Participating in MARDEZ (Maritime Defense Zone) exercise in Long Beach Area. Got call from CO - pack it up and come home immediately. Told we were leaving in 48 hours for Saudi Arabia.
Controlled chaos as we tried to think of everything we would need to deploy. There was no deployment loadout plan for HSBs.
Supply Officer was amazing - if we needed it, it appeared in hours. Fortunately, we had four days instead of two to gather our stuff together.
Then it became hurry up and wait - boats and equipment manifested to fly out on Sat, 11 Aug. Mustered at airport, broken airplane delayed flight for 24 hours.
12 August - Departed for Saudi Arabia, via Goose Bay, Labrador and Torrejon, Spain.
14 August 1990 SBU-12 HSB Detachment arrived Dahran. Took boats to Half Moon Bay, a park just outside of Dhahran. Boats never left trailers. Hot and humid - over 110 in the day, down to 95 at night, with 100% humidity. Living in tents, sleeping on cots. Received a pallet of pretty useless swamp coolers - Corpsemen cut hole in picnic table, mounted cooler on top and could get cool air blowing down allowing people to cool off by laying on the floor, with head under the table.
20 August 1990
HSB Det relocated to Ras al Ghar. Hangar for the boats, barracks with air conditioning, Saudi chow hall.
22 August 1990
NSWTU-CENT HSB Detachment conducted first patrol as part of Operation Desert Shield. Dusk to dawn patrols around the Maritime Preposition Force ships docked in Jubail. These uneventful patrols continued until September 10, when detachment relocated to Ras Al Mishab.
31 August 1990
Got intel of possible swimmers around MPF ships. Took SEALs out to search - dove on the ships, nothing found. NSWTU-CENT HSB Det - Desert Shield Sept 1990
1 September 1990
US Military Training Mission hosted a party for some of the TU personnel. Steaks and beer. Swimming in the Saudi Navy Officers pool. Pool is hot - like swimming in a jacuzzi w/out bubbles. Also, had to wear long pants - no shorts.
4 Sept - got mail. Also got word we would be relocating to Ras Al Mishab soon.
6-7 Sept - Doc Trombley and I went to Bahrain. Picked up some spare parts, drank some beers.
14 September - HSB Det relocated to Ras Al Mishab. Began training with the Saudi's VFPBs (Very Fast Patrol Boats). They were French built, powered by four Evinrude 250 outboards.
23 Sept 90 Ras al Mishab - Prince Fahad Abdulla visited RAM to review Saudi and US Navy personnel. He invited me and one other US officer to join him and about 20 Saudi officers for lunch at his villa.
We first went into a large sitting room, with chairs around the walls. When the Prince arrived, a servant passed a large smoking incense bowl in front of everyone. He waved the smoke in our faces, and went to the next person. After a few moments chit chat, a cup of very sweet tea, we adjourned to the dining room.
The room was empty of furniture, and the food was laid out on a long carpet in the center of the floor. On the carpet were four or five goats on a bed of rice, with water, fruit bowls, veggie trays at each place.
The Prince was seated at the head of the "table", and I was on his left ... across from a Saudi Admiral on the Prince's right. Both Adm and Prince spoke perfect English, and both had been to San Diego, so we had a nice conversation. The servants came in, took a knife and slashed the hell out of the goats, and we just reached out, pulled off chunks and mixed it with rice. Then we used pieces of pita bread to pick up the mixture and put it in our mouths. Of course, it was right hand only, as per custom.
At one point, the Admiral took the goats head, pulled off the jaw and reached in to pull out a handful of brains. He offered some to me ... what do I do? International incident in the making? However, I declined, all the time thinking of the line from Indiana Jones movie "No thanks, I had brains for breakfast." Anyway, both Admiral and Prince laughed, at the brains and told me I didn't know what I was missing. (Yeh, I think I did).
After eating, we went to a wash room where everyone washed their hands, which were dried by a towel boy, who sprayed perfume on our hands once they were dry. We adjourned to the big sitting room where we started, drank some more tea and departed.
It was a very interesting day, and a good look at the culture of Saudi Arabia. I later learned that the left-over goats were lunch for the women and children, and whatever they had left over was for the servants.
October 1990 NSWTU-CENT HSB DET Desert Shield
1 - First patrol with Saudi VFPBs. They are not very skilled in the art of tactical patrol. Not used to running w/out lights, and were very attached to their searchlight.
9 - Visit to Khafji Coast Guard Station - literally hundreds of boats of every type, size and shape. Kayaks, lifeboats, a yacht, some dhows - you name it, it was a boat salvage junkman's dream. Sadly, they will all be left to rot, because Saudi's don't mess with anything that isn't theirs.
11 - CINC SOC - Gen Stiner visit.
The day CINC SOC came to visit Ras al Mishab. We knew he was coming, so we prepared the standard Dog and Pony show. We had some SEALs doing SEAL stuff at the waters edge at the foot of the pier, then he was supposed to stop at the HSB static display about half way down the pier, then he would proceed to NSWTU compound in the middle of the pier to inspect the troops. Per the schedule, the CO would meet him as he came on to the pier, join his group for the demo.
Well, best laid plans sometimes don't work as planned. Seems as though General Stiner was running late, so he drove right past the SEALs, right past the HSBs, and before you know it, he was barrelling toward the compound.
