BMC Thomas Schmidt, (ret)
I was at SBU-12 from May 1987- May 1991, during that time we were involved with operations around the globe, working independently, and hand in hand with the Navy SEALS. It was by-far the most challenging, rewarding and memorable command of my 20 year career.
From all the training op’s at San Clemente island, like SEAL insertion and extraction, cast and recovery, support of rubber duck drops, and HALO jumps. To SERE school in Warner springs and jungle survival (JEST) in the Philippines, we were some of the most highly trained the navy had to offer. That’s one thing Naval Special Warfare believes in train, train, train. This was before the boats were a closed looped community, We were all just a bunch of fleet guy’s, doing some special things. Working with the SEAL teams was an honor and I’ll never forget my time with the “boats“.
I was fortunate to be at SBU-12 during an exciting time. Prior to the first gulf war things were heating up in the Persian gulf. Tankers were being attacked by small boats. One of our missions was to help train the fleet (frigates, destroyers, LST’s, etc) prior to their deployments, by simulated attacks. These were well coordinated operations, The ships were in on everything and they were evaluated on evasive maneuvers, and generally how the crew reacted. We would launch the attack within a certain time frame usually off the coast of San Diego. Most times with 3 or 4 seafoxes and 1 or 2 MKIII patrol boats. We would come screaming out of the early morning fog at full speed and let loose with 50 cal machine guns, M-14’s, and M-16’s all with blanks. All dressed like Somali pirates. On one op we were attacking an LST, we came at them from their stern with a MKIII Patrol boat and 2 seafoxes on each side with everything firing. On the ship, people topside were hitting the deck , we heard them go to “General Quarters“. Then someone noticed the hull number was wrong. And oop’s, some how the wrong LST entered our op area and, yes, we attacked it. Those guys on deck thought they were really under attack. We stopped firing and got the hell out of there as fast as we could, before they returned fire with real bullets. Needless to say the crap hit the fan. That captain was livid.
Operation “Earnest Will” Persian Gulf 1988
We put all of our training to the test when we deployed to the Persian gulf in support of operation “earnest will“. We were the 2nd detachment to deploy, The boats were transported and we flew to Bahrain then we were taken by boat to “Wimbrown VII” a barge about the size of a football field, anchored in the middle of the northern Persian gulf. Housed on this barge were, 4 patrol boats, 2 sea foxes, and crews, a helo deck and hanger with a couple of army sea bat helicopters, a marine security detachment with tow and stinger missiles, a detachment of SEAL’s from teams 1 and 5. and a huge crane capable of lifting the 65ft MKIII patrol boat.
Our primary mission was to escort tankers through the gulf usually with a navy frigate. One escort mission was with the USS Samuel B. Roberts we escorted a Kuwaiti flagged tanker, after we were released and headed back to the barge, we learned that the Roberts had run into, and exploded large MO-8 mine. Causing extensive damage to the ship and injuries to the crew.
Our other mission was long range (80-100 miles) night time patrols. Always two patrol boats running dark. We would investigate any contacts by lighting them up with a huge spotlight, or firing 81 mm mortar illumination rounds. We were looking for any suspicious activity like laying mines. During these patrols we had many things to keep us on our toes. To start with, mines, we knew the enemy was laying mines, most guys would stay topside “just incase”. Imagine Cruising at 20 knots in total darkness, only one guy on top of the pilot house looking through a FLIR. The theory being, if we did hit a mine, hopefully we would be past it before it blew. Luckily we never had to test that theory The other concerns were The Saudi patrol boats, although they were our allies they made it clear that if we came to close they would shoot first and, you know the rest. Saudi Arabian Patrol boats Were like small frigates about 180 ft and loaded to the gills with automatic weapons and missiles. So needless to say we always stayed clear of our friends the Saudis. Another threat was the Iranian so called “navy” our patrols would sometimes take us within 12 miles of Farsi island, an Iranian navy base, they would see us on radar and recognize our formation. They would say things over the radio like “Americans we see you”, “We know were your at”, “Maybe its not you time to die today”, “Maybe it is”. To our dismay, they never tried anything. Other things were, constantly changing seas, dead calm to 25 ft, blowing 60 knots in minutes, sand storms, and sheep, yes I said sheep. For some reason, at times, the gulf was littered with hundreds of dead sheep, so many, it became a hazard to navigation. You never wanted your boat taken down by a sheep. I can’t even tell you all the sheep jokes in the “pre patrol briefings”.
Subic Bay Philippines 1989
Our other deployment was to Subic Bay Philippines what a completely different deployment, most of us couldn’t wait to go, and hated leaving. Not much in the way of combat operations. Mostly just training ops all around hundreds of beautiful islands. In Feb. of 1989 we forward deployed to Korea for Team Spirit 89. We were based in Chinhae and Pohang and did ops all around South Korea and Japan. All in February , cold. We couldn’t wait to get back to tropical Subic bay. Back in Subic we were treated to tour of Corrigador island, this was General Macarthur’s headquarters. I had the honor of standing were MacArther stood when he said “I shall return” just before boarding a PT boat leaving the Philippines.
Lt. Ron Weber our det officer, was a private pilot, and all around great guy. He loved to fly and was always looking for someone to take up. We would rent a small 2-man cesna at cubi pt flying club and fly all around the phillippine islands, What a thrill.
My final duty at SBU-12 was Craftmaster of the ASDV-3, . The ASDV-3 is a converted LCU, a 120 ft, 350 ton landing craft complete with a 5 ton crane, We conducted op’s with the “Auxiliary Seal Delivery Vehicle” a mini 2 man submarine like vessel, We had a decompression chamber on board in case a diver had trouble, extra berthing, a crews lounge, large Craftmaster state room, complete diving apparatus including compressed air to fill dive tanks. Truly the Cadillac of Boats. We would spend a week or two at a time, cruising up and down the California coast, or over to San Clemente island. Craftmaster of the ASDV-3 was closest an enlisted guy can get to command at sea.