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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Leadership is being out front!

When I was early in my Gunner's Mate training, on the USS Mullinnix, I witnessed something that shocked me and impressed me at the same time. We were shooting Naval Gun Fire Support training at Viequez Island, for some reason, I was in Mount 52, a rarity. We had fired a large number of rounds when Mount 52 had a casualty and quit firing. Naturally, we ended up with a "Foul Bore". Again, that means that the gun is loaded, a round in the chamber, and it won't fire. On top of that, because of the large number of rounds fired, we had a "Hot Gun". Again, that means in theory, the temperature of the gun barrel and chamber are sufficient to cook off the powder charge or the projectile. Now, if the powder charge cooks off, it is the same as the gun firing. Unless you are behind the recoiling parts of the gun, or have the firing mechanism out, not a bad thing. But, if the projectile cooks off, it will cause catastrophic damage and possible death to personnel. I got that from a Navy circular on the MK 18 Mod 3 gun barrel. In any case, "Hot Gun" and "Foul Bore" are any Gunner's Mates worst nightmare.

However,, I was a young, inexperienced kid, and all I was doing was exactly what I was told. Chief Sadowski was assessing the situation, trying to find out what went wrong, when the Captain stepped into the gun mount. The Captain himself!!!! Now I was surprised, shocked, and scared all at once. Do I salute, stand at attention, get out of the way, hide?!?! Chief Sadowski was not so impressed, he looked at the Captain and said in his gruff manner of speaking, "Captain, get out of my gun mount. You don't belong here." Now I was confused, because the Captain left. He said nothing, he just left. I was sure that he left to draw up the courts martial papers. I was sure my Chief was going to be busted to E-nothing!! As things happened, Chief Sadowski solved the problem, cleared the muzzle through the bore, and we went on firing. But, I was sure the Chief would have to pay for his actions. But, nothing happened. One day, two days, three days passed, and nothing. Everything seemed to be normal. So, on the forth day, I mustered ALL the courage I had and I asked the Chief after quarters why he did not get in trouble for what he said to the Captain. He replied, "Because he knew I was right! He did not belong in the gun mount. Only essential personnel should be there in a "Hot Gun" "Foul Bore" situation. That's what the book says!!"

Chief Sadowski lead from the front, we all knew it, and moreover, the Captain knew it.

Well, I am the sum of all that I learned from all who taught me over the years. Many time through my career, in tough situations, I would ask my self, what would Chief Sadowski, Chief Mowery, or fill in the names of the many who mentored me, do? So, one day, late in my career, on the USS Caron, I had a similar catastrophic casualty while shooting. I don not remember where we were, or if it was a combat situation of training, and it really does not matter in the ordnance field, but, Mount 51 had a catastrophic failure that left a projectile in the breech, a powder half in the breech, the breech open, and the cradle up. The entire gun loading system was full. So, about 23 rounds of ammo direct exposed. Plus, the loader room had about 100 rounds of ammo laying on deck, in racks, and in general every were. Then of course there was the 600 rounds in the magazine, and too many rounds in forward staging.

To make it as easy to understand as I can make it, we had a very hot gun, a foul bore, and an open breech, with a lot of ammo capable of blowing the front off of a Spruance class destroyer and sending her to the bottom causing catastrophic loos of life! There's that phrase again. The "Hot Gun" predictor from "Clearing Live Ammunition From Naval Guns" tech manual said to evacuate the gun and wait 2 hours or until it exploded. I just could not do that, and I did not think those who trained me would either. So, I followed the rules, somewhat. I evacuated the gun mount and all spaces forward of Frame 58, just like the book says. But I stayed, to try to close the breech and start cooling of the gun barrel. My GMG1 would not leave either. I was glad, because I needed help.

The chain of command had an endless need for information. The FC2 on the Gun Control Console in CIC kept asking me stupid question after stupid question. I know, not his fault. But its' hard to think and read electronic prints when you are being asked,"What's the Estimated Time of Repair? (ETR)" Hell, I don't even know what's wrong, how can I tell you how long it will take to fix it? And they have a torturous way of asking the same question a hundred different ways. So, I took the sound powered phones off, turned off the speaker amplifier, and tried to troubleshoot this problem before we all got sent to the bottom.

Not long after I quit answering their inane questions, the Combat Systems Officer opened the completely dogged down door of the loader room and looked at me. I gave that young Lieutenant "The Look"! And he closed the door and left. I knew there would be more.

Now, the gun hydraulic motors were running and GMG1 was up in the gun, when the Captain opened the door to the loader room. He asked me where GMG1 was, and I told him, "He didn't want to know." He left on that note. Soon after that, the Executive Officer opened the door. His statement was, "the Captain wants to see you when this is over." I already had that figured out.

Twenty minutes into this dangerous situation, GMG1 and I managed to get the powder charge back into the cradle, the cradle lowered, the test casing into the breech, and the breech closed! Then and only then could we, by the rules, start internal and external water cooling to the gun barrel. Of course, if it was going to blow up, it would have by now. Thank God it did not.

Then GMG1 and I evacuated the gun and I reported to the Captain on the bridge. The ship was at General Quarters, so the bridge was full of enlisted and officer personnel. I reported to the Captain, who was sitting in his chair on the starboard side of the bridge. I saluted and stated, "Master Chief Dolence reporting as ordered. The gun is secure and internal and external water cooling have been started." The Captain glared at me. I remained at attention. Then he let me have it. He stated in a loud, authoritative voice, "How am I supposed to enforce safety on this ship when the leading Gunner's Mate and my Command Master Chief violates every ordnance safety precaution written!!!!" My reply was, " Sorry Captain, I did not have a choice." He replied, "Never let it happen again! You are dismissed!" At that, I saluted, did an "about face" and started to walk towards the ladder that lead off the bridge. The Captain yelled "Master Chief!!" I turned and said, "Yes Captain". He smiled and said, "Thanks"

He knew what we had done, and he knew the danger. Probably better than I. But, he had to enforce the rules. He had to let everyone know that's not how it should be done. But, he appreciated me leading from the front. I know that, because that Captain is still my friend.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bravery

I know many Gunner's Mates, and sailors of other ratings that I consider real hero's and very brave. My friend and mentor James Smith, himself a Master Chief Gunner's Mate is one of those. He served two tours of duty in Viet Nam, running the rivers on small boats. He earned, two purple hearts during those tours. I said earned and meant it! Both were from gunshot wounds received during fire fights. Not from paper cuts like some politicians, who will remain nameless here. He also did a number of gun line tours providing gun fire support for those on the beach who carried the fight to the enemy.

