Category Archives: Heroes Among Us

Unsung Heroes

Posted by lex, on January 5th, 2012

Admiration and respect are often given to the dog soldiers and grunt Marines, whose lives in combat theaters are often characterized by hours of boredom marked with moments of terror. We hold our special forces operators in a kind of awe, for the training they undergo even before they are inserted into hostile situations where speed and stealth – two often contradictory attributes – ensure their lethality and survival.

The folks I think deserve more recognition and honor than they often receive however, are the Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians. When they get the call, they go in almost certain that every ounce of their personal courage will be required to perform a task that requires utmost precision in accordance with their rigorous training.

And even then, things can go wrong:

When Navy bomb disposal technician Chad Regelin was named 2011 USO sailor of the year, he couldn’t make it to the October gala in Washington, D.C.

He was in Afghanistan, standing in for a wounded bomb technician.

That job took his life Monday. Regelin, a 24-year-old sailor assigned to a San Diego unit, was killed during combat operations with a Marine Corps special operations company in Helmand province, Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced.

His brother Ryan said the sailor was on foot patrol when an explosion occurred. Regelin went to check it out and a second bomb, detonated via a wire, went off…

Regelin was nominated for the USO award — which goes to a junior enlisted person for a specific act of bravery in the prior calendar year — for an earlier Afghanistan tour, from August 2010 to March 2011.

During that deployment, Regelin personally found and destroyed 24 roadside explosives, trained 13 people in bomb detection and took part in 20 firefights.

During a two-day stretch of intense fighting, the sailor stayed calm as the enemy attacked while he was in the process of disarming a 60-pound bomb. His cool head helped save the 10-person unit that he was leading.

The Navy nominated Regelin, a petty officer 1st class stationed at San Diego Naval Base, for the Bronze Star with V for the incident. The sailor’s commander called Regelin a star.

Ave atque vale, frater.

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, GWOT, Heroes Among Us, Navy

My Small Moment With Chuck Yeager

Since his retirement from the Air Force in the late 70s, General Yeager lived just “up the hill” in Nevada County, in part of our historic gold rush region.

He certainly was an American Icon. Not only for what he did, being the first person to break the sound barrier, but the way he did it.

Which started the evening before in the desert at Pancho Barnes’ Happy Bottom Riding Club. By the way, do you know how this legendary place, long since gone, got its name? I didn’t know for years, and as is my nature kept looking until I found the answer.

Pancho rented horses, horses allegedly so gentle, that the rider was guaranteed a “happy bottom” in riding them!

I’ve had an Internet friend for years, who is a retired Air Force test pilot, who remembered for years seeing the ruins of Pancho’s on the edge of Edwards (called Muroc in its early days).

Anyway, the icon part of the story started the evening before that historic October morning, when Yeager fell off one of those gentle horses and broke some ribs.

And since he didn’t want the mission to be cancelled the next morning and in all probability lose his ride, kept this news from the powers-that-be.

Sidebar: If someone else had taken his place next morning, would he have survived? Yeager encountered extreme buffeting in that Bell, and nearly lost control. One of the reasons they learned later on was because of the conventional elevators on the horizontal stabilizer. The fuselage was shaped like a .50 caliber bullet, but the empennage was like all empennages at the time. With a conventional horizontal stabilizer.

A typical subsonic empennage, with elevators and horizontal stabilizer. Whether on the simplest Cessna or the largest Boeing 747, this is the empennage.

What they learned from this flight, with help from our cousins the British (OK, full disclosure – I think from their own experiments into supersonic flight, they contributed this design for us!) A stabilator made the transition to supersonic flight almost seamless. Unlike the illustration above a stabilator uses the entire horizontal stabilizer as an elevator, and pivots on the fuselage.

Since this site is dedicated to Hizzoner, here is the stabilator from an F/A-18 Hornet:

From Yeager’s flight on an early October morning in 1947 to the Hornet – a stabilator to ease the transition at the sound barrier.

So anyway, back to the making of an icon. Despite the pain of broken ribs (alas, no happy bottom the previous evening!), Yeager shows up at the appointed time and because of the pain, asks his friend to help him by giving him a lever to close the lock on the hatch, which was a broom handle.

On that cold crisp desert morning, those on the ground heard a shock wave, and assumed the worst. And Yeager flew into aviation history.

I remember some passages from his autobiography I read years ago. How many airline pilots of the 50s, in talking on the passenger intercom, wanted to imitate that West Virginia drawl. How in training at Tonopah in an Aircobra, witnessed terrible attrition from new pilots.

How over in Germany, and seeing an overwhelming number of 109s and Focke-Wulfs, would just dive into the melee.

How in one of those melees, he became an ace – shooting down 5 planes- in a matter of minutes.

Part of his secret, he would admit, was his vision which was 20-10.

For a fighter pilot, particularly one before all the electronic days, being able to see enemy planes first could mean the difference between life and death.

Chuck was the epitome of cool.

I would like to think that there is some party at Pancho’s now.

Oh, and about my own small moment? It was so small I think I can say with certainty that Chuck wouldn’t even remember it.

It was probably during the time during the 80s he was associated with AC-Delco.

I was going south down Hwy 99, a rather boring and desolate highway running down the middle of the Central Valley, in my Toyota. And as was my nature at the time, trying to eck out a few MPH over the limit, while hoping not to attract the attention of the Highway Patrol.

Anyway, somewhere below Galt, I saw a metallic blue Corvette just ambling along in the right lane.

Which caught my attention because, well, most Corvette drivers wouldn’t putt along at 55 on the highway.

