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Michael E. Dombrowski
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Date of Birth
July 7, 1947
What Commands/Squadrons were you with? *Notes* only choose RVAH-3 if you were squadron personnel, all others there for training select the RAG/FRAMP option, IF YOU SELECTED "OTHER" THEN YOU MUST ANSWER ONE OF THE QUESTIONS BELOW. BE SPECIFIC

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At 11:16am on January 4, 2018, ross f buenzle said…

Michael, I was also a member of the rota mmf project pioneers. ross buenzle, AE2. I remember  Wes Thompson, Donnie White, P.J., Fishbien, and a chief we called Frenchie. (sorry, dont't remember his real name) Wes, myself and someone else had an apartment down by the beach. worked the night shift in the trailer, mostly on ADC and flight control amps. On the beach during the day. Rough duty

At 10:27am on June 11, 2015, Donald Stoffel said…

It is obvious from all the other comments that I see on this site the Rota thing was a big plus for the wing and allowed many others to follow in our footsteps.

The Navy and the wing viewed those initial efforts as a big success above and beyond the original expectations because the whole process was slammed together in such a short time.  Our groups experience was another obstacle that had to be overcome.  Several of he key squadron officers put it to me this way.  The original van deployment would have been a huge success if we would have just got the vans positioned and power to them.  The second phase was to have another group come in and get the vans totally operational.  I was told many times that we knocked the old ball completely out of the ball park.  It was a huge win for the squadron.

Chief Hatten is no longer with us.  He wanted to be a senior Chief real badly.  This was his last shot in his mind.  He never was selected for senior Chief, but really appreciated the job that we did in giving him that opportunity.

The last piece of the van complex puzzle on the first deployment was to hook up the permanent power.  The Spanish electrical power was different than the US standards.  A converter/transformer piece of equipment was ordered but did not arrive until later on.  The Spanish public works people built a little building for the equipment in the corner of our site across the drainage ditch.

The equipment finally showed up from the states.  Chief Hatten went over to check it out.  He came back just shaking his head.  I assumed something was wrong if not very wrong.  His comment to me was that it was just to damn big.  I did not know what he meant by that.  I knew the van complex had specific electrical requirements.  I asked and he shook his head again and said no it is just too damn big.  I finally figured out that he meant it was just too damn big to fit in the building.  We found a tape measure and headed off to measure it.  It was damn big and heavy as hell.  My first thought was that Spanish public works guys would need to tear down the front side of the building to get it inside.

We finally decided to get it through the door and extend the cabling.  I went and got a very large forklift to haul the equipment back to the complex.  We get it back there and the next problem was the walk way across the drainage ditch was two narrow for  all the forklift wheels to fit safely.  There was concern that we might collapse the walkway and block the drainage ditch.  I was just a stupid farm kid and told the Chief and Mr. Fleet I would get the equipment in the building.  I was able to get it in the door.  Then the Chief had a change of plan and wanted it slid back to the wall.  I tried using the forklift to angle the piece back farther.  Unfortunately, I backed one wheel over the drainage ditch wall and was stuck.  I was all upset about that because I had signed for the forklift.  I wanted to get a tow tractor and chain and yank it out of the ditch.  Mr. Fleet stopped that because he did not want to damage it anymore.  Mr. Fleet called up the Chief at the equipment yard that we had stuck the forklift.  This Chief showed up with a  couple of Spanish guys and the crap hit the fan.  It was like I had ruined their lives.  The reality was that they didn't have a clue how to get it out of the ditch.  They left and I was on their crap list.  I was not in the mood for this and executed my plan A that evening.  The other Chief shows up the next day with a Navy Commander and the Spanish guys.  The forklift was sitting there by my van undamaged and ready to go back to the yard.  The Commander chewed my rear out for abusing his equipment

At 9:36pm on May 28, 2015, Donald Stoffel said…

My old dentist friend, a Navy Destroyer fire control officer, who loved dropping WP on the bad guys in Vietnam.  He has been helping me with some leg work while we are out of the country thanks to the internet.


He came up with following information on Joe Ruff that I wanted to share with you.

We found William J. Ruff address as 172 Evans Street, New Philadelphia, PA 1759 with a phone #570-277-6813. He had other towns in PA listed as Pottsville and Orwigsburg.


My friend was also on an Admiral's staff for a couple of years after dropping shells on the bad guys.  He has links that I no longer have access to.


