webmaster: Doc Riojas docrio45 [at] gmail DOT com
11:58 p.m. EDT,September 23, 2011
Inside Ocean Seafood Market on Laskin Road in Virginia Beach, you will find a variety of fresh fish.
The owner of the shop, Frank Moncrief, takes pride in his product. “My motto is I won’t sell it if I won't eat it, if I won’t eat it I won't sell it,” says Moncrief.
Webmasters Note: SEAL Team TWO's 7th platoon relieved Frank's platoon in MyTho RVN in 1967. Frank took my squad out on our first Operation. He is still the BEST of the BEST in everything he does. Erasmo "Doc" Riojas
Hey Doc... here's an awesome photo of two incredible Warriors.
Jan says that Roy was so down to earth and his home was like a museum! The last time they went, Roy had just gotten a shipment of his book "First SEAL" and Kevin carried in pile after pile for him.
When Janette left, Kevin was talking to Susan ahead of her, and she looked over at Roy. He had tears on his face and was watching Kevin, shaking his head side to side...then he said "I wish I was him."
UDT- Call it Kinh
Gay, Tuyen Nhon, The BLow Job, or its code name:
there two small
pictures there. Jan Janos Click on small pictures to ENLARGE them! From: Erasmo "Doc" Riojas WOW! Firstly, Congratulations on retiring as a
Captain. I am very glad you made the USNavy a career. Oh also
congratulations on your PhD, Doctor. I plan on making one of the
North Texas SEAL get togethers. I will call you and see if you
are free to receive my company. Are you a member of N.TX SEALs?
are you on the VTC? go here: www.sealtwo.org/vtc.htm
for information on joining. A few years ago we visited Jake and Jean Rhinebolt, one of my Old XOs
from ST-2, in Phippsburg ME. Jake did a tour with youe UDT Team
in Coronado. He was showing us his picture collection and that
is when I saw the UDT cruise book. I wrote Jake the same day I
wrote you for copies of the "blow job" from his UDT
cruise book. He sent me all the pages of that job. I am sure you
have that cruise book, no? LCDR Jake Rhinebolt sent me all the pages of the
"B.J." from his UDT year book.
<deepchannel01_small.jpg><deepchannel_small.jpg> I mentioned to Don Marler you and the job you
guys did in Vietnam. I told Don Marler that I thought that as
far as the size of explosives, the Korean job was smaller than
the 'nam blow job. He asked me if I would write an article for
the 50's Frogs Journal. I hope that you will think about doing a story
for the 50's Frogs and let them decide if their "B.J."
was larger than the 1970's Frogs "B.J." in Korea.
Their job was much dangerous since the Chinese had reached
Hungnam and were shooting at the frogmen. You made some deals
with "Charlie" and had USArmy security, so the only
hazards that you encountered was probably snakes and mosquitoes?
Those are the one's I remember. ----- Original Message ----- Our CO was
LTCM I.C. LeMoyne and XO Nelson of Team 11. WEBMASTER's
NOTE: Jan, Do you remember the
movie that was made by the USN photographer? The SEAL that went on
the Huey with him away from the canal, about 1.5 clicks was
me ! Erasmo "Doc" Riojas
Walter R. Harvey,
Captain SEAL ret., R.I.P. Robert Donald (Don) May, BUD/S 072, domestic-dispute--father-killed?instance=secondary_stories_left_column domestic-dispute--father-killed?instance=secondary_stories_left_column
---------- Forwarded message ---------- From: "Maynard Weyers" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Georgia man fatally shot in dispute with son ROBERT BRYAN GUZZO, R.I.P. ROBERT BRYAN GUZZO , January 3, 1979 to November 12, 2012 Guzzo, as we knew him, went after it. He sought excitement, made it himself most of the time, and then relished in the telling of it. He was captivating, someone who lit up the room and made us pay attention. He made us worry because he cared for others more than himself, but most of the time - he made us laugh. Rob led a life of dedication to his family, friends, Seal Team 5 and his country. He was the son of HMCS (SEAL) Robert Guzzo now of Raleigh, NC and Lieutenant Commander Robin Andersen of Portsmouth, RI. He was the brother of Danielle, Marissa, Kiel, Aaron, Taylor and he was Daddy to Jena Mae who lit up his world. Rob was born into the Navy in San Diego, by parents that instilled a sense of honor and pride in him. They both had careers that took them to places around the world and Rob saw first-hand the opportunities and long-lasting bonds that sustain military families. They raised Rob to believe he could do anything and made sure he succeeded. Rob graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1997 where he also was a star linebacker on the football team. True-to-form, he drove his coaches crazy because his natural talent was far stronger than his patience for enduring hot summer practices. Rob just wanted to be in the game, he wanted the action. Rob went on to State University of New York College at Cortland where he majored in political science and minored in entrepreneurial studies, meaning figuring out ways to get help writing his papers and scoring the most sought-after social invitations. He was a brother in the Beta Phi Epsilon fraternity. Rob was never short on ideas, passionate in his pursuit of a good time, and always about being in the action. Upon graduation in 2000, Rob followed his destiny: Navy SEAL Team 5. He trained in Coronado, CA, and deployed to Iraq in 2006 where he served as a communications specialist. The brotherhood he found there, the missions, the sense of accomplishment - all shaped who he was to his core. Rob was awarded the Navy Commendation medal with Valor for his combat action in Iraq. He believed in what he fought for and he died trying to overcome the losses he encountered there. Most recently, Rob was featured in the Transformers II film and was continuing to pursue acting roles while studying for a Masters in
Kinesiology...fitting for Rob who never stood on the sidelines, that he'd find interest in the study of human movement. In addition to his immediate family, Rob is survived by Grandmothers Shirley Ludwin of San Diego, and Patricia Guzzo of Buffalo, NY, Stepmom Dana
Guzzo, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Nieces, Nephews and Friends far and wide - that loved him. In Lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Jena Mae Trussell
(Guzzo) at the Navy Federal Credit Union. There will be a new commander of U.S. Special
I wrote a piece a while ago entitled DTMWTD…. It was targeted at kids who don’t like their parents telling them what to do… Well… and maybe husbands too??? You get the picture… any of us at any time. DTMWTD.When we tell someone what to do we are trying to warn them of possible consequences that we see that we think they don’t. We all have to learn the same hard way by experiencing and dealing with our own decisions. We want them to be ours. Why should we trust anyone else’s opinion? “Enough with the advice” we say. Of course, I am still saying that to my wife
today…. Then… when we get a job we have to listen to our boss. Groan. If we really grow up we listen to our customers and clients, not ourselves. This is difficult, but it happens as it is paycheck driven. We listen and
learn. So it appears it is the incentive that is important. What is the incentive today when all kids withdraw into the self-assuring world of their cell phone? We are in trouble. They are affirmed by their insecure social network not our wisdom. They no longer “look up” to anything. The word “No” is not allowed. Children are taught the nuances of “child abuse” and only have to tell their teachers and there will be a knock on the
door. I was blessed with great parents, spankings, and a plethora of “No’s”. Thank
God. But it was not until the military did I fully begin to appreciate what “No” meant. If you wanted to be a Navy Frogman/SEAL the INSTRUCTORS were waiting with snarling teeth and monstrous threats of pain. If you did not say “YES INSTRUCTOR” to everything they suggested there was a real price. Too many pushups, too many sit-ups, too many pull-ups, too many runs, too many swims… “Are they crazy” I would think to myself. Is this nonsense really worth it? Why were they so strict? Why was Bernie Waddell so scary behind his wry smile? Why??? Because all hell could rain down on you if you showed disrespect in any way, shape, or form. So just do what he asked and get on with your moment. Mile after mile crawling, running, and swimming in the freezing winter during Hell Week weeded out the survivors. The Yes Men. You see… the instructors knew what would happen to you if you were not forged properly. You would be killed when it could have been avoided. Your swim buddy would have been put in peril unnecessarily. The mission aborted because you did not heed your
instructor. We need instructors to become all that we have the potential to become. Values must be honed in sweat and pain. We need to learn that freedom is not for free. If you are not conditioned you will not be strong enough to stand in the winds of life. Laziness destroys potential. There is white and black, good and evil, yes and no, do’s and
don’ts….. Values became valuable. Serving others became more important than serving self. Prayer became real. Morality was affirmed. God Bless You Instructor Bernie Waddell… and Godspeed.And God Bless all the instructors everywhere. And parents too. Chris Bent
www.chrisbentnaples.com Thomas Blais BUD/S Instructor Doc Clark and over 100 frogs know me very well. For your information, Tom told me today that Jim Cook has been a savior to him. While we do not know each other, I have enjoyed your pictures over the years. Your have taken pictures of me but I do not go to reunions that often, I live in Naples Florida, and will be at Little Creek next year. Hope to see you there. I added your name to my frog email list when I received a note from my dear friend and classmate Frank Cleary. Regards Tim Jones Maxtrack [at] cox DOT
net is Tom's Email. I talked to Tom for about 20 minutes, He sounds great. He is still working out but nobody at the facility can keep up with him. Big Surprise. He said that he would love hearing from his former tad poles so give him a call. He lost his driver licence for running a red light but would love to attend any party we have and the beer blast on Sunday. We can arrange to pick him up or have a taxi do the work if we are too drunk. See you at the 50th reunion, Tim PS I think I have all the class emails except Enos. Nault is health3life [at] yahoo DOT com. John
Click Below for John's Movie on the WWW
ask who are my Green Brothers? Now
think on this, this is who they are. John
Carl Roat CLASS-29 by
John Carl Roat IN
MEMORIAL Doc, Curt GIbby Class 29 E.C. We were
blasting a channel for this island so deeper draft boats could come in. We
are taking a break and have the usual Rum & water when in walks Robert
Mitchem (the movie star). Anyway Frank strikes up a conversation with him
& I am standing there so Frank asks Mitchem "Do you do any
diving"? Mitchem said No, and Frank says I wish I had you for about
15 minutes. I'd drop you down to 150 feet so fast those sunglasses your
wearing would look like contact lens. Mitchum grabs
his glass and yanks them off and stares at Frank. Frank starts to laugh
and before you know it they had there arm on each others shoulder. Only
Frank could do that. I miss him and I could fill a book on all the things
I experienced while operating in the team. I was fortunate to dive with
the best. I'll break them out and send them to you. Again,
congratulations on your photo album. I am looking forward to Key West,
UWSS reunion for next year. Cindy , my wife, and I bought a new
Toyota Prius. (One of those hybrid cars (gas/elec combo) 55 to 60 in
town and a good 50 plus on the road. Have a day and keep in touch.
"sweet ole bill" Daugherty SEAL Team TWO, Little Creek
Virginia, The 7th Platoon
Missing: Gene Fraley , Rinney's handler(KIA), Billy Burbank (transferred to PRUs),
W.O.Charlie Watson returned to Little Creek due to Illness. This photo was
taken in MyTho at the PBR base. Rinney made too much noise in the jungle.
He went on two Ops and was used to interrogate captured VCs. The photo
says May 1968, which is when the film was developed, photo was taken in late
We relieved "Moose" Boinotte's, "Pee Wee" Nealy's platoon
at the Carter Hotel, MyTho RVN 1967. We had a BSU-1 platoon with us for
the Mike Boat and one of the Origional STABs "by Mattell."
SEVENTH Plt, ST-2, 1967-1968: Best I can remember: We ran
over 100 clandestine Ops in IV Corps RVN. Awards: 14 Combat Action
Ribbons, 1 Navy Cross, 2
Silver Stars, 14 Bronze Stars, 12 Purple Hearts (two were refused), 14 VN
gallantry Crosses, 12 Navy Achievement Medals and SEAL unit awards, Presidential
"Eagle" Gallagher Navy Cross.
Robert Peterson and Karen's Ranch in Spicewood, TX . Sept 20-21,
2013 Central Texas SEALs cookout and shoot out Behind is the Party House. Swimming Pool, Hot
pool, Pizza Stone Oven and BBQ grills. There are also several
little sleep room fully furnished and bathrooms.
Archie Grayson, Tom Hawkins, The Admiral, Erasmo Riojas
'nam: UDT-12 "The Big Blow Job" on rt: Jan Janos sitting in the water. This OP is one of my most memorable events on my final tour of duty to Vietnam.
From: "jan janos" <janosRunner [at] AOL.com>
To: "Doc Rio" <docrio45 [at] gmail.com>
Sent: Sunday, January 10, 2010 8:24 PM
Subject: blow job Udt -12
Page Four -Scroll down about half way UDT-12 The Big BlowJob. the guy setting in the water is me.
Pictures were sent to me by LCDR (SEAL) Jake Rhinebolt
To:Mi Capitan Harvey;
please read the below emails from Frogman Rudy Davis. Tell me if you know that there was another B.J. up there near the Parrot's Beak Cambodia?
Thank you very much Mr. Harvey,
Your warrior brother, Erasmo "Doc" Riojas HMC USN Retired SEAL
----- Original Message -----
From: "W R Harvey PhD" frogmanseal [at] usa. net
To: "Erasmo Riojas" docrio45 [at] gmail.com;
Sent: Friday, June 18, 2010 5:25 PM Subject: Deep Channel II
Your letter arrived in yesterday's mail. We have been out-of-pocket and just heard your messages left on my digital system; I placed a call but the operator said the number was "out of service".
I do remember you and (GMG3) C.I. Dooms is the other man in the photos that you sent.
I was the Officer in Charge and Chicken McNair was my CPO for Operation Deep Channnel II (BIG BLOW JOB), the clearing and extending of 8.6 kilometers of canal near the "Parrot's Beak" in the Republic of Vietnam by the men of UDT-12 who did the job. I was also part of the (Deep Channel I) detachment that tested the demolitions, and I wrote the operations order and shepherded it and the project from start to finish.
Our first shot occurred 5 Jan 1970 and my UDT-12 men finished the "BIG BLOW JOB" with the final shot detonated on 13 February 1970. All the political and military big-wigs were present for the final ceremonial shot.
The longest linear length fired was 3800 feet, the largest blast consisted of
29,000 pounds of demolitions, and we blasted over 335,000 pounds of high explosives forming a continuous navigable waterway in virgin delta land.
My team from UDT-12 and I think this qualifies as the largest combat demolition job in Naval history.
CAPT W. R. Harvey (Retired)
Shalimar Way Denton, TX 76207-5686
frogmanseal [at] usa.net
From: Rudy Davis
To: Docrio45 [at] gmail.com; Don Marlerd Saturday, June 12, 2010 1:32 PM
Subject: Deep Channel I Vietnam
When I was with UDT-11, Det. Delta, I was involved in the area of the Giant Sling Shot, out of Fire-base Tui-Non(?) and Tra-Cu -north and west of Siagon. Two Giant Canals came together. The Mark VIII hose we used didn't work that well to clean the canals, so we laid 3 of then, 2 along each bank, with the one in the middle, a Mili-second delay fuse---work well. Also every 1/2 mile we would blow a giant swimming pool, as we called them, so the PBRs, when taking fire, could turn around and run the other way!
I have pics and slides of this if you want to see them. Rudy
My Platoon was here in Feb. and Mar. of 1970, and before they pulled us from this duty to go into the 12 mile push into Cambodia. This was wall to wall swamp work, with the Ruff Puffs (V.N.) Soldiers giving us cover. After that we moved to the Admiral's flag ship up at the Parrot's Beak area, to blow every NVA cash'e discovered in their underground Hospital and resupply stations, Also blew one of our downed surveilance planes.
My Platoon was Delta and Ltjg Dentise and 1st Class Gracio were my bosses. LT. Walt Harvery was also part of the (Deep Channel I) detachment that tested the demolitions. Jesse was in Class 58-- I was Class 53 Graduated- Nov.69--and I would have been there before him--perhaps they were later. Team 13 releaved us in Sep. of 1970---I came back Stateside and was assigned the next 2 Apollo Recoverys 14 and 15. Later our C.O. was Bell.
Team 13 was de-activated. Rudy Davis UDT-11
Remember the COBRA that was going to make a firing run on us? I got ahold of LT. Harvey on the PRC-25 I was carrying and told him to get ahold of the cobra on his other radio
(i think it was the AN/PRC -77 had ability to use airplane frequencies) and tell the guys we were not VC. I instructed the "kid" photographer when the COBRA came around to go down
to the bottom of the rice paddies water and dig himself into the mud. I was promised a copy of all the pictures and that movie which I never received. BTW: You got a medal for that OP,
a Navy Achievement Medal with combat V. Mr. Harvey also recommended me for it, but CDR O'Drain scratched my name from the list.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Walter R. Harvey
(USN, Captain SEAL ret). Walt graduated with Class 49 in March 1969
and served with UDT 12 prior to transferring to the Naval Reserve.
He will be laid to rest at the Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery
(http://www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/dallasftworth.asp) at 2:30pm April 17th.
There will be a police escort from the church to the Cemetery.
Walt is survived by his wife of 41 years, and the love of his life,
Rose Mary as well as their son Joshua, their daughter Gabrielle, her
husband Ryan and grandsons Bobby & Ryan.
UDT-21, ST-2, NSWDG
Published: October 1, 2013
Ga. man fatally shot in dispute with son
The Associated Press
CEDARTOWN, Ga. - Authorities in northwest Georgia have identified a
59-year-old man who died after a shootout with his son.
Polk County Police chief Kenny Dodd says Robert Donald May and his 33-year-old son got in a fight Monday night at the house they share in Cedartown, which is about 20 miles southwest of Rome.
Dodd told the Rome News Tribune (http://bit.ly/1fGvAgp ) investigators are unsure of what led to the fight, but both men fired at each other. Dodd says May's son was wounded in his arm and has been treated and released from a local hospital.
Officials say charges have not been filed against May' son and the shooting is under investigation.
Information from: Rome News-Tribune, http://www.romenews-tribune.com
Read more here: http://www.macon.com/2013/10/01/2696139/ga-man-fatally-shot-in-dispute.html#storylink=cpy
UPDATE: Father and stepson shot at each other in domestic dispute, father killed
by The Polkfishwrap
20 hours ago | 9335 views | 19 | |
CEDARTOWN - A domestic violence incident in Cedartown left one man dead and his stepson recovering from gunshot wounds.
Polk County police said Tuesday that Robert Donald May, 59, of 383 Parrish Road, Cedartown was killed in the overnight shooting.
Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd said the shooting was reported at 10:25 p.m. Monday at May's home. A preliminary investigation confirmed it was an altercation between a father and his stepson, and it is ruled as a domestic incident, he said.
"Both men fired a gun at each other," Dodd said.
The stepson is identified as Curtis Coon, 33, of the same address. He was shot in the arm and was treated for non-life threatening injuries at a local hospital. He has since been released, Dodd said.
May was airlifted to a hospital but died as a result of his injuries, the chief said.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is assisting in investigating the case.
Dodd said the cause of the fight remains unknown. No charges have been filed against Coon, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Read more: http://romenews-tribune.com/view/full_story/23724279/article-UPDATE--Father-and-stepson-shot-at-each-other-in-
UPDATE: Father and stepson shot at each other in domestic dispute, father killed
by The Polkfishwrap
20 hours ago | 9335 views | 19 | |
CEDARTOWN - A domestic violence incident in Cedartown left one man dead and his stepson recovering from gunshot wounds.
Polk County police said Tuesday that Robert Donald May, 59, of 383 Parrish Road, Cedartown was killed in the overnight shooting.
Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd said the shooting was reported at 10:25 p.m. Monday at May's home. A preliminary investigation confirmed it was an altercation between a father and his stepson, and it is ruled as a domestic incident, he said.
"Both men fired a gun at each other," Dodd said.
The stepson is identified as Curtis Coon, 33, of the same address. He was shot in the arm and was treated for non-life threatening injuries at a local hospital. He has since been released, Dodd said.
May was airlifted to a hospital but died as a result of his injuries, the chief said.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is assisting in investigating the case.
Dodd said the cause of the fight remains unknown. No charges have been filed against Coon, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Read more: http://romenews-tribune.com/view/full_story/23724279/article-UPDATE--Father-and-stepson-shot-at-each-other-in-
Date: Oct 2, 2013 6:54 AM Subject: FW: Don May To: "Shaun Chittick" <email@example.com>
Do you know Donald May? Is he legit - class number?
You may want to send this out.
From: William Brown [mailto:whbrowniii [at] yahoo DOT com] Sent: Tuesday, October 01, 2013 10:48 PM To: Subject: Don May
Manyard: About 2130 hrs. October 1st I received a phone call from Steven May of Georgia, he informed me that his brother Donald May was killed last night at 2300 hrs. at his home in north Georgia. His brother asked me to get the information out to all to all his Team mates. If you can help spread the word I know his family appreciate the effort.
I will pass on any additional information as I receive it.
Fraternally Bill Brown
Associated Press - updated Tuesday, October 1, 2013 - 9:40pm
CEDARTOWN - Authorities in northwest Georgia have identified a 59-year-old man who died after a shootout with his son.
Polk County Police chief Kenny Dodd says Robert Donald May and his 33-year-old son got in a fight Monday night at the house they share in Cedartown, which is about 20 miles southwest of Rome.
Dodd told the Rome News Tribune (http://bit.ly/1fGvAgp ) investigators are unsure of what led to the fight, but both men fired at each other. Dodd says May's son was wounded in his arm and has been treated and released from a local hospital.
Officials say charges have not been filed against May' son and the shooting is under investigation.
Information from: Rome News-Tribune, http://www.romenews-tribune.com
Robert Donald (Don) May, BUD/S 072, UDT-21, NSWDG, Atlanta SWAT.
He was my first Team Leader at DEVGRU in 1992.
Sorry to hear this, and I'll look around for any other details.
Adm. William McRaven March 1, 2011
Operations Command, headquartered at MacDill
Air Force Base. Admiral William McRaven,
current head of the Joint Special Operations
Command, has been nominated to replace Special
Operations Command leader Admiral Eric Olson,
according to Department of Defense spokesman
Marine Col. David Lapan.
Subj: INSTRUCTOR WADDELL
Date: Oct 20 2013
149 INSTRUCTOR WADDELL
to: maxtrack, A266OL, jfcph442003, david.janke Doc
My name is LT Tim Jones,
I was the officer who played the guitar at the Castaways in St. Thomas and was Subops officer for UDT 21 for 2 1/2 years. I served in the teams from mid 1964 to the end of 1967 and was in class 32 which is having its 50th reunion next year.
to: bates4700, me, health2llife, A266OL, bates.roger, bill, cflynn01, cjconklin, cpking629, David.Janke, deepdivebob, dickshea1, donaldleblanc28, edudt22, frogfather, hawes.jim, heloei, hershefrog, jpoindexter, maxtrack, maynardweyers, mevery, randolph.wise, RBStarke, rgbobnewton
From: A266OLTo: a266ol, larrywb, bill, bill, wmlbishop, franciscleary, mevery, frog21, david.janke
Subj: Passing of Instructor Bernie Waddell
I just got off the phone with Instructor Tom Blais - we talked for about a half an hour - far too short!! We talked about the passing of Instructor Bernie Waddell and openly about the untimely passing of Rock Blais. Tom's telephone number is: 1-757-460-(call me for his tele no.) if you might want to give him a call. I'm sure he would love to hear from you! Just give him a call!!
by John Carl Roat (SEAL)
First here's who they are not.
They are not of one height or weight.
They are not of one religion or race.
They are not of one political party,
nor economic class.
They are never politically correct.
Most important, they are not quitters.
They will go to the EDGE and beyond, alone or as a group.
When knocked down, they get back up and keep getting back up,until they win.
When they have nothing left, they find more and share it.
They stand ready to do the Bad Business of War.
They are my Teammates.
Yesterday's Frogmen, today's SEALs.
Class-29. UDT-21, UDT-11, SEAL Team 1
RAYMOND A. FAULS, JR.
LEROY C. GEIGER
CLARENCE T. RISHER III
JOSEPH H. CAMP
GEORGE E. LEASURE, JR.
This book is dedicated to:
Frank and Mary Roat, they traveled through life with grace, in love with GOD, and one another.
FORWARD and BACKWARD
To quote Rush Limbaugh, "War is about killing people and breaking things." I have done it, war is not a lot of fun, and intellectually there is little to defend the practice. Notice I did not say nothing, I said "little," and it is a damn BIG little.
It is this simple, if they are willing to kill people and break things, and you are not, they win. One ugly fact about human nature is: If someone will not fight for what is theirs, they lose it. This book is about some of the men who choose to be ready to fight. Next to my wife and children, I am more proud of becoming a member of this group of men, then anything else I've done in my life.
Around fourth grade I saw a movie, it was "The Frogmen" with Richard Widmark. When I walked out of that theater, my life's ambition was firmly fixed in every cell of my body. You could have offered me GOD'S job, the presidency, anything, I would have turned it down. I was going to be a United States Navy Frogman.
This book is about the test to become a Frogman, the men I took it with, and the men who gave it to us. We were tested by the BEST, and I thank them. Our instructors had all taken the test, they knew the pain, and what all the craziness was about. In a way, this test was just about finding those who would not take the easy way out. When your back is to the wall, it is easy to fight. The only real question is, what do you do when there is an easy way out?
Remember these are the people that stand ready to do the bad business of war. Before you label them as sadistic, antiquated, warmongers, think about what you have to lose. Now ask yourself this simple question, "When someone wants to break my things and kill me, who do I want watching my back?"
Training is the TEST!
CLASS-29 by John Carl Roat
Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base was home to U.D.T.-21, U.D.T.-22 and the East Coast U.D.T. Replacement Training Unit. I was nineteen and standing at the threshold of my life's ambition, being a United States Navy Frogman. I knew the only dangers to me not making it through training were injury or being thrown out. Quitting was not an option, I had never allowed myself to think if things got too bad that I would quit. The only options I considered were, completing training, my body would get broken, or they would throw me out.
Everything I have written is how I see it now, after years of hindsight. In those days, I didn't think many things out, I just did. When training started I didn't think at all, I saw, I reacted, and now believe those that made it through the six months did the same. They wanted men out the backside of this training that DID NOT QUIT, but that wasn't enough. You had to be willing to give any little energy you had managed to hoard to your classmates. Those two things came from your core, under stress you didn't have time to think them out. They were there, or they were not. Our instructors whole purpose was to keep that stress applied, day after day, week after week, month after month.
My hope is to describe training accurately. The rest of my life, I have judged myself and others, by the standard of those months, and the strength of the men involved. Know that I cherish every second of training, it is with me for life. Each man that suffered the six months of U.D.T. R.T-29 are part of my heart and I love them.
I'm going to take the instructors two and a half page synopsis of our class and use it as a header for what I have to say about each phase of training.
"CLASS XXIX CONVENED 2 JANUARY AND IS TO GRADUATE 28 JUNE. THE CLASS COMMENCED WITH 134 STUDENTS, OF THIS TOTAL 16 WERE U.S. NAVAL OFFICERS, 5 WERE FOREIGN OFFICERS REPRESENTING GREECE, BELGIUM, NORWAY, PAKISTAN AND THE NETHERLANDS. THERE WERE 109 U.S. NAVY ENLISTED AND 4 NETHERLANDS ENLISTED MEN. THE FIRST PHASE OF TRAINING CONSISTED OF TWO WEEKS OF PHYSICAL PRECONDITIONING. UPON COMPLETION OF THE PHASE 18 OFFICERS AND 76 ENLISTED MEN REMAINED TO BEGIN ACTUAL U.D.T. TRAINING."
In truth, it was physical preconditioning, their objective was to put your body in the condition of PAIN. I had thought I knew a lot about training, most classes started with thirty or less. How the hell did this class get so big? Our first formation was a joke, no one knew which end was up. We had been issued used green fatigues that didn't fit and surveyed boondockers, worn out work boots. When we fell in, there was no military bearing and Instructor Waddell just loved it.
He welcomed us with, "Hit the Deck, start Pushing Virginia Away." We had no idea what he was talking about. Waddell quickly informed us what he was talking about. A position we would spend a good part of the next six months in. You start by kicking both feet out behind you, your arms are thrown straight out in front of your chest. If you land properly, you have Hit the Deck. You are now in a lovely position called the Lean and Rest. Your body is parallel to the ground, no sag, you are held up by your extended arms and the tips of your toes, that's the Hit the Deck part. Instructor Waddell gave us our first educational opportunity. Hit the Deck on your feet, over and over, until we could do it as a group. When he had us worked into a good sweat, he put us at the Lean and Rest walked through the ranks telling us what low life scum we were.
Waddell was particularly good at degrading officers, with respect. Whatever he'd said to them he added a respectful SIR. When he determined that we had learned the Lean and Rest he gave us a class in Push Virginia Away. Push Virginia Away meant, lower yourself until your chest was no more then one fist height from the ground, then raise yourself to the starting position, repeat until ordered to stop or you couldn't do it anymore.
Let me describe Chief Engine man Bernie Waddell. A big man six foot two or three, large head, shoulders, and arms. The scariest thing about Waddell was his eyes, you knew he could see through steel, they said, "I will hurt you." Bernie was a rich brown color. A colored man of power, in the south of the 60's. He handled all that race bull shit the first formation, just with power of his presents. Instructor Waddell let every one of us know, we were inferior beings. He had talked very rudely about the possibility of any of us making it through training. He made us believe he was the mountain between us and the Teams, and he would make us suffer, to cross over. Instructor Waddell would more then live up to that first impression! I will quote a trainee from another class, Captain Larry Bailey, "Waddell was the instructor's instructor and those of us who toiled under him learned to summon up physical and mental reserves previously untapped."
We ran everywhere, an undisciplined snake dance of spastics. Guys running over each other, stepping on your heels, always in each others way. The instructors kept everyone off base. I think they were watching the officers to see who would step forward and organize this mess. The first officer that stood out of the background for me was Lieutenant Junior Grade Richard (Rick) Shea. He should have been a disk jockey was the first thing that came to my mind. He talked like he was on the radio, I called him Swing and Sway with Rick Shea. Mr. Shea was five foot seven or eight, he was tightly packed, laid back energy. The only thing Swing and Sway wanted to organize was a party. He would turn out to be one of the three guys that kept me laughing throughout training.
Most of us enlisted men enjoyed seeing the officers get dumped on, it was usually officers doing the dumping on us. Instructor Waddell and Ensign David Janke, seemed to form an instant bond, Waddell loved to say his name Mr. Janke. He would drag out the mister part, something like, Missster Janke. They would have long one-sided conversations, while Ensign Janke Pushed Virginia Away. David is one of those guys you have to like and Waddell did. He liked to give him pushups, squat-jumps, eight count body builders and the dreaded Duck Walk. I suspect I'm not the only guy that enjoyed Janke and Waddell's conversations, after all, if he was fucking with Janke he wasn't fucking with me.
The third officer that came into focus for me was Ensign James M. Hawes, my first thought was, he looks like a college professor, he ought to have a pipe in his mouth. Hawes became a big part of the reason I made it through training, he passed energy to me with his voice. I was in his boat crew throughout training. There is no more important thing in training then your boat crew. If you don't learn to work as a team, carry your share of the boat, the rest of the crew will make sure you're gone. Hawes was not an open person, I don't mean he was sneaky, but like a good poker player, he didn't let you see on his face what was on his mind. He would blend in, almost disappear, then when needed, BAM, he was right there doing whatever needed to be done. Ensign James Hawes was an officer in the best sense of the word, he always took care of his men, even when he knew damn well the instructors would make him pay. Hawes could look broken down, decrepit, dilapidated, extremely dingy, and still project strength with his voice. I had never done well in a group, unless I have had a good leader. In Hawes I had one, tough, demanding, always willing to put his ass where he would put yours.
The first guy I got tight with was Jack Lynch. He had a quick, funny mind and mouth. God bless him, he could make the whole class laugh at our pain. Jack and I started harassing each other from day one, kept it up right through training, and on into the teams. I think Jack needed to be mad every once in awhile, I mean deep down pissed off, and I have always been able to piss him off. What are friends for? If not to help you through life.
They started getting us in the condition of pain and introducing us to all their tools from day one. The sand, running in sand. They loved to get us wet, roll us in the sand, then run us up and down, over and over, the BIGGEST SAND DUNE around. The damn thing even had a name, Mt. Suribachi. We were at times required to carry sand up the damn thing and deposit it at the summit. After all, we didn't want it to get smaller, did we? Strange, I had spent a good part of my youth with sand in my shoes and every other uncomfortable place you can think of, but that damn mountain of sand was the worse thing they could do to me. Our first time on Suribachi was gut wrenching, but worse was the one hundred and thirty-four guys who were falling all over each other. Sand kicked down your throat while you gasped for breath. Trainees stepping on each others feet and hands. If I remember right, that's where the first guy quit.
The obstacle course was another of the instructors' tools of pain, as was just getting there. They never took the shortest route anywhere. You might run past the obstacle course a couple times before you actually arrived. It must have been the third or fourth day of training. I was trying to improve my time on the course, when I scared the shit out of myself, and came very close to wiping myself out of training. One of the obstacles was the cargo net, it was stretched between two large trees. The top of the net was about fifty feet and suspended from a taut cable. You went up one side, over the top, and down the other, simple. I had seen one of the faster guys kind of roll over the top. It looked much faster then getting one leg over, then the other. I went up the net. When my chest was level with the cable, I reached across the top, put my chest hard against the cable, pulled and twisted at the same time. As I went over the top, I lost my grip, oh well. The only thing that saved me was my leg getting caught in the net, about halfway down. I wasn't hurt, but that net had put the fear of God in me. If I would have fallen all the way to the pit at the bottom, I knew training would have been over.
Worse was to come, back at the obstacle course that afternoon. I went through the obstacles before the cargo net, no problem, I had a plan. It is amazing how dumb fear can make you. My plan was simple, I would climb the net close to one of the tree trunks. Go to the top, but never cross it, just come back down the same side. My stinking thinking had been, there were so many guys, they would never notice. It worked, I got off the net stepped around the tree, and finished the rest of the obstacles. Home free, not quite.
Instructor Tom Blais had me assume the Lean and Rest and began telling me a long story. At least my arms felt like it was long when he was done. It seemed that he had observed my fall early in the day, and had a personal interest in helping me overcome my fear of the top of that net. A little introduction to Damage Control Chief Petty Officer Tom Blais; He looked like he should be a Viking. Tom would have fit right in, a pointed helmet with horns on his big head. Furs hanging down off wide shoulders, over his thick chest, one of those big double edged swords in his hands. He always spoke calmly, like he was speaking to errant, well-loved children. Tom Blais was a religious man, the only instructor that didn't have a list of profanity to describe our short comings. He always made the pain he was inflicting sound like the only reasonable course of action. I found out later why my fall, half way down the net, had gained so much of Instructor Blais's attention. About a year before he had fallen off the net, top, to the pit at the bottom. He had gotten up and finished the course. Then spent a couple of weeks in the hospital.
All I knew at the time was I had put myself in deep shit, my arms ached trying to hold my body ridged and Blais was somehow going to make me pay. The rest of the Class-29 had left for the chow hall. I think being alone, at the obstacle course, with Instructor Blais, scared me more then the top of that fucking net. He gave me a special class, on going over the top of the net, again and again, time after time. I learned the lesson, DO NOT CHEAT, pain is one of God's teaching tools, Instructor Tom Blais had used it effectively.
Tom Mc Cutchan, Lynch found him right away. Jack was always trying to find out what was going on. Now we had a guy who had been here before. Mc Cutchan had finished everything but the last two weeks of training. He had broken his leg while getting off a truck, with just two weeks to go. The thought that they had made him start all over, was not pleasant. We had just started training, but I was dead sure I didn't want to do one damn day over.
Mc Cutchan was a good guy, but all through training he would say things like, "You think this is bad you should see what is coming next?" It drove me nuts, all I wanted to think about was getting past right now. The funny thing was, if Mc Cutchan didn't tell me what was next, I would ask. It was like having a harassment factor for the future. As if we didn't have enough to worry about right now, let's worry about something we can't do anything about. Mc Cutchan loved it, in some perverse way, I'm sure it helped Tom get through training for the second time. Not many guys have done that. Most couldn't even get there, let alone do it twice. I do remember thinking, if he can do it twice, I can do it once.
There were still one hundred and thirty some guys when they broke us up in boat crews and gave us our boats. The boats were I.B.L.'s, Inflatable Boats Large. Next to the instructors, they were responsible for more people quitting, then any other single factor. One thing you have to understand; these boats were more for carrying then riding in. Each crew carried their boat on their heads, and until your crew got their ducks in a row, everyone suffered. There was no chance of learning how to work as a team, boat crew, until we got rid of the guys that didn't belong in training. They were just an added harassment factor. Sounds cold, but that's life. We, and our boats, must have been funny to anyone not trying to carry them with some semblance of order. To put it mildly, we were totally fouled up and the instructors loved it.
They had jammed ten guys under each boat, too many, not enough room to move. They made damn sure there were a lot of different heights under each boat. Some boats had guys ranging from six foot five to five foot five, making it difficult for everyone to carry their share of the boat. This was just another of the divide and conquer techniques our instructors were so good at. There were thirteen boats to start with and we were required to move them as one. We did not accomplish this until after HELL WEEK, when there were seventeen officers and forty-five enlisted left. Until then, we suffered more punishment for not handling our boats in the appropriate manor then anything else.
Keep in mind you could leave anytime you wanted. Our instructors liked to remind us that we could just take off our red helmets and they would see we had a HOT shower, dry clothes, and a set of orders to some, nice WARM comfortable duty station.
One ploy Instructor Cook liked to use was start some form of mild torture, say pushup in the winter surf of Chesapeake Bay. When we were good and cold he would tell us we could stop as soon as someone quits. Believe me, if someone I thought was going to quit, was near me, I would encourage them, using solid logic like; If your going to quit do it now, if you quit later I'll kick your ass! It was strange, but people rarely quit while we were in the middle of something. It was between evolutions, while they thought about what was coming next, that most guys quit.
Food, we were allowed to eat as much as we could, there was no restriction on volume, just on time. For the first two weeks of training we had thirty minutes from the time we fell out, to get through the chow line, eat and be in formation standing by our boats, ready to pick'em up and move out. The time would be cut to fifteen minutes at the start of HELL WEEK. Large amounts of food were stuffed down our throats, "without the benefit of mastication." One of our officers, possibly Janke, had said, "Food, without the benefit of mastication, is a crime against nature." I'm sure most of us didn't know what the word mastication meant, but just the ring of the phrase caused a bunch of us to bust up laughing. Which, of course, caused all of us to Push Virginia Away, until the person who instigated the crime of laughter confessed to his guilt.
Our instructors had many ways to punish, one of the worst was a form of mental/physical torture called the Gig Squad. The infraction could be anything, laughing, not laughing, running too slow, running to fast. After the instructor inflicted whatever on the spot punishment they chose, you would be informed that you would attend Gig Squad that evening. They were held during free time, after chow and before any night evolution we might have. You got to think about it all day, what were they going to do to me at Gig Squad? The damn things lasted about an hour, and consisted of the usual physical tortures: Squat Jumps, Pushups, Duck Walk, etc. Just a little something extra from your beloved instructor to you. I was among a select few that made every Gig Squad held and my good buddy Jack Lynch was right there with me. On occasion, for some unknown reason, a Gig Squad would not be held, you felt like you had just received a gift from God.
Ronald T. Flockton, a.k.a. Shorty, was a third class petty officer with four years in the Navy when Class-29 started. Shorty was like a touchstone for me throughout training. His face always showed what I felt. I would look around for Shorty, check out the look on his face and feel better. Odd when you think about it, what it took to get through each day, one way or another you gave a lift and you were given a lift. If you didn't give, you didn't get. By the middle of the second week you knew who was going to make it. I knew they would have to break Shorty's body to get him out of there, I wondered if it showed on my face like it did Shorty's.
Harry Humphries, he looked just like his name, big head, shoulders and chest with big extra long arms. Coal black hair all over, he'd shaved right up under his eyes. Picture an intellectual caveman, he's the guy you'd pick to guard your children if you couldn't be there and bad things were going to happen. The talk was that Harry came from wealth and was on the family shit list for being kicked out of one of the Ivy League Colleges, then joining the Navy as an enlisted man. There was always a lot of talk about Harry, I'll tell you the bull shit story the guys passed around, just to give you a sense of how we felt about him. Then I'll tell you the real story, with Harry all you had to do was ask, and you got the truth.
There was a long family history with the college Harry was attending, his grandfather had donated one of the buildings to the school and many members of his family were graduates. It seems Harry had been having a good time chasing the ladies and consuming large quantities of assorted booze. He was hanging off the cliff of dismissal by his finger tips. They had already disallowed his participation in sports, he was down to one more thing and your out. At this point our boy Harry, always ready for a challenge, removed one hand from the edge of the cliff and flipped them the finger.
The BIG GAME, football with the number one rival always got everyone up, since Harry wasn't allowed to play, he and some of his fraternity brothers thought up a way to make his presence felt. He would wear an animal skin draped over this large hairy body, at half time Harry was to jump out of his teams' stands, run across the field swinging a big club over this head and generally make rude gestures and sounds in front of the oppositions' stands. Two circumstances escalated their plan well past anything that might have been acceptable: One, it was cold, Harry was sitting in the stands, wrapped in a blanket consuming firewater with his bro.'s. Two, Harry never wore underwear. When the time came, he threw off the blanket and vaulted over the handrail, someone grabbed the animal skin while Harry was still in mid air. Oops, when he hit the ground, Harry was a naked man with a club in his hand. Knowing he was a goner, our boy went out in style, instead of covering himself and getting out of there, he extended his run. Harry took a slow jog around the stadium swinging his club and waving to the crowd. Good story, now the truth, another good story.
Harry had not been kicked out of college, he was a member of a Naval Reserve Unit that had been called up over the Berlin Wall Crises. The reason he wasn't playing, in the game in question, had nothing to do with being in trouble, he was a Freshman, and Freshman football was over. It was the big game, with the main rival and Harry was wrapped in an animal skin, drinking with his bro.'s. There had been no plan, and he didn't have a club, but he sure caused a huge brew-haha at halftime.
The opposing team had a guy dressed as a Bobcat, their mascot. This guy was really getting into the half-time ceremonies, and for some reason, that even Harry didn't understand, that damn Bobcat was pissing him off. The mascot was wearing one of those big phony football helmets and Harry decided he was going to take it. He ran across the field, tackled the mascot, right in front of the oppositions' stands, jerked the helmet of the Bobcats head and held it up, for all the world to see, a captured trophy.
There were a few moments of stunned silence for Harry to bask in the glory of his deed, then he was running for his life, all those college boys wanted their mascots' helmet back. Harry said it seemed like the whole damn stands moved as one, it was haul ass time and Harry did. With the mascots helmet in hand he made his escape, the opposition fans down on the field in hot pursuit. Well, both the stories, the B.S. one and the truth, capture our man Humphries, and thanks to the Berlin Wall Crisis, we had Harry and the Ivy League didn't. He was the one guy you could have taken out of the equation of Class-29, and everyone would have missed him, even the instructors.
On Monday of week two, we were told to have our heads shaved no later then Friday. The instructors let us know that for the paltry sum of twenty-five cents they would cut our hair, or we could pay the fifty cents at the base barber shop. Hell, I didn't care, I'd had a butch hair cut most of my life. Well, we had foreign classmates, four officers, Major H. A. Qureshi from Pakistan, Lieutenant E. G. Magnussen from Norway, Ensign A. W. Doumouras from Greece, Lieutenant A. E. R. Tiel from the Netherlands and four enlisted Dutch Marines De Beer, Pauli, Ravensburg and Hack. The Dutch Marines and their Officer Lt. Tiel, went haywire, the air was full of "hac veer duma's," some Dutch curse, they were threatening to leave. It was all about hair cuts, not pain and suffering. These guys carried their share of the boat, they didn't speak English, but a grunt, when your straining, is still a grunt in any language. It took two days to get it straight, at one time our Dutch men were packing their bags. The Counsel of the Netherlands intervened to calm them down and get them to submit to hair cuts. It seemed that in the Netherlands, only criminals had their heads shaved. There was a couple other things I didn't understand tell many years later: The big one, four out of five of our Dutch men were already Royal Dutch Marine Frogmen. Only Private Robertus J. Hack had not been through the Dutch Marine Frogman program, the rest of these guys were already, what we were trying to become. They were in a foreign country, spoke little of the language, and to put it mildly, thought we must all be nuts. Last but not least, world over, there is a mild strain between Marines and Sailors, and our Dutch men were taking all this shit from sailors. Well like the rest of us they would learn what all the craziness was about. One damn thing about Training, somehow they made sure that everyone had some individual little nick nack cross to bare.
Jack had a bright idea. He bought a set of clippers, and went into competition with Instructor Spiegel, cutting hair. Lynch figured any idiot could shave a head, no problem! I of course, was dumb enough to be his first and only client. With about half my head shaved, Jack's entrepreneurial activity, came to a screeching halt. We both received some on the spot instruction, to help us think more clearly, Push Virginia Away. Jack received extra instruction for his monumental stupidity, in the dreaded INSTRUCTORS' HUT. The last place on earth any trainee wanted to find himself.
I believe this is when Jack became a permanent member of Gig Squad. Our instructors had a whole list of reasons why his one stool barber shop was illegal. The two most prominent being: (1) He was not a licensed barber. (2) His enterprise was stealing food from Instructor Spiegel's family. Another small businessman bites the dust.
One of our foreign officers was from Greece, Ensign Doumouras, the man was a bull among bulls, one arm pushups, one arm chin-ups, and squat jump all day long. The first time he really got my attention was on the obstacle course, there was an obstacle called the Skyscraper. It was four stories high, with no normal way up. You had to jump up grab the edge of the floor above and pull yourself up, floor after floor. When you got to the top, down the other side. Ensign Doumouras, I always called him Dukie, went up and down that thing fast, but one day he just decided to stop at the top floor and get a good look around. He was just standing up there, taking in the view. Two instructors, Blais and Newell, were hollering up at him trying to get him moving. Now Dukie, like most of our foreign classmates, pretended not to understand English when dealing with the instructors. Instructor Newell is hollering for him to get down, Dukie looks down at them with a, "what are you trying to tell me?" look on his face. Instructor Blais points up at Dukie, points down at the ground then does a couple squat jumps. Dukie gets a big smile on his face and starts Squat Jumping around on top of the Skyscraper, Newell lost it and started swearing, Blais was just shaking his head, Dukie going up and down like a spring, turning this way and that, getting a good look around.
By the end of the second week there was something happening that took me years to figure out, it was a network of guys that would complete training. It worked like this, say I fell or got knocked down going up Mt. Suribachi, if Lynch was close, he would help me up. I may have given Shorty a little push over the top if he was bogged down in the sand. Shorty and Harry might each take an arm and give Pauli a little support, if he was hurting on a bad run. By the end of the second week, the guys that didn't give didn't get, not even a nice word.
There had been no talk about it that I know of. In most cases you still didn't know all the guys' names, but each guy that was putting out knew a couple more that were, and each of them knew a couple more. It made a net and anyone that wasn't part of the net, fell through, I don't care how strong they were.
Injuries, everyone had at least small ones, for some guys they ended their training. The guy that had the longest lasting injury I know about was Joe Camp, a Third Class Petty Officer with a little time in the Navy. I'm not sure when I found out what Joe was going through, I think it was around the third month, but I saw the signs the second week. The ass of his pants were stained darker. Joe had a bad case of bleeding hemorrhoids throughout training. A case of piles may not sound like much, but we did hundreds of sit-ups every day, not crunches real sit-ups. The all the way up, and all the down kind, where your ass rubs back and forth on the hard ground. Joe never bitched he just kept going. I know that during the last month or so, he wore Kotex between his ass cheeks so the instructors didn't see all the blood. Anybody that thinks Joe Camp wasn't a hell of a man can kiss my ass.
I just wanted HELL WEEK over, I figured most of the non-hackers would be gone and out of my way, plus things had to get easier. Right, on the non-hackers, wrong, on the easier. Other then our five Dutch Marines, we had started training knowing nothing about each other, except each of us had passed the test to get there. After Hell Week, we would know all we ever had to know about each other, and a good deal more about self.
Thinking back, the officers had a harder row to hoe, not physically but mind game wise. Their rank had always shielded them from the overt rudeness enlisted men heap on each other as the normal way of going about the day. Well, magnify the normal young guy verbal bullshit by ten, put a hard edge on it, that's what our Instructors passed out, regardless of rate or rank. Officers are not use to enlisted men verbally abusing them, anywhere else in the military, you could be written up and busted in rank, or go to the Brig. The officers pulled together quickly, they were the first strands formed in the net, of the sixteen U.S. Naval Officers to start preconditioning twelve were left. HELL WEEK would join all the strands in Class-29s nets.
Lieutenant Junior Grade Curt Gibby had two special problems: 1) He was the one of our three LTJGs, the highest ranking officers in our Training Class. Now, in the real Navy, being senior was a good deal, not so in our "Catch 22" world! All good was bad, all bad was bad, and it was the senior trainees fault! Mr. Gibby took life and his responsibilities seriously, but being one of the senior trainees, was a no win situation. 2) He had big feet, just a little bit bigger then the largest boondockers the Training Department had to offer. Mr. Gibby would have happily purchased civilian shoes that fit, but that wasn't allowed. I think he suffered every foot problem known to man, over the first four months of training. I know at one time he had lost nine out of ten toenails, and had an ugly red line running up his leg. SO, YOU WANT TO BE A FROGMAN?
"THE NEXT SIX WEEKS OF TRAINING COMMENCED WITH A MEMORABLE WEEK, HELL WEEK, THE ROUGHEST AND MOST DEMANDING WEEK OF TRAINING. THE STRAIN OF THE WEEK SHOWED AS ONLY 12 U.S. NAVAL OFFICERS, 5 FOREIGN OFFICERS, AND 45 ENLISTED MEN WERE LEFT AT ITS COMPLETION. TRAINING CONTINUED WITH EMPHASIS ON CONDITIONING, HAND-TO-HAND COMBAT, SMALL BOAT TRAINING, DISTANCE AND SURVIVAL SWIMMING, INTELLIGENCE COLLECTIONS AND DISSEMINATION TECHNIQUES, COMMUNICATION, INLAND PENETRATION RAIDS, BASIC ELECTRIC AND NON-ELECTRIC DEMOLITION, DAY AND NIGHT SWIMMING, LIFESAVING TECHNIQUES AND FIRST AID. AT THE END OF THIS PHASE THE CLASS NUMBERED 15 OFFICERS AND 37 ENLISTED MEN."
