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Posts from the ‘U.S. Navy Sailor’ Category

1
Dec

#TributetoaVeteran ABE3 Marilyn Richards, U.S. Navy, 1997-2001

17
Nov

#TributetoaVeteran CWO4 Ricardo Vinas, U.S. Navy (Ret), 1962-1992

6
Oct

#TributetoaVeteran – Together We Served Member: ENC(SS) George Jones, US Navy (Ret), 1937 – 1956

11
Aug

About Together We Served

 

ABOUT TOGETHER WE SERVED

If you or a loved one has served our country as a member of the United States Armed Forces, then you’ve come to the right place.

Together We Served (TWS) is the online community connecting and honoring every American who has worn the uniform of the United States military. This is where you reconnect with old friends and share your service story as a lasting legacy for generations to come.

More Than A Decade & Growing

TWS launched in 2003 with a website specifically for Marine Corps veterans. Since then, we’ve expanded to five websites, welcoming members from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army and Coastguard. Our vision: to create a unique place for all service members, run by service members, sharing real-life history IN THEIR OWN WORDS. TWS is detailed, honest, and real: an authentic recounting of history as-it-happens.

Today, TWS has more than 1.4 million members and has reconnected more service men and women than any other website or organization. Reunions happen every day. Some veterans haven’t seen each other in 40 years. Some are healed through the reconnections made here. Still others find old friends they thought lost forever. These miraculous stories are inspirational.

A Larger Purpose

On the surface, TWS is a social networking site. However, there is a much larger purpose, one we hope you’ll participate in. TWS is a living, breathing national archive of the most important events in our nations’ history.

Each story and profile here takes its rightful, permanent place in our collective consciousness. In this new, virtual world, every time you log on, share a photograph, recall an experience, or find a comrade, you are contributing to what will be the most intriguing, comprehensive and expandable military archive available.

Our Roll of Honor is a gift to every family who has lost a loved one in service – a personalized online memorial they can contribute to, preserve, and share for posterity. More than 100,000 profiles of Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coastguardsmen who died while serving in all major U.S. conflicts since WWII already exist here.

Our work is hardly complete. There are currently just over 21 million veterans; nearly 60% are from the Vietnam, Korean and WWII era. We are in a race against time to capture their stories now, while we still can.

What Is Your Story

If you have served this country, you are already a part of this community. And your friends are waiting for you. Welcome to the most important online presentation of our nations’ military history available.
Welcome to Together We Served.

 

Very Respectfully

Brian A. Foster
President and Founder
Together We Served

10
May

MSCS Steven Karoly US Navy (Ret) (Served 1970-1999)

Karoly

RECORD YOUR OWN SERVICE MEMORIES

By Completing Your Reflections!
 Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Profile Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.

Start Today

Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Navy?

2017-05-14_14-44-16As long as I can remember I wanted to join the Navy upon graduation from high school. Both my father and his older brother served in World War II. Dad enlisted in 1943 as an Apprentice Seaman in the Navy V-12a program. After graduation from Navy college, he entered aviator training as an Aviation Cadet in the V-5 program and earned his wings and commission as an Ensign, USNR, in December 1945. My uncle deployed to Africa and Italy with the 329th Bomb Squadron, 485th Bomb Group, as a waist gunner in the B-24 bomber. My uncle’s aircraft went down over Bulgaria in June 1944 and he spent 90 days as a POW. And during junior high school, my mother’s sister’s husband deployed to Vietnam as an advisor in Vietnamese river gunboats.

While neither family had long traditions of military service to the country, the quiet influence of those that served motivated me to enlist in the Navy delayed entry program in April 1970. Foothill High School, Bakersfield, California, buddy Jim Anderson enlisted at the same time (though not in the buddy program). We signed our respective yearbooks as “(Name), SR, USNR”! Jim ultimately asked to go to boot camp early, while I waited until Labor Day weekend 1970. (As an aside, never report to boot camp on a holiday weekend. You learn firsthand of the Navy’s “hurry up and wait” culture!)

Company 369, under the capable leadership of MMC Barr, was a great boot camp company. Chief Barr appointed me as a Recruit Petty Officer Second Class and Second Squad Leader in the first week of boot camp. I was one of three squad leaders that retained his position for the 11-week boot camp. (The other three were replaced at one point or another.)

My early goal was to join the US Navy Seabees. However, the Navy had different plans. As the Vietnam War was winding down under President Nixon’s Vietnamization program, the Navy needed a smaller construction force. With battalions being decommissioned and the resulting overmanning in Seabee ratings, the boot camp classifier said that I couldn’t request Engineering Aid (EA) Class A School. EA seemed to be a worthwhile course as my father was a civil engineer and I had worked the summer of 1969 on a survey crew pulling rear chain.

The classifier would only let me volunteer for general duty in the Seabees. I also requested the following Class A Schools on my dream sheet: Commissaryman (CS), Quartermaster (QM), Aerographer’s Mate (AG) and Photographic Intelligenceman (PT). The Navy obliged by sending me to Commissaryman/Steward Class A School in January 1971. Since I already had an interest in cooking, I accepted the Navy’s wisdom and never looked back. The culinary arts have been my life’s work on active duty, in the reserves and in my civilian career.

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 have never seen my active duty career and subsequent reserve career as spectacular or impressive. I answered the call by enlisting in the Navy during one our country’s most unpopular wars. Even th2017-05-14_14-46-12ough she signed for me as a 17-year-old, I knew that my mother had reservations about my enlistment during a period of war. I later learned that I first walked while dad was performing his two weeks active duty at NAS Oakland with VS-873 in the summer of 1953. This with the fact that I was the oldest and first to leave home added to her trepidation. I think this motivated dad to cut his Naval Reserve career short in 1956.

Despite rumors that CS/SD “A” School Class 7124 was being shipped en-masse to Vietnam upon graduation, American involvement in the war was winding down. There was little chance (for the moment) that I would deploy to a war zone. I later comforted mom in this regard, at least until my battalion, NMCB-17, was being trained for mobilization to Operation Desert Storm in the winter of 1991.

I served eight and one-half years on active duty, from September 1970 to February 1979. Looking back, I should’ve remained on active duty to complete my 20 years. I did enlist in the US Naval Reserve and served until May 1999, retiring a Senior Chief Mess Management Specialist (MSCS). Looking back at my twentieth year, my enlistment would’ve been extended due to Operations Dessert Shield and Dessert Storm had I remained on active duty. Of course, my life would’ve taken a different track and I wouldn’t have met my lovely wife, Debbie, in 1979.

Attack Squadron 127 at NAS Lemoore was my first duty station out of Class A school. For someone who’d “joined the Navy to see the world,” I’d landed on shore duty in the middle of California’s San Joaquin Valley–sandwiched between my boyhood homes of Fresno and Bakersfield. It took a special request chit to get me to sea. I figured why be in the Navy if you don’t go to sea? After all, that’s what makes the Navy stand out from the Army and the Air Force.

The Navy obliged in May 1972 and ordered me to the USS Cocopa (ATF-101). I met the fleet tug at NAVSTA Guam after 10 days in transit (I flew over the ship one-hour west of Hawaii). The next three years were spent cruising between Da Nang, Subic Bay and San Diego on the Cocopa and the USS Stein (DE-1065). A brief visit to the Indian Ocean in the winter of 1975 convinced me that world politics was shifting fleet operations to less exotic ports of call. So, I shipped over for foreign duty.

