By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Coover
When Boatswains Mate Seaman Megan Barrious woke up she didn’t know what to expect.
It wasn’t that she didn’t have an idea what her day was supposed to be like. Barrious knew she’d be navigating USS Howard (DDG 83) though an exercise simulating the ship’s transit through a narrow strait, which in the real world means ships are vulnerable to threats that don’t exist in the open ocean. She knew she’d be steering Howard behind and ahead of other U.S. Navy vessels and that the tight formations would require quick maneuvering and heightened awareness. She knew that much. She’d just never done it before.
So when her alarm went off at 4 a.m., Barrious rolled out of her rack and dressed in her blue coveralls and black leather boots for the work day. Born into an Air Force family, Barrious grew up mostly in Idaho and Utah before joining the Navy. She likes her job as a boatswains mate—likes the challenge, loves being outside, and working with her hands.
“The Navy’s always been there for me,” she says, and then points to her heart. “Right here.”
And her favorite part of her job is when she gets to work behind the helm. Though every Sailor plays a role in accomplishing the Navy’s mission, very few Sailors can claim they literally drive a warship. Barrious is one who can.
This Tuesday morning, Barrious was in the pilothouse by 5:15 a.m., and a few minutes into the start of the straits transit exercise, she was already comfortable. She smiled easily. She called back orders to the conning officer quickly, and soon the pilothouse was alive with sunlight, sound and movement.
What Barrious didn’t know, though—what another Sailor had to tell her—was the small role she was playing in the ongoing process of integrating the Navy fleet (including ships like Howard) with Naval Special Warfare (NSW). While the shape of the integration between the fleet and NSW is decided at the Navy’s highest levels, it’s Sailors like Barrious who help put it into practice.
As Barrious worked the helm, shifting Howard’s rudder according to instructions from her superiors, Naval Aircrewman (Mechanical) 2nd Class Chris Harvey, who is assigned to a West Coast-based NSW unit, stood on the starboard side of the bridge in a tactical vest, operating an altogether different type of machinery. Harvey was tasked with piloting Scan Eagle, a type of unmanned aerial system (UAS) frequently used by NSW to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions on land. Today, this interoperability exercise would bring the technology to ships at sea.
Scan Eagle requires a large catapult in order to launch, and most Navy ships currently lack such a setup. With the mobile kit, however, Scan Eagle can launch from land and be flown over an embarked UAS operator, who can then take control and pilot the system according to a ship’s intelligence collection plan. Harvey, playing the role of that operator, was the first to test the system.
It didn’t come without challenges, but with every flight, the NSW team was learning how to improve Scan Eagle’s ability to supplement a ship’s already considerable ISR capabilities.
Cmdr. David Zook, Howard’s commanding officer, noticed immediately.
“The intel, queuing, the oversight—those were all tremendous enhancements to my inherent capabilities on board,” he said.
Lt. Cmdr. James Celani, a UAS troop commander with a West Coast-based NSW unit, explained that NSW can bring SEALs and surface warfare combatant-craft crewmen (SWCC) aboard Navy ships for maritime operations, but that the special warfare community also offers a variety of other options to surface commanders.
“NSW is a total force multiplier,” he said. “There’s the full range, from tactical takedowns to intelligence to recovering data.”
In the case of Scan Eagle, a Sailor like Barrious could drive a warship, a Sailor such as Harvey could control the movements of the UAS, and a ship’s commanding officer would be able to have control of his ship the way he or she always has—with the added benefit of the increased situational awareness provided by the NSW team. Similarly, NSW benefits from fleet integration by gaining an afloat-forward staging base and the robust communication abilities provided by a Navy ship—both of which SEAL and SWCC teams can use to perform the specialized missions at which they excel.
Indeed, this latter integration was on display hours later after the sun had set. Using Howard’s rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs), SEAL and SWCC operators departed the ship to practice a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercise in which the men would take control of a simulated-hostile craft. While Howard has a VBSS team as well, the unit is only trained to search ships and boats that permit peaceful boardings. SEALs are able to take down ships in which the boarding is opposed. It’s an asset a ship like Howard could certainly employ.
