Special Boat Unit - Detachment3

Special Boat Unit - Detachments



1978-2002 - Special Boat Squadrons

Special Boat Squadron -1


Special Boat Squadron - 2

Special Boat Unit - 11

Special Boat Unit - 12


Special Boat Unit - 20

Special Boat Unit - 22

Special Boat Unit - 13

Special Boat Detachments


Special Boat Unit - 24

Special Boat Unit - 26


Special Boat Detachments (SBD) Like its earlier namesakes, MST1, 2 and 3, are a small Spec Boat Det. deployed from its parent Special Boat Unit. An SBD will form up, train and qualify in its boats to be used, and receive all of the combat related skills, training and tactics for the missions they will conduct overseas. Once the training cycle is completed The Special Boat Squadron Training Dept. will conduct a Operational Readiness Exercise (ORE). This is a realistic as possible final battle problem will test and grade all of the skills learned by the detachment. Once they have passed the ORE the Special Boat Squadron will certify them ready to deploy.
The SBD is then sent overseas on a Operational deployment to conduct maritime Naval Special Warfare at the orders of the In-Theater Commander.

SBDs normally support a SEAL Platoon, but are capable of conducting operations with other SOF units and Marine Recon. They are also capable of conducting certain special operations designed for the Boats and crewmen. A Special Boat Detachment is the tip of the spear when deployed, conducting or ready on station to conduct "Real World" Operations.

NSWU Challenge coin
A SBD deployment is usually six months long.  

03-04-07 Rory Towne     I got to SBU-13 in the fall of 1982 and left in July of 1986. When we went to the P.I. there was guys from SBU-13 and SBU-11 and SBU-12. The OIC was LT Rooker, he was from SBU-11 and under him was LT Koven who was from SBU-12. When I was in PI we took 2 PB’S on a trip to Malaysia.   Read more here

Op Restore Hope Somalia. Boatguys were there.
(Added 01-22-2013)
Special Boat Detachment WESTPAC Subic Bay P.I home Long Time home for NSWU-1 and the SBD NSWU-1 Spec Boat detachment Can anyone ID the men and year?  

Supports SEALs as safety boat during launch from submarine diving. Guam NSWU-1 Supports SEAL Ops off submarine at NSWU-1 Guam on 30' Irib. NSWU-1 Subic Bay PI 1980s. Note the PBs & Seafoxes A SBU-12 HSB loading out on a C-5 to go to NSWU-3 A 30' IRIB on a ARG

(Added 02-25-2019)  Robert Harrington, LT USN (Ret)  OIC DetAlpha SBR1 Subic Bay 1984
New Zealand Det
Alpha Nov 84
New Zealand Det Alpha Nov 84 Visitors New Zealand Seafox Arrives from Airfield for Water Nov 84 New Zealand Seafox Arrives from C141 Flight Nov 84 New Zealand Seafox Launch Nov 84
New Zealand Seafox Launch Nov 84 New Zealand Seafox Launch Nov 84 New Zealand Seafox Launch Nov 84 New Zealand Seafox Launch Nov 84 New Zealand Seafox Offload Dunnage
Picnic Attire for Det Alpha Jul-Dec 84 OIC SBU XI CCB Bathing at Ryer Is '83 (Lt Harrington) Seal Compound from SBR Pier Jul-Dec 84 Subic Det Alpha Jul-Dec 84 Beach Picnic Subic Det Alpha Jul-Dec 84 informal
Subic Det Alpha Jul-Dec 84 PB776 Subic Det Alpha Jul-Dec 84 Senior Staff Nerf Subic Det Alpha Jul-Dec 84 Senior Staff

Added 11-12-07 Exercise Cobra Gold - Thailand - 1995

SBU-12 24' Willards RHIBs flew to Thailand for  Exercise Cobra Gold Here they prep to get underway to cross train their Thai Counterparts The Royal Thai Boat Support Unit a part of Thai NSW Royal Thai Boat Support Unit provided the Thai version of the SEAFOX. here it pulls out of Sattahip Naval base. SWCC and SEALs used these boats also in Cobra Gold.
SBU-12 RHIBs and Thai Seafoxes waiting at the air drop zone.
SBU-12 ARG also at 95 Cobra Gold using 30'IRHIBs marry up with Thai Seafox after recovering Chutes and Packing from the airdrop.
SWCC worked with Thai NSW Boat Support conducting FID here conducting a underway gunshoot off Thai Seafox.

The Royal Thai SEAFOX looked similar to our old obsolete SEAFOX but a completely different Boat, a good platform, rode seas better and faster with MTU engines.

Subic Bay who can forget crossing the bridge into Olongapo P.I A PBMKIII at NSWU-1 in Guam On an ARG a 24' Hurricane RIB is launched. RIMPAC Peral Harbor Hi. 1996 Two Brand New MKV SOCs and two 30' I RIBs SBU-20 Det Carib at NSWU-4 in Puerto Rico

10-29-08 Craig Chapman Photos. More HERE of SBU-12.