My reward for shipping over was a tour in the Philippines at the sprawling Seabee-built air base at Cubi Point. Then sixteen short months later, I again landed at a state-side naval air station, this time NAS Kingsville, Texas. Two years and a few college classes later, I was back in San Diego on the USS Robison (DDG-12). By this time, my experience at Georgia Military College (they had a contract with the Navy in Texas) and the quiet influence of my parents convinced me to get out and return to school.

Six days before my discharge, the Navy advanced me to MS1, a move that surprised me. Previously in 1974, I had to extend my enlistment to accept the rate of CS2 on the USS Stein. (The Commissaryman (CS) rating was merged with the Steward (SD) rating to form the Mess Management Specialist (MS) rating in January 1975.) As it turned out, the Navy had relaxed the requirement that you have one year remaining on your enlistment to accept advancement to PO2 or PO1.

The day after my discharge in late February 1979, I enlisted in the Naval Reserve at the Naval Reserve Center, Bakersfield, California, and was assigned to Detachment 0717, Reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 17. As a Headquarters Company Seabee, I frequently drilled at the battalion Permanent Drill Site at NCBC Port Hueneme.

I count two duty stations as my favorite, one for active duty and other in the reserves. The first was the USS Cocopa. As a shall ship, I prepared the whole meal each day. Unlike the NAS Lemoore operations galley, where I grilled endless quantities of chicken fried steak on the flat top griddle, you got to know all 70 members of the fleet tug’s crew. Among those were the tall, lanky EM3 that only ate scrambled eggs. Or the EN2, complete with biker beard, that consumed massive quantities of food during storms, when the rest of the crew avoided the chow line.

NMCB-17 was my favorite reserve duty station. I had never experienced a unit with such great morale and dedication to the mission as I did during our three-week pre-mobilization active duty for Operation Desert Storm in January 1991. The Seabees of “The Desert Battalion” were pumped, ready to accept deployment orders to anywhere the Navy needed us. Battalion leadership was listening to returning active and reserve S4 (Supply Officer), S4A (Assistant SupO), S4C (Supply LCPO) and S4G (Galley LCPO).

As the second senior Seabee in the Supply Department (The S3C, SKCS Bill Tinsley, was senior to me), I prepared the General Mess for duty in the desert sands of Saudi Arabia. Had we been deployed, I would have had many challenges. Foremost was the fact that my Assistant Leading Chief MS, MSC Bob Voigt, was also the Battalion Mortar Platoon Commander. And the General Mess was undermanned in junior MS3s and MSSNs. Thankfully, my galley leadership was in place (MS1s and MS2s). I would’ve been able to absorb SNs and SAs and train then to be Seabee cooks and bakers. In the end, NMCB-17’s deployment orders to the Seabee deployment camp, Camp Covington, Guam, were canceled after the ground war ended.

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.

I have never involved in any direct combat during my eight and one-half years active duty and twenty years reserve duty. My first WestPac cruise on the USS Cocopa (AFT-12017-05-14_14-48-0101) was the closest that I came. In the summer of 1972, the Cocopa deployed the Subic Bay Naval Base and the Seventh Fleet area of operations. During the eight-month cruise, the tug only served some 40 days in the territorial waters of Vietnam, including one three-week period as “duty tow and salvage” in Da Nang Harbor and off China Beach. The closest we came to “combat” was the observation of tracers and star shells along the coast as the Cocopa cruised out to sea each evening at dusk.

The Cocopa was a working ship. I’ve told my kids and grandkids, “We went to war to work.” Our task was to tow disabled ships, craft, and barges. With divers on board, the ship could assist with minor repair and salvage operation. The Cocopa spent 10 days in June 1972 searching for the wreckage of a C-130E from the 374th Tactical Airlift Wing off Makung P’eng-hu Island, Republic of China (Taiwan) in the Strait of Formosa. Our divers located the wreckage on June 8. During this mission, I savored some of the best watermelons I’ve ever tasted, brought to the ship by Chinese UDT sailors.

Several years later, while assigned as the Night Galley Watch Captain at the NAS Cubi Point General Mess, I had the opportunity to feed the Marines (possibly of 1st Battalion, 4th Marines) that boarded the SS Mayaguez, which had been seized by the Khmer Rouge in the wake of the Vietnam War. As I supervised midrats, a large group of Marines entered the mess decks to eat. I asked a Marine with his right arm in a sling where they were from. The Marine explained their role in the rescue of the Mayaguez. He then reached into the sling and pulled out his Purple Heart.

I realize this event pales in comparison to the experiences of those of others. Yet it came at the moment when NavSta Subic Bay and NAS Cubi Point were ramping up to care for the Vietnamese escaping the country as the NVA overran Saigon. For the next several months, the cooks of the NAS galley shifted into working 12 on/12 off to feed the refugees. The NavSta galley prepared the daily meal for the refugee camp on Grande Island while we cooked tons of rice and assembled flight meals for their transit to camps on Guam.

From your entire service, including combat, describe the personal memories which have impacted you most?

I’ve often wondered if our collective memories of our time in the services sweeten with age. In2017-05-14_14-49-23 July 1972, the USS Cocopa departed Naval Station Subic Bay and slammed directly into Typhoon Susan as she entered the South China Sea. The ensuing ride was one of the roughest I’ve ever encountered on any of my three the ships. At one point I honestly thought it would’ve been easier to jump into the sea than to endure the storm. I never want to experience a typhoon of that magnitude again.

Yet, I look back on the Cocopa with much fondness. I now talk about the typhoon as if it was a rite of passage, one that every fleet tug sailor had to endure, much like crossing the Equator or going through CPO initiation. If I have any regret of my time on the ship, it’s that I sought orders to the USS Stein so I could return to the Philippines. Of course, had I not returned to the Western Pacific in the spring and summer of 1973, my life would’ve taken a much different course.

This experience, and many, many others, have taught me how to endure the trials and tribulations in life. While they are unpleasant at the moment (and that may be an understatement when talking about typhoons), these events teach you to patiently endure to the conclusion of the matter. The help you develop a steady character, one that prompts you to place your faith in God.

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?

Since I don’t have any combat awards, the most meaningful would have to be my Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, three Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medals and the Air Force Achievement Medal. The remainder qualifies as 2017-05-14_14-50-50“gedunk” medals, meaning you were in the right place at the right time to earn them. Heck, one was awarded the National Defense Service Medal upon graduation from boot camp. I guess it’s DOD’s “participation award.” We always honor those awards that were righteously earned above the others.

The most interesting award was the Air Force Achievement Medal. While I never served in the U.S. Air Force, the medal was awarded to myself and 47 other Seabees of Detachment 0402, NMCB-2, for the construction of a 880′ railroad spur and 240′ loading dock on McClellan Air Force Base in 1982 and 1983. I was assigned as the Detachment Career Counselor at the time. In order to complete my task, I held tailgate counseling sessions at the job site during drill weekends. I helped with the project when time allowed and drove a number of railroad spikes. Today, I’m a Maintenance of Way volunteer for the El Dorado Western Railroad in my home county.

