It is important for people reading this manuscript to remember that these are the personal recollections of Mr Davis. Time and lack of resources have precluded the researching of facts to draw attention to any errors. The views expressed in this oral history are those of the interviewee only and not the NZDF, RNZN, and the Navy Museum.
This is an interview on the 4th May 1999 taking place at the RNZN Museum, Devonport, Auckland with Warrant Officer G.B Davis of the Maritime Warfare Training Centre, HMNZS TAMAKI. The interviewer is Commodore G.F Hopkins OBE, RNZN (Rtd).
Just to start off with can I call you Greg?
How did you get involved with this operation, did you volunteer?
I think my name was bandied about at the Headquarters. Lieutenant Commander Rands the Staff Officer Manning gave me a phone call, on a Wednesday afternoon in November. He said, “I need to know in the next hour, do you want to go away for three months”. I immediately said, “Where?” and he said, “With the United States Battle Group and it will be over Christmas and we will be leaving in two weeks time”. I said, “I want to talk about it with my wife first, because I have been to the Gulf before over Christmas and I just want to have a talk about it”. He said, “Okay we will give you until tomorrow morning.” I went home and talked about it with my wife and she said, “It has got to be your decision obviously”. I thought about my children and being away for Christmas once again like I said I had been in the Gulf before. I biked to work the next morning and I was actually going to say no. I walked up to his desk and he said, “What are you going to do?” and I said “Yes”, just like that. I think it was too much of an opportunity to pass up and my wife was very supportive as she always has been. That was about a month before we were to go and we couldn’t talk to anyone else about it and I was probably the only one in the team that knew it was going to happen. Once again I think my name was bandied about because I had been to the Gulf before. I had been on HMNZS WELLINGTON `95/96, the first Operation Delta Gulf deployment.
You knew that this was going to be boarding operation?
Yes I did, I was told that it was a boarding operation.
You told me that you were a communications analyst which in a sense, is a bit of unusual thing to do, isn’t it?
I suppose. I think from an operations background I am used to dealing with Captains of ships on a one to one, basis and because I have been to the Gulf before I know the area pretty well operationally as well.
Presumably you would have heard the chatter of the area too?
I suppose. I was pleased to be asked really. We weren’t allowed to say anything to anyone, the press didn’t know and no one in the Navy knew. Just walking around the Base people started talking about this mission that was going on that no one knew anything about. Obviously rumours started and then the rest of the team was asked if they wanted to go.
Did you have a hand in picking the rest of the team?
I wanted to know who they were before they left and I saw the list they were choosing them from and I said, “I am happy with those people who ever goes”.
Because that is often important isn’t it?
Oh it is I think so very important. One of them I didn’t know at all, the stoker, Petty Officer Spragg. I went around and asked people what he was like as before we really got the confirmation that we were going. The two Chiefs and the people that we could have selected were all okay as far as I was concerned anyway, that was important.
As I understood Lieutenant Commander Griggs was going to be coming with us he wasn’t really in the area at the time and I was going to be in charge of the boarding team. I felt it was going to be quite an honour really if it all went ahead. We didn’t really get the go ahead until about the 2nd of December to start preparing, we weren’t allowed to start training or anything. I would have like to have taken the team out to Whangaparaoa for weapons training and team building exercises; we just weren’t allowed to get together as a team at all. The Press didn’t know about it and once again half the Base didn’t know.
Then I think it must have been about a week before we left, we left on the 9th December a week before we were allowed to get together. We got the overalls and equipment made etc, water bottles given to us and bits and pieces and we started planning from there really.
Did you manage to get any weapon training?
No we didn’t.
None at all?
None at all.
Most of you would be pretty green?
Exactly. The last time I fired a pistol was last year I suppose. I had never fired a shotgun before, not a Navy one anyway and that was a bit of concern to me and I kept bringing up that point, we have not had any weapon training prior to going. Some of us hadn’t worked together for many years and I didn’t know one of them at all. It would have been nice to get together as a team but it wasn’t to be. It seemed to be to get these people out of the country, get them there, as quick, as possible.
My experience is when you carry a handgun; you have got to get used to it.
The normal thing and as you will hear later on, the normal thing in the morning was putting on a loaded weapon and a bullet proof vest to go away in, it matures you, suddenly you have got a loaded weapon on you and things can go wrong. I don’t think the team was really aware of the dangers of the area like I was. Saddam Hussein is not a sane man by any stretch of the imagination I don’t think.
Did you have any briefings from the boarding parties that had gone before, the ones in the CANTERBURY and WELLINGTON?
We had a 30 minute briefing from Chief Petty Officer Singe who was CANTERBURY’s boarding party 2IC. We had a briefing from DDI Wellington Defence Intelligence. Once again that wasn’t tailored to what I thought it should have been. It gave the global picture of the area, but it didn’t really tell us what the boardings had been like the last couple of months and what we could expect. That was a bit of concern. Once again I was lucky I knew the area, but I could see that the guys who have never been there before were thinking that this is a dangerous area that we are going to. It is just not your everyday three months away sort of thing and that took a few of them by surprise I believe.
Certainly in both WELLINGTON and CANTERBURY, I have interviewed Jamie Singe and Rick Derksen who seemed to be the king pins of WELLINGTON and CANTERBURY’s boarding party and they certainly went through quite a lot of training with a work up routine.
Yes both ships worked up before they went there basically.
Once again I looked upon the fact that we were all in the New Zealand Navy and we should all be expected to go on these operations. I would have liked to have, had more training before we left, but it wasn’t to be unfortunately.
Were you all physically fit?
I am physically fit, I bike to work each day and I run.
Was that a factor in the selection do you think?
I don’t think so, I think it was down to a Warrant Officer SA and myself. I am really not sure what the final criteria were. I knew Commander Jack Steer pretty well and he knew I would be the right man for the job. I hoped to hook up with my branch, my communications analyst side of things while I was up there and that was another reason for me going as well, but that wasn’t to be in the end for various reasons.
Big health preparations before going?
Yes a lot of jabs for the area. When we left New Zealand they didn’t want us to have the Anthrax injections for whatever reason and then when we got to the Carrier they made us get them. Anyone going to the Gulf has to get Anthrax injections and New Zealand didn’t want us to have them for whatever reason before we left, they maybe thought that the threat wasn’t there. Any American serviceman going to the Gulf has to have Anthrax and so we went along with it.