  Det Delta crew party at Gains Beach Subic Bay En1 Morris and SCPO Chapman on PB775 Detachment Alpha Subic Bay Another photo Detachment Alpha Subic Bay
PB751, Sasebo Japan..OPFOR on KomarEX on Fleet EX 7th Fleet. PB775 Subic Bay note 81mm mortar with 50cal mounted on top. Lt Mike Walden OIC PB776 Subic Bay SEAFOXes in Subic Bay PB776 and Seafox Subic Bay

(added 10-20-09) Special Boat Detachment Detachment Bravo 1984 Photos from John Lockhart and Rick Doughman.
Jessie "Sparks" Ellingwood John Lockhart Robert "Capt Bob" Curtis (note his 12 patch) Jeff Maddox Marvin Smith
ET Dave Lange LT Riggin Rick Doughman Chuck Smith Simon Del Los Santos
LT. Eckstein Unknown Jay Duenas Randy Christop Herson EN Steve Arney
Skip Vander Veste Dave Clements HT3 Kellerman Scott Wilson Wayne Wright

BM2 McKinney
CPO Spindeler
not shown

Martin Thurin Harold Cleveland Unknown Rodger Lee Bell

Added 11-30-09        
SOC FT2 Cherry SOC EN2 Cheany SOC living in Korea SOC ET2 Cole riding a SWCL
Loading a Seafox on a K-loader for air transport Loading up Seafox on a hot day AirSupport Ops Subic bay Lt Bill Sherrill OIC of SBD Subic Bay Lifting a MKIIIPB in Subic Bay P.I.
Added 08-29-2011 ->
PBMKIII on Step On Det Subic Bay  

PBMKIII in sea states early 1990s Guam det NSWU-1




(Added 01-24-2011) More Doughman photos
  PT at MST-3 Subic Bay P.I.

MST-3 Barge at Subic Bay P.I.


LCPL MK11 NSWU-1 Subic Bay P.I.

.pdf MST-3 Manual
The first det with  guys from all west coast Units ... The Motley Crew P.I.

MST-3 NSWU-1 Manual on  Coastal Riverine Ops.

(Added 05-23-20110



SUBIC TALES: Boatguy and a Marine by Rick Doughman

 I remember we took RECON Marines in Subic out for High speed Cast and Recovery EX. The Non -Swimmers were not allowed to put more than 4 puffs of air in thier Life Jackets LMAO...Then the Master Gunnery Sargent with them tied off the IBS to the side of the LCPL...I let him know that the alligator clip (fast release) needed to be tied off. HE let me know I didn't know what I was talking about!!! Really????? Its was my JOB!

Well after trying to pick up his guys for Three Times and The IBS quick release opened up and dumped his guys in the Drink, He looked at me and said....I think your correct about the quick release.

(08-29-2011) Enos Gaskill EN1 - I spent 4 years at SBU-12 and had 4 deployments to SBD Subic P.I. followed by 4 years with SBU-13. They were the best years of my Navy Career.

Working on LCPL engine. More working on the engine Bill Zeller Kerry Zimmerman PMS on 40mm Pete Pointier looking away
Williams on PL Whaler with dive support lights

PBMKIII with new 40mm next to Barge

The 40mm The only weapon we couldn't Lock up. Subic LCPL MK11 with our"custom canopy"

Enos Gaskin Driving PL Bill Wilkins on Radio

PMS on 40mm


Scarber??? The New 40mm Cannon with Drum Ammo Feeder

SUBIC det Boats and Barge

LCPL MK11 the work horse of the Det.

NSWU-1 sign in P.I.


Photo Credits: Randy Christopherson  (10-12-2011)
Randy Christopherson.

Seafox crossing  our wake.


Dawn ship attack as seen from PB.


Skip Vandeaugte, Chick Smith and I. Randy C. with a  beard.
Swim call from MkIIIPB. PB with IBS with Mount Mayon in Background.

The not so glamorous rough sea state in PLs.

Native pub with LT Riggins Chuck Smith and Scott Wilson and other guys. Ship attack at Dawn.
Randy and Bud.         

(Added 12-29-2011)  Photo credit Michael Brown Palor


24'RIB and Zodiacs Prep for Ops in Gulf

Riding the aft position with M-60 on 24'RIB Early SBU 24' RIB and Zodaic



(Added 03-27-2012) Troy Heuer  also see SBU-12 listing .
Armed PBMKIII Guam Det NSWU-1

PB MKIII NSWU-1, 2 M-2 50cal Browning MG and 1 MK-16 Mod 5 20mm Cannon

Me at The Booth NSWU-1 Guam Pierside Guam

Guam Det.   Blake Livengood EMFA,    TroyHeuer, Mike Mendoza ET2 and    Ray Deserosiers (Diver)

SBD Det sign  Guam

Chillin' on port sponson Doc Spencer Fishing while Underway ARRRRGHH and a K-bar

The Falls in Guam 94  Troy Heuer and Gmg2  Chriz Gaidonomtz ( he later became a SWCC instructor)

