GM1 Tom Bateman U.S. Navy (1976-1989)
Read the service reflections of
GM1 Tom Bateman
Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/231497
PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE NAVY?
I had always wanted to join the military. I was raised on WWII movies, built military models, listened to stories from my uncles and just loved the thought of it. As a child I had thought I would join the Army and I would be a Tanker. I had apair of army fatigue coveralls that I wore all the time. My Mother said I would only take them off to be washed. Over my teenage years, my uncle Don (EM1 WWII SeaBee) told me about his service in the Navy. That, his love of our country and it’s veterans along with his Civic Pride is what confirmed my choice in military service and steered me from the Army to the Navy.
In igh school I took Army ROTC (there was no NROTC in our school system) and made it to Colonel (Battalion Commander for the school) by the end of my senior year. This guaranteed that I would start out as an E-3 instead of an E-1. At the start of my senior year I enlisted in the Navy’s Delayed-Entry Program. I left for Boot Camp 5 days after graduation.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK. WHAT WAS YOUR REASON FOR LEAVING?
I had originally planned on making a career of the Navy, most likely staying enlisted. I quickly advanced to PO2 and enjoyed the work at that level but as I moved more into a leadership position, i found that I missed the hands on work. I took and passed theE6 exam on the first try and was frocked to PO1. At that point I had become interested in computers by taking civilian correspondence courses and all the computer-related Navy Correspondence courses I could. At this point, I decided that I was more interested in programming than missiles and did not reenlist.
After I got home, I applied to a local Community College and finding part time work, I found that I did miss the Navy so I joined the Reserves. After taking and passing the E7 exam, I decided to apply for Limited Duty Officer with a Data Processing specialty and started the paperwork to do so. Unfortunately, I was told that I could not change my specialty to Data Processing (I had my Associates Degree by then and was working in the field) due to overmanning. It didn’t make sense to me to have to keep up on weapons knowledge while pursuing a totally different career in the civilian world. At that time I started working mid-nights, Monday night through Friday night, which messed up my Saturday drill days, so I went Category-H (inactive Reserve) and let my contract lapse (and I’m still kicking myself to this day for letting that happen).
IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN ANY MILITARY OPERATIONS, INCLUDING COMBAT, HUMANITARIAN AND PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.
We made an Indian Ocean deployment as part of the USS America Battle Group in 1981. During that deployment we were detached from the Battle Group and sent up into the Persian Gulf. Iraq and Iran were at war at this time so we were deployed as a Radar Picket/AirDefense asset. We cruised at Condition 3, weapons manned and ready to go, making sure nothing spilled over into the countries to the east.
I remember standing 12 hour watches in the Missile House and then going up to CIC to stand a 4 hour watch as Engagement Controller then having 8 hours to sleep, relax, whatever. The Battle Group was relieved after 5 months in the area and proceeded up the Gulf of Suez to begin a northern transit of the Suez Canal. We made the transit at Condition 3 with many of the Security Force armed and on deck (to repel boarders) due to the assassination of President Sadat of Egypt earlier in the month.
The America kept a CAP over our Battle Group and the Egyptian military patrolled the canal with Helos.
While in the Indian Ocean we also played tag with numerous Russian warships at various times but never engaged.
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I have say that USS Preble (DDG 46) was my favorite duty station. I spent 4 years of my life with her and wish I could relive those days yet again. I was assigned to her out of “C” school and since her home port was Pearl Harbor, Iwas sent to San Francisco to catch a MAC flight. The transportation desk at the San Francisco airport saw the home port and sent me on my way to Hawaii. When I arrived, I found out she was currently in San Diego, stuck with an engineering casualty. Since it appeared that she would be there for a while, I was then assigned TAD to Harbor Clearance Unit 1, which was based at Alpha Docks on Hickam Field.
I spent about 3 months with this unit and had a great time. Those Divers were a great bunch of guys and I even got to help a bit on the testing of the MK-12 diving system that replaced the old bronze hardhat suits you always see in the old movies. Those 3 months allowed me to settle into the tropical routine of Hawaii. Once aboard, I found that even as a PO3 I had to pay my dues. Our division was rank heavy due to most of the FTM’s coming aboard as PO3’s so I had to pull Compartment Cleaning duty. It really was not that bad and had to wait for my security clearance to be finalized so I could get access to the Missile House (can you say “Special Weapons”?). Once I was actually working in my rate, life was great.
My least favorite duty station was Boot Camp but not for the reasons you may think. I was actually very bored there. I already had 3 years of high school ROTC under my belt so a lot of it was repetition for me, to the point that I kept falling asleep in class.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?
Hard to say. My entire active duty time was great, even though I didn’t think so at the end. Being stationed on a ship home-ported in Pearl Harbor was fantastic, especially when we went into the shipyard for a year. It was just like shore duty. Our deployment to the Indian Ocean/Persian Gulf was 212 days long with only 22 days in port so with 3 section duty that meant 197 days aboard ship. There was a lot of monotony and a lot of time to kill. This did allow me to complete a number of Navy correspondence courses along with my Civilian computer course and gave me time to build the associated microcomputer. Unlike nowadays where you just plug everything together to build a computer, I had to actually build all the circuit boards and even build the integrated video monitor.
