Archive for the 'Military' Category

Fair Winds and Following Seas: COL George Dodenhoff, USMC, Ret

September 18th, 2015 by xformed


“Dode” was a WWII veteran, joining the Marines in 1942. His first combat was on Okinawa with VMF-311, the Hell’s Belles, flying CAS missions in the F4U-8. Of note, VMF-311 were the first to use the F4U in the close air support role. His career later had him assigned to the famed VMF-214 in Korea, flying CAS for the Chosin Reservoir battle. He continued on to complete a 29 year career, comprised of a cross training assignment with the USAF flying the F-86 and serving in the Congo, Vietnam, and other duties that included a tour at the Naval War College. He passed away August 6th, 2015.

I have been provided access to the items from his desk, where I spent a number of hours, working on his computer and listening to the stories of an old warrior and leader over about a decade. My intention is to put together as much material as is possible from his notes, log books and models and document my recollection of his career oral history I was able to hear.

For the first stop, with his wife, Priscilla’s permission, is to share the memorial service for Col Dodenhoff.

More to follow in a series I’ll post as “From the Desk of Col D.”

Category: History, Leadership, Marines, Military, Military History | Comments Off on Fair Winds and Following Seas: COL George Dodenhoff, USMC, Ret

Your Family is More Than a Set of “Hood Oranaments”

June 27th, 2014 by xformed

Doing a little exercise, but it’s a story that has merit, lessons learned, and about listening:

I loved my work in the Navy. Actually I just love working on engaging projects. From the time I entered the service on active duty, I dove into my jobs. Not only did I strive for excellence, I seemed to have the bad habit of always creating a side project because, you know, the Navy needed help.

So there I was, married to a beautiful woman, with a daughter and a son, a home owner, despite the moves for the service needs, and certainly great fitness reports. The other part was bringing work home, and if a vacation was taken outside of home, I usually took work, even, IIRC, hauling my trusty Apple ][+ and monitor on one.

Having exceeded 12 some years time in service, the strain on my wife was far more than I’d paid attention to. Before we had kids, she worked and went to school, and we decided together that she would stay home until later. She did, and I went about being a workaholic.

One of the most profound things she said to me, one night when the words weren’t exactly kind, was “You realize you’re doing all this extra work and you’re being promoted right along with your peers!” I, of course, wasn’t in the listening mode, at least not to absorb it and pay attention. It has stuck, so the fact is I did hear it. At the time it had no impact. I believed I was correct, and my extra projects, that stole my connection with my family (my choice), I figured were still more important.

If that was the moment, or not, it was a defining moment. We grew further apart, going through the motions for about 5 more years, when I was just told “I’m tired of this” and the separation, without my argument (knowing I was still right), lead to the divorce. It’s not like it’s a unique story, but the reality was she was absolutely correct. As the Navy was in the throughs of downsizing in the mid-90s, when the Selective Early Retirement Board for FY96 reported out, my name was on the list, and one of my peers, in particular, who had actually professionally

Category: Military | 1 Comment »

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

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

Helping Veterans Find Employment at a 9/11 Virtual Job Fair

September 10th, 2013 by xformed

Guest post materiel provided by Kevin O’Brien of Veteran Recruiting Service (VRS):

Since the horrific tragedies of 9/11, more than 2.5 million men and women have been deployed, and each time they have been called to serve, they have done so with honor, courage, and without question. You would think after serving, that finding a job in the civilian world would not be one of their toughest challenges, but sadly that is not always the case.

The unemployment rate for younger veterans is as high as 25% in some markets, and to combat this growing and alarming problem, Veteran recruiting Services in cooperation with the First Lady and Dr. Biden’s Joining Forces Initiative will host the 3rd annual 9/11 virtual career fair for veterans and military spouses. Since September 2011, more than 31,000 veterans have been hired as a result of attending a VRS virtual career fair, and we are looking to help at least 50,000 more. The 9/11 virtual career fair has dozens of America’s leading employers, and over 23,000 veterans already registered to participate.

Here is the press release at PRNewsWire:

Here is the video tour of the virtual career fair floor
VRS is changing the way employers recruit our Nation’s finest. Take a look at the employer lineup for the 9/11 virtual career fair for veterans and spouses

Worth a look, worth passing the word, don’t you think?

