Manager’s Message

Greetings from the USS Orleck (DD 886) museum in Jacksonville, Florida. With all the restoration projects and events hosted onboard, we were unable to publish our monthly newsletter since November 2023. In this December 2023 to May 2024 USS Orleck newsletter, I will address all our restoration and repair efforts, new exhibits, major events conducted onboard, new training programs, and current fund-raising promotions. As always, we appreciate your support as we strive to restore and maintain the Orleck as a tribute to all who have served in her and the United States Navy.

Restoration and Repair Update

Our Orleck volunteers and contactors have been very busy with repair and restoration work on the ship and our pier over the past six months. Led by our Restoration and Repair Officer, MACM Charlie Davis, USN, (Ret.) we completed the following projects:

Our Triten Company contractor re-plated the entire steel deck in the aft Weapons Berthing Compartment and replaced the deck hatches. The deck was severely deteriorated due to past water intrusion. This space will be converted into our museum and souvenir shop during the summer of 2024. Here is a current picture as we prepare to insulate and paint the compartment.

Re-plating of the Deck in aft Weapons Berthing Compartment

Re-plating of the Deck in aft Weapons Berthing Compartment

The boat winch was removed from the fantail deck to facilitate the repair of holes in the underlying deck. These holes were allowing water to intrude into the aft Weapons Berthing Compartment below. The winch has been relocated to the pier and will remain there as a static display. We also took advantage of the dry season during the months of April and May in Jacksonville, Florida to put a fresh coat of paint on all of the weather decks.

Fantail and winch re-positioned on the pier

Port side main deck

Restored DASH Flight Deck

Orleck’s original Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH)/Flight Deck was in very bad condition with numerous leaks. With the assistance of our Triten Company contractors, we re-plated the deck with aluminum and painted it in the scheme used during the time that the DASH was operational. We also removed the solid aft bulkhead of the hangar and installed a roller door for moving the DASH in and out of the hangar. You may recall there was a kingpost stowed below the DASH deck. It has been removed and installed on the pier as part of the personnel highline transfer exhibit.

Our DASH Hangar was in extremely poor condition when the ship arrived in Jacksonville. It had been converted into a lounge/mess hall during its service with the Turkish Navy, to include large tables, false bulkheads and ceiling, and a kitchen. This is what the hangar looked like in March 2023 after we started its restoration as a hangar. The restoration work involved the removal of existing deck, overhead, and bulkhead materials, extensive electrical upgrades, and the preservation and painting of all surfaces.

Hangar undergoing restoration

Hangar undergoing restoration

Post-Hangar restoration

The restored DASH and DASH hangar today. We also restored the wooden DASH propeller blades and mounted them on the port and starboard bulkheads. In addition, three mini-split air conditioning units were installed for use during training sessions, ceremonies, and receptions.

We restored the Engineering (M/B) berthing compartment and installed 52 canvas racks. An air conditioning unit was installed just in time for our initial camp over event in this compartment. The Orleck hosted 20 Sea Cadets and parents from Tallahassee, Florida for a camp over in April 2024.This was the first time someone has slept onboard in this space in decades!

Engineering M-B Division Berthing Compartment

Restored DASH in hangar

With the assistance of the Tin Can Sailor’s Association, we were able to find a replacement for Orleck’s 26-foot Motor Whale Boat (MWB). They put us in contact with a person in Georgia who just happened to have one in his backyard. It was originally used on the USS Milwaukee (AOR-2). Our Restoration and Repair Office, MACM (Ret.) Charlie Davis, rigged his trailer so that he could tow the MWB to Jacksonville. Fincantieri Shipyard provided crane services to lift the boat onto the Navy Pier. An Eagle Scout assisted in the restoration project. The MWB will remain on the pier as a static display since the Orleck does not have a complete working boat davit. The boat’s diesel engine is being restored for use as static display in front of the MWB. The MWB’s call sign is Stage Door 1.

