Scott Cruse BM1 (SW) - Retired

Let me introduce myself, my name is Scott Cruse and I am a retired Boatswain Mate First Class (SW), who was stationed at the U.S. Naval Station Rodman, Panama Canal CZ, from 1982 to 1988. I was attached to the HPU as a Boat Crew member and upper gunner of PCF 6 , then Boat Captain of PCF 6 and later we became SBU 26. I have numerous photos of all of the crafts from PBR and PCF to when we got the Mark III and all of the smaller crafts we had along with various transits and jungle ops.
 

We used to go to Honduras, to cross train with Hondurans sailors and some of the guys were down there for 4 to 5 months during all of the action in mid 80 living in tent city. I got to go to most of the outer islands for humanitarian support. We did everything including Canal Security, training visiting Doctors to prep them for jungle living, working with the ABC kids supporting them, and worked with the 3rd of the 7th SF supporting them in operations. We were required to go to Jungle school and pass it.
 
The boats (i.e. PBR and PCF and now the 18' and the Ramos Raiders might have came from an SBU, not sure) they had come from a Navy salvage like at Little Creek and had to be re-outfitted. The HPU was started around late 1970, I had a Craft Master I worked for in 1980 who just came from there to ACU-2,  and the Mark IV came brand new, guys went up to Texas to inspect them before they were barged down to us. People got orders into Panama to crew them, I don't think any SBU crews came from other sites but I am not sure. We were only allowed so many personnel when we were HPU and when they started talking that we were going to become an SBU, then our personnel staffing grew. I had a good friend, Juan Acosta who was a Boat Captain on one of the PCFs, he transferred over to the International school as a instructor and was one of the first guys ever ordered to the HPU (his wife was the yeoman for the 2 star at NAVSOUTHCOM).
 
A friend of mine, OSCS (he was a OS1 when he was there), Clarence Purvis, was attached to the COMMSTA over at Howard and his wife ENC Jane Purvis was my Engineman for the PCF and the modified Mike 6 we would use to do salvage work, yes we salvaged a couple of things:

1. An Army Chinook which I still have a piece of it on a placard in my office
2. Parts of a CH-130 which crashed on the mountain, which was on Rodman

Here is a list of guys I remember:

BM1 Jerome Little (BMCM ret now)
BMCS Fortier (Ret)
GMGCM Ray Bob Stewart (ret)
BMC Sam Greene (ret)
BM1 Kelly Webb (BMCM ret now)
QM1 Nash
GMG 2 Turner (GMGCS ret now)
FN Manny Perez (lost track of him he was Panamanian)
FN Danny B.
EM2
EN2 Donald Richardson (ENCS ret now)
QMC Juan Acosta (ret)
EM1 Juan Morales
EN3 Brent Stoker
ENC Anthony Laconte  
EN2 John Thompson (aka Loppa head)
GMG1 John Matthews
Lt Jeffery Ashby (he went into reserves and made Captain)( he use to be a Navy jet pilot who blew out his ear drums)
LTJG Finley (no one can forget him, during jungle school while we were on a sneak and peek, he was trying to knock some orchard out of a tree and fell into black thorn)
CWO2 Nash (biggest blow hart I every met, more so then Ray Bob got kicked out of the Navy 2 weeks before he was to retire for sleeping with some E-3 and his wife caught them)
CDR Hollaway SBU CO (SEAL)
CDR Fitzpatrick CO of International school (SEAL)
LT Michael Walsh (SEAL) (also known as the credit card kid for what he did in Grenada)( they used it in Heart break ridge movie)

These are all I can think of right now but if I talk to my buddy and his wife, we together will come up with more names.
 