Category: Military | Comments Off on Helping Veterans Find Employment at a 9/11 Virtual Job Fair

PTSD Research study conducted by an OIF Vet. Pass the Word!

June 18th, 2013 by xformed

Received via email, from and OIF Vet who is conducting a study on PTSD. PLease give it some consideration to 1) Participating if you fit, and 2) passing the word!

Here’s the DesMoines Register article discussing his background and the project he’s taking on and why: “YP Spotlight: Iraq War vet turned Drake professor explores inconsistency of PTSD”.

Attention Military Veterans: A research study examining military experiences (including deployment experiences) of those who have served (or are currently serving) is being conducted by Dr. Steven L. Lancaster, a professor at Drake University. This online survey assesses experiences with stressful life events (including military events, such as combat exposure), current mental health experiences, coping skills, and thoughts related to these events and how your time in the military has affected you. If you are a military veteran who is 18 years or older, you are eligible to participate.

The survey is completely anonymous and takes approximately 45 minutes to complete. As an incentive to participate, all participants will be given the chance to enter a raffle drawing for a $50 online gift certificate to awarded to 6 randomly selected participants. The drawing database is maintained separately from, and is not in any way connected to, survey information submitted; therefore your participation will remain anonymous. If you would like to participate in this research study, please click the link below.

This will take you to a consent form and questionnaire. You will have a chance to enter the raffle after completing the questionnaire.

This research has been reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board for protection of human subjects at Drake University.

Please feel free to forward this announcement to eligible friends/colleagues/military members you know who may wish to participate. Thank you in advance for your help with this project. We are going to publish the results in scientific journal with the goal of better understanding the post-deployment experience of military service members.

If you desire to participate please copy and paste this URL into your browser (no http:// is necessary):


Steven L. Lancaster, Ph.D.

Department of Psychology
Drake University
Phone: 515-271-2844

Category: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Education, Leadership, Marines, Military, Military History, Navy, Public Service, Science, Supporting the Troops | Comments Off on PTSD Research study conducted by an OIF Vet. Pass the Word!

And Just Where Did the Builder’s Plaques Go?

April 7th, 2013 by xformed

The USS CARR (FFG-53) has been decommissioned 3/13/2013. This story can now be told.

In a time far gone (October 1988 to be more precise), two XOs, at turnover, bought into the idea of the outgoing one: There were but a few of the 50 contract required brass plaques from the builder of the ship left. Wouldn’t it a great idea if two were set aside, passed down the years, in a ritual only known to the Ship’s XOs, to be presented to the final CO and XO?

I thought Tom Brown’s idea was excellent. We picked two of the about 5 left from Todd Shipyard, and we typed up a turnover sheet. The outgoing XO signed and noted the next duty station, and the incoming XO signed to accept the responsibility for the safekeeping of these two mementos for the future.

Over the years, I often thought about emailing the seated XO and asking if they were still “standing the watch” so to speak, but I refrained.

I was unable to attend the final moment of the CARR’s service to the Nation, but I contacted the closet one to what should have been the end game, the decommissioning CO, CDR Patrick Kulakowski. In the first email, I didn’t disclose the exact details, just asked to get ahold of his XO, to check on something that had been put in place years ago.

Here was his response:

We found a Manila folder and note about pass down of two plaques from Todd; however, they are long gone…log ended in 2001…

While the entire plan didn’t survive, the evidence of it did. Not bad to make it hang on for 12-13 years, but…who were the two XOs in question in 2001, or possibly the next turn over?

It may have been an oversight if the ship had a major maintenance period about then, or it might have been someone wanted to have a piece of the Ship’s history for themselves…

Any input appreciated, just for the sake of a good, honest “Sea Story” that really didn’t begin like “Once upon a time…”

Category: "Sea Stories", History, Military, Military History, Navy | Comments Off on And Just Where Did the Builder’s Plaques Go?

“I was only a kid” said the Vietnam helicopter pilot

October 7th, 2012 by xformed

The day began with just bringing back a cleaned up laptop that had captured a virus to a friend. He then said he was taking me to lunch.