I love the instructors' synopsis, it makes training sound like a reasonable educational experience, it's not, it is a test, a stress test. They weren't looking to educate a group of young men, they were looking for guys that didn't take the easy way out. The instructors' job is to apply unreasonable amounts of STRESS, month after month.
1: pressure or strain that tends to distort a body.
2: relative prominence or importance given to one thing among others.
3: state of physical or mental tension or something inducing it.
Training was truly a stress test, but they were not teaching you how to handle stress, you and they were learning how much stress you could hack. In that sense, it was an EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE, you and the instructors learned what tools you had in your box.
The instructors were broken up into two teams so they could apply pressure twenty-four hours a day. HELL WEEK is not something a participant can remember clearly, they don't let you sleep. When we were allowed to lay down, a few short minutes later the Instructors ran in beating on trash cans lids with clubs, blowing on whistles and throwing M-80's, a Cherry-bomb size explosive. You are kept tired, wet and cold, you run everywhere, sand is in your shoes, crotch, crack of your ass, and ears. Your head is beat down into your shoulders from that damn boat that rides everywhere on the top of your heads. For me HELL WEEK is a fog, with a few clear snapshot like memories.
For the two days proceeding HELL WEEK, both the instructors and the weather had been a lot nicer, a little calm before the storm. We had two clear, no rain, sleet, or snow, sixty degree plus days. After the cold, wet, shit days we had from the start of training, a big relief. We had hope in our hearts that the weather would hold through HELL WEEK.
The first wake up of HELL WEEK is the only one that is clear in my mind. M-80's exploding, trash can lids being struck by clubs, whistles being blown. All the instructors and their alarm clocks, started HELL WEEK. As we scrambled out of our barracks, we were greeted by a promise our instructors had made, "SNOW FOR HELL WEEK." A blanket of the damn stuff covered everything. Welcome to HELL WEEK.
Paul T. Smith, known to one and all as P.T. If you had a daughter and she brought Paul home, you would be happy. If he was your trouble making son's friend, you would feel hope. P.T. is a nice guy in the best since of the word. I have a clear memory of P.T., Lynch and myself, at the end of the Obstacle course. We are trying to talk a guy out of quitting. He had nothing left, and what we had to give, didn't help him at all.
There was one form of torture during Hell Week that was on the funny side, at least to the guys whose ears were all that was being assaulted. For the officers it was not only their ears, but whatever dignity they had managed to hold on to that suffered. Each of our officer was required to sing their college fight song, solo for the group. Since none of us could sing, it was not a pleasant thing to hear. Of course if it was not loud enough, or they stumbled over a word, they paid the price for their obvious deficiency.
I remember being at the top of the Cargo Net and not having enough strength to go over the top, Bob Neidrauer passed me, reached back and helped me over. I don't think I even knew his name at the time, but the hand he gave me was like a shot of energy. Bob was a small tightly packed body of muscle, with the demeanor of a wolverine. Neidrauer could smile and make it look mean. During the first week of preconditioning Instructor Benny Sulinski, the big kawhona himself, had taken exception to the way Bob was looking at him. Neidrauer was doing chin-ups and the Chief wanted to know why Bob was giving him all those dirty looks. His denial of giving the Chief any dirty looks fell on death ears. Bob was given the same opportunity that I had had, the personal, and private attention of Instructor Tom Blasé.
While the rest of us went off to other mind expanding endeavors, Instructor Blasé and Neidrauer went over to the Log PT area, just the two of them. Bob got a private burn out PT session, over in the trees, just him and a guy that looked like he might loop of your head any minute. Chief Blasé told him, "We are going to keep at this tell you quit, so make it easy on yourself!" Bob told me later, when he couldn't do pushups anymore Instructor Blasé had him doing setups, when he couldn't do those right, he was told to Duck Walk, then squat jumps, then eight count body builders, on and on. Neidrauer told me later, Instructor Blais may have made him cry, but he couldn't make him quit. Instructor Blasé had said nothing, but Bob and I had the same feeling after our personal one on ones with the big Viking, he knew we would quit. That's the guy that reached back and gave me a hand at the top of the Cargo Net.
The Around the World Cruise, for me it was like a little break, we spent a good part of the early morning hours and day, away from our instructors. They gave us a starting point, a few check points, told us where to end up and turned us loose on the streams, swamps and backwaters of Chesapeake Bay. I think it was the first time in training we were given a task and left alone to do it. It wasn't like the instructors were smacking you around, I can't remember even being touched. These guys were MASTERS of mental harassment, their job was to keep us off balance, continually annoy, worry and impede.
The Around the World Cruise was the longest period of time in three weeks that those assholes weren't telling us what low life scum we were and offering us some easy way out. Most of that day it was just the boat crew with a task to accomplish. We were wet and cold most of that day but the sun shined and there was no rain, or snow. It was funny how a little break from the mental harassment gave me such a large physical boost. We spent the last half of the Cruise, with our starboard bow inflation tube torn, this allowed a lot of water in the boat which required continuous bailing. I. B. L.'s when fully inflated, were not hard to paddle, if you worked together, but with half the bow gone and no way to patch it, we couldn't go in a strait line. Plus with all the damn water in the boat, we paddled twice as hard to go half the distance. Hawes kept his usual cool and had us swapping positions, bailing or paddling so that no one got too worn out.
We all knew we would suffer at the end of the Cruise, for a couple reasons. (1) Our boat was damaged and that was more then enough reason to give us a little extra instruction in the art of Duck Walking, Squat Jumping or Pushing Virginia Away. (2) It paid to be a winner and the Around the World Cruise was a race. When you came in first, you didn't get anything, everyone else did. They got Duck Walk, squat jumps or Push Virginia Away. Hawes had done a good job with the map, two other boats crews had become lost, so even with our damaged boat we didn't come in last.
Shorty Flockton and Harry Humphries were in the same Boat Crew they had what you might call a bad luck, good luck, Around the World Cruise. I remember seeing their boat up in someone's yard that fronted one of the lakes we had to traverse. As we passed, I wondered what they were up to. Their problem was the same one we had, a punctured inflation tube. They had taken their rubber boat ashore, too see if there was anyway it could be repaired. Since we were not allowed to carry repair kits, this was a big problem. Somehow, without passing us on the water, they reached the Amphib. Base before we did.
The guy that owned the house they had stopped at, gave each of them something warm to drink, food, and dry socks. Then, when they couldn't repair the boat, he loaded them and their boat, in his truck, and drove them to within a mile of the Amphib. Base. Now if Shorty, Harry and the boys had been caught, the shit would have hit the fan. As it was, they got away with it, just one of those little gifts from God. Someone had to have a little extra good luck that day!
They called it Bivouac, that's just a fancy word for a camp, and it had nothing at all to do with what went on that night. Before Hell Week started, they had issued us a bunch of gear. A shelter half, two guys could put theirs together, and make a tent. Canteen, tent pegs and poles, collapsible shovel, etc., not what you would call normal sailor stuff. Sometime after dark, on the third night of Hell Week, we ran back to the training area, to pick up our "CAMPING GEAR." After a little normal harassment, we were told to fall out, collect our gear, and be back in formation with boats on our heads, in five minutes.
We went straight from the training area to Beach 7, and were told to set up camp for the night. The word was they were giving us the night off, Reveille would be at 0500 the next morning. Ya right, some of us were so tired that we believed our instructors. By that time in Training, you had to be real tired, to believe a damn thing they said.
After about twenty minutes, we had a half-assed Bivouac set up, and were crawling into our tents, when the shit hit the fan. Our instructors, came running into the camp, blowing their whistles, throwing Mark-80s, pulling over our tents, and screaming, "The enemy is coming, the enemy is coming, break camp, collect your gear and move out!" We looked like some rag tag army running before a superior force. Most of us had just grabbed our stuff, wrapped it in our shelter half, and started running with everything in our arms. Tent pegs were falling out, shelter halves were dragging in the sand, we were a mess. The instructors ran us through the same thing, over and over till 0500 the next morning.
Years later, P.T. Smith would tell me that our little overnight camping trip, was the only time that he had though about quitting. He said he had learned a valuable lesson that night and it had served him well for the rest of training. The lesson, "DO NOT COME TO THE ATTENTION OF THE INSTRUCTORS." Like me, P.T. had been tired enough to believe that our Instructors were going to let us sleep. As soon as he and Major Qureshi had their tent up, off came his boondockers. A few short minutes later, when our benevolent Instructors let us know that the enemy was coming, P.T. was a little slower then the rest of us, trying to get his boondockers back on.
That brought him to the attention of Instructor Fraley, and Mr. Nice Guy, Paul T. Smith, had damn near lost it. Fraley had started giving Paul the usual ration of shit, P.T. had given him a real mean look and started to give it back to Fraley. That was all Instructor Fraley had needed, he had gotten between P. T. and the rest of us and started nudging him away from the class. Fraley figured just a little more and he could make P.T. take a punch at him, or better yet quit. He kept telling Paul that over and over, "go ahead take a punch, or just give me your helmet, and quit."
P. T. told me, he knows what a lamb, that has been cut from the heard by a wolf feels like. He said he had started asking himself " Why am I taking all this crap anyway." The only way he could keep from loosing it, was too look straight ahead and not make eye contact with Fraley. Just take whatever was handed out, and get his young ass back with his classmates. Paul had made up his mind that night, to come to the attention of the Instructors as little as possible. About three weeks after HELL WEEK, P. T. found out his new strategy was working perfectly. When training had started there were three Smiths in the class. At muster on morning Instructor Hammond was surprised that there was a Smith still in the class, his comment, "I thought we got rid of all the Smiths during Hell Week!"
So Solly Day is the last day of HELL WEEK, you have been going at it four days and nights, when So Solly Day starts. It was a cold, rainy day, a good part of which was spent crawling around in the sand and mud, while explosives went off all around us. They had roped off safe areas so spectators could watch and take their damn pictures. There were a lot of controlled explosives going off, and they wanted no one hurt. If they had left it up to me, there would have been a few explosive in the spectator's area. All week there had been women standing around pointing at us and taking pictures. I couldn't understand why they wanted to watch us suffer, but I hated them.
I have just two clear memories of that day, the first is a snapshot I can pull up in my mind to look at, like some cherished old photograph. Joe Camp, Bob Neidrauer and Ted Risher are crawling out of some mud hole, they look like refugees from some terrible war. Their helmets are all askew, they have on bulky K-pock life jackets, the big cumbersome World War II type and are caked with mud and sand. All three of them have snot coming out of their noses. Ted has a stream coming out of one side of his nose, and a huge bubble out the other. They look pathetic and whipped, in truth that's exactly what we all were.
The only other thing I remember clearly that day is one of those tasks our Instructors' gave us that they did their level best to make sure no one accomplished. Down by the Beach on the land slide of the sand dunes was a large pit, about eighty feet long and forty feet wide, full of dirty water with ice on it. There were large wooden poles about ninety feet apart, one at each end, with platforms twelve feet off the ground. There were two one-inch cables six feet apart running across the pit between the poles. The objective was pretty straightforward, cross the pit standing on the bottom cable with your hands holding the top cable. There were three more moving parts that made this damn thing an INFERNAL machine, a pulley, a jeep and plenty of explosive charges. They called it THE DEATH TRAP.
When we arrived at the pit, our instructors' gathered us in a tight group. We were at the bottom of a small depression in the sand dune, by the edge of the pit. Our benevolent instructors passed out the dread C-rations for lunch. They tasted like shit, they are hard to open when your hands are frozen, the portions were too small to fill a five-year-old, but we were happy to have them.
We were all huddled together, swapping food, opening cans, trying to get a smoke, when charges that had been buried in the depression near the top were set off. The asshole instructors had gotten us again, blowing sand in any open food. We moved over the edge of the pit, down closer to the water, to get the bank of the pit between us, and any more explosives. The reason they call it So Solly Day is, as soon as we were settled, the no good rotten fuckers set off an underwater charge. Class-29, and our food, were covered with water, mud, and sand. Most of us ate the food and the crud in it anyway.
All of us smokers managed to get lit up, if you had an extra dry one and someone wanted it, you passed it on. Tommy Winter and some of our other smoking classmates' hands were so cold they could not strike a match. Jesse Hardy went around striking matches for the guys who couldn't, all they had to do was puff. God bless Humphries, he started telling stupid jokes, anything to get our spirits up. Mr. Janke, who didn't smoke, even got one lit up. He sat there with it cupped in his hands, puffing on it like mad to keep the tip hot. It was heat for his frozen hands. I wish I could see a film of our class that day, we must have been a pitiful looking bunch!
After our fine dinning experience, lasting all of fifteen minutes, the task at hand was explained. It was called the DEATH TRAP. We were to cross the pit with no more then three people on the cables at one time, if we fell we had to come out of the pit at the far end. Instructor Waddell stressed our exit point in his own special way, "I will not repeat myself, If you fall of the cables, YOU WILL exit the pit from the far end only. I repeat, if you fall of the cables, YOU WILL exit the pit from the far side only." When Instructor Waddell used his, I will not repeat myself, repeat himself routine, it meant do not screw up or you would suffer more than you thought was possible.
What made successfully crossing the pit without falling of the cables damn near impossible, was the rigging. The top cable was fixed on the start end. Then went through a pulley on the exit side and was attached to a Jeep. This allowed our beloved instructors to rapidly make the top wire go slack, or tight as they chose. They just had to move the Jeep. I don't remember anyone making it across, I know I didn't. I was maybe twenty feet out on the cables with two guys ahead of me. A couple of explosive charges went off, they slacked the top cable quick, and all three of us were swimming for the far end.
As we crawled up the side of the pit, I looked back just in time to watch somebody, put out one hell of an effort to stay on. When they slacked the top cable, he wrapped both his arms and legs around it and held on. He waited till they tightened it again. Somehow he managed to get his feet back on the lower cable. The other guys that had been on the cable with him, were in the cold ass cruddy water, I had just crawled out of. He moved about ten more feet down the cables, this time they slacked the top cable quick, he was ready. Both arms and legs wrapped around that cable like he was making love to it, he was still there! When they tightened the top cable back up, he got his feet on the lower cable and started moving again.
Everyone near the Pit, the guys Duck Walking, Squat Jumping, whatever stage of higher learning you were involved in, started hollering. All of us wanted him to make it. Every time any of us overcame any obstacle the instructors placed in our way, we all became stronger. God Bless strong adversaries. He went through the same routine two more times and was most of the way across, before they got him. His damn K-pock life jacket, we all had to wear, caused his demise. The top cable became fouled in the bulky life jacket. While he was trying to clear it, and get his feet back on the bottom cable, he fell. He hit the bottom cable, and as he bounced off, he grabbed it with one hand. Our man did kind of a spastic half spin around the cable and hung there by one frozen hand. He still wouldn't quit, he kept trying to pull himself up and get his other hand on the cable. You could almost feel his hand, losing its grip. After all the fight to stay on the cable, his weight over came what was left of his grip, and down he went.
My only clear memory of So Solly Day is the Death Trap, we had been nonstop for most of five, twenty-four hour days. All of us that were left some how still functioned with an empty tank. That effort my classmate had put out on those damn cables, fixed the Death Trap in my mind forever. My unknown classmate became for me the poster boy of what it takes to get through training.
Ensign Gerald Yocum an out going straight arrow and general all around good guy, has only two clear memories of the whole damn week. Having to sing his college fight song, and what happened to him, and his helmet, at the Death Trap. The Red Helmets we wore, on a day to day basis, were really just helmet liners painted red. They are made out of plastic, light, and support the heavier metal helmet. The webbing that makes it all fit your head is inside the plastic liner. For So Solly Day we wore the metal helmet, with liner, to help protect our heads from the constant explosions that were going off all around us.
When Ensign Yocum fell from the cables, into the Death Trap he lost his helmet. Somewhere in the bottom of that scummy pond was his helmet and he couldn't find it. One of our instructors observed Ensign Yocums' plight, if they missed something, it was a damn miracle. With great compassion, he called Yocum from the pond and gave him another helmet. Of course there was a price to pay, but not of the usual sort. He is hard to believe, but the instructor was actually able to make a man that had no sleep for five days, was cold and wet, covered in mud, with sand in every crack and crevice, more uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, that it's the only clear memory he has of Hell Week.
Ensign Jerald Yocum wore a steel helmet with no liner for the rest of the day. He said, his head felt like a bee bee rolling around in a trashcan. Without the liner and webbing, the lip of the helmet had come down past his nose. He couldn't see a damn thing but the feet of the guy in front of him, as we crawled around the sand dunes. How nice, the instructor had made Jerald uncomfortable enough to have a memory for life.
I have no memory of how HELL WEEK ended, here's what I have been told. Sometime in the mid-afternoon, of So Solly Day, we formed up in ranks on the beach. The instructors were a little quieter than they had been, they got us marching down the beach toward the exit to Beach 7. It should have been obvious that it was over at that point, but we had been screwed so much by then, that none of us knew what to expect next. The distance from the beach to our barracks was about a mile and a half. By the time we marched off the beach and past the golf course, it began to sink in. When we got near that Navy Exchange, we were half way back to the barracks, and we all knew that Hell Week was ending. Someone tried calling out marching cadence. All of us had some superficial injuries, too many of us were limping we just couldn't keep in step.
When we got back to the barracks we were told to clean up and put on a fresh uniform. When we tore off our HELL WEEK rags, there was an incredible amount of sand, collecting on the floor. The sand was coming off of, and out of our bodies, there were buckets of it. We were told to fall in outside the barracks. With little fanfare and no harassment, we were marched (I repeat marched, not run) to the chow hall. Where we were able to sit and enjoy a steak dinner.
I woke up eighteen hours after it was over, knowing every guy that was left belonged there. I was still under the false impression that the rest of training would be a cakewalk.
Our instructors remained split, into two groups, after HELL WEEK. For the next three months and one week we would have both day and night evolutions. With whatever time happened to be left over, for a little sleep. They did teach us some things, but there were easier ways to do that. I believe they had found the guys with what they call "The Fire in Their Bellies," now they wanted to see if the bodies that housed that fire could stand up for the long run.
I was surprised by a few of the guys that were still standing after HELL WEEK. The biggest surprise for me, Major Hakeem A. Qureshi, he was from Pakistan, and old. Well, compared to the rest of us he was old, he had to be around 35. That was the main reason I thought he wouldn't get past HELL WEEK, he was as old as my dad. There were other things; he spoke little English, was in a foreign country, had no where to practice his religion, or keep the diet it required. Well by the end of HELL WEEK, he had proved his right to be there, and me wrong. One thing I learned years later, he could have gotten out of there without quitting. All he would have had to do, was let his government know that he was being trained with enlisted men. They would have snatched him out of there in a heartbeat. In Pakistan officers and enlisted men were never trained together. If an officer was belittled by an enlisted instructor, that instructor would be hung, and I do mean by the neck until dead. I guess old Hakeem, had that fire in the belly, big time.
I damn near got myself kicked out of training within a couple of days of completing Hell Week, all over Reese Cups candy. We were back at the training area patching our boats, we had just had our warning order, our night evolution would be our first night surf penetration. I had a couple minutes and wanted a candy bar, now there was a very nice crews' lounge, that was just for the instructors. It had nice soft chairs, a pool table, television and just inside the door a candy machine. There were only three reasons for a trainee to be in the lounge: you were paying twenty-five cents to one of the instructors to shave your head, you were in the Lean and Rest position receiving verbal instructions, or you wished to buy a candy bar from the instructors' machine. The money from the candy machine went into the fund for their lounge.
As I left, Leroy Geiger, commonly known as Gedunk Geiger, ask me to bring him back a Reese Cup. Leroy deserved his nickname, he loved candy more then any guy I have ever known. He looked like a young Mr. Magoo with no classes. That is if Magoo had ever been a well built young buck. Geiger had given me a bite of his Reese Cup one night during Hell Week. Years later his mother told me Leroy would share anything he had, except his candy. Anyway, the night he had given me the bite, the Reese Cup was flattened and had sand squashed into it. I couldn't believe how good it tasted.
Gedunk tossed me a nickel, and I took off at a run to get our candy. If you were walking, some instructor was going to put you in the Lean and Rest, the RULE was RUN. The lounge was warm so I stood there in front of the candy machine and enjoyed a few seconds of warm peace. My hand was in my pocket, fiddling with my two nickels and Gedunk Geiger's' one. It was nice feeling warm and seeing all that candy through the class.
I put the first nickel in and pulled the handle for Reese Cups, nothing happened, no candy fell. When the machine took my second nickel, and still didn't drop the Reese Cup, I could see through the glass, I wasn't even mad. My only thought was, shit, I'll have to give the one I get with the last nickel to Leroy, maybe he'll share? In went the last nickel, I gave the machine a few gentle shakes and carefully pulled the handle. I was bent over looking through the class right at the Reese, the candy never even moved. No thought, I grabbed the back of the machine and smashed my forearm into the class, it broke but not enough. Both hands behind the top of the machine, and slammed it over on its face. That made a loud noise, broken class and coins went all over the place. I lifted the machine back up, took two Reese Cups and left.
Strange but until that evening I never gave what I had done another thought. Gedunk and I ate our candy, worked on our boats, all seemed well with the world, right. We had the obstacle course, chow and the Gig Squad before our surf penetration that night. When our boats were ready, the guys in charge of making our life miserable had us leave our boats nicely lined up in front of the instructors' hut. While we ran off to the obstacle course. Now the instructors were not being nice guys by letting us not carry our boats. They just wanted to be able to mess up a couple boats with us not seeing. We learned the hard way to guard our equipment.
As we came running into the training area, from chow, we could see that all of our boats were half flat. They had either opened some valves or put some holes in our boats. Instructor Waddell was hot, he acted insulted. As soon a we had gotten to the Area he screamed "Hit the Deck." We were all in the Lean and Rest, the only word I can use is rant, Waddell was beside himself. MURDER, today someone in this class committed MURDER, and the whole class will suffer until that individual confesses. Had Waddell said the murder was done today? Of course Waddell repeated himself, he always did when he wanted us to know he took something seriously. He did say today, it couldn't have anything to do with us. Shit the whole damn class had been together all day, how in the hell could anybody have done a murder? After about five minutes at the Lean and Rest he started talking about what a mess the murderer had made in the instructors' lounge. A light came on in my head, shit he was talking about me. If I didn't confess quick, everyone was going to suffer for a long time. I confessed from the Lean and Rest. Instructor Waddell had me up, in the instructors' hut, and back in the Lean and Rest so quick my arms never quit aching. I was in Instructor Sulinski's office, he was a Chief Gunners Mate and the head Enlisted Instructor. For the next two hours they had me just this side of tears. I knew they were going to kick me out, my little loss of self control was about to cost me big time.
Chief Benny Sulinski, just being in his office was scary. I had never been in the instructors' hut, let alone the office of the guy charged with the responsibility, of supplying the Teams with the right people. Most of the guys I had seen go in the instructors' hut were gone. I was more afraid of Benny then I was of Waddell. Maybe because he so rarely spoke to us, he told the other torturers what to do. They all broke starch every day, but Sulinski was always sharp. Every crease in place, spit shined jump boots without a mar, polished brass, the epitome of Military Bearing.
Four the next two hours I had to do my confession over and over. They made me confess in front of Lt. Griswold and Ltjg. Tyrie the officers in charge of Training. They had me Duck Walking around the office, Pushing Virginia Away and Squat Jumping. For a break, they had me stand at attention in front of Chief Sulinski's desk. Instructor Blais came in while I was Duck Walking around Bennie's desk. He looked down at me, shook his head and said "to bad Roat, I was beginning to think you might make it to the Teams." I was fighting not to breakout in tears, when Tom Blais smiled and winked at me. I had a ray of hope, maybe they weren't going to shit-can me. It ended up I had to pay for repair of the machine, fifty some dollars, a lot of money in those days. I had to attend every Gig Squad held until the end of Training. One more infraction of any kind, and I would be gone.
Gedunk loved it, I was his hero. He even wrote his mom and told her all about me killing the machine, because it took our money, and wouldn't give me our Reese Cups. The funny thing, I learned a couple years later the instructors' knew all along who had done it. Instructors' Spiegel and Parrish had seen me leaving the lounge, and then discovered the crime. They just wanted to see how long I would let my classmates suffer.
Class-29 started our Hand to Hand Combat Classes, with much anticipation, and for the most part, no understanding of what we were going to learn. Classes were held in an old barracks that had padded columns, walls and floors. Believe me, all the padding was necessary. That first class, Instructor Waddell introduced us to a big Marine sergeant, he was a black belt in everything. The sergeant was 100% Marine, and at least as big and mean looking as Waddell.
The first lesson was learning to bounce well. It is called taking a beat, and if done well, it allows you to be slammed to the floor without being hurt. We spent about half the class that day slamming each other into the well padded floor. The second half of that class was, on a silent kill tool, called the Garrote. Basically, you slip up behind a guy and choke him to death. The Garrote can be made from wire, rope, a belt, anything flexible. Instructor Waddell had us sitting on the padded floor, while they told us how to construct and use Garrotes. Any questions?
I must have had a secret death wish that day, my hand shot up, and of course I was called on. " Can the guy being Garroted get a shout out, before he is dead?" Waddell said " well let's see", and motioned me to stand. Instantly I knew I had just Ka Kaed, me and my big mouth.
The big Marine stood behind me, with a soft cotton Gea Belt, about two inches wide. He told me to holler as soon as I felt the belt on my neck. They wanted to be fair so they let me try to get a holler out five times. Each time I ended up with the belt around my neck, my lower back over the Marine's hip, my feet about one foot off the floor, and never got a sound out. If he would have been serious, those five times I would have been dead, without a sound. I know Lynch loved seeing me hang off that Marines hip, but I sure felt stupid.
We ran, we ran every damn where, and every damn way. As a group, and as individuals, with boats on our heads, and without. We ran the obstacle course for time, had timed mile runs, we ran with each other, and against each other. We ran with those old worn-out boondockers on our feet. The fastest guy in our class, for the timed mile, was Ensign John P. Hunt, the officers called him Killer Hunt. I could never figure out how a guy got to be an officer, in the world's largest Nuclear Canoe Club, and still blush when someone swore. John was just too nice for words, he was a truly a naive young man, but there was not an ounce of malice or quit in Ensign John P. Hunt.
I did better on the long runs, closer to the front runners, but to this day I believe good runners are born that way. When I would watch guys like Ray Fauls or Trailor Lewis, they flowed, it looked like they should be running. I don't mean they didn't hurt. You don't run in wet muddy clothes, with broken down old boondockers full of sand on your feet, and not hurt. It's just that the guys, that are born to run, get better results from their pain.
Trailor Lewis was a long lanky six foot one or two country boy, from outside some little town in South Carolina. He was everything good that you could say about a southern country upbringing. He rarely swore, always polite, and in those days when bigotry was big, he showed not a trace of it. Trailor was on of our fastest distance runners, only Ray Fauls could beat him at anything over five miles. Maybe Troy Vaught, if he really busted his butt. Trailor was a pleasure to watch run, he appeared to just flow across the ground. It is funny, but how things look sure can fool you.
Trailor had been reading about Navy Frogmen since he was a small boy, becoming a Frogman was why he joined the Navy. When Trailor had passed his test, and had his Request Chit to attend UDT Training approved, he was stationed onboard the U.S.S. Spiegel Grove, a Landing Ship Dock (LSD). He later told me all his shipmates had laughed at the though of, Mister Nice Guy, becoming a member of an Underwater Demolition Team. It is nice to know I'm not the only guy whose shipmates were betting against him. He had been granted two weeks leave before reporting to the Training Unit. As if Training was not hard enough, Lewis would get something while home, to make it just a little tougher. Who says bad things don't happen to good people?
Trailor was running Ten miles every day while home; with just two days before he was to report for training, he badly sprained his ankle. Well he reported anyway, and just kept his pain to himself. During the second week of Preconditioning, Chief Sulinski saw Lewis limping, and sent him to have his ankle checked, by a doctor. Lewis was sweating big time; a doctor could jerk your ass out of Training.
In Trailors' mind he had gotten a break; the Doctor said he had a bad sprain, but would leave it to him if he wanted a medical drop. When he reported back to Sulinski, the Chief had told him he might as well quit now, and get it over " THE WHOLE WORLD HATES A GIMP". Trailor just told our BIG KAWHONA, "Chief Sulinski I want to continue!" The Chief told Trailor "You will be one of the first to quit"; but he let him rejoin the rest of the class
Watching Lewis on long runs you would think he had not a pain in his body, let alone a messed up ankle. Like his good buddy Joe Camp, with his hemorrhoids, he just kept going tell he was numb. I wonder how he would have done on the short runs, if his ankle hadn't been sprained? Hell if Joe hadn't had the piles he might have been the sit-up champ, and if Trailors' ankle hadn't been screwed, he might have beaten Ensign Hunt on the timed mile. Oh well, we all had our cross to bear!
There was one thing Lewis could do, that was truly amazing! When we had been introduced to the obstacle course, Instructor Newell had gone over the Dirty Name in three strides. Nothing but his feet had touched the obstacle. The first thought that had entered my head was "NO FUCKING WAY!" Trailor must have had a different thought, he is the only other person I know of who learned to do it.
Most of the obstacles were named to describe the obstacle, or some action required to get over it. The Weaver; you had to go over and under horizontal three inch pipes, about 18 inches apart, mounted up and down inclined plains. The slide for life; you pulled yourself down a rope, from a thirty foot platform to seven foot of the ground. The Wall, the Skyscraper, all of them had those type of descriptive names. Not so the Dirty Name, it had had some official sounding name in the distant past, but the instructors had heard so many foul words as trainees attempted to get over it; it became the Dirty Name. My own particular word was "SHIT".
No man that ever ran the Teams Obstacle Course will have any problem understanding how difficult leaping the Dirty Name is, lets see if I can make it clear for those who haven't had the privilege. The working parts of the Dirty Name are three 10 inch horizontal logs, and you. The object is to start on one side of the three logs and go over the top of each log, simple enough. The problem is how these logs are mounted, like some uneven stairs for a giant. All three 10 inch logs are about five feet long, they are mounted parallel to each other, at different highest of the ground, and about four feet apart. The first log you approach is only about a foot of the ground, the second is amounted five feet above that, and the last is nine feet above the ground.
Most of us hit the first log at a run, using it to launch us high enough to have the second log hit us in stomach, catch ourselves with our arms, over the top of the log and pull yourself to a standing position. You then launched yourself from that second log to the last, swung over the top, dropped to the ground and ran on to the next obstacle. What Instructor Newell and Lewis could do, was jump, from log to log; three giant leaping strides and they were dropping off the far log. The worst thing about watching either them do it, they made it look so damn easy.
Demolition, there is beauty to a well done explosion, just the right amount to get the job at hand accomplished. Our first class was on time fuse, prima-cord and caps. Time fuse, they tell you on the box it comes in, the burn rate. The instructors' taught us not to trust the box, time the damn stuff yourself every time you planned to use it. The first lesson was pure basics, the little things that would keep us from killing ourselves. You crimp a cap, you cut a fuse. Waddell was heavy into his "I will not repeat myself" and then repeat himself routine that day.
The caps we were using had a two-inch drop test. That meant you should be able to drop them from the grand height of two inches, and they wouldn't explode. Caps are a high order explosive with the sole purpose of initiating another larger quaintly of explosive. They were dangerous business, we were being taught how to use them, without being hurt.
We had our only fuck-up, with caps, throughout training. It happened that first demolition class. To cut time fuse or crimp a cap onto that fuse, you use a crimping tool. They look like a strange pair of pliers. There are special separate notches for cutting fuse and crimping caps. "I will not repeat myself, never cut a CAP, you crimp a CAP, you only cut time fuse. I repeat, never cut a CAP." Waddell went through his routine several times, it was repeatedly explained that you could cause a cap to explode in your hand if you cut it.
Well, we had a cap cut that day, a very costly mistake, the whole class was afforded the opportunity to learn from the mistake. A lot of pushups, a little Duck Walking for one and all. The perpetrator, of course, was given a wider educational opportunity. He was to attend all meetings of the Gig squad. He was given one hundred feet of time fuse, and told to cut it in one inch sections. Then he was to crimp each one inch section of time fuse exactly in the middle.
The perpetrator was to become as close to my heart as my brothers. At the time of the crime, I was just as pissed at Ted as the rest of the class. Ya, we got mad at each other. Especially when unnecessary educational experience was brought down on the whole class for some stupid individual action. Airman Clarence T. Risher III, was just as big a young goofball as I was. The first time I saw Randy Travis, the singer, I thought Ted had been reincarnated. One problem with that, like me, he couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.
We became buddies forever when one night after Gig Squad and before our night evolution, Ted was spending a few minutes of precious time cutting time fuse into one inch sections. There were no instructors around, so I got my crimpers, went over behind his bunk, and started cutting. From then on, as far as Ted was concerned, I could do no wrong. When all one thousands two hundred one inch pieces had been cut, we crimped each one in the middle. Ted was one happy camper when he carried the two buckets of cut and crimped time fuse over to the instructors' hut.
It had taken Ted every spare minute of five days, to get the job done, even with my help. The instructors' made sure we had very few spare minutes in a day. Risher was back in five minutes, a bucket in each hand, and a "I can't believe this is happening" look on his face. They had looked at his buckets full of one inch, cut and crimped pieces of fuse and told Ted, "Good work Risher, now cut them in half and crimp each one in the middle."
This time Lynch and P.T. Smith became part of Ted's cutting and crimping team. Other guys would drop by, and cut a few sections. Sort of a social function, an us against them thing. Lynch told Ted I should be band from cutting or crimping. He figured Ted's efforts had been rejected, do to my inferior talent's with the crimping tool. Plus, I had such a piss-poor attitude and shity personality, the instructors' could smell me on the fuse. Jack said they should at least wash the fuse, and hide the sections I had cut, on the bottom of the buckets. It's nice to be loved.
We were starting to get a lot of water time. Not the jump in pool or go to the beach and have a good time kind. The work your ass off, cold and miserable kind. We had begun with some races at the Amphib. Base Olympic size pool. They needed to know how strong a swimmer each guy was, we were to be paired up as swim buddies. The worse crime in all of training, was to leave your SWIM-BUDDY. You were to be within six feet of him whenever you were in the water. There was one exception and one only, the timed mile swim, that was a race.
We actually had one guy who couldn't swim, how in the hell Jessie James Hardy even got to Training is beyond me. The first time we were at the pool, Jessie couldn't even swim one length of it. What he could do, was hold his breath and crawl on the bottom for two lengths of the pool, dragging a bucket full of bricks. Hell that was one hundred and fifty feet.
I think Jessie James Hardy was loved as much as Harry Humphries. To this day, I have never met anyone that resembles our man Hardy, in any way. Jessie was a walking contradiction. He was a Second Class United States Navy Diver and couldn't swim. Jessie drank all the time. I saw him drink after-shave lotion, it had alcohol in it, and our boy was out of booze. Jessie was one of the oldest guys in our class. He had also been part way thought Training before. They had made Jessie wear a cow bell around his neck for some infraction or another. After two weeks of that thing, banging up and down on his hairy chest, Jessie was put in the hospital. He had a bad infection in his chest hair roots. His life's ambition was to retire from the Navy, and open a used car lot. It would have blue and gold pennants flapping in the breeze, with a huge banner that said, "JESSIE J. HARDY'S PREMIUM USED CARS."
Two things came of that first pool session that affected me: (1) Instructor Blais took me aside and informed me that if Jessie Hardy could not swim well enough to graduate, I wouldn't either. (2) The fastest swimmer in the class, Ensign Richard A. Hauff, became my swim buddy, I was number two. Dick Hauff had been a college All American swimmer, and no matter how hard I tried, he stayed number one and I stayed two. The deal with helping Jessie learn to swim, turned out to be no problem. Everybody helped him and old Jessie was nothing but heart and balls, he was holding his own in the water within a couple weeks.
Due to our instructors' overwhelming concern for our comfort, they gave us a wet and dry suit appreciation swim. We were first allowed to swim a quarter mile in the winter chilled water of Chesapeake Bay, with nothing but our swim trunks on. Next we swam the quarter mile with a wet suit on, then repeated the swim in a dry suit. By God, they were right, we sure did appreciate those suits after we froze our butts off for that first quarter mile. Our instructors loved to tell us "It's just mind over matter, we don't mind and you don't matter."
Another of their educational tools that was used with some frequency was a small area where we practiced Log Physical Training, commonly known as Log P.T.. There were telephone poles, barbed-wire stretched a few inches above the ground and four old boats. World War II type landing craft, setting on cradles all in a row. The deal was each boat crew, by now down to six or seven guys, got their own telephone pole. The easy part was the Log P.T., picking the telephone pole up and doing exercise as a group. The tough stuff was crawling around under the wire or getting in and out of the boats with that damn telephone pole. Log P. T. was saved for the days it rained, sleeted or snowed, our benevolent instructors figured we learned a lot more crawling around in the mud, under the barbed-wire.
The Log P. T. that sticks in my mind is the day that Richard Fradenburgh became a member of the permanent Gig Squad, in a most spectacular way. Fradenburgh was one of our strong silent types, you didn't hear a lot out of him, he was there doing what he had to do and not making a lot of noise about it. There were little patches of snow and big puddles of mud all around, a cold, gray crap day. We were all groveling around in the mud, moving ourselves and our telephone poles under the barbed wire. The Big Kawhona, Mr. Spit Shine himself, Chief Bennie Sulinski, was standing on a small mound of dry earth, observing our efforts.
Now keep in mind all you had to do was take off your red helmet and you could be out of all this silly shit in a heartbeat, no questions asked. We were not allowed outside without that damn red helmet firmly stuck on our heads, if you were seen without it, you paid dearly. Our man Fradenburgh would pay dearly for his red helmet being other then on his head that day, but what stuck the whole thing in my mind, was that Chief Bennie Sulinski had to pay first.
I had just crawled out the far side of the barbed wire as I looked back to the other side Fradenburgh was in a crouch working with the far end of his boat crew's telephone pole. His red helmet just fell off, Chief Sulinski standing on his little dry mound of dirt said "WE HAVE A QUITTER," and bent over to pick up the helmet. Fradenburgh never straightened up, he made a dive for his red helmet. Sulinski had it in his hand and was straightening up when the diving Fradenburgh crashed into him and knocked Chief Bennie Sulinski on his ass, in the mud. Fradenburgh grabbed his red helmet and stuffed it back on his head. Everyone stopped, Bennie our ultimate leader, spit shined boots, starched and pressed greens all covered in mud. Chief Blais looked down at Fradenburgh and said "YOU TOUCHED AN INSTRUCTOR! Get back to the training area now, standby outside the instructors' hut."
To most of the guys it had appeared like Fradenburgh had tackled Chief Sulinski, not so, he had gone after his red helmet, Sulinski had just been in the way. All that didn't matter now, they had sent Fradenburgh to the instructors' hut, any way you looked at it, very serious business.
We had been to the obstacle course, ate chow, had a lovely run and were getting ready for surf-penetration, still our classmate had not returned. Somehow a hole had appeared in our boat, while we were running up and down our beloved sand dunes. Since we were not allowed to carry patch kits and pumps with us, I was sent back to the training area, about a three-mile round trip run, to get what was needed. The rest of my boat crew would be Pushing Virginia Away, or some such educational activity, until I returned.
As I came running up the road to the training area, there was Fradenburgh, he was in the middle of the road acting like a crazy man. One of the extra boats was sitting catiewampus in the road, about a half a block from the instructors' hut. Our man was running around it pushing, pulling and lifting, slowly moving the boat down the road. I couldn't stop, they might see, so I just ran in place and ask Fradenburgh what was going on? He had to get the boat down to the beach so he could join the class. Shit the damn boat even had an anchor in it. I told him I'll be back and hauled ass to the hut, were I paid the usual price for the patches and a pump, some Squat Jumps.
I had it figured out, help Fradenburgh move the boat far enough down the road so the instructors couldn't see him, out of sight out of mind. Then, get my ass back to my boat crew. Of course it didn't work like that. As soon as I started helping Fradenburgh, one of the instructor's was on us like stink on shit. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Before I could come up with an answer, the instructor said, "You two get your asses back to beach and join your class, Roat you can join Fradenburgh tonight at Gig Squad." Hell that didn't cost me anything, I was already on the Gig Squad forever list.
There were only two nice things about being on the permanent Gig Squad. One, was when you were told you were such a screw up you needed to report to Gig Squad. At least twenty more times during Training I was told to show up that evening for extra instruction, it always made me feel like I had gotten away with something. Kind of like getting two death penalties, how in the hell do they kill you twice? Two, my best buddies, Jack Lynch and Ted Risher were right there with me enjoying the benefits of remedial education.
Thinking back, what amazes me most about Jack, Ted and me, is not all the times we helped each other, but all the extra HARASSMENT we dumped on each other. Small stuff mostly, hide something the other guy needed in a hurry, your red helmet, one boondocker, anything to put the other guy in a mild panic. A lot of smart mouth, Jack was always best at that, his damn mind is so quick. I loved to nail Lynch's bunk, like everywhere else in the military your bed needed to be made properly, if not you suffered the instructor's personnel attention. The first few times it was easy, just let Jack leave the barracks first, a quick tug on his blanket and Lynch would get a little extra time Pushing Virginia Away. Jack quickly snapped to what was going on, then nailing his bunk became a challenge worth my effort.
Deception was what it took and because Jack had a quick mind it had to be good. For instance, about ten minutes before we had to fall out for quarters, good old Gedunk Geiger set the hook. Jack was in the head just finishing brushing his teeth, Gedunk came in and said "hey Lynch where is Roat? They want him at the instructors' hut now." Jack bit, "let me tell him the bad news, maybe they'll give him a bunch of squat-jumps." He came to the far end of the barracks where we bunked. I could see him coming and worked hard to keep my face straight. Jack told me the bad news as he walked up, "Hey John, they want you over to the instructors' hut NOW." I gave the proper sounding groan, grabbed my helmet, hauled ass down the barracks, and out the doors by the head. As soon as I was out the doors, I turned back, dropped to the ground, and crawled back into the barracks. I went under the first set of bunks, inside the door. Everyone was hurrying and paying little attention, so it was fairly easy to crawl four or five bunks into the barracks, and hide there till everyone was gone. When the last guy was out the door, I was out from under the bunk and down to Jack's quick. A few subtle wrinkles in his blanket, just enough to make Jack look sloppy, and I was out of there quick. I had to pay a quick twenty-five pushups for being a couple seconds late, but getting Lynch made my day. Jack would get all red in the face, call me a few nasty words, then go about the business of getting me back.
Forrest Hedden became a fine example, of our "Catch 22" world. At the start of our second classroom session, on demolition, he was brought to the front of the class, and placed in the Lean and Rest position. His crime, Forrest had gotten the only perfect score, on our first written demolition test. The only thing I could figure, they were punishing him for making the rest of us look bad. Yes sir, it pays to be a winner. Our man Hedden stayed in the position for the whole class. I must say he was sagging well before the end of our classroom session.
Around this time Instructor Waddell came up with a question for us that has always stuck in my mind. It was a cold, drizzly evening and we were standing in formation outside the instructors' hut. You could see Waddell through a window, drinking coffee and watching us, he raised the window just enough to stick the end of a loudspeaker out the window and said
" THE SUN SHINES EVERY DAY IN PUERTO RICO, COCONUTS AND BANANAS ON ALL THE TREES, BIKINI CLAD WOMEN ON ALL THE BEACHES, WILL YOU MAKE IT TO PUERTO RICO?"
We had been kept cold and wet for over a month when Waddell planted this little seed in our minds, as far as I was concerned we couldn't get there soon enough, the grass is always greener, right?
Sneak and Peak, how to get from one place to another without being seen, this technique is used for Intelligence Collection and Inland Penetration Raids. Something every young guy, I know, was learning before he got his first cap gun. Hell, if you couldn't Sneak and Peak your mom would never let you do anything. We spent a lot of time perfecting our abilities to get a job done without being seen, both day and night. Since we were attempting to go from Polliwogs to full-fledged, United States Navy Frogmen, we spent a lot of time learning to sneak out of the sea. That gets us to Scout Swimmers and bubble-butt Jarvi, I'll explain Scout Swimmers first, then explain how Jarvi and I became so physically intimate.
Scout Swimmers are used when a group must penetrate a hostile area from the sea, in our case, using I.B.L.'s. One man would generally be assigned as a Scout Swimmer, from each boat. It was usually two boats going into anyone area, there would be several penetrations going on, spread out across a wide area of beach. You were required to navigate your boats to a specific insertion point off the beach. The two boats would wait outside the surf zone while their swimmers went in and scouted out the beach.
You were looking for enemy patrols, listening post, anything that might get you caught. A safe way across the beach and a good place to hide your boats had to be located. If an enemy found you crossing the beach or where you hid your boats the operation was compromised, in other words, your world had turned to SHIT. After signaling the boats to come in and guiding them across the beach to the hiding place, the Scout Swimmers generally did not participate in the main operation, Recon, demolition, ambush or whatever. They removed any signs of the beach crossing, completed hiding the boats, then guarded them till the rest of the guys returned.
Ronald E. Jarvi was a good sized young guy with a big round ass, hence bubble-butt. Ron was one of the best natured guys around, if you said "hey Jarvi where did you get that big ass?" Ron would pull back his shoulders, throw out his chest, get a dead serious look on his face and say "You don't drive a ten-penny nail with a tack hammer." Ron always figured the glass was more then half full and if it wasn't right now it would be soon. A good guy to be around when things were miserable.
Ron and I were assigned Scout Swimmer duties for an Inland Penetration Raid being planed as our night evaluation. During the warning order, we found out our boat crews would be working together and we would be wearing dry (ha, ha) suits for the operation. These dry suits were the old style, made of very thin natural rubber, you wore one layer, of not very good, long underwear under the rubber. Now they worked all right, IF they had no holes and you were swimming hard to generate body heat. Two problems: (1. We had to wear the suits for the whole six hours of the operation, and we only had a couple hundred yards to swim. (2. We inspected and repaired the suits several hours before the operation, then had to leave them, in the care of the enemy, our instructors.
That night, as we were pulling on our sausage skin like, easily torn, thin rubber suits, Ron said, "I know they didn't mess with our dry suits, while we weren't around. They would never do that, would they?" He had a big shit eating grin on his face that somehow made me feel better about what I was sure would come. All it took, in the old style dry suit, was a pin hole. We had done a quick re-inspection, while we donned our rubber, not that it would have mattered, we didn't have time to do any repairs. Our world was a twenty-four hour a day, "Catch-22," the instructors did their best to make us believe we were wrong, just for being there.
Thank God it was a short swim, Hawes had navigated our boat to our assigned off shore insertion point. As we slipped into the water, I felt small rivulets of cold water running down my chest and back. Ron let me know he was taking water as well, so we were in a hurry to get to the beach, what I didn't realize was how quickly Jarvi was turning into a water balloon.
We were in the water right up at the edge of the beach, laying very still, looking for any sign of our instructors. Bubble-butt said, 'look at my leg, let's get the fuck out of the water and get across the beach to those bushes. As Jarvi started to get up, I started to laugh, he appeared to have an advanced case of Elephantiasis. The rubber covering his left leg was stretched into a large jiggle water balloon, that hung down over his foot. There was so much water in the leg of his dry suit that he couldn't walk. Ron had to drag his leg, it made a nice little trench in the sand. I was running around trying not to make noise laughing, and clear our tracks crossing the sand. Especially the little ditch that followed my walking water balloon everywhere he went.
We got lucky and found a set of large of bushes with a hallowed out area underneath, I used my waterproof flashlight to signal the boats to come in. Ron was crawling around under the bushes, preparing a hiding spot, for the boats. I guided the guys to our hiding spot and took off back to the beach to finish clearing any tracks we may have left. When I got back the guys had departed on the mission, and Ron and I were freezing our collective asses off.
Every time I looked at Jarvi, I wanted to laugh, he looked so damn pathetic. We were both shivering and shaking, and Ron had that fat leg. About ten minutes after the boats were hidden, any pretense of guarding them went out the window. We found another small depression under a bush. Ron and I crawled in and pulled leaves, limbs and sand over us, anything to add a little insulation between us and the cold. The two of us were wrapped around each other tighter then any lover I ever had.
The instructors had to know where we were, we made so damn much noise shivering and laughing, I'm sure they left us alone so we could suffer. Every time I got quieted down, Ron would make some remark that would get me laughing again, "We have to quit meeting like this! Will you respect me in the morning? I'm not that kind of girl!", on and on, my gut hurt from all the laughter. My best line of the night was, I WANT MY MOTHER AND I WANT HER NOW, bubble-butt damn near choked laughing. For the rest of my life, whenever I have felt the need to whine, I have repeated that line. It 's good to have a ridiculous little whine to snap you back to reality. For Ron and me that night, it was just like the instructors' said, mind over matter. They didn't mind and we didn't matter. Thank God Ron kept us laughing that night.
As good natured, as Ron Bubble Butt Jarvi was, Lynch and I were able to find a little irritant to jerk his chain with. The military is big on polished brass and of course not having your brass belt buckle, highly polished, was worth a few pushups, squat jumps or such. It had started, innocently enough, we were standing talking with Jarvi by his bunk. Ron reached in his locker got out his can of Brasso, and a rag and started polishing his buckle. As we talked each of us used Ron Brasso and rag to make our brass shine. No big thing, it was as it should be, classmates sharing. Of course we started to take advantage of Ron's good nature. I was out of Brasso, and Jack was low, so we started using Ron's every time we needed to polish our buckles.
Now Jarvi was good natured but he wasn't stupid or a push over. Pretty soon he was making little comments; "Hey why don't you cheap bastards buy your own Brasso!" This just gave Jack and I a little incentive to see how long we could get away with using Ron's Brasso. After a week of this crap, Jarvi bowed up, and told us " Get your own fucking Brasso!" Jarvi had been standing by his locker, polishing his buckle when he told us this. For punctuation he had put the can of Brasso back in his immaculate locker. Now this is where Jack is so damn good, he started doing a little whining, I of course followed suit. When Ron finally relented, and got the can out of the locker, Jack administered the Coup De Grace. " To hell with it Jarvi, we'll use our own Brasso." With that we walked away, Ron calling us a few of the fouler names in his vocabulary.
