Jointness, Marines, Military, Navy, Public Service, Supporting the Troops | Comments Off on AAFMAA – Another Resource for Military Members and Families

Will you help with the 2012 Soldier’s Angels VALOur-IT Fundraising Work (7/4-9/3/2012)

July 3rd, 2012 by xformed

If you need no introduction to this wonderful project, and want to just get on with getting your blog/website participating, the signup link is here.


This year, while there is a reduction in military action, there still are men and women in the field, who are at risk of being injured. There are those, of course, presently in the military medical system who have injuries that can be circumvented or need therapy that can be provided by technology.

Beginning this Independence Day in 2012, Soldier’s Angels will begin the annual fundraising efforts to provide funding for laptops with voice recognition software, Wiis and GPS units to be provide at no cost to military members or care facilities to help these men and women get back closer to normalcy in their lives, after serving their country and us.

Know these things about the annual fundraising:

  • All the donated funds go to the equipment, or the delivery to the people/facilities. You don’t often come across a charity project that devotes the funds right to the “end users.”
  • While the 4 “service teams” are listed for the donations, all the money goes to one account, and is spent to provide to those in need, regardless of their service affiliation. The teams are merely a ways for the supporters to have a little friendly competition among themselves to satisfy their fix for a little old school interservice rivalry.

The VALOur-IT (Voice Activated Laptops for Our Injured Troops) project was an accidental program, begun in 2005, when a blogger was injured by an IED in Iraq. From there, this project of all volunteer help, has provided over 6000 laptops to those who cannot use their hands or have vision issues. For years, they have all been brand new units, set up with Dragon Naturally Speaking software.

Please consider helping out in some (or all) of the following ways:

  • Join the list of sites/blogs and get it to your readership
  • Get the link to Soldier’s Angels VALOur-IT donation page and send it to your email list
  • Lobby your workplace to allow you to post/pass out a flyer with this information to the employees
  • See if your employer has matching funds for donations to this project and get that word out to your co-workers
  • Present this information to your social networks, the digital ones, and the real ones, too!
  • Post the information in local coffee shops/restaurants and other places with community bulletin boards (check with the management first, which is another opportunity to discuss this project with those who are not aware of the work)

Thank you for reading this and considering taking this information viral! The people who have benefited for the donations over the last 7 years have been given a precious gift and are grateful for the equipment the has helped them get back into life!

Category: Air Force, Army, Charities, Coast Guard, Jointness, Leadership, Marines, Military, Military History, Navy, Public Service, Supporting the Troops, Technology, Valour-IT | 2 Comments »

It’s VALOur-IT Time Again!

July 1st, 2011 by xformed

The fund drive will run from today through the 14th of July. Don’t know what VALOur-IT is? Click the link.

The reader’s digest version: For those wounded with sight or mobility issues keeping them from using a computer like most people do, Soldier’s Angels has a project to provide new laptop computers with Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software to them. Their to keep, to help them get re-connected with family and friends and battle buddies, and for the future, it’s good work skill development.

So…spread the word, beat the bushes, spam your email list, beg at the local Starbucks for help for this wonderful program that has provided now in excess of 6000+ laptops!

Donate to Soldier’s Angels Project Valour-IT

Soldier's Angels Team Navy

Chip in…it’s well worth the money and it is changed/has changed lives.

Category: Air Force, Army, Blogging, Charities, Coast Guard, Jointness, Marines, Military, Military History, Navy, Public Service, Supporting the Troops, Valour-IT | Comments Off on It’s VALOur-IT Time Again!

VALOur-IT 2010 Campaign Final Numbers: BZ!

November 16th, 2010 by xformed

For those without a Naval background, “BZ” is signal flag code for “Well Done.”

It’s been over for a few days, but the final totals, minus some that will trickle in via the mail for the VALOur-IT was:


Amazing. The beginning goal was $60K. The Army sprinted out of the blocks and blew throught their $15K “fair share” and had to bump the goal to keep it easy to see. They pushed their meter to $25K, and then the Marines, outflaked them and everybody else…..The Jarheads powered through the muck and went north of $30K to an amazed audience. Of course a nod from Michelle Malkin didn’t hurt at all, now did it?

Thanks to one and all for spreading the word on this wonderful, life changing project, that puts wounded soldiers, sailors. airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines back into the world via technology.