Restored 26-foot Orleck Motor Whale Boat

Orleck’s pier pre-restoration Mach 2024

We also made major electrical upgrades to the ship with the assistance of the American Electric Company in Jacksonville. This included changing all lighting fixtures to LED lights, installing new transformers, and making needed repairs to wiring, fusing, etc.

And, if all that restoration work wasn’t enough, we took on the task of restoring our 660-foot pier where we moved to in April of 2023. This pier was originally part of a shipyard, most recently the Jacksonville Shipyard, which shut down in the 1980s. Many Liberty Ships were built here during World War II where the Orleck is currently moored. Here is what the pier looked like before we started the restoration work in March 2024.

The pier restoration effort involved the installation of five additional bollards by the Hal Jones Contractor to support mooring lines, installation of electric power cables up both sides of the pier by American Electric and cementing over the troughs used for the pier crane rails by Triten. When those tasks were completed, we installed barricades and LED lighting by the Screen Enclosure Lighting Company on both sides of the pier. The pier was painted like the deck of an aircraft carrier by the S. David Company, and we added the hull numbers of all the past Mayport-based aircraft carriers to the end of the “runway” pier to honor their service. Can you name all eight aircraft carriers that once called Mayport home?

The restored Navy Pier view from the ship

The grand opening of our restored pier was during our inaugural fund-raising gala, Bold Vigilance, which was held on 18 May 2024. The pier has been renamed the “Navy Pier.”

Overhead drone view of the Navy Pier

The Navy Pier and Orleck all lit up

The Navy Pier and Orleck all lit up

EXHIBITS

The Personnel Highline Transfer Exhibit

Personnel Highline Transfer

Once our pier restoration effort was completed, we put together an exhibit on how personnel were transferred between ships while underway. Prior to the extensive use of helicopters, personnel highline transfer was used. Here is our ENS Benson in the transfer chair on his return ride to his aircraft carrier (kingpost) as the Orleck crew eagerly awaits a couple buckets of ice cream in return! The highline transfer exhibit was made possible by donations from American Legion Post 401 in Hilliard, Florida.

The Mount 52 Experience

Our Mount 52 Experience is up and running with rave reviews from our visitors. It is a video combined with lighting, sound, and vibration effects to give viewers a sampling on how the gun mount functioned using the backdrop of an actual mission completed by the Orleck off Viet Nam on October 28, 1968.

The Mount 52 Experience

The Mount 52 Experience

USS Orleck Navy Fire Scout Drone

USS Orleck Navy Fire Scout Drone

USS Orleck Navy Fire Scout Drone MQ-8B

Orleck now has a model of the Navy’s Fire Scout drone flying high over the DASH! All thanks to a donation from the UAV program office at NAS JAX!

MQ-8B Fire Scout was the Navy’s only unmanned helicopter, designed to deliver real-time intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (ISR&T) capabilities. Fire Scout brought increased situational awareness to the fleet in distributed maritime operations, extending the ship’s sensors range and endurance.

We also have two new exciting exhibits that will be coming online during the next few months. The first one, located in the Pilot House, is a video describing the actual events during Orleck’s train busting mission during the Korean War. The soundtrack includes firsthand accounts from an Orleck crew member who observed the engagement. The second exhibit will use holographic technology in the Combat Information Center (CIC) to describe a Cold War scenario.

EVENTS

Nadia Seesock, our events and volunteer coordinator, has been very busy scheduling and planning multiple events over the past six months. The highlight event was our inaugural fund-raising gala, Bold Vigilance, held on 18 May 2024. This event included the dedication of the Navy Pier and was a venue for thanking all the Orleck Museum’s donors, volunteers, and contractors who were so helpful in our ship and pier restoration efforts. Banners were hung on the pier for all companies/contractors who worked tirelessly over the past two years.

We also recognized our Volunteer of the Quarter for January to March 2024, Lynne Moore, during the gala.