But before it began, as we drove to “a place you (meaning me) never have been before,” we pulled up to restaurant where I had been, for lunch, one time before in my life, that lunch being with Jim Helinger, Sr, the man who I have often documented as the one who flew gliders. More importantly, the reason this helicopter pilot and I met, was Jim met him one morning about 4 years ago, in an IHOP parking lot, with Jim opening the discussion with “You put us out of work!” After the helo pilot assessed the Glider Pilots Association bumper sticker on Jim Sr’s car, he acknowledged his part in the accusation. Jim called me as soon as he got home, and a few days later I met Don. Don had the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association bumper sticker, which was the clue Jim Sr needed to open the conversation.

That meal began like most other meals we had had together, a little bantering and discussions of the current things going on in our lives and politics, but later, something special happened.

He went back to his story of being a 17 year old boy, in Germany, assigned to the 82nd Division, and after doing something kind of stupid in a exercise drop, was assigned to being a courier. It was on one of his drives to anther post he saw a M.A.S.H. type Bell 47 helo and was asked if he’d like a ride. He said yes. The rest, as we say, became history.

Like Jim Sr, actual combat experience is addressed only in generalized components, but sometimes, once in a while, a story comes forth in detail, and I was able to hear one that day.

Some Special Forces or maybe LRRP troops, about 30 of them needed extraction now, with the bad guys hot on their heels. A “5 Ship” was sent, with Don (now 19 years old and an aircraft commander) flying his normal position in the number 5 slot. There was room for one helo at a time on the LZ.

Robin Hoods Unit Insigina (173rd AHC) in Vietnam

#1 got in and out, 2 got in and out, #3 got shot down and #4 extracted crew #3, but no troops. Don went in. The rest of the troops piled on board, as it was the last chance they had to not get overrun. Up to this point the tenor of his voice was pretty matter of fact sounding, but after this it changed and his eyes began tearing up.

“We had 17 of us in the Huey. I couldn’t even get off the ground. The crew chief through his M-60 and ammo out the door, then the Engineer did the same thing.” He then recounted how he knew he couldn’t leave them, any of them, yet they had to get out of there and now. He said he told everyone, I don’t care if you get naked, get rid of anything you can! And they proceeded to toss weapons and ammo and equipment, including his over chicken plates out of the bird, and anything they could jettison of the helo components, like the side armor on the seats for the pilots, too.

He got some lift…and he could get a few feet up to translate to forward flight. He asked me if I knew what rice paddies were. I did, having spent time on Okinawa and visits to Japan. He said he’d have to land in some spots, let a few people off, fly over the dikes between the paddies, then let them get back on, just to make headway, away from danger and out of the jungle.

Next came an important set of details: At most, he could get about 10 feet of altitude. IN the jungle, he couldn’t see his path out, so two of the gunships from his unit flew top cover, but more importantly, as his eyes, directing him left, right, or turn around and go back (in dead end circumstances).

He finally got to the airfield, but could only land with forward speed, like a plane, but on the skids. Once more, his voice was trembling, as he told me how scared he was that the guys in back, out the doors, standing on the skids might lose their feet, because he had no option but to come home that way, indicating he was talking to his crew chief to make sure no one’s feet were below the skids. I’m sure it wasn’t done in a conversational tone.

Finally, they were safe on the ground. All 17 passengers made it to the base. The engine on the bird was toast, the skids damaged from the landing. In a dark humor sort of way, the comment “screwed up another bird” admonition was actually praise for a mission accomplished attaboy.

The last line of the story was “we were just kids.” Then we sat in silence for several moments. There was nothing to say, just to acknowledge a part of personal history without comment.

This man regularly, after the bi-weekly breakfasts with other vets, all the way back to WWII: “I’m not a hero.”

Member of the 173rd Assault Helicopter Company of the 8th Infantry Division, shot down three times, 4 hours short of the record for combat flight hours in a year tour, flying “Slicks” into and out of Hot LZs, flying behind a bird (in another mission), that was shot down in front of him and the crew chief (Gary Wetzel, (his own account here)) of the downed Huey was badly wounded, but, with the injuries from the crash causing that damage, crawled between the wreckage, getting his M-60 and ammo, and had to help fight off the enemy with the infantry in a major battle, was awarded the MoH, and did what he told me in the story above, I’m not buying it. He is, and his comrades in that conflict who would not leave anyone behind, but would strain their young minds to solve such problems under life and death circumstances, a hero.