Underway Guam Mar 94 Guam me with Unexploded 5"38  round from WWII

Exercise Cobra Gold  Gulf of Thailand. The I-rib Det  was aboard Ship on ARG 94-2 PB Det

On SEAFOX Thai Style Cobra Gold.  Maddox Thai SEAL Me and two Thi SEAL Support Men on is a LT "Roy Tot"

Cobra Gold Thailand. Me firing 727 Carbine 5.56mm Training Thai SEAL Support in "Cooperschool techniques"


HSB Det at Ras Al Ard Kuwait 1996

(Added 07-24-2012)


(added 05-30-2012) RMC Michael Price SBU-12    Our detachment deployed to Subic Bay in January of 84. Now it is a fact that all detachments have some great adventures, our PB crews were to be the first participants in what CDR Jakowski, CO of  NSWU-1 would call “Operation Magellen”. He called it that  because it would be (at the time), the longest known transit of  a MK III Spectre class  Patrol Boat.   This is the story of what became known as, “The Parrot Run”.                                   

Late may 84. The mission; proceed south from Subic Bay to Malaysia on the Island of Borneo.  We were to navigate to a city (I forgot the name) approx 90 miles up a river on the Malaysian side of the island in a “Show the Flag” visit.  I seem to recall that we brought our dress uniforms as there was some sort of formal, diplomacy type event we were going to be involved in.  All in all, the chance of a lifetime trip for a bunch of  Boatguys. 

LT Rooker\, Det OIC was to be in command of the mission and PB-776 with QM2 Don Stanley as his helm relief.  Also along was LT (SEAL) Mike Howard (Now Capt. Retired and the director of the UDT/SEAL Museum) from one of the deployed Platoons. (This would prove to be a smart move on CDR Jakowski’s part) 

BMCS Craig Chapman and I had PB-775.  The names of all the crewmembers escape me as it has been awhile but I remember EN2 Enos Gaskill was the Engineer for the 76.  Of course Rorey Towne, along with ET3 Boyle, GMG2 Indell and EN3 Wiltse (75’s engineer) are some of the guys I recall. (If I missed anyone who reads this, sorry, I’m getting old)   

Our first scheduled stop for fuel was on the Southern Phillipine island of Palawan.   Porta Princessa,  was at that time, a small fishing village with a growing tourist trade. We were to refuel and then proceed to our next fuel stop on the NE coast of Borneo. 

After refueling, we got back underway about sundown and headed SE in an echelon right formation with the 76 in the lead.   About 2 hours out, the 76 came to a stop and radioed that they had just hit something hard and was putting a swimmer in the water to check.  They discovered that the boat had hit a large submerged tree and all three screws had damage.  Both craft immediately came about and proceeded back to Porta Princessa the damaged 76 limping in on one screw.  We secured to the pier at midnight, set the watch and got some sleep.

 The next morning, after consulting with Subic, the decision was made to attempt repairs  pierside in Porta Princessa.  (The other option being towing the 76 back to Subic) 

 We had a small hand operated crane aboard which we could mount to a weapons ring.  This would be used to hoist the screws aboard once we were able to remove them from the shaft.  We had brought enough Scuba tanks to keep 2 divers working with 2 more ready to relieve them.  We also had an air compressor to jam the tanks so we were able to go all day. 

 The first hurdle was busting the shaft nut’s loose.  We banged and pried for hours to get the 3 of them loose.  This alone took almost a day and a half.

 Next we tried to pull the screws.   Oxidation had seized them to the shafts and although we tried every method we could think of to loosen them they were stubborn and would not budge. 

 There was a Philippine SEAL/EOD team embarked aboard a Philippine Navy LST in port so, LT Howard got them to come over and give us a little “Dupont” assist.   A strip of det cord on each shaft and  boom, boom, boom, off they came.  Two of the screws were lightly bent so they would be sent to a local blacksmith to repair.   The third was actually cracked and broken so a spare was flown down from Subic.  When the plane arrived, the CO had brought along a Carpenter CWO USNR who was doing his annual Acdutra at the unit. The CO felt Jessie (I forget his last name) might be more productive helping us than hanging around the compound in Subic.  He took charge of  the screws going to the blacksmith and ensured that process went smoothly by working with the local craftsman.

 Now at this time, SBU Boatguys were not, as a rule, “Diver Qualified”.  That being said, many of us had PADI or NAUI cards therefore, those of us who were divers were in the water pulling and replacing the screws.  Crew members who didn’t have dive cards were busy with all the other tasks of supporting two boat crews.  QM2 Don Stanley took charge of the galley and made sure everyone had 3 squares a day.   Craig Chapman handled logistics within the town for any supplies we needed and helped to ramrod the topside support for the dive teams.  Craig and I also used our Credit cards and rented 2 rooms at one of the local hotel’s so the crew would have places to go shower and get away from the boat for awhile.  Others were involved in taking care of laundry, maintaining the boats and other necessary chores which helped to keep things moving.   Everyone participated someway supporting the repairs to the craft.  I can honestly say that never in my career had I been part of such a concentrated team effort.   It was truly inspiring how everyone just found a way to be useful.   However, I give a good share of the credit for our success to LT Howard.  He was an outstanding leader and damn fine Naval Officer.  We were very fortunate that CDR Jakowski sent him along.  He was the leader who kept the team focused and positive about our efforts.