A stainless-steel welder by trade, Lynne Moore, arrived on 22 January from his hometown of Syracuse. Having served as a BT2 Oil King onboard Orleck from 1979 to 1980, he quickly acclimated himself to the restoration task requirements and performed superbly in all assignments. He welded numerous broken fixtures, assisted in the Navy pier restoration, supported numerous preservation tasks, acted as a docent to assist accommodating large tour groups, and often worked 6 days a week in support of critical safety related repairs. His outstanding personal initiative resulted in many tasks being completed ahead of schedule. We have had numerous outstanding volunteers onboard Orleck, and Lynn Moore has added his name to that list. We wish Lynne fair winds and following seas on his return home and look forward to his return next year.

Lynne Moore (left) and Tony Valerio (right) at the Gala

In addition to our gala, the Orleck
was used for several events to include:

Military Promotion, Retirement and Reenlistment Ceremonies

Orleck crewmember visits

Parties and Receptions

Ship Reunions

NJROTC and Sea Scout Cadet events

Weddings

Yoga Classes

Commemorations

Group/School Tours

Braille Flag Plaque on the fantail

Sonshine Christian Academy Students Tour The USS Orleck

Students from Sonshine Christian Academy Manning the Pilot House

Eight and Ninth grade students from the Sonshine Christian Academy from Callahan, Florida toured the USS Orleck Museum as part of their American History class. While studying World War II and the Cold War eras, their teacher, Mr. Petree brought the students to the museum, trying to bring American History out of the textbook and helping them experience hands on what it was like in the U.S. Navy during those times.

Museum Ships on the Air

The Orleck Amateur Radio Society (OARS) participated in the annual amateur radio event.  Broadcasting from Radio Central the Orleck participated in the annual Museum Ships on the Air amateur radio (HAM) event 1 June and 2 June 2024. There were 104 ships registered including 24 from other countries and 80 from the United States.  Shifts of 17 radio operators made 350 contacts connecting with 5 other museum ships.  The USS Orleck is the only retired Navy vessel in the State of Florida and was honored to represent Jacksonville and the State of Florida for this event.

Museum Ships on the Air 2024

HAM Radio Operators John Reynold and Todd Lovelace

HAM Radio Operators Steve Shell and Larry Krull

Future major events on the Orleck include:

Shipyard Social/Fireworks Viewing in Downtown Jacksonville: 4 July 24
Korean War Armistice Commemoration: 25 July 24
Veteran’s Day Half Marathon: 11 November 24
Car show: 7 December 24

Training Programs

Volunteer Bob Whitkop has instituted the Orleck’s Seamanship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math + History (SSTEAM-H) program. As the name implies, SSTEAM-H will cover the traditional components of the STEM and add Seamanship, Arts, and History to the mix. Programs are open to all Orleck Crew Members and daily visitors as available without charge for most courses. We have held training since the beginning of the year on Strategy and Policy as well as military movies. Training has been provided to local Sea Cadets as well as Cadets from as far away as Tallahassee. Training has included Flag etiquette and History, Signaling and Morse Code, and Emergency egress with many other topics available. Our Jacksonville Boys and Girl Club members will be enrolled in our SSTEAM-H program from June to July 2024.

Mayport Sea Cadets in First Aid/CPR Training

Mayport Sea Cadets in First Aid/CPR Training

We have also instituted a First Aide/CPR certification program led by our Medical Officer, Dr. Jeff Sandler, MD, CAPT. USN (Ret.) to ensure the safety of our visitors and staff. Our staff has completed the American Red Cross Certified first aid/CPR course and we are also provided this training/certification to external organizations such as the Mayport, Florida Sea Cadets under the auspices of our SSTEAM-H program.

Fundraising Programs

We have instituted two fundraising promotions, Berthing Nameplates and Flag Flying. As we restore the berthing areas, we are installing a plaque with the names of those crewmembers who donated toward the restoration of the berthing compartment they lived in.

We are also providing donors the opportunity to have a U.S. flag flown on the ship on their requested day. It is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. See the jaxnavalmuseum.org website for more information.

Engineering Berthing Compartment Plaque

Your Feedback Is Important To Us

Please provide any feedback about your recent visit to the USS Orleck. We are continually working to improve our visitor experience.

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