See you next year, but, donations for this, and the many other projects of Soldier’s Angels are gracefully accepted all year long.

Category: Air Force, Army, Charities, Coast Guard, Jointness, Leadership, Marines, Military, Military History, Navy, Public Service, Technology, Valour-IT | Comments Off on VALOur-IT 2010 Campaign Final Numbers: BZ!

Project VALOur-IT 2010 Campaign Begins

October 28th, 2010 by xformed

learn more

My favorite time of the year begins today, and goes until Veteran’s Day, 11/11/10.

Project VALOur-IT was an accidental collusion of two minds, some one offering help from Soldier’s Angels and the rest is history. The story is well told across the now 6 years, and over 5000 laptops, the very large majority of them new, with Dragon Naturally Speaking are in the hands of those wounded so they are limited by sight or typing disabilities.

The laptops are theirs to keep.

The funds are used only for the purchase of the laptops, and now Wiis and GPS units, and the transportation to the delivery points (usually the major US Military Medical facilities). All other costs for this project are borne by volunteers. It’s a charity project where, down to the final penny, it’s put to work for the purpose of the project. I like it for that reason, but I like it more because it provides some normality back to those who have suffered for the defense of the Nation, and for those in other lands.

for the last 5 years, a large band of bloggers have taken to the net to let people know this project exists and to request your donations. Not only are they active duty/retired/former military members, but supporters, family members, and any one else who jumps in to pass the word on to everyone they know.

On the donate page linked to the button above, you can also get the code to put a button like this, or the alternative style, to post on your site/blog/etc.

Category: Air Force, Army, Charities, Coast Guard, Jointness, Leadership, Marines, Maritime Matters, Military, Navy, Supporting the Troops, Technology, Valour-IT | Comments Off on Project VALOur-IT 2010 Campaign Begins

Brain Injury Awareness Month: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

March 5th, 2010 by xformed

This CT scan is an example of Subdural haemorr...
Image via Wikipedia

Via backchannel, a request to highlight the “signature” wound of the current war: Traumatic Brain Injury.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month for the Brain Injury Association of America.  Pass the Word, please, as you can and know this is a very probable issue with our injured Vets.

For those who have long supported the Soldier’s Angels Voice Activated Laptops for Our Injured Troops (VALOur-IT), this is one of the things the program has been addressing, along with the coputer contact with the world, by providing GPS Units for those wounded service members who are getting out and about. The reason: TBI has an associated symptom of loss of short term memory, and the GPS Units help remind the driver where they were headed.  (Note:  You don’t have to wait until this November to donate to VALOur-IT…SA will be happy to accept donations all year long…even today to help this great cause)

Below is the article Chelsea asked if I could post to help get attention to the cause:

Traumatic Brain Injuries in the Military

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is becoming a common wound of modern warfare. It has even been coined the “signature wound” of the War on Terror. While TBI is becoming more prevalent in wartime activity, many service men and women continue to go undiagnosed. Institutions, like the US Department of Veterans Affairs, are working to make quick and accurate diagnoses in order to prescribe appropriate and effective treatment.

TBI is caused by forced trauma to the head, either by being shaken or hit. The severity of a TBI varies from case to case, but symptoms range from mild concussions to a debilitating state. The majority of TBI’s acquired by military personnel are classified as mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI). Initial symptoms of MTBI consist of loss of consciousness, disorientation, loss of memory, headache, and temporary loss of hearing and vision. They are often partnered with anxiety, irritability, difficulties processing information, limited concentration amongst other problems experienced down the road. While MTBI is most common amongst the men and women of the armed forces, more severe cases of TBI are happening much more frequently and often require the victim to attended specialty rehabilitative nursing centers, like CareMeridian.

The most common cause of a TBI in the military is due to blasts. There are three degrees of blast injuries where a TBI is common; Primary (due to blast itself), Secondary (due to objects being propelled by a blast) and Tertiary (due to a collision with a third party object). According to the Veterans Health Initiative, active male members of the military from the ages 18-24 are hospitalized with a TBI at a rate of 231 per 100,000 and females 150 per 100,000. Based on military force projections this would mean that 4,141 military personnel are hospitalized on average each year with a TBI, and these numbers often rise during wartimes.

The best prevention for veterans to avert the long-term effects of a brain injury is to recognize the symptoms of a TBI. Once the symptoms are identified an individual should take basic precautionary measures in order to begin the healing and recovery process until a more specific diagnosis can be made.

