Friday, September 21, 2007

Hey, I'm on TV!

USS Valley Forge at sea in the Arabian Gulf

I dropped my wife off at the Anchorage International Airport last night, she's off on a business trip for the next week. Argh! I don't sleep well when she's not here, but, hey, what can you do, right? For twenty years, she waited at home alone for months, while I was deployed in the field or at sea, so I shouldn't complain (not that I won't, mind you). The one advantage of her being gone is that I can watch Modern Marvels and the Military Channel at night without hearing complaints (What? Another special on WWII?).

So this morning I came downstairs and flipped on the TV like I usually do, to watch the news while the kid gets ready for school, and it was still on the Military Channel from last night. And what were they showing? Operation Iraqi Freedom (yeah, yeah, there's an operational title that will haunt us for years). The special contained about five minutes of Infra-red video from the Mina Al Bakr Oil Terminal take down (a massive Iraqi off-shore oil loading terminal). In fact, the video was labeled "VFG FLIR" (USS Valley Forge, Forward Looking Infra-Red). I took that video. I and my team designed, procured, and installed a high resolution video capture system on Valley Forge when everybody in San Diego told us that it couldn't be done, and wasn't necessary in the first place. In fact, we ended up with two systems for less than the original cost estimate for one. We ended up using the information collected from that system on a daily basis, and six years later a small bit of it is on TV. And it looks good.

How cool is that?

I had a hand in the oil terminal missions. Most of what I did I can't talk about, but as Valley Forge's Intelligence Officer, my team and I did most of the scouting missions and intelligence work for the off-shore oil platform missions in the months leading up to the war. Some of it was under pretty hairy conditions. But that intelligence was spot on the money, the SEALs took down that platform without a shot being fired or a life lost on either side. There are dammed few other missions that went as smoothly. Despite how this war is turning out now, I'm still more than a little proud of my part in that operation.


The picture is my last ship, the Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser, USS Valley Forge, CG-50, in heavy seas in the Northern Arabian Gulf. I took the picture from one of the ship's RHIB's (rigid hull, inflatable boat) returning from a scouting mission, about three days before the start of the war. I loved that ship, I miss her. Valley Forge is gone now, decommissioned and sunk as a target off Hawaii, because of a bunch of short sighted fools in the Pentagon.

You can click on the picture for a much larger image.


  1. I loved my last ship, too. The USS JASON (AR-8). She was an old, fat cow, and really couldn't steam faster than about 18 knots, but she was our old, fat cow. She served in four conflicts, and flew the "Don't Tread on Me" flag for her last couple years. She's gone, now, too. *sniff*

  2. It's always the same with the Navy. They always develop an over emotional attachment to their last ship. :)

    Destroyers a nice. Fast, sleek, deadly. Although the aircraft carriers get the glory, unless you're on top they would be awfully boring. Destroyers, on the other hand, lots of action to be had everywhere, and you really feel the seas on them.

  3. Yeah, funny how a big ugly gray machine can get under you skin isn't it?

    I loved Valley Forge, she was a Block I, with original Aegis combat system, none of those fancy colored screens for us. But she was fast and sleek and her last skipper, Capt Pat Rabun, was absolutely the best dammed officer in the fleet, it was a true privilege to serve under his command.

    We were the only ship authorized to paint the ship's name in red, white, and blue letters on the transom. We flew General Washington's personnel position flag from his encampment at Valley Forge on the forward jack.

    God, I miss that ship.

  4. Steve, I've never really heard of sailors as a group being accused of sentimentality.

    That's us, I guess - wishy washy sentimentalists.


  5. Steve, the best duty is cruiser duty. Destroyer almost always operate as part of the screen (the ships protecting a Carrier). Cruiser can do that, and often do, but they are also Flagships and the smallest capital ship able to operate independently of the fleet. That's where the real action is.

  6. Hey, Steve, didn't your boss tell that you're supposed to be spending more time working instead blogging?

    Get back to the presses, boy! Hahahahaha!

  7. Jim, please. I'm sure your guy was fabulous and all, but the best officer in the Pacific fleet was Captain John Haigis, commanding the USS JASON, formerly a diesel sub commander.

    I may be misspelling the last name, by the way, but I'm too lazy to go look it up.

    What fleet was the Valley Forge in?

  8. Janiece, Valley Forge was a 3rd Fleet cruiser for her entire life, based out of San Dog. The last years of her life, she was attached to ComCruDesGru 23, and she was the CTG50 Flagship while in the Persian Gulf during OIF, OSW, OEF. During Capt. Rabun's tenure as CO, she was widely acknowledged as the finest Cruiser in the Fleet. The senior ships used to come across the pier to find out how to do business, especially in the areas of anti-terrorism, intelligence operations, and Information Warfare. The doctrine I developed while onboard became the Fleet standard, and that's what I've teaching for the last 3 years. Additionally we were awarded the CNO's Intelligence Platform (Type Two Surface) of the year designation, the first time that has been awarded to a cruiser since Vietnam. I have the certificate here on my wall. Yeah, I guess you could say I'm a little proud of it.

    Her last mission was independent duty on a South Pac Counter Narcotics mission off South America and the Galapagos Islands. I'm pretty proud of that deployment too, my intel team was responsible for one of the largest cocaine intercepts in history, despite the efforts to the contrary by the utter fucking idiots running the DEA and JIATF South.

  9. Incidentally, the picture in the post was taken as we were swinging around Valley Forge's stern to make pick up on the port side, returning from a mission that had lasted a couple hours in this crap. The waves were running twice the size of the boat. The spray flying over Forge's hurricane bow and slamming into the bridge windows 65 feet above the waterline will give you a pretty good idea of what it was like. Between the seas and the driving rain, this was one of the most difficult and dangerous davit pick-ups I ever had to make. Knocked the ever living shit out of us, it did. I was black and blue for days afterward.

    Good times, good times.

  10. yeah, yeah, more work less play.

    Well, yeah, cruiser are de bomb.

    Us in the Air Force don't have all that much sentimentality (Navy to their ships, Army to their Stykers/Bradleys) to individual equipment (I'm sure the pilots do). But once you have an F16 come in low and fast over your head, pull a cobra, hit the afterburners and make like a ballistic missile, you just gotta love that system. I think I still have hearing loss from that. The only other thing I can remember that made me think, "I wanna drive one of those" is seeing a warthog doing a straffing run (test grounds).

  11. Wow. That is indeed pretty cool.

    As for me, err well I was on a ship once that was originally the USNS Relentless... :D Yeah okay so I can't really compete there. The (now) RV Gordon Gunter was the largest research vessel I've been on though. Our current research vessel is only 95 feet long and only does about 9 knots.

  12. MWT, small world. I remember Relentless, back when she was a TAGOS ship. I was even onboard her in the '80's, helping with some equipment when she made port in the Med. Never sailed on her, or her sisters, though.

  13. Came across your blog, I was on board VFG during that time. I was an SK. My heart sank when I saw her SINKEX.


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