 The screws went back on without a hitch.  We got her underway for testing in Puerta Princessa bay.  The boat ran great with no detectable vibration and we declared her ready to get underway.

 Unfortunately, our window for the mission was now closed and we could only return to Subic.  To further complicate matters, a tropical storm was brewing and although not expected to hit us full force, it was going come close enough to effect our trip home.  We needed to get out of Dodge quickly. 

We left Puerta Princessa about 1800 on a glassy sea.  I took the helm of the 75 and had the lead in an echelon left formation.  Soon after we left, the sea started to churn.  First it was just long deep swells but as the night wore on it started to really get nasty until we were soon in a no shit storm.  All night and into the next day we pushed north toward Subic.  A good chunk of the crew was just plain seasick and the boat was rocking and jumping too much to move around anyway.  At times, the height of the waves was well above the deck of the boat which impeded the ability of the radar to pick out islands or other ships. To compensate, I would have to take a radar bearing each time we crested a wave.  Once just as I crested a wave, I was looking up at the superstructure of a monster oil tanker less than 100 yds off my port bow.  Huge pucker factor there.   Fortunately, the 76 was to my rear and starboard and was also able to avoid it.   It was like this all the way home until we made it past the entrance to Manila bay.  As we got closer to home the sea started to calm down until we rounded Grande Island into a dead calm Subic Bay.  We arrived pierside approx  22:30 about 28 hours after leaving Palawan. 

The CO, XO most of the rest of the boatguys were all waiting to welcome us home and congratulate us for a good job.  Although we didn’t make it to Borneo, the trip was a huge success.  We were tested in ways you cannot train for.  We were challenged with a problem.  We were able to overcome it and bring our craft and, more importantly, personnel home safely.    Not only is this one of the key moments to the Navy careers of those on this trip, it is one of those adventures that should be remembered as part of the SWCC history. 

 So, why did we name it “The Parrot Run”?   One of the crew, against all advice and, as I recall, COMUSNAVPHIL regs, bought a Parrot off the streets in Puerta Princessa and took it back to Subic.  Surprisingly, The CO  was tickled to death with it and promptly took possession of said birdy as a pet.  Therefore, and forever more the trip was called “The Parrot Run”.

(Added 08-31-2012)SBUDET1htm
PB775 crew Persian Gulf 1988

(added 10-29-2012) Fredrick A. Smith.. Hercules PB Hercules Det Feb- July 1989

I remember at 9AM and the temperature was already 120 degrees... we were close to the last PB Det on the Herc, the powers that be were debating rather than send out another Det just extend us longer. We did wind up staying a little longer than our intended 4 Month deployment. But a Relief DET finally did come out. I remember the good times of "Frigate LIberty" when a Frigate would pull along side the Barge and we would go aboard and get a real Hair Cut and shop at ships store and considered it Liberty ..LOL

Talk about a  switch. In our last days aboard the Herc it seemed like we did allot of Dog and Pony shows and Nightly trying to expend our huge ammo supply, it was like the  4th of July on a regular basis. On our attack runs we would illuminate our target with 81mm Mortar firing illum rounds. As soon as the target was silhouetted  the PBs would make a direct run in at target in echelon right or left formation.

Our Bow 50cals and 81mm with HE the its piggy back 50cal would open up on target, then the PBs would break right or left and then the MK19 and M-60s would engage target depending  which way we broke off.. When we broke contact with the target we would go to a safe area and the Army Little Birds would come in with Hellfire missiles and mini-guns to finish up.

Talk about getting a woody. HOOYAH Boatguys!!!

Fredrick A Smith PB Det. on Herc a few from the HERC another View of HERC 

Fredrick A Smith portrait with M-60

PBMKIII in Persian Gulf 1989. Note 25mm Chain Gun replaced the  40mm Cannon on Bow.

PBMKIII Gulf 1989 Note armament, especially 25mm Chain Gun PB MKIII Crew 1991 Subic Det

SBU-12 PB Crew Subic not Unit One Tower

Fred Smith and 20mm Cannon

PB coming alongside
MKIII PB underway SBD seafox guys Fred Smith Photos for SBUDet1htm  anybody ID this crew? SBD at NSWU-1 Lt Patrick Devaney OIC and Jerry Kernan AOIC and Jimmy Qunlion LPO 91-92 Subic Bay SBD SEAFOX guys

Steve Chance, Gwiz, John Mewhouse, Monroe and ? by SWCL

Gunshoot off PB. Fred with M-60-E-3 Fred Smith Firing PM-5 SMG on Range Tubing In Gulf 1989

Fred and the BOYZ in Thailand with Thai SEALs  on EX UnderSEAL 90-1

(Added 10-29-2012)

