Ship USS Sylvania AFS-2 - The USS Sylvania AFS-2 was a Mars Class Combat stores ship. The name Sylvania came from an asteroid.The ship was commissioned on July 11, 1964. The USS Sylvania was built by National Steel Ship building yard in San Diego, California. After her commissioning she transited the Panama Canal in August 1964 to join the Navy's Atlantic Fleet.
In April 1965, the Sylvania began her work with a series of deployments to the Mediterranean and when called supplied ships deployed in the Indian Ocean. During her life span of 29 years, ten months and 15 days she proudly served her Atlantic Fleet completing all assignments.
Boatswain Mate 3rd Class, Master of Arms (Brig Duty)
Medals and Awards - Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with three stars, Navy Battle, Navy Expeditionary Medal with one star and Good Conduct Medal.
Naval service June 23, 1980 to June 25, 1986, Honorable Discharge
Grenada Operation Urgent Fury - Boatswain's Mate. The U.S. Navy occupational rating of Boatswain Mate is a designation given by the Bureau of Navy Personnel (Bupres) the enlisted members are the rated, or strikers for the rating of deck hand.
Duties: Train, direct and supervise personnel in ship's maintenance duties, in all activities relating to marlinspike, deck boat seamanship painting, upkeep of ship's external structure rigging deck equipment and boats.
Job requirements: Take charge of working parties, perform steamship tasks, act as petty officer in charge of picket boats self-propelled barges, tugs and other yard and district craft. Take charge of damage control parties.
Advancement: The Boatswain's Mate rating can go as high as chief warrant officer or limited duty officer. The ranks of Chief Warrant Officer and limited require a candidate to possess normal perception and be free of any speech impediments.
Edward Hugh Dragon was born at Brooks Memorial Hospital on June 13, 1961, the son of Robert and Elaine (Graves) Dragon. The Dragon Family resided at their 115 Maple Ave. home in Dunkirk. Ed's father Robert was a World War II Army veteran. When Ed was born, Robert was employed in the Wire Mill Department of Dunkirk's Al Tech Plant. Ed's mother worked hard doing the day-to-day duties are mother, wife and homemaker.
Ed's attended Dunkirk School 6 from kindergarten through grade two. When his family moved to Grant Avenue he attended Dunkirk School 3. He continued his school years at Dunkirk Middle School where he enjoyed working with the stage crew. He enjoyed helping setting up the stage for concerts or helping make props for the plays. During middle school, when Ed when not in class, he was in the auditorium. While at Dunkirk High School he enjoyed cross county and track. He also helped the football team as manager.
In his senior year he decided he wanted to do his duty and serve his country. After talking to the area recruiters, Ed decided that the U.S. Navy was the place he wanted to be. Since he was in high school, he was eligible to participate in the Navy's delayed enlistment program. This was a program that let a person join while in school. Once you lifted the pen after writing the last letter of your signature, you officially started your 6-year obligation without actually serving the time.
The program gave you up to 180 days unless the Navy needed you sooner. For some it worked well because it gave high school seniors the summers after graduation off and counted as time served; others were called right after graduation. This program started during the Vietnam War era while the war was claiming different numbers of casualties and MIAs each day. The delayed program made it easier for the country to get replacements for those who were killed in action, wounded or discharged. A normal tour in Vietnam lasted 13 months and 10 days. The delayed program gave the government about six months to take a senior out of high school and have him in a combat zone to replace a person who was lucky enough to complete his tour.
A few days after graduation, Ed was off to the federal building in Buffalo to finish the final papers before heading to boot camp. Like other veterans who were processed in Buffalo in that era, he received his first authentic order of Buffalo wings during his lunch break at the Anchor Bar before taking his first military paid trip to Great Lakes Naval Boot Camp. For the next eight weeks at Great Lakes he was drilled and was prepared to enter the Navy's Active Fleet.
His company, 224, received the honor of being chosen the best company of the unit. At the end of boot camp (whether it is Army, Air Force, Coast Guard or Marines) a person has no idea of what his job is and where in the world they will be assigned. At Great Lakes, on his last day, he discovered that his new job would be Boatswain and his orders read "report to the commanding officer" of U.S. Naval Ship USS Sylvania, AFS-2, Hull 224.
