My name is Howard Dickman and I was one of the original members of the RPF on the Scientology Sea Org ship, the Excalibur; this is my story.  But first some background information.

After high school I joined the U.S. Navy and by early 1972 I was at boot camp in San Diego.  I was a student at the navy anti-submarine warfare base wandering around the streets of San Diego in August of 1972, when a young lady (Maureen Turner, I believe her name was) handed me a promotional piece advertising free personality testing.

I followed her to Carl Barney’s Scientology Mission on 10th Avenue and took the test.  I enrolled onto the communication course and also bought “Dianetics, the Modern Science of Mental Health”.  After completing the communication course I started the HQS Course, which was superbly supervised by Dick Coanda.

I graduated from the HQS Course on the 28th of December 1972 and signed a five year staff contract with the Mission.  That next February the Church of Scientology La Jolla and the Mission merged to become the Church of Scientology San Diego.  This is when I first met the incomparable Yvonne Gillham Jentzsch.   Mere words cannot describe what a truly wonderful person she was!

The Sea Org ship, Excalibur, sailed into San Diego for our grand opening.  What a beautiful white ship it was!  A lovely lady, whose first name was Kenda, was one of the ship’s crew members.  Wow, I thought, if this is what it’s like to be a Sea Org member where do I sign up?  On May 18th I was honorably discharged from the Navy, at which time I went to work full time at the Org.  Later that year I was sent to the Excalibur in Los Angeles where I was assigned to the DPF.  I completed product zero and quite possibly product one before returning to San Diego.  By 1974 we had to five times our stats for a birthday program for LRH.  I remember quite well, trying to body route people into the San Diego Org at 2 o’clock in the morning!  Not long after that program was over another program came down where we were supposed to seven times our stats.

At that point I had had enough!  I marched into Tom Mallen’s office, our ED, and told him in no uncertain terms that there was no way I was going to do the 7X program.  He replied by sending me to the Excalibur’s RPF.

I arrived mid February and within the week I had been promoted to deputy bosun, with Nathan Hays as the bosun.  When Nathan left I became the bosun.  We were docked at San Pedro most of the time.  Later that spring we cruised up to San Francisco, during which time the RPF had to work inside.  We worked down in the engine room, chipping and painting.  At one point all of us were down there, when slowly but surely and one by one people would leave due to sea sickness.  Finally I was the only one left and I eventually joined them on the fantail.

I remember us passing under the Golden Gate bridge, the weather had gotten really bad.  There was a passageway from the mess hall to the fantail and with the ship rocking so badly, side to side, I actually walked on both of the walls as I headed aft!

The cruise back to LA was really peaceful.  I was on deck at night and off of the port side I saw two green fluorescent trails coming towards us.  As we continued to proceed southward the trails kept us in their sights!  The two dolphins ended up at the bow, leaping in and out of the water as the Excalibur moved forward; it was an incredible sight!

Back at the dock in San Pedro we resumed our daily routine.  We were allowed five hours a day study/auditing and the rest of the time we cleaned, cleaned and cleaned some more!  We had two stats, square feet of clean spaces and student points.  As more and more people came onto the RPF we wound up cleaning everything that there was to clean.  Every day the painted steel decks were so clean you that could eat off of them, at least that was my standard.  We eventually cleaned the deck of the bow so many times that the red primer started to show through the blue paint!  We painted these spaces, but to keep our stats up we cleaned the bulkheads, the overheads, just whatever we could find.  We did a deep cleaning of the galley, for which we were commended by the Chief Stewart.

I was the bosun when Larry Wollershiem came onto the RPF.  I remember one incident where he played a significant role.  The RPF was called off of the ship for a Hill 10 incident.  The Excalibur’s lifeboat had been taken out previously and had been beached.  When we, the RPF, got there we had just a short amount of time to dig the boat out of the sand before the tide came in.  After digging like crazy and with the water coming closer and closer to the boat, suddenly a wrecker showed up.  Larry had hired a wrecker to help us move the boat.  We were all very lucky that no one got hurt when the winch line snapped; it sounded like a shot gun going off!  We never did get that life boat unstuck; the ocean claimed it.

I was not part of capturing Larry as he tried to leave the ship.  I was aware that he had tried and that he was back.  He eventaully left, but I don’t recall any big blow up with him.

We were allowed five hours a day study/auditing.  Ever do hard TR’s five hours a day, seven days a week, for weeks on end?  We did.  At one point I had Doug Nopson as my course supervisor, Peeter Alvet as my auditor and Judy Fuller, a Class XII, as my C/S.  You couldn’t get much better than that.  Doug Nopson was the best bull baiter that I have ever been acquainted with.  If he passed you, and I do mean if, you definitely knew that you had your TR’s in!  Peeter Alvet’s TR’s were so smooth in session, it was heaven; and what better than to be C/Sed by a Class XII?