Photo credit Pete Diegle Photo credit Pete Diegle   Photo from Todd Bruce      
NSWTG 1991 Desert Storm   Special Boat Unit -12  HSB Dets  1991 Desert Storm.. A Halter HSB doing a towing exercise,    
(Added 01-22-2013)
Okinawa det
Christmas in Okinawa SOCR checking out a beached Iraq craft IF03 Swimcall with the the 24' Ribs in Background  
(Added 01-22-2013)
Subic PL Maintenance on PB's 40mm Subic      

Joseph Zemlin  CWO3 USN
(added 1-28-2013) 

    Like many of my fellow “Boat Guys”, little is known about some of the contributions that we have made over the years.  I’m currently on my 29th year of active duty service in the United States Navy, and I still count myself very fortunate to have served amongst some of the finest our nation has to offer for six glorious years. It’s been my experience that the time I spent in the Special Boat Units (1988-1994) is still, by far the most realistic, relative, and rewarding work that I have done in my military career. I came into the community as a Third Class Petty Officer from the

“haze-gray” surface fleet, and departed a seasoned “Boat Guy” with the rank of First Class Petty Officer. I worked my way up from earning my combatant crewmember qualification to becoming a detachment Officer-In-Charge and Patrol Officer before I left. The Chain-of Command there really built some special “Boat Operators”!  We were independent sailors who could get the mission done, despite the numerous challenges we faced. We were always working with a shoestring budget and expected to do the unexpected. We continually pushed the envelope of unconventional warfare and special boat operations, giving our forces a decisive advantage over our adversaries.  A majority of our command personnel were still filled by fleet sailors like myself, who brought their own rating skills to the Special Warfare Community, and were lead by a predominantly SEAL upper Chain-of Command. We learned on-the-job, back then, and were taught by the seasoned veterans who came before us.

     Very early on, I learned that in the world of Special Warfare the operator was “King”.  If you wanted to succeed you had to perform at a much higher level, and think outside the conventional rules.  You not only brought your original skill sets to the game, you had to learn the skill sets of each member of your boat crew!  Not just a rudimentary proficiency level, but rather a practical mastery of skills that would allow you to win the day.

     The leadership was always looking for individuals who demonstrated a desire to go beyond the normal standards.  They did this because they understood that to be successful in this line of work, you had to be able to work in some of the harshest and most difficult environments without quitting.  The Navy SEALs we worked with counted on that! We were groomed to be there “On-Time” and “On-Target”! Lives depended on it.  It was our way of life.

      It never ceases to amaze me that the level of trust that was entrusted upon my fellow Petty Officer In Charge (POIC’s).  It’s hard for others to comprehend the responsibility that was entrusted to us at such an early age.  Because of the nature of the work, most of specifics of what we accomplished cannot be discussed.  However, I will try to share a few of my experiences and my personal observations to shed some light upon our contributions during Operation Restore Hope.

     Back in fall of 1992, I was assigned duties with a Naval Amphibious Readiness Group, otherwise known as an ARG, as part of a Special Warfare detachment.  This particular ARG consisted of three US Navy Amphibious class ships: USS TRIPOLI (LPH-10), USS JUNEAU (LPD-10), and USS RUSHMORE (LSD-47).  COMMANDER AMPHIBIOUS SQAUDRON THREE was the assigned ARG Commander.  He and his staff were located onboard the USS Tripoli, and our Special Warfare detachment was assigned to the USS JUNEAU (LPD 10). These uniquely diverse amphibious class ships were loaded with a large contingency of United States Marines and a small group of highly trained Special Warfare combatants. These ships were designed to offer a very versatile base of operations for a special breed of warriors who could easily function on land as well in the water.  The Ships could deploy its forces from there respective flight decks, boat decks, and well decks.

      While the USS TRIPOLI (LPH-10), which stands for Amphibious Landing Platform Helicopter, was the largest of the three ships and was shaped rather like a large lunchbox with a flight deck on top.  It was designated as the Command Ship for the ARG Commander.

     The USS RUSHMORE (LSD-47), which stands for an Amphibious Landing Support Dock.  Its amphibious capabilities include a small flight deck, large cranes, and an elongated well deck.  It carried a majority of the heavy equipment needed to support amphibious operations.  Its rather large super structure projected high into the air and on the forward portion of the ships structure; like a oversized head on a dog.   It had gone through some recent modification that classified it as a “Smart-Ship”, which meant that it boasted a smaller crew, with a host of internal computerized monitoring systems to compensate for a smaller crew and was fitted with modern amenities.  It was capable of transporting it compliment in in style. Each berthing unit had its own ventilation exhaust for AC.  It may sound silly by today’s standards but then it was cutting edge for enlisted sailors.

