CSBR-1 ORE of SBU-XI 1991 San Diego Final Exercise


Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

Sometime in the spring of 1991 not long after DESERT STORM was over we received word that BOATRON ONE wanted to do an “Operational Readiness Evaluation” (ORE) of our PBR Det. At that time we had our usual “Ready Det” of Active Duty guys who knew if any real-world tasking came up they would be the first ones to go and pretty much spent their time training. Since we’d been waiting to deploy for the biggest war seen in those days, the Dets had been training hard.  The current Ready Det was Bob Young’s which included a bunch of the guys I’d had in my first PBR Det before I got Shanghai’d as interim XO.

We’d mobilized a bunch of our Reservists under DESERT SHIELD/ DESERT STORM and they were still on orders; training up for the call that would now probably never come. When talking to the Commodore - CAPT Jon Wright - about the ORE our CO, CDR Doug Hatfield, offered up one of the Reserve Dets for the ORE in addition to Bob’s. In the course of the conversation about “Ready Dets” the question came up in the form of “Well, how many do you have?”   The answer was apparently three; “Active, Reserve and ‘Contingency’” (meaning experienced guys working other jobs who could stand up quickly and deploy if needed). Anyone who knows CAPT Wright can attest that you don’t report anything you’re not ready to have tested. Subsequent to this call those of us who would become the “Contingency Det” were informed about the concept and our participation in same – in two follow-on sentences. Fortunately for me I got some amazing guys (with one glaring exception); EN1 Mark Freid from the Engine Shop and QM1 Ed Bearden from Ops became my Boat Captains; I got three guys from the Armory (Doug Cullison, Goodenbouer and Dan – jeez Dan, I’m drawing a blank on your last name!); the Snipes gave up DC2 Raoul Sanchez and EN3 Nikki Markert – all great guys! Raoul Sanchez came up with the Det name – “Los Chingones”. We had a couple-three weeks to train up but we shook down into a pretty good bunch – tribute to the guys far more than any “leadership” from me. Our underway training was also greatly aided by having intercom systems (salvaged from armored vehicles) recently installed the boats. What seemed to be most of SBU-XI (including six PBR’s) loaded up and got trucked down to San Diego where we set up camp near the Degaussing Station on Ballast Point.

Those of us in the Dets were soon underway doing individual evals of Damage Control with some training patrols thrown in. One of the explanations I heard for bringing us down to San Diego was to not test us in the sloughs of our “own backyard”. Well, it was a thought; but all three of the Det OIC’s had served on ships homeported in San Diego.

Another notable portion of the evaluation (once described by GMGCM Jim Gray as “The ORE from Hell”) was held up at Camp Pendleton and included a very memorable “E&E” exercise, which will be a subject for another time…

Our final exercise of the ORE was to be a Full-Mission Profile using all three PBR Detachments. The scenario was a Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) extraction of eight “Embassy personnel”.



The CO designated me as Officer in Tactical Command (OTC) and together with the other two OIC’s (Bob Young and Joe Camerra) we began planning the Op.

The original extract site was to be in Mission Bay. We quickly nixed that owing to the requirement to transit out of San Diego Bay through the extensive kelp beds (really a bad idea for pump-driven boats) at Point Loma. We set the extract site at one of the public fishing areas pretty far down in south bay. We knew there was a good site at the end of “J” Street in National City . To my immense relief, the extract site was approved.

Since we had everything and everybody that had been brought down from Mare Island at our disposal we’d use one of our OpFor craft (a Whaler with twin outboards) as the pickup boat and include our two enlisted SEALS (BMC Golden Bear and EN2 Goldilocks) in the pickup party.

The planning went quickly and I don’t remember any issues at the briefback. The plan was to put Joe Cameras two boats across the bay to the west-southwest (just south of Coronado Cays) as on-call illum from one of our 60mm Mortars (this was “notional” of course we weren’t ever gonna get permission to shoot illum there for real), Bob Young’s Det (The “Lost Boys”) was going to screen to the north and we’d go in close with the pickup boat. Doug Hatfield rode along with me but did such a good job at staying in the background I barely realized he was there.

The BoatRon Training Officer LT E.L “Jack” Spratt had press-ganged some ROTC Midshipmen as our “Embassy Personnel” as much for their willingness to be taking a boat ride in the wee hours of the morning as anything else. All was going well with the pickup boat at the extract site and BMC Golden Bear doing the processing … until … one of the Mids either didn’t know or had forgotten his “role”. Our information was that we had the “Ambassador”, three other “State Department” personnel and four Marines from the Security Det to pick up. As BMC Golden Bear got to the fifth Mid, the kid didn’t ID himself properly and as a result found Golden Bear’s SIG pressed into his forehead as the Chief growled “Mr. Ambassador, where are your Marines?”  Jack intervened before the kid fainted away and the rest of the embark proceeded without injury. As soon as we saw the Whaler underway we called in Joe’s Det.  and started motoring northward with the Whaler between us. Once we linked up with Bob we put the Whaler in the middle of the formation and continued to clear the area; once we’d moved far enough north we slowed and split the refugees among the PBR’s leaving the Whaler in the middle as a potential decoy.

As soon as we neared Ballast Point Doug Hatfield sidled up to me and said “That went exactly as you briefed it. That’s as good as it gets.”

Author: Lt Rob Gale,  Detachment Alpha OIC