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Posts from the ‘Voices of Sailors’ Category

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.

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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.

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.

23
Nov

Pfc Frank A. Plebanek US Army (1943-1945)

Read the service reflections of US Soldier

plebanek1Pfc Frank A. Plebanek

US Army

(1943-1945)

If you are a veteran or family of a veteran, join us today at http://sos.togetherweserved.org to share their stories.

WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?

Having just turned 18 years of age I knew I was eligible to be drafted, but didn’t know when that time would come. My buddy and I went to the Naval Recruiting office and told them we would

like to become pilots on an aircraft carrier. He arranged for us to go to Kansas City, MO for testing and physicals on Dec 31, 1942 and Jan. 1, 1943. We both passed the tests and physicals and were told to return home and that we would receive a letter within 30 days to report to Pensacola, Florida for induction into the US Navy.

We did receive a letter about three weeks later that informed us that enlistments for 18 year olds had been canceled and we could wait to be drafted and then transfer into Naval Aviation. We didn’t like that idea, so went to the Army Air Corp and then the US Marines and they told us the same thing. We had both quit our jobs and decided to go to the local draft board and tell them we wanted to enlist and would like to go out on the next draft call from our city.

We were told to report for induction on Mar 19, 1943.

BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?

I volunteered to be drafted March 1943. Trained with 78th Lightning Division, in D Co of 309th Regiment. I was trained in Use and Tactics of Heavy Water Cooled 30. Cal. Machine Gun.

I was sent as POR to England and Joined the 82nd Airborne Division about ten days before D-Day. I was being held as Reserve Status and assigned to 325th Glider Regiment. I was placed in E Co. in a Mortar Squad when the Unit was returned from combat in July of 1944.

I participated in Operation Market Garden as Second Gunner on 60mm Mortars. I was wounded on Oct 1, 1944 near Mook, Holland and sent to England to recuperate.

I was then returned to duty in Feb 1945 to rejoin my Unit which was near Schmidthof, Germany. I was assigned as a Gunner on a 30 Cal. Light Machine Gun.

While holding the West Bank of the Rhine river in Cologne, the CO said needed a jeep driver so I became his driver until the hostilities ceased in May of 1945.

We then were sent to Berlin, Germany for Occupational Duty until Nov of 1945, when I had acquired enough points to be able to return to the States to be demobilized on Dec 23, 1945, returning to my family about 6:30 p.m on Christmas Eve!

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

We landed by glider in Holland and spent 8 days on the Front Line. I came so close to being killed so many times.

A German soldier had my head in his sights when he fired his rifle. If his aim would have been 2 inches higher he would have shot me right between the eyes. The bullet landed in the dirt, right in front of my nose and about 2 inches below the top of the dirt around my foxhole. The dirt the bullet kicked up filled my eyes and I was unable to see anything for over an hour, while I tried to clean the dirt from my eyes, with water from my canteen.

While trying to awaken a man to relieve me on guard duty one night, a sniper tried to shoot me while I was looking for the man in his hole. He must have fired three or four times at me until the firing woke another solier who fired back at the sniper. I believe the sniper was in the attic of the nearby farmhouse. He was just firing at the sounds I was making. I believe he was the same sniper that killed Verl Miller earlier that afternoon.

On a later occasion, as I looked around the corner of a fireplace protruding from the rear of a house, a German stood there with a flame thrower about 25 feet from me. He immediately fired the flame thrower and as the ball of flame was coming toward me, I dodged around the corner of the house and dove into an empty foxhole.

One of our Sergeants, along with five other men and I were trying to recover the mortar we had lost the day before, when we’d been attacked and didn’t have time to bring it with us. We were proceeding in single file as we were walking along the dirt road and the man (Closen), directly in front of me, was hit with machine pistol fire from a German gunner. Closen was riddled across his lower chest and fell forward to the ground and squirmed his way into the hedgerow trying to take more cover. He only got about half way into the hedges when he stopped, lying perfectly still. We all knew that he was killed in action. He had been through Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy without being injured and it seemed such a shame that he had to die in Holland.

Late afternoon on the third day, while Payne and I were in our foxhole, the Germans made a small counter-attack with a half-track and a few troops following it. We heard it coming, but couldn’t see it, and when it came into view, the gunner on top, with a machine gun, opened fire at Payne and I. We dropped to the bottom of our foxhole, without being hit. The gunner kept us pinned down, until some of our troops fired a bazooka round at it. It was hit in the radiator and backed away toward their own lines. When all the firing stopped we raised up out of our hole and found that all the dirt around our foxhole had been scooped away by the machine gunners bullets.

Another day, while it was raining, I tried to have a cigarette, but couldn’t keep it lit. I decided to go into a small shed about 30 yards away. As I entered the shed I found it dry inside, so sat down and had a cigarette and candy bar. It wasn’t long before a few guys decided to join me in theshed for a smoke. When the fifth man arrived, I thought to myself, ‘this is not good, too many people in one spot. I explained this to the men in the shed. When the sixth man arrived, I decided to leave and mentioned that they should too. Then four of them left and there was only one man in the shed. The Germans had spotted all the men gathering at the shed and probably had it zeroed in for their mortars. Before the last man left, a mortar round landed about five feet from the shed and blew it all apart. They then placed machine gun fire on the spot where the shed had been. The last man didn’t make it out and was killed.