Service men and women give so much to protect this country and they deserve to come home to a happy and healthy life. Creating awareness about TBI will help ensure their long term health. By helping our veterans, their friends and their families recognize the early warning signs of a TBI, treatment can be sought as early as possible.

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Category: Air Force, Army, Biology, Blogging, Charities, Coast Guard, Education, Jointness, Marines, Military, Military History, Navy, Public Service, Science, Supporting the Troops, Valour-IT | 5 Comments »

FedEx: Honoring the Sacrifices of the Vietnam War

November 21st, 2009 by xformed

I have been alerted of this recently begun project by FedEx to created a “Digital Wall,” to honor those service members who died in the Vietnam War.

Impact: Huge.
Ease of execution: Easy. Take up to three pictures of those any of the FedEx/Kinko’s offices to be captured for history.

Do you have friends/family members who died in that war? Get them out and stop in. You have until May 13th, 2010 to do this.

No excuses. No cost, just a few minutes out of your day.

Thanks, FedEx, for continuing to honor those who have served, in particular the ones who perished.

Category: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Jointness, Marines, Military, Military History, Navy, Public Service, Supporting the Troops | Comments Off on FedEx: Honoring the Sacrifices of the Vietnam War

2009 VALOur-IT: Out of the starting blocks!

October 26th, 2009 by xformed

This post will remain at the top of the posts through 11/11/2009, when the drive ends. Look below for new posts.

It begins today, the drive to make a difference for those who have suffered in defense of the nation, and defense of others around the world.

From a practical need for a blogger and a blog reader sprang a project that has now aided over 4000 wounded warriors in getting some normalcy into their lives. The project blog is here.

Even a few bucks adds up. Times are lean, but consider the “leaness” for those who will never recover what they have lost in the service.

Thanks for helping out.

If you have no preference for a service team to donate to, please drop your funds under the Navy, but know they still go into the same pot at the end of the day.

Category: Air Force, Army, Blogging, Charities, Jointness, Leadership, Marines, Military, Navy, Public Service, Supporting the Troops, Valour-IT | Comments Off on 2009 VALOur-IT: Out of the starting blocks!

Auctions for 2009 VALOur-IT Campaign!

October 17th, 2009 by xformed

Have something that will bring hte big bucks?

Then you can help.

For the Soldiers Angels VALOur-IT fund raising campaign this year, auctions will be held on eBay via a single seller.

The short brief: You send the info to Holly Aho, she posts them, you package and ship the item as dirrected and get paid for your shipping costs.

The longer and “official” rules to play:

Auction Items Submissions

All auction items will run as a 7 day auction with no buy-it-now options. Auctions will be listed either on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday evening, ensuring a “2 weekend run” during the 7 day period. This is the busiest time at Ebay. With new listings and expiring listings showing at the top of their lists this is the best time to have a new listing, and the next weekend a now expiring listing.

All auction items must be shipped within 5 business days after receiving shipping cost payment. You will be sent shipping cost money either by paypal or check based on your preference.

Things needed to start an auction:

1. Photos.

Images should be no larger than 600px by 600px

Image file names should be short and descriptive. IMG_0001.jpg would be wrong. marinecoins.jpg would be better.

Image file names should contain no spaces. marine coins.jpg would be wrong. marinecoins.jpg or marine_coins.jpg would be better.

There is no limit to number of photos you can include

2. Description of item
Suggestions for a good description:
Include measurements if applicable. Height, width, depth, etc. Is it bigger than a breadbox? lol

Include weight if applicable. Is it paper mache or solid gold? Help the person imagine seeing and holding it in person.

Condition of item. Was it last driven over by a drunken tractor driver or is it new in the box?

Rarity. This is more subjective but give an opinion based on your experience. How many of this item have you ever seen?

Include color(s) in your description. Photos are not good for relying on these details. The buyer may have drastically different monitor color settings than you.

Include method you intend to ship the item with. Say you will ship USPS Priority, UPS Ground or whatever you prefer.

Include flat rate shipping cost in description (see below for more details). This information will be in the auction details but it’s good to include right in the description.