We of course were required to do our laundry. Well the washing machines went down, which gave Lynch and myself a golden opportunity. Laundry still needed to be done so Jack and I volunteered, it had nothing to do with wanting to help out our classmates, it had to do with booze and broads. There are always women at a Laundromat, we knew how to get our hands on booze. All that was required was transportation and to overcome the small obstacle of not being allowed off the base. It was a rare Friday, we had no night evaluation, so after Gig Squad we were free to run our own little night evaluation. With the promise of getting his laundry done, Shorty Flockton loaned us his pickup truck. Jack just used that quick mind and mouth of his, and bullshited us right out the gate.
Virginia had stiff liquor laws, state run Package Liquor Stores with limited hours, no over the bar hard liquor sales, and we weren't old enough to drink anyway. No hill for a climber, because of the tough laws, Virginia was full of bootleggers who didn't care what time it was, or how old you were. Fifteen minutes after we were out the gate, we had enough booze to get good and wasted, so we did. Truthfully, it was the only one of our objectives that was fully accomplished, the women wanted nothing to do with two loud mouth drunks. So much for our fantasy of getting laid. The laundry fared only slightly better, some got done, some of it got partly done and some of it was not done at all.
In the middle of doing the laundry, a washing machine took our money, filled up with water, and refused to wash our clothes. True to my resent history, I nutted up on the machine, the damn thing ended up on its side with water all over the place. Jack saved our asses by getting us out of there before the cops showed up. I am not and never have been an easy person to control, no one other then Lynch was ever able to do it when I was drunk.
Somehow he managed not to lose anyone's clothes, some clean and dry, some clean and still wet and others wet and dirty. We were not popular with our classmates, as we had not separated the clothes, everyone who had given us any, received at least some soggy, dirty clothes back. In truth it was all my fault, but Jack received no credit for getting me, and everyone's laundry out of there, before the cops showed up. Not that he didn't protest loud and clear, it just did no good, as far as our classmates were concerned, we both crazy assholes. I tried to ease Jack's mind with the thought that no one would ever ask us to do their laundry again. Somehow the thought seemed to piss him off at me more then he already was. If I remember correctly, only P.T. Smith, Gedunk, Ted Risher and Shorty Flockton, who after all had received his truck back unscathed, saw any humor in our failure. As far as I was concerned Risher summed it up best, " Fuck'em if they can't take a joke ". Some how Jack always suffered for being my friend, he was funny, I was just a little over the edge.
By this time we had become the best TEAM I have ever been a part of. It still amazes me how quickly, young guys with such big egos, were forged into a problem solving machine. We were all stand alone type people, definite individuals that had become strands in a strong net, a Team. If you look in the a dictionary, under team, it will tell you something like, 1: two or more beasts of burden harnessed together for the propose of work, 2: a set of workers, or players competing. We were all of the above and much more, keep the word beast in mind. After all we were trying to become the best at killing people and breaking things, we were not sweetness and light. There were big guys, little guys, brash, quite, all kinds of guys, but no wimps. Every guy there could take what came and fight back.
Our boat crew holds a special place in my heart, besides Ensign James Hawes, Joe Camp and myself, there was George E. Leasure, Kenneth T. Winter, Ralph Diebold and Troy E. Vaught. As diverse a group of Frogman trainees as you will ever find. George was never called George, he was known as "Eddie", "Fast Eddie", "The Chink" or "Skill". He was from Philadelphia and looked part Chinese, hence, The Chink. Skill came from the high degree of manual dexterity he demonstrated in anything that required hand eye coordination. Most of the time he was just called Eddie but when you were asking someone where he was, or speaking to him about women or Short Table Pool, both of which he was very good with, it was Fast Eddie. That's a lot of nicknames for one guy named George, but Eddie was just that kind of guy, calm, cool and collected. Humphries and Eddie were tight, and like Harry, he was a leader without rank or rate, and to top it all off, Fast Eddie was just a fun guy.
Winter and Diebold, Diebold and Winter, I can never think of one without the other, they were both big strong, serious country boys, who didn't do a lot of talking. If you touched Ralph Diebold anywhere, from the top of his head to under his little toe, it was like touching forged steel. Ralph looked like a block of granite stuck on two telephone poles for legs. He had been raised on a small farm in Missouri, and had done nothing in his life but work hard. Ralph once told me that as a child he had one pair of shoes every two years and those were for school, when he could go. He had joined the Navy to see what was going on in the world he heard about when he could go to school. In the Navy, he could have as many pair of shoes as he wanted. I liked Ralph a lot, but was constantly messing with him, just to see what would piss him off. It took me awhile to find two little buttons I could push that got Ralph mad now, mess with his food or call him fat.
Now the call him fat thing was funny, this guy's skin was stretched tight over BIG HARD muscle, you would hurt your hand if you were dumb enough to hit him anywhere. If I said, "hey fatty", Ralph got a kill look in his eyes and would lunge for me. The first time I said it he damn near got his big hands on me. Ralph could go forever, but he was not fast, it took awhile for those telephone pole size legs to move that granite like body. All I had to do was dance away from him for a few seconds and he would stop, give me a long look, and say in a calm, serious voice, " Roat, one of these days!" Ralph could easily have retaliated for my petty harassment's. I mean we were, up close and personal all day, and a good part of the night. It was apparent to me, he wanted to nail me in the act, like a puppy shitting on the floor, and rub my noise in it.
"One of these days", came at the chow hall, Ralph stabbed me with a fork, while I was in the process of stealing his pie. I had made a habit, every once in a while, of messing with his food. This action more then anything pierced Ralph's stoic demeanor. All I had to do when I called him fatty was maintain a little distance, for a short time and it was over. With his food I had bigger problems. We were in the chow hall for short periods of time, jammed closely together, intent on stuffing food down our gullets. I used the same path to the well one to many times. Get Ralph's attention directed back over his shoulder. Reach across the table and snatch his pie plate over my side of the table edge. I would set it on the bench by my leg. Well, it worked that way the first time I did it, he hadn't even noticed his pie was gone till I was up and away from the table. This time as soon as my hand reached his pie plate, Ralph spun back toward me and stuck his fork in the top of my hand between my thumb and forefinger. It made his day, Ralph had the biggest GOT YOU grin on his face I had ever seen. "NOW DON'T FUCK WITH MY FOOD !"
Kenneth T. Winter, the other half of our boat crews' dynamic duo, strong and steady, with a real good built in bullshit detector. No one called him Kenneth, most of the guys called him Tom, I don't know why, but he has always been Tommy to me. Tommy has those same cold eyes Instructor Waddell has, if you can see his eyes there's no doubt what he feels, even before he speaks. He was not big on excuses, if you did it, you knew what your doing, if you didn't know, your stupid and that's worse. Suffer the consequence and shut up.
Tommy was a quite type guy ,but compared to his side kick Ralph, he was a chatter box. What I mean is, Tommy might even initiate a conversation. In his blunt style, one day Tommy asked me why I made so much noise, my answer? "Because I like to", Tommy just said, "That's what I thought", I asked, "why are you so quiet" , he gave me a long look, smiled that big rare smile of his, and said, "that's how I am." If I had to pick one word to describe him, it would be forthright, I would hope when I die I deserve the word FORTHRIGHT in my obituary. God Bless you Tommy.
Our crew was topped off with last but not least, Troy E. Vaught, a hard young stud from somewhere way down in south Texas. Troy had a soft southern drawl that women just loved, coupled with an easy manner that let him fit in where ever he chose. When I think about him, it's with a smile on his face and that easy manor, no matter what bullshit they were dumping on our heads. Troy was a lot like Fast Eddie in that he had a natural grace, a knowing where all his extremities fit in time and space.
I don't believe we would have ended up with our boat crew if anyone of us would have done the picking at the start of Training. I do know that I wouldn't have replaced one guy, as far as I'm concerned it was as close to the perfect boat crew as ever went through Training! It had nothing to do with who you liked the best, it had to do with melding HARD young guys, most of whom had a strong streak of, GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY, I'M GOING TO GET THIS DONE!!!, into a TEAM. The best Teams are never made up of people with little egos, they are forged in strife, from huge egos. Every guy in the class had a big ego, some of the biggest were in our boat crew, mine included.
Our officers were in the odd position of having their authority under cut, buy the instructors and just the facts of training itself. There was not the normal strictly enforced separation between them and us they did what the enlisted did; bust ass, they ate what we ate, large quantities of crap food. All the power and privileges, granted to them by the Congress of the United States, in their commissions as officers and gentleman, was just so much bullshit. If they wanted the easy life of a Naval Officer, they could remove their red helmets and return to the real world of the United States Navy.
I had little respect for most officers when I started Training, in my mind chiefs and Warrant Officers ran things. Commissioned officers were just collage boys filling space and trying to look important. Class-29's officers, as individuals, and as a group were men first and officers second. They carried their weight and maintained a little officer like bearing in the face of having their leadership abilities demeaned at every turn.
There is no were else in the Navy that officers are belittled in front of enlisted men, respect is maintained at all cost. You are taught from the first day at boot camp, you do not have to respect the man, but you had better respect his commission, as an officer and a gentleman. If you don't, you will end up with your ass in the brig. In those days brigs were a not very nice jail, generally run by United States Marines. The expressed purpose of a brig, was to make enlisted men SUFFER the consequences of their actions. Bad mouthing an officer was enough to get your ass locked up.
I must admit that at the start of Training I loved it when one of the officers was dumped on. That changed sometime during Hell Week, they were no longer "THE" officers, they had become "OUR" officers. We respected them as men, fuck their commission! They were an odd mix of officers, like us, they ran the gamut of the male condition. Some big, some small, some quite, some loud, some believers in one All Powerful God and some that could care less. We had one thing in common, we would take anything the instructors' passed out, to be Frogmen. It wasn't officers and enlisted men in Training, it was us against the instructors.
Ensign Thomas L. Gaston, the biggest guy in our training Class, he was bigger than Ralph Diebold and at least as strong, with the personality traits of P. T. Smith, a nice guy. He was nicked named Bimbo, after a famous circus elephant. Several officers swore they had seen him tip over a Volkswagen Beetle, by himself. I believe it, I have a clear memory of Bimbo with his big shoulders under the bow of his boat, arms stretching across the bottom, his big hands grasping the rubber handles. There's no one else under the boat, it hangs down his back, with the stern dragging in the sand. Bimbo's, tree like legs, are driving into the sand propelling him and the boat toward the finish line. It was one of the myriad races they used to pit boat crews against each other. I don't remember what had happened to the rest of his crew, but he was still going, determined to cross the finish line with their boat.
When I say big, I mean weight, mass, a large object, that requires a lot energy to move it. The big guys worked harder to do anything, they had to expend extra energy just to move their mass. All you had to do was watch the class when they put us through the obstacle course, had us on the chin up-bars, or on a timed mile run. The big guys never came in first, it was the one hundred and forty to a hundred and fifty pounders that were first through the obstacle course, did the most chin-ups, or came in first on the timed runs. Where the big guys paid off for the rest of us, was under our boats, many times they carried more then their share. As much as I hurt throughout Training I was thankful not to be a big guy.
Every guy in our class, big or little, fast or slow, officer or enlisted had HEART-GUTS-BIG BRASS BALLS. Whatever it is you care to call what gets someone though the hard times. Training didn't make you that way. Each guy had brought it with him, the courage to do the hard stuff when their is an easy way out.
There was one thing that made all of us, but one, whine. BEING WET AND COLD! We had one guy, Raymond K. Woodsworth, who had been raised in the woods of Main, he thought the damn weather was just fine. We of course, called him Woody, he spoke in that special rhythmical way they have in that part of the country. I liked to hear him talk, which he didn't do much of, most of the time he just seemed to be amused. When we got to Camp Pickett, Woody would save our collective trainee asses from freezing to death, and the instructors from the consequences of allowing it to happen!
Instructor Spiegel became known as "Cool Breeze" by Class-29. When he ran with us, he made it look effortless. No matter how fast he ran, he appeared to be taking it easy. Chief Henry Spiegel was one of those guys that made everything look effortless. Spiegel always made it seem like he was sorry, we were forcing him to put us through all this unreasonable shit. One day we were 20 seconds late getting to Beach 7 for some demolition practical work, that Instructor Spiegel was leading. Our punishment was to do sets of 20 push ups, followed by 20 squat thrusts. Old Cool Breeze had us keep that up for 20 minutes. He just leaned on a boat paddle, and watched us wasting 20 minutes, to make up for losing 20 seconds of training time. But that's the way Henry was, unemotional, unflappable and unforgiving. The nick name Cool Breeze, fit the man to a tee!
Somewhere after HELL WEEK, and before Camp Pickett, the Black Shoe Navy struck. It seemed that Little Creek Amphibious Base was about to change Commanding Officers and somebody figured out that our officers were eating with us, at the Enlisted Chow Hall, true enough. The problem was, it is uncommon in the military for officers and enlisted men eat together, accept in the middle of combat then no one gives a shit. The fleet types though it was up to them to put an end to the demeaning practice, after all we weren't at war, where we?
Breakfast, lunch and dinner, our Officers had to get themselves back to our barracks and get in Dress Blues, so they could eat in the Officers Dinning Hall. They then had to reverse the process, back to the barracks, get in their dirty greens, and meet us. If you ever get the chance to eat in a Wardroom or Officers Mess, keep in mind, most of them are tight assed. They are big on how you are dressed, how you hold your damn fork, and seeing how slowly you can eat.
It ticked off two groups involved in training: Number one, the officers; it was a big pain in the ass for them. When they ate with us there was none of this get cleaned up and act like gentlemen crap. We ate as much damn food as we could, as fast as we could! Number two, the Instructors; it was interfering with their training program. They were trying to see if we could be team members. The false barriers, of normal military life, had been gone from Class-29 for well over a month! More important buy this time we were Classmates, it was us against them, no matter who in the hell THEM were!
The truth is, on paper the Black Shoe Navy was in charge of the Training Unit, but they had just pissed off a bunch of Frogmen Chiefs. The Officers of the Black Shoe Navy got their way for a week; then the Chiefs won. Once again our officers got to eat in the enlisted chow hall, stuff as much food in their gullet as they wanted, as fast as they wanted, in the comfort of their dirty ass greens!
The separation that is normally kept between enlisted and officers in all branches of the military, works well. It is possibility the only way you can have a successful military. The only place I know of it would never work, are the Teams.
One thing about running in cold weather, it helps you warm up. I never remember shivering on a long run! I do remember some runs that got us pretty hot under the collar. Our beloved instructors would tell us we had a certain distance to run, say five miles. Believe me every man in the class got to the point that they could tell just how far we had run at any given moment. Well, when you run past what they have told you, the only thing that came to my mind, was SHIT, how far? I know we did five mile runs, that were fifteen miles long. Little head games, with self inflicted pain, I mean we could just leave anytime we wanted!
Late one miserable, cold, rainy afternoon, our head instructor, put up a prize for the first man in, from a five mile run. The winner did not have to participate in the Surf Penetration, and Sneak and Peek, planned for that night. It pays to be a winner? All of us had fantasies, it is hard to believe how much just one night of being warm in your bed, while everyone else froze their butts off, would mean.
The winner that day was not one of the usual front runners. Troy Vaught was back there with me, in the middle of the pack. Chief Benny Sulinski would use both sides, of the double edged sword of being a winner, on our man Troy. He won, a guy from the middle of the pack, beat the fast guys. Our Big Kawhona was all smiles, he was happy to let Troy off for that night. Benny had flushed a fast runner out of the middle of the pack. Troy would never again be allowed to finish a long run, as other then a front runner. If he did he paid dearly. A good lesson, YOU PAY TO BE A WINNER!
Talk about Sneak and Peak, Joe Camp and I snuck right out of, a good part of, one of our worst night evolutions. It was just the usual stuff, send in scout swimmers, bring in the boats on signal, and go about gathering information without getting caught. Most nights were cold, many below freezing, this one was below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Joe Camp and I, spent the night at the officers' club, while the rest of our classmates froze. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it.
There was no plan, just one of those, luck-outs of opportunity. We figured the instructors would not be looking for us to run from the beach, directly to the sites we had to Recon. No Sneak and Peak there, we hit each spot quick, and started looking for a hideout. Someplace to get out of the cold for about three hours. We were out back of the officers' club, seeing if we could hide in one of the small out buildings, by the edge of the golf course. As Joe and I skulked around, two colored guys came out the back door of the officers' club, and entered one of the small buildings. Dare we ask, what if they turned us in?
Joe and I were not what you might call a pretty sight. We had on old greens, face camouflage, and ice. A thin sheet of the damn stuff, covered us from head to toe. You know when salt water freezes it is COLD. I knocked on the door and Joe was going to do the talking. As it turned out we didn't have to say a word. The guy that answered the door was the head steward for the officers' club. He had been around for awhile, knew who we were, and what we were up to. Before Joe could say anything, he opened the door wide, and said "Get your asses in here". Everyone on the base knew about training, and most of them were pulling for the trainee, not the instructors. We had a foul weather friend, thank God.
We were in the stewards' lounge, and the place had a big old wood burning stove, thank you, thank you. As Joe and I huddled by the stove they fixed us hot chocolate. We spent the next three hours, relaxing in the stewards' warm lounge, while our classmates froze there collective butts off. They even brought us food from the officers' club. I promise you, neither Joe nor I felt the least bit of guilt.
When leaving time came, we wet down the outside of our clothes with warm water. It would quickly freeze, and we would look just as bad as the rest of the Class-29. Before we reached the rendezvous point, we had a nice little sheet of tinkling ice, from our stocking cap to our boondocker. I think we all thought, that was the coldest we would ever be, little did we know! When the class was lit up by the lights of the instructors' truck, everyone sparkled, from head to toe, with little crystals of ice. We looked like some, not so pleasant, pieces of mobile ice sculpture.
Class-29 was close to moving to the fantasy that Instructor Waddell had instilled in all of us. " Puerto Rico, where the sun shines every day, coconuts and bananas on all the trees". We wanted the warm water, warm air, warm rain, hell, we wanted warm period. We only had a week and a half before we departed for Waddell's Wonder-Land, Roosevelt Roads Puerto Rico. The last week would be spent in the mountains of Virginia at a place called Camp Pickett.
We were to have some liberty before departing for Camp Pickett. Some of the guys were going to use the time to go up there, and rat-hole contraband; food, booze, candy, smokes anything we weren't to have for survival training. Almost everyone was involved in some type of clandestine operation against our instructors, and their plan to starve us for a week, in the name of survival. If caught, you of course would suffer, but by this time in Training we had become damn good covert operators. After all, that's what they were training us for, and they were the only adversaries we had to test our skills against.
We had the best source of intelligence possible, a trainee who had been their, Tom Mc Cutchan. We where all pumping him, looking for ways to overcome the instructors inevitable pre-departure shake down. There were a couple different cabals involved in going up there and stashing the contraband. One was headed up by two of the officers, Jim Hawes and Bimbo Gaston, the main food item in their stash was canned Dinty Moor Beef Stew, compared to c-rations or going with out food, a truly superlative meal. If I remember right Mc Cutchan was hooked up with a large cabal, loosely led by Harry Humphries. I'm sure Harry didn't think of himself as the leader, but the fact is, he's one of those rare people that the rest of us follow, whether he wants to lead or not. They managed to stash quite a large quantity of contraband within a couple miles of the survival training area. They had made contact with someone that lived in the woods just off the military reservation.
Ensign Janke managed to get the instructors to carry in two pints of booze for him, probably the slickest move made by any of us. He secured the bottles of Dramboue under a water buffalo (fresh water tank, on wheels). The instructors were transporting it up to Camp Pickett. He also managed to get a shit-load of TOOTSIE ROLLS in, a great nutritional supplement that any starving man might kill for.
There was one little incident, you might call it bathroom humor, just before we left for Camp Pickett. Instructor Cook ran the supply room, he was the master, of all the crap equipment we had to work with. When we were checking equipment out, guys would be lined up down the hall, through the instructors' head (bathroom), through the instructor lounge, and outside. Checking things out was never a fast operation, somebody was always being given extra instruction. Each instructor felt duty bound, to make sure we were late for what ever came next.
On this particular day, Joe Camp and P.T. Smith found themselves last, in a very slow moving line. As their end of the line, started passing through the instructors' head, they both felt the need to take a dump. Now, these were two of the smarter guys in the class, not this day. They must have suffered some form of temporary dumb ass. Anyway they had no sooner settled there asses on the instructors' toilet seats, when Instructor Clements walked past. Since the stalls had no doors, there they were, pants down around their ankles, just a glorious sight. As Clements passed, he calmly said; "Instructor Sulinski probably won't like that."
It is a good thing I didn't see it, I would have pissed my pants laughing, and been in more trouble them our inappropriate poopers. Clements had been through the door to the instructors' office, all of 30 seconds, when the Big Kawhona, in all his spit shined majesty, confronted the poopers. There stood the recruiting poster image, of our Senior Chief Petty Officer, ranting and raving about their lineage, and all they could do was sit there and let nature take its course.
All of us were ready, just one week in those damn mountains, and we would fly to the land of warm. As far as I was concerned not soon enough! Our worse two days in training were about to fall out of the sky, and believe me it wasn't part of the Training Plan.
"THE THIRD PHASE OF TRAINING WAS CONDUCTED AT CAMP PICKETT, VIRGINIA FOR ONE WEEK. THE WEATHER WAS ADVERSE AS SEVEN INCHES OF SNOW FELL DURING THE WEEK OF TRAINING, SETTING UP BIVOUAC AND TRAINING UNDER THESE CONDITIONS WAS MOST REALISTIC. AT CAMP PICKETT, THE TRAINEES WERE TAUGHT LAND NAVIGATIONAL TECHNIQUES, DAY AND NIGHT PATROLLING, SURVIVAL, ESCAPE AND EVASION, COMBAT FIRING METHODS, AND USE OF HAND GRENADES. THIS WEEK OF TRAINING WAS HIGHLIGHTED BY A TWENTY-SIX MILE PENETRATION AND DEMOLITION RAID AGAINST A BRIDGE, DURING WHICH MORE THEN THREE INCHES OF SNOW FELL."
Ya right, three inches of snow my ass, try three feet!!
The bus trip up to Camp Pickett took close to three hours, in our eight weeks of training it was the longest period of time we had to just sit and bull-shit with each other. For awhile I talked with Forrest Dearborn Hedden Jr., Forrest was the youngest guy in our class and judging the book by the cover did not belong were he was. He looked all of a young fifteen years old, while I on the other hand, appeared to be at least an old sixteen. Forrest was a Methodist minister's son, a believer who never swore. The first week of training I had heard him get on four or five guys for swearing, my thought at the time was, what in the hell is he doing here? That little asshole will never make it.! I couldn't have been more wrong, Forrest was rock hard, not an ounce of quit in him. I only heard Forest swear once in all the time I knew him, it happened over what transpired at Camp Pickett, I'll tell you about that later.
We got off the bus in front of a small country store, about five or six miles from the area we would train in. Camp Pickett was a large army reserve base, used mainly for tank training and battalion size movements. We were going to have a lovely little stroll in the country called a Forced-March, a short one, just a little welcome to the start of Phase Three of Training. I came around the back of the bus, just as two pint bottles of booze fell out of Jessie J. Hardy's pant leg, and broke on the road. Jessie just stood there looking down at his booze running across the asphalt. He had one big tear on his cheek and kept repeating," they broke", over and over. Hell, he was already drunk, he had sucked down a quart on the trip up. I will never forget how sad Jessie made the words, "they broke", sound, or the look of total loss on his face.
As we formed up for our little forced march. Instructor Waddell was standing in front of the small store. There were two doors, maybe four or five feet apart, the one on the left said WHITE, the one on the right said COLORED. I remember thinking at the time, if Instructor Waddell wanted to go through the white door, who the hell had enough ass to stop him? At the end of the week he would take us shopping at that little country store.
For the most part, Camp Pickett, was a welcome break. No boats on our heads, no obstacle course, no Gig Squads. None of the day to day shit we had been living with for the last two months. A lot of the guys had never done any camping, so having a tent and sleeping on the ground was a new thing. It was funny the way some of the guys set up their tents, you could tell they didn't have a clue. They put their tents in low spots where water would pool, or on flat ground, with no trench around it. The first rain those tents would be full of water. God bless the Boy Scouts, if I had learned nothing else, I knew how to live on the ground.
There was one huge draw back too being out of our barracks, NO HOT SHOWERS. Buy this time in Training being cold was no big thing, it was just part of life. What none of us had thought out, was how good those hot showers felt. We had a shower of sorts, a little waterfall in a stream that fed a small lake near our camp. It was February in the mountains of Virginia, and I guarantee the water in that stream was damn cold. Up until Camp Pickett, showering had been one of the few pleasures we had left.
If you could only see a video of the funny dances that were done under that waterfall, you would laugh yourself silly. Most of us tried to wash without getting under that damn waterfall. You kneeled by the stream naked and washed with a washrag and soap. You rinsed off by cupping water in your hand, and dumping it over the soaped area. Of course if one of our immaculate Instructors, thought your efforts in the direction of hygiene were lacking, you were ordered to get under the waterfall. Poor Ensign Johnson was ordered to shower one morning around O600, before the damn sun was even up. He had to get naked then brake the ice on the stream so he could walk to the waterfall. In truth, getting under the damn waterfall got it over with a lot quicker. That water was so cold, that even if you were a stud before your shower, you couldn't find after.
We had one other guy, besides Woody that knew how to live off the land, Carl Thomas Allen, everyone called him Tom. His dad was quite famous for being one of the early developers of Snakebite Serum, Ross Allen. Tom had grown up in and around the swamps of Florida; hunting, fishing, catching snakes, alligators, and any other wild creature that struck his fancy. He had even taken a trip up the Amazon with his dad, looking for rare snakes. He was a Third Class Engine man, and one of the few married guys that got through our Training class. Tom Allen was a big guy, who took care of business first, and had a real good sense of how the world fit him.
Most people had no idea how far over the edge he would go. I have seen Tom grab a seven or eight foot shark by the snout and dorsal fin, then shake the shit out of it. With Tom things like that were not unusual. I think Tom and Woody were the two guys in our class the happiest to be out in the wilderness. I do know that if they would of dropped either of them off, with nothing but a knife, neither would have any problem surviving on their own.
Our Instructors where staying across the valley from us, and believe me they were not living in tents. They had a big log cabin with a wood stove and electricity, and lots of food. Their cabin was a good quarter mile from us. Which gave the guys that had to do nighttime sneak and peaks to retrieve their rat-holed contraband, an easy task. We had not been so far from the instructors since our Around the World Cruise.
For most of the week, it was like a mini vacation, all of the usual devices of pain that our instructors used to make life miserable, were back at Little Creek. Not that they didn't pass around push-ups, squat-jumps and Ducking Walking, but the harassment took a back seat to acquiring new talents. You have to remember, boot camp for sailors is all about ships, and how to handle them, not the things you need to know for land warfare. A lot of the things we were being taught at Pickett would be second nature for any Soldier or Marine, right out of boot camp. Combat firing methods, how to use a hand grenade, land navigation and the like.
Throughout training we had eaten as much as we wanted, not a Pickett, our food intake was cut way back. The dreaded Combat Rations, better known as C-Rations, which we were allowed to supplement with any wild thing we might pick or kill. The picking went better then the killing, and the picking wasn't that good.
Our beloved instructors had a load of rabbits brought in, so we might learn to kill and skin a small animal. Now these rabbits were not wild, they were cute pet type rabbits. It was funny watching some of the guys holding their rabbit and stroking it like the family pet. Forrest Hedden said, "I can't kill this cute little rabbit!" and he didn't have to, Jessie J. Hardy made a nice little business of killing rabbits for a portion of the meat. Unlike Forrest, most of his customers didn't want the rest of us to know.
Jessie J. and Leo Duncan, were sharing a tent. Leo was one of those real handsome guys, on the Elvis level. He had surprised me already. When we started training, Duncan was in worse shape then a bunch of the guys that quit the first two weeks. By the end of HELL WEEK, Leo was one of the few guys that was physically stronger. Most of us had a lot less strength after HELL WEEK, then when training started. What Leo did have, was what they call "FIRE IN THE BELLY", and I like to think of as the "BURNING IN THE BRAIN". The need to be a United States Navy Frogman.
Leo and Jessie cooked up a little scheme to get the biggest rabbits. There plan was simple, they would volunteer to get the rabbits off the truck, and pass them out. There was just one problem, they both thought the other, had rat holed the fat rabbits. They ended up with the little bunnies. Oh well, "the best laid plans of mice and men".
Ron Lester and Eddie Leasure were tent buddies, and like all of us, were not happy with the decreased food availability. They hatched a scheme with Jesse and Leo that would increase their calorie intake. Basically they went on a begging mission. The four of them put their heads together and came up with a simple plan.
Since our instructors were not sitting on top of us twenty-four hours a day, they figured the early evening, and most of the night was theirs. Jesse and Ron would take off, as soon as it looked like our instructors were stuffing themselves with real food, in there log cabin. They would bring back anything, that was edible, and share it with their tent mates. Eddie and Leo would stay in camp, and take care of all four of their duties, clean weapons, stand watch, etc.
Their plan was fairly loose, sneak out of camp then haul ass till they found a bunch of houses where they could beg food. Well it worked, but they had to bust ass to make it so. Once they had done their Sneak and Peek out of camp they got on the roads, and hauled ass. The area surrounding Camp Pickett was boondocks, forest and hills, with little clumps of homes stuck here and there. Our guys didn't score till they had covered most of ten miles, but when they scored, they scored big. Sandwiches, Pepsi, one whole Strawberry Cake, and assorted other goodies.
Ron Jarvi and P. T. Smith were tent mates at Camp Pickett. One evening when we were allowed to have fires, everyone's' boondockers were frozen, so P. T., being his good guy self, tried to show Ron an old camping trick. The idea was to let the campfire burn down, then drive stakes cut from green wood, about 18 inches long, into the ground through the bed of coals. Push the coals away from the stake, put a boot, upside down, on each stake and hit the sack. In the morning, the boots would be thawed, dry and warm. It worked fine for both of P. T.s boots and one of Ron's. His other boot fell onto the coals and by morning there wasn't much left beyond some charred leather and a heel.
Admittedly our boondockers weren't much, the damn things were worn out when they were issued to us. When the ground is frozen and worn out old boondockers are all you have, YOU LOVE THEM. Ron Jarvi was one very unhappy camper. P. T. Smith's walk down to the instructors' hut that morning, to grovel and beg for some replacement boondockers for Ron, was a most unpleasant walk. He damn well knew our instructors would make him pay. So much for P. Ts, not coming to the attention of the Instructors. Worse then the Instructors, was the thought of living in that small pup tent, with a one booted Jarvi. It was odd, but all of us would rather face our instructors' wrath then that of our classmates. P. T. kept his hot camper tricks to himself after that.
The nights were cold, I mean damn cold. All my clothes, what I was wearing, and any extra, clean or dirty, went into my sleeping bag with me at night. Even my frozen muddy boondockers, were stuffed into the bottom of the bag. We didn't have cold weather gear, just the same crap surveyed gear we'd had from the start. We were limited as to the size and times we could have fires. This was a simulated combat situation and fires will give your position away. We all took turns standing guard duty, watching over our shipmates as they slept. A most important, cold and very lonely duty. When you're whipped, and have to get out of a warm sleeping bag at two in the morning, it is not an easy task to pay attention. What keeps popping into your mind is, I'm cold and tired. It's a very personal struggle to pretend your shipmates lives, may depend on your vigilance. It is a mind battle, to make yourself do it right. The night before the Kennedy Bridge raid, I had no problem staying awake. I thought there was a bear behind every tree.
JERKY, jerked beef, one of the truly savory foods on this earth. We were being taught how to jerk beef. It was to be used as our main food source, during our twenty-six mile forced march to blow up Kennedy Bridge. Our instructors bought an enormous supply of prime beef, top of the line meat. It amazed me what a small amount of jerky, came out of that huge pile of bloody meat, wood and effort. Not only does it take a lot of meat, but wood and time as well. The whole time it's smoking, the smell is driving you crazy. I had guard duty the night before our forced march, and part of my duties were to keep our smoking fire burning just right. Checking the fire was a pleasure, warm-warm-warm, but best, to this day I can remember the smell of that beef, as it smoked. The whole valley was permeated with that wonderful aroma.
There couldn't have been a bear with in ten miles, or the damn thing would have been in the middle of our camp. As far a I could tell, smoking that meat was just like, what is done by poachers to attract bears into a kill area. I had seen it done twice, put a slab of bacon and a can of honey over hot coals, and let the wind carry the smell. It had attracted a bear both times. I saw none that night, but every sound in the woods was like a shot of adrenaline. Me, or none of my shipmates were going to be eaten by a bear while I was on watch. I took that guard duty damn serious, no problem staying awake that night!!
The raid on Kennedy Bridge was to be run with as much realism as possible. No live ammunition, and simulated demolition, but the rest of the mission would be according to Hoyle. Our simulated demolition, were very real twenty-five pound bags of bricks. I think I would have rather used our imagination. We had a warning order, get ready in general. A couple hours later, a briefing where everyone was let in on the plan, and their part in it. If a briefing is done properly, everyone is given a chance to come up with any problems they might see with the plan. If adjustments are necessary, they are made at this time.
The objective was to reach the area of the bridge, in the early morning hours, when we would still have the cover of dark, Recon the bridge. Quietly take out any guards, properly place our over a thousand pound of simulated demolition,(BRICKS). Then pretend to blow the damn thing sky-high.
I love explosive, if you know what you are doing, amazing things can be made to happen with small amounts of explosive. For what we had to do, the appropriate amount was critical. We had to pack it every inch of the way. On a forced march, through rough terrain, every ounce of weight counts. Our biggest problem was twenty-six miles of wild country to cross. There were dirt roads, but they would be watching the roads, and you leave too damn many tracks in the dust or mud. Our plan was to stay with the cover of the woods, and the rough terrain. Speaking plainly, we were going to bull our fucking way through. Our weather report, said light rain or snow, God had a surprise for all of us, trainees and instructors alike.
They said we got OVER three inches of snow during the Kennedy Bridge Raid, Ya that's right, around three feet over three inches. Twenty-six miles of rough terrain is not easy to cover in twelve hours, under the best of conditions. It didn't start off bad, our problem was we didn't know the difference between QUITTING, and when stopping was the right thing to do. By this time in Training, there was no one left that didn't have a modus operandi of, Hell, that's no hill for a climber!!! We kept climbing way to long.
It was one of the few times in Training that we didn't have instructors right there watching every damn move we made. When they were there, they were able to rein us in at will. As it turned out, we were pretty successful in our effort not to be seen during the operation. Our Instructors began trying to call off the raid, three hours into the operation. We had no radio contact, hell we had no radio. The only reason I can think of that we didn't have a radio was, the guys from World War II didn't have them.
We were trying to prove we were tough, we forgot smart. The instructors would spend the next fifteen hours, running the roads in their vehicles, trying to locate their lost and freezing trainees. There was one reason they couldn't find us. We had the cover of an extremely rare occurrence, a blizzard in the Great State of Virginia.
The snow had started coming down at a slow rate almost as soon as we left our camp. Big wet snow flakes, sort of gently floating out of the sky. Three hours into the raid, it was obvious, to one and all, that the weatherman was full of shit! Those big wet snow flakes were coming down hard and fast, they covered everything. The guy on point was breaking trail through snow drifts, all of us were wet and cold, but still heading for the bridge.
Tommy Winter and Ron Lester were Rear Security. That means they were bringing up the rear. In a combat situation, their job is to keep anyone from slipping up on the column from the behind. A very serious job. In this case, it turned into a serious pain in the frozen ass. The terrain we were moving through was severe up and down, not an easy walk without snow. The guys in the rear had nothing but snow that had been packed down into ice, to walk on. There was a lot of slipping, and sliding going on. The worst of it, came from in front of them. The rest of us slipping and sliding down hill, and knocking Ron and Tommy on their asses. Oh well, we all have our crosses to bear.
It got to the point for me that all I wanted to do was lay down in the snow and go to sleep. I had been told that's how people freeze to death. They just lay down, go to sleep and never wake up, I believe it. At some point we had become lost! The decision had been made to get on one of the roads, so we could move faster. The thinking was no one would be out there looking for us in this shit anyway. Well, we couldn't find the road. That's when our situation finally became apparent to all of us, we were in a world of SHIT, very cold shit. Of course, we immediately did the wrong thing. Instead of stopping and building fires, the smart thing to do, we decided what direction to head, and continued on wandering around the mountains of Virginia, belly-button deep in snow. Our persistence could never be challenged, but I must admit, there is some evidence, that at times, we weren't too bright.
Class-29 kept slogging around until one of us fell in a creek. I don't remember who it was, but I want to say THANK YOU. It was enough to stop our stupidity, and get us on the right track. Some of us started gathering wood, and two fires were quickly built. Our man Raymond K. Woodsworth, A.K.A. Woody, left the fire, and went off into the snow enveloped forest. Thank God for Woody, somebody had to find out where we were.
There are three things I remember clearly about those two big fires: (1) God, that fire felt good. (2) Some of the guys kept getting too close to the fire, they had to be made to move back. There were actually a few boondocker bottoms burnt. One of our Dutchmen, De Beer, ended up with not only frostbite, but burns on his feet as well. (3) I was sitting on my poncho next to Jessie J. Hardy, we were facing the fire soaking up the heat. Old Jessie had steam rolling off his body, he reached down and took off one of his boondockers.
Fuck, I couldn't believe my eyes, there was a big chunk of ice covering his toes, over the sock and all. I said something real bright, "shit Jessie, look at your toes". I don't know why I said it, he was already looking at his toes. Jessie gave me a funny look and said, "Ya, well look at your own toes." With that ,I took my own boondockers off, Jessie J. was absolutely right. My socks were frozen to my toes, both feet had a little clump of ice over my toes, socks and all. It turned out that most everyone had the same thing, to one degree or another. The consequences for me were on the mild end of the spectrum, a little extra pain. On the other end, one of our officers lost several of his toes, and with them his opportunity to complete Training.
Ensign Charles H. Rand, to my way of thinking, he was a hell of a man, and should have been there with us when we graduated! We called him Charley, I believe he was an English Major in College. He spoke very properly and used words that most of us had never heard. Thinking back, it may have been Mr. Rand that made the "Food, without the benefit of mastication, is a crime against nature!", crack. It was him or Mr. Janke, but the use of proper English, and being the tallest guy in our class, kept him visible to our instructors. If the instructors could see you, even when your standing behind everyone, you had a problem. Charles H. Rand was handling everything our instructors dumped on him, in my mind he will always be a graduate of U.D.T. R T Class-29! Our instructors didn't make him quit, it took an act of God to get him, that damn blizzard!! It wasn't all brass balls, or intestinal fortitude that got you through, it took a large allowance from lady luck as well.
Woody is my hero, like all of us, he had been packing bricks around, over snow covered mountains, for eighteen hours. While we sat around our fires, Woody was back out there in the snow, finding out how the hell to get us out of that winter wonderland, and back into the arms of our loving instructors.
As it turned out, their arms were not so loving. Our instructors were pissed, and as usual it was Catch 22, Na, Na Land type reasoning. Not to worry, we would receive one more opportunity to suffer as a group, before we left Pickett. I mean after all, that's what we were there for. They had three major complaints, (1) We hadn't stopped soon enough. (2) We didn't accomplish our assigned task. (3) Worst of all, our instructors had been running all over the mountains of Virginia, trying to locate their lost charges. I didn't think about it at the time, but number 3 was the big one. The instructors had a lot to lose, their careers, if things had gotten any worse. An act of God or not, the Navy, very well could have stuck it to our instructors.
The snow had stopped falling while Woody was out trying to find where the hell we were, it immediately started warming up. We would pay for how quickly it warmed up. Well, we would have paid if it didn't warm up, it just would have been a different price. The snow was melting faster then it had come down. Our whole world was about to become, melting snow, running water, or nasty ass mud.
After Woody located Kennedy Bridge and got us there, our OH so sensitive instructors, came up with a new plan. Knowing that our failure to blow the bridge might scar our fragile psyches, they gave us a way we could redeem ourselves. All we had to do was walk back from the bridge to our base camp. There was just one catch, a time limit. Our instructors didn't believe we could cover the distance in the time frame we were given. It was supposed to be a forced march over the muddy roads that wandered through the tank training fields at Camp Pickett. We had gone to the bridge through the part of Pickett covered with forest. The way we were coming back, had little growth, a tree here some brush there. There was a lot of up and down and bare ground that had been torn up by years of tanks, training for war.
It was gut check time, not for any individual, but as a class. We were demoralized, for many of us it was the lowest point in training. Class-29 started this little walk about as down and bedraggled as a group of men can get. I don't remember exactly what it was Harry Humphries said, it was something short, sweet, and not for your mother to hear. What I do remember is watching him go from tired and down, to this is no hill for a climber, in a nanosecond. More important, Harry maintained it, every mud sucking step of the way. No line in our net broke, we worked ourselves from demoralized and bedraggled, to pissed off and bedraggled. All I can say is we were crazed, and Harry was the head nut. It was just a little trip from here to there, I mean what was the big deal. We all understood by now, you got shit, win, lose, or draw. Our little walk in the mud was about, FUCK-THEM, HOORAY FOR US, nothing more, nothing less.
Hour after hour in slimy, sucking mud, we pushed, pulled, crawled, slid, and at times we even got to walk, whatever it took. Sometimes we used those winding muddy roads, other times it was up and down the muddy hills, and across the muddy dales. At one time or another, everyone had their boondockers sucked of their feet. At times, you were pushing someone and someone was pushing you. Ensign Janke was not his usual easy going self. He and my boat officer, Jim Hawes, spent most of their time as rear-security, making sure no one dropped behind. Janke was passing out tough love. If you were stuck, he and Hawes helped. When Janke thought you were just slacking off, he became very chief like, and piled on heaps of verbal abuse. We didn't have a chief, so somebody had to do the job.
Ensign Shea, and Jack Lynch, with their smart ass remarks, took me from pissed off, to thinking the whole damn thing was funny. Humphries was all over the place. He wanted us there early, and was doing whatever he could to make that happened. I got a good laugh seeing Risher stuck calf deep in the mud, with Harry and Bimbo Gaston each pulling on a arm. It looked like Ted was going to be pulled apart before the mud let go. With those two animals pulling on him, it was a very real possibility. We were surprised when we crested the ridge above our base camp. It was around three in the morning, and we were early. Not just a few minutes early, but a couple, Fuck Them, HOORAY FOR US, hours early.
Each of our instructors had a song they liked to have us sing. Not the manly military type songs, but things like I've Been Working on the Railroad. That one was instructor Waddell's song, and this was his operation. Class-29 formed up in the semblance of a military unit, and came down off that ridge singing, I've Been Working on the Railroad. We had never made that song sound good, Class-29 did not have choir type voices. That morning we boomed it out in triumph, and damn we sounded strong.
Our instructors were all asleep in their nice warm cabin, we wanted them awake. There would be no doubt in their minds that we had hammered the time frame, on their damn mud march. It was a risky move, I figured we were going to end up pushing the mountains of Virginia away. We could have easily, come quietly off the ridge and went to our tents, for some well needed sleep. Not a chance, we were pumped, and would happily take the pain, just to stick our small victory in their faces.
Well, Chief Bernie Waddell blew my muddy mind that morning. As we came marching up to the cabin, singing his song, Waddell was standing on the side porch. He had on only long underwear bottoms, his feet were spread, his big hands were on his hips. Those large brown muscles of his were bulging all over the place, an imposing sight. I don't remember who, but someone reported us in. Instructor Waddell just stood there looking us over, he didn't say anything for at least a minute. When he spoke, I think my mouth fell open. Instructor Waddell praised us, told us he was proud to be our instructor. He then added, that he would buy each man two beers, at that small store, where the bus would pick us up.
In over two months we had never been praised. Our instructors had let us know, in no uncertain terms, that as individuals and as a class, we were the lowest of the low. The worst Training Class ever. It took me a while to get to sleep that morning. My mind was moving a mile a minute, why had Waddell's little bit of praise made me feel nine feet tall? He gave me another mind picture to think about over the years, when he bought our beer, at that little country store.
I could taste Puerto Rico "Where the sun shines everyday". We just had to break down, force march all our crap to that little country store. Catch the bus, and we were done with Camp Pickett. I think the whole class felt the same, we wanted warm, and we wanted it bad. The pissie ant little five or six mile saunter to our pick up point, would take no time at all. Everyone was looking forward to an instructor buying us beer. What I wanted to see, was what door would Waddell walk through?
Well, I got to see my first civil disobedience. All it did was confirm my suspicion that the human race was full of shit. Chief Waddell walked in the white door. He didn't make a big deal out of it, and no one else seemed to notice. The guy in the store was happy to have the business. My thought at the time was, if Waddell had been a weak old man, he would have gotten a bunch of shit for using the wrong door.
As far as I was concerned, the human race worked on the school yard bully principle. Smack the asshole back, and he'll go find some weak fucker to mess with. I have seen nothing since that has changed my mind. The really sad thing is, I think most people choose to be weak! I'm not talking big muscles here, all you had to do was take a look at my classmates, most of us were not strapping muscle men. Strength is definitely a mental game. Strong people do one simple thing, they get back up, win, lose or draw, they get the fuck back up. There was one thing that struck my strange mind as funny, a lot of us were using the colored door, and no one seemed to get pissed about that either.
When we returned from Camp Pickett, we didn't go straight to Puerto Rico, it's unclear to me why. It may have had to do with all the cases of frostbite. I have only two clear memories of that week: (1) We were made to sit on some tables, with our boondockers and socks removed, while a Navy doctor checked our feet. He was a full captain, and seemed very agitated. The doctor was beside himself, when he discovered that De Beer, had both frostbite and burns on his feet. (2) Is of Forrest Dearborn Hedden Jr., the only time I ever heard him swear.
We were being transported to an Army base called Fort Story. It was on the coast, south of Little Creek. There had been a storm, and the surf at Fort Story was coming in big and bad. A good time to practice surf penetration. Most of us were being transported on an old gray Navy bus. A couple of the guys were with our boats on a stake-truck. Ridding somewhere was a rare occasion, so we were enjoying our easy time. It was nice being transported to our next educational experience, having large waves pound us into the sand.
I had created a little ditty, to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club song. I used instructors names to replace Mickey and Donald Duck. There was no way I wanted our esteemed instructors to hear a single word of it. Instructors Clements, Hamomd, and Waddell were way up in the front of the bus. P.T. Smith, Lynch, Risher, Forrest, Shorty and I were in the back of the bus, no way they could hear.
If you were a polite person, you might say my voice carries. Others have said I have a big mouth, anyway we got heard. I think only Lynch, Risher and myself were singing. It started out like this. COME ALONG AND JOIN THE CLUB THAT'S MADE FOR YOU AND ME F-R-A-L-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E, FRALEY-MOUSE, SULINSKI-DUCK FOREVER LET US DO OUR SQUAT-JUMPS HIGH! HIGH! HIGH!
Not the thing you would want the instructors to hear you singing. Well, they heard something, and Waddell was going to keep at us till we told him what it was. You can't make a lot of guys squat-jump or Push Virginia Away on a bus. So, when we were getting off the bus, at Fort Story, Waddell was ready to strike. He was standing by the driver's seat telling everyone from the back, to Hit the Deck when we got off the bus. Forrest was right in front of Waddell, as I was stepping of the bus. He said something to our instructor that I didn't hear, whatever it was it pissed Waddell off bad. I turned to see what was going on, Burnie was bowed up big, towering over our teenage preacher's son. I was looking at them from the side, and Forrest was bowed up too, they looked like two guys ready to beat the shit out of each other. Forrest , God bless him, swore, and when he did he used the big one. " GODDAMN YOU, IT'S YOUR FAULT EVERYONE'S FEET ARE FUCKED FROM FROSTBITE". It stopped right then, no Push Virginia Away, no questions about what we had been singing. We went straight to surf-penetration. I think there were big problems over our frostbite.
I had never seen anyone stand toe to toe with Waddell. I know the thought had never crossed my mind, but what had surprised me even more, Forrest swore. He never swore, at times he would even make comments about how much foul language the rest of used. The worst word I had ever heard him say was "darn", and he didn't say that much. Thank you Forrest, I would have had to give myself up about the song. I can not even imagine having to stand in front of Instructor Sulinski, singing my stupid little ditty.
Our ever ingenious instructors found a way to make, Push Virginia Away more difficult, in the name of saving our frostbit toes. We had to do our pushups with our ankles on the floatation tubes of our rubber boats. This raised our legs about a foot and a half off the deck, and put more weight on our arms. It was explained that we were doing this to save our toes from additional stress. Oh thank you, it was so nice to know our instructors cared.
"DURING THE NEXT FIVE WEEKS, TRAINING WAS CONDUCTED AT ROOSEVELT ROADS PUERTO RICO, WHERE HEAVY DEMOLITION AND ENDURANCE SWIMMING WERE EMPHASIZED. THERE THE STUDENT BECAME PROFICIENT AT LOCATING AND DESTROYING BOTH MAN MADE AND NATURAL OBSTACLES OF ALL TYPES. THE SWIMMING DISTANCE WERE GRADUALLY INCREASED UNTIL THE STUDENTS SWAM A DISTANCE OF SIX MILES. DAY AND NIGHT RECONNAISSANCE EXERCISES WERE REPEATED UNTIL THE STUDENT BECAME PROFICIENT IN EVERY DETAIL OF THESE OPERATIONS. NUMEROUS INLAND PENETRATIONS AND DEMOLITION RAIDS WERE CONDUCTED, WHILE RUBBER BOAT TRAINING PROVED TO BE MORE FUN THEN WORK IN THE CARIBBEAN. A FINAL RECONNAISSANCE AND DEMOLITION PROBLEM, UNDER SIMULATED COMBAT CONDITIONS, WAS CONDUCTED AND MARKED THE END OF TRAINING IN PUERTO RICO. AT THAT TIME FIFTEEN OFFICERS AND THIRTY FOUR ENLISTED MEN REMAINED. MAJOR QURESHI OF PAKISTAN AND ENSIGN DOUMOURAS OF GREECE; AFTER SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETING THE SIXTEEN WEEKS BASIC U.D.T. COURSE, RETURNED TO THEIR HOME COUNTRY."