On another occasion, I was digging a foxhole and had it about knee deep, when I noticed some leaves move near my hole while I was standing in it. I immediately dropped into the hole as a mortar shell exploded not two feet from me. I wasn’t wounded as all the fragments went over me. I couldn’t hear anything for about two hours, until my hearing returned from the concussion of the blast.

After we lost the mortar I was assigned to be first gunner on a light machine gun. One time, a German machine gunner was returning my fire but he couldn’t lower his fire enough to hit me. I was concentrating on firing my own weapon and didn’t realize how close I’d come to being hit until I discovered the severed leaves he’d shot from the trees about six inches above my head.

I was really ticked off at the Germans for shelling our bivouac area. Our Company was pulled off the line to go to the rear to get some R & R for two days. My Buddy and I dug a slit trench to sleep in or take cover if we were shelled. We covered it with logs and dirt because it was raining. We’d left just enough room to get into and out of the hole. While we slept, at about 10:30 p.m. we were shelled and an artillery shell exploded in the tree just above us and the entire top of the tree trapped us in the slit trench. We were both wounded in the lower legs and were trapped inside until the medics could remove the tree and help us from the slit trench. It just didn’t seem right that I was wounded while in a two foot deep slit trench, below ground level and protected by dirt and logs over 2/3rds of the hole. Of course if it hadn’t been for the logs and dirt over our bodies, we both may both have been killed. We were taken by ambulance to a field hospital in Nijmegen in the morning. Then the next day to a hospital in Brussels. The next day I was airlifted back to England in a C-47 ambulance plane. After being airlifted back to England, I spent about four months in the hospital before being returned to my Unit, which had already moved into Germany near Aachen.

WHICH, OF THE DUTY STATIONS OR LOCATIONS YOU WERE ASSIGNED OR DEPLOYED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?

Berlin, Germany, the 82nd Airborne Division was assigned as occupational duty forces, after the German forces surrendered. It was nice to know we wouldn’t have to do any more fighting on this side of the world. We didn’t know if we would be sent to help the Pacific forces invade Japan. Seeing Berlin almost completely demolished from the bombing and shelling, was an awesome sight. Being the CO’s jeep driver we had to travel in the British and French zones. Trying to get around we sometimes had to travel 3 or 4 miles to find routes to get to where we wanted to go that was only a mile away. Our Company was quartered in Mariendorf, which is a small section of the southern area of Berlin. We were due south from the Brandenberg Gate and the Templehof Airport. Spandau was west of downtown Berlin.

A group of about 10 from our company, a Lieutenant, myself and 8 others were assigned to assist the British, in Spandau, to help get all the DP’s (Displaced Persons) and German Soldiers back to their home locations. This took about six weeks before all the holding pens were emptied. I met many British soldiers and German girls (typists) while doing the sorting of thousands of German soldiers and civilians.

I think we spent more time in Berlin than any of the places we were stationed and while in combat. We were constantly moving from one place to another through England, Holland, France, Belgium and Germany. Seemed we were constantly going back and forth from France to Germany.

As troops were being sent back to the US to be demobilized, we were given points to accumulate, the men with the highest number of points were being sent home first. My number group was called about the middle of November and we left Berlin, returned to France and left Marseille to go through the Mediterranean, past Gibraltar and on to New York.

So to me, my whole oversees adventure was to leave Boston, land in England, go to Holland, go to Belgium, return to England (in hospital), back to France, then to Germany, back to France, back to Germany, back to France, back to Germany, back to France, then leave France to go by ship to New York. I was able to visit all the Capitals, London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

I was in the hospital near Whitney, England when I learned that my Unit was called to duty to help halt the German counter-attack in Dec. 1944 at the Huertgen Forest. I regretted that I was not able to be with my Unit when it really needed the most able bodied men. They had advanced on into Germany by the time I was able to return to duty.

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

I was awarded the Bronze Star for service during the Rhineland Campaign in Feb. 1944. I was unaware that I’d received the medal until Sept 1963.

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

Earned the following Medals and awards:

European,African, Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one invasion spear- head and four campaign stars
Army of Occupation WW II Medal
Presidential Unit Citation Badge
Combat Infantryman Badge
American Campaign Medal
Victory WW II Medal
Good Conduct Medal
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart Medal
French Fouragere Lanyard
Belgian Fouragere Lanyard
Netherlands Orange Lanyard

All equally important to me.

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

While training in the States with the 78th Div, I had training on driving and maintaining motor vehicles. I had no idea that I would eventually become a driver.

Later I was with E Company, of the 325 Glider Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. When the Company Commander needed a driver they looked through the records of all the company personnel and found that I had been qualified as a driver. We were in Cologne, Germany, holding the west bank of the Rhine, while they were clearing out the Ruhr Pocket which they had encircled on the east bank. My CO asked me if I would like to be relieved from being a gunner on the 30. Cal Light Machine gun and become his regular Jeep Driver. Without too much consideration, I agreed and continued as his driver until I was sent home on points.

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

On the eve of my 21st. birthday we had a Company party while we were occupying Berlin. I was the CO’s jeep driver at the time. I went to the Company party with intentions of drinking enough until I passed out. After we had dinner I took 7 double shots of Cognac, a wine glass full of Gin, a bottle of Champagne and 3 and a half glasses of beer. All this in about a 4 hour period.

My buddy Tom Graves from Service Company hauled me up three flights of stairs and put me to bed. I was supposed to take the CO to Regimental HQ at 9AM. I never got up after three times being awakened and told to go get my jeep. They had someone bring the jeep to the Company area and finally got me up so I could drive him to HQ.