As the SEALs and SWCCs waited to load into the RHIBs, Howard’s deck department prepared to lower them into the water. When the sun rose that morning, Barrious was integrated with NSW, as Scan Eagle helped Howard navigate through the straits transit exercise. Long after darkness fell, more than 12 hours later, she stood on the deck as NSW operators prepared to disembark, part of another NSW mission. The diversity of her experiences that day seemed to demonstrate the enhanced capabilities that NSW’s integration with the Navy fleet brings to both entities.
With the bellow of an order, Barrious’ team took control of the lines to which the RHIBs were tethered. They lowered the small boats into the water, and then waited for operators to climb aboard and steer off into the night.
By Cmdr. William Marks, U.S. 7th Fleet spokesperson
We continue to see encouraging signs that ground routes are opening significantly for delivery by trucks instead of helicopters. Ground transportation is much more efficient and can transport a greater load of supplies over the long term. Over the first few days, during our initial emergency response, a vast majority of transport was carried via helicopter—while now we see almost 90 percent of relief supplies going by truck.
Three hundred forty-five thousand pounds of food, medical and dry goods have been delivered, and 889 passengers have been transported.
We are concentrating a majority of our remaining efforts in Samar/Guiuan, which continues to be the hub for supply transport. We are flying a number of missions to transport Republic of Philippine police, military and emergency personnel, but a majority of supplies are now being carried by truck.
South of Tacloban, in the Leyte Gulf/Tacloban area, we are focusing about 35 percent of our efforts. In Ormoc Bay we have seen almost all roads back open and supplies being carried by truck. Helicopter transport has not been needed to a great extent there.
All support the U.S. Navy provides is part of the broader U.S. government effort to support the Philippines’ request for humanitarian assistance.
After signing my Pop, EM2 Bud Cloud (circa Pearl Harbor) up for hospice care, the consolation prize I’d given him (for agreeing it was OK to die) was a trip to “visit the Navy in San Diego.”
I emailed my friend and former Marine sergeant, Mrs. Mandy McCammon, who’s currently serving as a Navy Public Affairs Officer, at midnight on 28 May. I asked Mandy if she had enough pull on any of the bases in San Diego to get me access for the day so I could give Bud, who served on USS Dewey (DD-349), a windshield tour.
We linked up with Mandy outside Naval Base San Diego and carpooled to the pier where we were greeted by CMDCM Joe Grgetich and a squad-sized group of Sailors. Bud started to cry before the doors of the van opened. He’d been oohing and pointing at the cyclic rate as we approached the pier, but when we slowed down and Mandy said, “They’re all here for you, Bud,” he was overwhelmed.
After we were all out of the van directly in front of the Dewey, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries, Petty Officer Simon introduced himself and said as the ship’s Sailor of the Year he had the honor of pushing Bud’s wheelchair for the day. Unbeknownst to us, they’d decided to host Bud aboard the Dewey, not at the Dewey. And so they carried him aboard. None of us expected him to go aboard the ship. I’d told him we were going down to the base and would have the chance to meet and greet a few of the Sailors from the new Dewey. He was ecstatic. The day before, he asked every few hours if we were “still going down to visit the boys from the Dewey,” and “do they know I was on the Dewey, too?”
Once aboard, we were greeted by the CO, CDR Jake Douglas, the XO and a reinforced platoon-sized group of Sailors. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement. These men and women waited in line to introduce themselves to Bud. They shook his hand, asked for photos with him, and swapped stories. It was simply amazing.
They didn’t just talk to him, they listened.
Bud’s voice was little more than a weak whisper at this point and he’d tell a story and then GMC Eisman or GSCS Whynot would repeat it so all of the Sailors on deck could hear. In the midst of the conversations, Petty Officer Flores broke contact with the group. Bud was telling a story and CMDCM Grgetich was repeating the details when Flores walked back into view holding a huge photo of the original USS Dewey. That moment was priceless. Bud stopped mid-sentence and yelled, “There she is!” They patiently stood there holding the photo while he told them about her armament, described the way it listed after it was hit, and shared other details about the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
Bud finally admitted how tired he was after more than an hour on deck. While they were finishing up goodbyes and taking last minute photographs, GMC Eisman asked if it’d be OK to bring Sailors up to visit Bud in a few months after a Chief’s board. I hadn’t said it yet because I didn’t want it to dampen the spirit of the day, but I quietly explained to GMC Eisman the reason we’d asked for the visit was simple: Bud was dying.