    The third type of amphibious ship was the USS JUNEAU (LPD 10).   It was the smallest of the three but was the best platform to support the SEAL’s and our unit.  It had a good size flight deck for multiple helicopters to launch off.  It also had a good size well deck below and a large crane to support our boat operations.  Its profile was much lower that the other two ships and due to its predominately shallow draft it made for an excellent and versatile platform for us.  The downside is that it had been around for years and the ship was old.  Berthing conditions were sparse and our living quarters was in one of the troop berthing spaces.  It supported our enlisted members for both the SEALS and Boat Guys. Though, it only had limited ventilation and old style troop racks made out of metal frames and canvas cloth with small stuff (cloth cord) to tie the whole thing together. These racks were stacked three high.   We had a one very thin mattress, pillow, two white sheets and a wool blanket.  We would spend many hours in these tight accommodations with close 25 personnel.  You learned to value your own space.  Most of us spent as much of our time either working on our equipment in our load out boxes or on our boats that were on the forward part of the flight deck.  We had one a few modern convenience’s, a TV, and a VCR to watch our small library of movies during our deployment.  During General Quarters we would be locked down like sardines for hours.  Playing a variety of card games or Risk.  I think the ship’s crew took some measure of satisfaction in that fact that we were locked down.  Their was always those who loved the idea of being around the SEAL’s , and then those who hated them for whatever reason. Oddly enough, because most of the Boat Guys came from the fleet we never forgot how good we had it now in comparison.  The end result was that we were usually employed as the go-between for the SEAL’s and the Ships crew. 

   I can remember after our main missions were over and the relief efforts were in full swing we still conducted a early morning mission to take the SEAL’s into the beach.  It was a real mission, how important….I’ll never know, but the Ships crew was not too happy as they were launching us as usual in the very we hours of the morning.  One of the deck crew saw in the gear that was being loaded into my boat was a large bag that looked like a small surfboard carrying case.  After the mission was over and the SEAL’s returned to the ship they realized the Ships’ Deck department had thrown their exercise bars over the side of the ship.  After that mission, tension between the two factions became very jaded.  Luckily, for the SEAL’s if you want to get anything done on a ship you need to know how the games are played.  Many of the young SEAL’s never experienced shipboard life and their only experience was in SPECWAR.  My guys were very good at being able to work in both environments and still get the job done.  If it was one thing I could always count on was the ability of my guys to wheel and deal and work the different personalities to our advantage.  Its simple truth about being deployed and working with very limited resources.   It also helped to have a ships crew that was extremely capable in their own right.   It’s a truth about our line of work…it’s the people that make the real difference, not only the technology.

     All three ships and their crews combined with the Marines, Special Warfare , and support element’s complemented each other well and together they formed a truly formable naval amphibious force.

     We commonly referred this type of deployment as an “ARG Alpha deployment”, and our job was to provide our particular special capabilities in direct support of the ARG Commander.  Though we had our parent command back in Coronado California we operated with the mindset that we would be operating independently for extended periods of time.  We trained and integrated extensively with ARG Alpha elements to project U.S. policy around the world.  Our amphibious forces were designed to take the fight from the sea and establish a beachhead and carry the fight landward.  To successfully accomplish this mission the Navy and Marine leadership utilizes its unconventional warriors to gain the critical eyes on ground, gather data, and carry out a myriad of other sensitive missions against our enemies.

     My primary job on this detachment was as an assigned POIC for 1 of the 3, 24FT Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIB’s) used to deliver SEAL platoon to there objectives.  I was also served as the Assistant Officer In Charge (AOIC) of the Boat Detachment; responsible for leading the other POIC’s and boat crews on missions and assist in briefing and planning our missions to ARG Leadership.

     Each small vessel had a single diesel engine, with stern drive and a single screw.  They were pretty agile and quiet for such a small platform and were much lighter than standard ship boats of the day.  However, they also had a down side that would soon become apparent.

    The boat crews were small and consisted of the POIC, Engineer, and Third Hand.  These small crews and craft would become the primary SEAL delivery platform utilized during naval special warfare operations during Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, Africa from December 1992 to February 1993.

    On 16 October 1992 the ARG departed San Diego CA.  SEAL Team 1 Alpha Platoon, and Special Boat Unit 12 Detachment consisting of three crews and an OIC.    

    We arrived in the vicinity of Oahu, Hawaii on 22nd October and moored all three ships on the 23rd for a night of replenishment and departed once again on the 24th of October to head further west.

     The ARG was scheduled to participate in military exercise Valiant Usher, but those plans were cancelled on 6 November.  The USS JUNEAU (LPD 10) made a brief stop for fuel at White Beach, located in Okinawa Japan and rejoined the USS TRIPOLI (LPH-10) and USS RUSHMORE (LSD-47) on 7 November to head towards the port of Singapore for some scheduled maintenance and liberty before heading off to the Persian Gulf.  We were all looking  forward to visiting Singapore.

     On 10-12 November the USS JUNEAU completed its engineering operational performance tests and entered the strait of Singapore with the USS TRIPOLI (LPH-10), while the USS RUSHMORE (LSD-47) split from the ARG for a stop to a port in Malaysia.  The Rushmore rejoined the ARG on 24 November, and in just a few days the world events, would divert us from our course to a new destination of Mogadishu Somalia.