But this posting is about a Gunner's Mate who did not receive decorations for what he did. Although you will agree, after reading this, he should have. When I was on the USS Mullinnix, besides the three MK 42 Mod 7&8 gun mounts and the twin mount 3"/50, we had two MK 11 Hedge Hog launchers. They were forward, under the bridge, where the forward 3"/50 was when the ship had two of them. If you are interested, there are pictures of the DD 936 with both 3"/50 gun mounts and the gunnar computer still on Mount 52. In any case, the Forest Sherman class ships rode terrible. They bounced and thrashed from side to side in moderate seas. In a rough sea, it was an "E" ticket ride, for those who went to Disney Land in the 60's and 70's. Well, we were underway one day, I don't remember where, and it was rough, very, very, rough. So rough, that the Captain passed "Holiday Routine" and told everyone not on watch to hit their racks. Now the Mullinnix actually had "Bunk Straps" that we could strap ourselves in the rack with, and people were using them!!

Our Leading Gunner's Mate, GMG1 Harold "Suit Case" Simpson was touring the spaces to make sure all was secure. He was a tough, big man, who was a real sailor, and exceptional leader, and a great Gunner's Mate. He went down three decks from the main deck, to check the Hedge Hog magazine. Now the Hedge Hog magazine was midships, starboard side. When "Suit Case" got the door undogged and unlocked, he opened the door and found something truly scary and very dangerous. It seems, a live "war shot" Hedge Hog had fallen from the top of the stack, about 6 feet high, and landed on it's nose. The protective cap was broken, and the impeller was driven into the war head. Trust me, not a pretty sight.

Yes, all Navy ammo is 50 feet bore safe, meaning it takes the setback of the round firing and 50 feet of travel to arm any detonating chain. However, I have seen projectiles blow up 5 feet out of the barrel of a 5" gun!! So. I don't always trust what the engineers tell me. There is another fact you need to make the decision to give GMG1 Harold "Suit Case" Simpson the Medal of Honor for BRAVERY, and for saving a Naval ship under extreme conditions. The Hedge Hog round had 44 pounds of HBX3 explosive in the war head, plus a rocket motor capable of propelling that charge 188 yards to its' mean point of impact!.. The entire round weighted just over 50 pounds. In any case, "Suit Case" immediately picked up the smashed Hedge Hog round, cradled it in his arm, just one, because now he had to climb straight up, three decks on vertical ladders. No landings, no place to rest, no place to set down his burden, and no one to help. He did not go for help, heck, he did not know if the ship would be there when he got back. He just reacted to save the ship, his shipmates, and yes, himself. In any case, he hauled that 50 pounds of "ready to blow" explosives up those three ladders, back to the fantail, and threw if overboard. Then and only then, did he tell the Officer of the Deck on the bridge of the danger the ship WAS in. Was is the operational word, because it was no longer in danger. Then, "Suit Case" went back to the Hedge Hog magazine and made sure all the other rounds were properly secured. He then completed his rounds of all the other spaces, and then came to the berthing compartment to "Instruct" us on the proper way to make spaces ready for sea!!

For his efforts, GMG1 Harold "Suit Case" Simpson received....nothing. Nothing except my respect, admiration, and desire to be as good a Gunner's Mate, Petty Officer, Leader, Example, and Hero as he was. Suit Case, I never forgot you, what you did for me, what you taught me. Thanks!!!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Picture this, Lebannon, 1984

I arrived on the USS Caron by being lowered from an SH 46 helo in February, 1984. The ship was off the coast of Beirut Lebanon during the war that claimed so many Marines and Sailor's lives in that barracks. After getting settled in, I was was walking around the ship, meeting the men in "G" division and many others in the crew. It came to me how young they looked, and since we were in a war zone, I could not help but wonder how they would perform in combat. Not too many days after my arrival I got my answer.

One evening, were were given a firing mission. We were just off the coast, next to the Beirut airport. This is where the Marines moved to after the bombing of the barracks. The Druse militia were shooting artillery and mortars at the Marines and our mission was to stop that shooting. We were within 1200 yards of the beach shooting. I was in Mount 51, a habit I never broke from my first ship. We were shooting both guns, rapid fire, broadside, and Mount 52 had a catastrophic casualty in the loader drum. Hearing that report, I ran back to Mount 52 to assess the damage. The loader index valveblock had a piston that came through its' cover, pushed a complete round of 5"/54 ammo into the top of the loader drum with high pressure hydraulic pressure, and jammed the gun loading system stopping the gun. Even though the Mount Captain, a very competent GMG1 shut down the hydraulic motors, there was oil everywhere! We started to take the loader index drive valveblock off when I heard on the speaker, "Mount 51, surface action starboard". Mount 51 responded and the next thing I heard was, "Mount 51, 100 rounds rapid continuous fire, commence fire!" The gun started to shoot, naturally we could hear its' report and feel the rocking of the ship. In my mind, as I was turning the wrench, I counted the 100 rounds off. The gun performed without a hitch, as did the gun crew. The gun was then ordered to Ready Surface" meaning to go to the stow position, center line. AT that point, I got up from where I was sitting and walked around the loader drum to the 21MC, and called Mount 51. I told the Mount Captain, that as soon as they let him shut the gun down, I wanted him to check the entire gun out for any loose components. That was quite a shock for the MK 45. As I walked back to my seat on the deck, next to the loader drum, I heard, "Mount 51, surface action starboard." Then I heard, "Mount 51, 100 rounds rapid continuous fire, commence fire!!" I was amazed! But, on cure, Mount 51 started to shoot. However, the magazine crew, loading the lower hoist were getting tired. So, the gun would shoot 10 or so rounds and then stop firing. Well, for a Gunner's Mate,, that stop in firing means "Foul Bore" or in layman's terms, the gun loaded and did not shoot!! Bad news. But, then gun would again start shooting as ammunition became available from the loader deck, four decks below.