The most memorable is a Certificate of Appreciation from Cmdr. M.D. Langohor, SC, USNR, Logistics Officer of the Third Naval Construction Brigade Headquarters Det. in NCBC Port Hueneme, Calif. I was the Logistics Training Chief and Food Service Chief for the brigade at the time. My file contains many letters of achievement and commendation, too many to mention. Many were for recognition of one accomplishment or another, including the field exercise when I was Acting Supply Officer in 1993. But this one stands out because it represents hundreds of hours of hard work to develop and lead the Seabee Field Messing Course in Port Hueneme in 1995.

Seabee field messing was my passion in the Seabees. As the senior Pacific Fleet Seabee MS, it was my responsibility to train the cooks in the operation of the M-59 Field Range and the General Mess when deployed to the field. The certificate reads: “MSCS Steven C. Karoly, USNR, who successfully participated in providing a course of instruction on ‘Seabee Field Messing’ covering operation and maintenance of the M59 Field Range, immersion heaters, menu planning and food production, field rations, site selection, mess layout, tent setup and field sanitation to Mess Management Specialists of the THIRD Naval Construction Brigade.” The shining moment of this accomplishment was bringing the Navy Food Management Team, San Diego, on board as an active participant in the training.

I later received my Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal from Rear Admiral Thomas A. Dames, CEC, USN, Commander, Third NCB, for my assignment as the Brigade Logistics Training Chief, which included work on the Seabee Field Messing Course. But it’s that simple recognition from my supply officer that means the most to me today.

Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?

With 29 years of service to my credit, it’s difficult to pinpoint more than couple individuals and their respective impact on my life. When I think about it, those in a l2017-05-14_14-52-12eadership position over me had the most impact on my life. Several come to mind:

**Chief Barr, my boot camp Company Commander, who took a chance and elevated me to Recruit Petty Officer Second Class and Second Squad Leader of Company 369.

**The HT1 on the USS Cocopa who convinced me to take the CS3 exam when I wanted to skip it. Yes, you could describe his tactics as “strong arm,” but that’s what this hard-headed Seaman needed at the time.

**CS1 George Rooney, Leading CS of the Cocopa, for his hands-on approach to leadership in the galley.

**MSC Oscar Ray, Leading Chief MS of the USS Stein for his dedication to excellence and hands-on approach to leadership in the galley. We thought Chief Ray was over the top when he wanted to make sandwiches with shaved meat for battle feeding! Yet, it’s these examples that stick in your mind and help direct your career.

**PNCM Jimmy Garcia, Detachment OIC of NMCB-2 Det. 0402 in Sacramento, Calif., for showing me that a non-Seabee rating can lead a bunch of Seabees.

**MSC Bob Voigt, Leading Chief MS of NMCB-17 in 1986-87, for his leadership in General Mess operations at Camp Shelby, Miss., when I was his Training and Records Chief. I’ve never seemed more grace from one man when I put on my star in 1989 and became the Leading Chief MS.

What profession did you follow after your military service and what are you doing now? 

After my honorable discharge from active duty in February 1979, I continued my Navy career as a reservist with three Seabee units (NMCB-2, NMCB-17 and Third NCB). I entered Bakersfield College in September of that year (where I met2017-05-14_14-53-57 my lovely wife Debbie), married and transferred to University of California, Davis, where I completed a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics in June 1984.

A short career in hospital food service led to a 22-year career with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. I retired in August 2008 after working in three prisons and at headquarters. My last leadership position was the Food Manager for Folsom State Prison. (My desk was located 20 feet from Dining Room One, where Johnny Cash performed on January 13, 1968.) I closed my career with the State of California as an Associate Budget Analyst with Correctional Health Care Services in Sacramento.

Following my career, I realized a lifelong dream to work in summer camps. In the summer of 2009, I was the head cook for Deer Crossing Camp at Loon Lake in Eldorado National Forest. My service in the Seabee certainly helped me with this short job (the season was only 10-weeks long). In addition to cooking for 65 campers and staff, I was responsible for testing water quality, lighting off the generators and teaching English to my Mongolian assistant cook. My only regret was that the need for year-round work precluded my return in 2010.

After a very short job with a local casino (just 50 shifts), I landed a position as the House Chef for the Female Residential Multi-Service Center in Sacramento, California. It was the perfect job for this retired Senior Chief and correctional food manager. I was able to help mold the lives of several women in the program. As the only male on staff (other than the maintenance guy, who came in and of the house), I built a reputation as the “house dad.” I assisted the women with work skills as they rotated through the kitchen for their weekly chores.

Unfortunately, I was once again on the job market when the facility closed in March 2013. However, with two retirements (my Navy Reserve retirement started in 2012), I was able to focus on summer work and devote the rest of the year to volunteer work with the El Dorado Western Railroad, a program of the El Dorado County Historical Museum in Placerville, California.

Since April 2013 I have been the Executive Chef and Food Service Manager for Oakland Feather River Camp in Quincy, California (more about this job below). Except for a couple short periods, I have continuously worked as a cook and chef for the last 45 years. Looking back, I would have it no other way. It seems every time I tried to leave the galley, I missed it so much that I did everything to return. I can see no other career, both in the Navy and outside, for me.

In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career?

As the chef at Oakland Feather River Camp, Quincy, California, I practice deckplate leadership. One aspect of leadership that differentiates a chef (or Chief Petty Officer) from a Food Service Manager (m2017-05-14_14-55-10y official title at the camp!) is the chef is constantly moving about the kitchen, leading the cooks and ensuring meal quality for campers. Following my practice as a Chief Petty Officer, “visible leaders who set the tone, know the mission, know their people and develop their people beyond their own expectations as a team and as individuals” (https://deckplateleader.wordpress.com/faq/).

The stereotypical FSM “leads” from the office, where his day is relegated to paperwork, orders, and schedules. I do all those things and cook and lead my crew into excellence six days per week (yes, I do take one day off to recharge and rest!).

Many of these skills were learned in the Navy, both from active duty, where I served as Galley Watch Captain at every ship and shore command until advancement to Chief, and reserve duty, where I honed my leadership ability as the Leading Chief MS of NMCB-17 and later as Logistics Training Chief and Food Service Chief for N4, Third Naval Construction Brigade in Port Hueneme.

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Navy?

To those that desire a career in Navy food service as a Culinary Specialist (CS), I’d say learn, learn, learn. Take every opportunity to learn everything you can about your chosen rating, even beyond the scope of Navy food service. Today I would seek assignment to the CPO Mess or the Wardroom Mess, in addition to2017-05-14_14-56-48 working the General Mess. This will not only enhance your career but will give you an opportunity to expand your culinary skills, especially in terms of plate presentation, sauces (beyond the five mother sauces) and upscale cuisine.

At the time, many pre-1975 CSs (including myself) saw the Wardroom Mess as degrading work that was relegated to the Stewards. Many of us avoided such assignment. I changed my mind after my advancement to Chief Petty Officer. As the Leading Chief MS of NMCB-17, I was responsible for the General Mess, CPO Mess, Wardroom Mess and the BEQ. I slowly realized that officers “put their pants on one leg at a time” just as I do. I accepted my assignment with pride and served the Chiefs and Officers, in the same manner, I had served enlisted Sailors. Only now, I was performing that role in a position of leadership. It was my duty to pass this enthusiasm on to my cooks.