I told him they were welcome to come up any time they wanted, but I suspected Bud had about a month left to live. Almost without hesitation, he asked if the crew could provide the burial honors when the time came. I assured him that’d be an honor we’d welcome.
Leaving the ship was possibly more emotional than boarding.
They piped him ashore. CMDCM Grgetich leaned in and quietly told me how significant that honor was and who it’s usually reserved for as we headed towards the gangplank. Hearing “Electrician’s Mate Second Class William Bud Cloud, Pearl Harbor Survivor, departing” announced over the 1MC was surreal.
Later that night Bud sat in his recliner, hands full of ship’s coins and declared, “I don’t care what you do with my power tools; you better promise you’ll bury me with these.”
He died 13 days later. For 12 of those 13 days he talked about the Dewey, her Sailors and his visit to San Diego. Everyone who came to the house had to hear the story, see the photos, hold the coins, read the plaques.
True to his word, GMC Eisman arranged the details for a full honors burial. The ceremony was simple yet magnificent. And a perfect sendoff for an ornery old guy who never, ever stopped being proud to be a Sailor. After the funeral, the Sailors came back to the house for the reception and spent an hour with the family. This may seem like a small detail, but it’s another example of them going above and beyond the call of duty, and it meant more to the family than I can explain.
There are more photos, and I’m sure I missed a detail, or a name. What I didn’t miss and will never forget, is how unbelievable the men and women of the USS Dewey were. They opened their ship and their hearts and quite literally made a dream come true for a dying Sailor.
They provided the backdrop for “This is the best day of my life, daughter. I never in my whole life dreamed I’d step foot on the Dewey again or shake the hand of a real life Sailor.”
Without question, it’s the best example of Semper Fidelis I’ve ever seen.
Jennie Haskamp is a Marine Corps veteran who was fortunate to be adopted by a Pearl Harbor survivor after her first tour in the Corps. She’s an accidental tourist of sorts, keeping her friends entertained with anecdotes and photos, while she continues college and decides what she wants to be when she grows up. Follow Jennie’s personal blog here.
On Columbus Day, Master-at-Arms 1st Class (SW/AW) Michael Sanders, from the USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) helped save three children and their mother from an overturned minivan following a collision in Chula Vista, Calif.
This week, MA1 Sanders was recognized during an awards ceremony aboard the ship for his heroic efforts as a first responder. Sanders received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal from Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Both Sanders and his wife, who were out jogging when they discovered the traffic accident, said they won’t soon forget the events of that day. The minivan collided with a San Diego Metropolitan Transit System special needs vehicle, sending five people to the hospital.
A 10-year Navy veteran, Sanders credits his Navy training for knowing what to do in an emergency situation.
By Cmdr. Hans Lynch, commanding officer of USS Thach (FFG 43)
Tomorrow morning, the flag will come down for the last time aboard USS Thach (FFG 43) after nearly 30 years of service. She has accomplished a lot over the years since her first commanding officer, Captain (Ret.) Dale H. Moses took command, and I’m honored to be her last CO. It will be a somber moment for the U.S. Navy, and this country will never forget her contributions.
Thach, a guided-missile frigate, will be decommissioned during a ceremony tomorrow after almost 30 years of naval service. The ceremony’s guests will include seven former commanding officers, nine plankowners, six relatives of namesake Admiral John S. Thach, and former crewmembers.
USS Thach’s mission is to provide anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine protection for carrier strike groups, expeditionary strike groups, and merchant shipping. She is a very capable asset that operated in support of counter-narcotic operations during her last deployment in the U.S. 4th Fleet Area of Responsibility, which ended in April 2013. In a multi-national effort, we deterred drug traffickers from using the high seas as an avenue for trafficking illicit drugs. It was a great opportunity for our Sailors to work with the U.S. Coast Guard and other foreign navies.
