Monday, June 10, 2013

Tuna's Tales - One Day, Four Different Aircraft

By Tuna
S-3 Vikings of VS-21
If you couldn’t tell, I’m very proud of my Naval service. The Navy has really been great to me, getting me out of a town that didn’t have much to offer, educating me, giving me wings. I love the Navy for these things, for the tradition, the history, seeing the world, but I also love the Navy for the people that have made some great things happen for me. - Tuna
Back when I was stationed in Japan, VS-21* was on its way to RIMPAC* onboard the Great Ship Independence, several hundred miles east of Guam.

My CO* was an early adopter of technology. This guy had an email account before Gore invented the internet. Well, back then we only had 3 or 4 computers in the squadron, and only the COs had limited email onboard via the single ready room computer.

I was airborne on a double cycle recovery tanker hop- a 3 hour flight. The Airboss calls us up when there’s about 45 minutes left in the cycle and tells us to charlie- or land now. For a half a second I wonder what we did wrong, but then I realized I was flying with the XO. 

We land, and get tied down right there in the landing area which is very odd. We head to the ready room to debrief and the CO intercepts me, escorting me to his office. I quickly replay the flight in my head and think to myself- It wasn't the XO*, but maybe I did something wrong.

He tells me to sit down and shows me a print out of an email he received from his wife. It says that my wife, who was 29 weeks pregnant, had gone into premature labor. I had worked in a Hospital during college, my mom and 2 cousins were nurses, so I was pretty confident in medical science that they’d be able to stop the labor.

I was about to thank him for letting me know when he stopped me and said there’s a COD* (C-2 cargo flight) leaving in 20 minutes and I better be on it. I ran back to my stateroom, threw some stuff in a sea bag and ran to the flight deck. I found the COD already spotted for launch and ran onto the ramp, which starts to close before I’d even sat down. They yell at me to strap in and we launch a few seconds later.

C-2 Greyhound "COD"

After landing at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam I walk into the terminal to find out when a flight might be heading back to Japan. The Sergeant behind the counter asks if I’m LT Davis then says “follow me sir.” We get in a truck and drive straight to the end of the runway where there’s a C-9 MEDEVAC* flight at the hold short. I climb aboard, they tell me to buckle up, and we quickly launch.

C-9 Nightingale

Other than the crew, I was the only person aboard, patient or otherwise. They tell me they’re returning to Japan from a MEDEVAC mission to Hawaii. I was later told that someone on the Indy had found out about the flight and the Admiral had pulled some strings to have them wait for me.

Some time later we land at Yokota Air Base in Japan. I again go into the terminal to ask about a ride down to Atsugi Naval Air Station which was only about 10 miles south, but took about 2 hours to drive. I figured that my wife was either back at home by now, or in Yokosuka at the Naval Hospital. If I didn’t find her at home, I’d get in our car and drive down to Yoko.

Anyway, an Airman comes up to me and asks if I’m LT Davis, then says “Please follow me Sir.” We get into a truck and he drives me to the east side of the runway about midfield. The Airman stops, I ask what what’s going on and he says “I don’t know, I’m supposed to let you out here Sir.” I get out, the truck leaves and I’m standing there in the dark.

Now on the extremely congested Kanto plain, there are only 2 areas where you can be in the dark- in the middle of the runway on Yokota Air Base, and in the middle of the runway on Atsugi Air Base. So I’m standing there for a few minutes in the dark wondering what the hell is going on and a helo lands.

An aircrewman jumps out, runs over to me, and asks “Are you LT Davis?” I say I am, “Well, follow me Sir” and we get into the helo. I’m even more curious than ever now and I’m hoping to ask the pilots if they know anything, but the crewman gives me a cranial to put on, which is only a set of earmuffs with a half helmet. There’s no audio jack on a cranial like there would be on a flight helmet so no chance to ask anybody anything.

HSL-51 SH-60B LAMPS III

I tried yelling a question to one of the aircrewmen, but they could barely hear me and didn’t know anything anyway. The only thing I knew is that we weren’t flying south. One of them had turned on the radar and I could tell that we were flying south east.

I assume we’re flying to Yokosuka so I start to relax. I keep watching the radar and we fly right over Yoko. Back to being dazed and confused. About 10 minutes later we land on a beach. They tell me to get out, I ask what’s going on, and I get the now standard, “I don’t know Sir, we’re just supposed to let you out here.” The helo takes off and I’m again standing in the dark.

I’m completely confused now. Maybe a minute after the sound of the helo fades away, I hear someone yell “LT Davis?” and I peer up the beach to see a figure walking quickly toward me. When we get close enough to shake hands, he introduces himself as John Walker, and says “Congratulations on the birth of your son.”

This floored me for two reasons, that Mindi had given birth so early, and that it was a boy- because 2 or 3 ultrasounds said it was a girl. I guess he just took after his dad.

John Walker and I walked back down the beach toward Kameda Medical Center- John was a retired Navy Captain who, with the blessings of his Japanese wife, took a job as the administrator of the hospital when he retired the year prior. He takes me right to my wife who was so happy to see me, then I get a chance to see my son 2 pound 5 ounce son, who is now 17 and bigger than I am.

I later found out that the CO of HSL-51, the squadron which picked me up in Yokota, was more than willing to help me out, having been a young Lieutenant once on a Destroyer in the middle of the Pacific with no way to get off when his own son was born premature.
I love the Navy, loved the Uniform, love the tradition, but the Navy is primarily a bunch of great people working toward a common goal. What I love about the Navy is that we’re sort of a family. Sometimes a bit dysfunctional, sometimes like your mother-in-law, but loved and cared for all the same. And back in May of 1996 the Navy’s Foreign Legion really came together to help out a shipmate. - Tuna




* Stuff to Know - 
CO = Commanding Officer
XO = Executive Officer (2nd in command)
VS-21 = Anti-Submarine Squadron 21
RIMPAC = Rim of the Pacific Exercise
 COD = Carrier Onboard Delivery
MEDEVAC = Medical Evacuation
HSL-51 = Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 51

7 comments:

  1. That's one helluva story, Tuna. Most excellent.

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  2. Great story, Tuna. Keep 'em coming!

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    1. Jeez, I had to pull you out of the spam bucket XBradTC.

      (The rest of you move on, ignore that smell, that'll wash right out.)

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  3. Yep, the Navy takes care of it's own... We flew a kid on Emergency leave from Hawaii to Albany, NY with the Ready 1 one night because his folks had been in a car wreck and the last airline had already left. Two crews, one stop to get him there and 13 hours in the air, he made it in time. We fueled and the other crew flew us back to Hawaii.

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  4. Great story with a happy ending, pretty rare. Thank you.

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  5. It's my best sea-story, and I'm grateful for the forum to share it! By the way, the little guy is my son Tristan. He's a big 17 year old now- no sign of that little 2 lb 5oz kid anywhere.

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  6. Tuna, they DO grow up!!! :-)

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)