We didn’t even know what allowances we were getting prior to leaving. In the end we flew out on the 9th December and we still didn’t know what the allowance was going to be and we didn’t find out for another six weeks really. They gave us a big lump sum of seagoing allowance and incidental allowance etc and it was going to be sorted out later on. Which it was in the end, but it was a rush to get away. In fact we were going to go on a Sunday five days after we were given the real nod and I wasn’t too keen on that, I had personal things to go to as well on the Saturday night and I didn’t want to leave early Sunday morning. It turned out to be on the Wednesday afternoon and that was it, we were out of there.
You flew to where?
Singapore, we went to the Carrier Battle Group in Singapore. Once again get to Singapore and we got there late on the Wednesday evening and the NZDSU people came and picked us up and we got through Customs pretty quickly. We got to the hotel and one room was booked for all six of us and so we had to get that sorted out straight away. The next day we had to report to the Carrier, which was anchored out in Singapore. Captain Davidson in Singapore had talked to the Commanding Officer on the Carrier and told him we were here. There are five and a half thousand people on a Carrier and it didn’t really ring a bell obviously that six Kiwis are turning up. We got on the Carrier and no one was really expecting us. I get the impression that this happens a lot, different nationalities end up on the Carrier. I think when we first went out from the Liberty Boat from Clark Quay in Singapore we saw the Carrier and we thought we are going to the Carrier all of a sudden we are up alongside it and got on. They were really good to us and sorted our accommodation etc out.
Being Chief Petty Officers there was no problems, but we weren’t too sure of the rank structure in their Navy. A Petty Officer in their Navy is actually a Petty Officer 1st class or 3rd class is equivalent to an AB, a 2nd class would be a senior AB and a Petty Officer 1st class is a leading hand in our Navy. We didn’t really click on to that at the start. We made a decision to bind our time for a few days and see what the story is. The three Chiefs stayed in the Chiefs mess and the two PO’s stayed in the Medics mess, which had all Petty Officers in there.
We got on the Carrier that first night and stayed that night and we had a days leave in Singapore the next day and so we all went ashore straight away which was good. That was on the Friday and we sailed on the Saturday morning at 8 o’clock.
Was your role and Lieutenant Commander Griggs role quite separate or were you responsible to him?
I had my own administration order from the Maritime Commander as the OIC of the boarding party. He was the senior Naval Officer. In fact he was the senior Naval Officer, but I suppose once we departed to our ship I was in charge of us Kiwis. I would report to him on a weekly basis and tell him how things were going. But we were really on our own out there. He kept an eye on where we were and where they wanted to send us. No once we got out there we were on our own in some respects. He came and saw us.
What sort of rig did you join in, did you have whites?
We wore long whites when we joined the Carrier. We took long whites with us and just a trop shirt and that was the only time that we wore it in the whole three months. Our hats got squashed in our bags for the rest of the three months. We could have joined in overalls I suppose, but we wanted to look good being Kiwis the first time on board.
They go ashore in plain clothes for liberty?
Yes they do definitely they are very hot on that. The Americans are targets basically everywhere they go. As I alluded in my diary especially up in Bahrain I don’t know if the local terrorists have done Kiwi recognition lectures, can they spot us in a group?
Do they have Warrant Officers?
Warrant Officer is equivalent to a Master Chief, but the Warrant Officers in their Navy are actually commissioned. That was a problem, they thought that I was going to be in the wardroom. I kept saying to the guys, “I will see what the Chiefs accommodation is like first before I make the decision”. I didn’t want to be split up from the team at all. Each ship I went to thought I was going to be in wardroom accommodation and it just wouldn’t have worked well.
They presumably wore a stripe did they?
Yes they do.
Is it like the old Warrant Officers of yesteryear?
Yes the New Zealand ones I am not sure what the story was there.
They used to wear a thin stripe like an Ensign?
Yes it is exactly. Most of the Warrant Officers had come through the ranks obviously. They go from Chief straight to Warrant Officer.
They also have Limited Duties Officers in their Navy where you can go and be a Lieutenant for a few years like a Medic be a Lieutenant and then come back again and be a Chief. It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen.
I think many of their helicopter pilots are Warrant Officers?
Yes they are.
They actually go straight in as Warrant Officers and fly helicopters for four years and then out.
Yes that’s the one exactly.
What’s the Chiefs accommodation like?
On the Carrier it was great. In fact the Chiefs on the Carrier are victualled. They pay for their own victualling and they have got their own galley and everything, they are separate from everyone. It is down aft on the Carrier and great accommodation, they have got ice-cream machines, Coke machines, popcorn machines, hotdog machines and machines coming out your ear. There is something like 390 Chiefs on board the ship we were told and the meals went for two hours.
One thing that amazed me was that everyone is in his or her own world on there. One of the Chiefs that showed us around the first day we were on there. We said, “Can you take us up to the flight deck?” and he says, “I have never actually been up there”. He has been on the ship since July and this is December and we looked at him, “Okay fair enough”. Someone else took us up in the end. Even in the Chiefs dining hall or galley we asked one of the young guys working behind the slide, “What time is breakfast in the morning?” and he said, “I only do lunch and dinner I don’t know what time breakfast is”. They are caught up in their own little world. Maybe we would be the same if we had a ship that size I don’t know.
How do you sleep?
There are different berthings all around the ship. There was 85 Chiefs in our berth, they call them berthing not mess decks. The bunks, I found quite claustrophobic actually, they were just metal boxes with a mattress, no springs or anything like that with a foam mattress about two inches thick I suppose.
You didn’t get a cabin?
No not at all.
How many are there in a mess deck?
Eighty five in our one, three high bunks. They had their own laundry and showers at the end of it, which was great. The laundry was really good on the Carrier you can do your laundry anytime you like. A big locker, the lockers were huge, I would say at least twice or three times the size of the ones we have got on our ships. You can hang all your gear in and there were just stacks of room.
Was there a privacy problem with people watch-keeping and coming back all hours of the night and all that sort of thing?
No I didn’t hear a thing. One thing I was a bit concerned about we were talking to the guys. On our ships if you are lying on a mess deck and if there is a Stoker Chief living above you people come and shake them and say, “I have got problems with the boiler” or something like that. I was saying, “We don’t need anyone to come in and say we have got one of the reactors leaking”. Little things like that made us laugh.
It is amazing I got the impression that the Americans always thought they were the end all of people. They are very private they wear dressing gowns around in the mess and it is quite amazing, they are quite personal about things in some respects.
The Chiefs in the US Navy have a higher, status I don’t think is quite the right word, but they certainly have a higher place in things?
Yes they really do. Someone said Chiefs run the Navy and it doesn’t surprise me in some respects.
