COMTHIRDFLEET

Assistant Air Training Officer  
Ford Island, Oahu, Hawaii

May 1979- February 1981

Last Updated:  September 14th, 2022






Map of the Hawaiian Islands

Map of Oahu

Ford Island in 1941




Ford Island- Present





When I checked in to Third Fleet Headquarters on Ford Island, I learned that I would be required to live in officer's housing on Ford Island but that there would be wait of about 60 days before we could move in to our government quarters on the island. We would have to spend that time at a hotel at Waikiki. While in Waikiki, took some leave and then started started taking the ferry to work to start training with my boss, CDR Barry Kunkel. Cathy and I had a great Hawaii vacation until we finally moved in the our quarters on Ford Island.


 





During the day, we could go to Waikiki Beach, snorkel at Hanauma Bay, or drive to the North Shore and enjoy the waves or check out a rainbow!



Hanauma Bay

North Shore

At night, we had dinner in a different restaurant every night and would check out places like the International Village.






Ford Island- 1979/1980 

When we moved to Ford Island 1979 it looked more like the Ford Island of 1941 than the Ford Island of today.  There was no bridge from Oahu to Ford Island.
The only way to travel to and from Ford Island before the bridge was built in the 1980s (other than by air), was by a ferry.



Ford Island was restricted to military personnel, their families. and invited guests 1979 before the bridge was built from Oahu to the island in the 1980s.
 


So basically Ford Island was our private island for those who worked and lived there. We walked, ran, or rode a bike to and from work. We had tennis courts and a swimming pool and we had a bar and food service at the small BOQ on the island.

I don't remember what we would have done about our cars. I don't think we used our cars on the island. We would have had to take our cars on the ferry to go to the commissary, naval exchange, hospital, or to go out to dinner or travel on Oahu. Perhaps we had a place to park them on island?
 




This was not our quarters. But, it looks a lot like ours.

We had three bedrooms and two baths and a very nice lanai that faced Pear Harbor. We had a rim of coconut palm trees that lined our backyard toward the trade winds which came across the harbor.


So far, all the pictures are from Google.

Unfortunately, all my personal pictures from Hawaii were destroyed in a flood.
 I have located some new pictures which I will include in the rest of this memoir




The Mission of COMTHIRDFLEET (C3F) in 1979/1980

The mission of Third Fleet in 1980 was a complex issue. From my perspective and according to Wikopedia, the C3F mission 1979/1980 was to provide air services to naval forces located in Hawaii and for Carrier Battle Groups transiting through the Hawaiian operating area from the West Coast on deployments to the Western Pacific. My job as Assistant Air Training Officer was to work with my boss, the Air Training Officer (CDR Barry Kunkel) to provide air services for fleet units in to accomplish this mission.  In addition, we were also involved in the planning Fleet Exercises for west coast carrier battle group and amphibious group training.


But recently, I have become aware that in 1979/1980, there was also a second group within the C3F staff that were involved in an entirely different mission. This group was attached to the CINCPACFLT and COMSUBPAC staffs and operated out of the CINCPACFLT compound on Oahu. This group was involved with the tracking of Soviet nuclear ballistic missile submarines in the Pacific theater of operations. In 1980, the Soviets were deploying nuclear ballistic missile submarines that were loaded with missiles which were targeted on US continental targets. The range of these nuclear ballistic missiles required the Soviet submarines to operate in the central and eastern Pacific while on station. The specifics of US Navy counter Soviet ballistic missile submarines was and continues to be highly classified. As a result, I was never involved in any aspects of these operations. I suppose that it was important for C3F to be aware of the presence of any Soviet ballistic missile submarines that might be located with our Hawaian Operating Area during our battle group transit exercises.

In 1979 and 1980, the Soviets were also deploying nuclear attack submarines. The mission of these submarines was to locate and track US Navy carrier battle groups and presumably conduct offensive anti carrier battle group missions if directed to do so. So as a result, part of the C3F mission was to work with the CINCPACFLT and COMSUBPAC staffs to keep track of these Soviet nuclear attack submarines. I was not involved in these operations either except in one instance when one of these Soviet nuclear attack submarines decided to get involved in one of our carrier Battle Group transit exercises.

During the transit of one of our battle group transits, a Soviet nuclear attack submarine was attempting trail the aircraft carrier. I was able to figure out how that submarine was detected and it's location passed from Barber's Point P3B aircraft to carrier ASW (anti-submarine warfare) aircraft. Eventually the sub's exact location was passed to one of the carrier's ASW helos which achieved a attack position on the sub.



A significant part of the job was to organize a Schedule of Events (SOE) for transit exercises, fleet exercises, and a Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise and to provide air services and Orange Force opposition for these exercises.

Learning how to produce an SOE was exceptionally valuable for me in subsequent tours of duty.




Flight Time

I didn't start flying right away after reporting for duty. I had to learn about my job first and then had to requalify in the A4 before I could fly with VC1 at Barber's Point. The opportunity came when I was part of the planning for air services from NAS Whidby Island near Seattle, Washington for a Fleet Exercise which took place at the end of September/early October 1979.

I left Ford Island and flew to San Diego to get my requalification in the TA4J with the VF-126 Fighting Seahawks at NAS Miramar
 


TA4J

I flew five flights with VF-126; one flight was a spin training flight in the T2A on September13th and four flights in the TA4F (6.6 hours) from  September 14th through September 26th.