Boats we had:

2 - PCF MK 1
1 - PCF MK 2
2 - PBR MK 1
1 - PBR MK 2
1 - PBR MK 3 (never left the skid it was on, later was given to the international school)
1 - 18' Boston Whaler with 360 degree rolling track for guns
2 - 24' Ramos Raiders with 360 degree rolling track
3 - 68' Sea Specter's
5 - 8 man Rubber Rafts with 100 horse Merc engines

NAVSTA had:

1 - 50' LCPL (converted into deep sea fishing boat)
1 - 50' LCM-6 (converted into a pushing boat/escort/salvage boat)

Later we got PCF 9 for a tow array platform (PCF MK2)

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I also remember a time when we were escorting a plutonium ship through the locks and the Panamanians decided at that time to strike just as we were at the top of the lock at Pedro Miguel. LT Ashby was the OIC on that trip and he called back to SOUTHCOM for instructions as we had a no nonsense from the 2 star at SOUTHCOM and had received a message via radio asking us if we were locked and loaded, to which we replied Roger. He began to tell us to inform the Panamanian Dock Master that if they did not open the gate in 5 minutes then we were going to start shooting, now picture 1 PCF MKII with twin 50 above 40mm mid ship, 60 mid ship and 80 mortar with piggyback 50 on top of it and 3 PBR with same armament pointing at you all at once. I never seen the gates open so fast and there was never anymore trouble after that time.
 
Here's another one for you
 
We are over by Fort Sherman doing exercises with some ABC kids and some visiting Doctors; I am a crew member of PCF 9 at that time with good ole Sam the Man Greene as boat Captain. We are nudged up bow first into this tight area hiding from everyone watching a path we know that the group is going to be using, so we can radio the ambushers to be ready. We had this newby Ensign onboard and the howler monkeys are driving him insane. We keep telling him to keep it down as we are trying to get a sight of the visiting group. He finally could not take it anymore and throws a apple up into the tree to scare them away, well they quieted down and he looks up to see if they are gone, one of them throws something back at him (I bet you can figure out what it threw) and it hits the Ensign right in the face.
 
OK, last story
 
I am kind of a smart A$$ and we had this Butter Bar from the Army come down to our site to see the boats; well my PCF is the only one at the pier and guess who gets to give him a tour. Well we get back to the aft of the boat and he see's the 81 mortar with the 50 on top of it and he would like to know how we can shoot a mortar from the back of a boat. Well being the wise A$$ that I am, I start telling him that we get a new shipment of E-1s every month because we keep making them tread water holding up spotting stick aft of the boat and either they drown or they get eaten by sharks. Well he goes back to his HQ and informs General Galvin, who was SOUTHCOM at the time, that we are a bunch of Psychos and should be locked up. I get a call from the CO of the HPU wanting to know what the Hell I told that 1LT. Now let me tell you this, I was real good friends with General Galvin because every time he wanted to go deep sea fishing, I would take him out in the NAVSTA fishing boat, anyway, the Skipper tells me that General Galvin knew that it was me giving the 1LT a tour just by hearing the story and asked the skipper to please tell me that it was real funny but please take it easy the next time on his officers. "I never gave another tour after that." 

Well, one more last story. . .

When the Under Secretary of the Navy and his wife came down in 1985 to visit the Naval Station, I had to take them out on the USN fishing boat for a tour of the canal. While coming into the piers, I had to dock the boat by turning it around and backing into the slip as we had to dock real close to the pier in the first slip. I made my turn, my left throttle stuck open and I lost my rudder control. I yelled to hold and brace for collision, but when we hit the pier, the UNSECNAVís wife went elbows over teakettles because she was not holding onto anything. At the time I had my career flash before my eyes as my crew was helping her up but the UNSECNAV just came up and said great job, and under his breath he said to me that maybe next time she will listen.

 
Rodman PCF and PBRs


Rodman - Inside Pilothouse Rodman - Driver

Rodman - Mark II PCF  Rodman - Mark I PCF 

Rodman PCF MK I w/USS Nautilus

Webmasters notes:

The PCF 6 and PCF 9 talked of in the article above are really the Coronado/Mare Island training boats PCF 1 & 2, which were  re-discovered in Panama in the fall of 1994, and then rescued from the scrap heap by numerous ex-swiftees. The boats were transported to Norfolk, VA, where they were restored and then used in the "Last River Run" reunion, at the Washington Navy Yard, in June 1995.

At that ceremony, PCF 1 was donated to the Washington Navy Yard Museum, Washington, D.C., for permanent display. PCF 2 was donated to Tidewater Community College in Virginia Beach, VA, for use as an oceanographic research vessel.  It is now painted teal (hull, doors, ladder, handrails, mast and ammo locker) and white (superstructure and the top of the ammo locker) and renamed the Research Vessel Matthew F. Maury.  It's named after one of the early oceanographers whose nickname was "The Pathfinder of the Seas."