I think they run the Navy more in the US Navy than they do in our Navy?
If you talk to the Weapons Officer of a US ship in my day he hadn’t a clue about anything?
An officer in their Navy like the Marine Engineering Officer can be doing watches in the operations room and he could be the tactical TACO at the time or the Ops O. I think, like the first Spruance Destroyer we went on, the CO was a nuclear power plant man. He was actually posting back to a Carrier the next posting going from commanding officer of a ship to in charge of the reactors on a Carrier and so it is a funny way of doing things I suppose.
You rode CARL VINSON from Singapore through to the Gulf?
Yes. We were supposed to join USS OLDENDORF two days earlier at Singapore, she was in Thailand on a port visit. Then she went off to do some freedom of navigation exercises against Pakistan to wind them up a bit I suppose saying that we can transit your water if we feel like it. We weren’t there for that reason, politically we weren’t there for that and so we didn’t want to go there. Our intention was still to go to OLDENDORF but we stayed on the Carrier and we went all the way to the Gulf.
How did you fill your day, did they give you anything?
We went around and found our own training on there. We talked to people and everyone did it individually. Normally we were walking around in two’s and three’s together. Someone would come back, like one of the Chiefs and Chief Ruru would say, “Hey we found some guys who will give us some boarding party training”, excellent and so we jacked it up. The explosive ordinance disposal people on board, they had actually been on OLDENDORF having trained their boarding party and so it was great. The Police Department gave us training in unarmed combat and pressure points and escalation of conflict when you are dealing with people and so they were great. They have us tours around the ship etc. The explosive ordnance disposal people gave us rappelling training inside the Carrier in the hangar.
You mean sliding down a rope?
Yes because that was the way you were supposed to climb containers by the book. So at the forward end of the hangar there is a big platform and they set up the rappelling gear on that and we were rappelling off that and tying off halfway down so that you can work hands free. None of us had really done this before except the PTI and the guys did very well I was impressed. A couple of them were a bit shonky about height and they got stuck into it and gave it the Kiwi nudge.
I think this was when DESERT FOX commenced as well. The reason we found out that we were going to war was getting up in the morning; it was on CNN in the mess. They said OPERATION DESERT FOX commenced at 3am this morning and they were just around the bottom of India at that stage. I thought this is a bit of a change of events we didn’t think we were coming here to go to war as well. That day when we were doing rappelling we had to stop repelling because there were thousand pound bombs being wheeled away underneath us and we had to stop while they were doing that.
They were winding up the preparations?
Yes exactly. In fact you didn’t seem to notice it, the Captain got on the main broadcast and said DESERT FOX commences and we will be getting to the Gulf a bit earlier but stayed tuned to CNN for more developments.
There was no internal windup?
No not really it was business as usual it didn’t seem to change at all. We went to action stations or general quarters they call it a couple of times but that was planned anyway just for practise. No it was just like they said business as usual with people going about their work.
Did they raise the damage control status?
No not at all.
I suppose in fact a Carrier being what it is, is there all the time?
Exactly. In the Carrier and I didn’t realise in a big shell you have got the Carrier superstructure but there is a big shell right around the bottom part, it is about a foot thick of steel. It is a big floating box and they have put a big flight deck on top of it with big huge watertight doors. In fact inside the Carrier deck inside the hangar, there are three hangars but it is open the whole way through where they have got big doors that come flying across when there is a fire or something. There is someone in a little control box in each hangar part and he can flick a switch and get those doors across in a few seconds. You wouldn’t want to be in the way of those. It was amazing to walk around in between the aircraft F18’s and F14’s and everyone was quite happy to talk to you and it was great.
Then we got to the Gulf on the 17th or 18th December.
Was that a moment in time as you go through those Straits?
No we went through at midnight and so we were all asleep.
Because I think the WELLINGTON and the CANTERBURY it was a step up.
I think we had hands to battle the night before we went through in WELLINGTON and the next day we knew that we were going to the Gulf now. A number of us had never been in a dangerous situation before as well.
We went through at speed the night of the 17th into the Gulf. Then that day they wanted to launch strikes that night, they were hoping they would, the crew was keen to launch strikes again Iraq because CARL VINSON had never launched strikes in anger before and they were keen to do it. It was possibly the only Carrier that hadn’t. That is when they started saying that we aren’t supposed to be here for this, we are here for boarding operations only. The ball started rolling to get us off the ship. We were supposed to leave on an aircraft about 9 o’clock in the morning or 10 in the morning and that broke down and then a helicopter wasn’t available. In the end that night we got off and went to a destroyer in the evening an Arleigh Burke Destroyer PAUL HAMILTON and we shot across there. They were very welcoming and they knew why we were there and we had to get off the Carrier etc and they had overflow accommodation, very nice accommodation, once again a bit cramped as far as the pit etc, you couldn’t sit up in your bunks. A bit tighter than I was used to anyway. We stayed the night on there.
This is just the boarding party?
No Lieutenant Commander Griggs came as well; we all had to get off.
There was a two helicopter movement to get us anywhere because we had so many bags etc. The next morning we thought that we were going back to the Carrier and so two helicopters came over to get us. The other five went in the first helicopter and I came in the second helicopter I had a yarn to the ship before we left. The Carrier must have only been 15 miles away and I thought we were going back there. We were in the air half an hour and I sort of looked at the guy and I wrote Bahrain on my hand or Carrier and he pointed to Bahrain. That was the first thing I knew we were going to Bahrain. It took an hour to get in there. We were in Bahrain for four days and we went into a nice hotel the Gulf Hotel in Bahrain. We were met by Commander Vogel and another English Commander from the Naval Centre in Bahrain, which was good and they got us settled into the hotel and said they would pick us up the next morning for briefings. We went to briefings at the ASU the next morning from the United States Coastguard personnel, which was really good. Once again I think that was another eye opener for us all and especially the guys that hadn’t been there before how dangerous it was in the Gulf and the different types of boarding operations that would be happening up there. That was a whole day of briefings, it was really good.
It was Ramadan at the time as well and so there was nothing happening during the day out in the streets, no drinking or smoking or anything like that and so we were pretty well confined to the hotel. A curfew was on at 10 o’clock every night as well. We stayed in Bahrain that week and that is when we got some pistol training in on the Christmas Eve. They have got a container in Bahrain on the back of a truck and you can go and have pistol firings and so we all qualified with the Beretta.
We had a quiet Christmas Eve and we had all bought presents for each other $5 presents to pass out on Christmas Eve and the next morning we were up at 5.30 to fly to the Carrier again.
