Canton Repository

March 30, 2003

Jackson Twp. native aids fighters in flight

Copley News Service and 
G. PATRICK KELLEY Repository staff writer

ABOARD USS CONSTELLATION -- Lt. Jason Manse celebrated his 28th birthday on an aircraft carrier in the northern Persian Gulf.

It wasn’t much of a celebration for the Jackson Township native. He spent a good part of the day, March 22, flying a mission in the U.S.-led war with Iraq.

Manse is a naval officer flying in the S-3B Viking with Sea Control Squadron 38.

His plane looks a bit like a shrunken 737. It’s a twin jet that hunts submarines, scouts the area around the massive aircraft carrier, and can attack threatening ships as well as land targets with bombs and guided missiles.

But most of all, it serves as a flying gas station.

Manse’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Steven M. Kelly, said the squadron has “saved” nearly a dozen of the fuel-guzzling fighters by giving them enough fuel to make it back to the carrier.

The Navy calls the process “tanking” and the S-3B a “force multiplier aircraft” because of its ability to refuel other planes in the air.

The plane has a single pilot. A flight officer, like Manse, sits to the pilot’s right, assists him as copilot and serves as mission commander, directing the tactical situation. He also controls the refueling drogue and the amount of fuel passed to the other aircraft.

Another flight officer sits behind them, operating the sensors the Viking employs for its missions.

Despite their value as refuelers, the Viking crews remind everyone of their other capabilities.

“Tanking is one of our primary missions, but so is surface surveillance,” Manse said. And, “we have an over-land, over-water strike capability, and we get used.”

One of VS-38’s aircrews made a bit of history last week by flying inland to sink an Iraqi vessel in the Tigris River, using a laser-guided Maverick missile.

Manse’s father, Ron Manse, said that news was a bit troubling for his wife, Cindy.

She was “doing fine until Tuesday when CNN reported the S3 Viking made history,” the elder Manse said, adding his wife is very anxious about Jason now that she knows his aircraft is being used in support of ground troops.

One of the Vikings’ more demanding forms of refueling, or tanking, is called “hawking.” The S-3 follows a fighter as it approaches the carrier, then passes it as it hits the deck. That way it is positioned just in front of the ship to refuel again if the pilot does not catch the wire for a stop.

After his birthday flight, Manse said he opened a package of gifts from his fiancée, Tammy Trommelen. The three other young officers in his stateroom sang happy birthday to him.

The highlight of his day, he said, was talking to Trommelen by “sailor phone” — the satellite-relayed telephone service the ship provides. Trommelen had flown to Jackson from San Diego to be with his parents.

“We had a party welcoming Tammy to our family,” Manse said. The couple will be married this summer.

Manse and Trommelen met in San Diego, where Manse’s squadron is based at North Island Naval Air Station.

A 1993 graduate of Central Catholic High School, Manse earned his commission four years ago through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at Duke University.

He said he chose the Navy because he wanted to fly and the Navy seemed to offer more opportunity.

He has plenty of opportunity to fly now. He left San Diego on the Constellation Nov. 2, earlier than expected with the threat of war looming.

The carrier and its air wing are flying a heavy schedule, almost entirely at night, in the fight to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The Manses got an e-mail from their son Tuesday.

“He sounded a lot better,” Ron Manse said. Before the war started, “He was sort of short. He was ready to go. He was anxious.”

He said his son was doing nothing but “eating, sleeping and flying” — and running on a treadmill. The pilot lettered in track at Duke in the 800 meters and distance medley relay.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Jason Manse said. “But for us, the training goes right into the operations.”

As far as his role in the war with Iraq, Manse simply said: “It’s my job.”