Sailor Finds, Even In Gulf, It's A Small World After All

War In The Gulf

April 07, 1991|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff writer

ASPEN RUN — Jeffrey F. Rudisill traveled halfway around the world to serve with 1,500 men on a battleship in the Persian Gulf and still found a familiar face.

A few days after boarding the USS Wisconsin two months ago, the 22-year-old petty officer ran into a fellow North Carroll High alumnus.

"I heard somebody call 'Remember me?' as I walked down a passageway," said Rudisill. "It was a guy who graduated a few years ahead of me."

The familiar-face story was among many Rudisill, a 1987 NorthCarroll graduate, related to his parents and two sisters Thursday, his first day home from the gulf war.

His parents, Jim and Brenda Rudisill, did not get mail regularly from their son, but his ship, one of two battleships in the gulf, made the news frequently.

"All we could see were those huge guns," Brenda Rudisill said.

Trained in fire control, Rudisill operated the computers and radar that guidedthe 2,000-pound shells fired from the ship's 16-inch guns to targetson shore.

"The whole ship reverberates when all nine of the Wisconsin's guns fire simultaneously," he said. "We would see the flames first then we felt the impact. All nine could take out a square mile on shore."

Rudisill's bunk was one deck below the ship's forward-most turret. When that gun went off, everything not fastened down rolled around, he said.

Once the war began, the ship fired frequently at the coast of Kuwait, providing shore bombardment as cover for Marines, he said.

Using remotely piloted planes equipped with video cameras, the crew could track shots to where they hit. The 8-foot model planes, manufactured by AAI Corp. in Cockeysville, Baltimore County, helped provide information on enemy troops for U.S. ground forces, hesaid.

Mines put the ship in the most danger, Rudisill said. The crew constantly was on the lookout for Iraqi-planted explosives.

Rudisill said one of numerous oil fires the Iraqis set caused his worstmoment of the war as he stood on the ship's highest point -- about 120 feet off the water -- searching for mines.

"It was the middle of the day, but it got so dark I couldn't even see my feet much less amine," he said. "Then, it rained black -- so black that it darkened everything it hit. It took us all day to wash the ship clean."

TheRudisills said they made use of a Navy telephone service that provided relatives of crew members updates on the Wisconsin's whereabouts. With one call, the family learned when the ship was due back at its Norfolk, Va., home port. The family traveled to Virginia for the ship's March 28 return.

But they said they saved the best welcome for here. The family decorated their home with banners, flags and yellow ribbons and prepared Jeff's favorite foods.

"I'm just glad to be home and on solid ground," the sailor said.

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