The Captain got in the jeep and asked me if I thought I could make it. I told him I thought I could. When we got to the corner and I had to make a right turn, I almost fell out of the jeep. He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me back. When I had to make a left turn I fell over into his lap and he helped me straighten out again. We made it to HQ and I stayed in the jeep and slept until he came out about two hours later.

I felt much better after getting more sleep, and we made it back to our Company area with no further incidents. He then told me to get my Assistant Driver to take over the driving duties until the next day. I was lucky not to have been written up. It was certainly a milestone birthday to remember.

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

I was a Automobile Service Station Manager for about 20 years. I then operated my own Service Station for 5 years. I finally gave up my lease during the first gas shortage because the government was telling me how much gas I could sell and how much money I could make. It all became too much because I had to cut my operating hours and couldn’t make enough money to support my family.

I then went to work for another dealer for about five years as an Auto Mechanic. Then gave that up and started working at General Dynamics as a Maintenance Mechanic, then transferred to Machine Tool Rebuilder.

After 12 and a half years I retired from there in Jan 1990. Still retired after 21 years.

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

82nd Airborne Division Association
325 th Glider Infantry Association
American Airborne Association
Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Disabled American Veterans
Combat Infantryman’s Association

Derived no specific benefits from any of them.
Went to reunions of the 325th and the 82nd.

I am mentioned in the following three books:
‘LET’S GO’ by Wayne Pierce 1997- The story of the men of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment.
‘GLIDE TO GLORY’ by Jerry Richlak, Sr.-Unedited personal stories of Airborne Glidermen of WWII.
‘ALL AMERICAN ALL THE WAY’ By Phil Nordyke-The Combat History of The 82nd Airborne Division in World War II.

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

Personally experiencing the daily life of a Soldier gave me a greater base of knowledge of how to deal with problems, organize and determine what’s truly important. I developed the realization that I had to rely on my own resourcefulness to succeed. I had to literally grow up in the trenches.

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

Stay with the rules and behave. Do your job.

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

I have found lost friends after 50 years. It’s another vehicle to document history of service.

26
Oct

EMCS (SS) Kent Weekly U.S. Navy (Ret) (Served 1973-1994)

replacementRead the service reflections of U.S. Navy Sailor:

EMCS (SS) Kent Weekly

U.S. Navy (Ret)

(Served 1973-1994)

Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/45842

WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?

It was during my junior year of high school that I realized I had no desire to attend an institute of higher learning to continue my education. That, coupled with the fact I lived in a small logging town in southwest Oregon. Only option available was working in the timber industry, either in the woods setting chokers or pulling green chain in a lumber mill. You always have to start on the bottom. I had set chokers for one summer and knew that I sure in the hell did not want to do that for the rest of my life.

Another big influence was I wanted to get out of small town Oregon. My uncle had been in the Navy in the late 50’s and early 60’s and he had showed me his slides. From these I knew there was a big wide wonderful world out there and if I stayed around home, I would never get the chance to see it.

So in short, the two biggest influences in me joining the military was travel and to learn a trade.

WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?

In December 1972, after deciding I was not going to college (see above), I drove to Coos Bay, Oregon and saw a Navy Recruiter. The conversation went something like this. I told the recruiter I wanted to be a pilot. He asked me, “Do you have a 4 year college degree?” I replied, “No”. He then told me, “You can’t be a pilot without being an officer and they require a 4 year college degree.” And I said “Okay, what else could I do?”

He told me I needed to take a test first. So, I took the Basic Test Battery (BTB) and qualified to be a NUKE.

I enlisted in the CACHE program Dec 1972 and left for RTC San Diego, June 14, 1973. After successfully completing boot camp, I attended Basic Electricity and Electronics (preparatory) BEE/P and “A” school from 08/73 to 12/73. About half way through “A” school I decided I didn’twant to be a NUKE anymore so I dropped my grades enough so I didn’t graduate in the upper 2/3rds of my class. I was then dropped from the NUKE program, but got to keep E-3, and was assigned orders to Submarine School.

In March 1974 after graduating Sub School I went to the fleet and went on board my first submarine – USS Bonefish (SS-582). I served on her until Jun 1976 making EM3 while on board and earning my dolphins.

In June 1976, I transferred to the USS Grayback (SS-574), home ported in Subic Bay until Oct 1977, advancing to EM2, at which time I decided to get out of the Navy.

I remained out until April 1978 when I re-enlisted and got orders back to the USS Grayback. I was on her again from April 1978 to May 1981. I picked up EM1 on that tour then received orders ashore as a recruiter at NRD Portland, Ore. I stayed there until August 1984 and received orders back to the USS Bonefish (SS-582) and was on her until December 1987.

I made Chief, EMC, September 1985. After that tour in Charleston, I transferred to San Diego and DSV Turtle (DSV-3). I made Senior Chief, EMCS, at this command and left for Submarine Training Facility, San Diego in Jun 1991 where I remained until May 1994 when I retired.

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

I did not. Vietnam was winding down in 1974 when I made my first Westpac, I was sitting pier side in Pearl for the Mayaguez incident in 1975, was on recruiting duty for the Libya incursion 1981 and Grenada 1983. In San Diego for Panama 1989, Desert Shield and Desert Storm 1991.

I did participate in a spec operation though, but I can’t tell you about it. However, I will tell you that at certain times the “Cold War” was not all that cold.

