Minemen Around the World

The Mobile Mine Assembly Team
and NSA Mildenhall, England


Image courtesy of Wikipedia
RAF-Mildenhall, West Suffolk, England

A NEW CONCEPT IN ATLANTIC FLEET MINE WARFARE;
THE MOBILE MINE ASSEMBLY TEAM and
U.S. Naval Support Activity, Det. M,
RAF Mildenhall, England

The objective of the Mobile Mine Assembly Team, henceforth called the MOMAT, is to create a higher degree of mine warfare readiness in the Atlantic This is the stand that COMINLANT took when in December 1962, the recommendation to CINCLANT was made that a conference be convened of all commands having Minemen and an interest in mine readiness. With the approval of CNO the conference was convened at the Pentagon on 30 January 1963. Admiral Grantham was nominated as Chairman by CINCLANTFLT. It must first be acknowledged that mine readiness hinges on mine maintenance at overseas stock points. With this goes the increased need of personnel. The stumbling block lies in that personnel allowances are not increased so easily. The overall Navy allowance must be compensated for. This was the problem area.

As a direct result of the January conference, 40 COMNAVAIRLANT Mineman shore billets were transferred to preferred sea duty billets under COMINLANT. With these 40 billets two MOMATS were established each having 20 men. MOMAT 0321 was established at the Naval Weapons Station, Yorktown, VA. and MOMAT 0322 was established at Minecraft Support Unit, Charleston, S. C.

These two teams must be ready for immediate deployment when ordered. Under ordinary circumstances they will deploy alternately for periods of five-months to overseas mine stocking activities. When in CONUS each team will support the Fleet Service Mine Tests on the Atlantic Coast. The first MOMAT deployment took place October 1963 when LTJG Donald DeCrona, Officer in Charge MOMAT 0321 deployed with 10 men from MOMAT 0322 to the CINCUSNAVEUR area.

Navy history has been in the making. These two Mobile Mine Assembly Teams constitute the first wartime mine assembly requirement and capability of Commander Mine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

MOMAT 0321: LTJG Don DeCrona, OINC. Ensign Ed Oyer, AOINC. MOMAT 0322: LT Ed Sprecher, OINC. Ensign Paul Hanks, AOINC.

When I received my orders on 23 August 1963 to report to COMINLANT as OIC, Mobile Mine Assembly Team 0321, I was presently attached to the Naval Mine Engineering Facility (NMEF), Yorktown, VA, in the billet of Fleet Liaison Officer. In September I reported to COMINLANT, Charleston, SC, for one week for instructions pertaining to our mission and tasks, and to establish fiscal and supply arrangements. I reported to the Commanding Officer, Naval Weapons Station, Yorktown, VA, for administration purposes. At my meeting with RADM H. J. Kossler, COMINLANT, he stated that there were no established allowances, instructions, or regulations for a MOMAT that in a year the OIC of both teams will meet with his staff to establish these shortfalls. Because of operational commitments of both teams this meeting didn't take place for two years.

When MOMAT 0321 was commissioned there were no arrangements made for a building space for the Team, nor was there billeting for arriving personnel. I had to make these necessary arrangements, plus working with Personnel and Fiscal. When I was detached from NMEF I was a person without a place to hang my hat. CDR F. F. Jewett was the OIC of the NMEF and he allowed me to remain at my old desk until a permanent building was available.

I was having problems getting a building and equipment from the NWS, even though our establishment was with the approval of CNO. Certain people thought that we were not important if a LTJG was the OIC and an Ensign as AOIC. With effort things did change and we got our own home.

I had been at NMEF for two years and during this period I was able to work with the civilians at NWS. The civilian in charge of the excess property and property control was very helpful, as I was able to get all the office equipment needed at no cost. When he issued the items to me his passing word was, "Will I ever get these items back?" No, I said as I left his office.

