SBS-1 History - Part 2
SBU-13 SPECIAL OPERATIONS CREW 1981-1984 a personal account from a SOC crewman by Jim Gray
When the SOC instruction mandating SOC got to SBU-13 in 1981 it created quite a buzz in the command. The Active side had begun choosing SOC Team members already. I was chosen to be part of the SOC Reserve crew. I felt honored to be chosen for only the best qualified were being picked for this new concept. The original SOC Reserves from SBU-13 were:
We were all chosen by the Officers of the command (and some voiced regret losing there best crewmen from their boats). We met our C.O. LCDR Thomas R.
Richards, aka "The HULK", and he said this is what the Commodore wants and you will make it work! The HULK was a bear of a man, a SEAL with a wealth of combat experience from Vietnam. This was a man you had to prove yourself to and he demanded results, no matter what your background, a old veteran or new guy.
The C.O wanted to test our mettle right away even though we were all 9533NEC qualified and half us had combat experience. He started us out doing surf passage in an IBS (Inflatable Boat Small). It was a tough weekend, by the time it was over we handled the IBS as a boat crew and learned to read sets of waves, The Officer I couldn't remember and GmG1 Norris decided they would rather go back to the PBs. and eventually got replacements, most notably was HMC Jim Greenough. The C.O always explained why the Training was important and how it could be used in SOC operations. It was mental as well as hands on. We always had to give a PLO brief of all training events we did, be it surf passage, gun shoots, radio, navigation, engineering, map reading, etc. Many times the HULK would come out and observe and sometimes instruct. He took us to Camp Kerry at Niland, CA by the Salton Sea and shot with the SEALs and their weapons, as well as our own. We even shot the Stoner 63 LMG a favorite of the HULK. We learned the basics of quick kill shooting and ground movement from the SEALs. Mission Planning and Un-Conventional Warfare thinking was pounded into us. He made us qualify on every type boat at SBU-13 except for the Brand new stealthy SEAFOX, which the active SOCs controlled. We did go out and ride them and got familiarized with them. We did IBS and Zodac on the open ocean and surf passage. We even got sailing lessons! If you didn't have SERE school yet, you went!
Capt Richards took us up to SBU-11 and familiarized us on PBRs and Mini-ATCs and learning “Rivereine Warfare”. We got foreign weapons training, and as always Mission Planning!
In 1982 Commodore of Special Boat Squadron ONE held a joint exercise called Specter Strike 82 with SBU-11 and SBU-13 and some dets from SBU-12 including the New SEAFOX. We joined up at Point Hueneme. The SOCs and SEAFOXs would act as agressors against the PBs, PCFs and Coast guard assets. The Commodore added a twist to the SOC Crews by mixing up different command’s SOCs together. I wound up in SBU-11's SOC lead by a veteran SEAL GMC George. This cross pollinization brought back new ideas and experiences to each guys own SOC. We used a ASDV as a mother ship and SEPTAR target boats as our Indig. craft. The SOC operations ran from San Clemente Is. to San Nicolas Is to Point Heuneme, and were successful against the SBU coastal forces and Coast Guard Units.
In late 1982 CMDR Tollefson had his Change of Command and SEAL CMDR Bruce van Heertum took over for Command of SBR-1. The new Commodore was a silver star winner from Vietnam, and most notably wrote the point paper saying SEALs should command the SBUs. Like the HULK he wanted to see what his commands were capable of. As a result the SOC training continued at a hectic pace, always mission planning, at sea rendezvous, agent and supplies being landed, etc. etc.
Later in 1983 he held his own Specter Strike 83 exercise at Camp Pendleton and San Clemente Island. My SOC tasking for this exercise was to be agents to be extracted by a SEAFOX off a hostile shore. It was a simple task, a little map reading, movement to extraction point and being there in time for pick-up. The only problem was that the Marines had patrols out looking for us. I was LPO of 3 other SOC agents, Evanouski, Lipe and Johnson and gave our PLO to the Commodore and his staff at his tented HQ. He gave his approval and by the way he was going with us. Sir? Yes Sir! The sun went down, and off we went in the E and E mode all the way to our extraction point, avoiding the Marines. We arrived at the site of extraction which was a beach about 20 feet below a sandy slopping cliff. We went down about 5 feet and dug in, getting off the skyline and avoiding a open beach we waited. The Commodore asked many questions about our training and what we thought about SOC. The SEAFOX was almost late, as we were almost moving out to our secondary extraction point when it showed up. We exchanges our greetings with the SEAFOX and were about to go down when the Commodore said our part of the exercise was over, he's seen enough! We rode back in a jeep and he asked us more questions about SOC.