We stepped off the plane at Roosevelt Roads, commonly known as Rosy Roads Navel Air Station; into bright, warm sunshine, at last we were in the land of warm. Our instructors quickly educated us to one of the drawbacks of heat. We were hungry, so we were taken to our new training area, where we dumped our gear, then took a little mile and a half run to the chow hall. It was the same deal here as in Little Creek; we could eat as much food as we wanted. Well, most of us did, and on the short run back to our new training area, in ninety degree heat with ninety percent humidity, guys were puking all over the place. We hadn't had guys puking on runs since Hell Week. Nobody wanted the cold back, but it was quickly apparent being warm would take some getting use to.
Our professors of pain had new forms of harassment's to welcome us with in Rosy Roads; the truck push, and the Screaming MeMes Sacrifice, to name just a couple. The areas we operated in up at Little Creek were all within three miles of each other, so they had time enough to run us everywhere. In Rosy Roads our areas of operation were spread out, too far to run and have time to get anything done, some even on another island. We had transportation, vehicles just for the purpose of carrying us from one place to another. We had two trucks, a two and a half ton stake truck, and the Man-Hauler, a tractor trailer, with the trailer set up to carry people, sort of like cattle on the way to the slaughter house. The funny thing about these trucks, they had to be pushed to start, and the instructors swore they started up easier if we pushed them up hill.
The Screaming MeMes were little bitty, nasty mosquitoes that were hard to see, but would bite the shit out of you. The Sacrifice part came at the start of Gig Squad. Instructor Fraley liked to have us stand at attention, in the bushes under the windows of the instructors' living spaces. We would only have on swim trunks, so the little big jawed bastards would have lots of flesh to dine on. It was Instructor Fraley's contention that if he sacrificed us to the Screaming MeMes, they wouldn't bite our beloved instructors while they slept.
One of the Gig Squads, early on in Puerto Rico, was run by Instructor Spiegel. That evening, Cool Breeze became Ensign Steven W. Swartley's personal harassment factor. Up to that Gig Squad, Mr. Swartley had accomplished a difficult task, hiding in the middle. He had done his best to not stand out; never last, never first. Never come to the attention of the instructors, as an individual. That evening, all his effort went for naught, when Instructor Spiegel asked the question, "Mr. Swartley, where have you been"? From that moment on Cool Breeze became Ensign Swartley's personal instructor. The only thing worse then having an instructor take a personal interest in you, was two instructors taking a personal interest. Keeping your helmet on your head became an odd little annoyance, in the cold it helped keep your head warm, in the heat and humidity of Puerto Rico you didn't want your head kept warm. We were not required to wear the damn thing inside any building, but you had better not come out the door, uncovered, if it wasn't jammed down on your head, you suffered. I screwed up so many times that I was required to wear my helmet for three days, twenty-four hours a day, inside or out, showering, in my bed, even taking a dump.
Our boats were no longer a major harassment factor, they had become one of our basic working tools, and at times a lot of fun. One of the major insertion and extraction methods used by U.D.T. was called Cast and Recovery. It leans heavily on the use of the rubber boat, and if done right, was more fun then Disney Land. The insertion part was fairly easy, a rubber boat would be secured along side of a low silhouette, high speed boat, called a Steel Hulled P. L. The P. L. would move rapidly, on a wavy course, parallel to the enemy shoreline, you didn't want the enemy gunners to get a good shot at you. You were cast and recovered from the side of the boat away from the beach, this was done to shield the guys going in, or being snatched from the water from view. Everyone would be huddled, below decks, with your explosives, weapons, survey gear, whatever equipment the mission called for. When the word was given to go, you came out of the cabin low and fast, dragging your gear with you, over the gunnel of the Steel Hulled P. L., drop into the rubber boat, then roll into the water. That is the cast part, the fun came when you returned from whatever type of mission you were going on, the recovery.
The boat coxswain and the Snare Man, now there's two guys you had better have a lot of faith in! The recovery begins with everyone having swam back out to a prearranged area at sea and spread yourselves out in a recovery line. The Steel Hulled P. L., guided by your trusty coxswain, comes barreling down at the first man in line. Now keep in mind, this is done at sea, with wind, waves and chop, the boat is not a stable platform. The coxswain wants to miss splitting your head with the keel of his boat by about six or seven feet, and he is not going to slow down so you can get in. The Snare Man is going to jerk your ass out of the water, and into that rubber boat, tied along side the P. L.
The best snare men have two important qualities, first and foremost, they know their exact relationship to their surroundings, space and time, no matter how fast and hard they are being slammed around in that rubber boat. Second, and damn near as important as the first, the more upper body strength and mass, the better. He has one tool, his snare, a hard rubber loop with a good rope core. He is going to place that snare over your outstretched left arm as the boat goes flying by. The man being plucked from the water doesn't reach for the snare, that would screw things up, you could be missed, or possibly get picked up by your neck. Once you are in the pick up line, there are only two things for the swimmer to do. When the bow of the pick up boat gets even with your shoulder you thrust your left arm, fist closed, into the air, keep your head over to the right away from the left arm. Your legs kick those big duckfoot fins as hard as possible, the more of your body sticking up out of the water, the better. Now you're a good target for the Snare Man. When he sticks that snare over your left arm, you quickly grab your left wrist with your right hand and pull it to your chest, then just hold the fuck on. If you've done it right, the snare is lodged in the crotch behind the elbow of your left arm, and you are jerked out of the water, into the rubber boat. Now you scramble to get the hell out of the way, there's another man about to be jerked into the boat. It's back over the gunnel of the P. L., and low profile down into the cabin.
Cast and recovery was developed during World War II, as a technique to get the Frogmen to one of their prime work sites, a fortified, enemy held beachhead. Before the U.D.T. came along they had lost many thousands of Soldiers and Marines when their landing craft struck natural or man made obstacles. Those that didn't drown were easily picked off by enemy gunners. There is nothing that makes a good general sicker than having his men dead, their bodies floating all over some beachhead, and the poor bastards didn't even have a chance to fight.
Their answer, find some guys that will volunteer to: (1) Swim into an enemy held beachhead, armed with a knife, locate and chart any obstacles, natural or man made that might rip out the bottom of a landing craft. Gather all pertinent back shore information, enemy emplacements, where are the beach exits and how much weight can be run through them without bogging down.
(2) Swim back in with explosive, skin-dive down, that means holding your breath, no high-tech here, and place the explosives on the obstacles that must be removed. Tie in the field, so all the charges would go off all as one, pull the fuses and get the hell out of there, before you go ski high with the obstacles.
(3) When the troops are landing, act as life guard, combat troops are careering fifty to eighty pounds of weapons, ammunition, radios and assorted implement to break things, and kill people with. It's extremely rare when the troops get a dry landing, they usually have a couple hundred feet, of two or three feet of water to wade through. All it takes is a small hole, or just trip, with all that fucking weight on, they can die quickly, sucking water down their lungs. I tell you from experience, Marines and sailors are always hassling each other, pull a face down Marine out of one of those holes, and he will think the sun rises and sets on your sailor ass. Plus, it just feels damn good to do it!
Underwater Demolition Teams were born out of a need to get the troops on the beach alive. We were being trained in the basics, the thing that make those bad asses from World War II and Korea so damn successful. It boils down to finding people who will go balls to the wall to get their part of the job done, then look around and see if anyone needs help. We trained with nothing high-tech. You had better not even say the word SCUBA, you would be squat-jumping or Duck-Walking while the instructor explained what an inferior being you truly were.
Our boats no longer being the harassment factor they had been, left a void that needed to be filled, our DUCKFEET more then filled that void. For a Frogman, the classic Web-Footed Warrior, fins are your basic form of propulsion, in the Land of Warm we damn near propulsed our feet off. Having U.D.T. model Duckfeet on, was like having foot and a half long boards tied to your feet, using very rough one inch rope around your ankles. If you have enough leg to punch them, Duckfeet will lift half your body out of the water, but after thirty minutes your feet felt like they were going to fall off.
Puerto Rico was for water work, and we did just that, many days more then half the day was in the water, then we would get some more that night. Now we had fin burns to go with our blisters and frostbite sores, everyone was walking wounded to one degree or another, but we could taste victory. Nobody was going to let fin burns and a little duckfoot pain stop us now.
Gig-Squad, as in Little Creek, was after dinner and before our night evaluation, and usually run by Instructor Fraley. He was not the trainees friend! He had let me know he loved having me at Gig-Squad, and hoped I didn't quit. Fraley told me it would give him great pleasure to see that I was given a rare administrative drop the last day of training. I don't know if that had ever been done, but he made me believe he would do it, if he could. I don't think he hated me, it was more like an intense personal dislike, and to be fair, I had felt the same way about him, since the first day of training.
Fraley's idea of extra curricular studies were special, all Gig-Squads hurt, but when he ran them, there was just a little extra pain. His technique was simple, you would do the same exercise over and over for an hour. Try, Hit the Deck on your feet, that's where you drop to the Lean and Rest position, then jump back to attention, all within four or five seconds. Do that for an hour, you'll get the picture! On the rare occasion when someone passed out, the guy on each side of him picked him up, carried him to the porch where the instructor and the resuscitator were. One guy stayed with the downed man and the instructor, the other man returned to the fun and games. As soon as the downed man came around, the guy that stayed returned to the fun as well. I remember only one time, that the man that passed out, did not have to return to the fun and games.
I'm not sure, but I think it was Neil Dow; Neil was around six foot tall and nineteen or twenty years old, and real quiet, like Ralph Diebold. It's funny when I think about all the things we didn't know about each other, they just didn't matter. One thing mattered, we were still THERE, if not standing, either in the process of being knocked down, or more important getting back up.
Neil was not a perpetual member of our little fraternity of Extra Pain. Like most guys he got nailed once in a while, but did his best to stay clear. Nobody volunteered, they didn't even watch, some smart ass instructor might make you join in on the fun.
We had our Screaming MeMes Sacrifice that night, and went right to Hit the Deck on your Feet. We were on the grass, spread out so we didn't kick each others' teeth out. Instructor Fraley was sitting on the steps, Neil, was straight between me and the porch. God knows how long we had been going when Neil fell, but I had never seen anything like it before. I had seen lots of people fall down, and a few pass out, but Neil went down like a big tree.
When you come up from the Lean and Rest, you should be at attention, back straight, feet together, hands at your side, and looking straight ahead. When the command "Hit the Deck" is given you kick your feet out, keep your body straight and fall toward the ground, you bring your arms out and catch yourself in the Lean and Rest, on your toes and palms, arms extended, body straight. I'm sure Neil wasn't passed out when Fraley gave the Hit the Deck command, he kicked his feet out, just like you were suppose to. I know he was when he hit the deck, because his hands were still at his sides. He landed on his toes and nose, just in that order, straight as a tree.
It scared the shit out of Instructor Fraley, there was blood all over the place from Neil's nose and mouth. When they got him back around, after some oxygen, Neil tried to get up and rejoin us. Fraley was having no part of that, he had someone take Neil down to sick bay, so the "Pecker Checker" could make sure there was nothing wrong with him. I was more pissed at Fraley for sending him to sick bay then anything, none of us wanted those medical people getting to close a look at us. Neil had no more desire then any of us, to get a medical drop, and have to do this shit all over. Well, Instructor Fraley and I were even, he was sure I was an asshole, and in my mind he was a natural asshole, born that way. Neil was lucky, bloody nose, a split lip and some loose teeth, nothing to knock you out of training, but I think he had to do a make up for missing part of the Gig-Squad.
Swing and Sway Rick Shay had one of the strangest reactions to a Gig Squad I ever heard of. That particular evening, we had given ourselves to the Me Mes' and went straight to Jumping Jacks. Our beloved Instructor, again Fraley, had informed us that we were going for a Record. Of course he was the only one who knew what the Record was. Somewhere around 800 Jumping Jacks, LTJGs. Shay had started acting strange, kind of like someone that was having fun. Shay told me later, that he had gone into some kind of twilight zone, he had felt like he could do jumping jacks forever. LTJGs. Shay wanted the record and he wanted bad. He had started counting loader, and extolling us to pick up the pace. At just over a thousand Jumping Jacks Instructor Fraley had stopped Rick Shay, and dismissed him from Gig Squad. Now a normal human would have been happy to get the hell out there, not Shay. He was big time pissed; Fraley, that no good blank ite blank, had robbed him of being part of the Gig Squad Jumping Jack record.
We learned some pretty nasty, but necessary habits in training, some of which could cause your demise if you weren't lucky. One of them was called blowing your sinuses, a misnomer, you were really imploding them. Down in the harbor, we had a bunch of lines secured between pier legs, at about thirty feet. The deal was, you had to skin down and tie the knots that were used for securing explosives to an obstacle and joining all the demolition into one net. You didn't get to do t once and pass, we did it almost everyday. The test would come near the end of basic training, you would use a blacked-out face mask, to make it a no visibility situation. Most of the time it was no big deal, everyone mastered this task with little problem. It only got nasty when you couldn't equalize your sinuses.
Thirty feet is just shy of two atmospheres, or double the pressure at sea level. This little fact would make your face feel like it was in the grip of a very pissed off giant, if your sinuses wouldn't equalize. Your very natural instinct is to head back to the surface, the pain is intense to say the least, and going back up relieves it. I don't remember who got to be the example, but it was the first time we tied knots at the pier. Our overly compassionate instructors heaped ridicule on the first failure to reach the lines, squat jumps, all the usual. Two things the instructors said stuck in my mind, the first absolutely true, the second close, but no banana: (1) If you failed to get down and place your charge, Marines might die on that obstacle. (2) When you take the pain long enough for the sinuses to rupture, it feels as good as the best orgasm you will ever have.
Some of the guys went through it several times, anything to keep the instructors off your ass, I only needed to do it once, thank God. By the time my sinuses blew, the pain was so intense I couldn't think, kind of like having smashed thumbs buried in your forehead and down around your eyes. Two things happen when they burst, all pain is instantly gone, and your face mask half fills with snot and blood. You do not give a shit about the snot and blood, there is not a trace of pain, it is gone, and you can't believe how good normal feels.
Now, here's how you can die from that nasty little trick. A couple of those sinus have only membranes separating them from the brain cavity, if your sinus ruptures into the brain cavity, that's where the snot and blood goes. At a minimum you will have a brain infection, they are very hard to treat, on the maximum side, a slow unpleasant death. In truth our instructors were teaching us a moral certitude, if we wanted to wear the name, take the fucking pain. Our job was to clear the way so the grunts didn't die on the way to work, do it or get out.
The instructors had a weighted bucket, hanging on the end of a rope, at 60 feet. All you had to do was skin down, take a rock from the bucket, and bring it to the surface. 60 feet was the deepest we were required to free dive. Ensign James C. Walker was doing alright with tying the knots at 30 feet, but the 60 foot bucket was giving him fits. No rock, no graduate.
Mr. Walker was a tall, lanky, dark haired young officer, with a bend toward the serious side. I know how serious he took graduating into the Teams, he broke both eardrums, and blew his sinuses to get that rock! Almost all of us blew our sinuses, one time or another, that is damn intense pain. Rupturing your eardrum is at least a magnitude of pain higher. Like someone pounding a spike in your ear. I think we will have to agree, James C. Walker had the " Fire in the Belly", and the burning in the brain.
If the truth had been known about Ensign Walker's ears, he wouldn't have been allowed into training. After collage Jim had signed up for OCS, Officer Candidate School, many members of his family had served in the military, he thought he would do his part. The navy sounded good, that is, until halfway through OCS.
They took his class of future young naval officers on their first cruise. Jim Walkers only thought about that first cruise was, "What the Hell have I done." The cruise had been in rough seas, on a very small ship called a Destroyer, and to top it all off he was assigned to the engine room. Destroyers are nick named Tin Cans, mainly because they are small, and bounce all over the place in rough seas. Engine Rooms, on those old style Tin Cans were unbelievably hot, and noisy places. Jim Walker found himself SEA SICK, with a splitting headache. To top it all off, the young Ensign who ran the Engine Room, screamed over the noise, "IF YOU'RE LUCKY, YOU CAN GET A JOB LIKE MINE."
Jim Walker didn't want that kind of luck, he started doing a little investigating. What the hell did the navy do that sounded interesting, and would keep him from becoming a Fleet Officer? Sea Duty was definitely not the thing for him. Underwater Demolition Team, now that sounded interesting, plus if he signed up to try out for Training, he got out of Study Hall. Well that's what he did.
Everything was going great guns, Jim liked everything he heard, and the heavy emphases placed on physical training suited him fine. This was where he wanted to go. Jim received word to report to the Decompression chamber, at a certain time, to take a test. Somehow that day Mr. Walker was running late. He arrived at the Chamber just as they were closing the hatch, on the last group of guys to be tested that day. He was told to get his shoes off, remove any flammables from his person, lighters, matches etc., and get his ass in the chamber. The young Mr. Walker did not have a clew what the test was about, but he was willing to take it anyway.
As they pressured up the chamber, his ears started to hurt, but none of the other guys were saying anything. His thought, "maybe it's a test to see how much pain we can take." Walker looked around and everyone else seemed fairly at ease. His though, "this is a tough group of bastards!" Jim didn't say anything till both eardrums ruptured, and he had blood running out of his ears, and nose. At that point a young Naval doctor, in the chamber to run the test, brought everything to a stop.
The doctor was chewing him up one side and down the other, the whole time it took to get Mr. Walker out of the decompression chamber and examine his ears. The thrust of the doctors' verbal abuse was: Jim was stupid, tough, but stupid, and because he had ruptured his ears, he could not go to Training. Now Walker may have been young and naive, he certainly didn't know a thing about Diving and the effects of pressure on the body, but stupid, NO. Jim reminded the doctor that he was in charge of the Test, and had not briefed Jim on what to expect, and how to handle any problems. Now Walker might not get his Orders to Training, but the doctor would certainly have a little problem on his fitness report. The young doctor, recognizing what Jim said was correct, said something like: FUCK IT, YOU BELONG IN THAT CRAZY OUTFIT! They both kept their mouths shut and Jim got his orders.
Our shortest distance swims in Puerto Rico were our timed mile swims, once a week. We would do several at each distance building up to six miles. Our swims were measured as the crow flies, a straight line, you don't swim in the open ocean in a straight line. If they call the swim four miles, only God knows how far you really swam, His wind, waves and current are going to add to our instructors' plans.
The Professors of Pain loved our distance swims, for them it was a combination boat ride, picnic, and fishing trip. They were out there as life guards, sailing around making sure none of us drowned. I never worried about drowning. I don't think anyone did, my big worry was more a personal thing that each of us went through. I kept thinking my feet might fall off!
By this point in training, I couldn't remember what my feet felt like minus the pain, and mine where some of the healthier feet in the class. Just pulling your Duckfeet on added to whatever level of pain your feet were at. For me the pain peeked after an hour to an hour and a half of pushing my fins, then blessed numbness! The funny looking part came at the end of any long swim, when you took your Duckfeet off. It was a reverse process, your feet went from numb to intense pain, that slowly eased off to the level of; all the time pain. For awhile after every long swim, we walked around like a bunch of guys from some rehab ward.
It paid to be a winner on long swims. Each swim pair was placed in one of three groups, fast, medium or slow. The break down came from the timed mile swim, so if you didn't bust butt on the timed mile, you could find yourself in a slower group. On the long swims you not only had to stay with your swim buddy, but you had to stay with the group. Each group was no faster then its slowest pair.
If there was any down time in training, it was after the first group of swimmers had finished their swim. You had more time to get your feet back, after hours of those Duckfeet, then the last group in. By the time the last group hit the beach, the fast groups' feet were back to normal pain levels. "It paid to be a winner", those poor bastards in the last group, got no down time for their feet.
The Cardinal Sin on any swim, other then the timed mile, was leaving your swim buddy. In our world, leaving your swim buddy meant: being more then six feet away from him. The punishment for that dastardly crime was swimming your next swim with a three inch hawser, a rope for mooring ships, between the errant swim buddies. The line weighted nothing, hell it floated, it was the drag it created, that made it such an effective punishment. I think it was the only punishment the instructors passed out that I didn't receive. It was one of the four or five mile swims that Ensign Hawes and his swim buddy got to drag that three inch mooring line along for the swim. Better my Boat Officer, then me.
A common call, you might hear on any long swim, came from Ron Jarvi's Dutch swim buddy, Corporal Coenraad Pauli. Yarvi, Yarvi, where are you ,Yarvi? It seemed they had a small problem staying close, and Pauli didn't want to suffer the consequences. That call, brought a lot of smiles, to many a tried swim pair.
Explosives are like magic, and the whole damn class loved our demolition problems. We used small amounts, a quarter pound of C-4, and large amounts, five thousand pounds plus of assorted explosive: C-3, C4, PETN, and HBX. Explosives are one hell of a tool, when used properly, break God's laws of physics and you damn well may pay with your life.
The military does not use dynamite, red sticks with a fuse coming out of one end. Old Alfred Nobel got rich off that invention, a method to stabilize nitroglycerine just enough so you could sneeze, without killing yourself. Blasting caps were the only truly sensitive explosive device we used. C-3 or 4 can be thrown around like a football, it can even be burned, without exploding. The type of explosive we needed had to be damn stable, it was going to have the crap knocked out of it, the way we were required to operate.
The day we made that five thousand pound shot was the most pleasant day of training. Seven miles off the coast of Roosevelt Roads is the Island of Veages, a military reservation, used for training. They would hold amphibious landings, with battalion size forces practicing for war. They wanted a new L.S.T. slot through the reef, on the lee side of the island. The L.S.T.s could only cross the reef at high tide, the channel would give them access around the clock. An L.S.T. is a ship with a shallow draft and a bow that opens to discharge; tanks, trucks, jeeps any large vehicle needed to do battle. Our instructors volunteered us to do the job, nothing like a little practical experience for learning.
It was a full day of busting ass, with no harassment, just pure on the job learning. We started out early in the morning loading over two tons of explosives, one hundred and sixty twenty-five pound packs of C-4 and fifty six sections of Mark 8 Hose. Each section of Mark 8 was twenty-five feet long and housed twenty-five pounds of PETN and HBX explosive. The shot that day would be a total of five thousand, six hundred and fifty pounds. We hand loaded everything from the magazines to a truck, from the truck to a boat, and off the boat onto the beach at Veages. After more than three months of around the clock harassment, one day of just working hard, with real work to accomplish, was pure pleasure.
There are many factors that come into play when you figure how much explosives to use on any job, blasting through a reef requires a surprising amount. The channel would be one hundred feet long, twenty-four feet wide and six to seven feet deep. At low tide the reef had four feet of water over it, so if we did the shot right, we would end up with a channel ten to eleven feet at low tide. A reef is like a huge sponge made of millions of tiny compartments, that absorb and disperse the shock of an explosion. Up to that time, the biggest shot we had set off was in the two hundred pound range. So none of us trainees had a clue what we would see, when setting off five thousand six hundred and fifty pounds.
What a work place, a tropical beach, we had the sun and the coconuts, but Instructor Waddell had lied about the bananas, and the bikini clad women. As it turned out, we had enough problems with the coconuts, God knows what problems we would have had with the bikini clad women. I have to give our instructors their due, they warned us, don't drink to much coconut milk and make sure the coconuts aren't GREEN. Many of us suffered the consequences of not heeding that warning. Let me just say, I would rather have Instructor Fraley at Gig-Squad then malfunctioning BOWELS.
The central part of the charge would be constructed on the beach, then floated out and placed in position on the reef. We joined the sections of Mark 8 Hose, by their couplers, into one hundred foot sections. Then tied them into three bundles, one with six hundred foot sections, and two with four each. These were then laid across the reef, the bundle of six was in the center with a bundle of four on each side. The bundles of four were placed six feet from the central bundle. We then stacked twenty-five pound haversackes of C-3 and 4, four high, five feet apart, six feet outside the bundles of four. All these diverse explosives were then joined into one charge with Primercord, a clothesline like cord with an explosive core. Tying in the charges was critical, but no problem, as we had been practicing on a daily basis, in much deeper water. We ran trunk lines of Primercord from each side of the shot, to the beach.
All of us were ready, we wanted to hear, FIRE IN THE HOLE, the traditional warning just prior to setting off any non combat shot. The instructors had moved us well back from the water, under a line of coconut palms on the shore side of the beach. "FIRE IN THE HOLE." There was no load explosion, the beach and the palms shook with a deep rumbling sound, the ocean over the charge blasted straight up, over two hundred feet into God's sky, it seemed to climb forever. For a hundred feet in all directions from the shot, the ocean boiled, a dirty brown foam seemed to appear instantly. The water was still climbing when the big pieces of reef started back down, it took over two minutes for; big pieces, little pieces, and the water to fall out of the sky.
As I stood with my mouth hanging open, little spots and squiggly lines appeared, running every which way in the foam, over the reef. Tom Allen was standing next to me, I said, "Tom, what in the hell is moving all over that foam?" "Eels." There were thousands of them, big and small, running on the surface, crazed from the blast impact. Those that weren't killed in the blast, seemed to be trying to climb out of the water. Nothing that had been killed would go to waste, the sharks were already gathering, and what they didn't eat, the crabs and small reef fish would.
All that was left was to inspect the channel, run a search pattern for any misfired explosive, and clean up the beach. The end to a perfect day, almost, our instructors held an impromptu, one bottle of hot COCA-COLA auction. Now, you might wonder what kind of dumb-asses would bid on one hot bottle of Coke. Well, I'm only going to clear one guy of even bidding, me, and I'll give up one guy for bidding, Leroy (Gedunk) Geiger. He was the highest bidder, and can be forgiven, as he was a known candy and soda abuser. He wasn't called GEDUNK for nothing. To this day, I wonder how they got so many guys to even bid. To make it worse, they weren't even bidding money, what they were bidding was the dreaded Squat-Jump, an exercise so foul that they have been banned from use in the military for the last twenty years. Nevertheless, Gedunk Geiger won with a bid of three hundred Squat-Jumps, fifty that day, and fifty a day until the debt was paid. Needless to say, Leroy didn't share his Coke with anyone.
We all learned something from Tom Allen on the way back from Veages that evening; how to manhandle a two hundred pound sea turtle. Tom wasn't the fastest swimmer, but to my mind, he was the best all around water man in the class. He was an accomplished skin-diver (hold your breath), and could spear fish at depths in excess of one hundred feet. He was a civilian qualified scuba diver, a rare thing in the early sixties. He had even wrestled alligators!
As we headed back to Rosy Roads, maybe a half mile of the coast of Veages, we came upon a big old sea turtle, just swimming along minding its own business. Most of us had never seen one, so the boat was pulled close, and a bunch of us jumped in the water to get a better look. Of course, we couldn't leave well enough alone, someone said, "let's catch it!" Well, believe me, we were giving it a good try, but that turtle was kicking our asses. A couple of guys got smacked by those big flippers, somebody got a hold of it and was taken for a dive. Let's say the turtle had him, anyway, the turtle took him deep enough that he let go. We gave up and got back on the boat, as soon as we were on the boat, that dam turtle surfaced. This time Tom Allen jumped in, swam over and grabbed that big old turtle by the shell, one hand behind the head, and one just over the tail. Once he had a hold of it, Tom quit kicking his fins and let the turtle do the work.
The way he did it was surprisingly simple, if he wanted to go down, he pushed down on the shell behind the head, and pulled up on the shell over the tail, down they went. When he wanted to come up, Tom pushed down over the tail, and pulled up behind the head, the turtle swam to the surface, bringing Tom with him. Lean to the right, the turtle went to the right, you get the picture. All Tom had to do was stay out of the way of those flippers, the turtle was his. There was some conversation bout taking the turtle , in the end we left it. Our easy day was over.
We were down to our last couple of weeks in Puerto Rico, the end of our four months of basic U.D.T. training. One more week of the usual day to day non-stop physical and mental harassment. Then the big ones, eighteen mile run, six mile swim, final physical exercise test, the last timed mile swim and our all important final demolition problem The only thing we had coming, that most of us worried about, was a damn written test we had to take.
When we had started training, I thought I knew everything there was to know about Underwater Demolition Teams, I had wanted to be a Navy Frogman since age eleven. Things had changed, one of the changes, you no longer graduated into the Teams after your four months basic U.D.T. training. Our beloved harassment factors, the instructors, had been telling us this from the start of training. I thought it was just more of their harassment bullshit, trying to psych us out. Comments like, "Will you make it through Army Jump School?, Will your parachute fail?" , their usual thought provoking little digs.
Personally, I could see no reason to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Well, if I wanted in the Teams I'd jump, and if I didn't do it, no Teams for me. After Army Jump-School at Fort Benning Georgia, we had five weeks at Underwater Swim School in Key West Florida. We wouldn't find out why so many guys had stared Class-29, or what the two extra schools were about, until graduation day.
Around this time in training our instructors tried to reinsert a little military separation between us and our officers. Their main tool, if an enlisted man screwed up and officer would pay. Not a bad deal for us enlisted, but our officers were not enjoying it. To tell the truth it is one of the few objectives the instructors failed at, our officers just took it as part of our "Catch-22" world. It would take an Army Sergeant Major about five minutes, after our plane touched down at Fort Benning, to accomplish the task.
Our long swims, in the open ocean, were nothing but PAIN and DRUDGERY, the very essence of training. When you think of one of our swims, don't think of arms coming out of the water, pulling us along, and feet kicking a large wake. We were required to use non-recovery type strokes, no splash, no wake. What it boiled down to was side stroke, with fins. There were a couple very good reasons: One, you wanted to make it as difficult as possible for an enemy to spot you swimming in. Two, you had to drag whatever equipment you would use on the job; explosives, weapons, survey gear, along for the swim. With a real possibility of dragging an injured teammate back with you.
You never leave a team mate, injured, or dead. Every man wore an inflatable life vest, a real pain in the ass. No matter how well you had the air sucked out of it, the damn thing was still a lot of drag, sort of like having a big peace of clothing on. You never went in the water without it, if someone had to drag you back it would be needed.
One thing some of the guys towed along on a swim, looked damn strange. A line with rubbers, (condoms) tied to it, with a candy bar in each rubber. They were waterproof lunch boxes, a little snack for quick energy, and to get the salt water taste out of your mouth. We used rubbers by the gross, as part of Waterproof Firing Assemblies. So, we had enough to waterproof a few candy bars. We just didn't have the time to use them for their original intent.
Our ever ingenious instructors knew how to read tide tables. All our swims were planned so we would get the worst currents and tides. There was a very good reason, other then harassment, troop landing are planned for the best time to get the combat troops on the beach alive, not around the people clearing the way. Our instructors allowed God's tides and currents to teach us the hard way, the tricks of swimming against fast moving water. The most important trick, DO NOT STOP SWIMMING!!!!!
Every man there knew the sinking feeling of losing hard won distance, while you stopped to tend severe leg cramps, and the current pushed you back. If you want to feel useless, swim for an hour watching the same spot on shore, and never get any closer. Everything in training is about swimming against the tide, you have to be willing to win one inch at a time.
There was nothing but bad luck that could stop any of us now. You could feel, smell, taste and see success. Even Mr. Gibby and Ted Risher, whose feet were so bad they should have been in the hospital, limped and gimped with a new strength. It's amazing how being close to the end of a painful effort, eases some of the pain.
We got a rare weekend liberty, just before our last week in the land of warm. Most of Class-29 headed for San Juan, in those days a wild and wooly liberty port. Most of us were hitting all the usual sailor haunts, just letting it all hang out. You know, a lot of young guy shit.
On Sunday, I took Lynch and Neidrauer to a nice little place I knew, called Pa Docs. Its normal trade was upscale locals, and tourist. Just a nice little restaurant with a bar. We were having dinner and boasting about our powers with women and booze. There was no way to out do each other with women, at PaPa Docs, booze was another matter.
As it turned out my classmates had never tasted 151 proof Rum. On the other hand I had acquired a taste for drinking the poison, straight up, and on fire. Since I didn't want to frighten them off, I said nothing about it burning like kerosene. I bought three double shots of 151, and bet Jack and Bob they couldn't drink them straight down. I figured they would both puke. To my surprise, they downed their double shots of 151, and held down their food. Jack was gasping for breath, but Bob was stunned, he could not talk, not a word. Well, I lost the bet, but it was worth Neidrauer's reaction. The three of us returned to training with nasty hang-overs, as if our instructors didn't pass out enough pain.
Everyone hated their damn inflatable life jacket! I guess, if one of us had been drowning, we would have quickly loved the damn thing. They caused a lot of drag in the water, and all of us had heavy chafing on our necks. Leo Duncan's chafing, sprouted several nasty boils. Like all of us, Leo had no desire to see a doctor. Just the thought of doing a Mc Cutchan, being medically dropped and starting all over, was enough to keep us clear of doctors.
Well, old Jesse James Hardy, reached down into his vast knowledge of folk medicine, and operated on Leo. Dr. Hardy cleaned up the nasty looking things, and put cold towels over them. He made a small cut in each one, with a hot knife. Jesse then put the open end of a Coke bottle over the small cut on a boil, and heated the bottle bottom. Out popped the crap, core and all.
One funny thing about Jesse's vast knowledge of folk medicine, it didn't extend to Alka-Seltzer. This was particularly odd, because the rest of us hard core drinkers, knew well its benefits in relieving hangovers. On one of the rare Friday night liberties, we had down in Puerto Rico, Dr. Hardy received an education on the proper use of Alka-Seltzer.
Jesse, Mr. Janke, Mr. Swartley, and Harry Humphries were all drinking at a small local bar, four or five miles off the base. For some unknown reason, other then they were drunk, they decided to walk back to the training area. When they finally reached the Training area, they were a mess. They had left the road, and taken a short cut through a cane field. Class-29s intrepid boozers got lost, they wandered around in uncut, and cut and burned cane fields, for an hour or two, before they found their way back. After cleaning off some of the ash, from the burned cane, Harry reached in his locker and pulled out some Alka-Seltzer.
Jesse asked, "What is that for?" Harry told him, he didn't like waking up with a hang over. When he was drinking hard, Harry took two before he went to sleep, and woke up hang over free. That was good enough for Dr. Hardy, he wanted some. Harry handed Jesse two Alka-Seltzer, and walked off to get some water. Jesse thought the pills were a little large, but he popped them in his mouth and ate them anyway. When Harry returned, Jesse was holding his throat, with a screwed up look on his face.
Some of the Alka-Seltzer, was stuck in Dr. Hardy's throat, he could feel it popping and fizzing. When Harry was told, he laughed, handed Jesse his water, and told him to drink. Well, this flushed the popping and fizzing out of Jesse throat, but now his belly started swelling up. Jesse James Hardy was not having a good experience with his first Alka-Seltzer.
Ensign Hauff and I were swim buddies throughout training. This was unusual, do to the fact that swim buddies were set up off the times from our weekly timed mile swims. Once a week, since the start of training, I had set myself the goal of KICKING HIS ASS. It would not have changed a thing, we would have still been swim buddies, I just wanted to beat him. My last chance to was our final timed mile in Puerto Rico.
In high school I been on the Swim Team, and played Water Polo. Our coach Ural Sarri was one tough guy, if you wanted to be on the Team, you swam a mile every morning before school. I don't care how good you were, if you didn't swim your morning miles, you weren't part of the Team. Coach didn't care what stroke you swam, it was all about building endurance, and making young boys work hard to be part of a Team. I swam those miles either backstroke or breaststroke, my races on the swim team.
Breaststroke was what the teams called a non-recovery stroke, no splash, no wake, no splash. I was dead sure that I could beat Hauff, if I could just swim that mile breaststroke, without fins, facemask, or life jacket. I had been after the instructors to let me try for a couple months. Well they finally gave me my chance, of course I didn't get everything my way, I had to ware my lifejacket. Instructor Blais told me I had better win OR, "I WILL SQUAT JUMP YOU TILL YOU DROP!!!" Instructor's Blais and Waddell had a bet, Blais had me, Waddell had Hauff.
Well my swim buddy had his own ideas. Each time I had improved, so had he, just enough to beat my ass. Ensign Richard Hauff again prevailed. I did beat his previous best time, but then so did he, just a little more then I did. I was not Instructors Blais hero.
In my mind our final demolition problem, was what we had come to training for, this was Frogmen work. We did a standard U.D.T. cast, under the cover of darkness. We swam in and did your initial reconnaissance of the designated landing site. You couldn't just say, "Ya there's a big fucking piece of metal down there!" You had to be able to place each obstacle on a chart, in relationship to each other, and known fixed points on the beach. The type of obstacle, Steel Tetrahedron, thickness of the steel, 5/8s, depth of water, etc. etc. All the harassment we had taken, had a purpose, we could work together under tough conditions, AS A TEAM. Each of us recorded what we found in our area of the Recon on plastic swimmer slates, about nine inches long and four inches wide. Little marks, drawings, and words that helped us remember what we had found.
Recovery, the fun part, went off without a hitch. Everyone swam back out, and assumed their position in a perfect recovery line. That big steel hulled P/L bore down on us, right on time. Bam, bam, bam our snare-man jerked us out of the water, one right after the other, not a miss.
Debrief time, each man's information had to be collected, interpreted, and placed on a chart. That chart was what laid just under the water, ready to rip the bottom out of the landing craft. Everything was planned off that chart, how much explosive to use on each obstacle, and whose responsibility each one was. The whole operation was on a tight time schedule. In combat situations, the landing craft full of Marines may well be on there way in as the shot went off. At times like that , you have one chance to do it right.
Our instructors didn't tell us anything, this operation was ours to pass or fail as Class-29. Everything else in training was in one way or another focused on bringing a bunch of egocentric young bucks together as a TEAM. In truth, it was more a test, of how well the instructors had done their job, then anything else. How fast one of us swam the mile, ran an obstacle course, how deep and long we could free dive, or how many nasty exercises we could do, didn't make a shit. What counted in the end, was TEAM, each guy doing his part, and whatever else it took to accomplish the MISSION.
Another cast, this time we were dragging C-4 explosive, Primercord, caps, and waterproof firing assemblies. Each obstacle would have the required amount of C-4 to blow it to hell, plus a little extra we called a JESUS FACTOR, just to make sure. After the charges were set, each was tied into a net, with Primercord, This allowed every damn obstacle in the field to be shot as one. Each end of the field had its own waterproof firing assembly. One assembly would do the trick, but if there was a misfire on one end, two made sure. Just another JESUS FACTOR, it always pays to back yourself up. The last two guys to leave the obstacle field pulled the fuse initiators, and swam like hell to catch up. On a personal level, the last place any of us wanted to be, when the shot went off, was in the water. I know I had never been more interested in doing a perfect recovery. Again, the swimmer line was perfect, the coxswain and snare-man gave each of us a quick trip out of the water, and into the boat. We then had one of the longest short waits of my life.
I have no idea what would have happened, if the shot had not gone off, I mean, what would they have done, failed the whole class? At the time, that seemed a very real possibility. Jessie James Hardy had been in a previous class that graduated no one. That class had started with ten or twelve guys and was shut down shortly after Jessie was sent to the hospital. Hell, Mc Cutchan had broken his leg with just a couple weeks to go and they hadn't let him graduate.
Thank God, we never found out! The whole damn field of obstacles went up as one! It was nothing like our reef shot, less explosive spread over a wider area of the bottom. There was a ten to twelve foot geyser of water over each obstacle. Quickly followed by the concussion slamming into the bottom of the boat. Most important! We had proved we knew the basic business of being Navy Frogmen. A bunch of hairy assed young guys, that could get rid of our egos, and work as a TEAM.
That last week of basic U.D.T. training was odd. We had all our longest runs, swim, the final P.T. test, all the biggies. Plus, all our equipment had to be repaired and stored for the next training class. What was gone was the hard edged harassment we had been living with, for damn near four months. I know the first time Instructor Fraley smiled at me and had something nice to say, it was a shock. More surprising was how quickly my dislike for him disappeared. I guess that was our true graduation. Being accepted by our instructors. I know it meant more to me than any little piece of paper that said I was a graduate.
"THE FIFTH PHASE OF TRAINING CONSISTED OF THREE WEEKS OF AIRBORNE TRAINING AT FORT BENNING, GEORGIA. LIEUTENANT TIEL AND THE FOUR ENLISTED MEN FROM THE NETHERLANDS SPENT THIS THREE WEEKS AT THE NAVAL AMPHIBIOUS BASE. LITTLE CREEK PARTICIPATING IN ON-THE-JOB TRAINING. LIEUTENANT MAGNUSSEN, NORWEGIAN NAVY, WAS THE ONLY FOREIGN STUDENT TO ATTEND AIRBORNE TRAINING. THIS PHASE OF TRAINING INCLUDED PROGRESSIVE TRAINING, FROM PARACHUTE LANDING FALLS (PLFS) TO PRACTICE BODY POSITION AND AIRPLANE EXITS FROM A THIRTY-FOUR FOOT TOWER TO A CAPTIVE JUMP FROM A TWO-HUNDRED AND FIFTY FOOD TOWER. DURING THE LAST WEEK, "JUMP WEEK", FIVE QUALIFYING JUMPS ARE MADE FROM JUMP AIRCRAFT, A SIMULATED COMBAT JUMP WITH FULL COMBAT GEAR AND A MASS JUMP MADE UP THE LAST TWO OF THE FIVE QUALIFYING JUMPS, UPON COMPLETING THE FIVE QUALIFYING JUMPS THE STUDENTS WERE PRESENTED THEIR SILVER JUMP WINGS."
Our C-130 landed at Fort Benning full of not so squared away sailors, you might say, most of us, including our officers, were drunk. We were reporting in for duty, reporting in drunk was a big no no, drinking on a military aircraft was another big no no. As we were off loading the plane a very agitated Sergeant Major wanted to know who the hell was in charge here. We found out later this was no run of the mill Sergeant Major. He was one of the senior enlisted men in the United States Army. More important, this man had a set of jump wings with five little stars over the parachute. Each of those little stars stood for one combat jump. Five times he had jumped out of a perfectly good aircraft, with people on the ground trying to kill him. I think at the time he was one of only three men in all branches of the military who had survived FIVE COMBAT JUMPS.
Well, that Sergeant Major got all our officers in one little group and gave them a short, curt discussion on their lack of leadership abilities. He reminded them we were guests of the United States Army Airborne, and they were not going to put up with a bunch of nonsense from Leg Swabbies. First the term Swabbies; combat troops called sailors, "Swabbies", meaning they were safe on a ship mopping the deck. The term "Leg" was used to describe anyone not jump qualified. I think it was just what our officers needed to hear, they had been acting like a bunch of enlisted men. They figured out quickly how to keep that Sergeant Major happy, without screwing up a good time for all of us. The Army Airborne was in for a dose of United States Navy, hairy assed Frogmen action.
I think an old joke will best describe the different attitudes displayed by the officers and enlisted men in the Army, Marines , and United States Navy. It seems there was a big joint services exercise, Army, Marines and Navy. All operations went off without a hitch, it had been the best exercise in years. At the end of the operations, the officers had a party to tell themselves what a great job they had done. Toward the end of the party, when the officers and gentlemen were soundly shit faced, the head Army and Marine Generals had a heated debate. Whose troops had the biggest balls? The Admiral in charge told both of them they were full of shit, put up or shut up. The Army General told him, "All right Admiral, you and the General each get your best man, and meet me out front by the flagpole in thirty minutes."
When they all met by the flagpole both Generals had a tough looking corporal in tow, there was no one with the Admiral. One of the Generals' asked if he needed more time to find a tough sailor? The Admiral just laughed, and said, "any Swabbies that comes along will do just fine." Low and behold, along comes a skinny young cocky seaman, with a very unmilitary appearance and demeanor. The Admiral called him over, the young sailor gave him a sloppy salute and said, "What can I do for you Admiral?" "Sailor just stand by here and watch, I'm sure you will know what to do when the time comes."
Both Generals' took one look at the skinny unmilitary looking sailor, and laughed. The Army General called his corporal to attention and told him to climb that flagpole. The corporal gave a snappy salute and shimmed up the pole. When he reached the top, the General hollered up, "Jump corporal!" The soldier saluted, hollered "Airborne General!" and jumped.
The Marine General smirked, called his corporal to attention, and ordered him to climb the flagpole with one hand behind his back. The Marine gave a sharp salute, and started climbing, with one hand behind him. When he reached the top , his General hollered up, "MARINE, jump head first!" The marine saluted screamed, "RECON" and jumped headfirst.
The Marine General said "Top that!" The Admiral called the sailor to attention, and said, "Climb that flagpole sailor!" The Swabbie gave a sloppy salute and said, "FUCK YOU ADMIRAL." With that, the Admiral turned to the Generals and said, "Now that takes BALLS gentlemen!"
It's a joke, but it has a large grain of truth in how the different services viewed, and treated their enlisted men. Our officers had been hit with a big problem within minutes of all of us stumbling off the plane. We were sailors at an army school, if anything went wrong it would look bad for the Navy. Our officers were all tough guys, but none of them had any experience in inter-service operations. We had no instructor with us. Worse yet, they had not one Chief, First-Class, or Second-Class Petty Officer to help them get control of their situation. Every officer there knew he was part of a group that was perfectly capable of causing more trouble than GOD would believe.
There were about two hundred and fifty young solders, fresh out of boot camp, and Advanced Infantry Training, going though jump school with us. They were good guys, but a couple of things set us apart. First and foremost, the physical demands that the Army placed on us at jump school were like an easy day for us. Those same demands hammered most of the Army guys. We had just completed four months of the toughest training any branch of the service offered, our stamina was boundless. Second, in the early sixties, the Army's Officer Corp had a bad attitude. There needs to be some separation between the troops and their officers, but these guys were ridiculous. They acted like enlisted men where inferior shit.
The example that stuck in my mind was the water bag incident. Spread all over the Fort Benning Training Area were wooden frame structures. These things had no walls, just a roof, with six big canvas water bags hanging from the support beams. At each location there were two separate structures, one for the officers and one for the enlisted. They were about thirty feet apart. Whenever we took a water break the army officers couldn't get away from the enlisted men fast enough.
You run everywhere at jump school, doing what they call the airborne shuffle. You run in step, and when you bring your left foot down, it is slammed onto the ground. You get a haunting beat with all those left jump boot slamming the deck as one. Sometime during the first week, we were running, when one of the soldiers starting getting heat prostration. The corporal in charge sent him up the hill to the break area. He was told to get some water and sit in the shade. We ran around the track for another fifteen minutes, then headed to the break area.
Well, guess what, the officers' bags had water, and the enlisted men's didn't. That soldier had set there and not drank any of the officer's water. The Army officers didn't give a crap whether we had water or not. Ensign Janke, had some not so friendly words with the Army officers. Then he and a couple other of our officers, took the sick soldier to the officers ' water and had him drink.
Our officers gave a crap about their men, the army officers just gave a crap about being an officer. Anyway, the incident with the water, coupled with our demeanor when we landed at Fort Benning, and a little rebellion we staged at the chow hall, put our officers in the spotlight.
The Army had busted us up into different platoons, a few here a few there. They did have all of Class-29's enlisted men living in one barracks,. Their thinking was, keep those Navy animals from leading our young soldiers astray. That was good thinking, case in point, The Chow Hall Rebellion.
All of us were pissed off about the food, quality, but mostly quantity. Our first meal in an Army chow hall was a shock. All through training , the Navy fed us as much as we could stuff down our throats. The Army gave you a measly portion of things like; powdered eggs, canned meat, powered potatoes canned vegetables, crap. No wonder the Army guys got tired so easily. They didn't give them enough fuel to run their damn machine. To add insult to the whole process of starvation, each company that ate had to provide their own servers. That meant these guys had to pass out the miserly portions to their own classmates.
Ronald W. Lester, IC3, was the leader of this particular action. Ron was not usually a shit stirrer. He was medium high, with wide shoulders, and a thick chest. Lester had the class record on the obstacle course. He was not only a fast runner, he had a lot of upper body strength and was extremely coordinated. Ron could stand flat footed, jump straight up, flip, and land back in the same spot.
When a company arrived at the chow hall, each platoon would take turns supplying servers. Their job was to stand behind the food line and pass out just the amount of food the cook told them to. No one liked to serve. Their classmates were after the server to give them more food. The cooks were standing right behind them to make sure they didn't. I think it was the same morning as the water bag incident, Ron said, "Let's volunteer, we'll show'em how to serve." Every guy serving was from Class-29. Lester had no trouble getting his classmates to go for his little rebellion. As soon Ron threw the idea out, I wanted to be on the toast tray. The cooks had each slice of toast cut in half, a full piece of toast was counted as two. What a racket one slice of bread ends up two pieces of toast.
We had that fat assed cook and his two assistants going nuts for a little while. If they were busy chewing me out for giving three triangles of toast, Ron Lester was giving out extra bacon. While they were chewing out Lester, Lynch would be passing out extra eggs. We were having a ball, it felt good fucking with the cooks, and passing out extra food. They sure didn't let it last long.
Maybe ten guys had gotten through the line when the straw (toast) that broke the camel's back fell. The fat cook had finished chewing Jack Lynch out for giving out to big a scoop of powered eggs. He waddled down the line to jump on Lester for giving more then two pieces of bacon. Of course, I started passing out too much toast, while he was at the other end of the line. I had just placed six wedges, three whole pieces of bread, on a guy's tray. The cook started screaming "Stop the line, stop the line", He ran back to our end, leaned across the line, stuck his fat belly in the powered eggs, grabbed the six wedges of toast, and threw them back on the line. After throwing the toast, he threw us off the serving line. The real heart breaker was, we were never allowed to serve again. Not only could these guys not cook, they couldn't think either.
Add this to our arrival, and the water bag incident, and the Army didn't think much of the way we were fitting in. Our officers were given a little talking to by a senior army officer. It boiled down to straighten up and fly right, fat chance. Their biggest complaint, the Navy enlisted men did not show the proper respect to the Army officers in the class. They were right, if these guys were good officers, I was a girl scout. A good officer's first concern is his men! I'm not just talking morels here, his men are the tools he has to get his job done. These guys wanted to wear the name, but still didn't understand the game. They wanted form, not fact, and that's what we gave them. They got the image of the four-o-squared away sailor; yes-sir, no-sir, spit shined jump boots, break starch everyday, be the best troops at jump school, and do things our way after hours.
A little aside on what was going on with the Army and food. About three years after we got out of jump school, the Army had a huge financial scandal. The supply sergeants had been pocketing money meant to feed the troops. They had a lot of little tricks just like calling one piece of bread two. Think about it, if you feed five thousand men three times a day and each man is allowed two pieces of bread per meal, that's thirty thousand slices of bread per day. At two cents per slice, that's six hundred bucks a day. If you can make one slice of bread into two, your magic, and you can pocket three hundred dollars a day.
