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Thomas N. Tarbox R.I.P.
A salute to Tom Tarbox
Source: but no longer there: http://knox.villagesoup.com/print/Print.cfm?StoryID=165266CAMDEN (June 27): Tom Tarbox, 74, of Camden began training to become a Navy SEAL even before the SEALs were officially formed. Before the present day SEALs there were UDTs, or underwater demolition teams. The UDTs began training in June 1943 in preparation for the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France. Their efforts were originally focused on demolitions and mine disposal.
Thomas N. Tarbox was born March 7, 1935, in Montana. "My father loved initials," said Tarbox. "The 'N' doesn't stand for anything, he just liked that my initials were TNT. I used to tell people that 'N' stood for 'nothing.'" Tarbox graduated from high school in 1953 and from the University of Colorado in 1957 with a bachelor of arts in geography.
He then enrolled in Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I., and started UDT training. At the time there were no careers in UDT, so he left and went back to the University of Colorado and started studying to become a journalist. In the summer of 1962 he got a call from a friend telling him about the SEALs. His friend told him SEAL stood for "sink enemy and leave."
He left school and enrolled in basic training in Little Creek, Va. Officers and enlisted men train side by side to become SEALs. SEAL actually stands for "sea, air and land," and the training is considered by many military experts to be the toughest training in the world.
At the time basic training lasted for four months. It was very
physically demanding, Tarbox said. "We ran everywhere. There was
a lot of swimming and the instructors constantly harass you."
There were 91 men in his class when it started, but only 20 finished. "I was confident I could make it through," said Tarbox. "I would look at the next guy and think if he can make it then so can I."
Tarbox said men who are afraid of the water or heights or who are claustrophobic won't make it. "I'm a strong swimmer, " he said. "I did a lot of swimming with my brother when I was young.
A man may drop out of the course at any time, Tarbox said. To do this a man strikes a brass ship's bell three times and places his helmet down on the ground. Most classes lose about 80 percent of their trainees due to dropouts or injuries. Tarbox said winter dropout rates are higher due to the cold, and he was lucky his class was in the summer.
Tarbox did make it through and was eventually named commander of the Basic Underwater Demolitions/SEAL (BUD/S) instructors.
The only time Tarbox ever lost a man was in May 1965 in a skydiving accident. "When you skydive, a man who is free falling will wave his arms to let other skydivers know that he is going to open his parachute," Tarbox said. For some reason Melvin Melochick, a man in his late 20s, did not do this, Tarbox said. The man above Ochick, Jerry Todd, fell into Ochick's chute, which caused it to malfunction. Ochick died of a broken neck.
"He was my teammate," Tarbox said.
In 1971 Tarbox volunteered for service in Vietnam. The SEALs were initially deployed in and around Da Nang, training and supporting the South Vietnamese in naval special warfare, including reconnaissance and combat diving.
Much of what Tarbox did during his career is still classified, he said. His son Wit, who lives in Tuscon, Ariz., said of his father, "He didn't go into details of what he did or where he was doing it. He's a man of honor and never shared anything that wasn't to be shared."