Built by Todd Shipyards in San Pedro, Calif. and commissioned on March 17, 1984 at Naval Station Long Beach; USS Thach is the 37th Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate and is currently homeported in San Diego.
Her namesake is the two-time Navy Cross recipient Admiral John Smith Thach (1905-1981). A native of Pine Bluffs, Ark., Adm. Thach was a naval aviator during World War II who participated in 12 major engagements and invented the tactical dogfighting maneuver known as the “Thach Weave” that’s still used today.
Like other frigates in her class, she is equipped with two General Electric LM2500 gas turbine engines totaling 41,500 shaft horsepower and capable of speeds in excess of 25 knots. She is 453 feet long and has a displacement of 4,100 tons. Her armament includes one Mk 75 76mm naval gun, two Mk 32 triple tube torpedo launchers, one Close-in Weapon System (CIWS), and multiple machine guns stationed throughout the weather decks.
The ship has been successful throughout its service because of the Sailors onboard. It’s through their hard work and professionalism on a daily basis that upholds our motto of “Ready and Able” for any mission. The skills and experiences they have gained onboard are invaluable and will make a positive impact in the fleet as they transfer to their new commands. I wish them all the best in their naval careers.
The Spokane Trophy is an annual award sponsored by the Spokane, Wash., Council of the Navy League of the United States and is presented to the Pacific Fleet’s Surface ship with the highest level of operational readiness in areas ranging from coordinated air warfare, surface warfare and undersea warfare operations.
The award was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt to recognize naval warfighting proficiency. The actual trophy, created from 400 ounces of silver and valued in excess of $4 million, was donated by the Navy League and is kept on permanent display at the Naval Surface Force headquarters building in San Diego.
A plaque was presented to the Mobile Bay crew by retired Navy Capt. Ted McGregor, president of the Spokane Navy League. During the ceremony, McGregor spoke about colorful history of the Spokane Trophy, its beginnings as an award for excellence in naval gunnery marksmanship, and its unique ties to Theodore Roosevelt and the silver industry in the Spokane area.
Mobile Bay received the award for attaining excellence in air, surface and undersea warfare areas. The ship set a new performance standard while serving as the air defense commander for back-to-back deployments in the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of operation with the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group.
U.S. Navy destroyers are traditionally named for prestigious military heroes and decorated war veterans, living legacies that continue to serve the country for three or four decades. Commonly known as the workhorse of the Navy, destroyers help make diplomacy possible with their extensive warfighting capabilities and significant operational missions.
As recently announced by the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, the Navy will add three well-deserved names to its list of notable ship namesakes. The future Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyers USS John Finn (DDG 113), USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) and USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) were recognized during a ceremony today at Naval Base San Diego, with representatives from each namesake’s family in attendance.
Mabus named the three destroyers after Navy and Marine Corps heroes whose actions occurred during different conflicts spanning several decades, but who were united in their uncommon valor. Canceling his plans to preside over the ship-naming ceremony after the tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard earlier this week, Mabus passed this honor to Lt.Gen. John Toolan, commanding general of First Marine Expeditionary Force.
Lt.Gen. Toolan reminded those in attendance that these ships will sail in every ocean in the world, and that Sailors who are not yet born will serve on the ships in the future. By naming these ships today, he said, we remember the heroism of their namesakes and create living memories.
John Finn, who retired as a lieutenant, was awarded the Medal of Honor from Adm. Chester Nimitz for displaying “magnificent courage in the face of almost certain death” during the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Marine Corps Pfc. Ralph Johnson was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for shouting a warning to his fellow Marines and throwing himself on an explosive device, saving the life of one Marine and preventing the enemy from penetrating his sector of the patrol’s perimeter during the Vietnam War. Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Peralta was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for selflessly covering a grenade with his body to save his fellow Marines from a blast during Operation Iraqi Freedom.