As I got closer I saw the license plate – “Bell X1A“. I was wondering at that moment if the driver was who I thought it might be.

As I passed, sure enough it was General Yeager, driving with nothing to prove.

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Filed under Flying, Heroes Among Us, History

Remembering Danny Dietz

Posted by lex On July 5th, 2007

Rifle and all: **

LITTLETON, Colo. (July 4, 2007) – Family, friends and Littleton city officials view the larger-than-life bronze statue of Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny P. Dietz, who was honored by his hometown of Littleton, by dedicating the statue and park near his childhood family home. An estimated 3,000 people crowded the new park to honor the Sailor’s memory. Gunners Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz was killed in action while conducting counter-terrorism operations in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. Coalition forces located the Sailor and notified the family six days later on July 4. The Memorial dedication marks the second anniversary of this event. U.S. Navy photo by Boatswains Mate 1st Class Chet Mowrey

I had a post on this story up several months ago. A story that should have been about a brave petty officer who valiantly gave his life in support of his friends and in his country’s noble cause, but that instead turned on the issue of whether a statue of a Navy SEAL with a rifle in a city park where children might see would be somehow “inappropriate.” The local police department was sufficiently concerned that the statue might be vandalized before it was unveiled that they enlisted the assistance ** of the Colorado chapter of Rolling Thunder to help them maintain a vigil.

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, GWOT, Heroes Among Us, In Memoriam, SEALs, Uncategorized

Don’t try this at home

Posted by lex, on September 5, 2006

Received in an email (tks, dwas):

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Filed under Afghanistan, Army Aviation, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, GWOT, Heroes Among Us, Lex

A Carroll “Lex” LeFon Primer

testLex

Who was Carroll LeFon?

The best description of Lex that I’ve heard is “Imagine Hemingway flew fighters…and liked people.

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Filed under Airplanes, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Faith, Family, Fighter Pilot Stories, Flying, Funny Stuff, Good Stuff, GWOT, Heroes Among Us, Humor, In Memoriam, Index, International Affairs, Iraq, Leadership, Lex, Lexicans, Life, Naval Aviation, Naval History, Navy, Neptunus Lex, Night Bounce, Politics and Culture, San Diego, Tales Of The Sea Service, USNA, Valor

A Vietnam Hero

To the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese, he was known as “White Feather” for the feather he wore in his cap, and they had a $30,000 reward for him. They sent their own snipers to get him, and he killed them all.

One of their best, named The Cobra, had him in his sights 500 yards away, and Carlos Hathcock, seeing the flash of his scope lens through his own scope, fired a fraction of a second first.

His bullet went through the enemy’s scope, killing him. Five hundred yards and hitting a lens maybe an inch in diameter.

A number of Hollywood movies have used this as a scene, but only Hathcock really did it.

The SEAL’s own Chris Kyle, considered to be the deadliest sniper in military history, credited Carlos Hathcock as his inspiration.

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Filed under Heroes Among Us, Marines, Vietnam

Iwo Jima 75th Anniversary

Rosenthal

On February 19, 1945, Operation Detachment commenced and the landings on Iwo Jima began.

Seventy-five years ago, U.S. Marines came ashore on a desolate eight-square-mile volcanic island dominated by Mount Suribachi and located roughly halfway between the Marianas and Tokyo. Iwo Jima’s value lay in its airfields. B-29 Superfortresses that were damaged or low on fuel could land there, and Army Air Forces fighters based on the island could escort the bombers to their targets in Japan. Three Marine divisions—more than 70,000 men—had the task of seizing the island. But an operation that U.S. commanders forecast would take a week to complete would stretch out to five weeks, and the Marines’ determination and sacrifice on Iwo Jima would become enduring touchstones for the Corps.

Before that time, the Marines didn’t know that the Japanese would be in a labyrinth of tunnels, bunkers, and caves, prepared over many months in anticipation of their landing. They could wait out the massive bombardments of the Navy ships. One tunnel was 90′ deep.

They had seriously underestimated the Japanese defenses. The battle would last 36 bloody days. For every square mile of that island, more than 800 Marines would lose their lives.

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Filed under Heroes Among Us, History, Marines, Navy, Valor

John Basilone

If you drive up I5 from San Diego in a half hour or so you’ll transit the massive USMC base of Camp Pendleton. If you are lucky, looking to the left towards the ocean, you may see some Osprey‘s landing or taking off.

And you will pass a sign on the right telling you that you are on the Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone Highway.

I wonder of the many thousands of people passing that sign every day know who John Basilone was?

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Filed under Heroes Among Us, History, Valor

James E. Williams

James E Williams

In between working on another post, which may take a few days, I was watching a program on Amazon Prime involving that famous trio, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May.

Except this wasn’t the Grand Tour but a boat trip through Cambodia and the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. It was a pretty interesting program, with the usual silly assortment of vehicles.

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Filed under Heroes Among Us, History, Naval History, Navy, Vietnam

The Real James Bond

The Real James Bond

The picture that was above the bar at the Park Distillery, Banff, Alberta, Canada.

While I was at lake Louise, our wedding party headed 40 miles east on the Trans Canada Highway and had a dinner at Banff. The Park Distillery is a bit different from the trend these days. Instead of yet another beer microbrewery/restaurant, they make gin. And they are pretty famous for it apparently.

The restaurant – on the same site – isn’t bad either.

After our group finished dinner and we were on the way out  ready to leave on our bus,  someone on the staff casually mentioned about the fellow in the picture overlooking the bar.

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Filed under Heroes Among Us, History, Small Stuff