3. Shipping cost
Select a shipping method you prefer, be it UPS, USPS, FedEx or whatever.

Find a zip code for the furthest location in the US from your house as you can think of (in lower 48 states). Go to, or the website for your prefered shipping provider and perform a shipping costs calculator estimate using your address and the zip code you looked up as the shipping location. This estimate will be the shipping cost for the auction.

4. Price
Lowest possible value of item. If you don’t know, just say that.

5. Your personal information
(this information will not be shared)
Your name
email address

6. Method you prefer to receive shipping cost payment from buyer
Check by postal mail

Rules for preparing shipping items

1. All items must be shipped in a box large enough to fit the item as well as shipping materials. This includes any item up for auction, books, small items and even paper items.
2. You must use bubble wrap and/or styrophoam peanuts in packaging your item, even if it is a paper item or a book. No newspaper as shipping material allowed!
3. No boxes with alcohol advertisements or names are allowed for shipping purposes. If this is the only box you have, turn it inside out and tape it back together. Need a box? Large stores like Wal-Mart are happy to give you as many as you want. Visit them late at night while they are stocking and help yourself!
4. Use lots of tape!
5. You will be emailed a “From Soldiers’ Angels” label to print and place on the outside of your box. Please tape it in a visible area, and even tape over the paper so that if the box gets wet the label will be “water-proof”.

Questions? Email Holly Aho at!

~Holly Aho

Note: Holly has been one of the backgorund volunteers who has made lots of Soldier’s Angels things go for years, so you can be confident your item will be taken care of well in the auctions.

Put on your thinking caps on what you have that can help the cause…and do it soon. Oct 26th is coming up fast! (Statr dtae of the fund dive!).

Category: Air Force, Army, Charities, Coast Guard, Jointness, Marines, Military, Military History, Navy, Public Service, Supporting the Troops, Valour-IT | Comments Off on Auctions for 2009 VALOur-IT Campaign!

A Journey Into History – Part X

October 13th, 2009 by xformed

It is fitting that I have been granted permission to post this story on the 234th birthday of the US Navy. CAPT Wellborn gave it a fine title. I’m adding it to the series of my own experiences of that operation.

Part I, Part II, Part III,Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX

I met a USNA Graduate via business networking a few months back. A few weeks ago, one of his fellow graduates was going through and I was invited to attend a seminar with the two men. The visitor and I, over late lunch, just as we were about to part, discovered we had both been deployed at the same time, to the same ocean, and to the same operation: El Dorado Canyon.

He is CAPT Buddy Wellborn, USN (RET) and he was the Commanding Officer of USS DETROIT (AOE-4), while I was there, on DESRON 32 Staff. Buddy has shared wit me his recollections of that specific raid, adding to the body of knowledge of the evnts leading to and after the joint USAF and USN strike on LIbya. Here is, extracted from the Word document he sent me via email, and has granted me permission to share it:

What Liberty Means to Me

CAPT Buddy Wellborn, USN (Ret), USNA ’59

The Provocation of an Unjust Act. Very early on Saturday morning, 5 April 1986, our National Security Adviser, Vice Admiral John Poindexter, US Navy, woke President Ronald Reagan. He had to inform him that a bomb had exploded in the La Belle, a discothèque in West Berlin, killing a US serviceman and seriously injuring several other Americans.
Two days later, at a meeting with his principal advisers at the White House, President Reagan reviewed the accumulated evidence implicating Libyan involvement in the bombing. He also received an intelligence brief revealing that Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi was planning a wave of terrorist attacks on American citizens and interests overseas. He was convinced of Qaddafi’s complicity in the West Berlin attack.

On Wednesday, 9 April 1986, President Reagan, after considering many options, approved “in principal” a military operation against Libya, and authorized the National Security Council to finalize the necessary military planning for a reprisal. Essentially, he had chosen the Clausewitzian option for the continuation of politics by other means. Such means would deliver a “message” that emphatically would inform those supporting or sponsoring terrorism that they could not do so without paying a price—a very heavy price.

Earlier, after the Rome and Vienna airport massacres in January of 1986, the collected intelligence revealed conspiratorial Libyan involvement. Accordingly, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger issued warning orders to the US European Command, particularly for SIXTH Fleet and Tactical Fighter Wing FORTY-EIGHT. Therefore, contingency planning for military operations against Libya had been in the works since then. Their planned operation was assigned the code name: EL DORADO CANYON.

