RVAHNAVY'S RecceNet

For those who served in the RVAH Community, their families, and friends!

It was about forty four years ago that a lot of young squadron mates loaded fifteen maintenance vans on to five Air Force C-141 transports and headed off to NAS Rota Spain to set up the Wing's AIMD IM3 shops in a mobile facility.  The majority of the men had been in the Navy for only a few years and had minimal AIMD level training.  The IM3 shops supported all the RA5C unique avionics, radio, flight control, photo recon and the various ECM systems etc.

We had just returned from the Saratoga's 70 Med cruise in mid November.  Our CO Cmdr. W. Meyer was notified in early 1971 that RVAH-9 was selected to deploy and set up the facility.  I was attending the advanced AN/ASB12 maintenance class at NAMTRD when I was notified that I would be one of the lead AQs on the project.  The maintenance vans had not even been started and outfitted with all the appropriate equipment.  The facility was going to include it own supply support which was another huge challenge.  The project was really slammed together in Albany and the vans were completed around May or the first of June.  The overall wing's mission statement was to have a forward operation base in Europe to support the recon missions without being carrier based.  I was a just a young Kansas farm kid at the time.  In my mind, it meant get those damn big planes off the carriers.

Our new CO Cmdr. Wilster was the primary commander for the operation since it was under the control of RVAH-9 and not the NAS Rota chain of command.  Our division officer was W01 George Fleet.  Mr. Fleet was the avionics officer on the prior Med cruise.  The Chief in charge of the complex was AEC Andrew Hatten.  Chief Hatten had been the SATE instructor at NAMTD for a number of years.

It was quite challenge for us young unexperienced sailors.  We were able to get the facility up and running after a number of issues.  Our efforts reflected highly on the squadron's leadership.  Little recognition was ever given to the majority of the lower rated enlisted personnel.  This was a personal insult to those men in my mind.  Another big slap in the face was that the 1971 Saratoga's cruise book that not even mention one word of the squadron's deployment to Rota and our efforts there.  The majority of the squadron's personnel was there.  I was always amazed at the number of one our sister squadron's planes that showed up to be worked on and fixed.

We are many years down the road in our lives.  It is time to give those squadron mates a little recognition for a job very well done.  I have went through our squadron cruise books to identify the individuals that were part of the first Rota MMF deployment group.  It is appropriate to pay respect to our deceased squadron mates that we are aware of.  They are AEC Andrew Hatten, AT2 Stephen Gauvin and AQBAN Barry Hall.  There are two more members who are part of the RVAH-9 group.  They are AQ2 Norman (Donnie) Hammock and Michael (Ski) Dombrowski.  We do not know the status of the following squadron mates.  They are W01 George  Fleet, PH1 W. Hunt, AQ3 Dave Fischbein, AQ3 Wes Thompson, AT3 Vincent White, AQ3 R. Williams, AQ3 Sean Parent, and AEAN William Rupp.  The supply group members were AK1 V. Hove and AK2 J. Sanders.  There are a couple of other people that were needed to complete the vans functions.  The ECM related van is missing in my old mine.  I believe the individual was AT2 R. L. Wilson.  I believe there were at least one more if not two supply personnel.  Feel free to comment on any additional member or errors in the listed personnel.

I was a young 21 year old AQB3 who had only been in the Navy for two years and a few months on the job training at the NAS Albany AIMD shop.  I accompanied Mr. Fleet over on the last C-141 to leave Albany with our three vans.  We were lucky and made the trip in about nine hours without having to stop and let our Air Force friends fix their planes.

I had previously added some comment to Michael's Dombroski's page that was my recollection of the issues that we had to overcome in getting the vans placed and operational.  We were operational the day our temporary generator finally showed up from the states.  It was a challenge to get the damn thing to run.  Chief Hatten and I was quite pleased when the thing finally fired up and we were able to provide power to the complex.

This is something that we can look at all these years later as a proud accomplishment for the squadron.  I tell my kids that I served with the best Naval aviators in the world and the best squadron in the wing.  I am personally very proud to have served with all the MMF squadron mates who made that deployment very successful.

RVAH-9 did return for a second deployment on the related 72-73 Forrestal Med cruise.  I left Rota in May 1973 to head back to college at Kansas State.