My other advice is to accept increasing responsibility, especially leadership roles. The goal for every enlisted sailor, especially those with a career (active or reserve) in mind, should always be the advancement to Chief Petty Officer. As the most effective leaders in all of the services, being “The Chief” teaches you a lot about humility, motivation, and leadership. You’re the man in the trenches who gets the job done (and trains your Division Officer!).

And seek leadership roles beyond the galley. While Leading Chief CS is a worthwhile goal (and necessary goal for a career CS), extra military leadership roles expand your career. During my 20 years in the Seabee reserve, I served as Fire Team Leader, Squad Leader, 80mm Mortar Team Leader, Headquarters Company Chief, Platoon Chief for crew-served weapons school and career counselor, among many other assignments. This was in addition to fleet assignments as Division Damage Control Petty Officer, sight-setter on a 3″ 50 cal. gun. and 1JV fantail photo talker during Sea and Anchor Detail.

In what ways has TogetherWeServed.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.

Since my retirement in 1999, I’ve maintained the connection with several Navy shipmates on my own. Among those are MSC Bob Voigt, my Assistant Leading Chief MS from NMCB-17, and CS3 Dave Staken, fellow ship’s cook from the USS2017-05-14_14-58-09 Cocopa. I had dabbled in several other military Internet sites.

Together We Served has helped me locate a number of shipmates from a long career, especially those from my shipboard days in the 1970s. I have since become the unit historian for the USS Cocopa (ATF-101).

19
Apr

GM1 Tom Bateman U.S. Navy (1976-1989)

profile5Read the service reflections of

GM1 Tom Bateman

U.S. Navy

(1976-1989)

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.

15
Mar

CAPT James Garrett U.S. Navy (Ret) (1966-2008)

Read the service reflections of

profileCAPT James Garrett

U.S. Navy (Ret)

(1966-2008)

Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/390043

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE NAVY?

I was graduating from Westminster High School in a few months (1966) and knowing that I would not be able to afford college, I thought enlisting in the military would be a good thing, especially if it was possible to get college paid for afterwards. Being landlocked and with Lowery Air Force Base across town, the recruiting ads I thought the Air Force might be a good place to go. The Air Force recruiter came to my house to talk with me but to my amazement the recruiter told me there was a waiting list, imagine that with the Vietnam War going on.

I couldn’t wait so I talked with the recruiter for the Navy and a month or so later I enlisted as a Seaman Apprentice in the Naval Reserve until after graduation from high school. I enlisted at the age of 17 in what was called at the time a minority enlistment since I would not turn 18 until after I entered Boot Camp in San Diego.

After watching Victory at Sea and Silent Service episodes on TV, I thought that I would be a sailor in submarines. After Boot Camp, the Navy had the same but different idea, I was assigned to a Submarine Rescue Ship (ASR) in SubPac (Pearl Harbor).

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 went to Boot Camp in San Diego in August 1966 and tested well for the ratings of Sonarman or Radioman. Upon completion of Boot Camp I was assigned to the USS Greenlet ASR-10 in Pearl Harbor, HI. Later I was told that I could be accepted for Sonar School on the STAR program which would have sent me to Class “A” School, promotion to Petty Officer Third Class with a requirement to reenlist up to six years. I was already focusing on the rate requirements for Signalman so I declined the “A” School for Sonarman.

With my mother being really ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease I got out of the Navy and went home. When her illness became terminal I tried different things, went to college and subsequently applied for and was accepted by the Denver Police Department. A couple of my police buddies were in the Army National Guard and wanted me to join as well, particularly with the Military Police. I checked it out, was even offered an opportunity as a Warrant Officer, but declined and decided to re-affiliate with the Navy. A sharp recruiter obtained my Second Class Crow even with time served and I signed on the dotted line and stayed for the next 30 plus years.

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.

While on-board the USS Greenlet ASR-10, we participated in operations off the coast and in some coastal ports in Vietnam especially assisting the Air Force in salvaging equipment from aircraft that went down off the coast of Cam Ranh Bay. (There’s that Air Force connection again)

In 1968, a few months after the Pueblo capture, we met with the USS Banner, Pueblo’s sister ship, refueled her, provided stores to assist in her return to Japan. ASR’s normally don’t underway replenish other ships as a rule. I was the main helmsman for submarine rescue ops (four point moor) and this underway replenishment operation.

While aboard the USS Dale DLG-19 and part of the USS Enterprise task group we conducted SAR OPS as she conducted flight ops and sorties into Vietnam. Later we were called to assist with a task group to search for the wreckage of the EC-121 aircraft that was shot down by the North Koreans in April 1969. Those were tense, edge of your seat times. We were already heavily involved in the Vietnam War, now with a second incident with the North Koreans (the first being the capture of the USS Pueblo a year earlier) was it going to escalate with the North Koreans? The Soviet Navy was ever present which was an experience in itself.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

I enjoyed duty on both the USS Greenlet and USS Dale.The Greenlet was a smaller ship therefore I got to know all of the crew. The Dale was much larger but allowed me to practice my Signalman rate in a more operational way. The Greenlet even though a Navy ship was part of SubPac so we got to enjoy some of the perks like great chow, we ate off of plates instead of steam trays and didn’t have to be as spit and polish. The CO liked to take cruises that took us to Lahaina, Maui with skeet shooting and fishing on the way and great liberty. We had to play target and torpedo retriever for the subs while there, but that was fun and hard work as well.

The Dale involved operations with task groups but the liberty ports of Chinhae (South Korea), Nagasaki, Sasebo, Yokosuka, Japan, Keelung, Taiwan, Subic Bay, and Auckland New Zealand, were the best. You couldn’t script a busier schedule of “steaming”, port calls, crisis events, and an ASW exercise of four countries (US, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand) participated. I think the sailors of navy of the host country, New Zealand, weren’t very thrilled.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

Recovery operations after the EC121 was shot down by the North Koreans in Jan 1969 and subsequent interactions with the Soviet Navy. This was the cold war, with the Soviets trailing us around, the unpredictable North Koreans (the capture of the USS Pueblo was only a year before) and the Vietnam War in full swing. It was cold and scary at times. We looked for survivors but only found debris and a couple of bodies. Reminds you of your mortality, especially so far from home.

WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER? 

Promotions as a Signalman to First Class, then with great mentoring from my Reserve Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, CAPT Donald Monroe and CDR Lynn Albi respectively, I was given the opportunity to test and interview for a Direct Commission as an Ensign in the Intelligence Program. I was commissioned as an Ensign in 1984 and through the years and the ranks I enjoyed numerous assignments and was given increasing levels of responsibility which culminated in being selected for Commanding Officer a Naval Reserve unit and final promotion to Captain. From E2 to O6 I enjoyed a career that was fulfilling and rewarding. I gave 100 percent to the Navy and the Navy reciprocated with great mentors and service members to work with and work for.

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 received the typical commendation awards, marksmen badges and ribbon devices but the two most meaningful accomplishments were my crows and rating as a signalman (E4-E6) and later my selection and promotion to Ensign with subsequent leadership positions and final promotion to Captain. I enjoyed working with outstanding shipmates, enlisted and officer. I achieved a very successful career from E2 to O6 because of outstanding shipmates and mentors.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

I worked for some great people Officer and Enlisted who mentored me to work hard, volunteer for hard jobs and inspired me to do great things for the Navy and myself, even when things may not have going so well. When I was a signalman striker, SM1 Charlie Yates was a great mentor in helping me to achieve rate and move away from deck division which was not my favorite assignment. I still do not like painting!