I couldn't take it. I dropped my wrench and ran up to Mount 51's loader room to watch things unfold. The gun made the 100 rounds, a little slower than the first time, but without any issues except a dead tired loader crew. The gun was extremely hot, both the gun barrel, which now had the paint blistered off, and the hydraulic system, which was working harder than designed to. It was an amazing accomplishment for those Gunner's Mates. The Fire Control team was dead on, the firing stopped on the Marines, and I got my answer, these were real professionals. I never had a question about them again.

The Navy, its' more than a job...

If you have read any of my posts, you realize that I had humble beginnings. My parents never owned a home, but always had love. I joined the Navy under the tarnish of a juvenile record, but found a place where hard work and dedication paid off. I have known, worked with, and been mentored by some of the most professional, dedicated, caring men, that anyone could know. I married a sweet, loving, dedicated Christian woman who changed my life, rescued me from the self-destruction of alcohol abuse, and stood by me through 7 major deployments including three combat deployments, and numerous underway periods of undetermined length that were not called deployments. I say all this to reflect on something that just happened to me. Early in my life, my parents rented a home from some wealthy folks. They sold their business and moved to a very well off executive community on the out skirts of Cleveland. They had a swimming pool, a big brick house, and drove Cadillacs. I remember thinking, how good they had it. Well, today, I talked to one of the rich families sons. 40 years have passed since those days. Their wealth is gone, they have all suffered the disappointment of divorce, disability, and death. Those who we think have it made, may be far worse off that we are.

Yes, the Navy is a demanding profession. It requires much of its' members. The pay is better now, than when I was on active duty, but you will never get rich as an enlisted man. But, what the Navy teaches us, Courage, Dedication, Honor, shape us and make us far richer than anyone who did not serve, and for that alone, I thank my shipmates who taught me.

How far did you fly?

When I taught at Great Lakes, there was a First Class Gunner's Mate that was on the USS Blandy when they had mount 51 blow up. Yes, we were having problems with gun mounts blowing up long before the USS Iowa. As a matter of fact, that is one of the inherent dangers with being a Gunner's Mate and what probably makes us just a litter off center. In the early days of the MK 42 5"?54, we had man gun mount explosions. Some, like the USS Benjamin Stoddard, that killed my "C" school class mate Red Mills, were cause by bad decisions during "Hot Gun" Foul Bore" emergencies. Some were caused by the gun loading system itself. You see, the MK 42 gun mount was originally designed to automatically shoot 40 rounds per minute out of one gun barrel. That is a great engineering accomplishment when you realize it is moved semi-fixed, 5" ammo, whit a projectile weight of 75 pounds and a powder charge weight of 44 pounds, from 3 decks below the gun mount at a rate of one round fired every 1.5 seconds. Early in the MK 42 deployment the powder cases were case combination primed. That meant that they could be set off, made to fire, either electrically of through percussion. They later found out that the rammer, hitting the back of the powder case, was setting off the powder before it was in the chamber and the breech was closed. Not good for the Gunner's Mate!!

In any case, this particular GMG1, was missing his left ear and we, as you can imagine, picked on him without mercy. Why?? Because we could! One year, the GMM1 that had the fly swatter incident with the Master Chief, gave this GMG1 an ear ring for Christmas, and told him he would get the other one next year. We always asked him how the barber knew where to cut his hair on the side without the ear. And sometimes, someone would pretend to talk in the side of his head that the ears was missing, and then he would say, "You didn't hear that did you?"

In any case, I asked that GMG1 on day, where he was in the gun mount when it exploded. He told me, in the OMC Bubble. Remember the bubble where the local sights and train and elevation controls were? So I asked him , "How far did you fly when the gun mount blew up." He replied very quickly, "Fifty feet!!!" I asked him how he was so sure it was fifty feet. His reply was, "I had a fifty foot sound powered phone set on!!! Wow! He never did work in an enclosed gun mount again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I Hate bugs!!

Gunner's Mates have always been different. I met some GM's from the World War two Naval Armed Guard, those brave men who provided security for the merchant ships in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. I was on a cruise on the John Brown, an old "Liberty Ship" still being used as a floating museum. The John Brown, homeported in Baltimore, makes stops in east coast ports and takes tourests out for the show of their lives. In any case, during one of these events, My best friend Jerry, his wife and mine met a number of Naval Armed Guard Gunner's Mates. They were having a reunion on the John Brown and enjoying the cruise. They were crusty, tough, and very proud of their accomplishments. One of the fellows had 6 ships sunk out from under him in the Atlantic! He had some stories. I intently listened to every story they had, and they had a bunch. They knew Jerry and I were Gunner's Mates, and they enjoyed the fact that we both understood what they were saying technically and loved what they stood for. We were "Brothers in Arms".

Now as I started out, Gunner's Mates have always been a little different, a little crazy. I guess that comes from what we do, play with explosives. In the case of some of us, playing with explosives being moved quickly, by high pressure hydraulic equipment that has a history of smashing ammo and not shooting when it should. Trust me, having a loaded gun, and a barrel hot enough to cook the round off, and not being able to clear that round out of the barrel, while being surrounded by another 600 rounds of explosive ammo, will make anyone a little off center.