We need to respect the fact that we were guests on a Spanish Naval base

I was back to the NAS Rota station a few years ago.  The vans are long gone and the based has been expanded and modernized.  Rota is still Rota.  Liberty there wasn't bad either in the old days.

We have not located any pictures of he ROTA MMF facility.  Those would be welcomed for us old guys.

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Replies to This Discussion

Mr. Fleet is  now a member of the RVAHNAVY group.  Please welcome him to the group.

A name correction to the above.  AEAN William Rupp was spelled incorrectly by me.  It should be AEAN William Ruff.

Mr. Fleet  the Rota MMF group's officer has provided a photo all the original RVAH-9 squadron members who established the facility in 1971.  The squadron's decal and the names were on the van at the entry to the 15 van complex there in Rota.

The photo is under my page.

Thanks to Mr.  Fleet for the photo.

Donald Stoffel provided this picture.

The fifteen van complex was laid out as follows.  Three vans were the supply vans and were crammed full of gear and parts.

There were two centerline vans that were the connector vans for the ten vans that contained all the test equipment for the various systems  These two vans had some space for the administrative functions and a desk for the tech rep when he was around on the first deployment.

The vans were very congested even by Navy standards.  They were all air conditioned so the temperature was fine.  We had no windows so you felt like you were stuck in a can at a time.

My AN/SB12 van was connected to the modular repair van.  The modular repair van had a nice door on it.  We brought all the gear like the bombing computer, radar RT and antenna in through that door.  People may have forgotten that the bombing computer weighed around three hundred pounds and was clumsy all hell to handle.  The radar RT weighed around one hundred and twenty five founds.  The radar antenna when attached to the RT would overlap into the module repair van.

It was a very tight space to work in.

The Verdan computer test equipment was in the modular repair van.  Those guys were really  cozy also.

 

I have probably the only remaining copy of the "Hooter News", a newsletter that that Cdr. Wilster had made up and sent back to the families when we were doing the MMF at Rota. I know he did it to inform our families about what was going on but also to agitate the other squadrons that could not pack the gear and deliver the "Mission Accomplished".  There are several photos and lots of names and news nuggets from all the shops with comments thought to be cute or important at the time.  Send me a snail mail address and I will be happy to send you a copy.

Update as I know it:

Wilster, Johns, Odegaard, Powell, Zukowski, Lauer, Stephens, Brem, and Bambrick still using air.

Meyer, Morgan, Daum, Hood, Enriquez, Growe, Vaupel have passed on.

HHMF  Buffalo Brem

Mr. Brem:

It looks like you and Capt. Johns are with two lovely ladies and a couple of Budweiser in your photo.  You Naval air crew guys got all the well deserved goodies with those wings.

Thank you for updating me on the status of the squadron officers.  I knew Captain Meyer the best and felt he was one of the finest men that I have ever knew.  I spoke with Mr Enriquez a lot on the two Rota deployments and in Albany.  Unfortunately, I was never on Capt. Hood's good side.  I am glad to see the other officers are still using air.  It was obvious how happy then Cdr. Wilster was at getting the facility up and running.  It was definitely a thing us enlisted guys will never forget in our old age.

The RVAH-9 Hoot Owls page on face book has a picture of the 1971 squadron officer in Rota.  The picture was taken out on the parking ramp next to a Vigi.  It is under Joe Hood's album

My email address is donald.stoffel@yahoo.com.  I did not recall "Hooter News" newsletter from the 1971 Rota deployment.  The squadron had a 1972 XMAS newsletter for the 72/73 deployment.  All my personal Navy photos and this newsletter was stolen from my Northern California condo many years ago.

We would appreciate very much what you have.

Thank you for your service as a NFO in the squadron and for responding to me.

Don Stoffel

Don:

Yes, that was quite a nice day during the Pensacola Vigi Reunion 2009 or so.  CAG and I were forced to take some TAD at the world famous FloraBama spanning the state lines.