I had great Senior Officers who mentored me to achieve the memorable milestones in my career. CDR Donald Monroe and CDR Lynn Albi were instrumental in my applying for a commission. CDR Monroe worked tirelessly to find out what the barriers were in the selection process. I can’t thank him enough.

As I progressed through the ranks in my Navy Reserve career, I experienced great counsel when personal problems could have derailed me as I contemplated retiring many times. They provided wisdom and kept me going through thick and thin. As a result of their commitment and leadership when I needed it most, I was able to return that same advice to junior officers as a Commanding Officer and a Senior Officer. It is a great feeling of satisfaction when the one you mentor does well and is successful.

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?
Still get a chuckle about this. I was a Signalman aboard the USS Dale DLG-19 and we made a port call in Taiwan. One afternoon the signal gang went on liberty to one of the bars in town. A group of bar hostesses came to our table and sat with us but they also began conversing with each other in Chinese and laughing among themselves. That has occurred to many of us, right? After a period of time this became annoying to us as a group and we began to converse among ourselves too, only using semaphore with our hands (no flags)!! No vocal conversation at all. We did this for awhile, totally ignoring the girls in the process, and by the way we were laughing our butts off as well.

The bar hostesses eventually caught on to our game and their conversations changed to English. It was fun, it was humorous, and great rate practice.

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?
I was hired by the Denver Police Department as a Law Enforcement career I had been thinking about while on active duty. I stayed in the Navy Reserve during my entire career and I always had to be careful which uniform or parts of uniforms I put on when reporting to police roll call at 2am. Cops like military members like to have fun at your expense especially when it is self-inflicted. I retired from the DPD after 32 years of service.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?

Naval Institute, American Legion, and MOAA. I am also a volunteer with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). We work with employers and Reserve Component members in all aspects of educating and mentoring them about employment rights as well supporting employment initiatives. Being a Reserve member for many years it is gratifying to do whatever can be done to help our Guard and Reserve members in whatever capacity is necessary.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?

I enjoyed my service with the Navy, the Navy was good to me as well. The Navy taught me Duty, Honor, and Commitment, traits the served me well with my Police Service. As I tell a lot of young people, the military will instill in them a strong work ethic and pride in who they are. By listening and hopefully emulating those who were in leadership positions both formal and informal, I gained confidence in my abilities and always sought after worthwhile assignments that tested me and looked forward to gaining positions of responsibility. This led to experiences that were stressful at times, but for the most part were fun and rewarding.

My experience and discipline gained from the military assisted me in all aspects of my civilian career in the Denver Police Department. Being a police officer and serving in Navy Reserve for just as many years was very special. I served my community and my country, it doesn’t get any better than that.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE NAVY?

Duty, honor and commitment. Be the best you can be and always try to achieve your goals. I learned that if you do the best you can, volunteer for the hard jobs and commit 100%, promotions, recognition and job satisfaction will come two-fold. The Navy was good to me inthat I got to do and see things that I would have not been able to do without those three ethical standards. Most of all, don’t think of naval service as a chore, but as an adventure, a life experience others will never get to have in their lifetime. I went from Seaman Apprentice to Captain in my career, something the recruiter did not tell me could be possible, nor did I ever think while chipping paint in deck division on my first ship that I would accomplish all that I have. I learned to watch and listen to those around me, especially the great First Class and Chiefs that I worked for and later as a Commissioned Officer those Chiefs who made me look good and provided sage advice.

As a young Junior Officer I was seeking an assignment in a particular unit, I told the CO I would take whatever assignment he had. Without pause he selected me because as he said, I volunteered for a hard job, something not many were willing to do. You have to put yourself out there, accept the responsibility in order to gain more responsibility. During my retirement from the Navy and answering questions, I had young enlisted Sailors come up and look at my brag book and memorabilia and heard them remark about my career path and promotions. They asked if E2 to O6 was possible for them and I said, yes it is, work hard for it!

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.

I have been able to touch base with some of my shipmates that I have not communicated with in years. This has been a great website that is secure that I can place items, photos and remembrances of my military career. More importantly, it is fun and also humbling to see what others have done in the service of their country. Thanks to all who have served and continue to serve.

8
Feb

QM3 Robert Zinn U.S. Navy (1967-1970)

Read the service reflections of US Navy Sailor

zinn2QM3 Robert Zinn

U.S. Navy

(1967-1970)

Shadow Box on TogetherWeServed.com

http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/525307

PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE NAVY?

My father was with the 6th Marines on Eniwetok and Kwajalein Atolls during WWII. He came back with what was then described as battle fatigue and is now post traumatic stress disorder. My parents insisted I go to college after high school but I quickly realized after one semester itwasn’t for me. I remember coming home telling my father I was joining the Marines as some kids want to follow in their fathers footsteps. It was the first time I could remember he talking to me as an adult when he said to me “You’re 18 now I can’t tell you what to do but if you want to join the military join the Navy as it will keep you out of Vietnam.” Wanting to follow him and trusting his wisdom I joined the Navy and off to Recruit Training Great Lakes, Illinois in January 1967 I went. I can’t begin to explain nor will I ever forget the look on his face when he found out I’d been assigned to Mobile Riverine Force, Mekong Delta. My father was and always will be my hero and I will always be proud of following in his foot steps as part of the military.

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?

After graduation from high school I was pressed by my parents to attend college. After one semester I knew it wasn’t for me. I informed my parents of my decision to quit college and join the Marines as my father was. It was the first time my father really talked
to me as a man and asked me if I was going to enlist to join the Navy. He was devastated when I told him I was going to Vietnam. I started aboard the USS Ajax AR-6, home ported in Sasebo, Japan but making trips to Vung Tao as a support mission. After six months, I volunteered for service in South Vietnam assigned to the USS Benewah APB-35, Mekong Delta Mobile Riverine Force, River Assault Flotilla One. Once in-country I found it unpleasant to say the least. I figured I was there, nothing I could do about it so I made the most of it becoming diverse and being assigned to various units. Leaving was a thoughtless process. Upon separation from active duty I was offered $10,000 to re-up for another six years. Asking where I would be assigned I was told another tour in country. Again a no brainer.

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.

Rung Sat Special Zone Cambodia and Trung Hao XI. One night in 1968 I was awoken by one of the on-watch staff telling me the XO wanted me on the bridge on the double. On the bridge I was summoned to the chart room. At the time I was the
lead Quartermaster. The XO asked me to pull all the charts we had from our position up to Phenom Pem Cambodia. He wanted me to chart a course from where we were up the Mekong and into Cambodia. In looking at the charts, there were no depth markings into Cambodia as these were uncharted waters. With my XO and OPS Officer LT. Paul Ferguson we came to the decision to put four River Patrol Boats. “PBR’S” a couple of hundred yards ahead and relay depth soundings.