Military service in general matured me and reinforced what my parents taught me; to be responsible for my actions, a trait that many people seem to lack in this millennium.
WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER?
USS Preble (DDG 46) earned her 6th and 7th Missile “E” while I was aboard and her 8th, just after I left’; no small task as the only ship in the Navy I was aware of that had a better record was the USS Chicago (CG 11) which was decommissioned in 1980 with 11 straight Missile “E”s. Also, for some reason, my division (GMM’s and FTM’s), were tasked with manning After-Steering while underway. I can remember being sent up to the bridge to learn to steer the ship prior to being assigned to After-Steering watch. I must have done much better than I thought (and than anyone else) because after that, I was assigned as Special Evolution After-Steering Helmsman. I held this position for over 2 years. The only problem with this is I never saw our entrance or exit from a port nor any unreps. But then I guess I didn’t have to pull lines or hump stores.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES YOU RECEIVED, OR ANY OTHER MEMORABILIA, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
I’m a “Cold War” vet; Medals/Awards were few and far between back in the day, the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS) was just hitting the fleet and was the only badge available to surface guys at the time.
I did receive the Navy Achievement Medal for “Professional Achievement” while in the Persian Gulf in 1981 (awarded by COMMIDEASTFOR). While in the Gulf, we were at Condition 3 the whole time so it was critical that the Missile System remain up and functional. We had a couple of system causalities that I was able to quickly repair (the system was over 20 years at that point) to maintain our state of readiness. If the casualties were not quickly resolved we would have had to pull off the line which would have been a black eye to the command and could have possibly exposed the countries to the east.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
GMCS Cris Relyea (RIP Master Chief). He was my Sea Daddy when I first got aboard the ship. He took me under his wing and steered me in the right direction. He was instrumental in my achievements while aboard and after I left the Navy. I still think of himoften. He was such a great guy. He had a command presence that you could feel without his having to force it upon you. You wanted to follow his lead, he didn’t need to coarse or explain why. I wish he was still around so I could thank him again for taking the time to show me the way.
FTCM James Julian was our Division LCPO after GMCS Relyea. He was instrumental in setting the direction of my civilian career. He suggested using a portion of our G.I. Bill benefits to take a “Master’s Course In Micro Computers” from a now defunct company. The interesting thing about the course was that they provided a Heath Kit computer that you built as part of the course and got to keep (with your benefits paying for it). That set the hook and it must have been the right thing for me since I’ve been in the industry for over 30 years and still love my job.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Shellback initiation when we crossed the equator on our way to Australia in 1981. The whole thing was a lot of fun and messy. It helped to break up the monotony of too many days at sea and let everyone blow off some steam. It was all in good fun and luckily before the PC era came around (those that did not want to participate did not have to).
There were way more pollywogs than Shellbacks so they may not have paid as much attention to us as they would have liked but some got special attention. I remember the Operations Department head, LCDR (later VADM) Green getting a lot of personal service. He took it all in stride and had a good time.
Those were the days.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
After discharge from Active duty I got into Data Processing (now called Information Technology) and have been in the field ever since. I can thank FTCM Jim Julian for steering me to the correspondence course that I took which got me interested in the field. (The picture looks strange because I was playing with infrared film at the time.)
After receiving my degree, I started out as a Mainframe Computer Operator, became a Programmer/Analyst, then moved up to Systems Programming. During that time, networking came of age and I moved away from the Mainframe to become a Server Engineer. After about 10 years I moved over to the Network Engineer side (still keeping my hand in on the server side).
To date, I am now the Network Architect for a major airport in the US.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
United States Naval Institute; It keeps me up to date on what the Navy is doing. NRA Life member (I am a Gunners Mate!), VFW Life member where I am currently at-large but plan to affiliate with a local post.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
The Navy taught me so much that I still use every day. I can’t even begin to think how I would have turned out with out it. “A” school gave me the basics (Boot Camp was a breeze for me due to 3 years of high school Army ROTC). “C” School taught me troubleshooting skills that I still use on a day-to-day basis along with how to read and use a manual (a skill many people never acquire, even in the IT field).
Working as a Gunners Mate Missiles was a great experience. You had to have so many skills, mechanical, electrical, electronic, hydraulic, pneumatics, plumbing, weapons, demolition, small arms, etc., etc., and of course, leadership.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE NAVY?
1. Be safe but enjoy everything you can. I was “too” military when I was on active duty and regret that I did enjoy more of my time ashore while in port. You may never visit a port again in your life so make all of it you can.
2. Train, train, train! Take advantage of every class and training opportunity you can. An informed mind is thebest tool you can have.
3. Do not be afraid of collateral duties. They can provide exposure to other skills and provide a little spice to your day-to-day duties.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
I’ve found old shipmates and made new friends here and probably would not have had either opportunity were it not for this site. I have also used TWS to honor a number of friends and relatives that have passed away by creating Remembrance Profiles for friends and family to view.