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Pacific Memories

Crew 4 Group

Faded pictures of youth and friends who died for their country. These are my thoughts of VQ-3's Crew Four who perished off of Wake twenty years ago at the beginning of my Navy Career. I do not think of them often but I do not forget them. The sunny optimistic times in Guam turned to harsh reality after their deaths. After that cataclysmic event, many of us realized that our job was not a game and life could not be taken for granted. For many weeks, the squadron walked around in a daze. We lost our youth after the loss of Crew 4. If anything good came out of it, from my perspective, is that life is short, take advantage of it and care about the people you lead. We have clichès today about "taking care of your troops" but unfortunately I often saw the insincerity of such platitudes. Take Crew 4 as an example to see of the good people lost. They had imperfections, as you or I, but they were good people who deserved good leadership.
'Click here to view the flight schedule for that mission.
Submitted by Paul Trombetta

The Aircraft Commander was LT Jack Strunk. He was young and dashing and I'm sure broke many hearts during his too short life. I first met him in Pensacola when I was a somewhat discouraged student NFO who had one harsh instructor after the other. Instead of playing head games with me he immediately put me at ease-he reminded me of my big brother. It was perhaps my best flight as a student and after that flight with Jack, I knew I would get my wings. I thought then and I still think now that we need more officers like Jack-easy going, fun, but dedicated to serving and leading our troops in the Navy. He left a family and a fiancee behind, how tragic, and a loss to the Navy.

The 2nd Pilot was LT Mark Searing. We did a lot of things together when we were JO's. How was Mark? He was sometimes an angry young man, a rebel who would tell off the CO of the base (what JO would do that today?), in short idealistic. He reminded me of a young Hawkeye. Brash? Not Diplomatic? Guilty as charged but perhaps we need more officers such as Mark. One thing I do know, he cared deeply for the Navy and expected high standards-especially from himself.

LT Dave Paige: The perfectionist and a hard worker. This is what I remembered of him. He was the classic Navy officer...the kind that we need that make up the majority of our officers. He was meticulous cared about attention to detail and I liked him. He was a little different from me but I felt like he was a good person and a leader. If he had lived perhaps he would have been a test pilot or astronaut. Dave left many friends and a family behind.

The 3rd Pilot was LTJG Pete (Pilot Pete) Ledoux. We shared a suite in the BOQ before I got married. How shall I describe Pete? I think he was Cajun but I think the best way to describe is that he marched to a different drummer. If there was a new religion or something Pete would investigate it. He was not the typical officer but so what. The Navy needs all kinds in my opinion. Pete added some spice to some stuffiness.

The ACO was Andy Yaroshuck. I didn't know Andy that well but I remember him dancing one time-not a very good dancer but trying his best. Andy was determined and I think he would have gone a long way if his life had not been cut short. Determination was Andy's middle name.
Let me tell you about then RM1 Russel. There was a point in the prison part of the SERE exercise that all of us (pseudo POWs) were trying to escape and there was a situation that could have resulted in someone getting seriously hurt. Out of all this pandemonium the junior officers and enlisted were almost to the point of hysteria. Out of all of this chaos a clear, firm voice, told everyone to calm down and stop. This was RM1 Russel. Here I and the others who were junior officers did not show the leadership displayed by RM1 Russel that day. I felt both shame for the inadequacy of my actions and my fellow aviators and pride that we had enlisted such as RM1 Russel. For the rest of my career I used Chief Russel as an inspiration and a baseline on what is a good sailor. RMC Russel was a 4.0 sailor and no doubt would have been a great Master Chief.

Finally let me tell you about LT Rich Eastwood ("Clint"). I didn't know it at the time but he was my best friend and best man at my wedding. He also left a fiancee, a school teacher who was introduced by my wife to Rich. How was Rich? Well, he was somewhat like me ...average. He wasn't perfect nor was he always colorful or controversial...he was Rich. I think he had the best trait of all: he was a nice guy. I am even sad now that my friendship was lost and I didn't value it more at the time. In those days we were too busy qualifying for things to realize that life is so short and fragile. Rich was my friend and I will always remember that smile and how he made me laugh.

Well, that's all I remember of Crew 4. I am sorry I didn't know the others who died in that awful crash. Cheers to them and the other TACAMO, VQ-3 in Guam. Pacific memories.

Paul Trombetta recalls Crew 4

Dennis "Buff" Mura was one of pictures without a caption in the passings section. Dennis was a young sailor who was so typical of the Tacamo spirit. Prior to Crew 4's fateful mission, Buff and I were deployed off crew with Crew 6 (the co's crew). My permanent crew was Crew 2 (Hoden's Heroes).

We were in Angeles City, partaking in some "Crew's Rest". Buff had a fiance there and was making plans for his marriage. When we returned to our room at Chambers Hall Annex, there was a message waiting for us to report to the flight line. The message was pretty old so Buff stayed behind and waited while I went to see what was going on. He needed to say goodbye to his fiance, anyway.

Well, I found the plane getting ready to taxi with all 4 turning and burning. The Aircraft Commander made me in charge of "Det. Clark" and told me to stay behind and round up the rest of the missing crew. LTjg Paar was the only other "missing" person. The crew gotten recalled and had to make this "emergency" mission out of Clark, but on such short notice, of course, not all could be notified in time. Well, Ltjg Paar, Dennis Mura and I stayed behind while the rest of the crew went to Osan to pick up the CO's change of command uniform.

Buff and I waited over a week to be picked up and taken back to Guam. As soon as we returned to Guam, Crew 4 was preparing for a detachment. Operations called me when we hit the deck and asked me to fly as an ACOM because the crew was short handed. I said OK and was preparing to begin preflight when they replaced me with Buff. Originally he was going to stay behind on Guam due to having done about 5 consecutive deployments both on and off crew (what a trooper he was). It seems that he had to do something in Hawaii and he bumped me on the off-crew assignment. I wasn't too sorry as I was pretty tired after a hard week in Angeles City.

Well, you know the rest of the story. Their mission was extremely arduous and they never returned. When I see Buff's picture, I always remember that week in the PI like it was yesterday. I flew with each and every one of the Crew 4 "heroes" and I will always remember them. Monty Nichols and I were stationed together in HC-7 in the 60's and flew Combat Search and Rescue in Viet Nam. We had many a Mongolian BBQ at Dan Miner's house in Guam. Jack Strunk roomed with me in Angeles City on his very first trip to the PI. Yes, we had him on a table for initiation at the Fire Empire. A young crew, but totally immersed in the Tacamo spirit. Farewell shipmates.

Paul Trombetta (Chief T)
ACS VQ-3 1974-1979