I suppose in Bahrain you can keep in contact with your family?
Yes we all rang home on Christmas Eve, which was nice. A bit hard being away at Christmas though, I have done it before and it was even worse this time I think.
Especially when you have got small children?
Yes young kids exactly. I am lucky I have got in-laws in Auckland here.
The next day we sat around at Bahrain Airport for about six hours waiting for a helicopter to get us out to the Carrier and the guys were pretty down then I think we could think of a thousand better places to be. We got back to the Carrier on Christmas Day and that was anchored out in the Gulf and they were having a great time. It was a relaxed day.
They were celebrating?
Yes without alcohol of course they were having games in the hangar and the officers seemed to be running a lot of things. Everyone was having a relaxed day they were sitting fishing off the fantail and they were just sitting out there at anchor and people were running around the flight deck, it was really nice, a beautiful day. We just joined in and wandered around and relaxed. We had a beautiful Christmas meal; I have got the menu from Christmas Day the Chief’s mess. It was nice to be back on the Carrier, we didn’t really enjoy being ashore. We made a few friends on there, they were giving us a bit of a hard time about being back and running away from the war. In fact we were a bit embarrassed about that being taken off the Carrier. It came from the Prime Minister in the end I believe to get us off the Carrier.
These things do happen?
Oh exactly and we are servicemen we go with whatever the decision is. I suppose we would have liked to stay there. We knew that if anything else happened during the whole deployment we would be taken out of harms way. We were a bit embarrassed about the whole thing, but like I said we just go with the flow I suppose.
When did you start going on patrol up the northern end?
About four days we spent on the Carrier then and then we joined a Spruance Class Destroyer who was up in the Northern Gulf we got flown over to her. She was due to leave the Gulf we only spent four days on her USS FLETCHER and we started boardings on the 31st December the first boardings, myself and two others. That was in a training capacity only, they briefed us really well, they spent a few hours on briefing us the night before they started boardings and we got into it on the 31st.
It was a good indication on how things can change up there. We were supposed to be boarding on the 30th. We would get up in the morning and we made a high speed transit down the Gulf because Commander 5th Fleet was coming out to present some awards to somebody and so they went down there and they did that and we came up that night and we started boarding.
The next day on the 1st January there was another boarding done and so we had all done boardings on the first few days we had, we were really pleased to get into the boardings at that stage.
How was this managed, did you just do it on your own?
No we joined in with their teams?
You joined in with their teams?
Yes and we had our New Zealand flags on, no epaulettes or name tags, but we joined in with their teams.
What did the team consist of?
Okay the team would be made up of 14 people tops I suppose and there would be a 4 man security team, they were the first four people on board a ship, they climb up. A ship will be called up and queried who they are and what they are doing and where they are bound. If they are bound for Iraq they are sent to an anchorage area in the Northern Gulf. They are sent to anchor and then they are told we will be boarding you and their crew is told to muster on their foc’sle or stern. How many people have you got on the bridge? Two people stay on the bridge normally and one in the engine room and the rest of the crew will be mustered on the foc’sle. When we go to do a ship there should be no crewmen anywhere else in the ship. A helicopter will go over first and do a headcount while the boarding team is on the ship getting ready. The helicopter will launch and we will go and do a headcount and make sure that the number they gave them was correct over the radio and then the boarding team will go away. The first four people on board are the security team. They are straight up there and they do a quick secure of the embarkation area and make sure there is nothing hazardous there or people around and they will then go and contain the crew and just stand in front of them.
That wasn’t you?
No we worked in different groups. There was the 4 man security team and then there is a two man search team and a two man team that goes to engineering and a two man cargo search team as well, and one does the superstructure through the cabins. This is on the bigger ships and so that is a 12 man team and a boarding officer and an assistant boarding officer as well. Once again this differed from ship to ship. The FFG went with a smaller team because they didn’t have as many crew members. Each American ship seemed to have different budgets. The Spruance Class the first one we went to they had some very nice gear as far as radios and all the boarding team was wearing flying overalls whereas the other ships seemed to do whatever they came up with. A lot of money seemed to be going towards the Arleigh Burke the new Destroyers and the eighteen year old FFG that we were on last, they seemed to be dipping out in the money stakes I suppose.
I suppose it is the latest issue of naval stores?
They go and purchase their own stuff there is no stores number, they go and get what they want. Once again, different budgets and different ships. I think we equated better to the FFG because they worked hard to keep their ship going as we do with our frigates, it was 18 years old.
What sort of boats do they use?
They have a RHIB, not exactly the same as our rigid hull inflatable but they are similar. Depends on the sea state and they can only take sixteen people in it and so that is the driver and one other and you will get in as many of the boarding team as you can.
Have they gone away from the whaler type of boats, everyone is in RHIBs?
Yes they seem to be the way to go it is got the cushioning effect when you are up the side. They seem to do the job pretty well.
At that stage we were just coming in as extras, we were coming in to learn the ropes and we would join in. One of us would go as security and one would go as a search team or one would go to the bridge just to see how things went. It was all dependent on weapons, we all got given weapons and bullet proof vests as well, but they could only take three extra Kiwis at a time at a max and so they put three of us into one team and two into another one for that situation. It was just learning.
Did everyone carry pistols or did anyone carry shotguns?
No just pistols. The only time shotguns were carried was during a non-compliance boarding where the ship wasn’t stopping and shotguns were taken then. We were on USS FLETCHER for five days I think, four days and five nights and then we transferred to USS FITZGERALD, she was a DDG built in 1995 and so she was pretty brand new and she was really nice.
Yes a destroyer guided missile.
Is that the Arleigh Burke Class?
Both of these ships had fired missiles against Iraq, they had used a lot of their missiles against them. That is another point that was in the back of my mind we were boarding ships that were coming out of Iraq from a ship that had launched missiles into that country and another danger factor I suppose that I was aware of.
We got onto the Arleigh Burke and they were most welcoming to us. In the same token they weren’t really too sure how they were going to use us as well. I had to go and sit down with the Captain, the Ops O and the XO and the Command Master Chief on board and he sort of said, “What are you doing here, what are you about?” I said, “We are going to be joining with your boarding teams Sir.” “What experience have you had?” and we told them we had done a bit of training on the Carrier”. I suppose I tried to make it sound a bit better than we really were just to put their minds at ease and I said, “We would like to fit in with your boarding teams”.