WHICH, OF THE VESSELS OR DUTY STATIONS YOU WERE ASSIGNED TO, DO YOU HAVE THE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY?

During my career, I was assigned 3 times on diesel electric submarines, (Pearl Harbor, Subic Bay and Charleston). Many fond memories from those duty stations, (Westpac’s, forward deployed, Caribbean trips). I did a tour of recruiting duty and a tour at Submarine Training Facility, San Diego.

However, by far, the best duty station for memories has to be Deep Submergence Vehicle TURTLE (DSV-3). This 3+-year tour of duty allowed me to explore the inner reaches of the earth. I have been down to 10,000 feet below the surface of the ocean during a UMI deep dive certification. I have been to over 8600 feet at the East Pacific Rise and have personally seen the subsea volcanic activity that occurs in that area. Assisted in the recovery of numerous aircraft and other naval assets from the ocean bottom. Assisted Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute and Scripps Oceanographic Institute along with Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in numerous and widely varied scientific expeditions in the study the oceans.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

Over the course of a 21-year career there are many memories that stand out, but the one that stands out most vividly, not necessarily the best, is while stationed on Deep Submergence Vehicle TURTLE, being entangle on the sea floor off San Clemente Island in November 1989.

We (Dave Deipenhorst, George Billy and I) were stuck on the bottom of the ocean for just under 15 hours.

Our job that day was to dive to 1300 feet in Turtle and survey and set up for recovery of a hydrophone array. The cable that was attached to the hydrophone was not lying on the ocean floor, as was the norm. It was floating in the water column and had a giant loop in the cable. After completing the survey and upon ascending from the ocean floor Turtle wound up inside the loop and became stuck. We were unable to extricate ourselves and with help from above were able to maneuver the boat into a position that allowed us to surface.

I can tell you from experience that at 1300 feet it gets very cold, very quickly.

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

Enlisted Submarine Warfare Insignia – SUBMARINE DOLPHINS. These mean the world to me. These inducted me into a fraternity of fellow submariners worldwide.

It took about 9 months to earn this honor. A person has to know every system on board the submarine, pass an oral exam from 3 qualified people, and complete a walk through of the boat with the engineering officer who can ask you any question about any system on board. You have to pass both of these exams and then and only then are you recommended for qualification in submarines.

Harley Davidson t-shirts have a saying on them “If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand” That is to me, the same as being a submariner. You just cannot understand the pride and accomplishment that went into earning this coveted insignia.

My Deep Submergence Pin as well. Very few individuals have gotten to do what I did in deep submergence.

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

There are so many to choose from.

There are three Chief’s on board USS Bonefish who took a young kid just reporting aboard, under their wing and showed him what was expected of him and what to expect during his first Westpac. Thank you ENC(SS) Art “Nick” Nichols,QMCS(SS) John Taylor and EMC(SS) Shugi Akazawa.

To my XO at Submarine Training Facility, San Diego who went beyond what was required during a time of family crisis. Thank you CDR Tina Erwin.

The one who had the biggest impact, however, would have to be my Company Commander in boot camp, IC1 Fitzhugh. He taught us how to be sailors. He was the one who taught me, if you take care of your troops, your troops would take care of you. He taught me many valuable lessons about life in the Navy. Stuff that wasn’t in the course curriculum during boot camp. Things like, what life was really like in the fleet Navy and what to expect. He explained to me it was nothing like boot but to take what we were learning there to heart. His ability to drill this into the thick skull of a young 17-year-old snot nosed kid from small town in Oregon made my time in the Navy enjoyable.

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

After I made Chief, we were underway on USS Bonefish (SS-582). I was standing Engineering Watch Supervisor( EWS) in maneuvering and a new junior officer (JO), who was a royal jerk (read that academy grad, know it all), came through on a pre-watch tour as Junior Officer of the Deck(JOOD). He asked if anything was broken.

I told him the MX-993/U was OOC due to a faulty BA-30 power supply.

He asks if we, the electricians, were working on it.

I told him yes and he departed for the bridge.

A little later I heard him call for the Captain and he reported the problem with the MX-993/U and the faulty power supply.

The CO asked him what the MX-993/U was and he didn’t know.

Shortly after he hung up with the CO, over the 7MC came “Maneuvering, Bridge phone”. I picked up the phone and he asked me what exactly the MX-993/U was. So I told him, “Sir, it is a standard Navy Gray 2 cell flashlight and the BA-30 power supply is a “D” cell battery”. I then hung up.

He then waited about 5 minutes, I think he was trying to figure a way out of telling the Ol’ Man he had been had. So anyway after about 5 minutes he calls the CO and reports that the MX-993/U was a standard flashlight. The CO then told him to come see him after he got off watch.

About 15 minutes later the CO comes strolling into maneuvering and said to me “You got him good, but next time go a little easier on him, but I think you taught him a valuable lesson.”

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

After I retired in May 1994, I went right to work for a company following my chosen path as an electrician. I rose from the worker ranks in 1994 to become a foreman in 1998, a manager in 2001 and became a director in April, 2010. I currently have until June 2014 when I can retire again.

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

I am a member of the VFW, American Legion and numerous Submarine Veterans organizations (United States Submarine Veterans, Inc (USSVI), International Submariners Association – USA (ISA-USA), Submarines Association Australian (SAA), B-Girl reunion association.

With the submarine associations, I derive a camaraderie with fellow submariners from both the US and around the world. It is a way to stay in touch with shipmates and to talk to others who have shared the same experiences, whether they are from England, Australia, Japan or even Russia.