I almost passed my hard TR’s with Doug.  He was bull baiting me and I was partially exterior to the whole thing.  Nothing that Doug threw at me fazed me, not in the least bit, I was totally there.  I could tell that Doug was about to give me a pass, but just then off to my right Peeter Alvet, my auditor, was coming to take me into session, and I interiorized.  There was no way I could tell Doug that I was ready to go into session, please pass me!  My eyes started to water and Doug flunked me.  I’ve always wondered how a Class XII would allow us to do hard TR’s and then be audited on major actions?  Judy also told me that she was the person who had created the auditor summary report form.  At one point I did find an old issue of that form and it had the initials “jf” on it, but since I cannot find that issue again, there is no way that I can substantiate her statement.

It was on the RPF that I really learned how to audit.  I was trained by Doug Nopson, and I was so very privleged to have audited under Amos and Share Jessup as my C/S and Qual Tech.  What a team they were!  As we were RPF, we audited just wherever we could find a place.  I audited under stairs, I audited with a board wedged between the bulkhead and a piece of machinery, just about any place.  Although, it was very hard for me to audit objectives out in the sunlight as my eyes have always been very sensitive to light.

After our flag trained C/S left in a rush, an action which literally dumped the post on me, I became the C/S of the RPF.  There was one particluar pc who was my favorite.  We would run R3R and it got to the point where it was just like breathing, our sessions were so natural and so smooth.  But when I became the C/S I turned this pc over to another auditor, big mistake; red tag sessions that I would have to fix.  I eventually sat down with this auditor and personally worked with her until she became really competent.  At one point, her and I were sitting side by side studying, when suddenly I was occupying her space, thinking her thoughts and feeling her emotions.  It was for only an instant, at which point I started line charging; to which she inquired as to what I was laughing at.  I think I might have freaked her out a bit when I tried to explain what had just happened.

It was on the RPF that I learned the laws of listing and nulling.  It took forever to learn them well enough to recite them verbatum forwards and backwards without any hesitation, from memory alone!  There were twenty of those laws and they weren’t short ones either.

The RPF was called off of the Excalibur for several work projects.

The RPF was used at ASHO on a Hill 10 concerning its central files.  There were bags and bags of unopened mail behind the Org.  We opened the bags and stuffed the letters into each person’s file or at times created folders for the people new to CF.  After several days the filing cabinets could no longer hold anything else, which halted our work.  There were still a few unopened bags out back when we left.

Some members of the RPF were used at the Pubs Org (I think that’s what it was called in 1974) to create their CF.  This was a short and easy job which we did to completion.

The RPF was called off of the ship to help prepare the newly aquired Chateau Elysee for FOLO.  Per FLWUS ED# 320, dated August 15, 1974, the following RPFer’s were commended for their work:

Ron Stone
Pat Hunter
Doug Nopson
Steve Ambrose
David Holmes
Dick Coanda
Howard Dickman
Sara Reyes
Tom Cochran
Linda Hodge

The RPF was called off of the ship to help with a political campaign.  We were bused to an off-site location where we made phone calls that consisted of asking which candidate the electorate was going to vote for.  We worked at this project for several days, always handing in our tally sheets before we headed back to the ship.  We were supporting Assembly Speaker, Bob Moretti, in his bid for the governorship of California.

Here is a picture of part of the RPF on the bow of the Excalibur during the fall of 1974.  From left to right, these are the people in the picture:

Chris Bryne
Stephen Ambrose
Doug Nopson
Dick Coanda (facing away)
Larry Wollershiem
Ron Stone (background)
David Holmes
Howard Dickman
Cassandra Crom

This picture was taken by Beth MacRae, another RPF member.

At one point I was even assigned to the RPF’s RPF.  For some reason I lost it one day, climbing into the crow’s nest (I’m terrified of heights) and refusing to come back down.  I spent days in the bowels of the ship cleaning the bilges, pretty nasty work.  But I worked my way back and by February 13, 1975, after twelve months on the RPF, I graduated!

My certificate was signed by Tom Cochran, Share Jessup and Stephen D. Ambrose.

I returned to the San Diego Org where I was posted as the C/S.  I supervised and I also studied daily so that the Org would produce good technical products.  When my five year church contract expired in December of 1977 I properly routed off of staff.  While no one put any stops on my lines, they really didn’t want me to leave; especially our Qual Sec, Marcia Smith (Marcia Trussell, now).

Here is a picture of the staff of the San Diego Org taken November of 1976.

In 1978 I moved my family to Oklahoma, where I have since resided.  I have owned and operated a retail tire store for the past twenty six years, and but for a few visits to various Churches I have done very little with Scientology.


As a staff member at the San Diego Org we were lucky to get training time, much less ever get any auditing.  Five hours a day training and auditing on the RPF was fantastic compared to the Org situation.