There was one of those characters with me as staff at Gun School, Great Lakes. One day, he sauntered into the office of the Master Chief that was the head of "A" school. This Master Chief was a large, muscular, red headed Irishman, with the temper to match. This slightly off center GMM1 had is hands behind his back, and asked the Master Chief, "What does BUZ spell?" The Master Chief replied in his gruff tone of voice, "buzz". The GMM1 asked, "What does that spell?" This time the Master Chief replied more loudly and more emphatically, "buzz damn it!!" The GMM1 once more asked, "What was that Master Chief?" This time the Master Chief lost his temper and yelled. Buzz damn it!!" At this time, the GMM1 pulled a fly swatter from behind hi back and swatted the Master Chief while stating, "I hate bugs!!" With that, the Master Chief turner his entire desk over and started to run after the GMM!. The GMM 1 was faster and ran all the way out of the school. It too that Master Chief a long time to cool down before he saw the humor.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Super Professionals

During my career in the Navy, I met, was taught, and was mentored by the best group of Professional Gunner's Mates, Petty Officers, Chief Petty Officers, and Officers anyone could ask for. As I said in a previous posting, we spent much of our time in the Gun Mount, even after normal working hours, telling sea stories about equipment failures, most of which were instructive and embellished, and trying to impress each other with how much we knew about our rate. These times were highly instructive. Remember, we did not have television underway, or even in port, we did not have computers, DVD movies, video games or telephones to call home on. So, we told sea stories, learned from each other, and played an occasional game of Spades, Hearts, Acey-Deucey, pinochle, or sometimes poker. All of these pass times served to bond us together. In port, especially deployed, we went on liberty together. We drank, sometimes too much, took tours, eat strange foods and took advantage of the offerings of the occasional foreign military base. But all of this built a bond that stood the test of time.

There is one place I was stationed that stands out in my mind as being a collection of the most exceptional Gunner's Mates ever, that was my tour as an instructor at Gunner's Mate School at Great Lakes. The "Green House" which is no longer standing I am sorry to say. I spent three years on staff at Gun School and did some time in "A" school and some time teaching MK 42 Mod 9 & 10 "C" school. That was a great time of learning for me. When you are teaching, or in our vernacular "On Stick", you had to have the answers, because you were going to be asked difficult questions. Many time, during that era, we had foreign navy students in our classes, both "A" and "C" schools. In many cases, that presented a language barrier that the instructor HAD to overcome. During my tour at Great Lakes, I had students from Germany, Japan, Iran, South Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Australia.

Another challenge related to "A" school. Many times, you taught the same section week after week. I remember one exceptional Gunner's Mate (Missiles) First Class got stuck teaching Power Supplies and Amplifiers for three months. He invented words, to keep himself entertained and to keep the students on their toes. I still remember those phrases and still use them to this day. One was "Matriculating Force Fields". The other was "The insegrievious portion of the belemajestic curve". These invented terms threw even the best student of electronics and absolutely was hilarious when a foreign navy student was barraged with them. One time, a Japanese student was in my MK 421 "C" school class and I used "Matriculating Force Fields" in a lecture. I saw him in the back of the room frantically looking through his English to Japanese dictionary trying to find the words and their meaning. I finally, out of compassion, told him they were not real words. But it really was funny to see.

Another interesting thing about my instructor brothers was the advancement rate. Of the 14 First Class Gunner's Mates I taught "A" school with, all made Chief, one made Warrant, three of us made Master Chief and three made Senior Chief. When you look at the percentages permitted by law to promote to E-7, E-8 and E-9, those numbers are astonishing. Another remarkable fact is how fast we all advanced. Now I realize that we benefited from President Regan's desire to build a 600 ship Navy, but, we still did really well considering two of us advanced to Master Chief with 14 years service or less. That group of professionals was and is still, the best group of Gunner's Mates ever assembled in one place. Since I don't mention many names, if you are reading this and recognize that time, my hat is off to you!!

Much was lost in the education, training, and assimilation of individuals into our Navy culture, when we went to computer based training and programed instruction. The transfer of knowledge and culture that happened when a highly professional senior Petty Officer conducted hands on training on a real gun mount or missile system cannot be duplicated through ANY technology. The young men ad women I see daily in the fleet today do not have an understanding of their job, its' importance to the mission of the ship, or their responsibility to their shipmates. We do not assimilate individuals into the collective. Instead, they isolate themselves with computers, video games, and email home. Long gone is the even sea stories session in Mount 51, or the game of Hearts in the compartment before Taps. It's sad.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I'm going to the brig!!

In an earlier posting, I eluded to the fact that I was "Asked" to leave Personnelman "A" school in Bainbridge Maryland early in my career. I has the "Hots" for a young woman in my hometown and I took two days off that I really did not rate. Realizing my mistake, and at the insistence of my Mom, (remember that iron willed Lady who told Judge Gagliardo that She wanted to talk with him?) I returned to base to accept my punishment.

The first day back, I was escorted to the Chief that was in charge of the portion of the school I was in. I was there so short a time, I really don't know what his position was, except he was a Chief and I was an E-2 Seaman Apprentice. In any case, I told him I knew I did wrong and I had no excuse and I expected to get punished. I must admit, he looked shocked at my admission. I later found out that most sailors who got in trouble had a great story as to why they were late, didn't do what they were supposed to do, or were asleep on watch. But I, being the Boot Camp that I was didn't know I was supposed to have a great excuse. So, I just admitted to my wrong doing. The next step in the progression of my punishment was to appear before the Executive Officer for what is called, "Executive Officer's Inquiry". Now the Executive Officer, (XO) of Bainbridge Naval Training Center was a Navy Captain. I had never seen a real Captain in my short 3 months in the Navy. Boy was I scared! So, when he asked me what my story was, I told him the same thing I told the Chief. At that point I still did not know about the great story idea. Well, evidently the XO thought I was trying to pull the wool over his eyes. He go extremely angry, and yelled at my, much like my Company Commander back in Boot Camp when I didn't get the hash marks out of my skives that were hanging on the clothes line. He used all those words I told you about before, the ones that end in K, ED, and ER. He told me the Navy had ways to deal with "Wise Guys" like me. And he referred my case to Captain's Mast! Now I was really scared.

