I took these photos during my time on USS SAIPAN from June 1998 until March 2000. One month after my arrival, SAIPAN deployed to the Mediterranean for six months with USS AUSTIN and USS TORTUGA. We had elements of Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) 22 embarked which included four M1A1 Abrams, trucks and an assortment of Humvees. Our primary surface craft were four LCUs. The Marine Air Combat Element (ACE) was the composite squadron HMM-162, comprised of AV-8Bs, CH-46s, CH-53Ds, AH-1Ws and UH-1Ns. Upon our return, SAIPAN served as the test platform for the V-22 Osprey for three months over the next year.
I served as the Damage Control Assistant and Auxiliaries Officer. Essentially I was responsible for all damage control including fire fighting and NBC warfare. I also owned all auxiliary systems from sewage to air conditioning from ballast control to aircraft elevators. In an amphibious role I was the ballasting officer, responsible for flooding the ship in order to launch and recover landing craft. This is no easy task when each craft is loaded differently and flight operations are ongoing. Add to the problem, ship’s motion, and it becomes a 12 hour long balancing act.
I had an office in the midst of the pilot staterooms. It is amazing what four Marine pilots can cram into a small compartment. They were very creative! Since the stateroom closest to my office had an escape scuttle to the port gallery deck, I was always on them to keep it closed at night. They were always amazed when I could tell it when the scuttle was open. The door to their room would slam harder due to the air pressure and I never told them how I knew. We got along great and when they left at the end of the deployment, they laced my files and publications with photo excerpts from the porn library they maintained. Boy that was exciting when I unsuspectingly opened file folders in front of my female subordinates!
Charles Landrum is a Surface Warfare Officer and Naval Academy graduate (1983) who has served on six ships including SAIPAN (LHA-2), ENTERPRISE (CVN-65), BIDDLE (CG-34), HAYLER (DD-997), HARRY E. YARNELL (CG-17), and KIDD (DDG-993). He has also served on ships from Canada, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Italy.