With the exercise over the Commodore held a hot wash-up debrief. We were putting our gear away when a SBR-1 Staff officer told us to go to the briefing. This was very un-usual, usually only Officers and CPOs attend these debriefs. We were nervous and thought we did something wrong. When we showed up Capt Richards looked surprised to see us and glared and his mustache bristled out! The last thing in the world you wanted was to have the HULK mad at you. So we sat in the back and listened to the debrief. When it came to our part of the SOC op my knees were weak. Commodore Van Heertum said he would debrief this op. which he did, and then said we were the most professional SOC he's seen and shown a high degree of tactical common sense and couldn't believe we were reserves. He then complemented Capt. Richards in training us to high standards.
When it was over we headed back to our compound. The HULK called us over and said he was taken by surprise and he thought we screwed up and he would have to rip our heads off, he then said good job, but standby for the next event.
A month later we found out that The SBU-13 SOC reserves would deploy with a SEAL Platoon to Korea on a SOF exercise called FOAL EAGLE and attached to the South Korean Navy to support the SEALs.
In Oct 1983 we got our orders, built our pallets of SOC portable gear, issued cammies, (greens were still the standard uniform at the SBUs then) and linked up with SEAL Platoon and NSWTU. We flew to Korea on an Air Force C-141, landing at Chinhae, 17 and half hours later. We convoyed up to a South Korean Navy base a few miles from the DMZ. We lived on the base in small open bays with no hot water so the showers were ice cold, The SEAL Plt moved into one bay and we, the SOC, shared with part of a ROK UDT platoon. This turned out to be the best thing that could happen to us. We quickly made friends, shared gear, learned language phrases and some of their history and know them personally.
We then linked up to the combatant craft we would use during the operations Two PKM (Patrol Killer Medium) a 40knot gunboat with a twin 30mm Emerlic mount on bow, two 20mm cannon port and starboard and a 40mm cannon on stern and q crew of 28. I was on PKM 211. Each SOC moved their gear onto the PKM with a ROK UDT interpreter to conduct the ops. We explained to the PKM Boat Captains and Officers the Why, What, and How we were going to help them conduct SEAL Support Missions. We went to Mission Planning with the Boat captains ROK/UDT and our SEALs at NSWTU. Then back on the PKM we made sure the PKM crews knew what to do. During the Foal Eagle Exercise we were the liaison between the SEALs and PKMs. Our training was realistic in Korea and only a few miles from the DMZ. We knew the North Koreans often sent down infiltrators by sea. This was the primary mission of the PKM and we SOCs learned their “CP and I” techniques.
One night with the SEALs ashore a fishing boat strayed into our A.O. The PKM went to full G.Q and got very aggressive and was going to sink it if it didn't identify itself. I just sort casually watched near an M-60. It ended well and the fishing boat left in haste. Many lessons were learned in the month in Korea as well as putting into practice our SOC training. When we had our Post Op Party in Chinhae the SOC received Korean Patrol Boat badges and ROK/ UDT berets. We had some highly un-official SOC patches made and gave some to our ROK buddies.
We flew back to the US feeling very satisfied, but The HULK was gone. He was promoted to CMDR and sent off to El Salvador. A new C.O. was in place, LCDR Ed Cahill, a SEAL, and he didn't know us from Adam at that time.
A couple months later our SBU-13 SOCs was disbanded, shortly followed by SBU-11 and SBU-12. Why? All of the SEAFOXs for the West Coast were now here and they were to be the rapid deployment force, so most of us were assigned to SEAFOXs.
It was a let down to be disbanded with all that training for what, a SEAFOX?
Because of my back ground in SOC in later years, I was able to use indigenous craft in Kuwait and Thailand to support SEALs on exercises, but never under the sanction of SOC. I'm sure there are many other SOC/TOC stories out there to be told floating in the heads of old boatguys.
Personally being a SOC was the best assignment I ever had in the SBUs and feel it made me a better Boat Guy.
On a Closing Note. SBU-13 C.O. Thomas R. Richards "The HULK" rose to the rank of Admiral. He was Commander of all Naval Special Warfare Forces from 1996-1999 and was my guest speaker at my retirement.
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