The Marque—the License to Strike. For a twelve-minute air raid over Libya, the US plan generated the necessary US Air Force and US Navy assets to assure that at least eighteen Air Force F/B-111F fighter-bombers, and twelve Navy A-6E attack aircraft actually would strike specifically assigned targets in Libya. In a limited sense, with a selected measure of response for a reprisal, the US plan had strike aircraft collectively distributing some 200,000 pounds of high-explosives specifically to selected military/terrorist targets in Libya.
To strike such targets in the environs of Tripoli, US TACWING FORTY-EIGHT would launch F/B-111F fighter-bomber aircraft from Lakenheath and three other support bases in England. To strike selected targets in the environs of Benghazi, US SIXTH Fleet would launch A-6E, A-7, and F/A-18 fighter-attack aircraft from naval aircraft carriers at sea in the central Mediterranean, one in each of two Battle Groups (BGs), namely, one with USS AMERICA and one with USS CORAL SEA.

During the early morning darkness of 14 April 1986, after a dispersed, dark-of-the-night replenishment at sea for “Beans, Bullets, and Black Oil,” the warships of these two BGs rendezvoused northwest of Sicily just off Punta Raisi in Golfo di Castellammare.

Shortly after first light, Vice Admiral Frank Kelso, US Navy, Commander SIXTH Fleet, convened a meeting onboard AMERICA with all his subordinate commanders and commanding officers from these BG’s that formed TASK FORCE SIXTY—TF60. He read President Reagan’s execute order for OPERATION EL DORADO CANYON; and, then prompted discussion, and invited questions. Afterwards, all commanding officers returned to their ships and informed their officers and men of the strike-order for selected military/terrorists targets in Libya.

The warships in these BGs went dark and quiet as they commenced their high-speed runs to the Gulf of Sidra. TOT, Time-On-Target, was set for 0200 Libya-time, 15 April 1986, which coincided with the dark of the crescent moon. This made it 1900 EST, 14 April 1986, which coincided with the prelude to national TV-primetime in Washington, DC.

About six hours before the strike, Rear Admiral Hank Mauz, US Navy, sent the following message to his BG:

At about 1730 London-time, on 14 April 1986, the assigned US Air Force tankers and strike aircraft launched from their respective bases in England, and proceeded southerly off the western European coast to Gibraltar, thence turned easterly to the central Mediterranean for the Tunisian coast, thence southerly to Libya—a precisely timed, grueling five-and-a-half-hour trek of some 2000+-nm.

Shortly after midnight Tripoli-time, on 15 April 1986, AMERICA and CORAL SEA began flight operations to launch their aircraft in the Gulf of Sidra. To their west, just before flying over the Tunisian coast, their Air Force brethren were making their fourth and final pre-attack, in-flight refueling from their tankers in a dark sky at 26,000 feet above the sea.

The Reprisal—the Application of Armed Force: SHOWTIME! The prelude for this one-act reprisal began as scheduled at about 0150. It featured pre-strike suppression attacks on Libyan air defenses by US Navy aircraft. They would be streaking inbound low and fast, skimming the wave tops to strike their assigned suppression targets.
Eight A-7’s from AMERICA literally would pop-up at Tripoli’s “front door,” and unleash a devastating barrage of HARM and SHRIKE missiles to suppress Libyan SAM sites there. Eight F/A-18’s from CORAL SEA would do the same at Benghazi.

Turning in from the desert to proceed northerly toward their assigned targets, right on their coordinated strike schedule, six F-111-F’s bore down on Tripoli Military Airfield, nine more bore down on Aziziyah, and the remaining three bore down on Murat Sidi Bilal. They were hugging the deck at less than five hundred feet, with some of them even attacking at just a couple of hundred feet above the ever threatening, protruding ground—unfriendly ground.

In the Libyan capital, at 0200, NBC correspondent Steve Delaney reported to Tom Brokaw, their anchorman in New York, that he was hearing the roar of jet engines outside the windows of his hotel room. Seconds later, at 1900 EST—7:00 PM US-time– millions of viewers of NBC Nightly News, my wife and sons among them, heard the explosions and the crackle of gunfire in the background as Delaney reported, “Tom, Tripoli is under attack!”

Meanwhile across the Gulf of Sidra, six of the eight A-6E attack aircraft off CORAL SEA were outbound bearing down on the Libyan fighter base at Benina, while six of the seven A-6E’s off AMERICA bore down on the military installations at Benghazi.