Capt. Meyer was the best person I ever worked for in 55 years of it.  A true leader of men.  After the Hooters he was a CAG, had a deep draft command, and then CO of America CVA-66.  Retired after non selection to Flag,  If Bill Meyer can't be an Admiral that doesn't say much for the selection process. Capt. Wilster was the most fun CO ever and he got things done. Could fly anything anywhere.  I think he loved being Skipper but yearned to be a JO again.  He lives on a lake in east Tennessee and has some respiratory issues from all the Marlboros, but then again he's 83 or so.  Capt. Johns had RVAH-14 after the Hooters, then a CAG, and a deep draft but did not get a carrier and retired to South Carolina.   He was a true airman, could fly anything.  He was qualified in all eight aircraft in his airwing.  I take a trip to see Finn and Cliff every so often and it is sure fun to sit around and swap Navy memories and BS.  Joe Hood could be difficult and you are not alone.

It sure was fun driving around NAB with our HHMF car tags and having four plane Friday Morning Air Shows showing off and dismissing at 1200 for early Happy Hour.  i wonder if MCPO Maloof is still kicking ass somewhere.

I will see about getting the Hooter News digitized and get it to you and anyone else that is interested.

HHMF Buffalo Brem

Mr. Brem:

There are several other former enlisted guys who were on both of the Rota deployments that would enjoy the news letter also.  It might be nice to put the news letter on this website to agitate the other squadron guys in our old age for getting the job done in the Hooter way.  I will be more than glad to upload it for you if you want that done.

I had tremendous respect for all the squadron officer who volunteered to fly in the Vigi, wheter it was in the U.S., the Med or Vietnam.  It was one dangerous job to have and do day in and day out.

I have several fond memories of Captain Wilster that I will share on this public website.  My first significant encounter with him was in Albany when he was still XO under Cdr. Meyer as CO.  It was early 1971 and we were getting ready to head to Rota and had one of those Navy readiness inspections that a real hard nosed old time Vice Admiral was in charge of.  The CO  selected me for the enlisted barracks room inspection by the Admiral.  CO Meyer hoped that I could handle this old school Admiral during the inspection.  XO Wilster met me that morning at the barracks and made sure that I was ready since I had just gotten of the grave shift at the AIMD shop.  I will use the polite version on this public web site of what he told me to expect from this Admiral.  I took his comments to mean that we were both going to need a lot of "Preparation H" during and after the Admiral's inspection tour.  I was an AQB3 and had been in the a Navy less than two years and never had a face to face with a three star.  The XO met the Admiral an his assistant  and brought them down to my room where I was standing in the door way.  I was damn glad the XO was there with me after the XO told the Admiral told my role in the upcoming Rota deployment.  The Admiral was very concerned about my youth and lack of experience in being involved in such an important assignment.  The XO did one hell smoothing over the Admiral's concerns.  I was way in over my head and did not want to let my mouth respond before my brain reacted to the Admiral's comments.  The Admiral finished with me and left the barracks with the XO.   Cdr.  Wilster came back in and complimented me on doing a good job and helping cut short the inspection.  I knew that day that this was a really good man who would stand by you.

My favorite moment was in Rota when we were rapping up the first deployment and putting the finishing touches on the MMF facility.  Mr. Enriquez had called me in the MMF and said the CO wanted to see me in the hangar.  I went over and Cdr. Wilster was there with Mr. Enriquez and a couple of the other officers.  I had planned a trip to T-Town with my lady friend and needed his permission to go.  The carrier group replacing us was getting close to the coast and we were expecting a few of the lost crews to show up with their planes and wanting them fixed.  I had been drug out of my bunk on numerous times in the middle of the night to work on the other squadron's gear so we could get them out of Rota in the morning.  I get over to the hanger and the Skipper had a big smile on his face as he was looking out at our planes on the flight line all ready to go fly.  Next to them was three or four planes from our sister squadron in the Med who had got lost and shown up in Rota.  You just knew that he loved it that those other planes were ready to fly also and had the Hoot Owl touch on them.  It was one of the best moments in my short Navy career that I knew we had did one hell of a job.  I remember that it was Happy Hour time.

It nice to know that Capt. Wilster is still doing well.  You knew that he was one of the senior officers who had that real passion to fly those real bad Navy planes.

I tell my kids that it was a 24 hour seven day a week job and that is the way it was.  

Don Stoffel 

Mr. Brem, there at least two copies.  My mother was so proud of her owl that she saved everything that came through about the squadron.  While I cannot put my hands on it, I did save a copy.

Formerly PH-3 Robertson  HHMF

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