The first thing we had to learn was a P.L.F., or parachute landing fall. They had a bunch of wooden platforms, about three feet high, set around pits full of sawdust. Over and over we jumped off the platform into the pit. Easy enough, but it had to be done just so, if you didn't do it just right, and broke a leg you were no good as a combat troop. Truth be known, I needed all the practice I could get.
Feet together, legs slightly bent at the knee, arms stretched above your head, hands tightly gripping a set of make believe risers, chin tucked tightly onto your chest. When you hit the ground, your feet would strike it flat, your legs acting as springs, absorbing the shock, slightly twisting your upper body and falling on your side. As soon as you were down, jump up, and collapse your make believe parachute. Getting up quickly, and collapsing the chute could save you being drug all over the drop zone. A proper P.L.F. would keep from breaking a leg, or doing some other damage. The Army instructors did a good job on driving the basics home.
All the training at jump school was important, but had nothing to do with the two things that concerned me. How a parachute was packed, and why did it work? I mean hell, who was this guy stuffing all that canopy in that little backpack? For all I knew, he could have been the brother of that fat cook that stuck his belly in the eggs.
Beside the P.I.F. pits, there were three main training mock ups; aircraft cargo bay, the 34 foot tower, and the best carnival ride in the country, the 250 foot tower. The cargo bay mock up was used to teach what was required of us in the aircraft, more important, how to leave it. It boiled down to being able to march. I'm not making light of this stage of training. If everyone didn't take the same step, in unison, they would never get a hundred jumpers out the door over the drop zone. The consequences of not leaving that aircraft, asshole to belly button, could be dire. The whole objective here is to get a lot of combat troops in a small area on the ground, ready to fight. If anyone gets out of step, the whole operation can turn to shit in less than a heartbeat.
The Armies' style of instruction is the, DO IT OVER AND OVER method. I have a special place in my heart for this method, it's the only way I can learn. To make the school of repetition work, failure to perform properly is rewarded with public physical pain, and ridicule. At jump school that meant push-ups or extra running.
We went through the mock-up again and again, getting the steps down to near automatic. You put on your parachute before you loaded the dummy aircraft. You have been assigned a spot in what is called a "Stick". A "Stick" is just your order of jump, the troops, they want you to end up as close as you can be to the ground. The guys in the stick check each other out, then each man is checked by an assistant jump master. You load, sit, and jump in stick order. In that cargo-bay the jump master is king, rank or rate mean nothing. The jump master has final say on when and if the jump will be made. If a general is in your stick, he takes the jump master's orders like the rest of you. Everything is done on the jump master's command, in most cases, hand signals. Stand up, everyone stands up and faces the jump masters. Hook-up, each jumper hooks up their static-line to a cable running the length of the cargo bay. When you were hooked up, safety pin installed, you gave the static-line a few jerks. Each jumper checks the mans parachute in front of him. Stand in the door, the whole stick shuffles forward, the first man stands in the door.
Most of the guys in Class-29 would have happily made their five jumps the first day at jump school. I wanted every bit of training they were passing out. The more I practiced the less chance I might freeze in the door. Making my first jump had focused down to the aircraft door for me. It was like the bull riders tell me, "It don't take balls to ride a bull. What takes balls is getting off the fence on to that big bastard's back, after that you just hang on." That's just how I felt about jumping, if I could get our the door, the rest would take care of itself.
They had told us there would be no passes, that's liberty to a sailor, till just before jump week. The Army of the sixties was an odd place. Fort Benning was what they called an Open Post, there was no gate. The main highway ran straight through the middle of the military reservation. You could drive on or off the base without being stopped. For the next three weeks, Class-29 put our Sneak and Peak talents to good us, liberty! Some nights our barracks was damn near empty, we were all the places we weren't suppose to be. Hell, one night I hitchhiked from the middle of Fort Benning to down town Columbus, Georgia. Had a date with a nice librarian lady, God bless librarians, then rode the bus back on to the base. Harry Humphries even crashed the officers' club and got away with it. Some of the guys were renting cars and parking hem right behind our barracks.
We had the only barracks with a name, the "Frog Farm". Of course, we named it, we even made up a sign. The Army had one previous experience with a whole U.D.T. training class coming to jump school. Before that, the teams had sent down a few guys at a time. The class before ours had infected the Armies enlisted men with what I can only call, hairy-assed Frogman disease. One of the major manifestations of this rare disease is, disregard for stupid rules, and the willingness to suffer the consequences of your actions. With our class, the Army decided that if they broke us up during the training day and kept us all together at night, there was less chance of their troops becoming infected.
The best thing about jump school was good boots on my feet. We all had new jump boots. If the Army knew anything, it was troops move on their feet, give them good boots. One of the guys talked me into filling my new boots full of hot water and then wearing them till they were dry. Now, this might sound dumb, but it was the best and quickest way I'd ever broken in a pair of boots. It amazed me how quickly my feet quit hurting. After the first week of jump school I was pain free from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.
Odd to think about jump school as a break. A place to let our pulled muscles and sore body parts heal. That's just what it was. For Class-29 the physical demands had been more then cut in half. No more night evaluations, gig squad, long swims, burnout P.T.s, and harassment just to see what we could take. Our idea of maximum effort, and that of our Army classmates, bore no similarity. Physically our three weeks at Fort Benning was a cake walk.
Jump school gave me a new appreciation of our officers. Comparing them to what the Army called officers and gentlemen in the early sixties, ours shined. No that's not right, there was no comparison, our officers just shined. There were sixteen United States Naval Officers that started our training class. Eleven of them were going to graduate. It damn well should have been twelve, but Ensign Charlie Rand lost some toes to frostbite! That is an unheard of attrition rate. There had been whole graduating classes, that didn't have eleven people, let alone eleven officers. They were just as diverse a group of humans as you could find. They ran the gambit from Ensign Rick Shea, who would make a joke out of anything, to Lieutenant Junior Grade Richard G. Johnson, who was quiet and took everything as serious as a heartbeat. Before hell week, this diverse group of officers had somehow come together as the first line in net of Class-29. The oddest thing was, the natural leader of our class was Harry Humphries. None of our officers seemed the least bit intimidated by this fact.
The thirty four towers were fun. They were just rooms, about fifteen by twenty feet, with three doors. They were perched thirty-four feet off the ground on a bunch of pilings that looked like telephone poles. The back door was the entrance, and had a set of wide stairs leading up to it. The two front doors were the exits, and had no stairs. Each had a set of cables running out the door for about a hundred or so yards. These cables sloped down to, and were mounted on a frame made out of telephone poles, about fifteen feet off the ground. There was twelve foot high earth brim running across, under the cables on the frame end, the object of this contraption; was to get us use to jumping out of safe places, into nothing.
I must not have been the only guy worried about freezing in the door! Most of the guys that weren't going to make it, wiped out at the 34 foot towers. It was the only place you had to stand in the door, and jump, of your won free will.
Each man wore a working parachute harness, with dummy parachutes attached. You started out at the bottom of the stairs leading to the thirty-four foot tower. Up the stairs, two lines, one for each exit door. When your turn came, you were hooked to a small trolley that rode on the cables. Time to jump! Again the Army had a very specific way they wanted you to do this. Some of the guys did it right, from the start, not me. That first time, I just leaped, like someone committing suicide.
Big surprise, it was fun! I had done nothing right, and had the shit jerked out of me as a consequence. I had dove out the door, as close to head first as the harness would allow, my body parts were in all the wrong places, nothing tucked in tight. This caused me to be jerked around and come sliding down the cables with my arms and legs flailing all over the place. Of course, my not so perfect effort was observed by all the Army instructors. I paid the price with push-ups, and a little ridicule from every instructor in sight. They loved it when one of us Leg Swabbies didn't do something right.
It was fun, now I just had to concentrate, and get it right. All that was required, was when you stood in the door, have the palm of one hand on the outside of each door edge. Your feet should be slightly apart, one foot a little behind the other. Legs bent a few degrees, eyes looking straight out he door. When the jump master said go, jump up and out. Bring your arms hard to your sides, hands gripping your reserve, feet together, chin tucked hard on your chest.
The only thing that nailed you jumping from the 34 foot tower , was similar to the opening shock of a parachute. You received a good jerk when your risers took up the weight of your falling body. Even if you didn't have a tight body position, and jerked all over the place, it was still a fun ride. Like the P.I.F., the 34 foot tower was an over and over again operation. It was fun, not as fun as cast and recovery, but something young, dumb and full of IT guys could enjoy. What you didn't get was prop-wash, a hundred and twenty mile an hour wind just outside the aircraft door. That tower couldn't fly!
The Army Airborne is justifiably a proud outfit, with a long history. We, of course, wanted them to know that Underwater Demolitions Teams, were a prouder outfits. We played a little fast and lose with a couple of their verbal traditions. They had a certain way you were to reply to any direction from an instructor. "AIRBORNE SERGEANT". Being good sailors, the members of Class-29 always replied to our Army instructors with, "AIRBORNE FROGMAN SERGEANT". Our reply generally got us some extra push-ups, or such. The "or such" they put on us, that was my personal favorite, was to run around the group. It was fairly simple, they would have us run around the rest of the platoon, while the platoon ran wherever it was bound.
Running around the platoon was a break from the boredom of the airborne shuffle. You just sped up on one side , ran across the front, and coasted down the other side. If you really wanted to hassle the instructor, you just hollered, AIRBORNE FROGMAN, every time you ran past. That was sure to get you some extra push-ups when the platoon stopped running.
Everything at Fort Benning was in the shadows of the 250 foot towers immense steel structures. There were two of them, each with four arms sticking out from the top. The arms were about a hundred feet long. On the end of each arm was a large, odd looking, round contraption, that could be raised or lowered as needed. The odd looking contraption, would be lowered to the ground. A crew of guys would rig a special parachute in its dome, not packed. The dome held the parachute in an open position, and had mechanical hooks that could be released on command. When the chute was rigged they hooked its risers to a trainees harness, and the fun began. The dome was raised to the end of its arm, 250 feet straight up. The trainee dangling under it, slowly begin lifted over the State of Georgia. The towers stood in the middle of a huge, open grassy field. In the sixties there wasn't a carnival ride anywhere in the nation that could touch them, the towers would be our last training device before jump week.
On the 250 foot tower there was no door to stand in, hell, the parachute was already open. The instructors' monitored the wind conditions closely, if you were lucky, you might get to hang up there and enjoy the view. Form the top, I felt like I could see half the State of Georgia. The whole base was laid out below my feet! The Chatahuchie River wandering past the base and off through Columbus, Georgia. All the little towns, roads, farms, and the huge drop zones, we would use for our first jumps.
There were only two things that could get you hurt, and unplanned gust of wind, or a bad P.L.F.. The Army instructors were very careful about the wind. They had loud speakers, so you could hear their commands while hanging at the end of one of the towers' arms, waiting to drop. I remember two times guys hung up there, just checking out Georgia, for over thirty minutes. Then were slowly lowered to the ground, because the wind was wrong. We had to do our own P.L.F. Each trainee must have done at least 200 practice P.L.F.s by the time we started the 250 foot towers. None of the practice seemed to matter, for some of us. On our first tower jump, a lot of us hit the ground like a large sack of shit. Which made our Army instructors feel needed. They could point out our weakness to one and all, apply some push-up study techniques, and send us to the P.L.F. pits. It amazed me how quickly the first two weeks passed. It seemed to me we stepped of that C-130, and it was the weekend before jump week. Everyone was given what the Army called passes, and what we called liberty, for the weekend. A lot of the guys from Class-29 were from the south. Some of them went home for the weekend. For the Army guys the pass was a big deal. None of them had been off the base in two weeks. We of course, had been taking our own liberty since we arrived. During jump training, we were the best troops there. After hours, fuck the Army, we went and did what we wanted.
The only other guy I'm sure felt like I did, about jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, was Jessie James Hardy. One night, toward the end of tower week, I got back to the base about 2 o'clock in the morning. Old Jessie was standing by the trunk of a car, someone had rented, drinking beer. The trunk was open, and had the better half of a case, just sitting right there in the middle of it. We stood by the trunk of that car, drinking beer for a couple hours, just talking guy b.s.
Jesse was a stone alcoholic, he knew it, and so did everyone else. Jessie was one up on me, I was an alcoholic and didn't know yet. Over the years I have had my struggle with booze, and witnessed a lot of people with the same problem. Never have I seen anyone like Jessie James Hardy, how anyone could go through the four months we had just completed, and be drunk a good part of the time was beyond me. The class wasn't carrying him. Jessie James Hardy was, a reach down in your gut and pull it out, hard guy!
As we sucked the suds, I told old Jessie how I felt about jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. The same two things were still bothering me: I wanted to know exactly how/why a parachute worked, and who the hell was packing my chute? Jessie felt pretty much like I did, his only comment was, if we wanted to be frogmen, we didn't seem to have much choice in the matter. I don't know why, he hadn't told me anything I didn't already know, but after talking with Jessie I didn't seem to sweat it so much.
The Army instructors were all sergeants, and about the only thing the United Sates Army, of the 60's had going for it. They knew how to lead men into scary shit, and get you out the other side. Not only were these men good, they looked it. The Army called it "Strike": It means everything from your weapon to the crease in your pants is ready, and where it should be. These guys broke starch every day, if they got dirty, they did it again. You could see your face in the shine of their jump boots. It's like that in all the services, young officers come and go, senior enlisted men are there for the long hall. Some of these sergeants had seen combat in World War II, and Korea. They knew, and did their best to give us the tools you needed to do the dirty business of war.
On jump day all of us were introduced to a very good reason to jump. It was called a C-119, the Flying Boxcar. These damn things had been around since World War II. They rattled and creaked just sitting on the ground, without the engines running! The skin of the planes were all dented and rippled. They looked like someone had been beating on them with a big o hammer. Just the look of these damn things was enough reason to jump. Hell , if these things got off the ground, no telling how long before a wing or something might fall off. To put it mildly, the Flying Boxcars did not inspire thoughts of soaring with he eagles. All questions had been removed from my mind. I didn't like landing in aircraft anyway, taking off, and flying was OK, landing was to much like a crash, for my taste. Given an opportunity I would happily leap out of these rickety looking pieces of shit.
The C-119 could be jumped from the back, you just had to remove the two clam shell type doors at the rear of the aircraft. We used the other method, side door. There was one just ahead of the clam shell doors, on each side of the aircraft. The two side doors had been removed. Everything in the door frames that might hang up a jumper, was covered with aircraft tape. That's just extra heavy duct tape.
When we loaded onto the boxcars, and they fired up the engines, the noise was unbelievable. Every piece of metal in the aircraft shook and rattled. We had been standing around, with our parachutes on, in the Georgia heat and humidity, for over an hour. Now, we were setting in this vibrating bucket of noise, sweating our asses off. There was no damn question whatsoever, if this thing made it into the air, I'd jump out of it!
All morning you could look around and see the fear, it was all over a lot of faces. I'm sure there were other guys from Class-29, besides me, that had fear that day. None of them were showing it. I had made my mind up, I wasn't going to let these Army dudes see fear on my face either. My sphincter muscle might be tight, I was going to show cool. There were guys doing their Rosary, others reading from small Bibles. Some guys looked stunned, their eyes bulging, mouth hanging open, sweat running down their faces. Screw'em, I might feel that way, but they weren't going to see it. So I thought.
Our Flying Boxcar got off the ground, and actually sounded better. Most of the rinkie-tink rattling was gone, replaced by a deep straining throb. At least it sounded strong, like just maybe, it wouldn't fall out of the sky. Another nice surprise, it cooled down quick. One of the biggest surprises for me, was how long it took to fly the couple miles to the drop-zone. We must have flown around the State of Georgia for an hour.
Our Jump Master that day was a sergeant. And the blackest man I have ever seen. He was as big a Instructor Waddell and all business. He had been at Ground Check, helping the assistant Jump Master go through the checks on us. I had watched him check out the aircraft inside and out. The sergeant's professionalism, had made me feel a little better about the piece of flying junk we were vibrating through the sky in. He must have felt my eyes on him all morning. Because just before our jump, he singled me out, and caused me to lose my mister cool cover.
My place in the jump order was number six in my stick, jumping from the right door. There were five guys setting tightly packed together, between me and that DOOR. Our Jump Master was standing in the middle of the aircraft, just to the stern of the two side doors. He had his big legs spread for balance. I sat, with my eyes glued on him. He pulled a piece of 8 by 11 paper out of his pocket, unfolded it, and started to read. After a few seconds, he looked up, straight into my eyes. One of those, as serious as a heartbeat looks on his face. He just barely nodded his head a couple times. His eyes never leaving mine. We went through this little routine, three or four times. The sergeant was trying to communicate something to me. What in the hell it was, I couldn't figure out. While he was looking me straight in the eye, he held the paper chest high. His big hands started wadding the paper into a ball. That heartbeat look never left his face, his eyes never left mine. He held the wadded piece of paper between two fingers in front of his chest. He opened his fingers, and let the wadded paper fall. It landed between his spread spit-shined jump boots.
I had almost forgotten where we were, and what we were about to do. Our Jump Master had me right where he wanted me. He was going to remind me in a way I would never forget. Two or three times he looked down at the wadded paper, then up at me. The last time he looked down, the slowly lifted his right jump boot, and sat it down so the wadded paper was between his right boot and the right door. His spit shine was so good, I could see the wadded paper reflected in the toe of his jump boot. Now, that damn piece of paper was at least seven feet from the door. What happened next was like magic, now you see it, now you don't.
The Jump Master slightly nudged the paper with the toes of his boot. IT moved slowly about six inches, and was gone, just gone. It happened so quick, I had no idea what had happened. I must have looked around for the paper for at least thirty seconds, before it dawned on me what had just transpired. When I looked up, the Jump Master had an ear to ear grin on his face, and was shaking his head up and down. My Mr. Cool image was gone. All I wanted was my cherry jump over. What had made that wadded up piece of paper disappear, was the one thing we couldn't practice. The hurricane like wind rushing past that door. That wind had sucked the paper out. Just to make sure I got the point, he did it again, minus all the theatrics. This time I saw it go out the door. It was still fast, but I knew what I was looking for. Oh well, if I want to be a Frogman, I've go to be a jumper!
It was a relief when we got the stand up signal. We stood and faced the rear of the aircraft. We hooked our static lines to the cable, and inserted the safety pins. There were two ling lines of young bucks, with very tight sphincters. One on each side of the aircraft. We checked each other out. I have no idea how long we stood, it seemed like a long time. Our Jump Master was standing in the door. You could see the wind shoving the flesh around the side of his face. He stepped back, and gave the signal, stand in the DOOR. Both lines of jumpers shuffled forward, first man in the door.
I remember the first guy going, and the line shuffling ahead. The next thing I knew, I am looking at the spit shine of my boots, and Georgia is laid out 1,200 feet below me. If the fat cook's brother packed my chute, he'd done a good job. That beautiful canopy of nylon was floating me to the ground. My plan had been to holler, "Airborne Frogman", as I stood in the door. No idea if that was accomplished. My memory went from shuffling ahead, to hanging under that parachute. No door, no blast, no opening shock, I remembered none of it. I'm a jumper. Well, in my mind I was a jumper, the Army figured I had four more jumps.
It's odd having no memory of that door. Freezing in it had been the biggest fear I had throughout training. I never feared it again. In truth, those leaps of faith became a time when there was nothing between GOD and me. I kept the doubts about the fat cook's brother, and my parachute, for another year. Then to my way of thinking, I became the fat cook's brother, one of the team's riggers, I packed the parachutes.
Class-29 did well, everyone jumped, no one broke any bones. We had not graduated into the Teams, but were already exhibiting strong Frogman tendencies. Bust Ass and Party Hardy. Jump week, was easy on the bust ass, but heavy on the party hardy. Our main mission that week was five jumps. Getting over two hundred men five jumps, requires a lot of standing around, and waiting. There was little time for runs or physical training, but we had all night to party. Party we did!
The Frog-Farm, our barracks, had more beer in it then the enlisted men's club. The Army did not allow anyone under the rank of E-5 to drink, anything but near-beer, a disgusting low alcohol brew. The non-commissioned officers club, E-5 and above, and the officers club, had all the booze you could want. All the enlisted men, in Class-29, were below the rank of E-5. Since we were not allowed in town, at the non-commissioned officers club, or the officers club, we couldn't drink. RIGHT! The Frog-Farm was the starting point for whatever illegal activity we were about that night. My personal favorite, down town Columbus, Georgia. Several of the guys were hitting the N.C.O. club, which took a lot of balls, as that's where our Army instructors did their drinking.
They had to have known what we had been up to from the start. Young guys partying are not that stealthy. Sneaking into the officers club, N.C.O. club, or leaving the base without authorization, you could go to the brig for. Let us not forget all that beer in the barracks, and the rent-a-cars, some of my classmates had. More infractions against good order and discipline, to the militaries way of thinking. There is only one reason we got away with all that shit at Fort Benning. The sergeants like us.
In a strange way the military is run by those men in the middle. The chiefs in the Navy, and the sergeants in the rest of the forces. They are the keepers of the faith. The guys that hold the grunts together in the good times, peace. Those Army instructors saw some things in Class-29 they knew were needed when things got bad. First and foremost, we had officers that would hang their asses out in the wind for their enlisted men. There were eleven officers in our little group who gave a shit about their men. Fort Benning was a big place, with a lot of different training commands. There were at least a thousand junior grad Army officers running around that base. If they were lucky, they had eleven Army officers, on that whole damn base, that gave a shit about their men. Second, and very difficult without the first, a military term, Unit Cohesion.
Unit Cohesion, it is one of those terms that everyone thinks they understand. In truth, most people don't have a clue. It is defiantly not about everybody liking each other, or being nice. It means you have a pride in the ability of your group to function at a higher level then possible for the individual. The unit doesn't shine because you're a member, you shine because you're good enough to be a member. It doesn't matter if we're talking front line troops, or rear echelon supply people. If the military has enough little units, competing to be the best at their job, it's ready to fight. Class-29 had Unit Cohesion, a rare thing in the military of the 60's. We were allowed to get away with a lot of shit because of it.
That last week at jump school, I kept thinking of Key West, and finally becoming a diver. I figured we would learn how to put the gear on and do a lot of diving. Well, that was true as far as it went, but the world of academia was about to rear its ugly head. Up until jump school we had an excellent intelligence source, Tom Mc Cutchan. Mc had done the first part before. He was more then happy to let us know what was going hit us next. It wasn't even too hard to figure out what jump school would be all about. If we were surprised about anything at Fort Benning, it was jump school being easier then we had thought . Not so with underwater swimmers school!
Our Army instructors, and jump school classmates had one big surprise for us before we left Fort Benning. One of those things you carry in your heart for life, and try to figure out. Graduation day at jump school was a mad house. Class-29 was packing its gear, running all over Fort Benning like a bunch of chickens with our heads cut off. We had all kinds of paper work to get done, our pay records to pick up , all the administrative bull shit the military is so fond of. You couldn't do all that crap in one place, it was spread all over the base.
The Navy had a C-130 sitting on the tarmac, out side the hanger were the graduation was being held. Ready to fly us to Key West, as soon as the graduation ceremonies were over. To tell the truth, many of us were hung over, and just wanted to get on the plane and have a little rest. To hell with the graduation.
The military generally tries to put on a nice graduation ceremony from any of their schools. There are bands, moms and dads, the whole nine yards. Class-29 showed up well after the ceremonies had started. We tried to slip in without causing much commotion. That's when our Army classmates and instructor blew our jump boots off, and made us feel a little humble. They all stood in mass and gave us an ovation.
"LIEUTENANT TIEL AND THE FOUR NETHERLANDS ENLISTED MEN RE-JOINED THE CLASS AT THE NAVAL BASE, KEY WEST FLORIDA. DURING THE FOLLOWING FIVE WEEKS THE STUDENTS WERE TRAINED IN THE USE AND MAINTENANCE OF ALL TYPES OF NAVY SCUBA (SELF CONTAINED BREATHING APPARATUS) EQUIPMENT. THEY LEARNED DIVING MEDICINE AND PHYSIOLOGY, UNDERWATER SEARCH PROCEDURES, UNDERWATER COMMUNICATION AND NAVIGATION, AND SUBMARINE ESCAPE HATCH LOCK-IN AND LOCK-OUT PROCEDURES."
We were greeted as we stepped off the C-130 by and old (maybe 35) Frogman. He was a first class petty officer, known far and wide as Shorty Lyons. Many of you have actually seen Shorty, he was on the cover of LIFE Magazine around 1966 or 7. Not only was Shorty a Frogman but he was one of those strange breed of men, that figured he was smarter then the guys who built the bomb. It's called E.O.D., Emergency Ordinance Disposal. To my way of thinking, anybody that takes BOMBS apart, is being told things by God that I don't hear, or has a BIG FUCKING SCREW LOOSE.
During one of Shorty Lyons tours of duty in Vietnam, he had helped a doctor remove a live mortar round, from a Vietnamese soldiers chest cavity. Well, all three of them lived through the experience, and Shroty made the cover of LIFE. That's the hard old bull they placed in charge of Class-29.
He was our class proctor, which meant, besides teaching some of our classes, he was to take care of any problems the class might have. God Bless Shorty, I wouldn't change that choose for anything, but I'll bet you most anything he would. Besides Shorty, there were three other guys from underwater demolition teams instructing at the school. The Executive Officer Lieutenant Schaible, and two First Class Petty Officers, Cahill, and Durks.
Navy wide an executive officer is simply known as the X.O. To my way of thinking it is a crap job, the X.O. does all the shit work that the commanding officer is two busy for. It is a job that if not Well Done will end a naval officers career. Well done to the Navy way of thinking means, not only does it work, but it has a fresh coat of haze gray paint, IT LOOKS GOOD. The problem with the peace time Navy, how it looks counts more. Class-29 were about to threaten the X.O.s advancement. We worked great, it was just at times we didn't look to good.
Lyons struck fast, push-ups as soon as we stepped off the plane. It seemed the plane was late, since the C-130 couldn't pay the price of being tardy, we would. To top off our welcome to Underwater Swim School, as soon as we dumped our gear, he took us on a little tour of Key West. Of course, we ran, our proctor rode. He had a sick green Cushman motor scooter, and he loved to have us run while he putted along. He was particular fond of hearing our collective left feet slam the pavement. All our runs with Shorty would have the soft steady putt of the Cushman and the hard slam of our left feet, echoing through the streets of Key West.
Key West of the early 60's was a beautiful small town. Even the Naval base had an old style laid back charm. One thing was the same then as now. Key West had a lot of what you might call, people of a different stroke. Class-29 fit right in, we were full of different strokes.
The shock came for a lot of us, when we found out just what it was we were suppose to learn here. We actually had scholastic standards to meet, written test and all. Not only that, but there were Physics and Diving Medicine, serious subjects. In those days the military did not require a high school diploma for enlistment. Many of us enlisted men were not what you might call academic giants. In high school, I had done nothing more then was required of me to stay eligible for sports. Hell, Ralph Diebold had only been allowed to go to school when there was no work to do on the farm. This was some shit.
On the lighter side, the main drag and the bars were two short blocks out the gate. The gates on this base were manned by United States Marines, you stopped, showed identification, and stated your business. Unlike Fort Benning you needed a liberty card to get off the base. For the first time in almost five months, we were allowed liberty every night we didn't have the duty. That is if we kept up our grades and stayed out of trouble. It turned out that keeping up the grades was easier then staying out of trouble.
A few things to keep in mind here, every man in Class-29, was well past what you might call normal. By normal, I mean, held back by fear. I don't mean we didn't have guys that didn't maintain themselves in a proper manor, we did. Robert J. Young, Ralph Coligan, James H. Cook, John Kopetski, Trailor Lewis, Forrest Dearborn Hedden, all nice quiet guys. They would fit in anywhere and never upset the balance of nature. That is unless you made the mistake of fucking with them. Not one bully in our class, and not a guy that would role over for a bully either. No one, that couldn't carry his own weight, and some of yours too. Not one phoney, with a pocket full of three dollar bills. I know now, how rare a privilege it is to be part of such a group. Thank you God.
We hadn't walked to meals in over four months, run to, run back! In Key West, you didn't even have to go to chow, if you didn't want to. Strolling over to the chow hall, just bull shitting with a couple friends was a pleasure. I have on of those mental snap shots: we're walking to lunch. Up in front is Leo Duncan, Jessie James Hardy, and Harry Humphries. They're just strolling three abreast, talking. Right in front of Risher and me is Shorty Flockton, Jack Lynch, and P.T. Smith. When that snapshot pops into my mind, it feels like walking to lunch, with well loved brothers. What none of us thought about at the time, in juts five weeks we would graduate into the TEAMS. Some of us would never see each other again.
They broke the class, and the day, into two parts. One group had classroom in the morning , and the water in the afternoon. The other had the reverse. A few times we had night dive/swims, but most nights belonged to the pursuit of a good time. Well, let's qualify that, the kind of a good time only young, dumb and full of cum, guys go after. Key West was a different form of stress test for most of us, a little self abuse.
The test went like this. Work all day, in the early evening start slamming back large quantities of whatever booze tickled your fancy. Keep it up all night if possible, or at least till the bars closed. With little, or no sleep carry out your daily duties. Now, do the same damn thing again. My rest periods came when I was out of money, and none of my classmates had any to loan. For a bunch of young hard chargers, Key West was the icing on a hard to bake cake.
We learned to dive two kinds of scuba gear, one is called open circuit, standard run of the mill scuba gear. The other was secret shit, the Emersion Re-breather. This was the latest thing in sneak attack diving gear. No bubbles, nothing to give your presence away to anyone watching the surface of the water. Diving has its inherent dangers, but re-breathers of the early 60's had one extra special danger, they were pure oxygen rigs. Use them wrong and you could shake yourself to death, each cell in your body consuming itself with the oxygen toxicity. The job we all wanted to do required us to use the rig, right up to its limits.
They never tried to hide the risks of the things our job would require us to do. On the contrary, they had spent a lot of time and money, finding guys that would run full tilt to the edge of the cliff, without going over. My class was full of guys like Ensign John (The Killer) Hunt, a mother's worst nightmare. John was a nice polite Christian kid, but as far as moms are concerned, he had one huge flaw. John had to climb the highest cliff around, jump off the loftiest spot on the bridge, and sit in the top of the tallest tree. Mothers have bad dreams about that kind of shit. What most moms don't understand, and our instructors did was; we were not interested in failing at dangerous things.
Our water time started in the pool with basic scuba. Just getting comfortable with the gear. All the same shit you would get in a well run civilian course today. Ditching and dawning, taking the gear all off, laying it on the bottom of the pool, ten feet deep. After you came to the surface, you took a breath, skinned down and put it back on. Buddy breathing, two guys breathing one rig. Treading water with the gear, etc. The only differences between the civilian course now, and our basic course then, our instructors didn't kiss our asses. They were not trying to sell us gear, they wanted us to stay alive. When we did something less then perfect, they would talk very rudely to us, and give us some remedial instruction, such as; push-ups with a set of twin 90's on our backs. 90's were the biggest and heaviest scuba bottles around at the time. A set weighted around 60 pounds. The instructors would be in the pool with us, pulling off our face mask, jerking our mouth piece out, shutting our air off. Just keeping the stress test up.
In the classroom it was heavy on Physiology, and Diving Medicine. To put it in the simplest terms, they wanted us to understand how you die from little things like: holding your breath, not knowing what time it is, not knowing exactly where you are. Holding your breath, all the little Alveoli in your lungs ripped apart, with frothy blood and mucus bubbling out your mouth. I hope you never see that one, believe me it is not a pretty sight. Being late, you plan a dive, dive your plan. If you stay to long it is going to be at least painful, the dread bends. Not knowing where you are again relates to the bends, depth and time are critical. Worse then the bends, 100% oxygen re-breathers are extremely depth sensitive. Well, that's not quite right, the rig will function at most any depth. With pure oxygen the human body is depth sensitive. Humping a pure oxygen deeper then thirty feet, for any length of time, will end in a very unpleasant death. By humping I mean swimming hard against a current, dragging along whatever weapons or explosives you need for the mission. If you kill yourself, on they way in, the mission does not get accomplished.
We were out of the pool within a couple days, and out into the beautiful Gulf Stream. A huge river of deep blue water, that runs out of the Caribbean, up the East Coast of the United States. One of the practical test we had to pass was called the Blow and Go. I loved this one! They had a open bottom diving bell hanging off the back of the boat at eighty feet. We left the boat with standard scuba gear on, and swam down to the bell. The water was clear, you could see the bell all the way down. When you reached the bell and looked back up, you could see the boat and the safety swimmers in the water.
The test was simple, stand inside the bubble of the bell, and remove your scuba bottles. Easy enough, the bubble was full of trapped air. When given the signal step out of the bubble, holding firmly on to the lip. Look up at the bottom of the boat and expel every drop of air you can force out of your lungs. On signal from the instructor, start swimming for the surface.
Doesn't sound to bright, does it? In fact you had better be exhaling all the way up. Air is a gas, and compressible, all of us breath compressed air. At sea level, just the weight of all that air stacked over our heads, exerts 14.7 pounds of pressure per square inch, on everything. It turns out that a one square inch column of sea water, 33 feet long, weights 14.7 seven pounds. So every 33 feet of sea water exerts one atmosphere. To keep it simple, but stupid. If you were standing at sea level holding your breath, and were suddenly whisked to the edge of space, your lungs would be ripped apart by the expansion of the air you were holding in, the volume of air would have doubled. The laws of physics that God has established for this life are hard and fast. If you want to be a diver, and live, you had better know the rules, and follow them; RULE #1, DO NOT HOLD YOUR BREATH COMING UP.
The Blow and Go drill was beautiful. We swam up at the same rate of travel as our bubbles. As the bubbles traveled up around us, they expanded and broke apart into more bubbles. All the time we continued to exhale, putting more bubbles of air in the water surrounding us. The bight sun light would flash off all those bubbles, traveling through the clear blue Gulf Stream. It is a strange experience to exhale for a minute and a half.
The problems between Lt. Schaible, the X.O. of Underwater Swim School, and Class-29 began after a beach party the school put on for us. The Naval base had a couple of excellent white sand beaches. One being the enlisted men's' beach, the other being the officers' beach, which was right in front of officers housing. That was where most the officers with families lived. All the fun was at the enlisted beach, but the second of the nights two big problems would transpire at officers' beach. With two naked enlisted men lit up in the head lights of the base police. Ops!
The party was great, there were large quantities of two things that most divers love, beer and lobster. Most of us had never eaten lobster of any kind. What was provided at the party, was to become my favorite, Lonagusta. That's the lobster with no claws, that flourishes in warm waters, all over the world. The party started early Friday afternoon. The married instructors' brought their families, some of the single guys had lady friends. So, most of the females attending our little tropical beach party were spoken for. One of the exceptions was the X.O.s lovely young daughter. The source of problem number one, later that evening. Of course, all of us single young bucks were strolling around with our chests puffed out, doing our best to attract her attention. Well, at least our boat crew won out, she had eyes for our smooth Texas boy, Troy Vaught.
It was just a nice party, everybody laid back in the south Florida sun eating good food, sucking suds, and flapping jaws. I don't know which of our officers started the "our guy can beat your guy" thing, but they were all in on it. The first I heard was, Roat can beat the chief. The chief in question was the Chief Master at Arms of Underwater Swim School. The bet had to do with who was the fastest swimmer. Now, a swimming race should have been no problem at all. First, being a young cocky guy, I figured I could whip that old man's ass. Hell, he had to be at least thirty five years old, maybe forty? Second, we were encouraged to compete, they were always letting you know who was the best at what. The problem with this little swim competition was, how and where.
The problems all started when the party was over. It broke up well after sun set. Most everyone was heading back to the school to get ready for a weekend of liberty in Key West. Troy Vaught was headed for the X.O.s house in the back of the Schaible's pickup truck. They had no problem with Troy and their daughter liking each other. The X.O. had started out as an enlisted Frogman himself. They were just going to make sure that no horny young Frogman got at her, when they weren't around. Troy would have to visit her at their house.
The Chief and I rode Shorty Lyons, sick green Cushman motor scooter down to officers beach. We parked the scooter at the top of the beach, one block south of married officers' housing. There was no moon, so we were far enough away from the houses, that no one would see us get naked. Well, that was the thought. Our plan was, for him and me to swim out around the half mile buoy, and back. First one back to Shorty's scooter was the winner.
Both of us were what would be called legally drunk, in a court of law. That is, if they had a charge of drunken swimming. The truth is we would have done the same thing without the booze. It was just a little competition between two guys for bragging rights. This was a no fins, no inflatable life jacket, no swim trunks, race. Two naked men against each other, and one mile of Atlantic Ocean.
I didn't see the chief after the first hundred yards. It's not like swimming a mile in a pool, in the ocean you have to figure current. I don't care how fast you are, if you figure the current wrong, the slower man will win. Key West is just a little piece of land stuck out in the Gulf Stream, a huge river like piece of ocean. The buoy was one half mile due east of officers beach, the Gulf Stream runs from south to north. We were cutting the current all the way.
Well, like they were always telling us, it pays to be a winner. I won, and I got the spotlight, in more ways then one. I hit the beach a little less then a 1/4 mile north of Shorty's motor scooter. The base housing for married officers was at the top of the beach. I stayed down close to the water, and ran like hell for Shorty's Cushman. I was one happy camper when I got there, and there was no Chief. I had just enough time to let a little worry wander across my brain, I hoped the chief hadn't drown.
BAM! Bright light bathed my naked self. There I stood, a lot bigger, and a whole lot less adorable then the day I was born. The lights went off all most as quickly as they had come on. It was the damn base police, I was in deep KA-KA! The Navy was not going to be happy with an enlisted man standing on the edge of married officers' housing, with no clothes on. Every little synapses in my brain was firing at full warp speed.
I could hit the water and swim away. What if the chief needed help, or worse, had drown? Our clothes, had not been moved from the running board of the Cushman, maybe they didn't have our I.D. cards? Grab the clothes and run for the water, what about the chief? If I was going to haul ass, I had to do it now. All that crap flowed through my brain before the base police were out of their truck. As soon as I snatched up our shorts and shirts to run, I knew I was had, there was no wallet weight! Stay, and keep your big mouth shut! The first thing out of their mouths, was "Where's the chief?"
In those days if someone in the military was captured by an enemy of the United States, by law he could only give them his name, rank and serial number. If you told them anything else, it was an act of treason, and you were subject to prison, or the death penalty. Well, if I could do that for my country, I could just keep my damn mouth shut and take what was coming now. Where's the chief? I gave no answer. What in the hell are you up to? I gave no answer. Is this Shorty Lyons motor scooter? With that question, all 6'3" of Underwater Swim Schools naked Chief Master at Arms, came walking out of the dark. Misery surely does love company, I was glad to see the Chief!
This Chief, was everything a senior petty officer is suppose to be! The first thing out of his mouth, "Roat here, is a student under my direction, at the swim school. I ordered him to race me around the half mile buoy, I am the only one at fault in this matter". I almost started laughing, for several reasons. First, with nothing more then relief. Second, the Chief sounded so damn formal, standing there in all his naked glory. Third, he was telling them a lie, no one ordered me to race him. Last, but not least, I was still a little drunk.
He and the base police knew each other, the Chief asked if they could talk around the back of the truck. He told me to just stay by the scooter, and keep my mouth shut. They were around the back of the truck for about five minutes. When they came back to the scooter, the chief told me not to sweat it. Just get in the back of the truck, they would drop me off at the barracks. I was not going to be put on report, thank God, but I was to stay in the barracks for the rest of the night.
When they dropped me off at the barracks, I found that the Chief and I had not been the biggest infraction of military decorum that evening. Ensign Hawes's boat crew had stuck hard that night, I was not only, not the worst, I wasn't first. Troy Vaught had struck at the heart of the Schaible family before they even got off the base. He had gotten the X.O.s wife and daughter involved in a nasty little brew-ha-ha at the base main gate.
Troy had quick reflexes, very fast hands, and a never say die attitude. He was about middle weight size, with that soft south Texas way of talking. His normal demeanor was laid back and polite, but like his fast hands, that could change NOW! Believe me, Troy did not need liquid courage too fight. The booze we had consumed that night did come into play, it had removed Troy's normal common sense. I mean, everyone knows you do not knock the shit out of the guard on the main gate. Especially while in the company of the Executive Officer's wife and daughter.
The Schaible's did not live on the base, they had a home in a nice civilian neighborhood. The X.O. had driven in, in his Navy car that morning. Mrs. Schaible and their daughter had come in for the beach party, in the family pickup. If the X.O. had been driving the truck, the Marine on the gate would have just saluted, and waved them through. As it was this Marine guard wanted Troy and the Schaible's daughter out of the back of the pick up truck. Even then there would have been no problem, except this particular Marine wanted to be rude. When Troy got down from the bed of the pick up, instead leaving well enough a lone, the Marine felt he had to put a little bad mouth on him. BIG MISTAKE! Troy hit him so hard, one time in the jaw, his helmet flew about forty feet, and the Marine landed on his ass. Poor Mrs. Schaible now had a world of shit to deal with! Not only had Troy just done a big no no, but her daughter started throwing beer bottles from the back of he pickup at the Marine. Somehow, Mrs. Schaible and the other gate guard got things back to a semblance of order. Of course, the Command Duty Officer was called, one of two things was going to happen: Troy Vaught was going to the brig, or the X.O, had enough clout to make it like it never happened. Well, I don't quite mean never happened, let us say, on paper it never happened. The X.O. had the clout, but he was not pleased that he was going to have to use it. Class-29 was on the top of his Ka-Ka list and our class proctor, Shorty Lyons was right there with us. I mean Shorty was suppose to see this kind of thing didn't happen.
Our class proctor struck back Sunday morning. Shorty Lyons did not enjoy Mr. Schaible jumping all over him for our actions. About 0600 he woke all of Class-29 that was still on the base, we were going for a run. Shorty had his motor scooter, and the streets of Key West to lead us through. The funny thing about our run, our class proctor received another ass chewing over it.
Shorty was not thinking clearly that morning, he had obviously been drinking most of the night. Not only did we run through the base and downtown, but Shorty led us through the neighborhoods. He had us doing the Airborne Shuffle, slamming our left boot down hard, and singing. The only people we saw that morning were leaving an early morning Mass at the local Catholic Church. Shorty's problem came from the people we didn't see. The ones we woke as we ran around their neighborhoods. These people were pissed, and a lot of them called the base, to let the Command Duty Officer hear, just how they felt about it.
Thank you Troy, Monday morning I got a small amount of heat for my actions. Our man Vaught had caused so much trouble, that I was just a small blip on the X.O.s pooh-pooh meter. Troy on the other hand was a whole pick up truck full of fertilizer. The X.O. being an ex-enlisted Team member knew all about he hairy assed Frogman Disease. His problem was how to deal with the odd manifestations of this disease, without killing the carrier, and still become a Commanding Officer? Not an easy task!
The kind of diving we were learning was about how to get from one place to another, without being seen. We practice what are called Dog-Leg Compass swims, almost everyday. Your main tool was an attack-board, just a piece of wood, a ½ inch thick, 9 inches wide, and 12 inches long. Mounted on the board was a compass and a depth gauge. You held the board between your hands, kept your eyes on the compass and depth gauge, and had faith in that compass. Every swim was a race, but speed was not the most important factor. Accuracy ruled, the first pair to a designated spot won. I don't care how fast you got to the wrong place, you lost.
The hardest thing to over come was the odd feeling of swimming in circles. At night, or during the day if you had no reference points, your mind would be telling you loud and clear, "YOU ARE SWIMMING IN A CIRCLE". Each guy in the swim pair took turns with the attack-board, so half the time you were just swimming along having faith in your swim buddy, and his abilities with a compass.
In swim school you were required to wear a buddy line, a six foot piece of ½ inch rope, with a snap hook on each end. You had the damn thing snapped between you, if the swimmer without the attack-board did not pay attention and wandered, you were both jerked up short.
Ensign Hauff and I worked well together in the water. We were first on all the Dogleg Compass swims but two: one because God was teaching us all a lesson. The other because Mr. Yocum and Ralph Diebold kicked our asses. They were one of the truly odd couples of Class-29. Ralph big, dark and stoic. Mr. Yocum about half his size, fair skinned, and outgoing. Mr. Yocum told me later that one of his fins had split jumping into the water, so he felt like Ralph had been dragging him the whole swim. It would be like trying to win a foot race with two legs and only one foot. That day, they were the first pair to get to the right location, handicap and all. Believe me, they let Mr. Hauff and me know that we had been beat.
A Dogleg Compass swim had at least two points that you add to reach. The first was usually the buoy one half mile off officers beach. They would take us out to sea, let us get a compass fix on the buoy and off we went. Of course, our starting and finish points were different for every swim. Each set of swim buddies were allowed one time on the surface to check your compass heading, for each leg of the swim. When you reached the buoy you surfaced and took a compass reading on some pre-assigned point on the beach. The first pair to reach that point won.
Our only other loss in any type of swim, I call a message from God. As soon as our Class had become qualified on standard SCUBA we started using a closed circuit sneak attack rig, called the Emerson. This rig was so new we were the first class trained with it. The main feature of the rig was no bubbles. What you exhaled was circulated through a canister full of a chemical, in pellet form, called Baralime. The chemical's only purpose was to remove the Co2 from your exhaled breath. The rig had one small bottle of pure oxygen that was metered out in small amounts, to make up for what your lungs had used. There are two sure ways to die with this rig, go to deep and your body would destroy its self with oxygen toxicity, very unpleasant. The second way is a little more insidious and a whole lot less unpleasant, Co2 build up. Your minds not working too well because it can not get rid of the by product of used oxygen, carbon dioxide, commonly known as Co2. If you're not paying attention, Co2 can just sneak up on you, and you peacefully die. Well, compared to oxygen toxicity it's peaceful.
The Emerson was so new that the Navy had taken delivery on only 25 rigs. That was the reason our Class was split in two groups, not enough rigs for us to swim at one time. The instructors worked out a system for us to checkout our rigs at the start and finish off each dive. The system was pretty good, it had just one small week spot, that God would point out to us. My problem was, I got to be the pointer.
Baralime was damn expensive, so it was only replaced when it was no longer able to absorb Co2. It generally would last two swims, and was easily checked, the pellets would change color as they absorbed Co2. The weak spot in our checks was when we looked at the Baralime. It was checked at the end of a swim, if it was bad, the Baralime was dumped and the canister was left open for the next swimmer to fill. If it was still good, the canister was closed back up. If the canister was closed when you did your pre-dive check, you were to consider it good, if it was open, you filled it with Baralime and closed it up. The considering it good, without looking, was our weak spot.
It was a day light swim, on of those beautiful south Florida days. All we had to do, was read our compass, and kick our way through the clear blue Gulf Stream waters. About twenty minutes after starting the swim, I started to feel frustrated, I just couldn't keep up the pace. We had been warned about Co2 poisoning, and its symptoms. Two of which are frustration and weakness. For the last five months we had been succeeding by putting out extra effort, you just pushed passed frustration and weakness, I pushed to that point God was just whispering in my ear "you are breaking my law of Physics". After a few minutes of pushing harder, God gave me a signal I couldn't ignore.
I never had headaches, so I figured they must feel like bumping your head on something hard. That was not it at all. Since my first headache was a message from God, it had to be something special. It felt like an explosion had been set off in my head. I swear, I heard the bang and saw the flash. No question, I headed straight for the surface, spit out my mouthpiece, and started gulping air. I had no doubt that something was wrong with my Emersion.
We didn't have to use the signal flares we had taped to our knifes, the safety boat was already headed our way when we started looking for it. By the time the boat reached us, I had explained to Ensign Hauff what had transpired, both my headache and the feeling of weakness were gone. As soon as the boat eased up to us, Instructor Cahill started giving us a blast of shit, about being quitters. He kept up with his, "yeah, right" attitude while we got on the boat, and I tried to explain what had transpired. God bless my swim buddy Mr. Hauff, in his best prick officer voice, he told Cahill, "If Roat says something is wrong with his rig, there is something wrong, check it!" Even if you're an instructor, when an officer puts his best prick attitude on, you had better make sure you're right, before you dump on him, Cahill checked the rig. He pulled the backpack cover of the Emerson, and started to remove the Baralime canister. Our instructor got a funny look on his face as he lifted the canister away from the backpack. I know he could feel the difference in weight, because he said, "damn". When he pulled the lid off the canister, we could all see why. There was nothing but a small amount of Baralime dust in it. Well, now I knew just what carbon dioxide poisoning felt like. Needless to say our checks changed, Baralime was inspected on the pre-dive checks from then on. Oh ya, we didn't win that one either.
Barracuda, a fast fish with lots of teeth, two to three feet long, that's what I thought. Around South Florida, there is a damn thing called the Giant Barracuda, that gets up to seven feet long, and it is still fast with lots of teeth. We had been seeing one or two of them, on most swims, since we got two Key West. Swimming with them inspired awe in all of us, they are truly on of the God's great predators. On a swim, shortly after the no Baralime incident, I had the attack board. We were on the second part of the Dog-Leg , and I had my eyes tightly glued to the compass and depth gauge. Mr. Hauff gave a couple gentle tugs on our buddy line, the signal, for "LOOK AT ME." Just before the tugs, it got a little darker, like a cloud passing in front of the sun. I looked to my left at my swim buddy, he was in an odd position. When I had the attack board, he stayed to my left, about two feet higher, with me a head length in front. Now he was about two feet lower then me, and he was pointing up, but not looking up.
I looked up toward the surface, and stopped swimming, it was a cloud all right, a cloud of Giant Barracuda. We were on the second leg of the course and in shallow water now, about twenty-five feet. Those damn things took up the first ten feet of water as far as we could see in any directions. There wasn't one of them less then five feet, and so damn many, you couldn't see the surface. I went into, what I call, my scared calm state. All panic is stored up in a tight little ball for later. One thing for sure, we were not going up. I kept having the thought, Emerson do not fail us now.
The only thing I could think to do, was stay as close to the bottom as possible, and just keep swimming for the beach. My hope was to swim out from under this particular cloud. Mr. Hauff seemed to have the same idea, so we hugged the bottom and tried to stay on course. We swam in a whole different manner then normal, much slower, and we were shoulder to shoulder, like we were trying to become one. I could not keep my eyes on the compass, look at the attack board, look up, back and forth.