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

The work ethic that I learned and was constantly reinforced while in the service has held me in good stead in the civilian workforce. It has allowed me to stand out from others and earn faster promotions.

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

I will not pontificate and tell you how you should do it.  What I will tell you though is to take lots of photos and video. I took quite a few but should have taken more. As you get older, the memories fade but the photos will always be the memory joggers.

In addition, your career is your responsibility and yours alone. The decisions you make have to be your own. Do not let someone else tell you what they think are in your best interests. Take their advice but in the end, do your own research and the decision you make will have to be yours.

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

I have had the opportunity to meet new friends and find old shipmates on this site. Some of these shipmates I have not seen or heard from in over 35 years.

Truly a great site for meeting new acquaintances and renewing old friendships.

21
Sep

AB3 Marilyn R Richards US Navy (1997-2001)

Read the service reflections of US Navy Sailor:

richardsAB3 Marilyn R Richards

US Navy

(1997-2001)

Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/bio/Marilyn.Richards

If you served in any branch of the U.S. Military, record your own military service story you can share with your family on TogetherWeServed.com

WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?

When it came to the last year of high school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after graduation. I didn’t feel ready for college and, besides, looking at my older sister getting stressed out with her college classes didn’t appeal to me very much. Also, I didn’t want to work at a fast food restaurant just to get on my feet.

I contemplated the military, as my Dad always had said that if we didn’t know what we wanted to do after high school, the military was a great option to do something with your life. A few months before my sister and I graduated, she decided to enlist in the Navy and I thought that was a good idea and I decided to go into the service with her. So, we went to boot camp together.

My Dad made a career in the Air Force serving as a Flight Test Engineer on the C-141 Starlifter. He is a Vietnam Veteran and has been all over the world. My dad’s love for the military influenced my decision to join the military as well. I’m glad I did.

WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?

I enlisted as an un-designated airman and after boot camp, received orders to be Ship’s Company on board the aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), then stationed in Bremerton, Washington. It had recently relocated from Alameda, California to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington State. Truthfully, I was bummed to see that Alameda was crossed out on my orders because I was from the San Francisco Bay Area and would have been stationed right at home.

After spending a couple weeks with my Mom for the holiday, I flew out to Washington State to my duty station. I was among the second group of females that had arrived on board when the ship was transitioning from an all-male force to co-ed in January 1998. The first group had arrived four months prior so when I came on board, things were still in transition to accommodate females on board the ship. I was shocked to see this huge 101,300 long ton steel vessel that I was going to live on for the next four years! What a sight to see for a young, 18-year-old girl leaving home for the first time.

Shortly after settling in and serving ninety days in the Galley, I was moved into the V-2 Launch and Recovery Division, first in the Administration office and then into the work center where we handled the Pilot Landing Aid Television and Fresnel Lens Optical System. I spent a lot of time learning the IC rate and fixing headphones. I loved working in that shop. It was the best part of V-2.

However, when the time came to advance to an E-4 as a Third Class Petty Officer, I decided to stay in V-2 as an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Launch and Recovery Technician and ended up moving into the Waist Catapult Work Center, operating and maintaining mechanical and hydraulic launch equipment on the flight deck.

It was very intense, often harsh and no place for weak-minded individuals.

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

It was more so peacetime operations. We were operating under Operation Southern Watch, monitoring and controlling airspace south of the 32nd Parallel in Iraq and Operation Northern Watch, a US European Command Combined Task Force (CTF) charged with enforcing its own no-fly zone above the 36th parallel in Iraq.

We also participated in a four-day bombing campaign on Iraqi targets in support of Operation Desert Fox in response to Iraq’s failure to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolutions as well as their interference with United Nations Special Commission Inspectors.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

There is not one memory that I can recall that has made the biggest impact on me. If anything, I would say that serving four years on board a floating city and working in one of the toughest and often overworked areas in the Air Department had the biggest impact on me because it made me build up tough skin to handle all the pressures of life. The Navy helped me to look at life from a different perspective than where I was before living a life in uniform. It was a hectic, crazy and challenging roller coaster ride but overall, an experience I am grateful for. I gained knowledge, a variety of training and a level of maturity only the military could mold a then 21-year-old, young woman into.

I had left with a poignant experience that left me with mixed emotions. It was the most trying four years of my life. I met friends that I’ll never forget and I learned the meaning of brotherhood and camaraderie only gained from being in the military. I also left with a bitterness that took me over three years to heal. All in all, my experience left me with a love and appreciation of the Navy life and for V-2.

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

Well, due to the time in which I served, I did not have the opportunity to receive awards for valor as I was not serving in combat conditions nor had I been in harm’s way.

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

The most meaningful badge or device to receive would be the Navy Good Conduct Medal. There is a lot of history behind this medal. As one of the oldest medals awarded to active duty members in the Navy, this one means the most due to the honor and privilege of being commended for honorable and faithful service. I’m grateful and humbled to be awarded and recognized for creditable, above average professional performance, military behavior, leadership, military appearance and adaptability based on good conduct and faithful service for a three-year period of continuous active service. (Medals of America DD-214 Blog, 2011) .

The military can be such a tough and trying lifestyle and to serve without any disciplinary, non-judicial-related infractions is a challenge in itself. The military can test your will, character and faith and if you’re not grounded in who you are and if you don’t have a strong foundation of a solid up-bringing, you might become susceptible to certain unlawful pressures. I’ve seen it firsthand how many people have made wrong and poor decisions for a fleeting moment of pleasure and it cost them their service and all the time that they put into their enlistment.