      Outward bound from Singapore we finishing our boat preparation’s to support the scheduled operations, as my boat in particular, had suffered some damage from a training evolution that had gone awry between San Diego and Hawaii (but that’s another story).  My amazing engineer had spearheaded the much-needed repairs on our boat.  He successfully replaced our diesel engine, repaired the engine cover, and even fabricated a new steering wheel by welding chain links in a circle.  We all joked about it; but his one condition was that at the end of the deployment it would become his memento to take home.  It was that level of pride and ingenuity that made us so special.  There was nothing we could not overcome!

     Little did we know that world events were rapidly changing for the worse?  The United Nations forces in Somalia were under duress and the political unrest had thrown that country into chaos.  Long draughts had caused severe food shortages and local factions were fighting for dominance.  The people of Somalia were starving in large masses and the warlords were fighting to control as much of the few resources that were available.  In response to the turmoil President George Bush decided to act in conjunction with United Nation resolutions.  Orders were given down through the Chain of Command to our ARG Commander to respond.

     I recall being called into a meeting and told that we had new orders.  We were not going to go the Persian Gulf, but instead we were going divert to Africa.  I can remember the feeling in the room?  What the heck is in Africa for us to do?  We were simply told that this was not a training mission and that we would be going in live so start the mission preparations.

    Despite what many people think about how high-tech the military is the fact is that even though we got a lot of new devices to try out we did not have the rapid communication avenues that are common today.  In short, no Internet on an underway ship.  We actually worked in a controlled vacuum of information.  The good thing about this is that we didn’t have to worry about onboard activities being leaked out.  The down side was that we didn’t get a real clear picture of what we were heading into, the way we would today by watching CNN today.  We relied on traditional “Intel” sources of the day.

     On December 5th thru 7th of 1992 we were positioned in the operational area off the coast of Mogadishu, Somalia.   We were far enough off the coast not to be seen from land and in the darkness of the night the USS JUNEAU (LPD 10) moved away from the other ships and proceeded landward.  It was soon thereafter that our boats were ready to be lifted from their trailers, located on the forward Starboard side of the Flight Deck, next to the helicopter hanger.  It was from here that each boat would be lifted up by a large Ships crane and maneuvered by the ships deck-department and moved to the “rail” for launching.   The rail was the side of the ship that was our boarding point for the boat crew.  One after another all three boats were placed into the water and loaded up with our SEAL’s and ready to go to work.  We maneuvered away from the ship and proceed landward, while the USS JUNEAU (LPD 10) headed back out into the black.  She disappeared from our sight as we continued in towards the coast. 

     I can remember the rush of adrenaline as all three boats headed towards our target.  We scanned the coastline for shapes and distinguishing lights and landmark’s and to my amazement only seeing three lights on the whole coast.  There was not a lot to see from the distance we were at and as we got closer there things really didn’t change. 

     How could a modern coastal city have no illumination? It boggled ones mind. Things sure would change over the next few months when our ARG departed and there would be hundreds of lights, over 50 ships anchored off the coast and flights coming into the airport every 30 minutes.

     I can’t emphasize this more, but doing the job we do…stealth is key to our success!  If we did our job right the enemy will never know we are there until it’s to late. 

    It was our responsibility to get the team guys to the right place so they could do their job undetected, and get them out when they were done. Our training had served us all well and even though the SEAL’s had left to perform there assigned missions. We performed our mission to remain undetected and at the ready to support as needed.  It was during this time that I truly became aware of the responsibility of leadership and making sound decisions in the field.  I can remember my concern to get it right.  It was shortly thereafter that my guys had spotted some small waterborne craft closing on our position.  I would be faced with my making my first of many tactical decisions.  We could of engaged but that would of announced our presence and compromise our mission objectives.  I ordered our boats to reverse slowly and the keep darkness of the sea at our back, while we shadowed the contacts, weapons ready and ever watchful, we ensured they did not impede on the SEAL’s mission.   I was very satisfied that I had made the right decision and the both missions ended successfully.  Though my actions were not extraordinary by any means they were right for the moment. 

    We learned through our numerous nightly missions, that one of the drawbacks of our boats was its limited ability to get on step in arduous sea-states. The boats had difficulty achieving optimal speeds to function properly. Because the pitch of the screw had to be matched with sea-state and combined weight of personnel and equipment carried.  In short, we were limited in our overall effectiveness in crappy sea-states.   It was apparent our boats needed more power and more room.  Additionally, the single screw meant that if we suffered a prop casualty we had no redundancy factor to save our hides.  This was of particular danger as we maneuvered into shallow and rocky uncharted waters over the next weeks.  Changing a prop in the darkness of the night is no easy task as your heading towards the surf zone.  Luckily for us we had the forethought to carry multiple props with variable pitches and became proficient in changing out props through repetition.

     In the days that would follow a thorough and accurate hydrographic survey would be completed and would allow our forces to safely operate and land on the different landing zones.  Even the air-cushioned hoover craft required us to make routes of approach.  Though they seldom heeded any directional guidance in actual operations.  I can remember having to take evasive action more than once to avoid being run over by those LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion) jockeys. 