They had been thinning out for a little while, as we swam and bumped along the bottom. Finally, my fondest hope was realized in ten feet of water. The big bastards were gone, nothing but blue water, with the sun shinning through. We immediately started pushing hard, moving our big duck feet fins as fast as we could for the beach. I had never been so glad to get out of the water. As it turned out we were lucky in a couple ways. One, several of the swim pairs swam into water waste deep, with the giant barracuda still all around them. They had to take off their fins, stand up and walk to shore through the Barracuda. There is an old Team saying, that when said politely goes, "BETTER YOU THEN ME!" That's exactly how Mr. Hauff and I felt about that bit of luck. The second bit of luck was, we hit the target dead on. It certainly had nothing to do with my close attention to our compass.
One night I had walked into a bar called the Top Hat, and there sat Jesse James Hardy drinking a beer, with a monkey setting on his shoulders. Jesse told me the monkey belonged to the piano player and his singer wife, they were up on a small stage doing a set. The monkey was jabbering away, and picking through Jesse's hair, like he was looking for lice. Jesse said, "be careful this monkey bites if he doesn't like you, and he doesn't like many people". By the end of that night the monkey and I had been fast friends. It would move back and forth between Jesse and me, jabbering away, and picking through our hair. I swear neither Jesse nor I had head lice, but whatever the monkey was finding, kept him happy for hours. In about two weeks of knowing that monkey I never saw it be friendly with anyone but its owners, Jesse, and me. I did see it bare its fangs at a lot of people, and bite one United States Marine on the finger.
Trailor Lewis, the monkey and me were going to be the center of a lot of problems for Underwater Swim School, and Class-29. The thing was Trailor and me were as innocent as new born babes. I don't know if the monkey was a victim, or just made his escape and left Trailor and me holding the bag? I do know that the X.O. and our class proctor, Shorty Lyons, though that I had committed the crime, and that Trailor was covering for me. In truth, if I were in their position that's how I would have figured it to, you might say I was just a little off the wall.
For the last time, in front of God and everybody, I swear on my grandchildren's' heads "NEITHER TRAILOR L. LEWIS, NOR JOHN CARL ROAT, HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH EITHER, THE DISAPPEARANCE OR DEMISE, OF THAT MEAN ASS LITTLE MONKEY."
Trailor fit in anywhere, like Humphries, Jesse J., and Fast Eddie, he was loved by one and all. If Lewis had any sort of shortcoming at all, it was he believed everyone. Trailor didn't lie, so he thought everyone was telling the truth, especially the police. The night of the monkey's disappearance or demise, was a Saturday. We were having a well-earned weekend liberty, so Class-29 was spread all over South Florida. Trailor and I had a red Chevy four door he had rented, to move us around the Keys. We were bar hopping, looking for the ladies, and not having a lot of luck. There were so few ladies around, we had even drove out to the Boca Cheeca Inn. This place was a DRINKING BAR, of the first magnitude. Unpainted cinder block walls, dirt floor, no jukebox, no wine, and no food. Now, I loved the place, but it defiantly was not a pick up bar. Trailor was not a hard core drinker, and since we were looking for women, I was just sipping. We had a couple beers at the Boca Cheeca, and decide that of all the places we had reconed, our best chance of scoring would be back in Key West, at either the Tomato Patch, or the Top Hat.
We tried the Top Hat first, of about ten people in the place, three were women. The problem begin they were all married, and well past the age of fifty. Trailor was down at the far end of the bar, talking with one of the married couples. I was down by the small bandstand, with my buddy, the monkey setting on my shoulder picking through my hair. The colored couple that owned the monkey, were entertaining us, with some fine blues. If there had been a few single women around the night would have taken a different turn.
The couple finished their set and took a break. As they were walking out the back door, they asked me to put the monkey up on the piano, if I left. I told them no problem, and thank you for the good music. They were out the door about twenty seconds, before a Marine set down on the stool next to the monkey and me. The guy was wearing dress greens, he had one of those Marine Core white wall hair cuts, and a friendly smile. He bought a beer and asked about he monkey. I told him who's it was, and that it bit anyone it didn't like. The grunt wanted to try making friends, so I told him the monkey liked those big warm pretzels the bar sold. He promptly bought one, and handed it to the monkey. The monkey took it, even more promptly. He sat on my shoulder munching on the pretzel, and screeching at the Marine. I was sure, if the Marine touched the monkey he was going to be bit. Well, I was wrong, the monkey bit him before he was touched. The poor grunt had just stuck his finger up there, and the monkey leaned over and bit the hell out of him. The Marine didn't seem to upset about being bit, he just said, "That monkey sure is an ungrateful bastard." About that time, Trailor came down the bar, we talked it over and decided to try the Tomato Patch. With a little luck, we might find some ladies yet. I took the monkey up on the bandstand, and set him on top of the piano, soooo looong monkey. We jumped in the car and headed down to the Tomato Patch. Nothing, not a lady in the place, it was as if every single lady in town had split for parts unknown. We had one beer and decided to head back to the Top Hat, at least they had good live music.
We didn't hear any more live music that night. Trailor and I would spend the rest of the evening with the cops, trying to convince them we had not committed the dastardly crime of "GRAND THEFT MONKEY". The cops were on us as soon as we stepped out of the car. They put Trailor up against the wall of the bar and me against the car. A quick pat down, the colored couple came out front, pointed at me and said, "That's him." Well, our weekend was screwed. The cops went through the car first, under the seats, glove compartment, in the trunk, even under the hood. As soon as they were done with the car, they separated us, one cop with Trailor and one with me.
It seemed, when the entertainers had returned from their break the monkey, and I weren't there. When they had left, he had been setting on my shoulder, and we were close to the back door. It was obvious, I stole the monkey, they called the police. We were transported to the Key West Police Station, and immediately separated. I didn't see Trailor again for hours, till we were turned over to our slightly drunk class proctor. They kept asking me questions I had already answered, same shit over and over. They didn't think there had been any Marine, they kept telling me no one else had seen him. At one point, one of the cops drove me around the bars of Key West, to "point out my fictional Marine". Well, I never saw the guy, so there was no one to point out.
When we got back from our little cruise around the Key West bars, they left me by myself, in an interrogation room for about thirty minutes. When those two assholes that had busted us came into the room, they told me a story so dumb, I started laughing. "Lewis has confessed, you might as well make it easy on yourself, and tell the truth." I started laughing, these guys were more full of shit then a Christmas turkey, they were turkeys. Two things; number one, Trailor didn't lie, number two, we had been being harassed by experts of every stripe for over five months. These wimps couldn't crack Trailor Lewis on their best day, with reinforcements.
After that, I just thought the whole thing was funny, screw'em. I don't think the cops thought we did it, but I'll be damned, if Mr. Satiable and his whole crew of instructors didn't. They had rounded Shorty Lyons up out of some bar, to deal with us, and our problem with the police. According to Shorty I was in big trouble, and dragging Lewis down with me. If I would tell them where I had hid the monkey, they would get the civilian charges dropped. All I would have to face was Captains Mass at the school.
There were some Report Chits written up, charges, we were restricted to the barracks and chow hall, for the rest of the weekend. The cops had told Trailor that the monkey was worth $500.00, which made our crime a felony. They had said we were seen with the little beast after leaving the bar, so they had enough evidence to convict us. They told him they knew I was the guilty one, but unless he told them what I had done with the monkey, he would be convicted as well. One of the cops had told Trailor, we would receive Bad Conduct Discharges and brig time from the Navy. To top it all off, when we got out of the brig, the State of Florida would put us in prison. Trailor just could not believe the cops were lying about having a witness, he though someone was lying to the cops.
Monday morning early, Shorty Lyons was on me like stink on skunk. I had to see the X.O. as soon as Shorty got done with me. He was spouting the same old crap, with one new wrinkle, if I had killed the monkey, I was in a deeper hole then I thought possible! Now I was a monkey murderer. I blew off some steam, and used a bunch of foul words, to describe how I felt. Shorty told me I had better get a grip on myself, if I talked to Mister Schaible like that, I would go to the brig just for my big mouth! Well, Shorty was right about that. Since I was already on report, I had thought Shorty was telling me I was having an Executive Officers Mass, the first step on the way to a Court-martial. Not so, what I had, was a stand to attention, reasoned, rant and rave. When Shorty and I went into the X.O.s office, the Chief Master at Arms and Mr. Schaible were waiting. I was called to attention in front of the X.O.s desk. For the next ten minutes I was ignored. The three of them talked, I have no memory about what, but none of it had anything to do with me. When the Chief and Shorty left, Mr. Schaible sat at his desk doing paper work, I stood at attention happy to still be ignored. God knows how long that when on, but when he looked up from the paperwork, the ass chewing was on.
It boiled down to me being a liberty risk, he felt that things would be just fine if I was, locked up, and only let out to work. I could never quote everything the X.O. said, it ran from reasoned commentary on my strengths and weaknesses, to foul mouthed rant and rave about the problems I had caused the school. He ended with, "Roat, I want the truth, and I want it now!" So, I ran through the whole thing again. He looked at me for a long time, then all the X.O. had to say was "get out of here." I split quick, the odd thing was those were the last official words I every heard about the monkey.
One last thing transpired over the monkey's disappearance. The Base Police and the C.I.D.(Civilian Investigation Division), held a surprise shake down of Underwater Swim School. I guess they thought the whole class was in cahoots, on a kidnap for ransom. They looked in every nook and cranny, including the X.O.s Office. Just another reason for Mr. Schaible, too be unhappy with Class-29 and me.
Trailor Lewis and I hadn't had, what you might call, a good weekend. To balance things out, Harry Humphries, Leo Duncan and Jessie James Hardy did. Their weekend, had made every member of Class-29, drool. Harry's Uncle, ran some of the families business interest, up in Miami. He flew the guys up there, and took them out for dinner, drinks and a show. You might say, SO? It was at every young guys high-class fantasy, the Playboy Club. They even had pictures of themselves, with Bunnies.
We had a sneak attack against a sub-tender and some of the other ships in Key West Harbor. A submarine-tender is a huge ship that spends about 90 percent of its time in Port. The submarines tie up alongside to have their every need filled; fuel, food, or fabrication, a sub-tender can handle it all. Think of it as big fabrication, and electrical shop, with an endless supply of food to give away. Kind of like mom.
When we held sneak attacks against our own ships we had to let them know we were coming, within a certain time frame. This always struck me as odd, "Hey, watch out, I'm sneaking up on you, just did not seem to sneaky to me. We were going to hit the ships in every way possible, closed circuit re-breathers with no bubbles, open circuit with bubbles, and surface swimmers. Mr. Hauff and I were assigned as surface swimmers against the sub-tender. Everyone in the class was involved, but we all had different assignments, different times, and different jump-off points. There were five swim pairs going in as surface swimmers, our jump off point was the school. We had to do a sneak and peek, across at least half the base, just to get to the water. The base police would be on the lookout for us, so we could be caught before we even got to the water.
The rest of the Navy loved their Frogmen, but they loved catching us on a Sneak and Peek better. To get a hit on a ship, you had to be on the surface, beside the ship, and pull a night flare. This let everyone know they had been blown up. You tried to slide up the side of the ship, with your hands extended above your head. One hand held the flare, the other ready to pull the ring that lit it, as soon as your hands broke the surface. If you could get it done with just your hands above the water, you did. These guys really got into protecting their ship. They had some odd weapons, garbage bombs, egg hand grenades, you get the picture, they wanted to make us pay. If a ship was alongside a pier they might have their families running all over the place with flashlights, looking for us. These things always had an, under the Big Top, three ring circus flavor.
Mr. Hauff and I had picked a route that would take us off the base before we entered the water. Our water entry point, was an aquarium just outside the fence, on the west end of the base. I don't know how many of you have ever been on a military base, but they are well lit, with plenty of manicured lawns, and wide open spaces. Not at all like sneaking through a forest, or jungle. We crossed the base, and got over the fence unto the aquarium grounds without being seen. This was entirely due to the fact, that those that were looking for us had little training in repealing saboteurs. Defense is a more difficult proposition then offence, they have to watch all the paths to the objective, you just have to worry about one, the one your taking.
We had only one confrontation that night. As we slipped up on the sub-tender, I had the crap scared out of me, and made a lot of noise, a big No No. The pier we were moving along had a sheet pile face, this gave us little dark areas just big enough for one guy to slip into. Take a breath, slide a couple feet underwater, move across the outer face of two or three sections of sheet pile, slip into an indent, and surface. Mr. Hauff and I moved along about 100 yards of pier like that , no problems. Our plan was to work our way to a position adjacent to the bow, slip under water, and swim the thirty feet or so to the side of the ship. If we had our flares ready, and pulled them as soon as we hit the surface, we might even get out of there before anyone could throw an egg or drop garbage.
As I surfaced in the indent just opposite the bow, something jumped on my head. I must admit I didn't handle the surprise well. A startled sound escaped my mouth, and I thrashed around trying to knock, what ever the hell was on me, OFF. I had disturbed a crab, about 5 or 6 inches across. The damn thing was unhappy that I had entered its home, unannounced. The crab won, I beat a haste retreat one indent over. Our luck had held, my loosing battle with the crab hadn't attracted any one's attention. We made our hit that night and got the hell out of there without suffering the indignity of eggs or garbage. That crab had injected a little, much needed, humility into my over grown Frogman ego.
Our next training exercise was right up there with our finial demolition problem, for a myriad of reasons. Number one being, it was real Frogman stuff, submarine lock-out, lock-in procedures. For me it would be something I would never grow tired of doing. The submarine we were using was the Balao, a diesel boat stationed in Key West. I had seen the sub in a movie called Operation Petticoat, for some reason, to do with the plot of the movie, they had painted it pink. That first day down at the pier, we could still see traces of pink paint, were the current paint job was flaking off.
We had some classroom study, slides, movies, diagrams and lectures on operating the escape trunk. Then we spent a couple days on the sub, alongside the pier. Submarine sailors are a special breed of human, they bow to no man, especially when you come to their world. In its own way, the test to become a submarine sailor is as difficult as that of the Teams. Most people could not even live on a submarine, let alone function at the high level of proficiency necessary.
Submarine sailors were required to attend school at New London, Groton Connecticut, for three months. They studied every aspect of the submarine, still they were not submariners. If you see a sailor with the submarine dolphins on his chest, your looking at a man that can stand up when most would fall. If they passed that school they were assigned on a sub, as trainees. That's when the real test for submariner begins. Each man is required to qualify at every station on the boat, if I remember right, there are around twenty. They take an oral test, a written test, and have to operate that station error free, for a predetermined amount of hours. Then they are signed off for that given station.
They have to accomplish this with each station, then THEY FACE THE COB. The COB, has nothing to do with corn, it's the acronym for chief of the boat. I promise you I would rather wipe my butt with a corncob, then have the chief of the boat give me that finial test to become a submariner.
To finally earn their dolphins, the COB goes through the whole submarine with the candidate, asking questions. The candidate has to be able to demonstrate, physically and orally, the operation of every valve, circuit, and switch on the submarine. The problem is they can't just say you open the this valve, you have to tell the COB what happens when you open that valve, what position every other valve in the system must be in, and what will transpire if something is wrong. It is the most nerve racking test, I have ever witnessed, but if you are going to live in a moving metal tube, a few hundred feet underwater, you had better not be a fuck up. Sub sailors don't have a chip on their shoulder, they just don't except you until you prove yourself.
All submarines are tightly packed, no wasted space allowed, I mean they even sleep on top of torpedoes. If you are a non-submariner they quickly let you know the rules, were you can be, what you can touch, even when you can shower, and how. It is a tightly ordered society, and they book no deviation, their very lives depend on it. Our time at the pier, was more a quick course on how to get along on a sub, then operating the escape trunk. One of the truly amazing wonders of submarine life is the food. On the Balao the galley was smaller then a good sized bathroom. How in the hell a cook can feed so many men four times a day, and keep it MOM quality, is beyond me, but they do. Keep in mind, the cook like every man on that submarine, has had to qualify as a submariner.
With the Balao, all our Lock-out, Lock-in operations were done underway, in the open ocean. It is an odd feeling, being in the middle of the ocean banging two pieces of pipe together, so the sonar man can get a fix on you. I don't think anyone in the class feared what we were going to do, it was pure excitement. I felt not the slightest reluctance, none of the "what the hell am I doing", I had felt about jumping out of an airplane. As far as Class-29 was concerned this was frogman stuff, we would have paid to be able to do it .
Six of us rode out into the deep blue of the Gulf Stream with Shorty Lyons, on the safety boat. The rest of the class had boarded the Balao at the pier. The cook on the sub, played a little submariner thick on our classmates that were jammed into his galley. As they were leaving, Key West, still running on the surface, he tied a 3/4 inch rope from one side of the Balao to the other, right through the middle of the galley. He had synched it down so there was no sag in the line. The guys were just staying out of the way, and feeling the excitement of their first dive in a submarine. There are alarms, a lot of commands being passed over the P.A., valves being opened, closed, or checked. As the submarine started to dive, they could hear air escaping the ballast tanks, and the sound of rushing water replacing it. There are some damn terrible sounds going on all around you, the worst, the sound of steel being compressed. The cook got a big laugh out of seeing the reaction of my classmates, as the tightly tied rope started to sag. It dawned on the guys in the galley; THIS SUBMARINE WAS GETTING SMALLER!!! The inside of a submarine stays at atmospheric pressure, the outside is a different matter. Every time it goes down another 33 feet, one more atmosphere of pressure is added on the outside. That pressure is trying to crumple the hull like a crushed can, and the steel of a submarine lets you hear its pain. The cook had used the rope to let my classmates know they were in his world now.
The Balao and the safety boat rendezvoused far enough from Key West that you could see nothing but deep blue water and light blue sky. The sub was running with about 40 feet of water over its main deck. Only the Balao's periscope could be seen, just above the water, leaving a small wake in the Gulf Stream. Three swim pairs had traveled out in the boat, we would string ourselves out in a straight line, with a rope stretched between each man, one end to the other. The guy on each end had two 1½ inch pieces of pipe 12 inches long, that they smacked together. The sonar-man would pickup the direction of the opposing sounds, and vector the submarine on a course that would cause the periscope to hit the middle of the rope.
The surface of the sea that day was flat like a millpond, not a ripple or a wave. If you raised your head above the water, you could see the periscope heading for us, from at least a quarter mile out. When you stuck your face back underwater, nothing but deep blue beautiful ocean. It was only about 300 feet out and 40 feet below us when the Balao finally began to appear. It was beautiful, the bow began to materialize out of sea water. As if the big black war machine, was growing out of the blue waters of the Gulf Stream. Submarines viewed in their element, under the water, are magnificent. Like any of the other predators in the sea, as they move through the water they exude strength and beauty.
When the Balao's periscope hit the middle of our line, it drug the middle out, and the two ends were brought together, all we had to do was hang on. The six of us were now being towed along by the submarines periscope. We next pulled ourselves down some lines rigged from the periscope to a hatch between the inner and outer hull. We were greeted by two safety swimmers, as we reached the deck. There were extra scuba bottles with regulators lashed to the deck, in case you lost air. The submarine had tailing lines rigged, just in case you lost your grip on the deck.
The only real danger was losing your hold on the submarine, and not getting away from it fast enough. If you got too close to the screws that where pushing the Balao faster then we could swim, you were going to be hamburger. I can not explain what it felt like to hold on to that beautiful murder machine, and be pulled through the Gulf Stream. Let me just say we belonged there, every one of us.
The escape trunk on the Balao, as on most submarines, was in the centerline overhead, of the forward torpedo room. The trunk has three hatches, top, bottom and side. The bottom hatch is the only one that opens inside the submarine. Only the side and bottom hatches are used for Lock-out, Lock-in procedures. The top hatch is for mating up an escape bell, for rescue purposes only. Operating the trunk is a fairly simple procedure. To get into the sub, you enter the flooded trunk through the side hatch, secure the hatch, and blow the water out with air. When the trunk is dry, you equalize with the forward torpedo room, and climb down the ladder home free. To lock-out, it is just the reverse, no rocket science in any of it, just following God's laws of physics.
We had seen not one of the Gulf Stream's shark population, from the time we left the safety boat, till we locked into the Balao. Of course we lied through our teeth, there were sharks all over the place. Big ones, little ones, the damn things were all around the Balao. The six of us were on the sub all day, waiting for our turn to lockout. All day, as the rest of our classmates, locked out, and then back in, we heard our lie confirmed by one group after another. At the end of the day, when our turn to Lock-out and return to Key West on the safety boat came, the lie had expanded. "There were eight or nine sharks, from seven to fifteen feet, swimming along with the Balao." Ya right, we started that lie.
Somewhere along the line our lie had turned to truth. There were big sharks swimming along both sides of the sub, like Pilot Fish. I'm six foot one inch, and some of those damn things were twice my size. My first though was, I hope those sharks have a full belly. My second though, PLEASE SHARKS stay with the sub, when we brake off and go up to the safety boat.
We were to leave the submarine on command, two taps on the hull meant five minutes to location. Four taps meant, depart the sub, the Balao was in the area of the safety boat. Tom Allen pulled his self along the deck, to a rope about thirty feet long, it was tied to a cleat on the bow. The rest of us were back by the sail, all huddled together in a tight group. Tom seemed to have some perverse need to get closer to those monsters, none of us joined him. When he had the free end of the line in his hands, our man Allen put on a show that has always stuck with me. Tom used the rope to swing in the current, by turning his body he could swing off either side of the Balao, and insert himself among the sharks. The sharks seemed to pay no attention to Tom, but he had all of mine. I expected one of those big bastards to bite him in two, any second. The truth of the matter was, those sharks were beautiful!
After about ten minutes we got the two knocks on the hull, and Tom returned to the huddled mass by the sail, still in one piece. When the four taps on the hull came, I got most of my wish. We didn't have to swim hard to get away from the submarine, just steady fining, and off to one side. If we had tried to go straight up we would have been hit by the sail, that's what they call the big tower looking thing sticking up from the deck of a sub. I think all of us kept out eyes glued on the Balao, as we swam up.
The big sharks all stayed with the sub. One little, three or four footer, broke away, and started up with us. Thank you Lord! The Balao just dematerialized, bow and sharks first. It looked like, it was being swallowed by the Gulf Stream. The last to go was the rudders, and the big spinning screw. By the time we reached the surface, the Balao and its attending sharks could no longer be seen. It was six Trainee Frogmen, one four-foot shark, and Shorty Lyons in the safety boat, about fifty-yard away.
As the safety boat approached, our little shark started to become very curious. We were in a tight little group, waiting for our class proctor to get us out of the water. Mc Cutchan was dead in the middle of Ens. Hawes, Ens. Hauff, Ens. Janke, Tom Allen and myself. The shark seemed to be falling in love with Mc Cutchan. He kept approaching us from the bottom, and getting its snout right up against Mc Cutchan fin. Mc would kick it in the snout and it would back off, then move right back to his fin. Mc Cutchan even made a surface dive, and chased the little bastard down to twenty feet. When Mc came back up, the shark came up, back to square one.
Shorty Lyons though the whole thing was funny. He had the boat right in front of us, but would not lower the ramp. Shorty kept repeating "don't you big bad Frogmen hurt the sharks." Now I must admit this was not a large shark, but we had completed our assigned task. Who the hell wanted to be bitten by even a small shark? I for one just wanted in the safety boat. Shorty just sat there laughing at us, repeating his little refrain. When Shorty finally lowered the ramp, I don't think we looked much like mighty Web-Footed Warriors getting out of the water.
We had a nasty final written exam, and then graduation from Underwater Swim School. Myself, and several other of the enlisted men, who were not academic giants, had been helped by our classmates who were. Physics, Diving Medicine, and figuring decompression tables were all things we needed to stay alive. Rich Fradenburgh or Ron Lester were enlisted men, but academically strong. Both were natural teachers, and would work with you till you got it. Well, I passed those damn tests, just barely. One more missed question on any of them and I would have failed.
For me graduations have always been little more then a big pain in the posterior. As they go, Underwater Swim Schools were pretty laid back. If I remember right, we even wore our old greens. It was time to pack up and head back to Little Creek Virginia, for graduation into the Teams. Now there was a graduation I looked forward to, no matter how big a pain in the butt. True to form, I damn near snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Graduation, and Other Things!
It's odd, but when you go from full tilt, long term effort, to done, it can be hard to handle. To tell you the truth, I didn't handle it well at all. I was drunk before we left Key West, and I pretty much stayed that way right up to graduation. With the sole exception being, a day spent with Ted Risher and his family.
Risher had a really nice family. I had been to their house for dinner two or three times since training started. Ted like many young guys, me included, had that, "DAD CAN DO NO RIGHT" thing going on. He had joined the Navy just to piss his dad off. Ted dad was a full Bird Colonel, in the United States Marine Corps. Risher told me, when just joining the Navy didn't get him upset, he figured becoming a Frogman would. I don't think even Ted believed what he told me, if he did, he had failed.
I have saved my classmate, Boatswain Mate 3td Class Gene M. Munson, for last. Like many of us, Gene was another odd ingredient in the mix of Class-29. One night at Camp Pickett, Munson told me why he was going through training. He figured with the extra money, he would get each month after we graduated, and a reenlistment bonus he would get for shipping over, he could afford a new car. It was not any old car he wanted, and he had a very specific reason why, WOMEN.
The car... a red Ford Fairlane 500, convertible. To Gene's way of thinking, women could not resist that car. Now most of us young guys liked to think of ourselves as pretty good with women, whether we were or not. No one, in Class-29, thought about or prepared for women, more then Munson. Gene turned every discussion I ever had with him, to women. He figured that if he was a United States Navy Frogman, and had that car, no woman could resist him. For Gene, WOMEN were the reason for existence. I must admit, not an entirely bad thought. At least Gene could tell you why he wanted in the Teams. I had no reason I could articulate, other then, because. Picture one of those young, East Coast, big city guys. You know, slicked back hair, cocky, with a big heart. Kind of a cross between John Travolta and Andrew Dice Clay. If you can picture that, you have Gene M. Munson down pat.
I have no idea, who set up our graduation party, but I wish it would have been the night after, not the night before. Oh well, my problem was not when the party was, it was my total misuse of alcohol, and its strange effect on me. There were two major, and one minor problem with my drinking. The minor one first; I wasn't old enough. Now to the majors: (1) I never have had much inhibition, and the little bit I do have, just enough to keep me within the outer limits of societies bounds, disappears with booze. (2) For some strange reason, I do not pass out. If I passed out I might still be drinking today. The only two things booze does completely stop, is my ability to think things out, or speak clearly.
Gene Munson loaned me some fine civilian clothes for our party. His clothes may of not been to your taste, but they were always high quality. For the party, he loaned me a brightly colored silk shirt, and a pair of knock you dead cowboy boots. They had cost him a hundred dollars, in the early sixties, a huge sum of money. Gene's only comment, when he loaned me the clothes was, "Don't fuck up my boots, or you'll have to buy me a new pair".
It was a party, and I wasn't the only drunk there. A lot of the usual, young guy party hardy bullshit. A few beer guzzling contest, and a lot of thank God it's over. We were all slapping each other on the back, and just generally enjoying our success. The next day half of Class-29 would go to Team-21, the rest of the guys to Team-22, all but one. My boat officer, Mr. Hawes was going to the training unit.
Two different times I can think of, before we left for the land of warm, Hawes had disappeared for a good part of the day. I never knew what had transpired, till well after training. It was never a good thing when the instructors separated you from your classmates. Ensign Hawes, being the good poker player type he was, hadn't said what was going on. It turned out Hawes had pulled a fast one to pass his pre-training physical. He didn't really cheat, he had just used a little new, at the time not widely known technology, to assist him, Contacts.
Hawes had easily pasted the running, swimming and P.T. test required for selection to training. He had been highly recommended by his command. There was just one little thing that could thwart his desire to be a Frogman. My boat officer, being the meticulous guy he was, knew he would fail the eye test he had to take during the physical. So, he bought himself a set of contacts. Hawes never spoke a lie, no one ask him why his eye site had improved so much over what it said in his service jacket. Hell, the doctor had looked right in his eyes, and never said a word. Maybe the doctor had just thought he was glassy eyed. Anyway, he had gotten away with it long enough to prove he belonged in training. By the time they figured out what he had done, they were faced with following the rules, and loosing a good man. The days Hawes had disappeared, his career had hung in the balance.
In the officer pecking order of the Navy, an ensign is as last as you can get. The first peckers, are admirals, number two are captains. These guys rarely talk to a lowly ensign, they usually just pass orders down the chain, and they damn well better be followed. I'm not sure how he his eye problem was discovered, but it was quickly kicked up to the number two pecker, a captain in charge of all training in the Amphibious Navy. My boat officer said his knees had felt weak, but he must have acquitted himself as a Frogman, as he was next sent to see the number one pecker himself. Hawes said his private audience with the admiral, had left him with hope in his heart, but still no decision of his fate.
A few days later, he was called back to the captain's office. This time the number two pecker had done some serious ass chewing. After which he told Hawes, he had one choice; training officers at the U.D.T. Replacement Unit. Damn, like six months of that place wasn't enough. Hawes had the balls to tell the Captain, he wanted an operational platoon, not the Training Unit. Captain's are not use to ensign's, saying anything other then, "YES SIR." I would have loved, to have seen the look on that captain's face, when a lowly ensign, actually said something besides "yes sir." Of course the captain won, for a while that is. Just remember, you might put a good Frogman down, but he will never stay there!
Sometime during the party, I decided to forget graduation, and hitch hike to Michigan. I had a girl friend up there, and it seemed like a good idea to go see her. Now, I know it wasn't too bright, but that's just what I did. By three o'clock in the morning I was in jail. There was a very angry, Instructor Burnie Waddell out of his bed, and on the way to get me. Woe is me, woe is me.
I actually got about a hundred miles north of Norfolk Virginia, before I had sobered up enough, to figure out I was screwing up big time. I walked across the road and started hitch hiking back. Two rides later, I caught a ride with three young guys headed for Virginia Beach, they were going right by Little Creek, and would drop me off. They had an old 1949 four door Ford. Two of them were sitting up front drinking beer. The third guy was in the back with me, sitting behind the driver, and sucking suds. They had ask if I had any gas money, when they picked me up, and I had given them a couple bucks. I just kind of laid my head back on the seat and dozed, in and out of sleep. The three of them were talking away, while they drank their beer. Their voices were just kind of background noise. Five words leaped out of the background, and snapped my brain into gear. "I want the cowboy boots", all of the sudden I was listening real hard. I heard things like "He's got more money, fined a dark place." These guys were going to try and roll me.
He pulled the old Ford into a church parking lot, and stopped about 40 feet from the road. These guys were not too bright, if I were going to roll someone, it wouldn't be in plane view of the road. Maybe they thought I would just give them Munson's boots, my money, and get out of the car. Fat chance! As soon as we stopped, I was opening my door. The asshole in the back with me says, "Give me your boots." As I stepped out of the car, he was coming after me, across the seat, and out my side. I just slammed the door on his head, then opened it, pulled him out and hit him once. He sat down in the parking lot, against the rear tire. That idiot didn't want anymore. I kicked his buddy square in the nuts, with the point of a boot, as he got out of the passenger side of the car. He just folded up in the parking lot, and spewed all over the place.
By the time I got to the other side of the Ford, the driver had turned into Mr. Chicken Shit. He had the windows on his side up, and the doors locked. I did a forearm smack to the drivers window, just to scare him, his window cracked. He was on the other side of the car rolling up windows, and locking doors. I really didn't want much more to do with these guys, but I didn't want them getting themselves together, and coming after me either. I walked around the car, doing a good rant and rave, froth at the mouth act, hit each of the drivers' friend, that he had locked out of the car, just once, for good measure. A forearm, to crack a couple more passenger windows, and I was done.
As far as I'm concerned, fighting is a load of crap. I didn't like it then, and I don't like it now, but when pushed, you had better do it well. I walked a couple hundred feet down the road and started hitchiking. I could still see the Ford and the would be thieves, they were having an argument. Those guys had a problem, with friends like each other they didn't need any enemies. The first car past was a cop car, with two cops in it. They turned around, down the street, and drove back to the church parking lot, "Damn!"
The cops were talking to the bad guys, the bad guys kept waving their arms around, and pointing in my direction. One of the cops walked toward me, and motioned for me to come to him. Well, all of us ended up in jail. The bad guys told the cops I had beaten them up and taken their money. It felt like the monkey deal all over. I had the truth, but I was not being believed. The cops wondered why, if they had been trying to roll me I didn't have any marks on me? The guy I had hit with the door, and a couple good punches, looked pretty bad. His friend, that had gotten Gene's cowboy boot to the nuts, was still in bad shape. All the broken windows in the car didn't look to good for me either. Boy, was I having fun now, let's have another drink.
By the time Instructor Waddell took custody, of my hope to be a frogman ass, the cops had let me know they pretty much believed me. I found out later, these guys had been rolling people for a while. The cops were happy to have them, not that it did me any good at the time. Instructor Waddell was pissed. On the way back to Little Creek, Waddell let me know what the theme for our early morning evaluation was.
It was a two-part exercise; part one mental, part two, physical. The mental part had to do with me not being allowed to graduate. They were going to send me back to the fleet. I was reminded, I had been warned, when I murdered the instructors' candy machine. I did have fear in my heart. Part two was the only thing that gave me hope. Every time Waddell looked at me I was given squat jumps, pushups, and the such. My hope was that if I acted like a good trainee, they might not get rid of me. One of the physical parts I remember best; Burnie was sitting at his desk, it had to be around 0800, as a couple other Instructors were in the hut. I was squatted down, Duck Walking around the office, quacking like a duck. It was a relief when Waddell had me Push Virginia Away, I got to straighten out my cramped legs.
About thirty minutes before graduation was to start, Waddell told me "If you want to graduate, get your ass over there". I was gone, that half mile or so, to the Teams barracks, was the fastest I ever ran. Not only did I have to shower, and shave, I needed to do some borrowing as well. I had only one white hat, the dixie cup a sailor wears on his head, and it was dirty. My neckerchief was a wadded ball, absolutely unacceptable. One of my classmates loaned me a hat, no one had a extra neckerchief. My next move must have really impressed my soon to be Teammates. They had moved us into a temporary barracks, one floor up from the Teams. I beat feet down those stairs and did what I had to do, beg.
There were five or six Team guys in their barracks. What they saw was a nut running around, in near panic, saying something like, "Please, I need a neckerchief to graduate". I know I was saying it over and over. Very rarely in my life have I been close to panic, that day I was. I didn't give a shit who thought what, just as long as I got a neckerchief, and made it to graduation. Someone took pity on me, and gave me a rolled and tied neckerchief. Thank you, and I was gone to GRADUATION, I made it.
It's funny what you learn on what day. I had been in a fight in jail, had six or so hours of Instructor Waddell's personal attention, and made an ass out of myself. What did I learn that day? A simple thing, to appreciate my dad. Risher and I learned that lesson at graduation, his father was there, and mine was 3000 miles away.
It was a nice graduation. We had two Navy captains as speakers, and Rear Admiral Dempsey presented our diplomas and made comments. Harry Humphries was our Class Honor Man, I don't believe there was anyone in our class, that didn't agree with that. The Honor Man's job that day was student speaker. Harry had to get up there, with the top of the Navy's pecking order and give a speech. To my way of thinking, that day, his was the only one that counted!
There were some moms and dads, brother and sisters, friends and Team members, at our graduation. The one that stood prouder that day, then anyone, was a United States Marine, Colonel Clarence T. Risher the II, Ted's dad. When you see a Marine's, Marine, in his Class A uniform, it is a sight to behold. His dad was a Marine's, Marine. He had gone from private to colonel, up through the ranks. Colonel Risher had fought in World War II, and Korea. He and my dad had only one thing in common, honor. They strove to live, as they believed.
One of the things Ted and I had in common, was a thing many teenage boys go through. No matter what, your dad can do nothing right. If they say blue, it had to be red, if they say right, it had to be left. Our graduation from Class-29 into the Teams was the day Ted and I admitted to ourselves, we were proud to be our father's sons. More then anything I wanted to see my dad that day, Ted shared his with me, I couldn't think of a better stand in.
At last, we were what we had been thinking of ourselves as, since training started, United States Navy Frogmen. After graduation there were class pictures and a little get together. Kind of a briefing, with a picnic, get to know your new Teammates thing. Well, we found out why the hell our training class was so big. They had formed a new Top Secret Team, called SEALS. The name was an acronym for Sea, Air, and Land, and was the Navy's way of expanding its Special Warfare responsibilities. The rumor was, the CIA had ask for a new small military group, that they could use for clandestine operations. Kennedy was our President, and a former naval officer, so when he gave the go a head, it was sailors that got the job. I don't know if it was true, but a lot of us believed it.
It was explained that no one in Underwater Demolition Teams was required to go to Seal Team. You could volunteer, your name would be placed on a draft list, when they needed someone with your skills, you would be brought over.
We Were Frogmen.
Thirty-five Years Later
It was Saturday mourning July 18, 1998; fifteen of us from CLASS-29 were at a big round table, right up front, by the speakers' rostrum. We would have breakfast, a briefing on the Teams today, from the big Kawhona himself, Four Star General Peter J. Shoomaker. The General is the Commander in Chief of the United States Special Operation Command. It sounds like a big deal, and believe me, it is. Then a short UDT-SEAL Association business meeting, and on to the best Dog and Pony show in the world. The United States Navy SEAL, Teams under the command of an army general?
It was the second day, of the annual UDT-SEAL Association Reunion. There were two large rooms full of guys just like us, all Scouts and Raiders, Underwater Demolition Units, Underwater Demolition Teams, and SEALs. Men my fathers age, my age and my sons age. Members from the start of the TEAMS, in World War II, to today's Team members. I believe there is no tougher group of men on earth, not mean, nor vicious, but just plain tough!
There are a lot of things that go on Reunion weekend; A few people, have done a lot of hard work, so the rest of us can kick back and enjoy each other's company. The men's breakfast is one of the few times we are all on the same page, in the same place. Class-29s own Jack Lynch had become one of the small group, that bust ass to put the reunion on. Jack sets on the board of directors, which means he gets to help plan the Reunion, then do the physical labor of setting everything up, and taking it down. Jack would not get to join us at our table, until all hands were feed.
He is actually the guy that came up with the idea of getting our training class together. Seven years before he and I had meet up with two other old Team guys, Hoss Kazinkski and Dusty Roads, in Panama City Florida. The four of us rode down to the UDT SEAL Museum at Fort Pierce, in Dustys' Motor Home. Every November, on Veterans Day weekend, they have a muster at the Museum. It is built on the ground where those first Scots & Raiders and Underwater Demolition Units, suffered their training, and I damn well mean SUFFERED!
At the time I hadn't cared about the museum, I had really just wanted to see Jack. I had never been big on the past, museums, high school reunion and the like. It had been Jacks idea for us go to the Museum Muster, and God Bless him it had been a good one. I had never really though about the Teams history, I had a general idea, hell some of the World War II guys had been my Teammates. Guys like C. B. Thomas, Red Hunter, Sam Bailey, Rudy Bauch, all still good operators, when CLASS-29 joined the Teams. The museum brought home to me, just how tough it was for those World War II guys. Just give a moments thought to swimming in to a well fortified enemy held beach, like say Normandy on D-Day, not just once buy twice, your only weapon a knife. Your first swim; to gather intelligence, your second swim, drag in explosives and blow up any obstacle that might impede the landing.
Damn they had done a good job with the museum, and they had done it like everything else Frogmen do, the hard way. Several World War II frogs had retired in the Fort Pierce area. They got the idea to have a reunion, and Hell nothing was going on out there where they had trained, why not put up a Museum? They where able to generate some interest from local officials, but ran up against State and Federal, red tape and general disinterest. Hell, that's No hill for a climber!
One of the truly great things about the guys from the Teams, our big egos, rarely get in the way of what needs to be done. Among our team members, former and present, are farmers to Senators, bikers to ministers, men from ever walk of life. All you have to do is look around, find the right teammate, he'll carry the load to top of the hill. In this case they picked a just retired frogman. What set Norm Olson apart from most of his teammates, in and out of the navy, he had attained the rank of Captain. The politics of the United States Navy, where such that officers, where forced to forgo advancement if they chose to stay operational frogmen, so there were damn few officers that retired from the Teams as Captain. Captain Norm Olson had two important talents; he was infected with HAIRY ASSED FORGMAN DISEASE, and he had the political acumen to know when to Bull his way through, or when to do a little stroking. I'm going to let Captain Olson say it in his own words. His speech on Veterans Day 1985, for the opening of the UDT SEAL Museum, says it much better then I could!
"COMMODORE FLYNN, MR. BUSH, MR. WARD, MS. RIGHTS, DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, PAST MEMBERS OF THE NAVAL COMBAT DEMOLITION UNITS AND UNDERWATER DEMOLITION TEAMS, AND PRESENT MEMBERS OF THE NAVY'S SEA, AIR, LAND TEAMS. IT IS MY PLEASURE TO WELCOME MANY OF YOU BACK, AND ALL OF YOU, TO THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE NAVY FROGMAN. FIRST AND FOREMOST, I WANT TO CONVEY MY APPRECIATION TO THE OFFICIAL PARTY: TO LUCILLE RIGHTS FOR HER FULL AND UNCONDITIONAL SUPPORT OVER THESE PAST (9) MONTHS; TO DICK WARD FOR BEING THE PRIMARY PROVIDER OF FUNDS, ARTIFACTS AND PERSONNEL ASSISTANCE DURING THIS EMBRYO STAGE; TO FATHER MAC, WHOSE CLOSE TIES WITH THE SEALS IN VIETNAM WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN; TO PRESCOTT BUSH FOR PROVIDING THE PERSONAL INTERFACE WITH OUR FOUNDER, REAR ADMIRAL DRAPER L. KAUFFMAN, THE "FATHER OF DEMOLITION"; AND TO COMMODORE "IRISH" FLYNN, A CLOSE PERSONAL FRIEND FOR OVER (20) YEARS, WHO IS NOT ONLY THE SENIOR NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE OFFICER ON ACTIVE DUTY, BUT THE FIRST AND ONLY NAVAL OFFICER TO EVER ATTAIN FLAG RANK FROM WITHIN THE UDT-SEAL COMMUNITY. IT'S A SINCERE PLEASURE TO HAVE ALL OF YOU ABOARD. ONE YEAR AGO TODAY, I VISITED FT. PIERCE FOR THE FIRST TIME TO ATTEND THE GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY FOR THIS MUSEUM. FOLLOWING THE EVENT AND FOR THE NEXT (3) MONTHS, I WAS COURTED, LED DOWN A PRIMROSE PATH, AND FINALLY SEDUCED INTO BECOMING THE MUSEUM'S DIRECTOR. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT IT'S BEEN A LONG, LONELY, DIFFICULT PREGNANCY. AS WITH ANY PROSPECTIVE BLESSED EVENT, THERE WERE MIXED EMOTIONS: ELATION ON ONE HAND; GRAVE DOUBT ON THE OTHER. ALSO, THERE WAS AN IMMEDIATE CRAVING FOR SUPPORT, BUT ALL I GOT WAS SMILES. IN MONTH TWO, MORNING SICKNESS REARED ITS UGLY HEAD. ALTHOUGH WE ALL KNOW ITS IN THE MIND, ANXIETY AND TENSION DID IN FACT SET IN, CAUSING A GREAT DEAL OF HEARTBURN. AT THIS JUNCTURE, THERE APPEARED TO BE NO RELIEF IN SIGHT, AND I BEGAN TO ASK MYSELF, "DO I REALLY WANT THIS PREGNANCY?" AS I CAME INTO APRIL, I REALIZED THERE WAS NO TURNING BACK, AND I BEGAN TO ACCEPT MY FATE; HOWEVER, MORNING SICKNESS STILL PREVAILED, AND I NOW BEGAN TO FEEL PHYSICALLY AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY UNCOMFORTABLE. I EVEN STARTED TO ACT A BIT CRAZY, BUT IT RECEIVED VIRTUALLY NO ATTENTION. IN MONTH FOUR, I BEGAN TO FEEL UNLOVED, AND I BECAME GROUCHY, PARANOID AND DOWNRIGHT UGLY. I EVEN LASHED OUT AT THE FEW FRIENDS THAT I HAD LOCALLY. WHEN JUNE ROLLED AROUND, SERIOUS DOUBT SET IN, AND I BEGAN TO WONDER HOW I GOT INTO THIS JAM IN THE FIRST PLACE. INTENSE WORK, WAS FOLLOWED BY QUESTIONS, SUCH AS, "WILL IT BE ON TIME?" AND "HOW WILL IT TURN OUT?" THE FOLLOWING MONTH, I BEGAN TO FEEL BETTER, SO I TOOK A TRIP TO NORFOLK, VIRGINIA TO SEE IF THIS UNWED, MOTHER-TO-BE COULD OBTAIN A HANDOUT. IT APPARENTLY WORKED. THE TRIP ALSO CURED MY NAUSEA, BUT MY HEARTBURN CONTINUED, AND ADDED TO MY DILEMMA WAS A SEVERE BACKACHE FROM THE LOAD I WAS CARRYING. IN AUGUST, IT BECAME CANDIDLY CLEAR THAT THERE WOULD BE A BIRTH, WHETHER I LIKED IT OR NOT, SO I BEGAN ORGANIZING THE NURSERY, BUYING A FEW ESSENTIALS AND ENLISTING SOME VOLUNTEER HELP. IN THE EIGHTH MONTH, I REALLY BEGAN TO FEEL PHYSICALLY UNCOMFORTABLE AND STARTED TO HAVE FALSE LABOR PAINS, BUT THIS WAS SOMEWHAT COMPENSATED FOR BY THE BABY SHOWER, WHICH BOUGHT FORTH GIFTS AND ENOUGH MONEY TO TAKE CARE OF EXPENSES. AS THE FINAL MONTH CAME INTO FULL VIEW, THERE WERE MORE FALSE LABOR PAINS, INSOMNIA SET IN, MY FEET BEGAN TO SWELL, AND I WAS HAVING GREAT DIFFICULTY JUST SITTING. AND, AS THE FINAL HOURS DREW NEAR, AND THE PAIN BECAME MORE EXCRUCIATING, I STILL COULD NOT HELP BUT WONDER IF IT WOULD BE ON TIME, OR FOR THAT MATTER, WHETHER IT WOULD BE HEALTHY. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IT WAS A CLOSE CALL, BUT AS YOU CAN SEE, THE BLESSED EVENT TOOK PLACE WITHOUT SERIOUS COMPLICATIONS. ALTHOUGH THERE ARE A FEW ROUGH SPOTS, BOTH WITHIN AND WITHOUT, I ANTICIPATE THAT IN VERY SHORT ORDER, THESE WOUNDS WILL BE HEALED. OH YES -- I ALMOST FORGOT, THIS BEAUTIFUL BABY DOES HAVE A NAME, AND A NEW PLAY TOY (UNVEIL THE SIGN). FURTHERMORE, ITS BIRTH IS IN HONOR OF THOSE WHO MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE FOR GOD, COUNTRY AND THE UNITED STATES NAVY." (UNVEIL THE MEMORIAL STATUE)
Jack and I had known where the other was, and pretty much what the other was up to. Not too hard since we were both Divers, Jack in the Navy, me a Commercial Diver mainly oilfield related. The Museum had a strange effect on both Jack and me. Our tough old frogmen hearts were touched; laid out before us the history of the Teams, and those willing to put everything on the line, for God and Country. While we were walking through the museum, towards the end of that very good weekend, Jack had put his arm around my shoulder and said, "You know, next July it will be thirty years since we graduated from training, we ought to find our classmates, and get together at Little Creek". When he said it, it just sounded right, my first thought, what a good idea.
Lynch had handled the mailings and general organizing of our effort. It had been my job, to find the guys we had no address on, over half our classmates. A little over a year later, Class-29 had gotten together as a Training Class. We had picked the annual UDT-SEAL Association Reunion at Little Creek Va., for our get together. As it turned out Jacks idea had not only been a good one, but a DAMN GOOD ONE! We had enjoyed it so much, that some of the guys came to Little Creek every year, and we tried to have the whole Training Class every five years. In a way, you could pin this book on Jack; ya, that's a good idea, it's all Lynch's fault!
Later in the day, Jack would share some of his pride with us. His son Brett would give the guys of CLASS-29 a personal tour of a SEALs operational locker. Since our last reunion, Brett had joined the Navy and gone through Training. He was a graduate of CLASS-212, and now a member of SEAL Team 2. Today, Brett would open his locker, and show us all the little things that only a team guy could love; boots, webbing, side arms, holsters, hot line gloves, body armor all the small important things in a SEALs life.
Breakfast was a lot of laughter, a lot of movement between tables, and just comfortable guy patter. Over the last two days, Class-29 has again easily fit together. After thirty-five years the strands in our net are still strong. Lynch and I had a pleasant surprise for the rest of our classmates, three of our Royal Dutch Marines, and their wives, had come to the Reunion. Ravensburg, Pauli, and Hack where with us again. In some strange ways, we are still the same, not so young bucks that graduated into the Teams all those years ago. I of course had to get one over on my Classmates and the whole UDT-SEAL Association.
There were so many of us that they had to set up our breakfast serving line in another room. The room they used was normally the bar, which was split level, a half of floor higher then the large meeting room. The ladies setting up the line had to push the trays of food up an inclined hallway to the bar. At the bottom of the inclined hall going up to the bar, was an area where the heavy food carts wheels where getting stuck. A few little good deeds and the ladies were mine. I just stationed myself at the bottom of the hall, lifted the front over the bad area, and helped push the carts up the hall. As far as the serving ladies were concerned, I could do no wrong, mom would have been proud. My next move would have had mom shaking her head, and wondering where she had gone wrong.
I had an inspired thought, if I could get my food before the line opened, I could stir a little KA -KA. The ladies allowed me to heap two plates full of food. I carried my two trophies, arms extended over my head, into the room full of very hungry Web-Foot Warriors. It had the desired effect; many of my Teammates made their move to get food. Tough Shit, the severing line would not be opened for another thirty minutes. There is just something special, about sitting in a room full of hungry old Frogmen, and being the only one with food.