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

The person I would say that had the most positive influence on me through the toughest part of my tour was Chaplain Frazier. Due to working in V-2 and the constant challenge with not having enough qualified personnel and the demand of carrier operations, the pressure and life of living on board a floating city was mentally, physically and spiritually exhausting.

I sought spiritual refreshment and strength through Chaplain Frazier and he helped me to endure the last couple of years by providing prayer, guidance and support. At the time, I was working about twenty-two hours a day out to sea and living off of two hours of sleep a night. The Chapel and the Chaplain’s Office was my place of solitude to find rest and peace.

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

We were out to sea conducting Cyclic Operations, in which we were in a constant rotating take-off and landing pattern to maximize the flight deck. Each day, cyclic air operations occur for 12 to 14 hours, in 8 to 9 cycles of approximately 20 aircraft. Each cycle takes about an hour and forty five minutes, from take-off to landing, with just 10 minutes needed to launch outgoing aircraft and 20 minutes to recover incoming aircraft.

So, needless to say, we were in high ops tempo operations. We were scurrying to prep the Landing Area (where Cat 3 and Cat 4 are located) after launching aircraft. A plane was on the “ball” coming in for a landing and we were “tying” down the cat with steel buttons to keep the arresting wire and other FOD material from getting in-between the insert of the catapult.

In the midst of the adrenaline rush, and my supervisor yelling at us to hurry up, I got up and started running toward the catwalk when I slipped on Cat 3 and fell due to the mixture of steam and grease. The Air Boss noticed the incident while manned up in the Tower calling out the landing. As quickly as I fell, I bounced right back up and got under the deck in time for the aircraft to land without incident. It was a funny moment in-between the adrenaline rush and the push to launch and recover.

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

Four days after I was honorably discharged, the events of September 11th unfolded. I wanted to go back into the military but fearing I would be stationed on board an aircraft carrier once again, I decided to enlist in the Air Force. So, I crossed branches and served for a ew years before getting out.

Then, I landed a job as a contractor at Edwards Air Force Base working in the CV-22 Osprey Integrated Test Team program for a couple of years as a Flight Operations Scheduler.

Then the CV-22 program ended, I was unemployed for a while, until I landed a scheduling job for the Predator UAV working for General Atomics Aeronautical. I worked there for a couple of years assisting with DCMA Flight Authorization approvals, student pilot training, and working for the Aviation Safety Official until I recently landed a job as a DOD civilian back at the base.

Now, I work as a secretary at the Air Force Research Laboratory. I have always wanted to stay along the paths of the military community and I thank God for the opportunity to venture in all types of areas as a military member, contractor and now a civilian.

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

I joined the Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Association in 2009; however, I haven’t had the chance to invest the time and resources in staying active due to a busy and hectic lifestyle working two jobs and going to school, pursuing a BA in Organizational Management at Ashford University.

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

Serving my country is part of a proud, family heritage and it has made me a stronger and better person. I have learned to live a disciplined lifestyle and have learned to appreciate what it really means to live a sacrificial life in devotion to God, country, and fellow American citizens. Through the military, I have developed interpersonal and leadership skills and training. I have gained an understanding of politics and life and I understand what it means to have to be deployed away from home and family as well as everything that is American. I have learned to appreciate our American way of life and all of its freedoms and luxuries. I have such love, respect and appreciation for all we sacrifice and go through living the uniformed life.

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

Appreciate every moment, whether good or bad. Keep your chin up through the bad and the ugly and never lose faith that what you’re doing doesn’t count for something. Learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them.

Take advantage of everything the military offers. Cherish the friendships you make. Cherish every aspect of life in uniform because you only experience things once-in-a-lifetime. Don’t take wearing your uniform for granted. What you go through is not just so you can be shaped into a better person but it is also for someone else. Wear that uniform with appreciation and be a model for someone else to model after.

One day, you’ll look back and see how much you’ve endured and you’ll see who the person you have become today as a result. You are important. You are a member of one whole body fitly joined together so that every joint may supply.

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

TogetherWeServed.com has helped maintain a bond with the service and those I have served with by providing a community to connect to other members outside of a military locator. Prior to social networks, if you were not active duty, there wasn’t much of a chance to locate someone without having to look at a Global Address List or locate someone through a contact that is still actively serving.

Through TogetherWeServed.com, I can maintain contact with former comrades and yet meet new people as well. I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting such fine fellow service members who I have never served with and yet am so glad to know. It is an excellent place to connect.

I hope that my contribution will help other women as well. It’s time that we share our stories and make our voices heard as women who are and have served in the military!

.

12
Aug

LTJG Jack Curlee U.S. Navy (1943-1946)

Read the service memories of US Navy Veteran:

profileLTJG Jack Curlee

U.S. Navy

(1943-1946)

Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/bio/jdcnavy

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

During World War II, almost everyone that could serve, did serve, and wanted to serve. You could decide to enlist, or if not, the government could decide for you by drafting you. I enlisted in the Navy’s V-12 program which then took me to the USNR Midshipmen’s School in New York City for commissioning.

My brother, George Brooks Curlee, served as a Sergeant in the Army’s 70th Infantry Division (Trailblazers), in Germany during World War II. He was wounded and MIA but made it safely home after the war.

WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.