I took position behind the wheel of the lead PBR calling soundings back to the fleet. Coming to the position the orders we were given, I had the fleet anchor in approximately 21 feet of water all seemed to be well. At approximately 0500 the following morning I was summoned to the bridge of the Benewah by a very upset sailor. Upon my arrival on the bridge I was met by my CO, LCDR. D.L. SOLOMON, the XO LT. KMETZ, and LT. FERGUSON. Much to my dismay and theirs the fleet was aground, the tide ebbing by more than 20 feet overnight obviously unanticipated. There weren’t too many suits pleased with me. After all was said and done, and no one pointing the finger at me or anyone else, the tide came in, once afloat I had found a large area of deep water about five miles ahead of us where we found safe anchor. We were not supposed to be that far north. Thankfully we took no significant damage and sustained no casualties.

OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?

Aboard the USS Ajax AR-6 I requested and was granted to go to Quartermaster school in Yokosuka, Japan. Upon successfully completing the course I decided life aboard the Ajax wasn’t for me and wanted to navigate the rivers of the Mekong. I put in for transfer and was assigned to Mobile Riverine Force USS Benewah APB-35, a self propelled barracks ship joining it in Dong Tam, South Vietnam. I found a happy medium between love and hate in my new assignment being given a lot of flexibility as to what I could do. I became part of the Helicopter flight crew which in the end recorded a record number of landings. I was able to fly door gunner on an Army UH-1, fly in the co-pilots seat on a light observation Helicopter (LOH), patrol with PBR’S doing insertion and extractions and laying fire in designated free fire zones, and able to be the shooter on the forward quad 40mm mount.

This diversity kept me occupied and made the time go a little faster. My fondest memory I had is when the Commanding Officer came to me and asked if I would like to take Benewah and reposition her. We would have to move every night even if it were 50 to 100 feet in case “CHARLIE” set up on us during the day. B-40 rockets could be set up and when night fell all the enemy would have to do is come back, fire and run, thus moving everyday became a necessity. It was a thrill to have Command, even for the brief period of the fleet movement.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?

Clearly the horrors of war is something no man or woman who has experienced it will ever forget. The vision of a body bag with someone you served with whether you knew that person or not is a vision which can be unrelenting. When the body of our Radarman, a good friend, who went missing one night was found floating in the Mekong is a vision I will never forget.

WHAT ACHIEVEMENT(S) ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF FROM YOUR MILITARY CAREER? IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS, AWARDS, FORMAL PRESENTATIONS OR QUALIFICATION BADGES FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT OR VALOR, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.

Upon my separation from active duty I was awarded The Navy Commendation with Combat Distinguishing Device “V” authorized for Meritorious Service. I remember being asked to attend a ceremony at the Third Naval District in Brooklyn, New York to receive the award. I discussed it with my father explaining I had no desire to put my uniform back on, he didn’t persuade me to do it as I think he understood my decision having served. Thinking back on it now it was a bad decision and probably selfish on my part not having my family be part of it. The award was sent in the mail. I regret it to this day.

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?

The Presidential unit citation and two Naval Unit Citations were probably the most significant as it shows the great team I was privileged to be a part of. No one person in and of himself could achieve the missions and goals we were tasked with. Mobile Riverine Force, “The Brown Water Navy” was unique and one of the most successful units to have served in the Vietnam war. To have been a very small part of it was and always will be an honor and privilege.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

LCDR D. L. Solomon, as my Commanding Officer, he always led by example. Being a mustang and becoming the CO, he always had everyone’s respect for his authority and leadership. Also LT. Paul Ferguson our Operations Officer put his faith and trust in me, probably more times than he should have, always having my back. For that I am forever grateful.

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?

As told previously coming up to the bridge after putting my boats aground in Cambodia seeing my outfit playing football in the muddy bottom around my boat. Certainly not laughing on the outside at the time and after having thoughts of my short lived military career coming to an end I found the event to be hysterical after all was said and done and everyone was safe.

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?

I always challenged myself to succeed by putting my entrepreneurial visions to work. The work ethic my father and the military instilled in me drove me then as it does now. After building and selling several business’s I moved to Las Vegas to join my two boys in a consulting business. Leaving them to tend to the business on their own. I now am a Security Supervisor at a Las Vegas Strip Casino leading a young group of Officers and trying to instill upon them the work ethics which were taught to me. I am very fortunate to have the staff I work with. At my age of 66 they all keep me going. I can retire if I choose, but I love what I do. If you love your work you’ve never worked a day rings so true.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?

Mobile Riverine Force Association. The benefit I receive from them is that I am always reminded that, even though it was an unpopular time in our nations history, that

I did not question when we were in conflict, and our freedom’s may be in jeopardy. I am still proud of myself and all of the men and women with whom I had the extreme privilege of being a part of.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?

To respect authority, and to be as responsible of a person as I can be. I have to this day maintained a routine. I’ve been reminded by my superiors at times I’m no longer in the military. I have learned to back down and accept those for who they are not what I want them to be.

BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE NAVY?

No matter what the situation of your assignment, no matter what the civilian world thinks of the duties you are assigned to, you are still a part of the GREATEST and most POWERFUL military in the world and defending the GREATEST nation on earth. Always remember we may all not support the actions our nation takes, however, those of us at home will always support, and honor you that are serving. The wrong things happened years ago, we’ll not let that happen again. My son served in the Submarine Service of which I am extremely proud of. He is fifth generation generation Navy from our family and served his nation proudly.

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.

It enabled me to contact some of those I served with, and whom I have not had contact with for over 35 years. The pictures in this section and those in my profile were provided to me by QM3 Bruce Holdsworth who I the pleasure of seeing again a few years ago in Vegas, and our Operations Officer Paul Ferguson whom I’ve had contact with for more than several years now.

4
Jan

LCDR E. L. “Jack” Spratt US Navy (Ret) (1969-1999)

Read the service reflections of US Navy Sailor:

sprattLCDR E. L. “Jack” Spratt

US Navy (Ret)

(1969-1999)

Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/bio/EL.Spratt

Veterans, join us today at http://togetherweserved.com to share your story.

WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?

I graduated from high school in 1967 and decided to give college a try, because that was my only way to keep a draft deferment. Well, college and I didn’t see eye to eye and in the middle of my third semester I had dropped out.

Coming from a small town, the lady who ran the draft board turned out to be my Aunt. I was home for Thanksgiving and she bumped into me in the post office. She indicated that since I was no longer in school, I probably shouldn’t make any plans after Christmas.

I wasn’t even sure where Vietnam was, but I knew I didn’t want to go there, so the Monday after Thanksgiving 1968, I went to see the Navy recruiter and entered boot camp on January 7, 1969.

WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?

My career was very unconventional. I was a Radarman (later Operations Specialist) as an enlisted man, but I did my shore duty at an Air Traffic Control facility where I became a control tower operator and radar approach controller.

I made Chief in 1981 and the following year was selected for the Limited Duty Officer program and commissioned as a Surface Operations Ensign. I did the standard shipboard tour, followed by a shore tour. After that, I got out of my element a bit and ended up spending almost eight years in the Naval Special Warfare’s small boat community.

I completed my twilight tour in San Diego at the newly commissioned Fleet Information Warfare Center.

DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?

I served a year in Vietnam as a crewman on a PCF, more commonly referred to as a Swift Boat.

Twenty years later, I served in Desert Storm operations with the Naval Special Warfare Boat Units.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

There are so many … but I think watching one of my boat crewmen during Desert Storm overcome his fear of nighttime patrols in mined waters is probably the top.