In regard to the element of surprise, and Libyan preparation for an imminent attack, US strike pilots reported as they approached their respective aim points that Tripoli’s streetlights were still on, as were the floodlights shining on the largest buildings and the minarets of the central mosque. At Benina, reportedly the “frigging” runway-lights were on— beacon-bright.

By 0213 in Tripoli, all strike-aircraft had reported “feet wet,” and were racing outbound over the sea—with Libya in their rearview mirror.
By 0810 in London, 15 April 1986, the last F/B-111F landed at Lakenheath, marking the longest fighter mission in US history—fourteen hours and thirty-five minutes.
First-to-last, the actual bombing had taken only twelve minutes for these intrepid US Air Force and US Navy airmen to deliver our “message.”

At sea in the Gulf of Sidra that morning, Vice Admiral Kelso called on the command-net to pass along the gist of a conversational communication he just had had with President Reagan. Synoptically, our Commander-in-Chief had sent a WELL DONE to all those he had put in harm’s way. In other words, he was commending those at the point of the sword that delivered the message for US All– the USA.

I read the message to my crew on the general announcing system, adding my own “positive” direction:
“Our Commander-in-Chief has commended us for a job ‘Well Done’ that we did during the dark this morning. You did good, and I am proud to stand in your company. But, it’s not over, ‘til it’s over. We now have to refuel/rearm our band of brothers out here. That’s our day-job. So, let’s not waste any more daylight. ROMEO is at the dip to starboard– turn-to!”

DD-963 SPRUANCE to port, DDG-51 BURKE to starboard and FFG-7 PERRY Class in waiting station, with USS DETROIT (AOE-4) providing fuel and stores

Liquid Energy– Distillate Fuel, Marine. Later that afternoon, I spoke with Rear Admiral Mauz while replenishing AMERICA alongside. We discussed DETROIT’s fuel status after topping off the BG’s warships. For the next three or more days, warships of both BG’s would maintain a defense-posture in the Gulf of Sidra, and stand ready to repulse any Libyan counter-attack. There were White House-directed contingencies in the event of that happening.

He too had seen the message passed to us by the US Department of State to inform us that the countries along the Mediterranean littoral perfunctorily, as expected, had revoked all their diplomatic clearances for port-visits by US warships because of the “ongoing hostilities.”

We discussed alternatives between here and there, whereas “there,” meant six days out and back to and from our naval facilities at Rota on the Atlantic littoral of southwestern Spain. And, in steaming from here to there, both of us knew that anything could happen, be it good or bad. Possibly, we could take-on fuel at the port of Cagliari on Sardinia’s southernmost tip, and thus cut the turnaround time in half. But, perhaps we could get into Sicily. The AGIP refinery at Augustà Bay on Sicily’s eastern coast was closer, like only a half-day’s steaming away. In any case, I was to do what I could [had to] do. DETROIT therefore steamed northward toward Sicily at 31+ knots—after all, DETROIT was a Fast Combat Support Ship, literally built on top of a battleship-propulsion plant.

As I reviewed the day’s intelligence reports, I noted that the Libyan government was reporting thirty-seven Libyans killed and ninety-three injured by the US air strikes in Tripoli and Benghazi. US intelligence sources also reported that Qaddafi survived the US air strike in his underground bunker, apparently rattled, but unharmed. His fifteen-month old adopted daughter, however, had been killed, and his wife and two youngest sons, ages three and four, had been seriously injured.

Apparently, Qaddafi’s family had been asleep in their beds on the ground floor of the residence when the compound was attacked. I solemnly rationalized that a distinct moral distinction can be made between “collateral damage” accidentally resulting in the deaths of Libyan civilians and the deliberate murdering of civilians by acts of terrorism.

Lampadusa Island Map

Then, as I read on, apparently Qaddafi had had his army launch two Soviet-built SS-1 SCUD-B ballistic missiles at the US Coast Guard’s Long-Range Navigation– LORAN– station on < ahref="">ISOLA DI LAMPEDUSA. LAMPEDUSA is an island in the central Mediterranean about 170 nm [nautical miles] north-northwest of Tripoli, and about 140 nm south of the western tip of Sicily.

