Navy Amphib Saves Boaters (And Their Dogs) Who Were Lost At Sea For 6 Months

Sailors help Zeus, one of two dogs who were accompanying two mariners who were aided by the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48).
U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay

For almost six months, there was nothing. It was just Jennifer Appel, Tasha Fuiava, their dogs Zeus and Valentine, a busted marine engine, and the Pacific.

Appel and Fuiava had departed in a sailboat from Honolulu with their seaworthy pups on May 3, bound for Tahiti. They were well-equipped for the two-month southern journey, with a desalinator to make drinking water and plenty of dry provisions — rice, pasta, oatmeal. But a month in, their engine failed. They pressed on, but were clearly way off course. They radioed distress signals, but never got a reply.

Sailors assigned to USS Ashland (LSD 48) maneuver the landing craft personnel (large) to render assistance to Appel and Fuiava.U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay

On Oct. 25, after 176 days aimless at sea, Appel, Fuiava, Zeus, and Valentine were rescued by sailors from the amphibious docking ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), 900 miles off of Japan — and in a completely different cardinal direction from Tahiti.

Ship’s crew recorded the dramatic moments of first contact with the erstwhile sailors:

The 7th Fleet Amphibious Force detailed Ashland’s “render assistance” mission in a news release Oct. 26:

On Oct. 24, [Appel and Fuiava] were discovered 900 miles southeast of Japan by a Taiwanese fishing vessel. The fishing vessel contacted Coast Guard Sector Guam who then coordinated with Taipei Rescue Coordination Center, the Japan Coordination Center, and the Joint Coordination Center in Honolulu to render assistance.

Operating near the area on a routine deployment, Ashland made best speed to the location of the vessel in the early morning on Oct. 25 and arrived on scene at 10:30 a.m that morning. After assessing the sailboat unseaworthy, Ashland crew members brought the distressed mariners and their two dogs aboard the ship at 1:18 p.m.

Tasha Fuiava climbs the accommodation ladder to board USS Ashland after her rescue.U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay

“It was incredibly emotional and it was so satisfying to know the men and women that serve our country would come and assist us,” Appel said in a post-rescue phone interview with Honolulu-based KHON-2 News:

Emotional is right. Though their sailboat was well-equipped, the Navy deemed it unseaworthy. Photos show a well-worn boat and crew — understandable, given the ordeal they faced. “You can’t get any help at all because you’re in the middle of nowhere,” Fuiava told KHON. “And if it falls apart around you, you’re swimming, and you’re shark bait.”

“It was very depressing. And it was very hopeless,” Appel said. “But the only thing you can do [is] you use what you can and what you have. You have no other choice.”

USS Ashland Command Master Chief Gary Wise welcomes Jennifer Appel aboard after her rescue.U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay

The rescued sailors, tanned and now rested, are cruising on with Ashland and its crew until their next port of call. "I'm grateful for their service to our country,” Appel said in the Navy’s news release. “They saved our lives. The pride and smiles we had when we saw [U.S. Navy] on the horizon was pure relief."

All in a day’s work, said Cmdr. Steven Wasson, Ashland’s commanding officer.

"The U.S. Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation," he said.

Oh, and the dogs were fine, too.

A sailor greets Zeus the dog and his owner Tasha Fuiaba, left, on the boat deck of USS Ashland (LSD 48) after assistance was rendered to their distressed sailboat.U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay

Arizona Army National Guard soldiers with the 160th and 159th Financial Management Support Detachments qualify with the M249 squad automatic weapon at the Florence Military Reservation firing range on March 8, 2019. (U.S. Army/Spc. Laura Bauer)

The recruiting commercials for the Army Reserve proclaim "one weekend each month," but the real-life Army Reserve might as well say "hold my beer."

That's because the weekend "recruiting hook" — as it's called in a leaked document compiled by Army personnel for the new chief of staff — reveal that it's, well, kinda bullshit.

When they're not activated or deployed, most reservists and guardsmen spend one weekend a month on duty and two weeks a year training, according to the Army recruiting website. But that claim doesn't seem to square with reality.

"The Army Reserve is cashing in on uncompensated sacrifices of its Soldiers on a scale that must be in the tens of millions of dollars, and that is a violation of trust, stewardship, and the Army Values," one Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, who also complained that his battalion commander "demanded" that he be available at all times, told members of an Army Transition Team earlier this year.

Read More Show Less

According to an internal Army document, soldiers feel that the service's overwhelming focus on readiness is wearing down the force, and leading some unit leaders to fudge the truth on their unit's readiness.

"Soldiers in all three Army Components assess themselves and their unit as less ready to perform their wartime mission, despite an increased focus on readiness," reads the document, which was put together by the Army Transition Team for new Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and obtained by Task & Purpose. "The drive to attain the highest levels of readiness has led some unit leaders to inaccurately report readiness."

Lt. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, who served as the director of the transition team, said in the document's opening that though the surveys conducted are not scientific, the feedback "is honest and emblematic of the force as a whole taken from seven installations and over 400 respondents."

Those surveyed were asked to weigh in on four questions — one of which being what the Army isn't doing right. One of the themes that emerged from the answers is that "[r]eadiness demands are breaking the force."

Read More Show Less

If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention in the last few years, you know that the Pentagon has been zeroing in on the threat that China and Russia pose, and the future battles it anticipates.

The Army has followed suit, pushing to modernize its force to be ready for whatever comes its way. As part of its modernization, the Army adopted the Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) concept, which serves as the Army's main war-fighting doctrine and lays the groundwork for how the force will fight near-peer threats like Russia and China across land, air, sea, cyber, and space.

But in an internal document obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army Transition Team for the new Chief of Staff, Gen. James McConville, argues that China poses a more immediate threat than Russia, so the Army needs make the Asia-Pacific region its priority while deploying "minimal current conventional forces" in Europe to deter Russia.

Read More Show Less

As the saying goes, you recruit the soldier, but you retain the family.

And according to internal documents obtained by Task & Purpose, the Army still has substantial work to do in addressing families' concerns.

Read More Show Less
The Marine Corps Exchange at Quantico (Photo: Valerie OBerry)

If you're a veteran with a VA service-connected disability rating, a former prisoner of war, or a Purple Heart recipient, the exchange, recreation facilities, and commissary on base will be opening their doors to you starting in 2020.

In what's being billed as the largest expansion of new shoppers in the military commissary system in 65 years, veterans will be allowed back into many of the same retail outlets they had access to while in uniform starting on Jan. 1, 2020, thanks to a measure put in to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

Read More Show Less