Hansen - SBU-13



Some Memories of our time in Kuwait -  Bill Hansen.



Jim, my recollections regarding the content of the training program are consistent with what you’ve written about.  And, I remember that we intended to offer equivalent training to the CG.  So, I won’t cover that aspect, since you’ve ably described the course of instruction.  Instead, I’ll just offer some memories that have stuck with me.

In your excellent writeup of your experiences with the Kuwait Navy side, you noted that we on the CG side were not happy with your conduct of the FTX.   It is true we were unhappy, but the disappointment was with our CG teams, not our MTT colleagues.   What it boils down to is they ignored all of the work we had done throughout the training.  For example, we spent a fair amount of time in patrolling tactics, including silent running and listening for other boat activity, varying patrol patterns, etc.  The concept of silence  was a particular challenge, as the CG crews really enjoyed running those slick Cougars at high speed at all times.  They were good boat operators, including executing various formations we taught and rendezvousing at sea.   On the other hand, it took some doing to get them to think as a military unit, and that proved our downfall in the FTX.

Here’s what happened:  as we manned up that night the CG officers executed an inexplicable crew change.   As the boats started up and pulled away from the pier, my KCG LT counterpart hopped onto a different boat and took off.  I was left with a charming fellow whose English was no better than my Arabic.  Considering that the LT (pretty much the lone competent English speaker who knew our plans for the FTX) had been attached to my hip every moment that we were training or on boats, the timing was exasperating.  I wondered if I was the dupe in a “Candid Camera” or “Punk’d” moment.  My worst fears were realized shortly after we left the CG base breakwater, as the boats went to full throttle with sirens blaring and blue police lights flashing, a true WTF moment.  They always liked grand departures, and we had worked every day to convince them why that was not a good choice for a tactical patrol.   Each of us frantically worked to get our respective boat captain to turn that sh#t off and slow down so we could establish a more tactical disposition, but it was too little too late.  Your KN guys were doing what they were taught, and we were KIA (thankfully, only simulated) in short order. 

  One significant difference from your experience was the post-exercise extended stay for a lucky few of us.  Me, GMG2 Bill Williams (now a LCDR in EOD), BM2 Brian Ekberg (RIP) and GMG2 Willie Chandler  were to remain in Kuwait for another 1-3 months and continue the training.  The plan, as I recall, included getting  some 24-ft RIBs for our use.  Unfortunately, shortly after you and the rest of the exercise group returned CONUS, political issues put a halt to further MTT activities.   We were informed that we would be heading home, and so we palletized all our gear in preparation for a C-141 flight, only to be told the flight was on hold until the political issues could be worked out.   So, with little more than a change of underwear and toiletries we were off to the Kuwait Ministry of Defense base for an indeterminate stay (I think it ended up being a week or two).  We spent the time exercising, eating, and drinking.

The highlight of that otherwise forgettable interlude was getting drunk on a couple occasions.  One involved a package of “engine parts”, which included a nice selection of booze.   If I recall, someone at the unit put that together and made it look official.  We also received a liter bottle of whiskey from a Special Forces major who had been our logistics liaison at Camp Doha.  At our last meeting, he told Scott to grab the case of water off his desk, “for the road”.   Scott refused a few times despite our backing of the major’s insistence.    Apparently, he hadn’t noticed that the case had one bottle that clearly was not the color of water, like the rest of us had.  We had a good night with that one, although the ST-3 platoon LT chastised us a bit for the noise coming from our room.

The flight back was interesting.  On the way out, we were in a chartered 747, sitting in First Class.  On the way back, it was C-141 time, with multiple stops because the 141 fleet was limited to a lower altitude due to wing fatigue.  That was comforting news.   We overnighted in Germany, and had a grand old time in Frankfurt.  My enduring memory involves me trying to be the responsible officer, giving the guys a stern lecture about the need to control ourselves because we had to be ready to go to the airport at 6 a.m.  Well, only one of us was late; Care to guess who that was?  My wake-up call was Brian Ekberg pounding on my door to tell me it was 6:15 and they were all downstairs on the bus, waiting for me.  And, yes, there was a full ration of shit for me when I finally showed up.  Rank had no meaning, and the only reasonable response was to sit there and take it like a man;  I earned it and they deserved the chance to dish it out. 

This deployment was one of many highlights in my all too brief stint with 13.  The chance to get out in the field from what was ostensibly shore duty and to operate in the high speed, no BS SBU world with a bunch a great guys is a cherished memory.  The disestablishment of 13 was a blow, ending my tour and naval career a year early.  Over 20 years later, not a day goes by that I don’t miss it.