My day of mast came, and I was scared out of my mind. The Chief, who now became my defender in a fatherly sort of way, told me to just tell the Captain the truth. I wasn't so sure, since telling the XO the truth got me a severe tongue lashing and a referral to Captain's Mast. As things happen. I am standing in the passageway, out side of the Captain's office, where Captain's Mast is being held. I am standing, at "Parade Rest" with a Second Class Petty Officer. I asked him what he was there for and he replied, "Speeding on the base". So, I thought, maybe this won't be so bad since I reasoned that speeding was not a "death penalty" offense. However, after he came out of his Mast, I asked him what his punishment was. He told me he was busted to Seaman, (E-3) and fined a half months pay for two months!! That was a two pay grade but in my mind and a BIG fine. I was sure I was going to the Brig for two days Unauthorized Absence!!

Son, now my time of truth was there. I was escorted into the office, and stood directly in front of the Captain. Wow, he was eight feet tall, three feet across, and had fire radiating from his eyes! At least that how he looked to me. I was ordered to Salute, then uncover, (take my hat off). The charges against me were read and the Captain asked me what I had to say for myself. So, here I go with the truth again, even though it had not done well so far. I told the Captain that I went UA over a girl, that I realized I was wrong, that I came back on my own, and that I expected to be punished. There was a period of silence. I was shaking in my boots, wondering what federal prison I would be in. Then the Captain asked the Chief, "Is this kid for real?" The Chief told the Captain that I was telling the truth and that I was really sorry for what I had done. That seemed to calm the Captain down and he asked me if I wanted to be a Personnelman. My reply was another hones one, "No sir, I wanted to be a Gunner's Mate" He said, son, I can help you on your way and dropped me from school, for assignment to the fleet. Of course, then came the punishment. He "Awarded" me 2 weeks restriction, two weeks extra duty, and charged me two days of "Bad Time" for the days I was gone. That effectively extended my enlistment two days. I was ecstatic!!! I wasn't busted, I wasn't fines, and I wasn't going to the Brig!

Now back to that Second Class. What I did not know is, he appeared before the Captain on what is called a "Suspended Bust" It seems he did something wrong before and the Captain reduced him to E-4, but let him keep E-5, on probation. If he didn't get in any further trouble, over the period of probation, normally 6 months, he was home free. But, he got in more trouble, so he effectively went to mast as an E-4. His speeding ticket was for over 100 Miles Per Hour, in the elementary school zone on the base!! But I didn't know that then.

That was the last time I appeared before any Captain for disciplinary matters of my own. I learned my lesson.

Just shoot the damn thing!

While stationed on the USS Mullinnix, I was assigned to Mount 51. We maintained the gun mount from top to bottom. Unlike other rates in the Navy or other services, Gunner's Mates do everything in their specialty. Hydraulics, Electronics, electrical, mechanical, ammunition, painting, maintenance, cleaning, EVERYTHING. Needless to say, we spent all day and most of the night in the gun mount. That was good, because there was no crews lounge, no recreational area, no place to go except the gun mount, the berthing space, and the mess decks. The gun mount was everything to us and we were proud of our spaces.

My General Quarters (that's Battle Stations for the non-Navy folks) station was the Left One Man Control Unit (OMC). The MK 42 gun mount had the capability to be controlled locally. It could be fired from that OMC and was on a regular basis. The Right OMC was for an old fire control system called Gunnar. That system was removed before I got to the ship because it was unreliable. The Right OMC's were subsequently removed when the MK 42 Mod 7 and 8 guns were converted to Mod 10.

Early in my tour in "G" division, we were out for a gun shoot and we were scheduled for a Z-27-G which was a local surface shoot. The OMC operators were going to get to shoot the guns. Now we were underway off the coast of Norfolk in the winter and it was rough out and rainy with a low haze. But, as was the Captain's way, we were going to shoot. The target was a "Sled" towed by a Fleet Tug. The sights in the OMC were rudimentary at best, with little magnification and no ability to look through anything but clear sky. So seeing the target was going to be tough to begin with. Add into this equation that I had NEVER fired the gun mount from the OMC, I did not know what the target looked like, and I was violently sea sick from bouncing up and down, pitching violently from side to side, and spinning around in circles exerciseing the gun mount to report manned and ready. But, shoot we must. And, since Mount 51 is on the forecastle, it was the first gun to shoot. The gun loading system was loaded and there was ammo to the Transfer Trays. Again, that means the next step in the gun loading process was to load the gun. Mount 51 was given "Check Sight Clear" meaning there was no friendly ships in my line of fire. I was give "Batteries Released" and the Captain and the entire chain of command expected the gun to begin shooting it's 5" rounds. There was only one problem, I could not see anything that looked like a target, not that I knew what the target looked like anyway! So, after looking through the eyepiece of teh sights, scanning the horizon for something to shoot at, my Chief, Senior Chief Brunner, squeezed up into the OMC bubble and yelled, "Shoot the gun". I told him I could not see the target. The, all of the sudden, I spotted something. It looked like a destroyer! I said, Senior Chief, I see something that looks like a destroyer. He yelled, "Good, shoot the damn thing". My reply was a timid, "I don't think I should." So Senior Chief Brunner squeezed further into the OMC bubble and looked out o f the sight. he then yelled. "That's the tow ship....!!" Look aft of it about 10,000 yards and you will find the target." Well, I moved aft and found a bouncing float that looked like a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood standing on end, bouncing up every so often. I finally got a few shot aft at it, but never hit it. So much for my first attempt at local gunnery. Later, the Third Class Gunner's Mate who worked on the 3"/50 twin gun mount told me" Congratulations, you hit it!" I replied, "Hit what?". He said "The water, that's what you were shooting at, wasn't it?"

