CDR Dave “Swifty” Morgan, the Ops O down at NAS Key West, passed on this story and these photos a short while back.
One of the static display aircraft on the base at Boca Chica, the A-4E Super Fox, was in need of a paint job. Swifty pulled together a team of his enlisted guys and gals and they did one heckuva job. When the time came for who’s name to put on the side…well, I’ll let Swifty finish:
As part of a base beautification project this past spring the Ops Dept at NASKW took on the challenge of refurbishing the A-4 Skyhawk that had become a complete eye sore just outside the entrance to the Base Ops. To our knowledge the aircraft had not been repainted since it was placed on display many moons ago. It looked pretty ragged. As you know nothing gets done in the navy without placing the burden on the backs of our Sailors to make it happen and this project was no different. We had volunteers from every division. Ops Sailors had the lead but it could not have been completed without the expertise of Fleet Readiness Center Key West (who had just painted one of our other birds) or VFC-111 who provided the stenciling machine and operator know-how.
We gave the restoration reigns to LT Jeff Klassy and Chief German Cruz and within no time they had assembled a team of volunteers. Sanding, scraping, and other metal prep work began taking place. Typical hurdles such as the rainy season and . . . you guessed it, funding, slowed progress down a little but didn’t stop it. (Buying aircraft paint for flyable airplanes is hard enough during sequestration, try doing it for one on a stick!)
Frankly, we had no idea that Lex’s name would go on the side of the plane when we first started. We had reserved the right side of the plane for the NASKW Sailor of the year but we were still undecided about the left. All we knew was we were saving it for someone special. Eventually we started tossing names around from research we had done on the internet. We had good names – those that had made significant contributions flying Scooters back in the day – but nothing had stuck. Finally, it hit me one day that Lex had flown with VF-45 at Key West. I guess it came to me from remembering some of the blogs where he wrote about his time in Key West. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I proposed his name to the base skipper, CAPT “Odie” McAlearney, and he immediately gave us the blessing to execute.
After briefing the Sailors on the latest decision the project began to take shape. Perhaps it was the knowledge that they were now taking part in something larger than just repainting an airplane. I think so. Nonetheless, primer was laid and then topcoat. It was the final stenciling that really made it pop! When all was said and done it was almost 4 months from start to finish but she looks good. While there were many volunteers over that period of time the Sailors that stayed together the entire stretch were ABH2 Sidney Shelton, ABH2 Josh Woolley, ACAN Christopher Kirsch, ACAA Katrisha Blackwell, and ACAR Mark Cardino. Without their dedication this would have never happened.
As I told you yesterday Lex was the XO of VFA-94 when I was a JO in VFA-97 in CVW-11. That was around 1997-2000. I’m proud to say that I have briefed, flown and cruised with him, though that seems like so long ago. NASKW is also honored to have his name and callsign on the side of our A-4E.
What a fantastic tribute. From everyone who ever knew Lex, flew with him, laughed with him, shared a Jameson or a Guinness with him or just enjoyed his writings and his friendship, thanks, Switfy!
Again, Bravo Zulu to the men and women of NAS Key West Operations, FRC and VFC-111! Thanks!