Since I was the only O there (the rest were following behind him), I rounded everybody up and got into formation. He stopped in front of the formation, got out, shook my hand, told the troops they were doing a fine job, shook my hand again and drove away. All this about 10 seconds before the CO got there. They passed each other on the pier.
One thing of note. As he was leaving, he asked me if those were the best uniforms we had available, and I told him we arrived in August with two sets, and that was the best we had. I don't know if it was coincidence or not, but about a week later, we got a pallet of cammie uniforms.
15 - 21 Conducted sounding operations of RAM area, to determine feasability of bringing Ships pierside. During this time, we tipped our crane over onto one of the Saudi patrol boats on the pier. Fortunately, no casualties, either to the crane or personnel. The boat … another matter.
The rest of the month was relatively uneventful, apparently, because the only thing in my log book is a trip to Bahrain to brief Admiral Sutton on the results of the fatho survey.
1 - 11 Went to Bahrain to work with Kuwaiti Navy aboard the Sawahil 35 (Happy Duck). Underway six days, working with Ribs from ARG. Interesting working and living aboard Kuwaiti ship. Food was okay, lots of rice, lamb and vegetables. Same thing almost every meal, little variation.
21 – Went to Khafji Border Observation Point, manned by SEAL plt. Got to look at Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait, across the neutral zone. There was a British Officer there who had a high fever. We brought him back to Ras Al Mishab for medical attention.
22 – Thanksgiving. We had a barbecue on the pier, chicken and burgers. Most of the crew were guests at the Aramco oil American compound.
– The Fountain boats arrived.
2 – scud missile alert. Three launched and landed in Iraq. Believe they were test firings.
3 – Fountains and Scorpion to Karan Island for gunshoot. First outing for the Fountains, and we towed one back.
8 – One of the Radiomen from MCT had been corresponding with a woman through the “any serviceman” letter exchange program. She had told him in a previous letter that she had a baby, but the baby had died. Today, she sent him a picture of her baby … in it's coffin. Dead. Just what we all needed to lift our spirits, a picture of a dead baby. Needless to say, he wrote her and told her not to write any more.
17 – Gun shoot on Karan Island with Scorpion and Setton. Good shoot, both boats came home under their own power.
19 – went to Bahrain to pick up ammunition, spare parts and other necessities. While at the armory, I got an empty grenade box and a wire seal from the Gunner there. Then I bought two cases of San Miguel Beer at the exchange, and carefully placed them in the grenade box, and and sealed it with the wire. I had also picked up a few boxes of real grenades and some ammunition.
Coming back across the border into Saudi Arabia, my vehicle was inspected by the border guards. I had a receipt for the ammunition and grenades, so they didn't ask to open the boxes. They did check the other groceries I bought, and let me through.
21-22 – Worked with Navy Helo detachment as safety boats for SEAL cast and recovery operations.
25 – Christmas. A lot of the crew went back to visit their new friends in the Aramco compound. Those of us who stayed behind enjoyed red beans and rice and some boiled shrimp. Someone had some cajun spice, so we called it a Cajun Christmas. A few of us exchanged gifts, we had a Christmas tree someone had mailed to him. I had put the beer on ice, and everyone had a good time enjoying a few cold beers, wishing we were home for Christmas.
29 – Longest op of the Operation thus far – a hundred miles, and of course, about 50 miles out, Setton broke down and had to be towed back. Fortunately, we had perfected the art of towing two boats on three engines, so it only took about three hours to get back.
January 1991 -
1 – While on patrol with Saudi patrol boats to Kuwait border, we sighted a floating mine. HQ told us to take it under tow and bring it back for EOD to disarm. Don't understand why, but the communications seemed to not be working too well. Since I didn't hear the order, I decided we needed to get the mine back, so I told the Saudi's to take it under tow and tow it back to base.
We stood off about 200 yards while they put a swimmer in the water to tie a line on the mine, and they very slowly towed it back. EOD took control of it at the mouth of the harbor and got it on the beach. After checking it out, they exploded it, and watching that, I understand now why ships receive so much damage from floating mines. Big explosion coming from a relatively small mine, for sure.
2-3 – Rain, wind and cold.
5 – Commander TU Mike arrived and set up HQ at RAM. Prior to that, we were a detachment, commanded by a LT. (Steve Nelson)
11 – Rode along with a patrol to Khafji harbor for fam trip. Sighted mine floating just off the entrance. Contacted Saudi's again – and watched their EOD plant charges and blow it up. Again, big explosion.
On the way home, the officer in charge of the patrol apparently got lost, and both boats nearly ran hard aground. For reasons unknown, the POIC of the boat I was riding in (#2 in a column) turned on the searchlight and noticed a sea bird walking on water … except he was walking on mud. I radioed the lead boat to turn around at the same time he stopped, he had run aground. We make a hard turn just missed them – we were so close we threw mud and water over them.
We trimmed the engines up as far as we could, and followed our path back to open water. I radioed the OIC of the other boat to do the same, and follow our path. We finally got to deep water, and pulled along side to discuss what had happened. Apparently, the lead boat thought we were at the entrance of the harbor, when in reality, we were about two klicks north. We were very lucky Brownie turned on the light and noticed the bird or we could well have been hard aground for a full tidal period.
The OIC of the lead boat actually had the balls to try and blame me for the incident, citing the “senior officer afloat” as a reason. I told him I would gladly take any heat that came my way, and because of his previous bad judgment calls and his lack of seamanship skills, I fired him the next day and put a BMC in charge.
17 – New moon, and, as anticipated … Desert Storm Begins.