The UDT-SEAL Association Reunion was the culmination of a strange year in my life. I had written CLASS-29 UDT SEAL. Several of my classmates had paid to have it published as a Limited Edition, and each graduate of our class had been given a copy. It had started as a chapter in a novel, called THE TERRORIST, in which the main character had attended UDT Training. MY though; hell I didn't even have to make anything up, I would just write about our training class, make copies for the guys, change the names, and use it in my novel. It didn't work like that; thanks to my classmates it was a Limited Edition hardback, of 500 copies. Each class member had received one; the rest were being sold at 50 bucks a copy, with all profits being split between the UDT-SEAL Association Scholarship Fund, and the UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce Florida, in the name of Class-29.
When I was writing the pages on HELL WEEK and SO SOLLY DAY, I had wished I could see a film of our class that day, and written "we must have been a pitiful looking bunch!" Lynch had made my wish come true, he had found an old Training film that had part of CLASS-29s SO SOLLY DAY, from HELL WEEK all those years ago. The first night of the Reunion, Jack had gotten all of us around one of those huge Televisions, and showed us just how PITIFUL we had been. He had had the film put on video, and gave each of us a copy. I bet we watched the thing twenty times that night, and laughed our ass off each time. There is no doubt; WE WERE A PITIFUL LOOKING BUNCH!
The strangest thing of all, thirty-five years later I was going back to Training. My efforts to write about our Training Class had come to the attention of another former SEAL, and well though of author, Darryl Young. He read some things I had posted on the Internet, and sent me an E-mail asking if I wanted an Editor and Publisher? I promise, I did not say no. They liked what I had written, but felt it wasn't long enough. I proposed writing about Training today, from the Instructors point of view, my editor excepted. Since I had never been an Instructor, and been out of the navy since 1969, I had a problem.
After floundering around trying to figure out how the hell I was going to write about something I knew little about, I sent a request to Rear Admiral Thomas R. Richards, the big kawhona of Naval Special Warfare. I enclosed what I had written for my classmates, and explained my needs; observe as much of a Training Class as possible, and interview the Instructors. Two days before our reunion, I had received word that Admiral Richards had approved my request. I would be going back to Training, now called BUD/S. That stands for Basic Underwater Demolition and SEAL. I planed to pay close, very close attention to General Schoomaker briefing.
All meetings of the UDT-SEAL Association start with the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America. In this group of men the Pledge was not taken lightly. In the room were the spirits of Teammates who had lost there life for their country, men that carried the scares of battle and wore the Purple Heart, bearers of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and every other honor our country could bestow on its fighting men. At Class-29s table there were guys with tears in their eyes, I had huge goose bumps and a lump in my throat.
For me, all that emotion is not about my country right or wrong, it is about those that went before. Those that had put everything on the line for a few thoughts on a piece of paper; those thoughts "The Declaration of Independence." The people with the courage to struggle to do what's right. Those that had built, piece by piece, what I was born to. When I say that Pledge, I am saying God Bless You, for what I was given; I will do my best to pass more on!
An Army General in charge of the Teams? From what the guys involved had to say it not only worked, it worked damn well. Somebody had finally gotten smart, and removed the worst of inter-service rivalry, the fight for a buck. I mean shit; we all fought the same wars, on the same damn side. One good thing that had come out of Vietnam; a bunch very pissed off young officers that stuck around, worked their way up through the ranks, and made some damn good changes. In the 60s, the military had been full of, cover your ass, just make it look good officers. I am not talking about the Teams Officers, they were one of the few exceptions. They did their job and then some, a good part of the time, their skinny officer asses, were hanging out in the wind.
I'll give it to you strait from the Special Operation Forces, Posture Statement, then I'll do it in English. SEAL Teams comes under what is called a SOC, that's the acronym for, Special Operation Command; A subordinate unified or other joint command established by a joint force commander to plan, coordinate, conduct, and support joint special operations within the joint forces commander's assigned area of operation.
Each of the three services has its own SOC, as always the Marine Corp comes under the Navy. The Navy being a little different, its SOC is called, Naval Special Warfare Command, and is headquartered at Coronado California. The Army has Special Operation Command, at Fort Brag, North Carolina, and the Air force Special Operation Command Hurlburt Field, Florida. Now if that was how it was left, things would not be much different then when I got out of the Navy, in 1969. Our Senior Officers had to fight for every damn penny, just to Operate. In the early days of the Teams, there was a lot of, TAKE WHAT YOU NEED TO OPERATE, DON'T ASK THEY WON'T GIVE IT TO YOU, DO NOT LET THE ASSHOLES CATCH YOU! You didn't steal to line your own pocket; you took what the Teams needed to operate. I mean hell; it was good practice for covert operations.
One more, it's called a Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC. This is what makes the world of military special operations a new and wonderful world. The JSOC is in charge of every damn thing, all three services SOC's come under the command of the JSOC. In simple language, Four Star General Peter J. Schoomaker, the guy that was about to brief us on Special Operations, is the BIG KAWHONA, the man with the fuzzy nuts. His full BIG KAWHONA title is Commander in Chief, United States Special Operation Command. All money for military special operations comes from the Congress of the United States to the JSOC. Special Operations are no longer second class citizens; they get their own money. A separate appropriation from that of the Departments of the Army, Navy and Air force.
Lets see how clear I can make this; the job of our military is to be so good that nobody wants to fight, if there is a fight, then WIN. In a big war, SEAL Teams job, read Special Operations, is to do whatever it takes to help the troops on the ground, the sailors at sea, or the airmen in flight, WIN, with as few of our troops dying as possible. In today's world, with no superpower opposition, what really sets Special Operations apart, and why they get their own money, is a thing called a Low Intensity Conflict. That just means; recognize the problems early, then take care of it, before it gets out of hand and becomes a bigger problem, read full-blown war. Seal Teams, along with rest of the Special Operation community, is kept busy, staying on top of small hot spots all over the world.
If General Schoomaker was not the man to Command Special Operations, it would show in this room. His audience was full of proud old frogmen, who loved their outfit. The first SEAL Roy Boehm, and many of the men that made up those first two SEAL Teams, sat in the Generals audience. There were retired officers in this room, whose carries had been limited by their effort to build SEAL Teams into an effective fighting force, Roy Boehm included. If these men thought General Schoomaker was not the man to lead what they had built, everyone would know.
He fit, the General, and every old frogman in the room where at ease. We received a no-nonsense briefing on the state of Special Operations today. All the nick nack shit that makes good ideas work. The part of his briefing that hit home with me, what got to the heart of everything, was a short little sentence; "Everything, but our CORE VALUES are on the table, we have to be ready to change anything, but those VALUES to get the job done." Core Value for SEAL Team is the people, that basic WW II Webfoot Warrior. That core has nothing to do with all the high tech. weapons the Teams were about to show off at the dog and pony show. It has everything to do with Hell Week and its finial day, So Solly Day. That's how you prove your core, what allows you to take your place as a Team member. On August 24th I would be afforded the opportunity to observe a training class, interview the Instructors, and see for myself if those core values are still intact.
After General Schoomaker briefing, all us old frogs where jacked up, ready to do whatever necessary for; Truth, Justice and the American Way, hell we were all ready for combat. God Bless John (Fly) Fallon, it took him all of fifteen seconds and maybe ten words to get the whole room back to reality. Fly is a legend, and the man that takes care of the UDT-SEAL Association Scholarship fund. I have never been able to figure out how he does it, just a few words, spaced with little pauses, and he has everyone's attention. He can cut through the bullshit quick, and give you a laugh while he does it. A couple things you have to know about Fly Fallon, he always wears Red Socks, I have no idea why, and he enjoys presenting the Scholarship winners at the men's breakfast.
Fly loves getting up there and reminding us what Truth, Justice, and the American Way is all about. The scholarships are academic, not a full scholarships, a little helping hand, for those busting ass to get somewhere. In the Association, as in the Teams, there is as strong belief in hard work. The Associations way, is a lot of Partial Scholarships, no full scholarships are given. The feeling is; you should never take the work out of anything worth having. In a way, the money these kids are receiving is like the hand Neidrauer gave me at the top of the Cargo Net during Hell Week, if I hadn't been an ass buster, Bob wouldn't have wasted his energy. The money these kids are being given, is just a hand to ass busters, near the top of the net. Passing on a helping hand to young hard working students, will likely be the most far reaching thing the UDT-Seal Association does.
I am sure the Teams have been doing Dog and Pony Shows since the beginning. I know we were doing them in the 60s, and I hated the damn things. It seemed I was always the guy, that had to stand around wearing a full Wetsuit in 90 degree heat, not pleasant. They have a long military history and serve an important, but simple purposes. Like a dress rehearsal for a big Broadway show, the directors/Senior Officers, and the investors/us the taxpayers can see how ready we are for the big show, THE BAD BUSINESS OF WAR. War is not a thing you want to lose, practice makes perfect. The show that is put on during the UDT SEAL Reunion is open to the public, and a dynamite show, the best of the year.
There is one reason it's the best, sitting in the stands, are guys from the first Teams of World War II. Those original Web Foot Warriors, are tough old bastards, and would be the first to let today's Team members know if they were not living up to standards. Today's Team members have just as big of egos as us old guys, and they love the challenge. In our day there was no UDT-SEAL Association, if we would have had one show a year for the old farts, I would have loved it. You always want the old guys to respect you as a Team Member.
There is no other way to say it; Today's Teams have weapons that KICK ASS! Their tools of war make us old frogmen drool: Personal weapons, delivery systems, world wide communication system; High-Tec things we didn't dream of having, in my day. The Teams now have a wide range of personal weapons, ships, submarines (big and little), aircraft and boats, with trained crews, whose main purpose is to support the Teams. The Dog and Pony show, would show off most of these weapons systems, and the skill of those that operate them, under simulated combat conditions.
Order of Events
" National anthem (Navy, Jump Team fly in with US Flag) " Traditional Beach Clearance/Naval guns mission (6 swimmers) " C-130 Rib drop (6 Jumpers) " C-130 Rubber duck drop (4 Jumpers) " Softduck insert by CH-46 (4 pers) " Rhib, MK5, and Patrol Coastal conduct drive by gunshoot " Rappel insert (4 pers) " Mcquire extract (2 pers) " Fastrope insert (4 pers) " SPIE Extraction (6 pers) " Military freefall jumpers insert CAS mission (8 pers) " Sniper demonstration (1per) " F-14 fly-by " Freddy the Frog jump (ISC Blackwell with Navy Jump Team)
The show was kicked off with presentation of our Colors, The American Flag. It is done in a most spectacular way by the Leapfrogs, SEAL Teams parachute demonstration team. Three men depart the aircraft as a group, at 3,500 feet. As soon as their parachutes are open, they quickly build a Three-Stack. Each Jumper standing on the parachute below him, in this case, three high. You had damn well better know what you're doing, it's would be easy to ruin everyone's day. If a jumper comes in to fast, it could easily collapse the parachute below. Three guys all tangled in each other's canopy and risers would fall like a rock, not a good thing! The parachute they are using is called, a Ram Air Square, it looks like a big wing, and is highly maneuverable. Much more maneuverable, then the top chute when I left the navy in 1969, the Paracommander. Maneuverable or not, what they did next, impressed the hell out of this hair assed old frogman.
They dropped out of the Stack, and lined themselves up in tight formation, a straight line wingtip to wingtip. The outside jumpers attach their inner leg by Nylon webbing with built in quick releases, to the center jumper legs. The center jumper deploys the American Flag; it hangs below him, off a six foot weighted line, streaming out in the wind. There is smoke coming of the outboard jumpers heals. They three of them fly their parachutes as one, making tight banking turns, Old Glory streaming below. As they came flying in over the spectator stands from the sea, they made a tight turn over the sand dunes behind the stands, and popped the quick releases. The center jumper then flew the flag to a waiting member of the ground crew, who gathers it before it hits the ground. They had made two a tight turns, broke their connection, and retrieved the flag, so it didn't touch the ground, all within the 30 to 40 feet of touching down. Of course these guys made it look easy. It had damn well better, they are SEALs!
After our Flag, came the basics, the hard won World War II techniques of clearing obstacles from an enemy held beach. A lot of frogs had died getting these techniques developed, in the middle of a war. As the Frogmen were cast, and swimming in to set their charges on the obstacles, they were given gunfire support from Special Boat Squadrons. (More on Special Boat Squadrons, how, what, and why, a little further on). The fire is meant to keep the bad guys heads down, so they can't take easy shots at the guys swimming in. It is damn effective and impressive to see.
There was one Cyclone Class Ship, the U. S. S. Shamal. It has a crew of four officers and twenty-four enlisted men; it is 170 feet long, with a beam of 25 feet, and a draft of 8 feet. It has a listed speed of 35 knots, and a range of 2000 nautical miles. The Shamal carries a wide range of weapons. They include 9 SEALs and all personal weapons, 1 Stinger Missile station, 1 MK 38 25mm rapid fire gun (unstabilized), 1 MK 96 25mm rapid fire gun (stabilized), four pintiles (gun supports) supporting twin .50 caliber machines guns, M60 machine guns, and a MK 19 grenade launcher.
One MK V Special Operations Craft, with a crew of five. Let me tell ya, this damn thing looks mean just sitting at the pier, on a firing run it kicks ass. It is 82 feet long, has a beam of 17 feet, and a draft of 5 feet. It's top speed is listed as + 50 knots, with a range of 600 nautical miles. The MK V weapons include; 16 SEALs and their personal weapons, 1 MK 38 Mod 1 25 mm rapid fire gun, 1 MK 44 GUA-17 7.62 mm mini gun, 1 MK 95 Mod 1 twin .50 caliber guns, 1 MK 93 mount with M60E 7.62 machine gun, and a MK 19 Mod 3 40 mm (grenade) machine gun. As a side note, this thing can be put inside C-5 transport, and flown wherever the hell it's needed.
The third vessel giving gun cover for our WW II Frogman operation, was a NSW RIB, that stands for Naval Special Warfare Rigid Inflatable Boat, and it is my personal favorite. The RIB has a crew of 3, and is 35 feet 11 inches long, a beam of10 feet 7 inches, a draft of 2 feet 11 inches, and a top speed listed at + 40 knots. Its weapons include; 8 SEALs with personal weapons, two gun mounts, one fore and one aft, capable of holding .50 caliber machine guns, M 60 machine guns, or the MK19 MOD 3 40 mm (grenade) machine gun. I like it best because it's versatile, a small fast target, that can hall ass in three feet of water. The RIB can be dropped from a C-130, flown in or out under a helicopter, or be launched and retrieved from ships.
These were the three vessels running parallel to the beach, pounding the back shore area with their weapons. The Scouts and Raiders and the Naval Combat Demolition Units that cleared the obstacles from the Beaches of Normandy would have loved to have this kind of gun support. When the bad guys have the high ground, and you have to swim in and do your work right under their guns, anything that keeps their heads down makes you feel good. The Teams, with their tongue firmly stuck in their cheek, call this type operation, "A Drive By Shooting." While all the shooting was going on, the charges had been set and the SEALs had swam back out and got in a recovery line. As soon as they had been snatched from the water, BAM, the obstacles on the beach were blown.
The whole show would have the look of smooth uninterrupted power, like it took no effort, as natural as breathing. As each part of the demonstration flowed into the next, it is easy to forget just what it takes to bind all these diverse people and weapons together. There were 55 military personal from SEAL Team and supporting units. One ship, 10 assorted medium to small high-speed boats, seven aircraft from, a CH-46 Helicopter to an F-14 Tomcat. On the non-military side, everything had to be coordinated with the appropriate civilian authorities; Virginia Beach Police and Fire Departments, Federal Aviation Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and every Hospital and Medevac outfit in the area. The Dog and Pony Show was planed by one SEAL Team Lieutenant, and seven senior enlisted SEALs. Anywhere else in the Military, this size of operation would be in the hands of more senior personal. SO YOU WANT TO BE A SEAL, well big boy you damn well better perform!
To all those outside the Teams, it all looks like a bunch of fun and games. I mean hell; Lockout of Submarines, leap out of airplanes and blow things up. I'll not dispute that Hairy Assed Frogmen/SEALs think it's fun, but even in practice it can be very deadly fun. Outsiders never see the hours of preparation: planning sessions, briefings, equipment maintenance, and practice sessions. The Six Ps apply; PRIOR PLANNING PREVENTS PISS PORE PERFORMANCE! In the old days we had all kinds of people trying to stick their hands in the pie, and do the planing. If things went wrong it was usually someone else's fault. Today most of the planning rests squarely on the shoulders of SEALs, and is all most as important as being a good operator.
To my way of thinking, the most important component in being a good OPERATIOR, and what made UDT then, and SEAL Team now, stand apart; over cumming the unexpected. The unexpected; you know, when THE WHOLE WORLD TURNS TO SHIT, those days when there's a 12,000 ft. peek, where yesterday was a valley. That's when the Teams really shine, that's when the Operators prove themselves. You can look at UDT Training then, or BUDS Training now, as a brutal test you take, to prove your right to be there, when THE WHOLE WORLD TURNS TO SHIT. Not a place most people want, or should be.
The most common topic, other then women, of past and present Team members is the state of Training. Every training class is told by the Instructors; This is a PUSSY class, the worst damn class ever! If it was up to me, you pack of shit heads, would all go back to the fleet! In one way or another, after a new class graduates from training, you're let know, the test is not over! Bob (Eagle) Gallager, made the point to me shortly after our graduation.
Eagle Gallager is an Operators, Operator! I don't care what kind of Operation you're on, from a DOG and Phony Show, to the worst Firefight you can imagine, if Eagle is there, you feel better. Gallager is one of those people that if you look at, piece by piece, you see nothing out of the ordinary; not to big or small, neither to handsome or ugly, all his parts seem to fit together in the normal way, that is until you get to his eyes. Eagle has eyes that tell you everything you need to know, DO NOT FUCK WITH THIS PERSON! I don't remember where we were, just a bunch of Team guys having a beer, and bull shitting about training. I do remember those damn eyes looking straight at me, and every word Eagle said; "Aha, you're all a bunch of pussies! Two weeks preconditioning, we didn't have any precondition. I reported to training, and HELL WEEK started at midnight, that day! Only pussies classes had preconditioning"!
This year at the Reunion, I sat with Bob in the old Chiefs Club Bar, and talked with him about Training in general, and his class in particularly. He had half the Bar laughing when he told us about his HELL WEEK. Bob was just seventeen, when the Chief he worked for on his ship, told him he should sign for this program. Gallager had no idea what Underwater Demolition Training was, but if the Chief said it was for him, that's what he would do. Bob had filled out the paperwork requesting orders to Training, taken the tests, and promptly forgot about it. Gallager's ship was Home Ported in Little Creek Virginia, so on the day he was to report for Training, he just had a mile or so to go. Training in those days was held right where we were drinking, the Chiefs Club had been built, were the old UDT Training Area was. Eagle told us, they just took his orders and assigned him a bunk in one of the old, World War II Quonset Huts. No one told him anything, or ask him anything.
Bob Eagle Gallager, next action surprised me, he got agitated, talking about his Training Classes HELL WEEK. His eyes got big, he was waving his arms around, and he said, "IT WAS THE DAMNEDEST SHOW I'VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE". Now think about this, Gallager is one of the toughest of the tough, a Plank Holder in SEAL TEAM 2. Eagle has been shot at, killed people, leaped out of airplanes, locked out of submarines, and blown things up all over the world. The damnedest show he ever saw in his life was HELL WEEK. It just really brought home to me, that for most Team guys, no matter what you do in the rest of your life Training will always rate right at the top.
One hundred and ninety two training classes ago the 134 young men of Class-29 stood poised to start training, today was Class-221 turn. They started their Training with 100 young men, Officers and Enlisted, and one old Frogman standing in the background, watching. The truth is, if BUD/S Training was not up to par I would not demean my classmates, and our instructors efforts, by finishing this book with Training today!
Today's Teams have a saying, GOOD TO GO; well the Training Command is doing its part in keeping SEAL Teams GOOD TO GO. I will tell you right here I would have different problems, getting through Training today. There are more demands placed on the trainees Military Bearing, academics rear their ugly head from the get go, and the impossible physical demands are still there. The Military Bearing and the added academics just raise the stress level. In truth, the whole training program is still just a STRESS TEST.
There are many differences between then and now, starting with the fact, that all training is run at the Naval Special Warfare Center at Coronado California. More important, training is under the complete control of SEALs. The Instructors no longer answer to ship drivers, who have no understanding of what training for the Teams, is about. The Training Command has it own four striper, Captain Joseph Maquire. He answers to Rear Admiral Thomas R. Richards who is the Commander Naval Special Warfare Command. These two men proudly ware the Budweiser on their chest. You might ask, Budweiser, why would they pin a beer on their chest? Well the official Naval term is Naval Special Warfare Insignia. I promise you TEAM Members, from the Admiral, to the newest guy that earned pinning it on, call it a Budweiser. Both the Admiral and Captain, as young officers completed training and earned that right. They know what all the PAIN and SWEAT is about.
Another big difference, well before arrival at the Training Command each man is totally informed of what is required to complete BUD/S. It is called the BUD/S, Warning Order. I will assure you, the trainee will not understand what he is being told, until after he has completed HELL WEEK. I don't think it makes a damn bit of difference, who gets through training, tell them everything, or tell them nothing. It is my strong personal opinion that it is impossible to even watch training, and understand what it takes. I think what the Warning Order does, is causes those that are timid, too never make the effort. Clears away those that may have a want, but don't have the courage to fail. The next few pages are the official BUD/S Warning Order, with as few notes from me.
BUD/S WARNING ORDER
NAVAL SPECIAL WARFARE
Prior to every mission in SEAL Teams, a Warning Order is given explaining everything that is needed for the upcoming mission. This is your Warning Order! It will give you a guideline of how to prepare your next mission-- Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Training. The key to success at BUD/S is proper preparation prior to arrival.
BUD/S WARNING ORDER
BUD/s is a challenging and rewarding training program which requires the individual to be self-motivated and physically fit. There is some very valuable information in this booklet on subjects such as a course description of all three phases of BUD/S, workouts to get you prepared for the physical stress of BUD/S, and helpful hints on nutrition.
Sea-Air-Land (SEAL) Teams trace their history back to the first group of volunteers selected from the Naval Construction Battalions in the Spring of 1943. Their mission was clearing obstacles from beaches chosen for amphibious landings which began the first formal training of the Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDUs). The NCDUs distinguished themselves at Utah and Omaha beaches in Normandy and in Southern France. In the Pacific, the NCDUs were consolidated into Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs)
The newly formed UDTs saw action in every corner of the Pacific during World War II. In September 1950, the UDTs participated in the Korean War at Inchon, Wonsan, Iwon and Chinnampo. The redeployment of the United Nations Forces featured the UDTs conducting delaying operations using guerilla warfare.
In January 1962, the first SEAL Teams were commissioned to conduct unconventional warfare, counter-guerilla warfare and clandestine operations in maritime and riverine environments. These Teams were SEAL Team One on the West Coast and SEAL Team Two on the East Coast. During Vietnam, the SEALs compiled an impressive record of combat success.
Since the close of the Vietnam conflict, the ever-changing world situation and increased operational tasking have prompted the expansion of SEAL Teams in number, size and capabilities. To effective respond to this evolutionary process, Underwater Demolition Teams have been re-designated as SEAL or SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Teams. The newly designated SEAL Teams acquired the SEAL mission and retained the amphibious support mission inherited from their UDT forefathers.
Authors Note: "Now to a little history; in the official SEAL Team Warning Order History section, there is no mention of Office of Strategic Service (OSS) or Scouts & Raiders. OSS was a joint organization formed in February 1942 at Camp Pendleton, California. They had a Maritime Unit (MU) that was comprised of three separate Operational Swimmer Groups (OSGs). OSG #1 formed the nucleus of UDT-10. These men were formally trained as combat swimmers. UDT-10 men conducted the first submarine launched reconnaissance ever conduced by American commandos during WWII.
Scouts and Raiders were formed in August 1942. Many men from Scout and Raiders later served in the Teams. If you look on the front of the Naval Special Warfare Center, where all SEALs are trained, you will see the name Phil H. Bucklew. The place is named after the most famous Scout and Raider of them all. If you walk on the Quarter Deck of the building, where all SEALs start their training, you will find a big fat brass BULL FROG, which has the names of the longest serving members in the Teams mounted below it, on brass name plates. N0 one has served longer then BMCM Rudy Boesch, a member of the last Scouts & Raider training class. Command Master Chief Boesch served his country from April, 1945 to August 1990! Rudy is one of the most respected men in all of Special Warfare!
The Navy has no paper trail that leads straight from Office of Strategic Service or Scouts and Raiders to SEAL Team, but there is no dough they are the SEALs spiritual forefathers. They came first, and they it did well!"
SEAL and SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams and Special Boat Units comprise the elite combat units of Naval Special Warfare. These units are organized, trained and equipped to conduct special operations, unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense and clandestine operations in maritime and riverine environments. These highly trained specialist are deployed worldwide in support of fleet and national operations. The wide range of task preformed by Naval Special Warfare and their outstanding combat records have earned an enduring and highly respected reputation.
Naval Special Warfare extends a personal challenge to those interested individuals like yourself. This program will push you to your physical and mental limits, again and again, until you are hard and strong, both physically and mentally, and ready for the adventure of a lifetime in SEAL Teams. Free fall parachuting at 10,000 feet, traveling by small rubber boat for 100 miles, conducting a mission, then traveling 30 miles out to sea to rendezvous with a submarine, is a typical mission for the SEALs and an adventure most people can experience only reading a book. If you are ready for both a challenge and an adventure, the Navy has just the training to test your mettle. BE SOMEONE SPECIAL!!!
As a BUD/S student, you will participate in challenging training and encounter opportunities to develop and test your stamina and leadership. BUD/S training is extremely through both physically and mentally; but through adequate preparation and a positive attitude, you can meet its challenges with confidence. The workout schedules in this booklet are designed to prepare you physically for BUD/S. You are the one who has to prepare to give all you have every day. At BUD/S it is essential to live, eat, and sleep BUD/S. 110% is required of you every day. BUD/S is a challenge, but if you meet it head-on with determination not to fail or quit, it will be the most rewarding time of your life. Good Luck!!!
I. First Phase (Basic Conditioning)
First Phase is eight weeks in length. Continued physical conditioning in the areas of running, swimming, and calisthenics grow harder as the weeks progress. Students will participate in weekly four mile timed runs in boots, timed obstacle course, swim distances up to two miles wearing fins in the ocean and learn small boat seamanship.
The first four weeks of First Phase prepare you for the fifth week, better known as "HELL WEEK." During this week, students participate in five and one half days of continuous training, with a maximum of four hours sleep. This week is designed as the ultimate test of one's physical and mental motivation while in First Phase. HELL WEEK proves to those who make it that the human body can do ten times the amount of work the average man thinks possible. During HELL WEEK you will learn the value of the mainstay of the SEAL Teams: TEAMWORK! The remaining three weeks are devoted to teaching various methods of conducting hydrographic surveys and how to prepare a hydrographic chart.
II. Second Phase (Diving)
After you have completed First Phase, you have proven to the instructor staff that you are motivated to continue more in-depth training. The diving Phase is seven weeks in length. During this period, physical training continues, but the times are lowered for the four mile runs, two mile swims and the obstacle course. Second Phase concentrates on combat SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). Students are taught two types of SCUBA: open circuit (compressed air) and closed circuit (100% oxygen). Emphasis is placed on a progressive dive schedule which emphasizes basic combat swimmer skills that will qualify you as a combat diver. These skills will enable you to tactically insert and complete you combat objective. This is a skill, that separates SEALs from all other Special Operations forces.
III. Third Phase (Land Warfare)
The demolition, reconnaissance, weapons and tactics is ten weeks in length. Physical training continues to become more strenuous as the run distances increase and the minimum passing times are lowered for the runs, swims and the obstacle course. Third Phase concentrates on teaching land navigation, small-unit tactics, rappelling, military land and underwater explosive and weapons training. The final four weeks of Third Phase are spent on San Clemente Island, where students apply techniques acquired throughout training in a practical environment.
IV. Pre-BUD/S School
The Naval Special Warfare BUD/S selection course is designed to provide an overview of SEAL Training and the Naval Special Warfare Community. The five day course, held at the Naval Training Command, Great Lakes, is offered to all active duty Navy enlisted personal from the Fleet, Service Schools and Boot Camp. Applicants will be temporarily assigned (TAD) from their parent command to the Selection Course. TAD funds are provided by Naval Special Warfare Center, more specifically, outlined in NAVADMIN 062/96 (15180ZMAR96). Requirements for the course are the same as those for attending BUD/S training. For further information contact the Physical Training Rehabilitation Remediation (PTRR) office at 619-437-0861 (DSN 577-0861). For a quota contact student control at 619-437-2578 (DSN 577-2578).
Authors Note: "If a man is injured in training he can be rehabilitated in what is called Physical Training Rehabilitation Redemption (PTRR), and allowed to begin a new training class, in the last Phase he successfully completed. If a man has successfully completed HELL WEEK, but not all of Phase One, he may be allowed to rejoin a new Phase One class after HELL WEEK."
V. Post-BUD/S Schools
BUD/S graduates receive three weeks basic parachute training at the Army Airborne School, Fort Benning Georgia, prior to reporting to their first Naval special Warfare Command. Navy corpsman who complete BUD/S and Basic Airborne Training also attend two weeks of Special Operations Technicians Training at the at the Naval special Warfare Center, Coronado. They also participate in an intense course of instruction in diving medicine and medical skills called 18-D (Special Operations Medical Course). This is a 30-week course where students receive training in burns, gunshot wounds and trauma.
After assignment to a Team and successfully completing a six-month probationary period, qualified personal are awarded a SEAL Naval Enlisted Classification (NEC) Code and Naval Special Warfare Insignia. New combat swimmers serve the remainder of their first enlistment (2 1/2-3 years) in either and SDV or SEAL Team. Upon reenlistment, members may be ordered to additional training and another SDV or SEAL Command, where they will complete the remainder of a five-year sea tour. Advanced courses include Sniper, Diving Supervisor, language training and SEAL Tactical Communication. Shore duty opportunities are available in research and development, instructor duty and overseas assignment.
In addition to normal pay and allowances, Naval Special Warfare personal currently receive $175/month dive pay, $200/month SDV pay, $165/month HALO (jump pay) and $110/month special duty assignment pay.
"You will find the Physical Fitness Standards and the rest of the Training Commands Warning Order at the end of the book".
One damn thing that's the same today, as it was when we were in Training; the Warning Order sounds like it was written by the same guy that wrote the Instructors Synopsis for Class-29. The one I broke down and used for headers for each Phase of Training. I wonder, could it possibly be?
The most obvious difference, and maybe the least important, is the facilities. Training at Little Creek and at Roosevelt Roads was housed in old worn out buildings, stuck off in far corners of the bases. In Coronado they are right in the middle of the Teams. In the old days they had good reason to stay as far out of the way as possible, it lessened interference from people that had no clue what was going on. Basic Training for the Teams, UDT-RT then and BUD/S now, appears form the outside to be senseless brutality. Nothing could be further from the truth.
First, the trainee, he can still quit any damn time he wants. There is no punishment, if a man decides he does not want to complete training, he can go. Second but foremost, the Instructor staff, today's Instructors have some things to work with that ours didn't. In the old days, an Instructor had no place to stick an injured trainee, today they do. I'm not talking bruises, blisters, strained muscles or light abrasions; you treat those and keep going. I'm talking broken bones, torn muscles, deep cuts or concussion. Many of the guys that get through training will do what ever it takes to hide serious injury. Our Instructors were reluctant to drop a man for physical injury, that didn't want to go. They knew how hard it was just to get to Training, and for the injured, how hard to get back. Today the Teams have their own medical facility with excellent rehabilitation capability. Trainees that are seriously injured can go through rehabilitation at the command. If the trainee chooses he can rejoin another class at the start of the Phase he was injured in.
Class-29s own, Two Time Tom Mc Cutchan had been saved from returning to the fleet, because a tough old Frogman asked him; " WHY DID YOU QUIT?" Tom quickly let him know "I didn't quit, I broke my leg, with two week to go. That Frogman had a need, and a lot of power, it was LT Roy Boehm. His next question to Tom "can you type?" Tom replied "NO Sir." Lt. Boehm's reply "You will learn". With that Roy Boehm got Orders for Tom Mc Cutchan, to the just formed, SEAL Team Two. It would be years before the Teams had their own rehabilitation unit, but Tom had the Plank Holders of SEAL Team Two, to rehabilitate his young ass.
I ask Roy Boehm the First SEAL for a short history, of how SEAL Team came to be. No one could tell it better, then the man himself. So here is a letter Roy was kind enough to send me answering some of my questions.
Initially on the East Coast we had just UDT-21 to take from. I had trained about 80% of team 21 for the special unit later named SEALS. Cdr Bob Terry was the skipper of UDT 21 and we negotiated the people to become a part of the SEAL unit, without stripping the team of their essential personnel. I was too much a sailor to kill one outfit to create another. There has been some controversies over who was and who was not a plank owner because many that we ear marked had to complete their operational commitments; remember I was also Operations Officer of 21 when we got the word. I received that word on Sunday January 7th 1962 -- A friend in the Bureau called from his home to let me know. I quote him "Roy what in the hell is a SEAL? I am calling from my house as it is so secret I was afraid to call from the office. In any event you have a license to steal and I know you are going to jail, I just want to say I don't know you!" That John is pretty close. Cdr Terry and I fought it out on the 8th a Monday, at the time I wanted all volunteers from the enlisted, and officers to be assigned. I appeared before my selected group in Bloused boots and starched greens, and informed them that dressing like Joe Shit the Rag Man was over!
No matter what you read about 37 plank owners or that the team went into commission on 1 January 1962 they don't know what they are talking about. We went into commission on 9 January retroactive to 1 January 1962. I had been training a special group for a year. The only other person that was privy to our state of readiness at the time, 1961, was LCD Bill Hamilton, LCD Terry relieved him. When we found out that their would be a team on each coast we were elated. As it was, we were over burdened with operations. The demands for UDT-21 special operations were straining our capabilities. The West Coast was in better shape with three teams to choose from as far as personnel were concerned. I turned over all my training contacts Jump School, Jungle warfare, Survival, Ranger, Martial Arts, Sailing and Correctional facilities (Jail) and a host of others to the West Coast teams. Del Guidice at that time asked me to do for TEAM ONE what ever I was doing for SEAL TEAM TWO-I complied by ordering a duplicate of all equipment.
There is a lot more that went on. Too much to describe, and too controversial for rehashing by a bunch of second guessers, that weren't there, and didn't lay their careers on the line. Many like Hoot Andrews, and others bent a good many rules in order provide our Commander in Chief with his commandos, in a Navy that was reluctant to go unconventional. Roy Boehm."
The TEAMS are about the PEOPLE; they are full of smart, tough, funny people. You could remove every piece of equipment from the Teams. Impede them from doing their job in every way possible, they will still get it done, and have a damn good time doing it. In fact the only indispensable tool in the Teams, are its people. Lt. Roy Boehm knew that, and formed SEAL Team Two in just that way.
What is the single biggest difference between Training then and now? Good Damn BOOTS on your Feet! I'm just talking personal here, I mean the single biggest difference for the individual trainee. There are many, that will argue what I have just written is a load of crap. So let me lay out my, admittedly, personal point of view. From our first week of Preconditioning, tell the four months of Underwater Demolition Team Replacement Training was over, we wore SURVAYED BOONDOCKERS. In plain English, ankle high work shoes that someone else had worn out, before they were issued to us. It was not that our Instructors were trying to destroy our feet, or where cheap. They just didn't have the money to spend on boots, and didn't know how important taking care of your feet is. There are not many pains from my early life, that I remember clearly, but for me getting through that four months meant, GETTING PAST THE PAIN OF MY FEET.
The Navy has learned, as I watched Class-221 fall in, that first mourning of Training, my eyes went to their feet. YES, no not just YES, but HELL YES, everyone had a good pair of high top boots, and thick shocks on. I will state flatly, if we had good high-top boots and thick socks on our feet, during the Kennedy Bridge Raid, Ensign Charlie Rand would not have lost his toes. Somewhere along the line, between Class-29 and 221, they had figured out how damn important, good boots and healthy feet are.
The biggest structural difference in training, and among us old farts, the most controversial, is rolling a trainee back. I'm not talking about the injured guys; most everyone likes that. I am talking about a trainee that does not pass his physical or academic test. Officers and Senior Petty Officers can pass everything in a given Phase but leadership, and be rolled back. I am not talking some written test, but the act of leading as graded by the Instructors. In the old days you ether passed, or you went back to the fleet. Most of us old guys have no idea how heavy the academics load is for today's trainee. I know I didn't, until I got the opportunity to observe today's training program. I have come to except roll back as a necessary part of today's training.
Another big difference, much subtler then boots, or being rolled back. Communication, well at least half the art of communicating, it's called listing. As near I can tell it is mainly a function of how we raise and educate our children today. I can some up the problem fairly quick; children raised in the 40s and 50s, were raised to listen to everyone. Children that came along in the 60s, 70s, and 80s were raised to listen to no one. There is a general proposition out there today, that what anyone thinks, is just as important as the next guy. Unlike most of American society, BUD/S Instructors will not put up with that silly esoteric shit. In the Bad Business of War, not listening can get you and your teammates dead, quick. If you're dead you cannot fucking win! The whole dynamic of right and wrong has changed, now this might work alright, while you are taking a society slowly down the tubes, but in war it does not work. If you can't listen, you can't figure out what is right, or worse, wrong.
The Instructors use this common trait of today's young guy not to listen, as a teaching tool; If the trainee does not listen, he gets to make his body stronger, lean and rest, pushups, eight count body builders, et cetra. A normal training day, is full of big time physical exertion; Burn-out Physical Training's, Obstacle Course, long runs in the sand, surf penetration, long swims at sea and the ever loved Log P.T. Every time one of these young guys gets dropped for pushups, because he can't listen, he is just giving himself a little extra physical exercise.
I had arrived at the Training Command at 0600, the mourning of August 24th, 1998. I of course had missed the start of Class-221, first day in Phase I. They had mustered at 0500, for a lovely little pre breakfast run in the sand. Then had departed for their morning meal, just as I arrived at the Training Command. After clearing security, I was escorted to the Phase I office, low and behold there stood Class-221s first quitter, waiting to ring the bell, the test had begun. The Training Command used the West Coast method for quitting; on the East Coast you just removed your Red Helmet, and you were gone. The West Coast method for quitting entails a little more ritual.
The bell is mounted outside the Instructors Offices, still the last place a trainee wants to find himself. It is a standard Navy bell, made of brass, that is kept highly polished. The bell is about 11 inches high and 9 plus inches across the lip. You could find one on any ship, or Naval Station. Anytime a trainee has business at the Instructors Office; he must come to attention by the bell in front of the office, and ring it. When an Instructor decides he has the time to deal with the trainee, he will acknowledge the trainee. Until he is acknowledged the trainee must stand at attention.
If a trainee wants to quit, that has its own special ring, so anyone with in hearing knows what is going on, three rapid strikes on the bell. He is then afforded the opportunity to think about what he is doing while he waits for the Instructor attention. Until he speaks the words, I Quit, a trainee can change his mind. If the Instructor thinks he might work out, he may let the trainee stand there and think about it awhile. The trainee that was waiting to quit, before I got there that first morning, was gotten rid of quick.
Now as in the old days, if you go to the Instructors Office, you are going to suffer. Anytime a trainee comes to the personal attention of an instructor, there is a good possibility he will pay the price. Pushups now as then, are the main currency of pain. Another damn thing that's the same today; the instructors make sure the trainees muscles are always in the condition of pain. The object is still to find the people that do not take the easy way out. I don't care how good a trainee you are, the instructors will make you pay, you might say they are truly "equal opportunity employers."
At 0700, that first morning of training for Class-221, they mustered on the Grinder, in the middle of the of the Training Area. The Grinder is asphalt, about 75 yards by a hundred, surrounded by the Training Units offices, classrooms, and equipment storage areas. Grinder is the perfect name, and Class-221 got their first taste of what happens on their Grinder that morning. We called it burn-out P.T., of course the Instructors just called it Physical Training, its object is to make your muscles so damn sore you couldn't do a proper exercise if your life depended on it.
There are only two differences between burn-out, and a regular P. T. session, quantity and quality. A normal session is well beyond what most people would ever attempt, but most trainees come to training in superior physical condition. A good number are in such excellent condition, that they found the screening test for BUD/S Training easy. A burn out P.T. will take care of that! They simply give you such a large quantity of a given exercise that you could not possibly do then correctly. Quality has gone out the window. Burn-outs are meant to make your body hurt. Class-221 will feel every muscle in their collective bodies for the next 25 weeks!
On the north end of the Grinder is a raised platform, for the Instructor that leads the P.T. Behind the platform, chin-up bars cross the north end of the Grinder. On the North West corner long sets of dip bars, between the dip bars and the platform is an Inflatable Boat Small, sitting on the Grinder, fully inflated. One odd thing about the boat, it was full of water, it didn't take long to find out its purpose. As that first burn out P.T. wore on, and the trainees started to heat up, it was used for cool down. An over heated trainee would be told to stop whatever exercise they were doing and crawl through the water in the boat. Not a bad idea, but that boat is also a trainee trap.
The trap is this, anytime you are hot getting cool feels good. If a trainee thinks he is near heat prostration, he can stop whatever exercise he is doing, and crawl through the boat. The trainee does not need and instructors permission. Hell, that makes since to me, where's the trap? It's subtle, but if you understand the kind of guys the Teams are not looking for, easy to understand. They don't want men that cut corners to make things easy for themselves. The kind of guy that would stop and exercise, not because he is overheated, but just to give himself a little brake. These guys are easy to spot, they hit the boat more then anyone else.
Water, and the consumption there of, was one more surprise. Each trainee wore a standard military issue Web Belt, with two canteens attached. For the PT session, they had taken the belt and canteens off and laid them on the Grinder, beside their work out spot. Several times during the PT session, the Instructor up on the Platform, had stopped the exercise and told the Trainees to "HYDRATE." Each trainee grabbed a canteen and took a couple big slugs of water. In our training class you were never allowed to drink water when you were heated up. We had been trained to take a mouth full, rinse our mouths and spit it out. I must admit, I always cheated and swallowed some. The medical opinion of the day had been, drinking water when you were heated up would make you sick. Medical opinion is different today, and not only are trainees kept in the water, but water is kept in them as well. If a Trainee is found without his canteens, or they're not full, after he has had the opportunity to fill them, he will pay dearly.
Another big surprise for me, and one of the bigger differences between training then and now, was the amount of Instructors involved in every evolution. When we had been in Training, on things like P.T., there would be one maybe two Instructors. Our whole Instructor staff was made up of ten Enlisted and one Officer. That first morning P.T. there were seven Instructors surrounding the trainees. One on the platform, the rest of them out on the grinder. All of them watching the trainees like hawks. It took me awhile to figure out what the Hell was going, why so many Instructors?
In today's Navy there is only one Training Unit, in my day there had been two. One at Little Creek Virginia, the other on the Strand in Coronado California. Between both Coast, there had been four Training Classes a year. Today the Naval Special Warfare Center runs eight BUD/S classes a year. Not only that, but the Center teaches 24 other scheduled classes: Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Indoctrination, Special Warfare Craft Crewman (SWCC), SEAL Weapons System Operator, Martine Operations, MK 16 Underwater Breathing Apparatus (UBA), MK 16 UBA Maintenance, SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) Operator, SDV Maintenance, SDV Electronic Maintenance, SEAL SCUBA Diving Supervisor, Diving Equipment Maintenance & Repair, Draeger LAR V Closed Circuit UBA, Closed Circuit Diving Procedures, Open Circuit Diving Procedures, Free Swimming Ascent (FSA) Techniques, Submarine Lock-in/Lock-out, Combat Fighting Course (CFC) Basic, CFC Advanced, Static Line Jump Master, Midshipman Cadet Orientation, Special Operations Technician (SOT), SOT Refresher, Chief Petty Officer & Lead Petty Officer Training Course, Junior Officer Training Course, Prospective Commanding Officer/Prospective Executive Officer Course.
Special Boat Units, these guys are the other leg of Naval Special Warfare and combat Sailors of the first order. They all attend, Special Warfare Craft Crewman (SWCC) class, and today have a carrier path in Naval Special Warfare. In my day we had Boat Support Unit. It was a duty station, not a carrier path, there were some damn good men but they came, did their tour of duty, and moved on. Here is how the Navy describes Special Boat Units history and SWCC Class.
"Special Warfare Craft Crewmember (SWCC)
Today's Special Boat Units (SBU) trace their origin to Boat Support Unit One (BSU) which was commissioned in 1963 as a component of the Naval Operations Support Group commanded by Captain Phil H. Bucklew, a pioneer of Naval Special warfare. The members of BSU-1 deployed to the Republic of Vietnam as members of the Mobile Support Teams tasked with the operation and maintenance of the light SEAL Support Craft (LSSC) and Medium SEAL support Craft (MSSC). Although other units supported SEALs during the war, only BSUs were specifically created to support Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs) and SEALs.
SWCC Training is comprised of three core areas: Physical Fitness/Water Safety Skills, Basic Crewmember Skills and Basic SWCC Warfare Skills. The first two weeks involve running, swimming and calisthenics, all of which become increasingly difficult as the weeks progress. The second four weeks teach combat craft principles of engineering, seamanship, navigation and communication. Emphasis is placed on teamwork with the goal of training the student to become basic combat crewmembers. The next three weeks concentrate on teaching basic tactics, patrolling and individual and combat craft weapons. The final week culminates with students applying the skills acquired throughout training in a practical environment during a demanding 3-day Field Training Exercise."
It boils down to this, they are looking for some special kind of guys. Guys that will take a small boat full of SEALs into very bad places. More important to the peace of mind of those SEALs on the ground, when the world has turned to SHIT, and everyone is trying to make those SEALs dead, come back and get their ass. The kind of guys that loves their boat and every damn weapon on it. The United States Navy has an abundance of Sailors that love small boats. The best of those boats, and the guys that run them belong to the Special Boat Unit. Initial training for BUD/S and SBU are separate, very demanding but different. Once a man has passed his respective basic training, and been assigned to a SEAL TEAM, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team or Special Boat Unit, then they train together.
I think you get the idea, but just to drive the point home. These courses are public knowledge, I promise you there are classes we know nothing about, and should know nothing about. To top it all off there are a legion of schools that are run by other branches of the service that many SEALs attend. Knowledge is the way threw, over or around an obstacle. SEALs, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams, and Special Boat Units are required to gather as much knowledge as possible.
As I looked around the grinder that first morning, I was surprised how much Class-221 was surrounded by history. From Captains Bucklew's name on the training center, the big fat Bull Frog on the quarter deck, to the grinder where a large plaque hangs, bearing the names each Training Class Honor Man. Harry Humphries name is up there, from all those years ago. Many graduating training classes had left a mark of their own, paintings, plaques, and statues. Most of them having the cocky Bull Frog we called Freddy, and a Budweiser, alongside their Class number. One graduating class had purchased a huge brass Bull Frog, over four feet tall. It stands near the door to the Instructor Office and over looks the grinder, an Old Freddy Frog keeping an eye on training.
Day one, for this class of wannabe SEALs, will set the tone for the rest of their basic Training. Their classroom sessions start on day one, and are very different from what CLASS-29 faced, academics, academics, and more academic. If they are having a class inside, it is held in a cement room, with wooden school desks, and no heat or air-conditioning. The Instructor gives the class from a small raised stag up front. They speak in a soft voice, not monotone, nor amplified. When the inevitable happens, a student starts to nods off, that too is used as a lesson. From the rear of the class, one of the Instructors will through a bucket of water, in the general direction of the offender. He, and those around him, will find themselves in the Lean and Rest, with whatever notes they were taking soaking wet on their desk. It is damn hard, to dry your notes or add to then, from the lean and rest.
Now, many of you may wonder, what kind of lesson that bucket of water teaches? Well it's what I would call, a multi-level teaching tool. In a way, it teaches you everything you need to know about TEAM WORK. If you let a classmate sitting near you nod off, your notes are wet, and you may very well find yourself in the Lean and Rest. Oh my God, you mean Team work is about self-preservation, not some esoteric nice guy stuff? After the first few classroom sessions, rarely will a bucket fly. Trainees that find themselves getting a little drowse, get up and stand in the back of the class.
On that first day they start with Hydrographic Survey, all the technical things that we didn't get till our last five weeks of training. First Phase has one interruption to their academic endeavors, HELL WEEK, now the fifth week in Training. By the end of First Phase, most of this class will be gone. But those that are left, will be able to gather the information and prepare a Hydrographic Chart, like the one we prepared for our final demolition problem.
Each training class still learns the same things during HELL WEEK; You can go further then you ever though possible. You couldn't do it alone, and everyone left standing belongs there. HELL WEEK has changed less then any part of Training, for one simple reason; THEY CAN NOT FIND A BETTER WAY. You can't pick the hackers by their looks. There is no written test you can give, that will find out if a man is a Team player. If it was possible, to get good Operators, by letting some Shrink interview Trainees and say YA or NA, they would love it. The big problem is, the damn Shrinks can't figure why in the hell a man would do all that silly shit, of his own free will. Five plus days of no sleep, constant harassment, and impossible physical demands with an easy way out; that's still the test.
Those that reach Second phase in the ninth week, will begin a much more extensive Diving Program, then we received at Underwater Swim School. Many of these young men will receive a terrible shock, no calculators. Dive Phase is heavy in mathematical formulas all done with brain power, pencil, and paper. It could be the first time in their young lives that these guys have not been able to use calculators. Classroom sessions, in this Phase of Training, are full of trainees paying attention, I wonder why? All the heavy physical demands are still being piled on our would be SEALs. Their times had better be improving on the Obstacle Course, runs, and swims. Swim and run distances have been increased, and all exercise repetition, have been jacked up. They now know, what is meant by the old Team saying, "The only easy day, was yesterday"!
One of the things they learn that we didn't is called Drown Proofing. When they have this technique down pat, you will see an odd sight; the whole class of Trainees bound hand and foot, bobbing up and down in ten feet of water. Now most people might think this training tool is way over the edge. Well SEALs have drown, leaping off a boat with 60 to 80 pounds of full combat gear strapped to their ass. Second Phase is not just about learning to dive, but like all of Training is about, How to WIN and Live in THE BAD BUSINESS OF WAR.