This young man was always the last guy on the boat and I could sense his reluctance. So one afternoon before we were to patrol up the Kuwaiti coast, I asked him to take a “walk and talk”.

He explained that he was afraid every time we took the boat out at night. He was with us when we had spotted a mine and in his words, “it scared me. I have a new baby at home and I’m scared to death that I’m never gonna see him or my wife again.”

I told him I understood and that I would take him off the boat and put him in the maintenance detachment. I also told him that no one would know of the conversation we just had. It was his answer that impacted me.

He said, “Sir, I’d like that, but no thanks. I’m part of this crew. We have trained together and we know each other well. If it’s all the same, I’d like to stay with them. Yeah, I’m scared, but I won’t let you down. I’ll never be late for an o, and I’ll do what I need to do. So, thanks, but I’ll stay with the boat.”

As we walked back to the boat house, just before we got within earshot of the others, he stopped and said, “Sir … thanks for listening and thanks for understanding.”

WERE ANY OF THE MEDALS OR AWARDS YOU RECEIVED FOR VALOR? IF YES, COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW THIS WAS EARNED?

I received the Navy Achievement Medal with the combat V for my actions in Vietnam. According to the citation, I participated in 125 combat patrols and engaged the enemy on six occasions. Truthfully, although I remember being in a firefight or two, the details escape me. I am extremely thankful that no one on my boat was wounded or killed during my time in Nam.

I received the Navy Commendation Medal with V for my actions during Desert Storm. It is basically an end of tour award for my being Officer in Charge of the Special Boat Detachment of Naval Special Warfare Task Unit, Central. I was fortunate to be in charge of 46 of the bravest guys I ever had the privilege of working with.

OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

One of the most meaningful awards I received is the Navy Achievement Medal with the Combat V that I earned while in Vietnam. A close second is the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V I received for Operation Desert Storm.

I’m also extremely proud of my Good Conduct medals, and my Surface Warfare Officer pin.

That said … there is one award I cherished then, and still do now, more than any other. The day I was commissioned, my daughter gave me a “friendship pin” she had made with her Brownie Scout troop. It was nothing more than a few beads strung on a safety pin, but it was hand-made by her, and it was beautiful. When she pinned it on my shirt, she said “This will keep you safe, Daddy.”

I kept that pin and wore it on the inside pocket of my jacket every day until I retired. I still have it in my jewelry box, and it is by far the most meaningful award I obtained while in the Navy.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?

This one is easy. Radarman Chief Charles B. Sharp. He was my Chief on the USS Monticello, the first ship I rode after my tour in ‘Nam. He taught me more about leadership than any of the schools the Navy sent me to  and the lessons I learned from him in our two years together have remained with me for my whole life.

Chief Sharp helped me get through the post-Vietnam “spookies”. He showed me how to be a leader and he taught me that the most important things a leader has going for him are the people who work for him. He also taught me the concept of “walk and talk”, as a way to get to know what’s going on in your division.

One night, we were walkin’ and talkin’ and he mentioned that my enlistment was ending in a few months. He asked what I was going to do when I got out. Since I really had no concrete plans, he listened to me babble for a few minutes and then asked me one question, “Do you like what you are doing now?”

Well, we were about 3/4 through a great Westpac cruise that had me visiting places like Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines. I was a Second Class by then, making more money than I had ever made in my life and was having a blast seeing the world. Of course I liked what I was doing and I told him so.

He just said, “well, you might want to think about re-enlisting. It ain’t a bad life, you know.” And he walked away. I had a bit of trouble sleeping that night and the next morning I initiated the walk and talk. He explained that not only would I get to keep doing something I enjoyed and was good at, but if I shipped over within the next four days, I would add a couple of thousand dollars to my re-enlistment bonus because we were still in the tax-free war zone.

That afternoon I put in my chit to ship for six years and two days later, I was raising my hand. And Chief Sharp … well, before he would allow me to raise my hand or sign the paper he made me promise him something. He said, “Spratt, promise me this. If this ever quits being fun, you will quit doing it.”

Well, for 27 years after making that promise, the Navy was still fun and I kept doing it. Thanks to RDC Sharp who did more for me and my career than he will ever know.

One side note, shortly after I was commissioned, I was able to track Chief Sharp down. He lived in Hawaii and I was able to speak to him by phone and tell him how much of an impact he had on me and my life. I have heard since, but unable to verify, that he has died. If this is so, the world is a little worse off for his passing, but a great deal better off because he was here.

CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?

Wow. Over 30 years, there have been so many.

One of my favorites is the night my roommate went blind. I shared a stateroom with the Bos’n, and one afternoon in Australia, Tommy and I went out on a wine-tasting tour. Well, it seems Tommy tasted about three bottles over his limit and I literally carried him back to the ship. I got him undressed and in his bunk, then I went back out to hit the town.

I got back about midnight. The ship had lost shore power and she was totally dark. Not a problem, I knew my way around, so I headed to the stateroom. It was pitch black inside the room, so I started getting undressed for bed.

Just as I was about to hit the rack, Tommy woke up and asked, “Jack, is that you?”
“Of course,” I answered. “Who else would it be?”

Tommy then said, in a bit of a panicked voice, “Jack, you can turn on the light if you want.”

Never one to pass up an opportunity, I replied, “Tommy, the lights ARE on.”

About ten seconds went by, then Tommy let out a blood curdling scream … “Jack … I’m BLIND. I’m F…kin’ Blind.”

I flipped on the light, laughing like crazy. Tommy was sitting up in his bunk, he had one hand holding his eyelids open and the other right in front of his nose. He said, “What the …” and then he started to laugh along with me. He told me later he really thought he may have gotten some bad wine and somehow drank himself blind.

I will also say that Tommy got even with me for that … but that’s a sea story for another time.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?

I am a Juvenile Probation Officer in San Diego. I am part of a program that partners with the Police Department trying to offer diversion and intervention programs to minors early enough they don’t get caught up too far in the system. The goal is to get them back on track so they don’t become criminal adults.

WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?

I’m a Lifetime Member of the VFW. When I came home from Desert Storm, my hometown VFW Post purchased a year membership for me (and all local DS Veterans). I thought that was a nice gesture and bought the life membership a year later. I’m not too active – my Post is 800 miles away. I do stop by the local Post now and then for a cold one, but that’s about it.

HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?

I think the biggest influence I carried over from the military is my work ethic. The military taught me to be on time, do my job to the best of my ability and to follow orders. I was also taught to be a leader as well as a follower, and this has served me well in my new career.

I also think the military has taught me to embrace life a little more than many who don’t have the military experience. I have come face to face with my mortality and have learned to value the important things (to me at least). I can love unconditionally, I can accept unconditional love and I try and always do the right thing.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?

In the words of Chief Sharp … if it ever quits being fun, quit doing it!

Enjoy every moment, take pictures, keep a log, take pictures, work hard, take pictures and don’t forget to take pictures. Of course, try and label them so you can remember who/what/where/when. In this digital photo computer age, this should be easy.

My only regret in my career is not taking enough pictures or keeping enough notes. Well, maybe not my only regret, there was that night in Freemantle, but ….. never mind! LOL

IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?

I have touched base with a couple of warriors I knew from my Boat Guy days – and because of TWS I have formed a very good friendship with someone I didn’t know before. The site has also allowed me to keep abreast of the changes which have occurred in the Navy since I hauled out. I’m happy to say, it appears my Navy is in good hands.

