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.
We have made an electronic version on the 1971 Hooter's Newsletter Mr. Brem is referring to. Please provide me with your email address and I will send you the electronic version.
There was another newsletter for the 72/73 Rota deployment that we have not located. We appreciate any photos from those deployments.
Mr. Stoffel, did you attend firefighting school in Mayport...of Jax (I don't remember exactly) with to guys, who somehow spent our return money in town? I don't remember the third party to that party as it were, but like you I was with both cruises. I shipped out of Rota for Philly on Halloween 1972. Bunked with PH - 3 Robert Lee and AMH - 3 Rick Shook. I attended college at Western Michigan University, one of my professors was a Mr. Emerson, then attached to VQ 2. Apparently he hated the squadron, and took every opportunity to remind me of that. Best years of my life!
firstname.lastname@example.org I remember Hugo Clyde Lee having something to do with that newsletter. I also have a nice letter from Captain Wilster to my parents. Visited with him last year where he lives. Great time for both my wife and myself.
Please find attached the "Hooter News-Heavy Nine Stays Loose in Rota, Spain" from September 23, 1971.
Please thank our NFO Ltjg. Tom Brem for providing this newsletter to the group.
This newsletter covers the original Rota 1971 MMF deployment. Cdr. Wilster's put it the best in the newsletter statement "Our Resaon For Being Is-We're The Best There Is!".
Page 1 of the Newsletter has a look inside two of the MMF vans. The lower left photo is of the CNI van where AT2 Steve Gauvin is hard at work. Steve was simply one of the best techs. The lower right picture is of the ASB12 SATE van. In the background is the modular repair and Verdan van. I am the AQB3 tech removing the radar R/T cover. AQ3 R Williams is the Verdan tech sitting watching me do my work. We did not have several key pieces of test equipment on the original deployment so we were quite creative at times. We did get the job done.
There is a second newsletter from the RVAH-9 second Rota deployment that covered the 72/73 deployment. We would enjoy seeing that newsletter if anyone has it.