For those who are serving or who have served — and those who love them, this is a bittersweet time of year.  Surrounded by rebirth after a long winter we are reminded of our fallen shipmates; some in battle, some in preparations for battle and some for whom the distant shouts of war were suddenly and dramatically brought down upon them, far from the battlefield.  For some that list may be extensive, especially given the last 12-plus years from Sept 11, 2001 and forward. For others, it may be a relatively short list, but no less poignant as it has a father, uncle, mother, aunt, brother, or sister on it.  While we have written on these (virtual) pages of many instances over the years, there are some that are particularly dearly held because they were fellow brethren in arms, shipmates and friends in the truest sense…


CAPT Scott “Scooter” Lamoreaux, USN

Flight school is an interesting opportunity to study the human psyche in its multitude of facets. Competition is keen, at least for the first 4 or five slots in the class standing as those folks are reasonably sure of getting the community they want (it is also where one is introduced to the phrase “needs of the Service…”). For all the competition – in the classroom, in the simulator, in flight, one also has the opportunity to forge some pretty strong friendships, which years down the pike, are periodically refreshed in a chance encounter at a conference or courtesy the daily COD delivery…

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Your last flight in the mighty T-2 – time is fast approaching for the meat of the syllabus and the T-39, with its dual-personality imbued by the presence of an IP and Instructor NFO awaits. Childhood’s end – adolescence’s start. Still, one more chance is offered for play before the level of seriousness is ratcheted inexorably higher. 1v1 – time to go beak to beak, to turn and burn baby. Hang the fangs out a bit and see how you do in the dynamic environment that is ACM – such as it is in a straight-winged, subsonic jet. Your sparring partner is a good friend. Came from a fighter family, he did – pops having been instrumental in the early life of that worthy steed and snoVerticalrting beast, the F-4 Phantom. Scott was his name, but everyone just called him Scooter. Along with Rich and Briggs, the four of you had torn through AI and VT-10 (and, ahem, truth be told, the environs in and around P-cola, usually with our hair on fire and late into the night, but we digress) clustered together standing-wise with grades broken out to the second decimal. If everything held, and it looked oh-so-tantalizingly so, you each were headed to your community of choice – but that was stuff for the ground. Here, now, it was you vs. Scooter, each with a VF-derived IP manning the front seat and – Fight’s On!

Inbound now, there they are – watch, watch and…call the turn. Damn! Where’d they go? OK, got’ em, but it’s going to be close. Work it – the g’s build, work it – rats, looks like they won this one. Let’s set up for a second run. Outbound we get a quick debrief and suggestions from our IP that they didn’t talk about in class.

Inbound again, visual and coming to the merge – call the turn and … got ‘em all the way this time. A quick knife fight and a guns solution met with a “Knock it off.” One for our “W” column. Quick check of gas in both planes – time for one more run? Absolutely – go for it. More bits of knowledge, experience passed back from the front seat. Seemed pretty standoffish in the brief and the gouge was he wasn’t a screamer – but still a tough grader and not much given to serendipitous talk…are we sure they didn’t switch IP’s on us?

Here we go again – once more into the breech. This time we’re going vertical, big time. And there we are, me looking across to a mirror image pinned against the dark blue as we go vaulting off into the heavens…

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Some number of years later the memory came flooding back as we learned of the terrible news. It had been while flying a low-level anti-ship cruise missile supersonic profile for a destroyer. Just a training hop. He’d taken time off from his post-command staff job to climb back in the cockpit he so dearly loved. The big Tomcat was there one minute – and gone in a cloud of flame, smoke and vapor. Little was found – and a good friend, a husband, father, and fighter NFO beyond compare was gone. CAPT Scott “Scooter” Lamoreaux, USN. Bounty Hunter One. Rest easy Scooter and know that while we all miss you, we each have our memories. Mine forever of an orange and white jet with the countenance not unlike a guppy, suspended against the Florida sky and two young buck aviators, intense on the task at hand and loving every second of it with grins a mile-wide, yet hidden behind an O2 mask, having the time of their life…


CAPT Carroll “Lex” Lefon, USN-Ret.