I got a bad chest virus around five years ago that I was over medicated for and ended up overdosing on prescription drugs and had a number of mild or mini strokes over several months.  My short term memory was completely gone for a number of months.  The long term memory kicked into overdrive.  It was like getting an old computer hard drive up and running after a lot of years.  It was amazing what I could recall.


Over the years several of the squadron officers had dropped me notes from time to time to see how things were going for me.  I was invited to an officer get together in 2007 and we had a chance to catch up on the two Rota deployments.   There were the good times and the bad times there for me.   Most of the stuff has been there with me for all these years.  The name thing is a little more difficult for me. 


I have a good lead on Vincent P. White out of Philadelphia who was on the three deployments with Norman and me.  He was the radar altimeter guy in the van group.  I have a contact person in Philadelphia who is going to follow that lead up.  Dave Fischbein was an AQ3 in my shop on the first deployment to Rota.  We think that he is in South Carolina.  Need to do more work on that guy.  Found one of Norman's Albany roommate and chums in Missouri.    It takes time to track down people without two many shortcuts that can get you in hot water.

I recall that you were one of the married guys in the group and came from Georgia.  Where are you know?  You looked great in your picture.


How did you find out about the RVAH Sanford reunion in 2003 that you attended?


Did you make it back to Rota again on a cruise?  I saw RVAH-9 deployed again to the Med the following year after I left.


We found a Forrestal 72-73 Med cruise book on EBAY.  I went a head and purchased it for my older Daughter.  It will be interesting to see if they have any of the RVAH-9 gang listed and anything on the Rota group.


My buddy and I need to head out with our body guard and pick up my daughters at a disco.  Then we can get a few hours of sleep.  Palma is a nice place to visit in the off season.



At 12:51pm on May 17, 2015, Donald Stoffel said…

Do you know what happened to your side kick Bill Ruff?

My sister in law thinks that there are a few pictures that I sent my Jeanie back in Kansas that I was engaged to on our second deployment to Rota.  I broke off the engagement before heading back to the states in 73. The sister in law told me her Dad stopped her from destroying all the stuff I sent her.  I sure as hell do not bring it up anytime around her. We are off to Europe in a couple of days and will be gone for a month.  I will try to make it back to Kansas and see what survived.


There is one aerial picture online that shows the van complex.  I had someone else familiar with the facility in the 70s and agrees it is the van complex we set up.

At 1:36pm on May 12, 2015, Donald Stoffel said…

Continued about the Rota complex.

The generator had a three position fuel shutoff switch.  I took and educated guess that someone had pulled of the handle and the fuel was really off even though it said on.  I had a hell of a time convincing Chief and those mechanics that probably was the problem.  It was a brand new generator set.  After a few more hours the group decided to try my solution.  Bingo it worked like a champ.  The pulled the handle off and put it to the right position.  Chief and I haul ass back to the complex  and he hook us the cables,  He fired it up and we had power.  He was one happy guy.  We had power and air conditioning.  Us technicians could go to work.  The old Murphy law thing never goes away in the glorious Navy.


I have spent the past 25 years in financial management of major contractors here  in California.  I have seen my fair share of cluster messes. 


The Rota complex site was one of the better ones.  You basically build a pad in a low spot that drains all the planes parking ramps.  A real brilliant move.  If you recall, it wasn't too long before it rained an flooded out site.  Mr. Fleet and Chief was real unhappy campers.  Our CO G. Wilster was a real good man and just shook his head at this mess.


The local base Spanish public works people took their merry time in trying to build a drainage ditch.  I just remember we kept getting flooded.  Finally, the Navy stepped in and had the Seabees  finish up the drainage ditch.


We finally was able to do our jobs on a regular basis and not interfere with out liberty in Rota (Sin City).


We definitely did this the hard way.  At the end of was quite proud at the end of that first tour when I was out at the hanger looking at all those planes we kept flying.  I forgot who the other heavy group was in the Med.  Their planes kept showing up in Rota to get fixed by us.  I has my moments at times and was not always thrilled with the Navy way.  One day I asked the Skipper why we had to fix these other guys planes.  He kind of smiled and gave me his Navy comments about the whys of this.  I never asked him again.


For the outside readers the trials and tribulation of getting that complex was never ending.  The NARF guys never worked on our SATE benches because of the delays.  The old crap can hit the fan in the Navy.  The Skipper found out that the SATE bench had not been calibrated for the radar altimeter after several months.  Those NARF guys showed up real quickly and adjusted that test bench that was off quite a bit.  Vincent was a great tech and had been calibrating the altimeter in module repair.  Just another young talented guy.


I will not even talk about getting the permanent power hooked up.  Just another mess.