     One of our main objectives in our missions was to ensure that the Mogadishu port facilities were properly evaluated and cleared for future supply off-loads.  This was a difficult assignment because the Port of Mogadishu has very little protection from the incoming waves, and the seas come almost directly in and reverberate off all three sides and makes the pier area extremely chopping to operate in.  The warlords had sunk tugboats in the harbor to block usage, and the waters were fouled by strong currents and sewage run-off.  Across from the mouth of the Harbor was a large container ship that had breached on the rocks and large white crests could be seen crashing against its hull.  It gave us all a very realistic picture of what could happen to the relief efforts if we didn’t do the job right.

    These initial missions don’t get the same press as the Marines landing on the beach, but are nevertheless essential.  CNN and the other major news sources of the day captured the American Forces landing with their faces painted and Rambo like head bandanas.  I remember the intense backlash from our SPECWAR leadership on that matter until it was proven that it was not our personnel that were seen on TV. 

    The Port of Mogadishu was soon secured so relief efforts could start coming in.  In the interim we were assigned to go to neighboring coastal areas to work with the supporting allied forces.  These missions contributed opening up distribution points for the incoming supplies and as we continued on with our tasking more relief ships began to anchor off the coast of Mogadishu, waiting for their turn to off-load.  Soon we had so many ships waiting for their turn to off-load that it was hard to discern whom they belonged to.  Never underestimate the confusion that can occur when many multinational forces work in close proximity to each other.   Also we learned very early on that when going to another nations Ships; one should always bring things to exchange in trade (small memento’s and such).  We also learned that our Navy was one of the very few that was a dry navy still.  We loved going over to the Canadian and Australian Ships for cross training and social events.  They were great hosts, but the French had the best food by far.  We were fortunate that the SEAL’s brought back large bags of fresh French bread.  It was better than gold at the time. In contrast it made the fact that we were all trying to feed the Somalia people all that more ironic. 

   The sad truth is so there were so many people waiting for food that people literally fought in the streets for grain that would fall off the supply trucks.  They fought and then would disappear back into the masses.  It’s a sight that I’ll never forget.  It made me so mad to see the how far a society could devolve.  How there government failed them and the result was that so many people were suffering…for what?  Their society had failed itself.  It was literally an image out of a post apocalyptic movie like “Road Warrior”, and we were trying to feed them all.

    On a positive note we did get a surprise when the President of the United States came out to see first hand how things were being handled.  During his visit our SEAL Team and Boat Unit personnel were utilized to augment Presidents Bush’s personal security forces.  I’ll never forget the sight of his three identical helicopters being washed and polished on the flight deck.  They literally glittered in the sunlight. What a sight off the coast of Somalia. That mission was quite the honor for us.  President Bush looked so tired, it was apparent the stress of the job was taking its toll and he probably had not slept much in many days.  However, he still took the time to thank us before he headed out to his next stop in the Persian Gulf. 

    In February, our stay in Somalia was over and another Amphibious Readiness Group assumed operations in our place.   We proceeded off to our next mission and counted ourselves fortunate that we would all return home to our loved ones.  However, my experiences there will forever change how I viewed the world as a whole. 

Joseph Zemlin  CWO3 USN

(added 04-22-2013) Don Smith photos.

Don Smith on Det. Me on  Final Battle Problem (FPB) at Wilson Cove SCI. Our Dets FPB at SCI PB and 2 Seafoxes.

Seafox heading for SCI.


PBMKIII with SBU-12 insignia on it FPB.
Seafoxes  with SCI in Background FPB. Deployed SUBIC BAY P.I. Don Gossens and Don Smith  Clowning around. SBU-12 Seafox. Note SBU-13 's PCF in background. Spec Boat Det. Unit One Subic Bay P.I.
PL Bay test. Subic PB Crew. SWCL in P.I. Sub Ops  in P/I. Dive ops, hurry up and wait.
Seafox Buddies. SWCL passes a familar Rock in P.I. Red Bottom Seafox of Subic. Subic PB. To the Persian Gulf 87.

Sunset and Real World Ops.

PB Crew in Gulf 87.      
(added 04-22-2013)  Billy Smith photos.
NSWU-1 Quarters with Lt Masi.

PB776 Bat Boat in Gulf 1989.

Det Alpha 1990. Det Julieltt T-shirt. Det Alpha.
PB cruisin'  by Corregidor. Det Hotel. PB MkIII in Guam.

24' Willards on ARG.


(added 04-22-2013)  Pete Diegel, Desert Storm

Scorpian HSB with SEAL zodiac on bow. Scorpian HSB at Ras al Mishab. HSBs heading out on Op Desert Storm. Moving North with a Fountain in the Convoy.

Halter HSB, a late arrival in Op Desert Storm.

Kuwait City Marina with abandoned Iraq Patrol boat

Pete Diegle at Ras al Mishab

HSB sweatshirt HSB sweatshirt  
(added 04-22-2013) Halter HSB Persian Gulf
SBU-12 Halter HSBs. Firing M-14 on Range. Small arms refresher on range. HSB load out on  Air Force C-5. The HSB BOYZ in Bahrain.


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