Aviation – especially tactical aviation whether it be from the ship or on the beach, is an unforgiving mistress – as we found out not so long ago…

I lost a friend today.

Lex

We have lost a friend, a father, husband — a comrade in arms. Fellow aviator and blogger-at-arms, Neptunus Lex, was killed earlier today when the F-21 Kfir he was flying in support of Top Gun’s adversary squadron crashed at NAS Fallon. No word on the cause as yet. Prayers and thoughts go out to his family — please likewise keep them in your prayers in the days/weeks to come.

Lex would be the first to tell you, upon asking (or not), that he was a fighter pilot. And he was an accomplished one at that – having reached the pinnacle with command of a Hornet squadron and XO at TOPGUN (“not two words” he would say…). He was a sailor at heart with a love for the sea and those who set forth thereon in grey-hulled ships – befitting of one who wore the gold wings of a naval aviator. And he was a patriot in the truest and traditional sense with a deep love for this country and her people. Indeed, his last work in this life was training a new generation of fighters to defend this nation.

Even so, what really set Lex apart was his eloquence, obvious love of the classics and an ability to turn a phrase that would do his Irish ancestors proud. Anyone who has spent time in the air or at sea comes to appreciate the change in perspective those alluring mistresses offer and how they come to change you. It is the rare person, however, who is able to more than adequately express and convey that imagery, that perspective. Lex was one of those rare individuals and you could readily see it in his work – almost all of which he shared gratis online. Whether it was a semi-fictional account of a young aviator wrestling with carrier flight ops or surgical dissection of a controversial subject, his wit, grace and command of the language marked him as a finely honed rapier in a field cluttered with dull broadswords and broken battle axes. And it will be missed.

The time will come when we will take position and give our formal farewells with appropriate ceremony. For now, I’ll leave with this thought from a fellow naval aviator and friend – part of a discourse from last night…

 ” We are, actually, pretty few, and we count our fellows as friends of a different sort.. And so when one of us leaves, it is noticed. It is one thing to fade, fade away. It is another to be taken by the mistress, to be here, and then gone. I thought she was done with leaving me to count. So I thought.”

I too thought my counting days finished – alas not so…

Fair winds Lex and God bless and uphold your family. We’ll meet you at the rendezvous point…on the other side at the Green.


CAPT Bob Dolan, USN, OPNAV N513 and The Navy Operations Center

September 11, 2001.  We all remember where we were, what we were doing – now.  Then, it was just another early fall day that on the East Coast, found a sky so clear of clouds and haze that the blue burned your eyes.  It was the perfect day for flying.  None of us, especially those who worked in the Navy OPS Center which included CNO-IP and my Strategy and Concepts Branch (N513) could have possibly imagined that a day which started with such promise would end in fire, smoke and personal loss.  We lost many fine Americans that day in the Pentagon, including the 39 in the OPS Center. Among them was my N513 branch chief, CAPT Bob Dolan as fine and decent a human being, naval officer and SWO as may be found…

CAPT Dolan, 43, was working on the first floor of the Pentagon as head of the Strategy and Concepts Branch (N513), when a hijacked jetliner slammed into the building last Tuesday morning. The Florham Park native knew from childhood that his future was with the military, his mother, Joan Dolan, said. After graduating from Hanover Park High School in East Hanover, he attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in ocean engineering. His career subsequently took him to the Arabian Gulf to clear mines and to the Adriatic Sea as a combat systems officer aboard the USS Richmond K. Turner, in support of Operation Deny Flight over the former Yugoslavia. In 1994, CAPT Dolan served as executive officer aboard the USS Thomas S. Gates in the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf. From October 1998 to May 2000 he was commanding officer of the USS John Hancock, based in Mayport, Fla.  Capt. Dolan’s decorations include the Purple Heart, Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (2), Navy Commendation Medal (4), and the Navy Achievement Medal (1) along with numerous unit awards. – Washington Post, September 2001

Bob loved to be at sea, but with each offshore assignment he deeply missed his wife and two children. His 20-year career took him to the far-flung corners of the world — Bahrain, the Adriatic Sea and the Mediterranean — but he still managed to keep in touch with the friends he made in kindergarten.  He was a disciplined officer who made it his business to excel at every post, but he also was a “guy’s guy” who enjoyed grabbing a beer with friends. “Bob was a touchstone for many of us because of the person he was, not because of his accomplishments as a leader,” said family friend Mark Wallinger, who was best man at CAPT Dolan’s wedding. “He was a friend to everybody, and a hero to those who knew him.” 