VHPA has some posted stories here, if you’d enjoy the reading opportunity.

Category: Military | Comments Off on “I was only a kid” said the Vietnam helicopter pilot

Public Service Guest Post: Are Veterans at Risk for Mesothelioma?

August 20th, 2012 by xformed

The below post was sent by Doug Karr, a former Navy Second Class Petty Officer, who asked if I would share this information. He can be contacted at doug.karr.usn @ for more information

Are Veterans at Risk for Mesothelioma?

Most people know that exposure to asbestos can create various health problems. This compound was used for many different reasons up until the mid-80s, and very few businesses warned their employees about the risks of exposure. However, today it is widely known that asbestos exposure can lead to such serious conditions as mesothelioma, or asbestos cancer.

Persons at High Risk
If people worked within such fields as maintenance, construction or sanitation when asbestos was widely used, they may have been exposed to it. However, recent research has proven that many military veterans have also been exposed to asbestos, especially those who worked on or repaired Navy ships. This leaves all of these persons with a high risk for mesothelioma.

How Were People Exposed to Asbestos?
The main reason asbestos was used years ago was because it helped make various compounds stronger. With that said, it was commonly found in many different construction supplies such as insulation, drywall, fireproofing materials, caulking and joint compounds.

Whenever people handled these materials by way of installations, sanding or removal, asbestos fibers were released into the air. With asbestos dust being so tiny, it was easy for people to inhale it, and it often remained in the air long after people were finished with their work.

Since the dust remained in the air so long, even people who were not involved with the construction work were often exposed to the chemical. People who unknowingly inhaled asbestos included cleanup crews, inspectors, sellers, buyers and even customers. The risks on navy ships were even greater.

The reason that seamen were more at risk was because of the tiny enclosed spaces onboard, which made it even easier for them to inhale asbestos fibers. In open spaces, asbestos has a chance to dissipate over time; however, this was not the case on navy ships. The fibers remained in the air, increasing people’s risks of developing mesothelioma.

Indirect Exposure
People who were in situations where they may have worked with asbestos directly, should certainly get tested for mesothelioma. However, even those who did not work with the chemical, but were in the vicinity at a time where they could have inhaled them, should be tested for asbestos cancer as well. This definitely includes veterans.

Many doctors suggest that even family members of people who were exposed to asbestos may be at risk. This is because asbestos fibers can cling to clothing for a long time, and they could dislodge in a totally different area from where the original contamination occurred.

How Does Mesothelioma Develop?
Years ago, when veterans inhaled these harmful fibers they did not know that the chemical could cause a deadly disease such as cancer. This is sad considering most construction product manufacturers knew that if people inhaled asbestos dust, they could develop cancer.

The mesothelium are mucus membranes that line most every organ in the human body. When people inhale asbestos fibers, the dust agitates the mesothelium, encouraging abnormal cell growth. Malignant mesothelioma is commonly found in the linings of the lungs; however, it has been known to develop in the heart and stomach as well.

What makes this form of cancer so deadly is that it can quickly spread throughout the body. While it begins as tiny tumors within the mesothelium, it tends to spread rapidly to surrounding tissues. It is essential to note that mesothelioma is not lung cancer; however, it can spread and develop into lung cancer.

Mesothelioma Legal Cases
If veterans or their family members have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, they should highly consider hiring a qualified attorney to help them get the compensation they deserve. Even though asbestos was banned years ago, it can take several years for mesothelioma to develop.

Mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer that can affect people who were exposed to asbestos. Many of these people are veterans, and most of them served in the Navy. Since it can take several years for asbestos cancer to develop, it is best for people to be tested for the disease as soon as possible.

Thanks, Doug!

Category: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Education, Marines, Military, Military History, Navy, Public Service, Supporting the Troops | Comments Off on Public Service Guest Post: Are Veterans at Risk for Mesothelioma?

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