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Thu, Sept. 19

Sailors with Kingman ties helping net terrorists

Navy personnel with ties to Kingman are serving aboard the USS Peleliu in the Arabian Sea as the landing helicopter assault ship supports the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Afghanistan as part of Operation "Enduring Freedom."

Those sailors include Personnelman Chief Stephen Weyh, Quartermaster First Ed Nava and Journalist Chief Rob Winkler.

Weyh graduated from a high school in Wisconsin in 1980.

His wife, Editha, son, Todd, and parents, Walter and Phyllis Johnson are Kingman residents.

Bob and Eileen Silence, who live in Kingman, are the grandparents of Nava.

Nava is a 1980 graduate of Kingman High School.

Winkler, who graduated from Kingman High School in 1982, is a friend of local residents David and Ronda Rubio, Robert Meins, and Bob and Debbie Kuenzli.

The Daily Miner posed a series of questions to the servicemen about their work and views in the war on terrorism through a series of e-mail contacts last week.

The following is the culmination of those contacts:

Workdays may run 12-18 hours for sailors serving aboard the USS Peleliu (LHA 5), which is participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S.'s retaliatory attack on the Taliban, former leaders of Afghanistan.

The Taliban gave refuge to master terrorist Osama bin Laden whose al-Qaida terrorist group is believed responsible for the Sept.

11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

But all recognize the importance of what they are doing and there are few complaints.

"At sea, it does not really matter," said Chief Petty Officer Stephen Weyh.

"You are not going anywhere, so you might as well work.

"I try to get at least six hours of sleep a night, if possible."

Weyh is the ship's personnel officer.

He must ensure orders are received on personnel reporting aboard and prepared for anyone transferring to another command.

He also is the Education Services Officer and ensures all crewmembers eligible for rate advancement are given the opportunity to test.

Petty Officer First Class Ed Nava typically works 16-18 hours per day when the USS Peleliu is at sea.

As a quartermaster, he assists in preparing a transit plan for the ship and he corrects and prepares charts on the ports that are visited.

He also trains subordinates in all aspects of navigation.

He was asked if the war on terrorism will continue after the Afghanistan campaign ends.

"You can't totally eliminate the threat," Nava said.

"It will always be there in some form or another.

"If anything, (events of Sept.

11) woke people up.

I'm sure that security will remain a major priority from now on and that any threats will be dealt with and will have harsher punishments for any terrorist-type act."

Chief Petty Officer Rob Winkler has similar views.

"Terrorism is like a virus and Afghanistan is only one infected organ," he said.

"What we're doing now is the very beginning of what will be a long and tedious effort to rid the world of terrorism.

"My feeling is that it will take years to eliminate the threat, and my hope is that we can have a strong enough impact now to keep terrorists at bay."

"The benefit of having the strongest military in the world is that when provoked, we can strike back hard enough to make anyone think twice about opposing us.

We've been provoked, and we're striking back."

Winkler is a Navy journalist and the USS Peleliu's public affairs officer.

He has four junior journalists working under him, and a print shop with two lithographers and a draftsman-illustrator.

In addition to handling media liaison, Winkler puts out a weekly, 8-page newsletter, a weekly, 15-minute television newscast, coordinates entertainment for the crew through four 24-hour movie channels, and is the lead singer in the ship's rock band.

The USS Peleliu was deployed last Aug.

13 from its homeport in San Diego.

Port calls were made at Pearl Harbor and Darwin, Australia.

The ship was in Darwin when the terrorists attacked the U.S.

Crewmembers were immediately recalled from liberty or leave and the ship has been at sea continuously since, Winkler said.

American John Walker Lindh, who fought for the Taliban, was brought aboard the USS Peleliu after his capture, as were al-Qaida members before they were transferred to a detention site in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Lindh reportedly will be tried on a charge of conspiracy to kill an American citizen in connection with the death of CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann.

While crewmembers have felt resentment at the prisoners' presence aboard their ship, they have acted professionally and refrained from any public display of anger, Nava said.

"I feel (Lindh) betrayed his country and should be swiftly and severely dealt with," Nava said.

"Some people I have spoken with feel he should be taken to the roof of the Sears Tower or Empire State Building and told to jump off."

Winkler said the term "American" is an oxymoron where Lindh is concerned.

"As far as I'm concerned, he has lost his license to be an American," Winkler said.

"America's all about being able to be free and do what you want, but only if you don't infringe on other's rights to do the same."

Weyh said Lindh is a traitor and should be treated like one.

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