He was a man who viewed service as a privilege,” his wife, Lisa of Alexandria, Va., wrote in an e-mail. “Bob Dolan was the best and the brightest this country had to offer to the altar of freedom.” In addition to his wife, Capt. Dolan is survived by his children, Rebecca, 15, and Beau, 9; his parents, Joan and Robert of Florham Park; two brothers, Christopher of Quakertown, Pa., and Daniel of Bethel, Pa., and several nieces and nephews. (Compiled from various sources, primarily consisting of The Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post)

We served aboard the USS Inchon (LPH 12) back in the early 80′s. The Inchon was the PHIBRON 6 flagship during the MARG 3 82 deployment. In September 1982, we put the 3/8 marines ashore in Beirut as part of the MNF and supported them until February 1983. Ensign Dolan was a part of that mission and earned one of his expeditionary medals as well as the NUC for his participation. I find it terribly ironic that a man who started his Naval career as part of a Peacekeeping operation in the Middle East would eventually fall victim to Middle East terrorists on 9/11.– Joe Netzel, Webmaster USS Inchon Association.

“One of Bob’s department heads on the USS John Hancock gave this picture to him when they made their last deployment. This was the ship he commanded for two years, and it was the ship’s last deployment because it was decommissioned shortly after. The picture shows Bob sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge. He liked being in the Navy; he liked being on a ship and being at sea. The ship’s motto was ‘First for freedom,’ which I’ve kind of taken on as our family’s motto since September 11. The picture just personifies his life; beyond being a family man, this was Bob.” – Lisa Dolan, wife

 In the midst of tragedy we often times find small offerings of light — a bright moment we can hold onto that serves to, if only for a moment, ease the hurt. Such was the case with Bob; I well remember the cheer this story brought our group when we first heard it as told here by CAPT Tempestilli (Class of ’79) on the USNA’s Alumni ’9/11 Remembrance’ site:

I must also share a brief and miraculous story with you. Last week, I received a phone call from an FBI agent working at the site of the Pentagon attack. He was a USNA ‘ 89 alumnus. As buckets of debris were being removed from the site, he noticed a Naval Academy 1981 class ring, which turned out to be Bob’s. (We Academy types are advised to have our name engraved in our rings because they always seem to find their way home.) I went down to the Pentagon to receive the ring. When I arrived, he was in his SUV with Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” playing on the stereo. As he handed me the ring, we hugged and cried together–the longest and deepest cry I have had since this tragedy struck. Enroute home, I stopped at Bob’s favorite bar in Alexandria, “Murphy’s,” and drank a beer with 4 other of Bob’s closest friends. We left Bob’s beer glass full on the bar as sort of a “missing man” formation. Lisa now wears the ring around her neck, just like she did the day of Bob’s USNA ring dance.

By the end of September the funerals had begun. From small, family only services to a Naval Academy chapel filled to the rafters – some at Arlington and others back in their home states; we buried our shipmates. Catholic, Protestant, Hebrew, Buddhist…a deep, painful slice of America was being buried. Each had a story to tell – whether they were a former ship’s CO, retired P-3 aviator, a second generation Vietnamese immigrant, a sailor from Chicago, a husband on his first shore tour with his bride – all represented this great nation.

Indeed — all represented and gave their all for this great nation.  Let us never forget.

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2 Comments

  1. Bittersweet indeed.

  2. Robert Drozd

    For years I loitered on the edge of the LEX community basking in the commentary and criticism. It was a refuge filled with character and quality in a world in entropy. He had me consult Yeats and seek consolation in the strength of Guiness. I anticipated that I would obtain this benefit forever and I came to expect the favor. – but then it fell apart.
    Even if the chair stands empty now , the room is still full of the things he taught and gave me. I am grateful for the memory of Lex Lefon and his legacy. I will continue to strive to behave by the standards he exemplified.

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