The Libyan SCUD’s though had fallen short detonating harmlessly in the rocks offshore. Nevertheless, the resulting explosions caused two large columns of water to plume brusquely into the air, and the percussion wave shook the homes of some six thousand Lampedusan residents living there. I presumed that such action was more than likely in desperation to do something—anything– to retaliate against the US.

When I finished reading the reports, I simply shook my head thinking that such a “counter-attack” was ridiculous at best—and, at worst was stupid. I scuffed it off—re-fuel was on my mind.

During the early morning darkness of 16 April 1986, I slowed DETROIT’s speed-of-advance just before reaching the turn onto the approaches for the breakwater at the industrial oil-port city of Augustà, Sicily. My intent was to enter port and top-off with jet-propulsion fuel and distillate-fuel marine, about two million gallons– each.

For normal deployed tasking, this would have been just another routine, twice-a-month top-off. This, however, was neither normal nor routine, because it was in the early morning darkness of the day following a US air strike against Libya.

In that such mortally intrusive action was a unilateral projection of national power by the US, the somewhat surprised host countries in the central Mediterranean region had no other choice than to rescind all diplomatic clearances for port visits by US warships until such hostilities could be settled, diplomatically. To say the least, this would be an out-of-the-ordinary port-visit.

My operational plan was simple though. I would maneuver DETROIT for port entry under the cover of darkness—and, be rigged at darkened ship and in electronic silence. Unassisted, I then would moor DETROIT bow-out alongside the pier that housed the fuel-manifolds for AGIP’s refinery. In other words, we were sneaking in.
My crew then would scurry ashore to take-on fuel, just as they had done so many times before. Fuel was always available down at AGIP’s manifolds—24/7. It was there by gravity-feed from storage tanks at an elevation of some 100 feet up the hill.

And, since we were going to pay for what we took, their padlocked valves would not pose a problem—to my street-smart sailors. After all—I moralized– were we not good customers, with ways and means? Most assuredly, we would replace the padlocks with new ones, and I would direct DETROIT’s Supply Officer to leave the necessary paperwork for payment due in the post-box on the pier for business as usual—padlock keys and all.

All in all, it should take us only about four hours to top-up. Then having done so, we simply would slip our moorings to the pier and depart unassisted, and unobtrusively– before any locals came to work. I admit, it was somewhat of an audacious plan—to some extent or greater. But, I rationalized, was it not mission-essential—and, cost-effective too? Because, by the next morning, in less than forty-eight hours, we could be back on our replenishment circuit in the Gulf Sidra for refueling/re-arming the fuel-thirsty ships of our battle group still patrolling there.

After all, is it not easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission?

Furthermore, could it not be rationalized—and, moralized– that politics are politics, whereas business is business—and, war is war? So, stop procrastinating.
Don’t Ask Why, Just Do It! Think action, and act with thought.

As expected, the port and the surrounding hills were dark. A passing thought of anxiety did wisp through the dark reaches in the back of my plotting mind in that strangely, there did not seem to be any lights on, except for surface navigational aids—on dim. But, I quickly re-focused to more lucid things right in front me, like the prudent ship-handling tasks ahead.

Weather-wise, I noticed that the morning land breeze was offsetting, and thus would be somewhat of a buffer for easing DETROIT alongside the pier, ever so gently. It was pleasantly cool, and even a little misty; but essentially the visibility was clear and unlimited even in the early morning darkness. Therefore, visual observations for navigational fixing would do prudently, thus electronic means for navigational fixing were not needed, and were off.

I had been in and out of Augustà Bay many times over the years, and thus was very familiar with the approaches to the breakwater-entrance as well as the restrictive waters for maneuvering deep-draft ships inside the breakwater. Furthermore, I also was an experienced ship-handler, having served in ships, at sea, for more than half of my naval career. So, an unassisted mooring would not be a problem, or result in any untoward happenings.

I smartly conned DETROIT to head-up the track indicated by the two lighted in-range navigational towers. Radios were tuned to receive, but transmissions were to be kept silent– in that, I did not intend to call in and get permission to enter port. In other words, I imagined us sneaking in slowly at the prudent speed of about 10 knots, and maneuvering in the harbor to make a landing– with a 900-foot, 50,000-ton, gray elephant-behemoth.

An Extraordinary Emotional Event—At Sicily’s Augustà Bay. All of a sudden, the pilothouse radio, tuned to Channel-16, crackled:
“USS DETROIT, this is COMANDANTÈ AUGUSTÀ, What are your intentions?”

