Bob Behrend – VP-2 63-66

I was born in Los Angeles and lived in Southern California until I joined the Navy 22 years later.  At eight years old I became interested in naval aviation after a Cub Scout excursion in 1948 to the USS Boxer (CV21) at Long Beach.  A few years later as a 12 year old, I met Sue while playing softball in the street.  We would get married 10 years later.

I graduated from Glendale HS and was a member of the first graduating class at Cal State Northridge, and immediately thereafter entered AOCS at Pensacola in June 1962, to be closely tutored by a Marine gunny for 16 weeks.  Sue and I were married that December at the courthouse in Las Vegas.  At least I think we were married.  The person said he was a judge…could have been a maintenance worker on his lunch break.  My kids think we were married by an Elvis impersonator at the Chapel O’ Love.

Following the completion of student aviation training at Corpus Christi, I received orders to VP-2 at Whidbey Island.  I was pleased to get VP, but had no idea where Whidbey Island was located.  I had to dig out the Funk & Wagnall’s to find its location.  I arrived at the Squadron in October 1963 and deployed to Kodiak with Crew 10 two weeks later.  Sue stayed behind in California as she was 7+ months pregnant and gave birth to our first son three weeks into the deployment.  Those were exciting times for a young pup, but I don’t think I ever got used to wearing a “poopy suit” with the plastic neck ring, or carrying the “orange box” of classified material.  Of course, the defining event was the Kodiak earthquake at the end of the deployment.  It was really almost the end of Doug Millar and me as we got caught in the earthquake’s tidal wave surge (tsunami in Hawaii) while trying to tie down the Coast Guard crash boats…lucky, wet and lived to tell about it.  During the deployment, I switched to Skipper Lane’s crew and flew with him for the next 2 years, including deployment to Iwakuni, but mostly Viet Nam, which started with DeSoto patrols out of Danang into the Tonkin Gulf.  All flights ended at O-dark-thirty and required an after action report be filed upon landing.  To get to the base comm center required a jeep ride on the “perimeter road.” Thinking the VC were lying in wait outside the fence line, CDR Lane obviously felt a speeding jeep was our best chance.  Richard Petty and Mario Andretti would have been eating his dust.  Doug Millar and I rode shotgun on these speed runs and felt we truly earned our combat pay.  The experiences and people we met in VP-2 were instrumental in the decision to make the Navy a career.  The strong friendships made have endured to this day.

In 1966, I received orders to NAS Corpus Christi as a navigation ground school instructor.  Our second son was born shortly after arriving in Corpus.  Corpus provided the opportunity for Sue and me to celebrate our 1st wedding anniversary together after 5 years of marriage.  In 1969, the detailer said “no choice, you are going to haze gray & underway.” So after carrier air traffic control training, I reported aboard the USS Independence (CV-62) in Norfolk.  I never asked how the boys in jets felt about a VP NFO being in charge of the carrier air traffic control center which provided the CCAs to bring them aboard at night and in crappy weather and zilch viz.  While assigned to the ship I had the opportunity to qualify as an underway OOD.  It’s really a special feeling to drive a big hunk of iron like a carrier around in the ocean as well as steaming alongside during an unrep or entering and leaving port.  After the Independence served as the Navy’s ready deck for carquals for 10 months, she deployed to the Med.  Unlike the VP-2 deployments, where even the chance of phone call home was remote, I was able to spend time with Sue and the kids on a regular basis as they followed the ship around the Med for 10 months…regular Gypsies.  We got to this circumstance by making the decision not to ride out an 11 month separation, so we sold our house and car and put everything else in storage.  During her travels, Sue was our oldest son’s first grade teacher.

1971 saw us heading for CTF 72 at NAF Naha, Okinawa where I was assigned as the ASCAC Officer.  Living in the Far East and near a major MAC hub at Kadena, we were able to see a significant portion of the Far East.  After working with deployed VP squadrons for 3 years, and knowing that’s where I was next headed, it gave me the opportunity to see which squadron I would like to join.  I selected VP-1 at NAS Barbers Point, arriving in 1975, serving first as Maintenance and then Admin Officer.  Deployments took me back to the Far East including time in Cubi, Thailand and Diego Garcia which was back in the day when we lived in “rustic hooches.” With the end of the VP-1 tour ending, I thought it was inevitable that we would be leaving Hawaii for a new duty station.  However, the detailer had other plans for me and I ended up at COMPATWING TWO at NAS Barbers Point as the Current Ops Officer.  After 3 years at the Wing, I again figured a move was coming.  By now Sue and the kids had decided Hawaii was home.  They said that wherever the Navy sent me, they would be sure to write.  However fate intervened, the former Chief of Staff at the Wing had become the Commanding Officer of NAS Barbers Point and requested that I be assigned as his XO.  And so it came to pass and I made the long trek across the base to my new office as base XO, a position I held for 6 years…sweet! After 11+ straight years at Barbers Point, I finished up my Navy career with a 3 year assignment in USCINCPAC at Camp Smith, Hawaii in the J5 Directorate (Plans & Policy) as the Branch Head for nonstrategic nuclear operation planning.

I retired from the Navy in 1989 after having served 27 years, the last 14 in Hawaii.  Retirement was something in name only as I was actually hired into a civilian job before my Navy retirement was official.  A young lawyer, who was one of the JAG Officers at Barber Point during my XO tenure had gotten out of the Navy and had become a partner in a Honolulu law firm.  Through him I was hired to be the law firm’s Chief Administrator for a 56 attorney firm, which meant I was responsible for all of the business side of the law firm.  After 8 years, I moved to a slightly smaller firm in the same position.  I fully retired at the end of 2012 with a full bag of lawyer jokes.

Sue and I have been married 53 years; have two sons and 4 grandchildren.  We live in Pearl City and have resided in Hawaii for 40 years.  We moved out of our grass shack years ago.  We got into taking cruises a ways back and try to fit in at least one each year and are working on our second 100 days of cruising.  I usually play about 100 rounds of golf each year, throw in weekly tennis for good measure, but stopped running marathons after 22 of them.  As I look back, VP-2 set the tone for what was to follow.  It was the beginning of a great and adventurous career and life.

In closing, the Association and the reunions have been a blessing.  They provide the chance to relive the memories of time spent in VP-2, although a lot of the stories of events seem to grow with the passage of time; and it is when we can rekindle old friendships while providing the opportunity to make new ones.