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Shoot it, I can't even load it!

My first ship was the USS Mullinnix, (DD 944). She was a Forrest Sherman class destroyer and at that time the newest class of destroyer in the fleet. This hull is the basis for the Adams class DDG, pound for pound the best fighting ship designed to date, with the exception of the Iowa class Battleships. I started out life on the Mullinnix as a deck seaman, having got myself promptly thrown out of Personelman class "A" school in Bainbridge Maryland. But that's another story. More female problems on my part, but I won't say more right now. I should interject at this point, that the reason I could not get Gunner's Mate "A" school out of Boot Camp was the little issue of my color blindness! It seems someone thought color vision was a requirement to be a Gunner's Mate. I disagree. Now I can see colors, I just have problems with some that are close together on the color wheel, like green and brown look alike. Of course, street lights look the same color the "Green" light on a traffic signal too. In any case, I was doing my very best in deck force, doing exactly what I was told, trying to learn deck seamanship, and all around being a good sailor. I also let it be known to anyone who would listen that I wanted to be a Gunner's Mate. One day, while standing in the chow line, (has it crossed you mind yet just how much happens in a sailor's life centered around the chow line and the mess decks?) Anyway, I was in the chow line and the Chief Gunner's Mate, Chief Sadowski, came up to me in his gruff voice and asked me, "I hear you want to be a Gunner's Mate." It was more of a statement than a question, but I answered him with a "Yes Sir". He asked my, "What's your GCT, ARI?" That is the knowledge classifications tests taken in Boot Camp. I replied, "122". I had that memorized because I knew it was important and it was a good score. Chief Sadowski replied, "Good, you muster with "G" division in the morning." And that was that, my Striker Review board was over, and I was out of First Division and into "G" division.

Now "G" division on the Forrest Sherman class ships was big. It had to be, we had three MK 42 Mod 7, 5"/54 rapid fire gun mounts, a twin mount 3"/50, two Hedge Hog launchers, two Fire Control systems, and all of the associated equipment, magazines, small arms and spaces to maintain. There was a Senior Chief Gunner's Mate, two Chief Gunner's Mates, a Senior Chief Fire Control Technicians, 4 First Class Gunner's Mates, three First Class Fire Control Technicians, and a host of others. The only division on the ship that was bigger was the division that maintained the power plant.

My first day in the division, these two First Class Gunner's Mates gave me a "Tour" of Mount 51's magazine. It was meant to be a standard setting tour. The roughed me up a bit and told me, "If I did what I was told, and didn't talk back, and didn't get into any trouble, I MIGHT not come back down there with then." Well, I got the message. One of these First Class could hold a 5" projectile, that weighed 75 pounds, by the front, directly our from his arm, his arm fully extended, and keep it there for longer that any weight lifter ever could. He was muscular, tough, gruff, and frightening, all at once. I got the message. However, he was good for handling ammo.

So, now you know why I followed directions so well. Our first day underway after I got into "G" division, we had a "Man Over Board" drill. Our place to muster next to Mount 52 on the 01 Level. I quickly got there and tried to be invisible. A Second Class Gunner's Mate gave me a M-1 Garand rifle and a bandalaro of ammo and told me to go to the Bridge and tell them I was the Gunner's Mate. They have a Gunner' Mate on the Bridge and the Forecastle with a rifle to shoot sharks if they are swarming around the person who fell over board, I guess. I always figured it was to scare the poor soul into never falling over board again. In any case, I ran to the Bridge, as directed, not wanting to go to the magazine with those two First Class again, holding the M-1 like it was made of lead crystal. Once on the Bridge, I noticed the Captain had a large Styrofoam coffee cup with the open end taped closed. He bellowed, "Where's the Gunner's Mate?" I replied with a squeaky voice, "I am the Gunner's Mate sir." With that, he through the cup over the side from the Starboard Bridge wing and said, "Sink it." I replied, "Sink it, I can't even load it!" He promptly threw me off the Bridge and the word was passed for the entire leadership of Weapon's Department to muster on the Bridge. Finally, they got a qualified Gunner's Mate up there and the Captain's coffee cup was sunk.

Later, after the dust settled, Chief Sadowski came to me and said, "You got me in a lot of trouble today. But its' OK, because you told the truth. Its' my fault that you have not been trained, and I will fix that."

I learned a lot about Leadership that day. Chief Sadowski didn't blame me for my short coming. He appreciated my honesty and took the appropriate measures to correct the problem. He was a great Chief.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Would you like nuts on that?

Let me jump around my career a little. As I write these memories, events come to mind that I don't want to loose. You see, I have been retired from the Navy for over 20 years. About two years ago, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's and Dementia. Lately, my memory is beginning to slide a little more. So, my wife, who is far smarter than I am, started me on recording my Navy career memories on this Blog. Her goal is to record the sea stories I tell for posterity. Someday, my son or grandsons might be interested. And I hope someone who reads this will get a chuckle from my experiences. I do not hold myself up as an example to anyone. I knew many sailors that were better in every way than I was. I only offer these stories as an example of my appreciation of my career in the Navy. You will notice I don't use many names. That is to protect those still living. I will use some names, of those I know who have passed on, or those who have given me permission to mention them. I cherish the friendships that I formed in the Navy and I owe much, if not all of my success to the Navy and those who worked with me and mentored me. The Chief, Officers and especially the enlisted men and women that I served with are the true hero's of this country and of my career. I would have been nothing without them.

