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"We were out there picking people up off houses, and picking people up out at sea, hanging on tree trunks." (Video Interview, 18:20)

   Dennis Craig Grabeel
Image of Dennis Craig Grabeel
Dennis Craig Grabeel [2006]
War: Cold War; Persian Gulf War, 1991
Branch: Navy
Unit: Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range; Fleet Composite Squadron 8 (VC 8)
Service Location: Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico; Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Virginia
Rank: Commander
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Craig Grabeel was a pilot in the Navy whose service did not take him into combat, but he was hardly immune from danger. He served in a squadron which did Search and Rescue missions, including two which involved hurricane victims. After 6 years on active duty and another 16 in the Reserves, Grabeel worked for the Navy in a civilian capacity, reformulating policy approaches in the draw-downs after the Cold War ended.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (7 clips)
»Complete Interview 
»Photo Album  (1 photo)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (7 items)
Enlisting in the Navy flight program out of the University of Virginia; his father and father-in-law were Army, but the Navy pursued him; recalls a picture in a book from his childhood: a Navy plane that had just taken off from a carrier. (01:36) First day in training; motley crew of recruits; drill instructors "stripping you down to your Social Security number" and then building you up to what they want; putting pressure on you, and if you couldn't stand it, "they didn't want you in their airplanes;" he saw it as a game of survival and didn't take the abuse personally. (02:23) Incident during flight training: flying with Marine major in the back seat; pretending to stall and then add full power; if you don't add right rudder, plane will roll on you; his did, but he recovered, and instructor allowed him to make the adjustment; training kicks in and overrides any emotional reaction. (02:38)
First duties with Naval Shore Bombardment; based in Puerto Rico serving as a Division Officer for the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range; out on islands off the coast to brief and train Navy and Marine Corps squadrons on range rules; scoring the squadrons' performance. (01:14) Transferred to Fleet Composite Squadron 8 (VC 8), squadron supported the fleet during war games; squadron duties: P-2 aircraft would drop the drone targets (unmanned targets); A-4 jet sky hawks would tow banners for them to shoot at; H-3 helicopters would pick up the drones as they ran out of fuel and landed in the ocean, flying them back; most rewarding work was Search and Rescue; involved with aftermath of two hurricanes; three helicopters up after Eloise in 1975. (01:42) Met his future wife when they were both in service, but she was enlisted and he was officer; fraternization was forbidden; he got out of active duty and joined the Reserves; she joined the Reserves, too in 1980, the year they were married. (03:12)
Reserve duties: involved in Naval Control of Shipping; did one two-week active duty stint once a year; when he worked for Department of the Navy as a civilian, traveled all over the world; was instructor in Senior Leaders Seminar in Total Quality Leadership; did some strategic planning with Commands and helped redefine their vision and mission in the wake of the Cold War. (03:33)  

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  October 26, 2011
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