Flightdeck Friday — The Ties That Bind (II): Remembering Ned Geiger

Another Flightdeck Friday and sadly, another memorial – this time for another pillar of the E-2C Community, CAPT Edward C. Geiger, USN, ret. (“Ned”).   Ned passed away suddenly earlier this week just as he was beginning to enjoy a well deserved retirement having wrapped up his post-Navy career.   Services are tentatively slated for Saturday, 31 March 2012 in Norfolk; time and location TBA.

UPDATE:

Memorial Service in Honor and Memory of Ned Geiger: Saturday, March 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm; Royster Memorial Presbyterian Church, 6901 Newport Avenue, Norfolk, Virginia 23505

In lieu of flowers donations may be made in his memory to either of the following organizations.

  •  The Baldwin Fund of The Williams School,419 Colonial Avenue, Norfolk, VA 23507     (757)627-1383
  •  VAW/VRC Memorial Scholarship Fund, Post Office Box 15322, Norfolk, VA 23511-0322

It has been said here and elsewhere that all the advanced technology in the world isn’t worth squat if you don’t have the people to go with it.   How many bright ideas and technological wonders have ended up on the rocks of time, rusting and forgotten because the human element was absent?   Perhaps no area is this more noticeable than in naval warfare, especially the Naval aviation side thereof.   When you look at the life of carrier aircraft, the successful ones have had people of all stripes come along at key points in their life to give direction, purpose and advocacy.   Sometimes they are in highly visible positions — VADM Tom Connolly (DCNO-Air) whose famous (or infamous, depending on which side of the table you were on) spike in the heart of the TFX (“There isn’t enough thrust in Christendom to fix this plane”) was key in getting the F-14 off the ground.   But for all the FOs, high level SESs or heavy-hitting industry program managers, for all the slick brochures and eye-popping PPT presentations, unless you have skilled aircrew who can raise others in the stead, who have both an affinity for the mission, a vision of where the community needs to go and leadership skills in the plane and on the deckplates to reinforce and grow the aircrew and maintainers, the aircraft will ultimately fail and be relegated to a footnote.   In the early 1970’s, the VAW community was faltering despite the growing needs of a Navy pushing ever farther in to the digital revolution.   The E-2B, an improvement over the hapless E-2A, was nonetheless beset with material problems and had fallen far short of expectations.   The leap in capabilities over the WF/E-1B that were expected of it had yet to fully materialize – and many outside of the community openly doubted it ever would.   Mission assignment often came as an after thought and the very idea of putting the E-2B in a critical role for a particular mission just wasn’t considered.

The entry of the E-2C came via muted applause – and much skepticism outside the community.   It would take the concerted efforts of a group of tactically astute visionary aircrew – and especially NFO’s (recall we are still less than a decade from the creation of the NFO out of the NAO community) to work within the community to build NFOs who would be technically and tactically adept with the new technology the E-2C was fielding, and at the same time, advocates outside the community and within the airwing to raise awareness and relevance of the new Hawkeye.   As has been the case since the beginning of US Naval aviation, the core of the effort was centered on a group of “senior” JOs who brought experience and hard lessons to bear in the Fleet and in the RAG (Fleet Replacement Squadron for you young pups).

Ned was not only one of those folks, he stood head and shoulders above the pack.