While attending the V-12 program at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, I received the remaining hours I needed to graduate from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) with a degree in mechanical engineering. While I was at API, I played varsity baseball for three years.

When I went to the USNR Midshipmen’s School in New York City, I focused on becoming an engineering officer. I was then sent to the diesel engineering school in Flint, MI. After that, I was assigned as the engineering officer aboard USS LST-78 for the entire time I was in the South Pacific and assisted in its decommissioning upon return to the United States. I was then sent to NAS Green Cove Springs, FL, where I assisted in decommissioning the USS Stern (DE 187).

IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN COMBAT OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ACTIONS WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.

As the engineering officer aboard USS LST-78, I participated in the Okinawa Gunto operation, which was the amphibious landing, assault and occupation of Okinawa, during May and June 1945. It was also called Operation Iceberg. Photo is of our ship on a beach after offloading troops and equipment.

We saw the USS Birmingham (CL-62) get hit by a Japanese kamikaze plane on May 4, 1945 off Okinawa. The plane hit her starboard deck forward, carrying a 500 lb. bomb which penetrated to the sick bay three levels below deck before exploding. About fifty crew members were killed in the attack. The plane’s pilot was found dead in the water, having been ejected from the aircraft. She was able to steam to Pearl Harbor for repairs. It was terrible to witness such an event.

Historian’s Notes: Following the Japanese attacking on Pearl Harbor and the loss of many American held Pacific outposts, the United States launched a counter-offensive strike known as “island-hopping.” The idea was to capture certain key islands, one after another, until Japan came within range of American bombers. The final island in this strategy was Okinawa and capturing the four airfields on the island that America needed to launch bombing raids on Japan’s industrial heartland and to use the island itself as a base of operations for the planned invasion of Japanese mainland.

The invasion of Okinawa on April 1, 1945, the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II began and ended with the heaviest concentration of naval gunfire ever used to support an amphibious landing. Positioned off the beaches were ten American battleships, nine cruisers, 23 destroyers and destroyer escorts, and 117 rocket gunboats. Together they fired 3,800 tons of shells at Okinawa during the first 24 hours.

The landing force consisted of 60,000 American troops (two Marine divisions and two Army divisions). Initially they landed unopposed but as the force moved inland they found 130,000 Japanese dug into caves and tunnels on the high ground away from the beaches. They had been told by their commanding general to fight to the death.

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

My only shipboard assignment was the USS LST-78. One of our anti-aircraft gunners misidentified a PBY as an enemy aircraft and then shot it down. The pilot was fortunately able to crash land the aircraft with no loss of life. Sometime later, the pilot tried to board our ship with a drawn .45 cal. automatic pistol. He wanted to kill the gunner who shot him down! He was restrained and taken away. It is hard to understand how the gunner could make such a mistake, though, because a PBY was one of the most recognizable aircraft ever manufactured!

I have great memories of the officers and men aboard ship. Chief Motor Machinist’s Mate, later Chief Petty Officer James Leach and I were close, and we reconnected many years later via the Ohio LST/Amphibs Association and reminisced about our times together in the Navy during WWII.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

My brother, Brooks Curlee (at left in photo) and me in Pasadena, CA on Jan. 1, 1946, just before we went to the Rose Bowl.

I had just returned from the South Pacific, and was in San Francisco, preparing to assist in the decommissioning of USS LST-78. My brother, who had been wounded and MIA with the 70th Infantry Division (Trailblazers), U.S. Army in Europe, was stationed in southern California. What are the chances that brothers stationed in opposite parts of the world could end up so near each other and go to a football game together! The University of Alabama beat the University of Southern California 34-10. More irony? We both graduated from Auburn!

OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?

The Asiatic-Pacific Campaign medal with a battle star for the Okinawa Gunto Operation. I was proud to have participated.

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

Chief Motor Machinist’s Mate James Leach had the greatest impact on me while I served aboard USS-LST 78. Although I had a mechanical engineering degree and had completed the diesel engineering school, being immediately assigned as the engineering officer of a ship was daunting to say the least. He was an experienced NCO and knew the engine room inside and out. I took care of him (I helped him make Chief Petty Officer) and he took care of me!

In the photograph that is me on the left and James Leach on the far right.

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?

One time the ship’s captain asked to inspect the engine room. He came down and took one look at the auxiliary engines, which apparently was sufficient for him and he left. He never even went into the main engine room! He never came down to the engine room again and we believe he never realized that he had not seen the main engines!

The captain also ordered release of the stern anchor much too early during a beaching process. Naturally, all the chain was run out and the anchor was lost. He had to request a replacement anchor much to his embarrassment!

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 worked my entire civilian career as a sales engineer and a sales manager for two large equipment manufacturing firms. I’ve been retired for many years.

In this photo I am surrounding with my wonderful family on the occasion of my 90th Birthday, March 22, 2012.

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

I learned mostly to be organized and prepared. Preparation and training are the keys for almost any event you may face.

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

Learn everything you can and learn to accept constructive criticism without taking it too personally.

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

I’ve enjoyed reliving my time in the Navy on TWS. It allowed me to put things in perspective chronologically. I’ve also remembered many things I had forgotten until I started writing them down for TWS.

Photo is of the Engineering Division aboard USS LST-78, DEC44. I am shown at the far right of the first row.