Third Phase; success is just 10 very tough weeks away, and every trainee can taste it. Keep in mind, in 10 more weeks these guys won't be full fledged SEALs yet. They will have just completed the hardest part, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training. Each of them will have at least, Jump School and six months of probation, before they pin on their Budweiser. To them none of that matters, the only things that count are; land navigation, small-unit tactics, rappelling, land and underwater explosive, and weapons training. To top it all off all the heavy physical demands will again intensify; longer swims, runs and PT sessions.
I observed Third Phase during a week they spend in the mountains, a little north east of San Diego, up around six or seven thousand feet. Most of that week is spent on Land Navigation, with a little small-unit tactics, reconnaissance and good old Sneak and Peek thrown in. I said six or seven thousand feet, because they spend every day, and a good part of each night, going up and down those mountains on compass courses, and gathering intelligence. None of the trainees seemed to be effected by the altitude change. All their previous training had been at sea level, but by this phase of training they're physical animals. The Class has overcome every obstacle, mentally, or physical, that has been placed in their way. By this time they are truly a TEAM, and damn well know it.
One of the first things that became apparent was; Instructors still have a problem judging the distance of a run. I had arrived a little later in the morning then I had expected, due to mechanical problems, I had to deal with on the way up. Thank you God for small favors, I missed the run! It had been my plan to run with the class on what was billed as a seven mile run, how quickly we forget. It must have something to do with the genetic make up of the men that become Instructors. They never error on the short side. No seven mile run ever was five miles long, nor were they seven! All the Instructor had said, when they returned to the base camp, "I must of taken the wrong deer trail, out of that meadow in the bottom of the valley." Damn that took me back thirty-five years, it sounded like something Chief (Cool Breeze) Spiegel would tell us after we had run further then advertised.
Since arriving at BUD/S I had had little direct conversation with trainees. Not because it wasn't allowed, but because I didn't need to know what a trainee thinks. Not only had I been a trainee, but many of my class mates had written, called, and e-mailed, to help me with this book. I needed to talk with, and observe Instructors. I needed to see training through their side of all the SWEAT and PAIN. The group of men I found as Instructors at BUD/S made clear to me something I had missed, about CLASS -29s Instructors. Something that leaped out, like a huge flashing sign. Something that is exactly the same today, as it was thirty-five years a go, they teach Team Work by their example.
Our Instructors had never said watch us, this is what Team Work is, they did just what today's Instructors do; keep the on spoken example in front of the trainees at all times. Until I had watched these guys work, I had thought just the grueling facts of training had forged us into a team. Not so, we had the same thing today's trainees have, the best teaching tool there is, unwavering example. I had been dead on when I had written, "Core Value for SEAL Team is the people." Training is where SEAL Teams gets its people, and Core Value for training is the Instructors.
While I was at the Training Center there were three Training Classes in progress; First Phase was Class-221, Second Phase was Class-220 and Third Phase was Class-219. I found the same thing with each phases instructors; Guys that worry about the quality of their product, TEAM Members, and how they are doing their job. I am not trying to tell you that the Instructors, Training, or SEAL Teams are perfect. What I will flatly state is; There is no group of men, closer to perfection in their chosen field. There is no group that work harder to improve the quality of their work.
After that seven mile run, that was ten plus miles long, the trainees and Instructors were hard at it till well after midnight. If I remember right, I had driven into Camp just after O6OO, when they had departed on their run. All day Instructors were out setting up Compass courses, and the Trainees were running them. Every time trainees finished one course, the Instructors would retrieve the markers, and set out a different one. The trainees, in teams of two, or as a fire team, (eight to ten), would be given a set of Grid Coordinates and a team number. The Grid Coordinates represented a point on a map. They were to take their compass and a map, and go to that given point. When they reached that point they would find another set of Grid Coordinates, written on a small piece of paper with their number on it, in an ammo can. They were to take the paper with their number, and go to the next point. All of the courses ended, at the starting point, a table in the middle of base camp.
Each Team leader was briefed and debriefed at that table, and of course many paid the price for small infractions. If it was a two man team, or a full fire team, a team leader was selected by the instructors, only the leader was briefed. He was told everything, from what gear to carry, to what type of information to return with. It was each team leaders responsibility to pass all information on to the rest of his team. Keep in mind each of these compass courses is timed and graded. If they don't pass, they will do Phase Three over, NOBODY, wants to be rolled back.
Full RUCK, that's everything our want-a-be SEALs have in the field, 70 pounds + of military gear. Ruck is short for Rucksack and refers to the back pack, each trainee carries his gear in. The last compass course was with Full RUCK, Fire Team size, and would be a little kiss good night from the Instructors. All day as trainees had been briefed and debriefed, they had been paying the price for anything less then perfect. All day the Instructors had been using their class room voice, soft and reasonable. Each briefing had ended with the question, "any questions"?
During every briefing the trainees had been told to turn all Grid Coordinates, and any notes in, at the end of each compass course. At the debrief, they had been ask if they had turned in all Grid Coordinates, and any notes. All day the instructors had never checked the small note pad each trainee is required to carry. Well, quess what? That's right, shake down time came at the last briefing, and it was more then just checking note pads. They had to empty their pockets, open their Rucksacks, and show the Instructors their note pads. It was pay the price time, advanced education BUD/S style.
Each fire team had at least one man that had notes, grid coordinates, or was missing a piece of equipment. Of course all day guys had been paying the price, one guy, to a fire team at a time. This was different, this was a training class thing, and everybody paid. These compass courses, were being run as a combat situation; stay off the roads, sneak peek, good platoon movements etc etc. The officers, and senior enlisted men, had their asses chewed big time. Everyone was paying the pushup price, and the Instructors were no longer speaking in their class room voices. This was serious business; YOU NEVER GO INTO COMBAT WITHOUT CARRYING ALL REQUIRED EQUIPMENT. YOU NEVER CARRY UNNESSARY INFORMATION, NOTES FROM PREVIOUS OPERATIONS, GRID COORDINATES THAT LEAD TO YOUR BASE CAMP. THE ENEMY COULD PICK THEM OF YOUR DEAD BODY!
Just a different form of the bucket full of water lesson; Check each other out, watch each others back, it will do nice things for you. Things like keep your notes dry and you alive! They all did at least 50 pushups, and were kept in the lean and rest, till their arms could no longer hold them straight, and then a while longer. Now I promise you, the guys that caused the rest of their class to receive a little advanced education, would hear about it from their classmates. Little things can make you hurt, even dead!
A little after 24:00, midnight, most of the training class was crawling into their sleeping bags. Till 05:00, when reveille was held, trainees would be standing watch, a lovely way to end a long day, or start the next. After reveille, and hour would be spent eating and generally getting ready for the day. At 06:00 quarters were held, and the training day started with an hour P. T. Session. So, you want to be a SEAL?
Phase Three will end with four weeks on San Clemente Island, where the trainees will sharpen and put to the practical test, everything they have been taught. Like those of us that came before, they will have paid the price to be a SEAL. There is just one coin the price can be paid in; stamina, mental and physical stamina! Some guys out of every training class will never see each other again, but they will carry their training class with them for the rest of their life. Ask any of them thirty-five years later, about their training class, the one thing, all of them will be clearest about is their INSTRUCTORS. It's the Instructors, that make training work!
I am going to leave the last words in this book to three others, Tom Blais and Sam Orr writing about the Instructor that effected them the most, and Jim Hawes on being a Training Officer.
I will convey a bit of pre history to aid the understanding process. During the fall of 1948 I was still attached to the U.S. Navy Bureau of Personnel, I was a seaman and new to the Navy. I received orders to serve at BuPers only because I had high General Classification and Mathematics Test scores. Accordingly It had been decided, by the navy, that I would be a good yeoman. I did not like it at all, and requested Underwater Demolition Team training. I reported to UDT 2 in December of 1948, and started as a member of Class 4 in January 1949. Should you check the records, you will find it was a historically cold winter that year.
I was young and a blessed, gifted athlete in good shape; still the training I found extraordinarily difficult. There was no pre-conditioning and many fell away quickly. Our instructors were World War Two veterans and were sharply focused. Many were lean and running fools! But you know they were always fair. There was no impunity, no freedom from punishment, and we all got it stuck in our ears.
One Instructor stands out in my mind, Lt. Anderson, a quiet determined person of muscle and sinew. No fooling, he could run up soft, steep, high sand dunes, with absolute apparent ease, *backwards* quicker than a jack rabbit might do it forward. His chiseled granite looking legs pumped like powerful pistons in the soft relenting sand. Because of his unique ability and staying power, he alone caused many of us to fall short of keeping up, and at times to drop to our knees retching and puking into the sand. He would wait as other instructors rounded us up and then head for the surf. He was, barelegged with boondockers, shoes just like ours, he would run swiftly in the freezing cold surf smiling all the time; masochistically, I thought. We were taunted to keep up, inevitably that was impossible and so we were allowed to rest laying and rolling in the frigid surf. It actually was such a nice relief until we would start to become numbed. He seemed to know when that was and would lead our water logged bodies back into the high sand dunes. Oh the pain! THE TERRIBLE FREQUENT PAIN!
I came to know him later well after I successfully completed training. He was a very kind, thoughtful, considerate gentleman, combat seasoned, tough as a stone, very intelligent, and quite humble. He was a highly ranked black belt in judo and taught us how to use combative and counter combative measures, as he called them. He really taught us how to protect ourselves, and how to kill the enemy with ease. He and I became running partners long after training was over, I wanted to learn how to run up those tall sand dunes *backwards* as he had done, he taught me. All it took I found, was continual trying, more pain, and more puking in the sand. It became a great simple success lesson, focus and never quit! He taught me how stretch and some yoga. He showed me how to lay any man low and made me practice, practice and practice more, another success lesson. I didn't realize it then but Mr. Anderson became one of my role models.
In 1952 my Father became ill with heart aliments and I went on humanitarian shore duty. During the time I was away from the Underwater Demolition Teams a change in code numbers occurred and my 5321 ceased to exist within my naval service record, I was told. Further, In 1952 I married the love of my life, Florence Del Rosso, who was a remarkably beautiful and multi-talented young woman. She was also a recent honor graduate from a fine all girls catholic college, and had been trained as an English major with multi-language disciplines.
She saw to it that I became more cerebral and less physical. She was an outstanding cook and I became even more rotund accordingly. Although we were ecstatically happy I missed the underwater demolition team occupation desperately and especially, my TEAM MATES. I knew first hand now, that in Underwater Demolition Teams, the morale and comradeship was unique; and that I must be a "U. S. Navy Frogman once again!"
Prior to requesting transfer, back to the Teams, I visited UDT team 2 still located at the USNAB, Little Creek, Va. and spoke with the executive officer Lt. Drum. He was shocked at my self imposed physical deterioration, and told me so in no uncertain terms; "Petty Officer Blais you are fat and out of shape! If you expect to become a UDT man again you will have to go through training. I will arrange for orders to be issued to you, for UDT TRAINING, not directly to the Teams." So I did it again with Class-16.
Later, during my career, I broadened my academic prowess, smoothed a rough personality, learned some humility, practiced more yoga, and a beneficial mixture of the marshal arts and stayed with Naval Unconventional Warfare many years, nearly twenty-four. I loved every minute of it and miss it all!
Your friend and former team mate
Class 17, July-November, 1956, Coronado, CA
Our class was as miserable as all those that preceded and followed it. It also left me memories I will never forget, both the good and the very painful, and brought me closer to my classmates than anyone else in my life.
There were many instructors, who made class 17 highly meaningful. I remember them all, and have a soft spot in my heart for most of them. Among them, Paul McNally stands out as a giant spirit who typified what UDT was all about. We had instructors bigger than Paul, smarter than Paul, more friendly and helpful than Paul, but none more determined or honest with us than Paul.
It is the job of BUD/S instructors to find out just how much stamina, strength, resolve, self-control, self-discipline, and spirit lies within each trainee. They determine these traits differently. Some of them set trainees in motion and simply watched, adding calisthenics as physical punishment to drain each man. Others came barefoot and wore swim trunks to run trainees who were dressed in greens and boots. Some would direct us into the surf, get us wet and sandy, then run us miles with our greens sand-papering each crotch raw. Paul McNally did none of that.
Paul would show up dressed just the way we were. When we started the run, he was in the lead, and there was no-nonsense, about making us miserable to increase the pain. Paul just ran us into the ground. When those to the rear got too far behind, he circled around to pick them up again. Anyone immediately behind him went farther than the slow runners, but no-one complained. If you were able to stay reasonably close, he might smile and say you were trying a little harder than usual. When he led calisthenics, which was often, we knew we were in for it. It was all smooth, deliberate, he did it all better than any of us, and he smiled all the way. I would rather get a curt nod of approval from McNally than lavish praise from anyone else, because you had to earn it. He was hard, but he was fair. Paul had to win at everything, and was willing to pay the price to do it. He could swim farther underwater than any of us, mostly because he had more will. I once thought to myself that if someone jumped out of a fifteen story window, McNally would bail out after him just to beat him to the ground. He was the essence of a competitor, and that earned something no-one could buy from me, my respect.
Chief McNally is gone now, and I hope others like him came to take his place. But no-one else will ever occupy the spot he has in my memory. He was a man with no pretense; who neither gave, nor accepted excuses, had great pride, and always got the most from us by sheer example and his desire. Paul McNally had more leadership qualities than anyone I have ever known, and I have thought of him often throughout the rest of my life.
Sam Orr World Traveler and Philanthropier R.I.P.
Thirty-five years after training, my image of the instructors staff has been enhanced by my life experience. As you wrote earlier in the book, to get the Captain of the Naval Amphibious School, to approve a waiver for my near-sightedness, I had to agree to return to the training unit as assistant training officer/instructor. I reported to the Training Unit immediately after our graduation ceremony, instead of reporting to an operational Team which was my strong preference. Normally, a training officer/instructor would rotate into the training unit, after serving on the Teams. The opportunity I was unwillingly given, gave me a different perspective on the Instructor staff.
Before we finished training in Puerto Rico, it became known to the instructors Blais, Waddell, Sulinski, Spiegel, Cook, Parrish, Newell, Hammond, and Clements, that I would become their boss as soon as we completed training. I will never forget Instructor Chief Blais taking me aside during one training day, after my future became known, and in his quiet, most intimidating way, saying something like "Mr. Hawes, I am going to make it my personal challenge and responsibility to see to it that you earn the right to be our boss." That meant that I received Blais personal attention on virtually every swim, run, or training exercise for the remainder of training. Blais personal attention meant a great deal of pain, and a great deal of learning.
When I completed training, I had the same impression as all our class: the instructors were hard, demanding, incapable of being satisfied, but fair. When I reported to the training unit as the assistant training officer/instructor, I was immediately accepted and treated with the respect and camaraderie of a veteran despite my inexperience. My admiration for these men increased daily. I learned how seriously they took their roles as "keepers of the flame", the spirit of the frogmen; how fair-minded they were in evaluating trainees; how they agonized over the prospect of screening a trainee, who might be one of those rare exceptions, of a candidate who had the will, but not the ability; how heatedly they would argue and debate over the best ways to train and prepare the new trainees for the Teams; how much mutual respect was exhibited every day.
Leadership, leadership-by-example, the demand of higher expectations and accountability, acceptance of and the understanding that someone with greater abilities does not diminish one's own abilities, teamwork, sacrifice, patriotism, honor. These were fundamentals perpetuated by the Instructors, and inculcated into the spirit of the trainees. To have been Instructor was the greatest learning experience of my life.
Member Class-29 and Instructor Classes-30 and 31
A Few Thoughts
For me the word Instructor, is like the words Mom and Dad, all three should always be capitalized. I have heard comments to the effect that the Teams' Instructors are sadistic, BULLSHIT. I never had an Instructor use violence on me, or saw it used on other trainees. They are men among men, the ones you need when things go bad. War is the most ruthless of man's endeavors, the Teams' Instructors are charged with finding men, who will win for us!
Two of my Instructors' are right up there with my Dad and Grandpa. Chiefs Burnie Waddell, and Tom Blais, when I am challenged, if I get a little weak, they help me through. All those years ago, they taught me a hard lesson, the most important battle is the one you have with yourself.
There is a lot said about SEAL Team today, some good, some bad, some true and some not. To the guys that where Frogmen and SEALS, and the ones that still are, it is simply the TEAMS. Everyone who makes it through training knows, he would have never made it, alone. It is a rare thing being a part of a TEAM! Teamwork is talked to death, by people who have no clue what a TEAM is. The kind of people who would never take responsibility, not for one damn thing in their own life! They want everyone else to be responsible. Well step up asshole, and carry your share of the boat. If you don't find a way to contribute, you don't belong on a Team.
Is training the same today as it was then? NO, there are things that have changed, small little nick nack shit. At the heart, it is what it has always been, a brutal test of your mind and body. Each training class, is tested by those who came before, the Instructors. The Instructors have all taken the test, and have no interest in letting the standards slip. Let me tell you what Commander P.T. Smith said, about training and, the guys in it today. (Class-29s longest serving member. 36 years 9 months on active duty.)
"Everyone who has remained close to the community has been asked to compare training then and now. In many bars around the globe, I have stated adamantly that we went through the last hard class. The truth is that training is just as hard today as it was back then and in many ways it is far better. Even though training is still hard, it is safer. Exercises like duck walk and squat jumps that tore up our knees so badly, have been taken out of the program. Boondockers are gone and have been replaced by quality running shoes. The result is that they no longer loose excellent candidates because of unnecessary stress fractures. Instructors do a better job of monitoring students today and medical care is more readily available. I don't think a Kennedy Bridge fiasco would occur, in today's training program, and good guys like Charlie Rand would complete today's training.
Today's training program is longer by a total of about 4 weeks and the trainees learn a great deal more. By comparison, we learned what was available to be taught at the time: demolition, a few small caliber weapons, reconnaissance, the basics of patrolling and tactics and how to work as a team. Today's classes learn what we did plus more sophisticated techniques in closed circuit diving, combat swimmer , details of small unit tactics, communications, mission planning and how to work as a team. I had the privilege of working closely with "new guys" right up to the very end of my career. My observation is that when a BUD/S graduate arrives at one of the teams today, he's knows at least as much as we knew after two or three years in a team. What today's graduates don't know any better than we did, was how these newfound skills would fit into large scale military operations. That takes many years of experience and is only a learning requirement for more senior team members.
My feeling that training is just as hard now as it was for us is based on personal observation. From 1991 to 1993, I had an unaccompanied tour of duty in Coronado and I lived in a BOQ that was across the street from the BUD/S training compound. On a daily basis, for two years, I'd see those classes marching, jogging, crawling and carrying boats from end of the base to the other. When trainees and I would pass close aboard, we'd be eyeing each other. They'd see a middle-aged commander who was still proudly wearing a highly polished brass SEAL insignia. I'm not sure what they thought of me, but I'd look at their faces and in every class I'd see a Roat, or a Lynch, or a Diebold, or a Yocum, etc, etc. I'd see the combination of strain and determination on their face. As time went on I'd see the same classes many times over, and I could literally see the group of individuals transforming into a cohesive unit. They seemed to march with a smoother rhythm. It seemed that the officers and petty officers could give fewer instructions to get the class to do something as unit. Each man seemed to know what was expected of him. What those observations told me was that the basic elements of training remain intact. Training is hard, to the point of being brutal, and team players succeed."
"UDT/SEAL training has been the only experience of my entire life, where a man was judged solely on his merits and performance with no concern for pedigree, net worth, education, race, or religion. Although life has been very good, nothing has been as exhilarating or fair. I never had an instructor at any university or Harvard Business School, who matched Sulinski, Waddell, Blais, Spiegel, and Cook. The Experience has had a profound impact on my life and how I live it."
Jim Hawes, Member Class-29
"Out of hard times come hard men. This was never more evident to me than in training and Viet Nam."
Harry Humphries, Member and Honor Man Class-29
******** "Being A Navy Frogman, and later an instructor, are accomplishments I'll take to my grave."
Bernard Waddell, Instructor Class-29
"I couldn't quit, I would have let my classmates down, I just couldn't do that."
Jesse James Hardy, Member Class-29
******** "What I learned in training are the three most important words, ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE, ATTITUDE."
Jack Lynch, Member Class-29
"MORE BLOOD IN PEACE, LESS IN WAR.
"Seriously John, I was pleased to receive this communiqué. Further, delighted to know that an authentic tough former U.S. Navy Frogman was actually writing about the making of Frogmen.
Reading the few excerpts you provided, leads me to believe you have the ability to 'tell it how it was' honestly, spin the yarn effectively and hold the reader's attention accordingly. Oh, the pain, and the snot!
I hope, for the Navy, the Teams and you, that the book is seriously authentic, carefully documented, and holds historical significance. I understand you are already a successful businessman in the field of commercial diving, congratulations.
Perhaps, this book will depict the true picture of the UDT/SEAL Trainee and his magnificent struggle to survive and successfully complete, what has been said to be the most arduous training program, of its kind, in the world.
Some time after Class-29 graduated, I was privileged to relieved Ben Sulinski when he retired, a model Navy Chief and consummate Navy Frogman. John, with the great support, daily, from a superlative UDT instructor staff we were able to maintain and sometimes intensify the training program.
One last thing John, for your information, and edification, I successfully completed two UDT training classes, one in 1949 and one in 1956, both in the winter, at Little Creek. I thought you would be pleased to know this since I provided you with so much pain in training. I am proud of you and your effort John! Drive the spike deeper, daily, while continuing to charge with finesse!
Your friend and former team mate," Tom Blais, Instructor Class-29
"Training reinforced some of the things my father taught me - DON'T GIVE UP, and can't didn't accomplish anything. Can't says you are beaten before you start. The above has more meaning, knowing Dad had only one hand. I do not ever recall Dad saying he couldn't do something - He always found a way! U.D.T.-R Training, to me reinforced those concepts. Training inserted into this attitude, that team work by motivated people always could find a way"
Dick Johnson, Member Class-29
"Now to the worst part of training, for me it was running - running in the damn sand. I quickly learned to HATE SAND. Wet, dry, in piles, spread out, covered with grass - I JUST HATE SAND. Thirty-five years later, I still do not go to the beach. I HATE THE DAMNED SAND!!!"
Dick Johnson, Member Class-29
"Throughout Training I kept having the thought - WELL, ALL THEY CAN DO IS KILL ME. It seemed to help."
Forrest Dearborn Hedden, Member Class-29
"The experience I had in training and later in UDT-21 has helped me become the kind of person I am today. Hopefully that means a good husband to my wife and a loving father to my three children. Quit never entered my mind going through training.
I have always been proud that there was only one difference between Officers and Enlisted Men, during training. Enlisted Men where called, low life worthless scumbags, Officers were called low life worthless scumbags SIR. The group of people, I went through training with, made me a better Officer and man.
Jim C. Walker, Member Class-29
"When I think back on "The Teams", an experience I am forever proud of, which continues to influence me throughout my life, I recall our Classmates came from diverse backgrounds and all parts of the country. This group of men "fired in the hell" of training, created an unequaled bond that last a life time. To me no better words capture the meaning of my feelings for my Teammates than"
"…we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother, …and gentlemen… now a-bed, shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhood's cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us…"
_Shakespeare "King Henry V" (Field of Agincourt)
David Janke, Member Class-29
A. CLASS RECORD FOR THE MILE OCEAN SWIM WAS SET BY ENS. R. A. HAUFF: TIME 29 min.56 sec.
B. CLASS RECORD FOR THE OBSTACLE COURSE WAS SET BY IC3 R. W. LESTER: TIME 12 min. 10 sec.
C. CLASS RECORD FOR THE TIMED MILE RUN WAS SET BY ENS. J. P. HUNT: TIME 5 min 09 sec.
D. CLASS RECORD FOR THE NAVY ENDURANCE TEST WAS SET BY ENS. J. HAWES WITH A SCORE OF 86
E. CLASS AVERAGE FOR THE OCEAN MILE SWIM WAS 35 min. 23 sec.
F. CLASS AVERAGE FOR THE TIMED MILE RUN WAS 5 min. 50 sec.
11 U.S. NAVAL OFFICERS, 1 OFFICER OF THE PAKISTAN ARMY, 1 OFFICER OF THE ROYAL DUTCH MARINES, 1 OFFICER OF THE NORWEGIAN NAVY, AND ONE OFFICER OF THE ROYAL HELLENIC NAVY, 4 ROYAL DUTCH MARINES, AND 30 U.S. NAVY ENLISTED MEN GRADUATED. THIS COMPRISES 36.57% OF THE TOTAL PERSONAL STARTING THE COURSE SIX MONTHS AGO. 63.43% OF THOSE WHO REPORTED FOR TRAINING LAST JANUARY FAILED TO COMPLETE THE COURSE.
THE OUTSTANDING STUDENT, CLASS "HONOR MAN", BASED ON PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE, ACADEMIC MARKS, PROFICIENCY IN UDT TECHNIQUES, LEADERSHIP, CONTRIBUTION TO CLASS MORAL, AND DEVELOPMENT OF TEAM SPIRIT IS HARRY J. HUMPHRIES.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The Navy's percentages on completing training, neglect to figure in, the over 1,300 sailors that tested for selection to training. Only the top 10% started training. If you run the numbers on 1,300 attempting to start training, and 49 completing, you get a different picture of what it takes. If your interested, run the numbers, it will give you something to think about.
GRADUATES OF CLASS-29
Name Rank/Rate Service
Gaston, Thomas L. ENS. USN Gibby, George C. LTJG. USN Hauff, Richard A. ENS. USN Hawes, James M. ENS. USN Hunt, John P. ENS. USN Janke, David C. ENS. USN Johnson, Richard G. LTJG. USN Shea, Richard H. LTJG. USN Swartley, Steven W. ENS. USN Walker, James C. ENS. USN Yocum, Gerald R. ENS. USN Doumouras, A. ENS. GREECE Magnussen, Egil O. H. LT. NORW Qureshi, Hakeem A. MAJ. PAKISTAN Tiel, Alexander E. R. LT. NETHERLANDS Allen, Carl T. EM3 USN Camp, Joseph H. RM3 USN Cook, James H. AA USN Coligan, Ralph D. ADR3 USN Diebold, Ralph SN USN Dow, Neil G. AN USN Duncan, Leo SN USN Fauls, Raymond A. Jr. SN USN Flockton, Ronald T. BUL3 USN Fradenburgh, Richard L. RDSN USN Geiger, Leroy C. MMFN USN Hardy, Jessie J. SFM3 USN Hedden, Forrest D. Jr. SA USN Humphries, Harry J. SN USN Jarvi, Ronald E. BTFN USN Kopetski, John C. RDSN USN Leasure, George E. Jr. SN USN Lester, Ronald W. IC3 USN Lewis, Trailor L. SN USN Lynch, John R. Jr. SN USN Mc Cutchan, Thomas C. SM3 USN Munson, Gene M. BM3 USN Neidrauer, Robert A. BMSN USN Risher, Clarence T. III AMHAN USN Roat, John C. AN USN Smith, Paul T. ETN3 USN Vaught, Troy E. EMFN USN Winter, Kenneth T. SN USN Woodsworth, Raymond K. SK3 USN Youngs, Robert J. SN USN De Beer, Martinus J. CPL NETHERLANDS Pauli, Coenraad CPL NETHERLANDS Ravensburg, Hendrik J. CPL NETHERLANDS Hack, Robertus J. PVT NETHERLANDS
INSTRUCTORS of CLASS-29
LTJG. J.C. TYRIE B. J. SULINSKI, GMGC B. WADDELL, ENC T. E. BLAIS, DMC J. H. PARRISH, BMC H. A. SPIEGEL, GMGC J. F. COOK, SMC H. C. CLEMENTS, MN1 A. G. HAMMOND, MN1 C.A. NEWELL, AO1 J. M. PAINTER, HM1 E. T. FRALEY, ADR2
These men where our INSTRUCTORS all of them had been Trainees themselves. In the case of Tom Blais, he went through Training, twice. Without the dedication of the Instructors there would be no SEALTEAM.
They cared enough for every Mothers son, to train us hard in peace, so we might live, if it came to the BAD BUSNESS OF WAR. As Tom Blais said, "MORE BLOOD IN PEACE, LESS IN WAR!"
TO MY CLASSMATES & INSTRUCTORS
Webmaster Note: It has been a pleasure to have served in SEALs with some of these superb warriors. John, thank you for book: CLASS-29, a really true account of how it was in Little Creek Virginia HooYah! East Coast ! Doc Riojas
7th Pltn, ST-2, Shrapnel Wounds, Chuck Jessie & Doc Rio from Movie: Men with Green Faces
Barry Enoch signing his book
Bernie Campoli, Dave Southerland , Linda Ball, Ella Hazelwood, Jim Hazelwood
Bob Rieve, ? ? , Pat Badger Mike Boynton
This photo was taken either at AP Hill or at Camp Pickett: Left to right: Hook Turre, Mike Boynton, Erasmo Riojas, Charlie Watson, Jack Rowell, Roy Dean Matthews. This was the 7th Platoon SEAL Team TWO in 1967. Aug67 is when the film was developed.
Dick Pouliot William H. Hamilton CAPT USN SEAL
I missed the steak fry on the beach at Vieques (Thank goodness), but Frank was in the 3d Platoon, UDT-21 when we went got diverted to Panama. We experienced Thankgiving at sea on the way home. Frank was volunteering as the night baker on the Earle B.Hall.
After eating a full turkey dinner in the best Navy tradition, I stuck my head in the galley to complement Frank. He smiled and said, "Just like my mother used to make, only she didn't fuck it first."
Frank Scolise EN1(SEAL) T Shirt I made for "Eagle" Gallagher
1990: Kochey, Schultz, Riojas, Humphries, Hammerly, F. Thornton
Admiral Harry Humpries (our movie star) Harry Humpries Movie Advisor in Hollywood
Moran?, and ?? Jim Watson, Mike McQuillis, ??
Joe DiMartino,Dave Sutherland,Jim Watson, Roy Boehm
TopRow:Lt to Rt: Hook Turre, Jack Rowell, Curtis Ashton, Mike Boynton, Fred Keener, Roy Dean Matthews. Bottom Row Lt to Rt: Robert "Eagle" Gallagher, Erasmo "Doc" Riojas, Rinney, Harry Constance, Robert "Pete Peterson , Charlie Jesse. The Origional ST-2 7th Pltn. Our first tour to MyTho (home base) but operated all over IV CORPs areas of 'nam.
Pete built this trail. Easy going down, a little hard walking b ack up to his house.
Bastrop Texas Fire
? ?, Ken GLess Ken Gless, Sue Boehm, Dick Marcinko, Bob Nissley
PT Schartz & Wife Hoot, Rudy, Jim Redmon, Grady
Chuck Fellers & family East Coast Frogs/SEALs
SEALs ST-2 1968
from:(movie Men with Green Faces) Isham, Girard,Cook, Ramos, Pat Martin
L-R: Skip Isham, Pete Girad, Jim Cook,Ray Ramos, Pat Martin
Admiral Tom Admiral , Del GUice, Callahan, Young Lion ST-2
Capt David Del
Giudice will be inducted into the Commando Hall of Honor (CHOH) on 27
Capt Dave was the first CO of ST-1, below is a statement about his career by Capt Andy (3rd CO of ST-1)
LTC FARRELL -- It will be a pleasure to bring forth information pertaining to CAPT DEL GIUDICE and his outstanding career in Naval Special Warfare. As stated previously - Dave and I were Both Executive Officers of UDT-12 and UDT-11. The Commodoroe (LCDR MACK BOYNTON) was summoned over the COMPHIBPAC to discuss a TS message pertaining to the formation of a Special Operational Force. We were selected to be on the 'WHAT IF COMMITTEE"= to respond to CNO'S query.
December CNO Directed that SEAL'S be established. LCDR BOYNTON selected
Dave to be the Commmanding Officer of SEAL TEAM ONE to be effective 1
January l962. Thereby making Dave the FIRST SEAL. SEAL TEAM ONE was
composed of Officers and men from UDT-11 and UDT-12. Later that year
Naval Operational Support Groups (Atlantic & Pacific) were
established. Capt Phil Bucklew became the Commodore and shortly
thereafter he and David Del Giudice departed for Vietnam to work on
plans and operations. The ensuring works are contained in the Bucklew
report. Dave received a high decoration for his part. SEALS were
deployed as Mobil Training Teams (composed from both coasts)in
l962 and employed around Da Nang.
Joe Di Martino, Aldo Ray, ? ?
Alonzo Price Leasure, Roat , Humphries
Tom Blais, Finley, "Black Jack" Macione, Doc Riojas, Bill Earley
Curt Gibby, Ann GIbby Capt. Simmons Billy Burbank
Dr. Riojas, Dr.Charlie Aquardo Dr. Boreman & Doc Riojas
Sub Lockouts on Boat's Deck
L-R: SEALs KIAs, except Marcus Luttrell "Lone Survivor"(on extreme rt.) Afganistan
Archie Grayson Me
WWII Frogmen at Ft. Pierce Curtis "Butch" Ashton
Alex Verduzco Capt. Larry Bailey (SEAL) "El Menos de Magnifico" HE said that !
Sam Baily Jr. Bernie Campoli, Doc Riojas H.T.
L-R: ?, O'Rielly, Roy Boem, ? ?, ?, ? Ft. Pierce
"older than Dirt" Barnes, H.T. "Swede" Tornblom
L-R: Ev Barrett, ?, ? St. T. Barry Enoch
Tom Keith Bob Barth Erasmo Riojas ST-2 Erik Prince, of Blackwater fame
Sam Orr & Doc Riojas
David PaAaina, Harry Constance, Jim Finley
Bob Holmes & David "Pineapple" PaAaina at 2009 UWSS reunion Panama City FL
Billy Burbank David Byers, Sam Baily, Becky Byers, Doc Riojas
Rudy & Marge Boesch in China
Campoli, Dave Sutherland, Linda Hubbell, Ella Hazelwood, Jim Hazelwood
Roy Boehm, SEAL & Pilot
L-R: Billy Burbank, Tom Blais, Doc Riojas,Archie Grayson
Binnie & Lenny Waugh Biron Wilfreda
Mrs & Thrift , Blackie & wife Tom Blais
Bob Holmes ??
??, & Bob Niessl L-R: Bob Rieves & Mrs and Pat Badger
Bob SHouse & Rosalie
L-R: ? , Skip Isham, Eagle Gallagher, ? , Doc Cox Bob Shamberger
Bob Shamberger , & ??
Lowell "Bo" Burwell & James Franciscus (hollywood star) Roy Boehm
?? "Moose" Boinnott & Chief Erasmo Riojas
(from movie men with green faces )
Gary Smith in the Center He wrote Three Books Bourgeois KIA
Jim Braden & Doc Patchurick
Ray Tullas, Eagle Gallagher,Doc Rio(withBra), Dick Martin Brian and Tom Keith
Lt -Rt: LK Williams, Rudelle Williams, ? , ? L.K. Williams , Bill Brumuller
John Cook Brewton KIA 'nam 3rd Field Hospital 1965-1971 Saigon 'nam
This is where "Bubba" ( we all called him that) died of the multiple gun shot wounds received in Action. "THE FIRST SEAL SHIP" He was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama; graduated from the U. of Alabama, and graduated UDTR Class 40/6702 at Little Creek VA. in 1967. On his 2nd tour to Vietnam he was W.I.A. on 24 Nov 1969 while on patrol in the Rung Sat Special Zone (forest of assassins), IV Corps, Vietnam our of NhaBe. He was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart. In November of that same year he succumbed to his wounds due to septicemia and renal failure.
Call it Kinh Gay, Tuyen Nhon, The BLow Job,
or its code name: Deep Channel
there two small pictures there.
Click on small pictures to ENLARGE them!
From: Erasmo "Doc" Riojas
WOW! Firstly, Congratulations on retiring as a Captain. I am very glad you made the USNavy a career. Oh also congratulations on your PhD, Doctor. I plan on making one of the North Texas SEAL get togethers. I will call you and see if you are free to receive my company. Are you a member of N.TX SEALs? are you on the VTC? go here: www.sealtwo.org/vtc.htm for information on joining.
A few years ago we visited Jake and Jean Rhinebolt, one of my Old XOs from ST-2, in Phippsburg ME. Jake did a tour with youe UDT Team in Coronado. He was showing us his picture collection and that is when I saw the UDT cruise book. I wrote Jake the same day I wrote you for copies of the "blow job" from his UDT cruise book. He sent me all the pages of that job. I am sure you have that cruise book, no?
LCDR Jake Rhinebolt sent me all the pages of the "B.J." from his UDT year book. <deepchannel01_small.jpg><deepchannel_small.jpg>
I mentioned to Don Marler you and the job you guys did in Vietnam. I told Don Marler that I thought that as far as the size of explosives, the Korean job was smaller than the 'nam blow job. He asked me if I would write an article for the 50's Frogs Journal.
I hope that you will think about doing a story
for the 50's Frogs and let them decide if their "B.J."
was larger than the 1970's Frogs "B.J." in Korea.
Their job was much dangerous since the Chinese had reached
Hungnam and were shooting at the frogmen. You made some deals
with "Charlie" and had USArmy security, so the only
hazards that you encountered was probably snakes and mosquitoes?
Those are the one's I remember.
----- Original Message -----
Our CO was
LTCM I.C. LeMoyne and XO Nelson of Team 11.
WEBMASTER's NOTE: Jan, Do you remember the movie that was made by the USN photographer?
The SEAL that went on
the Huey with him away from the canal, about 1.5 clicks was
Erasmo "Doc" Riojas
Walter R. Harvey, Captain SEAL ret., R.I.P.
Robert Donald (Don) May, BUD/S 072,
---------- Forwarded message ---------- From: "Maynard Weyers" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Georgia man fatally shot in dispute with son
ROBERT BRYAN GUZZO, R.I.P.
ROBERT BRYAN GUZZO , January 3, 1979 to November 12, 2012
Guzzo, as we knew him, went after it. He sought excitement, made it himself most of the time, and then relished in the telling of it. He was captivating, someone who lit up the room and made us pay attention. He made us worry because he cared for others more than himself, but most of the time - he made us laugh.
Rob led a life of dedication to his family, friends, Seal Team 5 and his country. He was the son of HMCS (SEAL) Robert Guzzo now of Raleigh, NC and Lieutenant Commander Robin Andersen of Portsmouth, RI. He was the brother of Danielle, Marissa, Kiel, Aaron, Taylor and he was Daddy to Jena Mae who lit up his world.
Rob was born into the Navy in San Diego, by parents that instilled a sense of honor and pride in him. They both had careers that took them to places around the world and Rob saw first-hand the opportunities and long-lasting bonds that sustain military families.
They raised Rob to believe he could do anything and made sure he succeeded. Rob graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1997 where he also was a star linebacker on the football team. True-to-form, he drove his coaches crazy because his natural talent was far stronger than his patience for enduring hot summer practices.
Rob just wanted to be in the game, he wanted the action. Rob went on to State University of New York College at Cortland where he majored in political science and minored in entrepreneurial studies, meaning figuring out ways to get help writing his papers and scoring the most sought-after social invitations. He was a brother in the Beta Phi Epsilon fraternity.
Rob was never short on ideas, passionate in his pursuit of a good time, and always about being in the action. Upon graduation in 2000, Rob followed his destiny: Navy SEAL Team 5. He trained in Coronado, CA, and deployed to Iraq in 2006 where he served as a communications specialist. The brotherhood he found there, the missions, the sense of accomplishment - all shaped who he was to his core. Rob was awarded the Navy Commendation medal with Valor for his combat action in Iraq.
He believed in what he fought for and he died trying to overcome the losses he encountered there. Most recently, Rob was featured in the Transformers II film and was continuing to pursue acting roles while studying for a Masters in Kinesiology...fitting for Rob who never stood on the sidelines, that he'd find interest in the study of human movement.
In addition to his immediate family, Rob is survived by Grandmothers Shirley Ludwin of San Diego, and Patricia Guzzo of Buffalo, NY, Stepmom Dana Guzzo, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Nieces, Nephews and Friends far and wide - that loved him.
In Lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Jena Mae Trussell (Guzzo) at the Navy Federal Credit Union.
There will be a new commander of U.S. Special
I wrote a piece a while ago entitled DTMWTD….
It was targeted at kids who don’t like their parents telling them what to do… Well… and maybe husbands too??? You get the picture… any of us at any time. DTMWTD.When we tell someone what to do we are trying to warn them of possible consequences that we see that we think they don’t.
We all have to learn the same hard way by experiencing and dealing with our own decisions. We want them to be ours. Why should we trust anyone else’s opinion? “Enough with the advice” we say. Of course, I am still saying that to my wife today….
Then… when we get a job we have to listen to our boss. Groan. If we really grow up we listen to our customers and clients, not ourselves. This is difficult, but it happens as it is paycheck driven. We listen and learn.
So it appears it is the incentive that is important. What is the incentive today when all kids withdraw into the self-assuring world of their cell phone? We are in trouble. They are affirmed by their insecure social network not our wisdom. They no longer “look up” to anything.
The word “No” is not allowed. Children are taught the nuances of “child abuse” and only have to tell their teachers and there will be a knock on the door.
I was blessed with great parents, spankings, and a plethora of “No’s”. Thank God.
But it was not until the military did I fully begin to appreciate what “No” meant. If you wanted to be a Navy Frogman/SEAL the INSTRUCTORS were waiting with snarling teeth and monstrous threats of pain. If you did not say “YES INSTRUCTOR” to everything they suggested there was a real price. Too many pushups, too many sit-ups, too many pull-ups, too many runs, too many swims… “Are they crazy” I would think to myself. Is this nonsense really worth it? Why were they so strict? Why was Bernie Waddell so scary behind his wry smile?
Why??? Because all hell could rain down on you if you showed disrespect in any way, shape, or form. So just do what he asked and get on with your moment. Mile after mile crawling, running, and swimming in the freezing winter during Hell Week weeded out the survivors. The Yes Men.
You see… the instructors knew what would happen to you if you were not forged properly. You would be killed when it could have been avoided. Your swim buddy would have been put in peril unnecessarily. The mission aborted because you did not heed your instructor.
We need instructors to become all that we have the potential to become. Values must be honed in sweat and pain. We need to learn that freedom is not for free. If you are not conditioned you will not be strong enough to stand in the winds of life.
Laziness destroys potential.
There is white and black, good and evil, yes and no, do’s and don’ts…..
Values became valuable.
Serving others became more important than serving self.
Prayer became real.
Morality was affirmed.
God Bless You Instructor Bernie Waddell…
and Godspeed.And God Bless all the instructors everywhere.
And parents too.
Thomas Blais BUD/S InstructorFrom:Frog21
Doc Clark and over 100 frogs know me very well. For your information, Tom told me today that Jim Cook has been a savior to him. While we do not know each other, I have enjoyed your pictures over the years.
Your have taken pictures of me but I do not go to reunions that often, I live in Naples Florida, and will be at Little Creek next year.
Hope to see you there. I added your name to my frog email list when I received a note from my dear friend and classmate Frank Cleary.
Regards Tim Jones
Maxtrack [at] cox DOT
net is Tom's Email.
I talked to Tom for about 20 minutes, He sounds great. He is still working out but nobody at the facility can keep up with him. Big Surprise. He said that he would love hearing from his former tad poles so give him a call.
He lost his driver licence for running a red light but would love to attend any party we have and the beer blast on Sunday. We can arrange to pick him up or have a taxi do the work if we are too drunk. See you at the 50th reunion,
PS I think I have all the class emails except Enos.
Nault is health3life [at] yahoo DOT com.
John Carl Roat
Click Below for John's Movie on the WWW
ask who are my Green Brothers?
think on this, this is who they are.
CLASS-29 by John Carl Roat
Curt GIbby Class 29 E.C.
We were blasting a channel for this island so deeper draft boats could come in. We are taking a break and have the usual Rum & water when in walks Robert Mitchem (the movie star). Anyway Frank strikes up a conversation with him & I am standing there so Frank asks Mitchem "Do you do any diving"? Mitchem said No, and Frank says I wish I had you for about 15 minutes. I'd drop you down to 150 feet so fast those sunglasses your wearing would look like contact lens.
Mitchum grabs his glass and yanks them off and stares at Frank. Frank starts to laugh and before you know it they had there arm on each others shoulder. Only Frank could do that. I miss him and I could fill a book on all the things I experienced while operating in the team. I was fortunate to dive with the best. I'll break them out and send them to you.
Again, congratulations on your photo album. I am looking forward to Key West, UWSS reunion for next year. Cindy , my wife, and I bought a new Toyota Prius. (One of those hybrid cars (gas/elec combo) 55 to 60 in town and a good 50 plus on the road. Have a day and keep in touch. SOB "sweet ole bill" Daugherty
SEAL Team TWO, Little Creek Virginia, The 7th Platoon
Missing: Gene Fraley , Rinney's handler(KIA), Billy Burbank (transferred to PRUs), W.O.Charlie Watson returned to Little Creek due to Illness. This photo was taken in MyTho at the PBR base. Rinney made too much noise in the jungle. He went on two Ops and was used to interrogate captured VCs. The photo says May 1968, which is when the film was developed, photo was taken in late 1967.
We relieved "Moose" Boinotte's, "Pee Wee" Nealy's platoon at the Carter Hotel, MyTho RVN 1967. We had a BSU-1 platoon with us for the Mike Boat and one of the Origional STABs "by Mattell."
SEVENTH Plt, ST-2, 1967-1968: Best I can remember: We ran over 100 clandestine Ops in IV Corps RVN. Awards: 14 Combat Action Ribbons, 1 Navy Cross, 2 Silver Stars, 14 Bronze Stars, 12 Purple Hearts (two were refused), 14 VN gallantry Crosses, 12 Navy Achievement Medals and SEAL unit awards, Presidential and Navy. http://www.militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=4405 "Eagle" Gallagher Navy Cross.
Capt. Robert Peterson and Karen's Ranch in Spicewood, TX . Sept 20-21, 2013 Central Texas SEALs cookout and shoot out
Behind is the Party House. Swimming Pool, Hot pool, Pizza Stone Oven and BBQ grills. There are also several little sleep room fully furnished and bathrooms.
Archie Grayson, Tom Hawkins, The Admiral, Erasmo Riojas
Brick: Lourdes Tolentino
|Billy Burbank, Doc Clark, Gene Cahill||
Lt.toRt.:Curtis "Butch" Ashton KIA 'nam, Roberto Ramos KIA 'nam; Jerry Waters killed in parachute accident in SuffolkVirginia
Harry Humphries,Ray Tullis, Tom Hawkins, Gene Cahill Erasmo "Doc" Riojas, U.S. Navy SEAL, 'nam war games
UDT Sailor on the big blow job in 'nam Captain Patt & Swede Tornlom in St. "T"
?? West Coast SEAL Doc "Spearchucker" Brown , HM2 ST-1
Chuck Fellers & his family Clark ST1
Erasmo Doc Riojas (SEAL) Honorary Member Class 19 L-R Stand: "Swede" Tornblom, Ray Ramos, Marsls, Ken GLess, CHuck Newell, Lynch L-R sitting: Erasmo "Doc" Riojas, Billy Burbank, Hiline, Pat Martin
Doc Martin, Rio, Doc Perez, Doc CLark
Jim Cook; Johnny Rabbitt Capt Shablie Lourdes Tolentino & Dave Sutherland
Rudy B.,EvBarrett, RayTullis, GeneCahill, Red Coyle Jack Lynch and Family, his son is also Navy SEAL
LT Moran John Dearmon A.D. Clark and ?
A. Dee Clark & Richard "Doc" Martin
center: Roy Boehm, Susan Boehm, and Jim Watson
Gulf Coast SEALs: Larry Lyons, Jim Bracken, Doug Bateman, Doc Riojas, Bob Holes, Dee Clark, ? I forgot
Young Lions and Jim Watson in Blue Shirt at Little Jim's Bait Shop, Ft. Pierce FL
Michael Lindsey David Goggins
David Goggins PO1 (SEAL) , Won the BRONZE !
Erasmo "Doc" Riojas, U.S. Navy SEAL, 'nam war games 1970
TheREAL First SEALs : Callahan & Del Giudice Mitchell Hall (SEAL)
this is a Navy Journalist doing a story about the LDNN (VN SEAL) training Camp in CamRanh Bay 1970, Left: Inst Quan. Please Read the book by Gary Smith: Diary of a Navy SEAL: Death in the Delta on Amazon.com for $0.01 + shipping. Good Book to read.
Stew Smith BUD/S class http://www.stewsmith.com/linkpages/toptenBUDS.htm
Richard "Rogue Warrior" Marcinko & Fan
Billy Machen (SEAL) 1st SEAL KIA in 'nam, a Native Texan Nick Nicelson (SEAL)
Scott Helvenston(SEAL) KIA's Iraq
UDT Frogman East Coast Team Lourdes Tolentino-Riojas & "Eagle" Gallagher
Matthew Axelson & Oji Axelson Richard "Rogue Warrior" Marcinko
Danny Dietz & Marcus "Doc" Luttrell
http://outside.away.com/outside/culture/200 709/navy-seals-1.html http://outside.away.com/outside/culture/200 709/navy-seals-1.html
Richard Machowicz, presently of TV fame
A Friend in Need
The proud Afghan risked all to save a Navy SEAL. Now, feeling abandoned, he is facing death threats.http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12227623/site/newsweek/By Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai
April 17, 2006 issue - Even with all the troubles that followed, Mohammad Gulab says he's still glad he saved the U.S. Navy SEAL. "I have no regrets for what I did," the 32-year-old Afghan told NEWSWEEK recently. "I'm proud of my action." Nevertheless, he says, "I never imagined I would pay such a price."
There, Gulab says, the SEAL thanked him and promised to send him $200,000 as a reward. The Afghan also claims that U.S. officers, knowing that he and his family would be in danger because of his heroism, promised to relocate them to America within two months. (The military denies such an offer was made.) All he has now is a $250-a-month job at the base as a construction laborer. "I sacrificed everything," he says. "Now no one cares."
Capt. "Rick" Woolard & Erasmo "Doc" Riojas
DavePittelkow CDR John Doolittle
Tyrie, Clements, Newell, Hammond, Doc Painter
Hospital Apprentice Erasmo Doc Riojas 17 years old 1949
Call it Kinh Gay, Tuyen Nhon, The BLow Job, or its code name: Deep Channel
Mi Vida Loca - Copyright ©1998 - All Right Reserved Webmaster: Erasmo "Doc" Riojas email: email@example.com