At this stage I felt that it was a flag waving exercise, they had Kiwis to wave to say that they had another Nation up there helping and New Zealand could say that they were helping the effort. I felt that the whole deployment had been jacked up over a few beers at the State Department because no one was really expecting us and that is just the way we looked at it for the whole deployment.
We are sailors and are quite good at being adaptable and we went along with it.
What was the accommodation in the Arleigh Burke and the DDG?
That was good. I was the Warrant Officer and I actually went into the Chiefs mess there, the proper Chiefs mess, there was only one bunk available up there. The other four went down to a Chiefs overflow mess which was a room off the side of a junior rates mess deck, it was adequate for them they were quite happy, but I suppose I had the better accommodation upstairs. They had the use of all our laundry facilities and things like that. They had water to spare on that ship, the Arleigh Burkes seemed to make water, there were no problems with wasting water. As we noticed the senior rates on there wore khakis all the time, you didn’t get dirty on the ship not like the FFG where they wore overalls all the time, that was a different way to go altogether. She was a San Diego based DDG where the Destroyer we had been on the Spruance Class was a Pearl Harbour based ship. They were very competitive I suppose, they wanted to know how the Pearl Harbour guys were and we would say oh they are okay, but you San Diego boys are better of course. When we got to the Norfolk Virginia ship you guys were better than the rest of them of course being diplomatic about it. But no they were very open to us and we all lived in the Chiefs mess on there, the two Petty Officers as well. We sort of clutched into the stage that we were doing things wrong before and a Petty Officer in our Navy is equivalent to a Chief in theirs.
I have got it recorded when we had KAHU the shore base in Guadalcanal during WW2, they still had the same problem.
In fact we met a Petty Officer CT on the Carrier, an Australian Petty Officer and she had to go back to her High Commission to get it sorted. They weren’t too happy at all on the Carrier about a Petty Officer living in the Chiefs mess; they were a bit stand offish about it. It was good having us all together anyway. We were on the Arleigh Burke for about five weeks I think and we didn’t do as many boardings as we would like because she is a missile ship and she is there for other reasons, escorting Aircraft Carriers into Kuwait city and things like that. The number of boardings that we would do was minimal; I can’t remember the exact total it must have been eight possibly out of the whole five weeks. That was a bit disappointing.
Do they exercise the boarding party?
Yes we were doing training quite often and in fact the Master at Arms on there was very keen. Yes we did a lot of baton training and things like that on there and weapon training.
You say you went on an FFG as well?
Yes that was the last five weeks after we came off the Arleigh Burke.
You had a few days on the Spruance?
Yes then we went to the Arleigh Burke.
Did you give me the name of that ship?
Yes it was the FITZGERALD.
Then you had five weeks in an FFG?
That was with USS KLAKRING.
As I said we felt more at home on the FFG I think because that was a closer knit crew.
More like home?
Exactly. We lived in the junior rates accommodation there unfortunately. They apologised because they never had enough accommodation for us, but it was okay and we used the Chiefs showers etc and ablutions. You had to get your laundry done twice a week and it had to go in a bag to the laundry and so it was a bit of step backwards for us. I think we had been spoilt too much on the other two ships.
They had self service type things?
Yes in the Chiefs mess on the modern ships, were bigger ships. These guys on the FFG had to work pretty hard to keep the ship going I suppose. The Captain was pretty good and I always spoke to the Captain and kept him informed every couple of days of how we were going. They were really pleased to have us there.
How many boardings did you do from the FFG?
That was quite a lot?
Yes it was good. We had four Kiwis going with every boarding. We made a difference because they only had ten in the boarding party. Because the Kiwis went along we actually made a difference and got through them faster, the searches etc.
What was the biggest ship you boarded?
73,000 tons a bulk grain carrier.
The smallest one?
About 989 tons. We never boarded any dhows at all.
Am I correct in saying that CANTERBURY and WELLINGTON seem to board more of the smaller ships?
Yes and we were getting right up north there as well just like WELLINGTON and CANTERBURY were. The dhows seemed to be going through the coastal waters now and getting away with it and we very rarely saw dhows at all. I mean we did over 600,000 tons of shipping while we were up there. Some of the climbs up the sides of the ships were quite high. We always did it, but it is always on the back of your mind that one slip and it could be all over.
Were you doing different jobs during every boarding?
Yes we would move around. I would go and do security one day and we would swap around and someone would do one of the search teams. They always liked to have a Kiwi on the bridge at some stage just so the Captain of the ship knew that there was New Zealanders on board as well.
It was quite interesting with some of the Turkish ships and the Greek ships, they are quite aware of New Zealand. The Turks some of them mentioned Gallipoli and the people that died there and the Greeks said they had seen war graves of New Zealanders in Crete and Greece, which was quite amazing.
The boarding officers, how did you get on with them?
Good they were young Lieutenants.
Were they professional?
Yes they appeared to be yes. Once again they were from different branches and they were not the same ones all the time. They would co-ordinate one would do one day and the one would do the other. They seemed to be onto it. I would go along with the boarding officer and assist the boarding officer, but there was nothing for me to do. I am not sure they would have let me go as Assistant Boarding Officer, I probably could have, but I don’t think they would let the Kiwi take the boarding party completely as you probably wouldn’t. It was a bit boring being boarding officer if you were doing a search of a ship which would take six hours and you are standing on the bridge the whole time it was pretty boring on the bridge.
He doesn’t move?
No he stays on the bridge the whole time and co-ordinates it. The assistant boarding officer does the co-ordination between the guys doing the searches, but everyone has got radios on; one radio per two men. You can never be by yourself on a boarding you will always be in pairs and so one will have a radio at all times. The radios were very good, we would be working down the holds and you have contact pretty well right through to the bridge etc.
The container ships were the best I thought because it was hard work and it took longer and you really got stuck into opening containers.
Did you have to open every container?
Yes every container. The ones going into Iraq are normally sealed and you have to cut the padlocks off as well. It seemed a bit of a pointless task at times because you are only checking the front row or the container and see if it was milk powder and okay close it up. Three or four rows back there may have been anything. Apparently inspectors look them at when they get into Iraq anyway.
You can’t burrow into it?
No it would take you weeks to search one ship. They all get to be accessible. They are not allowed to be stacked more than three high in the Gulf, because if you are going to Iraq they have to be easy to climb. You had to climb up the front of them and hang off them with climbing apparatus and tie yourself off to open them up and unbolt them etc. We got into really good routines. If there were ladders in the holds we would get really get stuck into it. There is always reasonable good lighting down there. It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed that sort of thing it was a bit of hard work.
Is there one boarding that sticks out in your mind?
