29 April 2003
MILINET: A Sea Story--Repost
The below Sea Story was first posted to MILINET on 12 July 1999. All readers are encouraged to share their Sea Story experiences with the MILINET community. I do have, however, one unalterable requirement: ALL Sea Story submissions MUST be at least 63% accurate and/or truthful.
Anthony F. Milavic
Major USMC (Ret.)
12 July 1999
MILINET: A Sea Story
Contributed By: Maj. Richard Hardin, USMCR
I was an enlisted air traffic controller at EL Toro back in the early/mid 1980's. Due to my artistic skills (and the lack of PowerPoint) in those days, I was selected to help put together a "noise abatement" presentation for the Orange County Commissioners. I know all too well how we were weaseled out of the hole. I suppose that's "progress".
I think the most interesting story was one of the night of 04 July, 1986*. It was about midnight when I heard an A-4 depart the field. I was wondering who had the "huevos" to do a "closed field departure". Must have been someone really important I surmised from my base-housing quarters located off the departure end of "7 duals".
About two hours later, I was awakened by an A-4 circling the field (what turned out to be four times). All I could think of was that someone must have been called in to turn on the field lighting.
Well, this turned out to be the famous/infamous LCpl Foote, an A-4 mech, part-time Mercury refueling employee, and honest-to-God-world-class glider pilot.
As he was a part of the same parent squadron, Station Operations and Maintenance Squadron. I got some of the "good gouge" on his story.
Apparently, he had befriended some "important" folks on station who were also glider enthusiast. Being a celebrity of sorts in the glider community he managed to wrangle unlimited time on the A-4 simulator. Rumor had it that he had more time on the simulator than any "school-trained" active duty aviator.
He had been trying to acquire a high altitude suit for another altitude record. Before this happened, he got a form of high altitude (hypoxia) sickness similar to the bends. The flight surgeon informed him that he would never fly for the military. His dreams shattered.
So after some deliberation, he decided that he would have his flight with the military even if it was "just one". So on the night of 04 July, LCpl Foote reestablished the enlisted flying program by taking an A-4 out for a taxi test and took off from El Toro - closed field. No one had raised an eyebrow.
He flew out over one of the restricted areas for about an hour and a half then returned to make four passes over NZJ then landed on 36 left without the benefit of any airfield lighting or control.
The M.P.'s apparently did not have there attention drawn until a second or third pass in the pattern had been completed. If he could have made a straight-in, full stop no one would ever have known . . . but then no one would ever believe his story . . . He had already taxied to the flight-line and was in the process of securing the aircraft before the "officials" figured out exactly where they needed to go to greet and question the arriving "aviator".
While in the brig, LCpl Foote was somewhat of a cult hero among officers and enlisted alike. Many officers made comments in jest that, " . . . they should just let him out and pin some gold bars and wings on him . . . he just save the Corps million of dollars in flight training . . ." There were book contracts and movie rights signed while he was incarcerated there at El Toro.
(There is more to this story - but I don't feel that I am at liberty to divulge anymore particulars.)
Where is he today? . . . I would REALLY like to know. There was a rumor that I heard while I was in TBS (1987) that he was flying for the Israeli Air Force.
R.W. "Dick" Gaines
GySgt USMC (Ret.)
Gunny G's Old Salt Marines Tavern
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