In The Navy - Stories From One of Our Own

Happy Memorial Day! Quality Insights honors the service of our country’s armed forces personnel in their efforts to keep us safe both at home and around the world. Quality Insights Practice Transformation Specialist Mike Clifton, MSHS, retired Independent Duty Corpsman with the United States Navy, shares some of his memories from his time of service.

JTF-6
Joint Task Force-6 were missions in the 1990s to work with law enforcement, whether with the DEA to secure drug farms in the mountains of California or, in my case, the border of New Mexico helping Border Patrol capture drug smugglers. We stayed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas for two months, alternating with other teams every three days, and being inserted in the dead of night to hike to a hilltop as our lookout point. We carried three days’ worth of supplies and were not allowed to use flashlights or build shelters to protect us from the elements. Our purpose was to stay hidden and, using night vision equipment at night and binoculars during the day, call Border Patrol for any smugglers coming across the border. During our time, we helped nab over a million dollars’ worth of illegal drugs and made several arrests. (pictured above is Mike Clifton, on duty at the border observation point in New Mexico)

Steel Beach PicnicUSS_Kearsarge.jpg
Navy traditions: Whether afloat or on land, even in combat zones, Navy commands deployed for six months or longer will traditionally have what they call a “steel beach picnic”. This marks the halfway mark of the deployment and is celebrated with a barbecue and games. My first experience on an actual ship was my deployment with a Marine unit on the USS Kearsarge. The Kearsarge is a Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) amphibious assault ship that can deploy 1600 Marines, tanks and other equipment along with air support to sustain military operations for up to 30 days. 

When we hit the mid-deployment mark we were back in the Mediterranean. With nothing around us except the sea, the ship cleared the deck of harriers and helos and replaced them with large barbecue drums to cook hamburgers and hotdogs, and large coolers full of soda. There were games such as horseshoes on the deck while others took advantage of sunbathing. Below deck were volleyball and basketball and in the evening a band. This is the Navy’s example of a beach party and picnic. (pictured above is the deck of the USS Kearsarge) 

MikeClifton.jpgNext time go down instead of up
Have you ever seen the movie Black Hawk Down? In the movie the troops are taken to the “Pakistani” Stadium, but before then, I was with 1st Tank Battalion in Mogadishu that actually secured the soccer stadium. The stadium was in between two warring factions of tribes for control of the capital. One evening, in shorts and t-shirts, we were sitting in the stadium just joking around when we heard a shot. At first we thought it was an accidental discharge, but then we heard more shots and return fire with people yelling to take cover. We all dispersed to get back to our equipment, but instead of following my Marines, who ran down the stairs into our secure area, being young and dumb, I ran up between the entranceway exposing myself to gunfire. Even with bullets hitting all around I was able to duck to the right and lower myself to the lower level - a valuable lesson learned during my first firefight. (pictured above is Mike Clifton, HM1 (FMF, SCW))

5/25/2020 12:00:00 AM | 3 comments


Comments

Comments
Cindy
Mike, thanks for the service and the perspective you and your experiences bring to the team.
6/1/2020 8:54:06 AM
 
Sven Berg
Mike, I'm glad you survived your first firefight and those that followed. Thank you for your service to our country and for the service you continue to provide as a member of our team.
6/1/2020 8:40:36 AM
 
Lisa G
Thanks for sharing your experiences and thanks for your service, Mike!
6/1/2020 8:20:29 AM
 
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