There was one. There was intelligence out said that ships leaving Iraq to be more aware I suppose. With ships coming out of Iraq there were indications that some of the containers may be booby-trapped to kill the VBS member. We were also told that there was a price on the head of a VBS member or Visit, Board and Seize, meaning a boarding party. That was in the back of our minds as well that there may be Iraqi military on the ships, they wanted to do something. I suppose the only people they could get close to the Americans would be a boarding team member on a ship and that was always on the back of our minds as well.
The thing that stood out for me, I wasn’t actually on the boarding, but Chief Petty Officer Cartmell and Petty Officer Waerea were. An Iraqi ship was leaving Iraq and one of their crew members asked for asylum to one of the boarding party members just on the quiet and said, “I want to come to your country”. They couldn’t tell the rest of the crew this. The boarding officer had to be very diplomatic about it and said to the Captain, “We have got difficulties clearing the ship at the moment”. Half the boarding party didn’t know that this guy was on board wanting asylum. I think it took six or seven hours, we are dealing with the boarding party to the ship to the carrier to Washington DC to get this sorted because it is quite a diplomatic incident. In the end they called this guy to the dining hall and said, “Get your gear packed you are coming with us”. No one else knew and so they said, “We want to search your cabin”, and they went in, “Get your gear and they took him straight down the ladder and threw him in the boat and threw a blanket over him and took him back to the destroyer. The finale to that was he was quite happy to get off the ship and the next day he had a change of mind and he wanted to go back to the ship. They tried to talk him out of it or talk to him and see what he wanted and he really wanted to go back and so we found the ship the next day and sent him back again. I am not sure what happened to him in the long term.
Yes I would have thought that a bit crazy.
Yes exactly. He was concerned for his family I believe back home, he hadn’t thought it through, he was a middle-aged guy, a merchant mariner.
I am surprised the Americans would even enter into it?
Well he asked for asylum and I suppose they have got to take everything as it gets thrown at I suppose. That was one.
Another one, there was an Iraqi ship going into Iraq and the Captain of the ship was saying how bad things were in Iraq. He didn’t mind talking about it either I suppose. It was an old ship and there was oil everywhere. A pretty dangerous sort of ship to walk around. The guys had seen rat’s on board it was a real dirty ship. He said his family was suffering in Iraq and he just wished it would all end. Saddam Hussein is in there and is ruining our country, a brave thing for him to say really.
Yes I imagine that many of these ships would be less than sanitary and less than maintained?
Yes the percentage I suppose was 25 percent I wouldn’t want to go to sea on. Some of them were very nice, very modern and well looked after, especially the Korean ships. They had beautiful big double beds in every cabin. It was from Hyundai ship yard. Once they saw a New Zealand flag they seemed to relax and a lot of the Filipino’s recognised it as well, a lot of Filipino seamen there and they seemed to recognise us and they were nice to talk to. The Kiwis, the whole team seemed to have more of a knack than the Americans of breaking the ice I suppose and talking to people. I am not sure whether that is a New Zealand trait or not.
I think it is and I think that the average American tries to be too correct and I think we can talk to people naturally.
Yes we would get up there.
We can kid people?
I remember one Filipino signalman on a Greek ship and he was covered in paint all over his overalls and was saying things like your friend why does he paint his overalls and all the Filipino’s thought that this was a great joke. It broke the ice a wee bit and then you can start questioning them about how or where have you been last just in the conversation. They would start talking about New Zealand; some of them had been to New Zealand on ships. It was good to break the ice.
What about languages was there ever a problem with that?
Did you have interpreters with you at all?
No all the Masters appeared to speak reasonably good English. I am not sure that is required these days, but they seem pretty good. They were all pretty compliant; they wanted to get things out of the way, because he was wasting money sitting there.
Some of the ships coming through are boarded once a week. The MV NOUR she is a container ship and she is through every five or six days.
I get the impression in talking to you and having talked to the WELLINGTON people that the size and shape of ships may have changed in the last year or two going in and out?
Yes I think trade has picked up. We never stopped anything going into the country. There was a lot of vegetable gee I think they call it, there were different items going in and we never stopped anything anyway. A lot of grain going in and soap powder etc. Like I said there was 53,000 tons of grain on that 70,000 ton ship.
That is a big ship?
It was it was huge. It was a long walk from the bridge up to the foc’sle with the passports; it took 10 minutes to get up there. Yes so trade has picked up and the bigger ships are going in.
(End of Tape 1)
(Beginning of Tape 2)
What can we talk about next?
I suppose we were kept in the intelligence picture. We were getting as much information to us Kiwis, as the other Chiefs in the mess were I suppose and we were getting bits of information out of the Chiefs that worked in the Ops room. They would come down and tell us that a couple of planes were shot down in the southern no fly zone today, Iraqi aircraft I should say. They would give us a bit of an update as to what was going on. I am not sure really whether Lieutenant Commander Griggs really knew what we were up to and the dangers involved at times until he came and saw us. He saw us when we were on the Arleigh Burke, he saw us the day we left there. It was good to see him actually and see how things were going down his end. He was by himself on a ship with 5,000, one Kiwi amongst 5,000, we actually had five of us to talk to each other and give each other a hard time and so he had it pretty hard. He was pretty pleased to see us I suppose. Yes we think we had the intelligence picture up to date.
They fed you everything, you were kept fully in the picture?
Yes pretty well. We were allowed to go into the Operations room and especially on the Arleigh Burke they are pretty amazing, Star Wars type operation room, the big screen was there and the Gulf was just mapped out. If they didn’t want us in there, even their ships company weren’t allowed in when the doors were closed and you knew not to go in. They would close them up and take the TAC team for exercises every so often and they would broadcast, “TAC team close up at the rush” sort of thing. We actually went to action stations on the Arleigh Burke, the first time I had done that in my career when two Iraqi patrol boats were supposed to be coming out to sea. The Arleigh Burke was tasked to take them out as they came out. They went to action stations and we were sitting at action stations and I had never done this before for real after 20 years and it sobered us up a bit I suppose. Where would you hide when a missile comes.
How would they have taken them out?
I forget what missiles they would have used.
Yes that would have taken the ship out probably. I think they would have got the aircraft from the Carrier to do it actually, but the ship was there to tidy up if they needed it. I think that if any missiles came out from the Al Fawr Peninsular, Saddam had surface to surface missiles there and they said something like 30 seconds if they fired a missile they would have it out in 30 seconds, very confident with their weapons they were which was nice.
Do they have a gun on an Arleigh Burke a 5 inch gun or was it all missiles?