30
Nov

SO1 Don Hammill US Navy (1942-1945)

Read the service reflections of US Navy Sailor:

hammil20serviceSO1 Don Hammill

US Navy

(1942-1945)

WHAT PERSUADED YOU TO JOIN THE NAVY?

Some of my boyhood friends had joined the Navy and some were going to join.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor my parents agreed that I should join.  I was very patriotic and intended to serve my country and fight the enemy.

BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER PATH IN THE SERVICE?

My journey began when I arrived at NTS, San Diego on 10 Jan 1942.  I spent 3 weeks in Boot Camp then I was assigned to Sonar School before being sent to the USS Crosby (DD 164) in February, 1942.  The Crosby patrolled the West Cost on Escort Duty until February, 1943.  We eventually entered the Mare Island Navy Yard for convesion to a high Speed Transport and were reclassified as APD-17, High Speed Destroyer Transport.  We cleared San Francisco on 27 February 1943 and sailed, by way of Pearl Harbor, Samoa, Vitu Levu Noumea and Espiritu Santo.  We practiced beach landings at Santo with James Roosevelt’s “Marine Raiders” in March of 1943.  We were cleared on 29 April for Guadalcanal as a Transport Screen and on 6 June 1943 we reported for escrot duty in the Solomon Islands.

DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS?

We saw tremendous action on the USS Crosby with 17 Amphibious Landings.  We went through all of the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and all islands in between to the Phillipines, we finally secured after Corregedor and Manila.  We then went back to Ulithi in the Central Pacific to prepare for the Okinawa Operation.

I saw my first combat in June 1943 when 120 enemy plane came down slot to attack Guadalcanal and the fleet in channel between Tulagi and Guadalcanal.  American and New Zealand planes and surface ships shot down 94 Jap planes with a loss of 6 U.S. Planes and the recovery of 2 U.S. pilots.

The Crosby was one of the American surface ships in this battle.  We began island hopping from our forward bast at Tulagi and were eventually awarded 10 Battle Stars for the following Operations; Eastern New Guinea, New Georgia Group, Bismarck Archipelago, Treasure-Bougainville, Western New Guinea, Hollandi, Leyte, Luzon, Manila Bay and Okinawa Gunto.

Additionally, the Crosby was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation for the following Operations: New Georgia Group, Bougainville Landings, Cape Gloucester, Leyte Gulf, Ormoc Bay Landing, Lingayen Landings and the Okinawa Operation.

My battle station was a gunner on the 20mm on flying bridge on the Crosby.  In November 1943 a low flying plane came in directly at the bridge of the Crosby.  I unloaded a full magazine on my 20mm and shot down the enemy plane. I also shot down a suicide plane in Lingayen Gulf as it was headed for the bridge. That was in January 1945.  My Shipmate, Albert Johnson, was an eyewitness to each of these actions.  Albert, who was stationed at a searchlight platfrom directly above me, was going to send me an affidavit on the incidents but regretfully he passed away before he was able to send it.  I do have a copy of it now, provided below.  His description depicts actions against the enemy that day:

“Statement regarding the participation of Don E. Hammill of Murray, Utah and Albert R. Johnson of Phoeniz, AZ in actions against the Japanese on November 17, 1943 while serving aboard the USS Crosby (APD 17):

I was a member of the crew of the USS Crosby (DD164/APD17) with the rate of SM2C and was a shipmate of Don E. Hammill, Sonarman 2nd Class on November 17, 1943.  On said date, at approximately 0800, our ship was landing troops in Operations off Bougainville Island in the Solomon Islands, when our ship came under attack by Japanese planes. We were at General Quarters and my Battle Station while landing troops was in Boat One of a Four Boat group where I was the communications between the mother ship and the USS Crosby.  Our four boats had left the Crosby when Japanese aircraft entered the landing area.  Boat one was 100 yards off the starboard bow of the Crosby when two planes dropped bombs on the Crosby, One bomb landed close aboard the bridge on the starboard side.  The plane bulled out of its bomb run, gained altitude and turned into a strafing run on the port side of the Crosby.  Sonarman Hammill’s 20mm gun on the flying bridge opened fire emptying a full magazine into the enemy plane, tracer fire could be clearly seen entering the engine and cockpit of the plane.  it appears that the 20mm fire hit the enemy pilot as the plane veered radically and plunged into the sea.  Sonorman Hammill’s 20mm machine gun was the only one that could have had the opportunity to get a first hit on the enemy plane.
Signed/Dated,
22 September 2003
Albert R. Johnson, Lt (USNR/Ret)”

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

My particular memories during 23 consecutive months in the South Pacific were when I was literally staring into the eyes of the enemy pilots while manning my 20mm gun.

WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU…AND WHY?

I didn’t have an individual person that had a particular impact on me personally but I never forgot the great strategy of Admiral Spruance in the “Miracle at Midway.”  We were all inspired by the Admiral’s actions since he, against all odds, stopped the Japanese fleet early in the war and the Battle of Midway early in 1942 prevented the enemy from occupying Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States.

DO YOU HAVE A PARTICULARLY FUNNY STORY FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?

When we were at Esperado, before being sent to Guadalcanal, and were training with the 4th Marine Raiders practicing landings with them. They were commanded by James Roosevelt.   While we were there, Roosevelt got word that the Army club at the base there had a nice big piano, but there wasn’t one in the Marines club.  Not having a piano, but wanted one, he organized a group of some of the larger Marines in the unit to go and “re-locate” that piano in the middle of the night and put it in the Marines club.  That was of course the subject of more than a few exchanges between the various service members but it was a lot of fun.

WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?

I was discharged in November of 1945.  I returned to Salt Lake, City and graduated from the University of Utah Law School in 1950 with a Juris Doctor degree and practiced law for 30 years.  I am now retired and Vice President of Membership and Development for the Utah Council of the Navy League of the United States.

HOW HAS SERVING IN THE NAVY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU NOW APPROACH YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?

I have always been proud of my service in the Navy and my family aboard the Crosby and my contact with the TWS Family and my Shipmates there.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?

After getting out of the service I can say that what I learned in the service was real discipline.  I was young and cocky when I started my time in the service and it wasn’t until after my first battle at Guadalcanal that I realized we were in a real war and other people were trying to kill us. Anyone who is currently serving should be proud and have respect for their seniors and those serving with them.  The reality is that war is harsh so they must train hard, learn their job well and execute their duties to the best of their ability. You should be proud to be in the greatest Navy in the world and do everything you can to be the very best Sailor you can be.  I salute everyone who has or is currently serving.

HOW HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU TO MAINTAIN A BOND WITH THE SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?

Becoming a member of TWS has been the most rewarding experience of my retirement years.  The ability to talk with all of my shipmates on TWS is great.  My daughter Jill literally saved my life by getting me into Huntsman Cancer Hospital for emergency surgery in 2009. It was after this surgery that a lot of shipmates on TWS kept me in their thoughts and prayers during a long, slow and painful recovery. I must give a hand salute to MCPO Ed Armstrong for keeping everyone on TWS updated regarding my condition and for calling me every day for more than a year to check on me. I would like to wish blessings on him and all my TWS shipmates and the United States of America.

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