When Dragon asked about his new ship he was advised that she was a fleet, Mars class, compact stores ship, attached to the navy's fleet. After saying goodbye to all the members of Company 224, he was given a one-week leave before reporting to the Sylvania, below. With a plane ticket and his seabag he headed to Norfolk, Va. He was anxious to board his new home.
He was assigned to the main division and duties were to keep the Sylvania in top shape and ready for sea duty. The ship had the responsibility to keep all U.S. ships fully supplied. Fully supplied means exactly what it sounds like. Sylvania supplied all U.S. Navy ships in the Atlantic Fleet with items that ranged from aviation fuel, diesel fuel, small arms ammunition, flour, eggs, fresh milk, and even blood if needed. She was a ship that would sail into a port, get fully loaded with supplies and sail back out to sea and transport items via rope, lines or helicopter. The ship held two decks of refrigeration, and one bottom deck that carried 500,000 gallons of fuel. A ship would call in the items needed to stay at sea and the Sylvania would load the items and sail out to sea and transfer them.
There are two reasons for having ships like the Sylvania. First, some ships in the fleet are way too big to bring into and tie into a port. Second, because of concern about pirates and terrorism, some ships can't leave their assigned areas. Bringing them into a hostile port only draws danger to the ship and her crew.
One of the highlights of his time on the Sylvania was in 1983 during the invasion of Grenada. Ed recalled the ship was put on full alert and changed course heading for a small Caribbean island, about 100 miles north of Venezuela called Grenada. This was Operation Urgent Fury. The Sylvania was called to transport civilians and U.S. students from St. George University that were in harm's way due to a military coup which tried to oust a 4-year democratic government.
The invasion resulted in a restoration of a constitutional government. He recalled hearing the explosions and witnessing the invasion while the Sylvania was in the harbor waiting to transfer students and civilians. Being a large sitting target the Sylvania received rifle shots from guerrilas hidden in heavy brush.
After 150 American college students and civilians were on board, the Sylvania took the 12-hour trip to Barcelona, Spain which took the civilians and college students and placed them on safe soil. For her service, the ship earned the golden anchor award. The invasion resulted in 19 MIA and 116 wounded.
When Ed finished his six-year enlistment, he packed his sea bags for the last time and returned home to Dunkirk. Coming home meant two months of relaxation. After relaxing it was time to find work. It was Sam and Sons where he received a job in the packing department. There he packed tomatoes, cucumbers and other fresh vegetables that were ready for shipment to the market. Sam's lasted for six years and Ed decided that he would much rather do the same things he was trained for in the Navy so he applied and landed a job with Kelly Services which sent him to work at the Dunkirk Purina Plant. Some of his duties were to clean up and work as a laborer.
Ed served as a volunteer fireman at City Hose 2 for 27 years. He is a member of the John T. Murray Post 1017, Dunkirk Exempts, Kosciuszko Club, Columbus Club, World War II Veterans and the Dunkirk Moose Club.
The military often says that for every one person who faces our enemy in action that there are 10 people behind supporting them. Without support ships like the Sylvania, ships couldn't function or be available at 100 percent which could cause serious repercussions.
Each day in our military, you will see personnel passing through the chow line, in most cases eating three times a day. They go to their post and have all the proper equipment and supplies to perform their jobs. They appreciated any mail and every now and then fresh eggs or ice cream. It's the dedication of people like Ed Dragon who contributed to making sure each ship in the Atlantic Fleet had what it needed to sail under the U.S. flag. Our enemies knew our ships were ready for any issues or engagements. Along with the ammunition, fuel, fresh eggs, and strawberries the Sylvania also brought the letters with photos of that 4-month-old daughter or letter from a wife letting her sailor know that everything was ok.
Ed Dragon was a sailor who after boot camp found out he was heading to a combat stores ship. He reported and did his job. While doing his duty he had the opportunity to work with and supply all of the great ships of our Atlantic Fleet. If you were to sit down with Ed, he could tell you about the times he enjoyed in the ports of Spain, Italy, Israel, Rome, Africa and France while on weekend liberties.
Ed Dragon is our Hero of the Week. Thank you, Ed, for your service.