As usual, we had a wonderful Jallao reunion in Jacksonville Florida, thanks to the efforts of a lot of people, especially Joel Grainger our reunion coordinator. At the start, we were surprised to find out that our tour to the Kings Bay Naval Base was cancelled. For some reason the Navy thought it was more important to train midshipmen than it was to take us on a tour of the base. Go figure! From there it was all up hill. On Wednesday we spent the day checking in and greeting old friends, this is always such a wonderful time for Penny and I. Plenty of back slapping, hugs and smiles to go around. There was also plenty of ice cold beer to go along with all of the good will. The ships store was in full swing when I arrived, thanks to John Mills, who graciously agreed to drive down with the Jallao shirts, hats, and other goodies and Earl Johnson who looked over the store and made things happen. We sold almost everything we had, including some shirts and mugs that were made just for this reunion. They will be added to our ships store on the web page, soon, be sure to look for them! On Thursday Joel added cold pop (soda) and snacks.
On Thursday we also went on a tour of the Budweiser brewery, which was just a few miles from the hotel. There things began to pick up for us. The tour was a blast. Mary, our tour guide, was a fun loving woman that would have made a great bubblehead. She made the tour fun and interesting and she treated us to a few beers after the tour was over. Budweiser has a great tour setup and gift shop and their hospitality room is first class. It is a very spacious room set up much like a nightclub. There was a pop machine set up for those that did not drink beer, and a barrel full of bags of pretzels, all free for the taking. There was a first class bar with a full time bartender. What a job, eh! The draft beer was cold, and served in tall draft glasses. Bottled beer was served in full sized bottles, with a full selection of the Budweiser brands made in the Jacksonville brewery. We were supposed to have two beers each, but no one was counting, including the bartender. It was a great atmosphere and a fun time for all.
It was here too that serendipity came into play. The tour group that followed ours into the Budweiser hospitality room was a group of sailors off of the USS Alexandria SSN 757.
http://navysite.de/ssn/ssn757.htm Jerry Emerson and Bruce Bradbury were talking with them and arranged for a tour of the Alexandria on Saturday at Naval Station Mayport just South of Jacksonville.
http://navysite.de/homeports/mayport.htm . Needless to say that our excitement level went off of the charts.
Thursday afternoon after the Budweiser tour, we had our crew meeting. There we voted to have our next reunion in Manitowoc Wisconsin, where the Jallao was built. The reunion will be in the first week of May, 2011. Jerry Pilger (plank owner) and friends will coordinate this reunion and those of you that were in Manitowoc for our first reunion, in 2003, will remember what a great time we had there. Jerry coordinated that reunion also. This reunion will be in conjunction with the “28 Boat Reunion” to commemorate all of the boats that were built at Manitowoc. This will also be a chance for us to meet with some of our old shipmates from other boats. Manitowoc has a Maritime Museum which has the USS Cobia SS 245
http://www.wisconsinmaritime.org/uss-cobia.html open for tours, and at our last reunion there they invited us old “river rats” topside while they lit off one of the engines for us. What a thrill that was for all of us. I saw more than a few tears!
We also voted for Steve to treat Doug Bailey, of Sunshine Software, to lunch and to invite Doug and his wife Connie to our next reunion. We will pick up their room cost and reunion fees out of the Jallao Reunion fund. Doug’s company has sponsored our web site since its inception in 2003, at no cost to us. For that we are deeply grateful.
On Friday we decided to use the bus that we had rented to take us to the beautiful and historic city of St. Augustine Florida,
http://www.getaway4florida.com/ South of Jacksonville. This tour was suggested by John Mills when we found out about Kings Bay being cancelled. When we arrived we parked the bus and purchased all day trolley tickets, for all, to tour the city without the hassle of driving around and finding a parking space at each stop.
http://www.staugustine.com/directory/old_town_trolley/ What a wonderful place to visit. It is a truly a beautiful city.
Penny and I rode down to St Augustine with Rick Grissom, we stopped at Mayport which is on the way. Rick promotes air shows around the country and most of those in his home state of Florida. He knows most of the right people at the Naval Station and wanted to make sure that all of the arrangements for the tour were in place. Gate and pier passes and the like. Getting onto the pier was a bit of a hassle, but Rick had the air ops commander drive him to the boat to confirm the tour with the COB. We met Jerry Emerson and Bruce Bradbury there. Seems that they had the same idea about confirming the arrangements. “Great minds think alike”. Our thanks to Rick, Bruce and Jerry for all their efforts! The Alexandra tour would not have happened without them.