13
Jun

Sp(V)1 Barbara Stuvengen US Navy (Served 1945-1959)

bobbeRead the service reflections of US Navy Sailor:

Sp(V)1 Barbara Stuvengen

US Navy

(Served 1945-1959)

Shadow Box: http://navy.togetherweserved.com/profile/81837

WHAT PERSUADED YOU TO JOIN THE SERVICE?
reflectionphotos-81837-191-stuvengen_servicephotoWith the wisdom of age, I firmly believe my Navy connection throughout my lifetime was set in stone the day that little 7-year old girl saw her idolized big brother in the uniform of a United States Sailor. It lay dormant until December 7, 1941 when my 17th birthday dinner was interrupted by radio newscasts from Pearl Harbor. It was still another 3 years before I was able to convince a Navy Recruiter, that I was finally eligible to enlist and follow in my brother’s footsteps. This was against my mother’s wishes, but with my father’s signature, definitely against said brother’s wishes, although he later relented. I entered Boot Camp at Hunter College on February 22, 1945. My own career was brief because of restrictions in those days, but I went on to marry a man who finally retired as a BMC with 43 years of service, a younger son who retired as a BTC after 20 years, an older son, now an EMC who left and then re-enlisted, and an IT2 grandson.

BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER PATH IN THE SERVICE?

reflectionphotos-81837-192-flying_bobbeBecause of my “Boston accent” they wouldn’t consider my wishes to be a Control Tower Operator or Link Trainer Instructor, but because of my business experience I was sent right from Hunter to Naval Communications in D.C., where I ultimately became Yeoman to the Legal Assistant to the Chief of Naval Communications. Our enlistment at that time was for “the duration and six months”. By the time my name came up on the list, they were desperate to fill the rate of Specialist V (Flight Orderly), and I extended for a year, went to school at Patuxent River, and was assigned to fly with Naval Air Transport Service between Moffett Field, CA and Honolulu. Between flights I was duty PO on the crew scheduling desk. I was discharged in 1947. When I met my husband in 1956, I re-enlisted in the Reserves and served with him in a unit at Hunter’s Point in San Francisco, until I became pregnant with our first son.

DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS?

During that time period, women in the Navy were never sent into combat. I do, however, feel I had a part in it by serving as a crew member on the “hospital flights” when we brought back wounded men being transferred to hospitals in the States. I also count two reminders of how dangerous our lives were when the crew I assigned to one flight died in a crash shortly after leaving Moffett, since the Flight Orderly was one of my Shipmates in FO training. The second one was the return flight from Honolulu when we lost one engine and nearly the second one after passing the “no return” point. Obviously, we made it back safely, but it was a scary situation.

FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?

Obviously, in a long lifetime, there could be no end to the list. Strangely enough, the one I have never forgotten was the awful experience of marching to morning chow over walkways lined with angle worms which came out after an overnight rain. The more serious memory, of course, was joining in the celebration in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, the night Japan surrendered and the war was over. A more recent memory has to be the looks on the faces of the 4th grade students holding my dog tags and listening to my “sea stories” of women in the military.

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

reflectionphotos-81837-195-flagsIt would have to be my brother, whose 32-year career in the Navy continued to be such a factor in my life, and whose Remembrance Page is on my NTWS Profile. I can’t forget, however, the Commander, who calmed down the WAVE LtCdr who was irate that the scared-to-death S2c was not respecting her rank; or the Captain, who having been at sea throughout the war, realized his WAVE Yeoman was listening to him turn the air blue, and said “Oh Hell, you’re a sailor too”, and continued to ball-out whoever was on the other end. Nor can I forget RADM Dirk Debbink, who chose to follow his CNO’s orders for community service by spending Memorial Day in our small town. Now VADM Debbink, CNR, returned two years later and spent a couple of hours personally helping to lower the 128 Veterans’ flags in our Memorial Park.

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

bobbe familyAfter my discharge in 1947, I went to work at California Research Corporation, a subsidiary of Standard Oil Company of California in San Francisco, first in Personnel, then as Secretary to the Vice President, and later as Head Clerk in the Patent Department. After I married and had my children I formed my own secretarial service, working from home from different law firms. In 1965 we moved to my husband’s home town in Wisconsin, and I continued working from home for another law firm in a nearby city. We both joined The American Legion, and thereby started yet another career for me. I became the first Woman Post Commander, and held other offices up to and including the National level, being appointed as National Historian in 1996. I have since remained active at all levels of the organization. I have also been active in my church and the community, among other things having served two terms as Village Clerk, and for the past 16 years as a member of the Library Board. Should I just say that I am “retired”?

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

My answers to all the previous questions should pretty much tell the story of how the military, specifically Our Navy, have influenced my life, and will continue to do so until my flag rests on my casket.

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

bobbe tws

50 Who Matter Bobbe Stuvengen has been a leader in the Kenneth S. Wells American Legion Post 209 in Orfordville since 1965. 12/26/06. Lassiter

NTWS has been a lifesaver toward preserving my sanity during some very stressful times in our lives when the dreaded Alzheimer’s has taken over a hard-charging BMC, who gave 43 years of service to the Navy, and 52 years to our marriage. I have never before felt so much love and caring from so many people who never had heard of me, nor I them. The strongest effect though has been learning just how far the women have come from “back in my day”. I have been honest in stating I still have mixed emotions about them serving on the ships, but I have the deepest respect for all they have done and are doing.

 

Note from the Editor: Our dear friend Bobbe passed away on May 23, 2016. While we are sad that she is no longer with us, we rejoice in knowing that she is with her dear BMC again.

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