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Alumni Notes

This is a new section of our website where we hope to publish notes, stories and memories from our alumni  that we hope you will find interesting. Comments are welcome.

USS Wasp Shipboard Diary prepared by Rick Lorenz, July 22, 2016

Monday 27 June, 2016   Today I joined the 22 Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) at Camp Lejeune N.C. as a "Subject Matter Expert," part of the Naval Postgraduate School Regional Security Education Program (RSEP). I will be sailing across the Atlantic with the MEU and the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) on board the USS Wasp LHD-1. The RSEP places university faculty on ships to give security briefings on countries in the region.  I only found out about this program ten days ago when I was asked to join, after a week of preparation I flew from home last Friday. 

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I rode out to the USS Wasp (LHD-1) today on a Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) from Onslow Beach and we expect to be at sea 19 days before I disembark in Spain.  The last time I rode over the beach in an LCAC was in Mogadishu in 1995.  And the last time I crossed Onslow Beach in a landing craft was in 1972 during the Basic School Landing Exercise, riding in the old LVTP-5 “Amtrac” from the well deck of an amphibious assault ship.  Today the Wasp was about 2 miles offshore, waiting to board the final personnel, supplies and vehicles from the beach.

The LCAC is a dramatic innovation in modern amphibious warfare technology. It provides the capability to launch amphibious assaults from points over the horizon (OTH) from up to 50 nautical miles offshore, decreasing risk to ships and personnel. Due to its tremendous over-the-beach capability, the LCAC can access more than 80% of the world's coastlines. The motto is “No Beach Beyond Reach.”  I climbed in behind the “craftmaster,” a Navy E-7, and the ride to the Wasp felt much like an airplane, we entered the well deck of the Wasp and I walked up and checked in with the ship’s crew.

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Tuesday June 28, 2016  I never expected to be at sea again with the Marines.  In my 27 year career I had only about 40 days at sea, that was aboard the USS Belleau Wood in 1995 on the way to Somalia from Singapore for the evacuation of UN troops. Here we have 1,400 Marines on board the Wasp, with about 1,200 more on the two other ships in the ARG.  You can find  more details about the ARG/MEU in file that can be downloaded from this link. http://www.marines.mil/Portals/59/Amphibious%20Ready%20Group%20And%20Marine%20Expeditionary%20Unit%20Overview.pdf The other two ships in our flotilla are the USS Whidbey Island LSD-41 and the USS San Antonio LPD-17, the photo above is from Public Affairs.  Like the Wasp, both ships were the first ones in their “class,” are both have some significance for me.  The Whidbey Island was built in Seattle and I recently spent time in the City of San Antonio with my daughter Marie.

Wednesday June 29, 2016  My partner from the Naval Postgraduate School, Navy Capt. (Retired) Tim Dorey and I have a special status on board, basically civilians but no one exactly knows how we fit in.  Because our program was added very late in the planning cycle, we did not have a regular schedule of briefings when we came aboard.  We start our briefings tomorrow in the Wardroom, subjects to include Maritime Security and The Migration Crisis.  The program is designed to give personnel a “big picture” view of certain countries and regions that they don’t get in the regular training cycle.  I have two presentations next week on Somalia, this is one of the subjects we have been asked to brief.  We will also be briefing about the “Brexit” and how the departure of Britain from the EU presents a risk to European Security and might undermine our relationship with NATO.

Since I have civilian status on the ship I can go where I want and nobody challenges me. I found out that officers have to sign up for a haircut at least a week in advance. So today I walked in to the enlisted barbershop, sat down and tried to spot the most experienced barber. These Marines are assigned from other jobs to give haircuts on the ship.  This was my first haircut from a machine gunner of an infantry unit.  Not a bad haircut, and it was free.

Thursday June 30, 2016.   Burials at Sea.  Today we held a ceremony on the hangar deck to place 21 sets of cremated remains in the sea.  I was not aware that any veteran (or veteran spouse) entitled to a military burial can request interment at sea.  Naval vessels conduct these ceremonies, and later provide photographs, a flag and other honors to the family back at home.   We had remains of Army, Navy and Air Force veterans, and one dependent spouse aboard.   One of the decedents was H. Carter Fisher, a sailor in World War II, who passed away at age 92.   He had participated in the Normandy Invasion and later went to the Pacific aboard the USS Arkansas for the invasion do Iwo Jima.  He remembered seeingthe US flag flying on Mount Surabachi, and I will be sending out a copy of his own story with this diary.  The interment ceremony at sea was very moving, and for me it was a connection to an important part of Marine Corps history.

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Friday July 1, 2016.  We are about half way across the Atlantic now, the seas are calm and I have been getting some exercise in the gym just outside my cabin. Today I was able to get up on the flight deck, we have attack helicopters, Hueys, Harrier jets and a dozen of the newer Osprey MV 22s on board.   Eating three meals a day in the wardroom I am able meet the most fascinating group of people, pilots and maintenance, who run these machines. There are two lawyers on board, and I have been able to spent time with both of them. The Marine lawyer, Major Matt Richardson, is also serving as “XO of Troops,” a very important leadership position. The Navy lawyer, Lt. Greg Gianoni, has a cabin right down the hall from mine.  Practicing law a sea presents a very unique situation, and we had some good conversations at lunch

Saturday July 2, 2016.   We have a variety of aircraft aboard, all suited to this type of ship and the mission at hand.  The AV8B Harrier is a vertical landing and take-off jet designed to provide close air support to the Marines ashore.  The MV 22 Osprey (we have 12 aboard) is the workhorse to get Marines and equipment inland, with a capacity of about 22 Marines with a combat load.  The Cobra helicopter gunships have

a narrow profile and they are each paired with a “Huey” that is a variant of the one made famous in the Viet Nam era.  Finally the ship deploys with a Navy Search and Rescue element flying the MH60 helicopter.  Since my cabin is on the 02 level in the forward part of the ship, just under the flight deck, I am very conscious of flight operations.  The Harriers need the full flight deck to take off, the noise and vibration nearly knocked me out of my bunk on the second night at sea.

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Monday July 4th 2016   Today we had a "steel beach picnic" for 2400 sailors and Marines, it was great fun and I took lots of pictures. We had good weather and someone said that the skipper slowed the ship down from 16 to 8 knots so we could stay in sun, and not move into the rain that was forecast ahead.  The ship’s crew worked very hard to serve 2,600 meals on the flight deck in about 3 hours.  The Navy Chief Petty Officers grilled hamburgers on the stern while people lined up for cold soda, grilled corn and baked beans.  There was a rock band consisting of sailors from the ship, a golf driving range (over the stern) and it was the first real “day off” for most everyone on the ship since they set sail from Norfolk on June 24.

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