Being a Command Master Chief on a ship is a thankless, difficult job. It requires long hours in port and at sea. The wisdom of Mosses, the sense of humor of Jerry Lewis, and the hide of an alligator. That being said, it is also a very rewarding job with many benefits. One of those benefits in the friendship, camaraderie and support of the afloat Chief's Mess. This group of career sailors knows more about taking a ship to war, returning safe, getting the most out of every sailor, growing those sailors, and harassing their fellow Chief's than I have life or energy to describe. I had a great time watching the latter during my tour as Command Master Chief on a Spruance Class destroyer home ported in Norfolk. We were a small Chief's mess compared to an aircraft carrier, but we were exceptionally close and talented. The Sonar Man Master Chief aboard had a unique ability to aggravate the Chief Stew Burner. That's the Chief Mess Management Specialist or "Cook" to you non-fleet sailors. In any case, that Chief Stew Burner always worked the chowline during meals. He never had the opportunity to sit down and eat with his fellow Chief's. In his defense, he was always concerned with the quality of the meal and the speed of service to the crew. This particular ship had a crew of about 425 with a mess decks that seated about 75. Getting everyone fed, and the watches relieved in 60 minutes was a choreographed nightmare, three times a day. In any case, one day, after a particularly difficult evening meal, during a particularly difficult underway period, of a really difficult deployment, this Chief Stew Burner came into the Chief's mess and complained that he never got to eat with his fellow Chief's. Now I know he was looking for sympathy, and a little coddling. But the Chief's mess is NOT the place to find that. We will tell you where to find "Sympathy" in the dictionary, its' between "Shit" and "Syphilis's". That being said, the Chief Stew Burner was moaning and the Master Chief Sonar Man, also called a "Ping Jockey" asked him if he wanted an ice cream sundae. The Cook said "Yes". So he was ceremoniously seated at the head of the table in the Chief's mess. As the "Ping Jockey" began to construct this master piece of an ice cream sundae, I watched with great anticipation, because I knew something was going to happen. I just did not know what.

At this point let me warn you. If you are sensitive about male humor, human body parts, or are un-initiated to the ways of a sea going Chief, quit reading. Also, if you are under 18, QUIT READING. There, as Rush Limbaugh says, you have been warned!!!

In any case, the Ping Jockey would ask, "Would you like two scoops or three?". "Would you like vanilla or chocolate ice cream?" "Chocolate Sauce?" "Would you like whipped cream?" At that point, the Master Chief Sonar man proudly brought the sundae over to the Chief Stew Burner. At that moment, he stopped and said, "Oh forgot to ask, do you want nuts on that?" The Chief Stew Burner said, "Yes!" At that, the Master Chief Sonar man dropped his pants and skives to the deck and dragged the entire sundae between his legs and set it before the Cook!!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Shots fired!!

OK, the title is a little misleading. But it got you attention. As I recall, somewhere around the third day of Boot Camp, they started to provide us with medical care. Not that we were sick, but the Navy wanted to make sure we would stay healthy. The Navy was about to make a sizable investment in us and they wanted a return on that investment. So, shots were the first order of health business. The first shot I really remember was the Bicillin shot. Picture this, someone using a needle an inch long, injecting a shot glass full of warm molasses into your buttocks cheek. Yep, that's the Bicillin shot and boy did it hurt. And, it was the hurt that kept on giving. That muscle was sore for a couple of days. But, it had its' benefits. Most of us were 18-19 year old pimple faced kids. That much penicillin in your system has a remarkable effect on acne. My face was never so clear as those 11 weeks in Boot Camp. Another benefit of joining the Navy.

Of course there were other shots too, and the Navy had designed production line methods of administering shots. The Navy, or some other sadistic SOB invented the Shot Gun. Not the 12 gage version you hunt birds with, a gun, powered by compressed air, that forced the serum through your skin at high pressure. In the hands of a skilled Corpsman, they were quite effective, as long as you did not tense the muscles in your arm and remained completely still. There in lies the fly in this little ointment. The Corpsmen were always in a hurry to get us through what ever shots were scheduled to get, time was always of the essence. Remember the motto of Recruit Training Command. Hurry up and Wait. So, it was always the case that either my arm was not relaxed, not still, because I was being pushed forward to hurry up, or the Corpsman was NEW at the job. I will take an old fashion needle syringe any day. Now, I never saw some one's arm get cut off like the wives tales told us. But under the wrong conditions, those Shot Guns hurt more that and syringe I ever was injected with, Of course, with the exception of Bicillin and Gamagoblin. The latter is just torture.

We received shots from the third day of Boot Camp all the way to the day before graduation. I never knew there were so many diseases to be made immune to. Naturally, we were never permitted to look at our medical records. As a matter of fact, upon transfer from Boot Camp, our records were given to us in a sealed envelope and we were told if we opened them we would be disciplined at our next command. Many years later, I read my medical record, and much to my surprise, some of the medications given to us at RTC were experimental in nature. I know that because it said so in my medical record. What experiment I don't know, but I still don't have acne!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Second Day of Boot Camp