Saturday was a big day for us. First the Alexandra tour that morning and then our banquet that evening.
Rick, Penny and I left early Saturday morning for Mayport, while everyone came down later on the bus that we rented. When we got there we confirmed, with the gate, that we were able to get the bus on base. Then we met up with John and Jean Mills, whom had driven down also. When the bus arrived we all drove down to the OPS parking lot and were met by two vans that the Alexandria had checked out to drive us onto the pier. From there, onto the boat!!!!!!!! I cant tell you how gracious the Alexandria crew were to us. They were excited to see us and treated us like their long lost family. And considering that they had just arrived from sea the previous day, it was very special of them to give up their time to make all of the necessary arrangements and to give us a tour of the boat.
What a thrill to be on a nuke again. This was the first time for me to tour a nuke since my time sailing on the 632 boat, in the mid sixties, and let me tell you that the old FBM’s were like a hotel compared to the Alexandria. Even the Jallao seemed to be roomier. The Alexandria has three levels (33 ft beam), where the Jallao had only two (27 ft beam), and there is a lot more equipment on board. With new technology, of course, there are a lot more electronics on board. Especially display screens. Some of the equipment was the same of course. Oxygen generators, CO2 scrubbers and burners. And the old reliable diesel engine for back-up.
The Crew: What can I say. They were marvelous, flat out marvelous!!! “Brothers of the ‘phin” Any submariner would be proud to serve with this crew, anytime anywhere. They gave their time and their hearts to us. They made us comfortable, they answered our questions, they did not rush us through, and most important they made us feel like we were part of the crew. Those of us that made the tour will be eternally grateful to this crew, we are very proud of them. And, their behavior says a lot about the Captain and the COB. They are the best.The following is a copy of a letter sent to the Captain of the Alexandria by CDR Gilman, the last skipper of the Jallao and regular attendee to our reunions:
14 June 2009
Eugene J. Doyle
ALEXANDRIA SSN 757
of the USS JALLAO SS 368 Alumni Association I would like to express our sincere gratitude for inviting our reunion participants to tour the ALEXANDRIA. The tour was the icing on the cake that made for a wonderful reunion.
With very short notice your crew made arrangements for our party to board your ship
with a tour guide for each of the smaller groups. These guides were especially skilled at describing every detail and answering the myriad of technical, detailed questions from highly knowledgeable and experienced ex submariners. It was such a pleasure to see the interior of an operating nuclear submarine and to hear the very understandable description and explanation of most every piece of equipment and every system on board. Many of us have been assigned to nuclear submarines in the past but seeing
your fine ship brought back fond memories of those days at sea in service to our country.
Please convey to your officers and crew our heartfelt thanks for a job well done. We will long remember USS ALEXANDRIA as one of the finest in the U.S. Navy Submarine Force.
Carlson, CDR, USN (Ret.)
Last Commanding Officer, USS JALLAO SS 368
After the tour, Rick left for his home in south Florida, Penny and I rode back with John and Jean Mills. We stopped at Jacksonville beach and did a bit of shopping and were met with a deluge of rain as we left one of the stores. The four of us, like good sailors, we improvised. Just next to the store was an ice cream shop with a big awning out in front so we sat under the awning and had big delicious cones of ice cream. Jean and I had caramel pecan, Penny had mint chocolate chip and John a creamy vanilla. What a treat is was to share some time with them eating ice cream and watching the bikini’s, er ah, people walking by!
We added two honorary Jallao Sailors to our crew. Cody Caruso, son of Lenny and Dawn, and Lane Friel, grandson of Dave and Janet Rocheville. Two great young men, and future military men!
We had a fantastic meal! A buffet of Salmon, Prime Rib, and Chicken, with all of the attendant veggies and potato’s. Does potato have an “e” at the end? I heard several people say that the prime rib was the best that they have had. Appetizers and dessert were fantastic too. The location was tropical and to say the least, the company was grand! We rang the bell for those that have departed on eternal patrol since our last reunion. We took a lot of pictures, which I will try to add soon, and we shared a lot of hugs and said our sad good-byes, till the next reunion. My thanks to the following:
Joel and Judy Grainger, our Jacksonville reunion
coordinators, for all that they did to
make this a memorable reunion.
Rick Grissom for all of his help at Naval Station Mayport, but most of all for his friendship.
John Mills for all of his input, advice and help, and his enduring friendship.
Earl Johnson for all he does as our treasurer, adviser, and for his help with the ships store.
Jerry Emerson and Bruce Bradbury for setting up the Alexandria tour.
And to Penny, the love of my life, for all that