Sunday, April 27, 2008
After entering the Navy as a Seaman (left), and after attending Naval Officer Candidate School and becoming a Naval Officer, Kenneth Stepp was Assistant Inner Range Officer, and later Assistant Underwater Range Officer at the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range, in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vieques Island, Culebra Island, and Luis Pena Island. The Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range is a U.S. Navy outfit headquartered at Roosevelt Roads along the East coast of Puerto Rico, and including portions of the nearby islands of Vieques, Culebra, Luis Pena, and St. Croix. We had a Navy captain (same rank as an Army colonel--wears an eagle on his collar) "Commodore" Mackey was in charge of the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range. While I was there, Commander "Bill" Danner ( same rank as an Army Lt. Col.)was the Underwater Range officer--in charge of the Underwater Range torpedo shop and operations for underwater equipment and tests in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, and also the Underwater Range off the coast of Fredericksted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. He had two Assistant Underwater Range Officers, myself and Ensign Mike Metcalf; Mike got out of the Navy a couple of years after I did, and I understand he is back in Ohio, running a fish market. Anyway, what I was in charge of, as Assistant Underwater Range Officer, the operations at the Underwater Range in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, for about three days per test, or six days a month, I was on St. Croix at the Underwater Range, being the highest-ranking Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range Officer there, supervising and coordinating the approx. twenty private contractor employees operating the electronic equipment of the Underwater Range, and the Navy enlisted men who were the Navy underwater divers and who operated the Navy torpedo retrieval boat (TRB). The Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range is a pretty big operation. I was in charge of eighteen men (gunners mates and fire control technicians) when I was Gunnery Assistant and Second Division Officer aboard the USS Blakely, a Destroyer Escort--later a Frigate. When I was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Range as an Assistant Inner Range Officer, for one-day stretches, I was in charge of supervising on shore the Naval Gunfire Support firing of big Naval guns at shore targets, using dummy ammunition on Culebra Island, and using live, high-explosive ammunition on the Island of Vieques. Usually, on those islands, I was the highest-ranking armed forces officer on the gunfire support range and directed the people on the ship when and where to fire, and supervised approx. five Navy enlisted men also on the island gunfire support range.