I'm very proud of my grandson Caleb McNaull who was awarded first place in the Seawolf EAF Essay contest "How does the "Scramble the Seawolves" documentary affected you and your family members perceptions or understanding of the Seawolves?" It was fun showing him the video, talking about the Seawolves and life in general. Caleb is using the scholarship money to go to Gettysburg College where he was selected to play lacrosse as a long stick middy. Unfortunately, with the virus, Caleb came home and will use the scholarship next year. Thank you seawolves.
Attached is his essay
Growing up, I’ve heard repeatedly of the service, commitment, and sacrifice made by members
of the armed forces. I know that it takes bravery and courage to risk your own life to serve our
country and protect our freedoms. Many of my neighbors and friends’ parents served in the
military and I have classmates beginning their college experiences this summer at service
academies. Even though American servicemen and women having been engaged in combat in
the Middle East and beyond for my entire life – some of whom are no older than I am now. Yet it
has all felt rather abstract.
Watching “Scramble the Seawolves” and talking about it with my grandfather, a HA(L)-3 pilot,
has really helped personalize the experience of Americans serving our nation. It has also given
me a better appreciation of my grandfather and the life-changing experience he had as a Seawolf.
The documentary brings to life the duty and sacrifices made by those who protect our country.
Seeing footage from inside the helicopters during a rescue mission gave me a much more full
and genuine appreciation for the roles the men and women serving our country play. Seeing
these Americans operating in life-or-death situations and being able to hear and see the guns
firing, the stress the pilots and other crew members pushed through, and hearing the members of the squadron talk about the need to ignore fear and carry out the mission resonated with me. I gained a cognizance for how risky and dangerous protecting our country is. The documentary
made me realize the honorable job of serving in the military is even more noble than we give
The HA(L)-3 Seawolves had incredibly hazardous jobs, even by military standards. Young men
were thrust into combat in ways that Navy personnel had never before had to. Navy pilots,
mechanics, and others who thought they might have had a safe way to serve during the Vietnam
War found themselves in heated combat just weeks after arriving in Vietnam. These were young
men – some barely older than I am now – seeing and experiencing life and death situations.
These young men were part of a brand new unit forced to adapt and overcome to accomplish its
mission supporting river boats, special operations teams, and others on the front lines.
Controlling the rivers and canals were critical to the U.S. effort in Vietnam, and the Seawolves
played a major role supporting this effort. The missions and operations the Seawolves underwent
were often unscripted and required flexibility and good decision making in the moment. They
would join a firefight or rescue mission and react to the situation that was in front of them. They
had to remain cool, composed, and focused on their task, even during the most stressful
situations. I can see how my grandfather’s calm, unflappable steadiness was influenced by this
experience. The documentary showed how the men of the squadron were able to keep their heads about them even when bullets were whizzing past them.
From viewing the documentary and talking with my grandfather about it, I can also see how his
ethical standards showed themselves as a Seawolf. He has told me about times when during
missions they made decisions that deviated from their orders, not striking certain targets like
farmers and fishing boats that they recognized as civilians. Even in stressful times, having
morality, decency and grace matter – things I can appreciate in my grandfather and in the men
featured in the documentary. These values remain critical in our everyday lives, as well.
As a multi-sport athlete headed to play lacrosse in college, I can appreciate how HA(L)-3 was
one part of a team working together in Vietnam across multiple branches of the armed forces.
The squadron supported riverboats in controlling the waterways. The riverboats controlled the
waterways to help troops on the ground. Special operations teams worked with all of them. All of
these larger functions work together to help accomplish a single goal.
The documentary shows the appreciation that the men within the squadron had for each other as
people and for their abilities to get the job done. In the documentary, pilots talked about the
courage of the door gunners in the face of incoming fire and even leaving the helicopters to
rescue people. Gunners talked about the incredible flying skills and composure of the pilots.