I had pictures of the complex, but they were stolen from my apartment after my move to Northern California from Kansas.


I received some later on, but need to do so more digging.


I have been on the Rota base a couple of times over the last few years.  I has changed a lot over the past 40 years.


Don Stoffel

Palmdale, CA\


At 1:11pm on May 12, 2015, Donald Stoffel said…


You and Bill Ruff were the two new AEs in the RVAH-9 team that set up the mobile maintenance facility on the Spanish Naval Base at Rota in mid 71.

I just remember in the great tradition of the Navy it was a cluster mess until us young guys put our minds and backs into it and got the job done.  I just chuckle about it all these years later that the planning for the site etc. could not have been worse.

WO1 George Fleet and AEC Andy Hatten was our leaders.  Generally, pretty good guys, but us young guys really carried the ball to get the job done.  I have always been proud of the group that made that work.


A lot of the readers this have never been to the Rota Naval Station.  The ones that followed us there probably did not appreciate the work it took to get the facility up and going.  I will comment about my recollection of the project.  Please correct me if I am wrong.


The Navy decided to establish the base for the Vigilantes in early 71.  The NARF teams started outfitting those mobile maintenance vans early that year with the goal of deploying them by May 71.  I had just started working at the Albany IM3 shop and got sucked into the process of setting of the AQ SATE equipment and work bench.  Those van were just damn small.  I guess the outside dimensions were probably 10 by 10 and maybe 25 feet long.  Again in the proud tradition of the Navy, they managed to cram all that equipment those vans.  The NARF team was suppose to overhaul the two SATE test benches in Albany that was used by you, Bill and Vincent White the AT who was the radar altimeter guy.  The AQ Sate bench was the first one ever built for the Navy and it was a piece of junk after many sailors had put their pinkies in it.  The NARF team never rehabbed the benches in Albany and said they would do it in Rota.


I can not remember if there were 15 or 18 of those vans.  I remember that Chief Hatten, Norman Hammock the AQ module repair guy and Steve Gauvin the AT radio IFF guy flew to Rota as the advance team.  They put vans each on the Air Force 141 cargo planes.  Each plane carried a few of the guys after we help load those vans manually into the plane.  The planes took off one by one and it was not too long before the word came in that the cargo planes had to land at places like Warner Robins AFB in Georgia.  It seemed like most of the planes had problems.  I was to ride over on the last plane with Mr. Fleet.  We had run out of guys to load the plane so I had to go draft a few line guys to help load the planes.  The cargo master on this plane told me that they were at max rate because of the payload.  I was sitting by him as he was watching out the window watching the feet markers go by on our take off.  We used up all that B-52 runway to get airborne.  We made it to Rota without stopping.  One of the planes had to land in the Azores.  Just another military cluster mess.


We get to Rota and the darn concrete pad was not done by the Spanish contractor.  It took several weeks to finish it so we could start putting the vans in place by hand.  Another good planning thing happened that we had not permanent power and the air conditioning unit for the test benches were late getting there.  We had a heck of a time getting the air conditioning unit in place.  It sat between the two SATE vans.  The Navy made the pad very big enough for the trailers and had it next to and elevated road and a drainage ditch.  We did over come.


The readers who did not know Chief Hatten missed out on quite the guy.  He was from Mississippi and was large man who could be rather intimidating.  He had been a SATE instructor at the NAMTRD in Albany.  Chief could be slightly hard hea

At 8:41am on October 31, 2014, Jim Manes said…
I see, well at least there was a connection with the rate of AE2. Ha!
At 8:35am on October 30, 2014, Jim Manes said…
Michael, I was in Heavy 9 from 63-66, left as AE2, worked primarily in avionics shop. During that time we had a Maintenace Officer with same name as yours. Was that you by any chance? Lt. Thompson was the Avionics Officer. Just curious....

Best to you!
Jim Manes
At 6:40pm on February 26, 2014, Norman Hammock said…


Norman Hammock.  Long time!  I am pretty sure we were together in RVAH-9.  I served from 1969 - 1973, Naval Air Station, Albany, GA.  I made 3 Med cruises.  Part of our squadron was put on shore in Rota, Spain on the last 2 cruises.  I think we went to Morrocco together one Christmas, across the Straits of Gibraltar.  I am now living in Cape San Blas, FL, on the Florida Panhandle.  I lived in Birmingham, AL until 2012 when we moved.  

I hope you have enjoyed a great life and all is going well.  Keep in touch and let me know how things are going.

Norman Hammock




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