On the RPF we were paid $2.50 per week, which was half the salary of the people on the DPF.  We never left the ship, except for the incidents that I have related, so I really had no chance to spend much.  We assigned an RPF member to the laundry detail and we all chipped in for the laundry expenses; we did spend some of our salary at the ships commissary.

Larry Wollershiem:  I have used the Internet to find his statements regarding the RPF.  He has stated that “I was dying and losing my mind”.  I was his bosun and I was never informed of that.  He stated that the “food was so bad”.  We ate off of plates with utensils and although we were the last to be served, we ate what everyone else ate.  This is where I first had granola and I loved it.  In my opinion the food was not that bad, but as my wife will attest I eat almost anything!  Larry also stated that “there was no way for anyone to reach him”.  I don’t know about him, but in the twelve months that I was there I wrote to my family and friends, and Dave Thomas even came aboard to ask to borrow my paid sections of the SHSBC.  Lastly; I treated Larry just like all the rest of the RPF crew, just look at him in that picture.

The RPF’s RPF:  The main difference was that I lost my study/auditing hours and no one communicated with me.  Big deal, so I cleaned more than the rest of the RPF, I still got to eat and sleep like the rest of the crew.  Granted, working in the bilge was no Sunday picnic; but then again it wasn’t death defying and it didn’t take that long to work out of that condition.

I went through the U.S. Navy’s boot camp during the Vietnam War era; we were not treated nicely.  The RPF wasn’t easy, but it sure wasn’t that bad.  I mean, five hours of study/auditing, and how tough is it to clean MEST?  Yes, we had no days off, and we had the same routine day after day after day.  But, looking back now thirty six years later, the RPF created in me a work ethic and a “make it go right” attitude that has benefited me ever since.

The lessons learned while on the Excalibur RPF have helped me through these last few years of a tough economic climate; I am still operating my business.

The RPF was created the first part of January 1974.  By mid February 1974 I was on the Excalibur RPF.  The RPF was already functioning when I arrived, but there were just a few of us.  The Excalibur was sold sometime in 1975.  Looking back, I feel so very fortunate to have been a member of a select few who were actually on a real RPF and on a real Sea Org Ship.  The camaraderie that was formed back then has not been duplicated in my life since.

These are the people that I served with:

Peeter Alvet
Stephen D. Ambrose
Frank Benjamin
Chris Bryne
Becky Burns
Dick Coanda
Tom Cochran
Cassandra Crom
Judy Fuller
Nathan Hays
Linda Hodge
David Holmes
Pat Hunter
Amos Jessup
Share Jessup
Terry Mahoney
Nick Maminakis
Beth MacRae
Linda Mazer
Doug Nopson
Bill Papke
Larry Price
Sara Reyes (now Sara Bellin)
LuLu Shippen
Kathy Shrack
Ron Stone
Glen Thompson
Jim Williams
Larry Wollershiem

References for this article have come from my memory, my photo album and from my personal files, which include but are not limited to the following:

Excalibur RPF Newsletter, Issue #1, dated 25 March 1974.

Excalibur RPF Newsletter, Issue #1, dated 5 February 1975

FLWUS ED# 320, dated 15 August 1974

Copies of hand written success stories from RPF members, February 1974 to February 1975.
Knowledge reports written by the crew of the Excalibur and from members of the RPF.

We had an RPF as outlined by Kenneth Urquhart.  We followed his intentions and most of us benefited from that program; I still have the success stories from back then.  I am so VERY thankful to Ken for creating that course of action.  It was best of times, it was the worst of times; but I became a better person because of that and no one can say otherwise.

Thank you, Kenneth Urquhart, for the RPF that I went through.

Howard B. Dickman
January 2011

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2 Comments to “My days on the Excalibur RPF”

  1. Dick Coanda says:

    Hi Howard,

    Thanks for this positive report on the RPF you and I both served on. What you say is true, but the meals were skimpy — I lost 30 lbs. while there. Others suffered from malnutrition. There was no excuse for that. But we did have good times there.

    Best, Dick

  2. Brian says:

    Hi. I was on the “Excal” as a new recruit on the Deck Project Force in late ’73 and attained “Able Bodied Seaman” in Dec. and went off to ASHO.
    Thanks for the excellent write-up, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Later I volunteered for the Rehabilitation Project Force (spelling it out for the benefit of future readers who don’t know the abbreviation “RPF”)and I concur that it wasn’t all that bad and as far as I know we were all there to better ourselves.
    Anyway,if you have any more pictures of the Excalibur I sure would like to see them.
    When I was there the captain was Paul Katz and another guy (Michael Maurer??)who had lots of U.S.Coastgaurd experience who was an incredible guy.
    Thanks again-Brian-

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