Billy Hoffmann SBU-13


Billy Hoffmann - SBU-13 History


LCPLs amongst PBs and PTFs and ASDV at Coronado NAB
UDT swimmers on Paradrop An SBU-13 PL heads out to support combat swimmers with Point Loma in Background.
A jumper lands between zodiac and LCPL a MK11 LCPL supporting BUDS off Silver Strand

SBU-13 crews doing Riverine Training with SBUXI's PBRs and MATCs
The First SBU-13 SEAFOX      

Good evening, Jim ~

I was at SBU-13 from 1981 to 1983 and I learned (OJT) on one of our green LCPL's and after a break-in period became coxswain of my own boat. I just loved it. As you well remember, sometimes we provided boat support to the UDT teams (SDV and otherwise), occasionally SEAL Team 1, Force RECON and even had the chance to work with some Army Rangers once as they were conducting Helo water insertions and recovery training.

Considering that SBU-13 was my third command, it wasn't until I got assigned there that I really started to enjoy and take pride in the Navy. Back in '81 through '83 SBU-13 was a Reserve unit and we did not deploy like the SBU -12 guys. It was with some envy that the fellers' in unit -12 would tell me of their deployments to the P.I..

When I first checked aboard as a seaman, the two PTF boats were still alongside the pier. Fascinating boats... kind of sad that they were left in such disrepair. I'll bet they were remarkable in their day.

I spent the first year and half (approx.) being a coxswain on one of the LCPL's, this prior to the SeaFox. Unit -12 was the first to get them and eventually we (SBU-13) got a couple. You may remember that one fellow named Mike Douglas. He had been in law enforcement for ages and came back into the Navy as a BM1, this to finish up his last five years or so and retire. For a short period we did some OPS together on one of the Seafox's. One time we did a public relation event and took the Seafox and a PB up to Santa Barbara and gave tours & rides to the public. That was the place for liberty. I can't say I was all that impressed with those Seafoxes.

  I remember SBU-13 training with SBU #11.The PB guys drove up the coast  but I think the bulk of us were driven up to Vallejo in a bus. I really enjoyed working with the River Boatguys up there and was extremely impressed with their P-Bar's, ATC's and such. They had Swift boats back then but I personally didn't get a chance to train on them. We stayed in their shoddy barracks. One of the SEAL's assigned to SBU-11 was a crusty old Vietnam veteran, a Senior Chief with glasses, Wade Puckett, and he was an outstanding instructor. I paid close attention to his teachings about water-borne guard post, riverine operations, boat/personnel searches, etc. That trip was quite beneficial in my book. I think it was a real eye-opener to us from SBU-13 as we were a Coastal and and Seal Support Unit.

SBU-13 did have a form of S.O.C. crews. There was talk of attending Army jump-school at Ft. Benning, but that didn't materialize when I was there. Some of us got some extra training: SERE School at FASOTRAGRUPAC (the nine day C.O.I.) and later a three-day "advanced" SERE seminar, both of which were outstanding. I attended the Assault Boat Coxswain School there at NAB and had a great time learning how to drive the Higgin's Boat, Mike 6 and 8 boats. We even attended a one-week long sailing school in San Diego. The objective was to prepare and be ready to insert/extract a SPECOP's team via "indigenous" craft. After that fun training, I never stepped aboard another sailboat while at SBU... Go figure.  I personally felt we didn't shoot enough but then the PL's did not carry crew served weapons. Compared to the Modern SWCC of today it was a veritable  "McHale's Navy" back then.

Though the training I received was somewhat limited, I took the job at-hand very seriously and did my level best. Had a blast working with the frogmen and whether it was a "tactical" night-ops or be it a day-time "Dive Requal", I took pride in doing the best I could for the guys.

Back then, in our little Quonset hut near the watch-tower, we had a Boatswain's Mate 1st Class who was our supervisor. He was a Mexican/American fellow who was a highly knowledgeable fleet-sailor. He was a great guy and taught me some good stuff as I studied for BM 3rd Class.

Toward the end of my tour there, I was assigned to one of the PB's. There was a BM1 who had a beard; he was a real squared-away sailor and he was the OIC of that particular PB. Later on a black fella', also a BM1, took over the boat. We did a few trips out to San Clemente Island for a week at-a-time.

The last year-and-a-half I spent at SBU-13, I applied myself in getting ready for BUD/S. CDR Richards approved my request to take the screening test and Dive Physical. However, prior to all that I had met a frog named John Prior, a PO1 in one of the Units there at NAB. When I met John, he was working with the dolphins (you know the deal on all that...). He took me under his wing and helped me get ready. We spent over a year running, swimming, doing obstacle courses, etc., etc. In addition to all that, because I wasn't a high school graduate, I attended evening classes at the Coronado High School (adult education), this to help me with mathematics. Without the latter I would never have been able to pass muster in Dive Physics and of course, demolitions. I can say with confidence that being assigned to Special Boat Unit-13 was overall an great experience; it also served as a spring-board to becoming a frogman. You and I have a unique and special background Jim. Think about what John Paul Jones said, "Give me a fast boat for I intend to go into harms way."

 After graduating from BUD/S Class #126 in the spring of '84, I was assigned to SEAL Team 2 for four years. In the fall of '87 I tried out for SEAL VI --- that is Team 6. Was there from Dec. of '87 until my medical discharge in Nov. of '96 when I had to leave the service after only eighteen years. To say the least, I had quite an exciting time at those units and worked with some of the most hard-core fellers' imaginable.

I never worked with the boys in SBU-26 but I did participate in Operation Just Cause down in Panama. We lost about twenty-four (24) special operators down there. Four brave men from SEAL Team 4 were whacked while conducting an operation at Patilla Airfield during "H-Hour". You may recall hearing that two platoons were sent there to disable Gen. Noriega's private aircraft. The real pisser in all of this is that these men were highly constrained by asinine Rules of Engagement (ROE) --- that is, they were forbidden to shoot first! The other twenty-some guys that died down there were men from Task Force 160th Special Operations Air Regiment (SOAR), Army Rangers and I think one man from Delta SFOD may have been killed. It really sucked having to attend memorial services in the midst of it all, too.

It was quite unique in that "we" (Joint Special Operations, in general) locked-down the entire country in a very short period of time. It was a spectacular operation. I do recall there was a Special Boat Unit down there too, but I didn't know any of the guys there. They did provide one of our Assault Teams (RED) with boat support during a ship-board search of some freighter. One of my old Team-mates named Randy B. and his dive-buddy were the boys who planted explosives on one of the Panamanian patrol boats. I think he was assigned to SEAL 2 during that mission. They blew that boat just as "H-Hour" went down and apparently that thing actually lifted out of the water when the charge went off... BAM! But enough Sea Stories.

Regarding some separate issues, Jim: thanks for adding my name and contact info to the alumni list. I ain't no pastor or theologian, but I do love the Lord Jesus and my neighbor as myself. I have a big heart for veterans, especially the men in Special Warfare - whether they be special boat operators, admin/support staff or frogmen. You'll have to pardon my enthusiasm. If I can ever be of any assistance to you or the alumni (active, disabled veterans or retired) then it would be an honor.  Be advised that due to financial limitations & medical considerations that traveling is difficult.

With care,  Billy          email:

"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep. For He commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.

They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses.

He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so He bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!"

The book of Psalms 107:23-31 [KJV]