It wasn't long until the team members started to arrive. I'm sorry I can't remember the names of the first arrivals. There was MNCS Harry Coker and MN1 Patrick Reagan among the first arrivals. Coker was promoted to E-9 while at this command. The organization started to fall into place and before long we had the makings of an operational command, still with much work to be accomplished, like any new command.

At this time LT Sprecher, Ensign Hanks and Ensign Oyer had not reported to their respective commands.

The 40 COMNAVAIRLANT Mineman transferred to COMINLANT allowance were from the Mine Detail Augmenting Unit (MDAU) that were under control of COMAIRPAC and COMAIRLANT. They, like MOMAT, deployed for mine maintenance at overseas stock points. The MDAU at NAS Quonset Point was deployed at RAF Mildenhall, England and their rotation was almost up, so a MOMAT replacement was needed to be formed. MOMAT 0322 had the personnel and I was available. So forces were combined and we arrived 11 October 1963 for relief of MDAU for a five month deployment as MOMAT 0321 Det. ALFA. We completed our tour on 23 March 1964. MNCS Coker assumed the local management responsibility of the MOMAT until Ensign Oyer arrived.

After Ed Oyer reported aboard and I was in Mildenhall we exchanged letters on the progress for the development of the MOMAT, and this way we were assured to be in harmony for its organization.

The MOMAT was established under the operational and administrative control of COMINLANT; therefore, orders for any team TAD were issued by COMINLANT. As for orders issued for Mildenhall, they were in connection with MINLANT matters called INVICTUS CHARLIE. Our reporting command was to Commander, U. S. Naval Activities, U.K., to maintain the mines at their Detachment M, Mildenhall. Our fiscal and some other types of support were by NAVACTS. From 18 October 1963 to 20 March 1964 I made six trips to London on official matters.

I do not know the exact date for the disestablishment of the MDAU; however, I received my change of duty orders to report to NAF Naha, Okinawa, for duty with MDAU 0301 where on 19 March 1966, I reported for duty. During this tour of duty I never was advised that the MDAU 0301 was disestablished. According to then Ensign Lyal Stryker that in January 1960, the Naha MDAU was integrated into the NAF Naha Mines Division.

Ensign Oyer with MOMAT 0321 Det Bravo relieved me. This was followed my Ensign Hawks relieving Ensign Oyer and I relieved Ensign Hawks for my second and last deployment to Mildenhall.

At sometime before I made my second deployment to Mildenhall I had a meeting with RADM Kossler when he expressed that the security at that mine area was too restrictive. It was not a special weapons complex. The security had been that base personnel, except for their Air Police who provided physical security, were not freely or at all allowed within the area. On my return to Mildenhall I invited the base commander for a tour, this was his first time in the area. He asked how much explosives was stored, when I told him he paused, and then said if all of it went up that it would take out his entire base.

Mine Project FOUR at Yorktown, VA, later had their name and reporting command changed to MOMAT 0327, COMINLANT.

In 1965 the OIC of the two MOMATS at Yorktown made the recommendation to COMINLANT that the three MOMATS be stationed at Charleston under one command. This was the beginning of a new organization for MOMATS.

I was relieved by LT Lyal Stryker on 11 February 1966 and at a latter date LTJG Toby Horn relieved LTJG Oyer as AOIC.

--LCDR Don DeCrona, USN, (Ret.)

 


[DDM-11] MNCM Harry L. Coker receives Plank Owner certificate
 from LTJG Don DeCrona, 8 January 1965, Yorktown.

 


[DDM-20] Change of Command Ceremony-LT Lyal Stryker
 relieves OIC LT Don DeCrona, 10 February 1966, Yorktown.

 


[DDM-21] Change of Command Ceremony-LT Lyal Stryker
 relieves OIC LT Don DeCrona, 10 February 1966, Yorktown.

 


[DDM-22] LT Don DeCrona "piped over the side" completing
 Change of Command Ceremony, 11 February 1966, Yorktown.

 

[All site photos courtesy of Don DeCrona]

 


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