31 October 2015

WestPac 12 Jan 89

Author's note: Headed out for Western Pacific (WestPac) cruise, Jan 1989. We were part of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Air Combat Element (ACE). Our skid detachment of 4 UH-1N Hueys and 4 AH-1W Super Cobras from HMLA-369 Gunfighters was attached to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (Composite) 161, HMM-161(C) Greyhawks, along with 12 CH-46E Sea Knights, 4 CH-53E Super Stallions and 6 AV-8B Harriers. I was a 1st Lt Huey pilot, with collateral duties of Embark Officer, Supply Officer and NBC Officer for the skid detachment, and plum assignment as Laundry Officer for all the embarked marines aboard USS Belleau Wood "Devil Dog."

Young and opinionated, I should have been in charge of the whole evolution and I'm sure it would have run more smoothly! I kept a journal and this is a transcription of most of it, some information has been redacted to protect the guilty and to make me seem less opinionated :)

Huey pilots from HMLA-369, L-R Mr E, Injun, Jabba, Chester, Mankid, Mooch, Clark and Hammer.

Our Hueys.

Modex - Bureau Number - *also made it to Desert Shield/Storm with HMLA-369*

130 - 160176 - *
131 - 160438 - *
132 - 160453
133 - 160624 - *

The Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) consisted of LHA-3 USS Belleau Wood "Devil Dog,"

LSD-42 USS Germantown "Iron Giant,"

LPD-6 USS Duluth "Bold Explorer" and

LST-1184 USS Frederick "Commune Bravo."

Onboard the LHA USS Belleau Wood leaving San Diego

Here are my journal notes:

09 Jan 89

160453, 2M4, 1.5, 451, Jabba

We flew aboard the ship off the coast of Southern California a few days before deploying, then spent a few days in port at San Diego before getting underway 12 Jan 1989. I reported to the ship early in the morning.

12 Jan 89

0615 - Time to do some unpacking. We have the best room on the ship, close to the Ready Room and away from the noisy areas of the flight deck or chain locker. We brought aboard a small TV, boom box, VCR and best of all we are even wired in to the ship's cable TV. They normally do this, but it's usually done when they get around to it. My gear basket fits great, hangs at the front of the rack and holds my tape player and writing gear.

I changed into Alphas and "manned the rails" as as we left San Diego Bay. We sailed in this order 1) Fredericks (LST) 2) Germantown (LSD) 3) Duluth (LPD) and the Belleau Wood (LHA). Marines and Sailors lined the deck edge and catwalks. I went up to the top of the ship, O-8 level and had the best seat in the house, with "Mr Bill" Martin, Chris O'Connor, Mike Hudson, BooBoo Johnson, Scott Carhart and LtCol Oneil. Why did the conversation seem so lively, and everyone's jokes so funny? The ships were signalling each other , they must have been saying "Last one out of the bay is a rotten egg." I think a lot of pressure was gone, all that remains is 180 days afloat. As we cleared Point Loma, I returned below to change. I was, by the way, extremely proud of my Good Conduct ribbon, highly decorated. The rest of the day was spent setting up the laundry service. The BLT XO says I have full run of the laundry show, gave me some good ideas and turned me loose. At the All Officer's Meeting (AOM) I said a few words..."I'm Lt Lewis, the Combat Laundry Officer for the MEU. I don't know all of your names yet but I will know what size underwear you wear by the time this is all over." This got the biggest chuckle at the AOM. Chow, CO of Troops meeting to brief them on the laundry and to the rack. It was a long day. 180 more to go.