They all talked about the mechanics’ wizardry at outfitting and repairing the helicopters and their
resourcefulness at finding the necessary parts and materials to do their job.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of the documentary was the camaraderie and friendships built
within the squadron that were still evident decades later. In any work environment it is common
for there to be a certain closeness between co-workers. However, there is no greater example of
this than in the armed forces – bonds forged in the toughest of circumstances. In addition to
spending every hour of every day for months on end with each other, the shared experiences they created a deep bond. Seeing the risky situations the Seawolves dove into, as well as the pride they all took in getting their friends home safe, really demonstrates the close friendships
members of the squadron developed with each other, with their other Navy comrades, and with
others who served. The men in the documentary clearly came from diverse backgrounds and
perspectives, but were connected forever by their shared experience as Seawolves.
This bond cultivated while serving together is one that lasts long after time spent on active duty.
My grandfather often recalls the good times he had with his fellow Seawolves in Vietnam. From
playing touch football on the aircraft carrier to going through training and flying home with the
guys, my grandfather speaks fondly of the memories he made with the men that became some of his closest friends and with whom he has a lifelong connection. He still keeps in touch with some of the guys he went over to Vietnam with, as well as others from his naval career. It truly is remarkable to me how close members of the Seawolves became and remained years after their time in the Navy. In the interviews and the footage at the reunion, the documentary did an
excellent job showing the development of friendships and the innate closeness members of the
squadron still have to this day.
I found the amount of film in the documentary remarkable. Between the gripping combat
footage, the “downtime” for the Seawolves, and the poignant interviews and stories, it helped
bring to life the role my grandfather played in Vietnam. Before watching “Scramble the
Seawolves”, I knew very little about what exactly my grandfather did while serving in the
Vietnam War beyond that he was a pilot and that was the start of his 21 year career as a naval
officer and aviator. When I asked my grandfather what he did, he would say “I flew helicopters”
before giving me a much more complicated and technical answer than a pre-teenage me could
understand or was patient enough to listen to.
“Scramble the Seawolves” gave me a greater insight into my grandfather’s important role in the
Navy. Each time a pilot was interviewed or shown in action on screen, I saw people doing the
same things my grandfather did. This both made the men in the film more real, while also
making my grandfather’s experience more real. It put into perspective the sacrifice and risk these people took on while serving in Vietnam. I better understood their feelings of duty, of fear, and of their longing to make it home. Through their stories of the missions and operations the
Seawolves took on, I also learned much about my grandfather’s time in Vietnam, seeing sides of
the war that he hasn’t really talked about. Watching the documentary and talking with him as I
got ready to write this essay, also sparked conversations about his experience in the war,
sacrifice, losing friends, and the value of enduring friendships.
The film also helps me better understand the close bond my grandparents have with my dad’s
best friend dating back to high school, US Navy SEAL Captain Chris Brown. Chris is like an
uncle to me and his service has included serving as CO of SEAL Team One. My grandparents
view his kids like their own grandkids – part of the connection among Navy families, and the
bond between Seawolves and SEALs. Being so close with Chris has also given me a much
better understanding of the types of people my grandfather supported and worked with while in
Vietnam. Watching the documentary also helped me understand part of why my grandfather and
Chris are as close as they are. It was the responsibility of guys like my grandfather to support and extract guys like Chris when they were in tough situations. This is yet another example of the tight bond between Seawolves and SEALs the documentary highlights.
“Scramble the Seawolves” does an excellent job illustrating the lives and roles of Seawolves in
Vietnam. It has also helped me better understand an important part of my family’s history that
has helped make my grandfather the man that I know, love, and respect. I was able to see exactly how my grandfather supported others while serving, and how that service to others has carried through the rest of his life.
It is my pleasure to congratulate Caleb on his fine essay. For me, this essay was so well done, that the door blew open, and once again there was sand in my eyes. You have a Grandson to be very proud of Mike !!
Thanks Mike, He's a cool kid and we have always been close. The Seawolf conversation opened another chapter. My son, Caleb's dad, said he learned somethings he hadn't known before by watching the video and our conversations.
BZ Caleb for a great essay. Not easy to do and good luck at Gettysburg. Did you know your Grandfather fought there in '63 at Little Round Top. Although he is from VT. he was hanging with the guys from Maine and Col Chamberlain shanghaied him.