By Steve Jusseaume
Hampton Union, Tuesday August 6, 2002
HAMPTON - Tedious at times. Very regimented. Long work hours and cramped sleeping arrangements. But worth every minute of it.
That's how Scott Beebe describes the seven months he spent aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard as part of the United States' military operation in Afghanistan.
Beebe, an E-3 Lance Corporal with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, arrived home from his first tour of duty as a Marine just last week, and has been enjoying his time off, visiting with family and "just hanging around with my friends."
Saturday, the son of Tom and Susan Beebe was given a reception at an open house at the family's Hilda Drive home. But his recent tour of duty was anything but "just hanging around."
A 2000 graduate of Winnacunnet High School, Beebe joined the Marine Corps right after high school. He trained at Parris Island, attended intelligence school at Virginia Beach and planned to be stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif., but the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 changed that.
"Our work-up cycle was speeded up," Beebe said this weekend, and by Dec. 7 he was in Hawaii with 6,000 other Marines and Navy men, and headed for Afghanistan.
Training stops in Hawaii and Singapore preceded the carrier's arrival off the coast of Afghanistan, where the USS Bonhomme Richard gave support to air missions and the Army ground troops in the area, and Beebe, as part of the Joint Intelligence Center crew, gathered intelligence.
"We kept track of current events, there were daily briefings to the staff, I did research. We played a major part in keeping the Army informed on what was happening around them," Beebe said.
Work on board the ship was constant.
"We worked roughly 12 to 16 hours day, seven days a week," Beebe said. "Some days we'd work three straight if it was busy, and the beds were stacked three to four high along walls. We called them coffin racks.... It was very close quarters, to say the least."
Beebe said time dragged sometimes, but generally he was pretty busy.
Upon leaving Afghanistan, the USS Bonhomme Richard traveled to Kenya, Africa, then to the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain, where the troops set up a temporary training base and gave humanitarian support to the indigenous population, despite the fact the United States military was not exactly warmly received.
"We stayed at the Naval base. We'd see protests outside the gates, cars burned, crowds.... I was on guard and I'd see people walking by staring at us. It was kind of unnerving, you just had a feeling that those people were brought up with animosity to the U.S. They were conditioned to not trust us," Beebe said.
From Bahrain it was on to Thailand, northeast Australia, then Hawaii and "back to the States."
Beebe said his first tour was one of new experiences.
"There was more routine than I expected, but we felt a real connection to the troops on the ground. We were situationally aware of most everything that happened, and I was frequently in radio contact with ground troops," said Beebe, who is due back in California in less than a week.
"We were 100 to 150 miles off the coast, but I really felt we were helping the troops. Just knowing we were there I think helped with their support, and gave them an emotional lift."