Orange Forces Intelligence Support

After completing my check ride with VF-126 on September 26th, I checked in with VC-7 to start flying in support of Exercise Kernal Potlach which was part of the larger Fleet Exercise. My first flight was on September 28th and was an exceptionally interesting flight.

I took off early in the morning.  The first part of the flight was to Beale AFB in northern California were I picked up some surveillance film which had been flown by a U2 surveillance aircraft.






After I landed my TA4 at Beale AFB, I was driven to the airfield in a USAF blue staff sedan. We watched the U2 land and then took the runway and drove along side the U2. Toward the end of the U2 landing roll out, ground crew members took station on each wing tip to make sure neither wing tip touched the concrete. After a few hours, I was handed a package that contained surveillance photos taken by the U2.  I got back in my trusty TA4 and flew to Esquimalt British Columbia.


Esquimalt British Columbia

Esquimalt was a Royal Canadian Navy Base

I handed the U2 surveillance photos showing the composition of Blue Naval Forces (good guys) to a staff officer of the Royal Canadian Navy Orange Forces (bad guys). I was in charge of providing air services (opposition Orange Force air services) for the Fleet Exercise. After delivering the intelligence photography, I got back in to my trusty TA4 and flew south to NAS Whidby Island, the home base of the Orange air services. I landed just after sunset (.3 hours night flight time). Only 4.1 of flight time (all first pilot time) (3 flights) spread over a long but very interesting day.




VC-7 Orange Forces Flights from NAS Whidby Island





VC-7 TA4J


VC-7 A4F


I flew five Orange Forces air service flights with VC-7 from Whidby Island from September 29th through October 3rd (14.2 flight hours). Four of the flights were in TA4J (9.3 first pilot time; 2.5 co-pilot time. I flew one flight in the single seat A4F ( 2.4 pilot time). These orange air services flights were interesting and showed me first hand what flying exercise air services in support of a Schedule of Events is like from the VC squadron stand point.


There was another aspect of this period at Whidbey Island which is worth mentioning:

This was my first exposure to flying with a female jet aviator. (I never actually flew with Rosemary Canatser in VA-174). Lt Jorgensen was a pilot in VC-7 and was part of the Whidby Island detachment. I flew with her and spent several hours in the Whidby O'Club learning about her story as one of the first group of female jet pilots. Women were not permitted to fly in a fleet squadron and deploy on an aircraft carrier at that time so a VC squadron was the best assignment a female jet pilot could get!

                                                                                                            
I began flying the TA4J with VC-7 at NAS Barbers Point in Hawaii in November, 1979.


VC-1 Patch

VC-1 TA4J

NAS Barbers Point, Oahu, Hawaii



Most of my flights with VC-1 were air services flights such as target towing or flying incoming missile profiles for local ships. I also was able to fly some air services missions for Carrier Battle Groups during Transit Exercises in the Hawaiian Operating Area (HOA). I was also able to fly some navigation training flights which enabled me to get a good look at the topography of all of the main islands: Kauai. Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii especially the spectacular "Rainbow Canyon" of Kauai, and the volcanoes of Kauai and The Big Island of Hawaii. I also got a good look at Niihau, the weatern most island which was privately owned by the Robinson family. Niihau was of interest to us at COMTHIRDFLT because we had a tracking station on the eastern side of the island. I actually flew a few flights (including a couple of MK 76 practice bombing flights) to the Island of Kahoolawe which is located off the southwest coast of Maui. The US Navy used Kahoolawe from WW2 through the 1980s for Marine amphibious training and air to ground bombing practice. I talk more about Kahoolawe later.

I enjoyed flying with VC-1 especially flying with and getting to know the two female pilots who were in VC-1 at the time. They were both exceptional pilots and were well liked in the squadron. They fit right in the best I could tell. I spent more than one evening at the Barber's Point O'Club playing pool with the pilots of VC-1.

One of the high points of flying with VC-1 was getting to know and flying with LCDR Stark Wolkoff.  One night, I was scheduled to fly a night Air Intercept Training Flight with two F4 Phantoms from the Hawaiian Air National Guard. The mission involved my TA4 as the target for the Hawaiian Air National Guard pilots and intercept controllers. On one of these flights, LCDR Stark Wolkoff flew in aback seat of my aircraft. After the flight Stark and I debriefed at the O'Club bar. That night was the beginning of a great friendship. Start Wolkoff was one of the most interesting  people I had the pleasure to know during my Navy career. Here is his story. According to The United States Navy Memorial website, Stark was born on September 2, 1921 in Uniontown. Pennsylvania. He died at home in Spring Hill, Kansas on Sunday, March 22,2009. He retired as a Captain MC USNR. Stark told me that he left about halfway through college at the University of Pennsylvania to join the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He would have been 20 years old when he enlisted. He was selected for officer training and was a tank commander during the Normandy landing and for most of the war after that in the fields of France. He was on an airplane bound for the western Pacific to participate in the attack of Japan when the Japanese surrendered. After the war, let the Army, completed college went to medical school. Toward the end of his very successful professional career in Gynecology and as a professor at the University of Kansas, Stark was looking for a change. Stark told me that he thought back about his days in the Army and missed the relationships he had established in the military.  At age 55, he decided to contact the Air Force and try to get accepted as a flight surgeon. He wanted to fly in the Air Force!