Yes they had a 5 inch gun as well.
Yes they had Phalanx, the whole gambit. I think the second day that we were on the Arleigh Burke they had a steel beach picnic which is their equivalent of a barbecue. We were sitting on top of the missile launchers and eating our chicken and it was quite inspiring to the Kiwis thinking, you are in a war zone sitting around having a barbecue. On the Arleigh Burke too we were there for a beer issue. After 45 days at sea the Americans get two cans of beer and it was really good being there for that, we got two cans of Heineken each. It was very nice; the wardroom cooked the barbecue. We were at anchor somewhere off Bahrain. That was the idea of R and R being anchored off Bahrain after 35 days at sea.
Do they give their crews liberty and shore leave in the Gulf?
Yes they were restricted while we were there.
Did you go in and visit Bahrain?
Dubai they go too. Of course DESERT FOX had been eyed as a bit of a threat. The Arleigh Burke is a shooter and she is required to get rid of missiles and she wouldn’t want to do that from alongside.
We were a bit concerned because we got taken off the Arleigh Burke and they were going into port the next week and we were going to another ship and we were thinking were are not going to get ashore at all. We didn’t actually come ashore until 52 days after Christmas Day, 52 days we were at sea and we came into Bahrain and it was Threatcon Charlie, where you are not allowed outside the gates of the base. We were inside the gates of the base and we had a few beers and just stayed inside the base. There was a swimming pool and things there but it was pretty restricted and we stayed there for the whole time.
When we came back the last time two weeks later as we were leaving in March the Imir of Bahrain died and the whole country shut down and went into mourning. So the gold souks and everywhere we wanted to go were closed again. I felt sorry for the guys who hadn’t been there because they never got to do any shopping and it is a very cheap place for gold etc. It would have been nice to go home with some of it. That was all part of the experience, I can’t remember the last time someone in our Navy spent seven weeks at sea in a stretch. We were in a war zone at the time as well. I didn’t notice any extra stress or anything. There was a bit of a lack of mail there as well, physical mail.
I remember Lieutenant Commander Griggs saying he has access to Email, did you all?
Yes we all had Email as well.
I suppose your wife has got to be on the other end?
Exactly I am lucky my wife works here at the Naval Base, but two of the guys their wives didn’t have it and my wife was passing information on. Petty Officer Spragg he just never got any mail the whole time we were away and it was a real shame, it was a big problem. If another team goes away is the thing that everyone has to do is to get Email accounts at home before they go.
I suppose really that the Navy should be setting up an Email café in the Kindergarten or something.
Yes that is being processed actually.
Because a lot of the families, won’t have computers at home?
Yes that’s right. Social Service is putting in computers in people’s houses for them for that reason for when WELLINGTON deployed last year. Yes a Cyber Café would be ideal.
How do they work it on board ship, do they have a room for the computers?
No every computer on board is hooked up to the LAN and so you can get on any computer and log on.
On the Spruance Class and the Arleigh Burke which were the bigger ships, their Email consisted of an upload and a download at 9 o’clock in the morning and 9 o’clock at night. You would go in there about 10 o’clock and see if there were any messages from home. But on the FFG they had a modern system, an eighteen year old FFG and you could get on and send a message any time of the day or night. Some guys played Email hockey where you would send an Email to your wife and she would answer straight away. At certain time of the day you would look at the clock and think I will send it now because the kids are going to bed and so that was really good. It was nice getting up in the morning before you go on a boarding and get an Email from home. I was very fortunate I was getting them every day. Physical mail is a real problem. We lost a few bags I believe in the end. They were caught up with in the end but it was too old.
It is very debilitating isn’t it if you are not in touch?
Yes quite right definitely. You are a naval man you understand what it is like. You can lie on your bunk and wonder why aren’t I getting mail and things like that.
It is a sign of the times isn’t it?
Just the ability to do this and I gather our own ships have got Email?
Yes WELLINGTON, but I am not sure how advanced we are now. WELLINGTON had a deployment up in the Far East last year and it was pretty good I hear. It was great seeing an Email from home. I could keep in contact with Lieutenant Commander Griggs like that too. I started using the message system with sending my routine reports, but it was taking too long to get to him on the Carrier and so I Emailed him within security of course and talked to him that way and it was good. I would send him a report.
Did they take any steps to censor mail?
Yes I believe the server, not so much on a ship but where it goes to back in the States would have a key word, it would pick up key words for whatever reason. It is turned off when they are doing their attacks, they will turn it off completely. There will be none until aircraft get home or things like that. Yes it is a bit of a security problem.
I brought it up in one of my reports. I am a communicator and I am used to getting everything signed by the Captain before it leaves the ship when you are at sea and here on the Email I could talk to anyone in the world and say anything I liked if I wanted to.
I am thinking of leakage to the media?
Right and in fact during these ops and I am not sure whether New Zealand heard about it. The Americans still write on the side of the bombs, “Give it to Saddam” and that sort of thing and someone took a photo and sent it home by Email and the press got hold of it. This poor able seaman from North Dakota or something’s name was mud throughout the western world because he had written something like “Happy Ramadan Saddam” or something like that. They actually gave us the opportunity to do this, they said, “Do you Kiwis want to come and write something on the bomb”. We thought the last thing we need is a bomb sticking out of the ground with Jenny Shipley on it.
It would be pretty tempting to do.
When they were launching the attacks I thought I hope they are going to the right place. I even thought about the guys manning the missile launchers in southern Iraq, thinking what did you do wrong to get posted to one of those. Then they did get taken out as well while we were up there. They brought more in.
It was interesting talking, you don’t talk about Iraqi servicemen you mention Saddam. You say Saddam is doing this and Saddam is doing that and it is just the one man that appears to be doing the whole thing. I suppose they used to talk that in the Second World War about Hitler I suppose. Just an aside there, there is one man that is ruining the whole thing for everyone.
I think all these things are becoming too personal aren’t they?
It is like this Kosovo thing?
Exactly civilians are going to get killed in a war.
What about your personal health and what have you did your team have any health problems as such?
No not at all, we kept very well. In fact I got a bug that went around the Carrier while we were there and I got it when we went to Bahrain and I was very sick for a day, just a flu thing. No everyone did very well which was surprising.
You lived through the American food experience?
Yes they are really getting quite sensitive in that area. They will have a lot of salads out for people who want salads. The thing that I noticed, was their eggs they have things like sunny side up and over easy and you, have to get used to their terminology at times.
I suppose there is a temptation to eat too much?
Their food is very appealing isn’t it?
