Western Regions Conference 2016


Opening – morning – Sept. 27th.

Ken Blue, Sacramento Valley chapter CEO, called the meeting to order at 9:00.  The U. S. flag was presented by Frank Mendez, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited. A benediction was recited and a moment of silence in honor of departed members followed.

Shirley Cauble, Oregon chapter, updated us on the progress, or lack of same,  of a Merchant Marine display at the Florence, Oregon museum.  The Caubles have contributed quite a number of items the display and Shirley spoke of visiting the museum lately and promoting, with the manager, the need for more progress in the MM exhibit. The museum management promised that the MM display will be worthwhile when it is finished.

Ken Blue turned the podium over to MC Larry Starn, Sacramento chapter, who recognized Charles Mills, Lone Star chapter.  Charles stressed the need for further public education of the Merchant Marine and called for more “Storm the Hill” action in the next Congressional session.  Charles also called for a motion against lowering the payout stipulated in our Just Recognition legislation and this was moved, seconded and carried unanimously.

Frank Mendez presented a motion to change the By-Laws so that National officers and RVPs would hold office for 4 years with a 2-term limit.  Larry Starn asked Frank to present something in writing for this motion and the matter was tabled until the written version was ready.

Sindy explained the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) project calling of protection of more than 70 ships sunk off the East Coast (North Carolina) during WWII.  NOAA is asking for public support, not financial, from AMMV for this project. She called for a vote of support, saying that additional material will be published in the next AMMV NEWS Magazine.  Larry Starn moved, Charles Mills seconded and the vote for support was unanimous.

Frank Mendez reminded everyone of the AMMV National Convention next March to be held in Reno, NV. Sally Raanes, Golden Gate chapter, reviewed a book she had recently read called “The American Dunkirk”. It is the story of the boats which evacuated persons from Manhattan after the 9/11 bombing. Dean Mikkelson, Member at Large from Oklahoma City, OK., reviewed a book he wrote named “Danny”, a story about the role of the Merchant Marine during World War II as seen through the eyes of one of the participants. Dean offered a case of the books to the conference with donations for the copies going to the Sacramento and Golden Gate chapters convention account.

Sindy updated the attendees on National AMMV progress: a) an Expeditionary medal is now available to Merchant Mariners who served in Somalian war zones; b) AMMV has recently sent out a mailing and email to 1,000 coastwise newspapers around the U. S. requesting that they publish a public service announcement or a column (both provided) in our search for more members.(Editor’s note: additional information will be elsewhere in this issue).And 3) she reported that Dave Yoho has donated 50 “Hell, No! We won’t go away!” t-shirts to the cause; they will be available during the conference for a donation to AMMV National.

Larry Starn closed the morning meeting.

Afternoon – September 27th

After the Ladies luncheon, hosted by Charlotte Starn and enjoyed by the women attendees and 1 Merchant Mariner, the first speaker of the afternoon was Jerry Adler, retired Air Force Captain.  Jerry told us that in 1963, the Cold War was in full swing and the Russians showed no signs of backing down.  In fact they had just had a break-through in the radar technology.  This was serious business.  Capt. Jerry was flying Strategic Air Command B-52 bombers with atomic bombs on board. With the threat of annihilating Russians with their bombs, these pilots quickly had to develop techniques to counter the Russian technological breakthrough.  They chose to fly in low, below the Russian radar.  However, the B-52s were not aerodynamically designed to fly at low levels for sustained periods of time.

On a training mission one day – with 9 aboard instead of the usual 6 crew – he was flying over the snow and tree covered areas near Bangor, Maine, at tree-top level, when his aircraft began to come apart. He told the conference about ejecting but his parachute did not open due to being at such a low altitude and he fell through the trees and landed in the snow, on top of his parachute, which broke his fall. He was not recued for some time and lost a leg to frostbite.        Our next speaker was Erin Stenmaker, from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) office in Carson City, NV.  A young and enthusiastic speaker, Erin told us about how the DAV interfaces with Merchant Marine Veterans and what services DAV can provide them.

Cap’t Pat Moloney, formerly volunteer Master of the SS Jeremiah O’Brien in San Francisco, spoke next.  Through his years at sea, primarily on oilers, he experienced many “adventures”, including one “almost disastrous” fuel transfer incident in 1984 between a commercial tanker, the Falcon Champion, and his ship the Hassayampa. (Editor’s note: Patrick’s recollection of this incident is printed elsewhere in this issue.)

Patrick also explained how the Military Sealift Command (MSC), formerly known as Military Sea Transport Service (MSTS)  expanded beyond operating freighters, tankers and troop ships to U. S. Navy fleet support and special mission ships in the early 1970s. He told us about why the Navy chose MSC (and its civilian crews) vs Navy sailor-crewed vessels. He stressed that economy was probably the most motivating factor – after all, 105 civilian mariners could replace 330 Navy sailors who could then be used on combatants.

The advantage to the U. S. Navy was three-fold:

  1. The Navy turned over aging, marginally operating platforms and got dependable work horses that ran for decades longer than expected in return.
  2. The operation tempo of the ships skyrocketed. Ships that had previously been underway for the Navy about 25% of the time were routinely online and underway 75% of the time.
  3. The skills learned on the ships, by civilian mariners, tended to stay on the ships. Instead of constantly training a bunch of new sailors, only to transfer them after they were trained, the Navy got MSC seamen who tended to stay on ship types they like and didn’t need retraining.

The evening banquet included a raffle with grand prizes for each nights’ dinners being a pair of tickets for a cruise on the SS Jeremiah O’Brien and a $100 bill donated by Bob  Barbee, Puget Sound chapter.