Ned brought his considerable skills to bear with the VAW-122 Steeljaws in the mid-70’s as they not only transitioned to the E-2C, but became one of the two East Coast squadrons to end up with a West Coast airwing and all the challenges that ensued with a continent between them.   As the squadron NFO NATOPS officer, and later, head of NFO Training (aka “Mayor of Mole City” at RVAW-120),   the standards and expectations that Ned set would have far ranging effects on those who would later go on to other squadrons and positions within the VAW community and elsewhere.   Among those were an expectation of a level of knowledge about the system and how it worked that was at once detailed and integrated — not only would, for example, you have to be able to understand how a radar return was processed in the (then) new digital processing system the E-2C (and later E-2C ARPS), you had to combine it with what the IFF system and main computer and display processing system was doing with it to eventually display it on the scope.   But it also wasn’t enough to be radar or system geeks — Ned was also one of the forward thinking VAW tacticians who looked to expand the mission beyond mere radar-based early warning and in the process, grow the capabilities of the CVW as a whole.   And to do so, you had to get out of the hangar or VAW Ready Room and into the fighter, attack and others’ home turf.   Face-to-face debriefs were emphasized, early participation in mission planning and always, an aggressive, assertive approach that sought to push back the residue of the E-2B years and show what we could do. The Ensigns, LTJGs and LTs that emerged from the RAG and squadrons in the late 70’s/early 80’s epitomized this new approach and formed the nucleus that pushed for continued advancements in the weapons system and standing in the airwing.   And again, Ned’s fingerprints were all over them.   The crews that flew over Bosnia and in OIF and OEF had links, directly or indirectly to Ned’s efforts.   The fact that we are pusing the envelope even further today with the advent of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye can be directly traced back, in no small part, to his body of work.

To a young NFO just entering the community in 1979, Ned was central in shaping and directing my focus as a Hawkeye NFO, both in RVAW-120 and later, when he joined us in VAW-121 as one of our department heads.   We learned much from Ned — even as a standout squadron on the seawall, Ned was the sort that prompted you to raise your personal and organizational bars and push out even more.   Flying with Ned was always great – whether it was watching him handle a covey of fighters or deftly influencing Alpha Bravo towards a particular course of action on the AAW net, no matter how much time you had in the aircraft, you always took away something from flying with him.   On the ground, Ned was a leader without peer as a DH and later, as many will attest to, as CO of VAW-126.   As VAW/VRC placement officer, he played a vital role in guiding and slotting up- and coming talent in the community – not an especially easy thing as CO’s from time to time have their own interests in mind and their own desires which may not always mesh with the individual’s or community’s best needs.   And later as Chief of Staff for the Eisenhower Battle Group,   he brought those abilities to further fruit.   In fact, now that I think of it, Ned’s ability to convince someone of a particular COA without them actually being aware of how they were being influenced brings to mind another master of the skills of persuasion – except he wasn’t fictional…

Ned will be greatly missed by a large and geographically dispersed community and his family are certainly in our prayers..   He was a pioneer for the Hawkeye community, a consummate Naval officer and aviator, a leader, mentor, husband, father and a friend.   A fitting epithet when one thinks about it.   Godspeed and rest in peace.

8 Comments

  1. Hoover

    Spot on Will!! Ned was an early mentor and huge influence on my career. Tragic loss way too early!

  2. Will: Wonderful eulogy. Ned was a class act. One of the absolute finest skipper’s I ever had the pleasure to work with. Even tho I know he trusted us in the cockpit, an enduring memory was that whenever we were dumping to max trap, he would push his thumb and forefinger together…hard…until we shut the dump off! Trust, but verify… Rest in peace Ned.

  3. Smokey

    I had honor to serve with Ned on multiple occasions: XO at 126, AEW Ops at CARGRU4, and COS at CCDG8. I learned an incredible amount of useful knowledge from him, and was fortunate to have him as an advocate and counselor.

    I’m a much better person for having known, flown, and worked with him. God Bless!

  4. Doug Beck

    Thanks Will. As one of those JO’s fortunate enough to have been taken under Uncle Ned’s wing, this post brings with it great sadness. Ned truely was a unique individual who helped quite a number of us survive some extraordinarily grueling experiences.

  5. Mike Noble

    As a new NFO in VAW 121, I had the privilege of serving with Ned when he was OPS officer. Hands down, he was one of the best moles I ever flew with and a great mentor. I doubt if Uncle Nedley is RIP. He’s probably prowling around, asking questions, lighting up a smoke, and calmly explaining in that slightly cynical voice of his what organizational improvements need to be made.

  6. ron harrell (Phantom)

    RIP Ned – and thanks for your help – will always remember the times with Doyle, Beamer, et al –

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