Oh yes. They didn’t appear to have a lot of fatty foods, the menus were okay, not up to our standard in New Zealand because I said we get the fresh vegetables and our chefs are better trained I believe. They seem to cook by queue cards where they have got 160 people for dinner, we are having 160 beef Stroganoffs and they will go to the card and pull it out and any Joe Bloggs is going to do it, the measurements are there. I suppose we do that to some extent here, it was adequate.
Physical fitness, do they run a physical training programme on board?
Yes once again the Arleigh Burkes and these big Spruance Class had better gyms and better equipment etc. A lot of them get into it, the Chiefs especially and I think most the Chiefs were doing physical fitness. On the FFG a lot of the gear was broken and they were making do once again.
Do they have a PTI who jumps everyone around?
No I had a PTI in Chief Ruru and they were very surprised and jealous of the fact that we had that sort of rate in the Navy.
They don’t at all?
No they don’t at all. They seem to be in to bulking up, they want to be looking big. I don’t think that they are as fit as we would be, they just want to be strong and look big, even the young guys are all eating amino acids and all this bulking up sort of food and things like that. Our PTI Des Ruru did a great job, he did a lot of weight programmes for them and weight loss programmes as well which the guys were keen for before they get home and lose weight obviously.
Was sleeping difficult?
No it didn’t appear to be, not like Lieutenant Commander Griggs on the Carrier, he was in a bad spot on there.
In fact it was quite amusing for us before we left the Carrier. We were saying to Lieutenant Commander Griggs and we called him Boss, and we were saying, “Oh Boss we will be in every 14 days going alongside and you will be stuck on the Carrier for three months, have a good time”. That was wrong, he got alongside twice before we did. Once to a briefing and they went to Al Jubayl as well on the Carrier and so it fell back on our faces, a bit of humour.
You could get a good sleep?
Oh yes definitely, we didn’t watch-keep at night or anything like that and so we were off every night in time to watch a video. We watched a lot of videos while we were away.
I suppose everything is video’s?
The old fashioned movies have long gone?
In saying that, on the Arleigh Burke and I was really impressed with it, one night down aft. We used to put the sheets on the hangars and have the reel to reels, but we have got data projectors these days. They took a data projector down there with a video and put big white sheets on the flight deck. They haven’t actually got hangars on the Arleigh Burke, they don’t have helicopters, but a big flight deck and we watched movies down there, it was really nice. A bit cold, it brought back memories of the Leanders anyway.
The Spruance Class had women on board, the big ship we went to the first time. The KLAKRING did not and I want to be politically correct, the ship had a feel about it that I remember from our ships before we had females at sea. You can say what you like about it, it was different it felt comfortable. I am quite happy for the New Zealand women to be in the Navy and to be at sea, but it just had that feel about it that a lot of guys will remember just being an all male ship, there was just some sort of bonding there I suppose.
I can imagine it, I have never served with women at sea, but I could well imagine that.
I have and it is different, I agree that they should be at sea. I can remember what it was like before and there was no guys being bravado in front of women, just getting on with their job and no relationships involved.
I can imagine that females bring an emotion to the problem, whereas we blokes are more a matter of fact like a footy team.
Yes the feeling was good. In fact it was quite amazing we hadn’t seen a women for about five or six weeks and we came alongside one of the big tankers, an American United States Naval Support vessel and a women would say, “Good morning USS KLAKRING”. We would go, “That is a woman’s voice, we haven’t heard one for so long”. We got a helicopter up from the Arleigh Burke up to the FFG up north and the crewman was a woman, she was really pretty. Oh my God it is a woman, we just hadn’t seen one for so long, it sort of hit you all of a sudden to see a smiling female face was nice to see.
How is discipline in these American ships; was there a discipline problem?
No they were very strict and once again the Chiefs seemed to run that side of things. A Chief can ticket a young guy and they can get so many tickets, I forget what they call it, but the Chiefs seemed to have discipline roped up pretty well.
Not a huge raft of Captain’s defaulters?
No not at all. If they do they are slammed pretty well, stoppage of leave in a big way. So on these deployments they don’t get much leave anyway and so if you get stoppage, the same guys can go six months deployment with one days leave possibly. They have things like Personal Development Boards where the Chiefs have got a real interest in the young guys. If they see the young guys aren’t getting ahead as much as they should be they have a panel of Chiefs and this guy comes and sits and they ask him what is wrong and where he is going. They will tell him how they can help him and they want to help him. That is quite good they take a real interest in their juniors. The Chief is like God really.
That would be quite different to our Navy wouldn’t it?
In my day you had a Divisional Chief who might look after 30 of your division and you had a Divisional Officer but maybe there were many other Chiefs who should have been interfacing with the juniors as well?
Yes you are quite right and some branches dip out on that I suppose.
Is there anything else that we can talk about?
The guys were a bit disappointed that there was no Press at home about it. We were up there doing the job. We got an Email from the Maritime Commander saying, “Merry Christmas”. We felt that we were working for the New Zealand Government here and we thought the Prime Minister or someone might send something as well. The American President he rings people in their Navy. I remember being up there last time and on one of the ships we were on and some young able seaman got to speak to the American President on Christmas Day, he rings one of his serviceman. That is something that should be looked into, we are out there doing the job for her, it doesn’t take much, it goes a long way.
Yes I believe it is important.
Did you all get together again with Lieutenant Commander Griggs before you came back?
Yes we got together in Bahrain. One of our team had to come home his father got ill unfortunately and he flew home about three weeks before us and we all got together for the last time as a team in Bahrain on a Friday night before he left. We had a few beers with Lieutenant Commander Griggs but he flew back to the Carrier the next day and we went back on patrol. Then we came back to Bahrain just before we came home and we all met at the hotel again, just the five of us that were left. It was a good relaxing time in the hotel. Even though we couldn’t go shopping we sat around the pool, had a few beers and it was good. But it was nice to get home again. I enjoyed the experience and I hope someone else gets to go next time.
Did they debrief you here when you got home?
Yes they did, the Psych’s had a debrief with us.
What about the operational people?
Yes we did a brief for them and I would like to be better prepared for that. A week after we got back we had a briefing here in the Maritime Warfare Training Centre about our experiences. We did a report as well saying what people should take next time. We can be better prepared next time obviously. Once again we did it without gunners this time, we went away without gunners, but we need gunners to train us up in weapons etc. Once again it is a testimony to the New Zealand Navy, five people who were plucked out of different jobs to go and do the job and we did it well I think and it was great.
(End of Interview)