What was just as surprising is that no bright searchlights came on, and no alarms were sounding. And, the query had been made in very clear, and correct, authoritative English instead of the usual pidgin English. I quickly assessed that a senior Italian officer must have transmitted it, perhaps even the Commander of Italian armed forces stationed there.

Trying to overcome the anxiety of the moment, that is, like when caught with your hand in the cookie-jar, my Executive Officer, instead of answering the radioed query, extended the radio microphone in his hand toward me with a look indicative of an unspoken question, “What are YOU going to say now?”

Well, when a smart-ass is caught red-handed, the reply is typically a flippant one. I took the radio in hand, and gathered my thoughts for some excusatory response. After all, we had been at sea for an extended period and deserved some R&R– Rest and Recreation—like, a sailor’s liberty.

I cleared my throat, to speak somewhat authoritatively, and responded without call-up in “Pidgin” Italian, vis-à-vis, Pidgin English, with a so typical asinine smile on my face:
“Mi parè– Libertà!”

The counter response absolutely was astonishing. No, it was astoundingly magnificent! Lights came on in the port, and on all the small boats just inside the breakwater. A hundred radios crackled at once: “Parè Libertà — Parè Libertà!”

The vibrancy of the words echoed off the steel bulkheads of the pilothouse, and seemingly off the hills of the surrounding countryside. The crescendo of freedom’s ring resounded all around us. Several searchlights then came on, but not directly on us. They were highlighting our battle flag—the Stars and Stripes—still flying so proudly at mast-top.

My mind raced to comprehend what was happening.

Then it hit me.

Apparently, Qaddafi had not heeded, nor perhaps even sought, the advice of geo-politicos to ascertain the sovereignty of ISOLA DI LAMPEDUSA.

My, my, Qaddafi had attacked Italy!

I quickly deduced that the Italian ministry in Rome must be in the throws of releasing an official response. Notwithstanding that bureaucratic action, the Sicilians already knew that the attack had been by a terminally ballistic, non-guided missile launched from Libya. Moreover, the Sicilians instinctively knew that the attack was not accidental, or some regrettable mistake in aim-point. To the people here in Sicily, this was an unprovoked, reprehensible attack by Libya onto Italy’s sovereign soil. Thus, Italian forces in Augusta Bay were in the defend mode—and, we were one of their fellow defenders!

Every now and then, you can catch old Murphy resting on his laurels. And, according to O’Toole’s corollary to Murphy’s Law, we were experiencing the Luck of the Irish—and, my Irish eyes were smiling.

The morning mist was cooling my flushed face, as I broke into a smile—a big smile. I had never heard nor seen a welcome like this before—or, since.

My flippancy dissipated. This was indeed an unforgettable–if not a historic– moment. I stood at attention on the starboard bridge wing as we entered Augustà Bay, and professionally saluted the glassed-in watchtower smartly as we passed abeam the breakwater. I even imagined COMANDANTÈ AUGUSTÀ mouthing the words: Mi venne in aiuto.

Without untoward incident, or further adieu, DETROIT was back on station in the Gulf of Sidra by dark-thirty that night. While in-transit that evening, I read the message reporting what President Reagan, pursuant to the terms of the War Powers Act, had forwarded by letter to Congress regarding OPERATION EL DORADO CANYON. His letter, in part, stated that,

“…[The air strikes on Libya] were conducted in the exercise of our right of self-defense under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This necessary and appropriate action was a preemptive strike directed at the Libyan terrorist infrastructure and designed to deter acts of terrorism, such as the Libyan-ordered bombing of a discotheque in West Berlin on April 5.”

As an anti-climatically parenthetical to highlight that business is business, a Libyan-flagged crude-oil tanker was moored across the pier. Her captain invited me over to have coffee, and I did–graciously.

Retrospectively, keep in mind listening to the news reporting strife and struggle among people that whenever, and wherever, freedom-loving people are threatened, they will rally to side with those who champion their cause, and welcome all who will stand beside them to keep the light of Freedom’s Torch burning bright.
That’s my lesson learned for what LIBERTY means to me.
– – – CLAUSULA – – –

Category: "Sea Stories", Air Force, Coast Guard, History, Jointness, Maritime Matters, Military, Navy | 2 Comments »

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