One might think that everything happens quick to a recruit in Boot Camp. Evidently not. We were awoke early that first morning by the infamous "Shit Can" bouncing down the passageway, thrown by a very loud Chief, who had to be seven feet tall and 300 pounds with NO body fat once so ever. At least that's how he looked to us. We were ordered to get cleaned up, go to the bathroom, and get dressed and fall in, in front of the barracks in 15 minutes. In Navy vernacular that is "Shit, Shower, and Shave" and fall out in 15 minutes. Heck, most of us did not even know where the bathroom, oh excuse me, the "Head" was, and there was the matter of making our racks. But, remarkably, all 50 of us made it into some semblance of formation in the allowed time, for which were rewarded with another lesson in how worthless we were. We were marched to the galley, a new Navy word, where we were treated to a very good and substantial meal. Right now, I am sure you expect me to make some disparaging comments about Navy food. Well, not me. In my 20 year Navy career, I can count the terrible, un-eatable, meals that I was served on one hand. Yes, I was served things I would not have ordered or prepared for myself. But the were good, hot, nourishing, and in good quantity. Breakfast, however, is a Navy tradition and Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, took that tradition seriously. Scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, home fried potatoes, and chipped beef on toast, or in Navy vernacular; "Shit on a Shingle". Of course there was plenty of coffee, milk and juice. So, at this moment, I'm thinking, this can't be too bad. Of course, I later found out the time allowed for eating and enjoying this culinary delight was limited to about 15 minutes, start to finish. There was no time to relax over a second cup of coffee while we discussed the events of the previous day. Then there were the insults, hurled at the new boots, still in civilian clothes, by the "Salty" recruits who had at least washed their uniforms once. A badge of honor I will discuss later.

Boot camp is a continuum of hurry up and wait. I am sure it is much the same today as it was when I went in 1969. The Navy, or any other military organization must, in a short period of time, convert individual, self-centered, civilians into a cohesive oneness. A group of team members that think as one, speak as one, suffer as one, and win as one. There is the Leader, and everyone else. The first thing the military does to break down your individuality is to make everyone in the unit look the same. So, haircuts were the first order of the day. There was no "take a little off the top and leave the sideburns" stuff. It seemed Skin was in style at RTC. I thought I would be smart and got my hair "Buzzed" before Boot Camp. Well, it seems the barbers at RTC are paid by the pound, so they tried to get as much hair off of me as the guy with the shoulder length hair. Needless to say, I did not need a haircut for quite some time.

The second step in loosing our individuality was getting us all to dress alike. So, off to uniform issue we went. Now the issue Navy clothing was tough and functional, but it wasn't stylish. Yes, I remember bell bottom trousers and pea coats in the Hippie era. But Navy issue dungarees were stovepipe trousers, like balloons, not bell bottoms. And the individuals fitting the clothing to us would never get a job at Brook's Brothers, trust me. Another interesting remembrance is the odor that emulated from all of the new clothing. It smelled like moth balls. Have you ever smelled moth balls? The tell me, how did you get their little legs apart? Sorry, I just had to do that one. In any case, I realize the dress blues and undress blues, not to mention the pea coat , were made out of wool. But why did the under shorts, now called "Skivies" smell like moth balls also? Oh well, it made it easier for the more senior recruits to identify us "Boots".

So now, all 50 of us have fresh new haircuts, we itch like crazy from the tiny hairs falling down our necks, ad we have a full "Sea Bag" of Navy clothing. Dressed still in our civilian clothes, we have to march, in ranks, each of us carrying a 50 pound Sea Bag, back to our barracks where our first lesson in Stenciling clothing, folding clothing, and wearing the Navy uniform began.

Its' hard to believe that all this happened before lunch. But, when you get up before some folks used to go to bed, its easy to accomplish alot before lunch.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Boot Camp! The First Night

At last, the trials of being tested, inspected, and passed were over, and I was on my very first airplane ride to Chicago Illinois. I lived 3 miles from Cleveland Hopkins airport, and took more than one girl to the airport to "Watch the planes land after dark". All that being said, air travel terrified me. But, I was traveling with a large group of fellow recruits, so showing fear was out of the question. It was a smooth flight, so my fears were unfounded, at least for the moment. Once in Chicago's O'Hare airport, were were quickly whisked onto a Greyhound bus for Great Lakes Naval Training Center. All of us from Cleveland, and other recruits from other recruiting districts. That bus was full of apprehensive, frightened, young men who were all trying to be cool, tough, and worldly, all at once! As soon as the bus arrived at the gate at Camp Barry, a Petty Officer jumped on the bus and began to shout orders. The first thing he told us was to shut up! Of course, there were a few expletives sprinkled before, shut, between shut and up, and after up, just to make sure we fully understood! We did, you could have heard a pin drop.

When you went to boot camp, did you ever wonder why they scheduled the arrival of 50 recruits at midnight? After all, the Navy scheduled the flights, the bus, everything. I think they had it planned that way. In any case, all of the Petty Officers and Chiefs seemed to think it was our fault!

We were driven to a world war two vintage barracks, told to depart the bus and fall into two ranks, without a sound! Of course, we failed at that, and immediately received another lesson in the use of colorful metaphors that end in K, ED, and ER. I had not heard so much profanity since my Dad decided to tighten the bolts on the bottom of the toilet and cracked the bowl. It seems you don't need a 18 inch pipe wrench to tighten those bolts, and my Dad did not know where to turn the water off at. We had to wait until my sister and brother in law drove in from Columbia Station, some 20 miles away. Boy was the floor wet.

Next, we were marched, (50 new recruits that never marched before, not a pretty sight), to a building about a half mile away to be issued sheets, a pillow, and blankets, and them marched back to OUR barracks. Once in our barracks, we chose a rack, a new word for the day, and given about an hours worth of instruction on how to make up our rack, the Navy way. Of course, none of us could get into our rack until every one's rack was properly made. As I recall, we got to hit our racks, at about 0300, or 3 AM. There I used my new work three times, Rack is now my word, my first Navy word unless you count all those colorful metaphors that end in K, ED, or ER. In any case, we all fell fast asleep, until 0500, when some ill tempered Chief Petty Officer started throwing an empty "shit can", (another new Navy word) up and down the passage way (another new Navy phrase) between our racks. (Remember that word from earlier) What a way to wake up!! Welcome to Boot Camp!

My First Contact With the Navy

I joined the United Stats Navy through the recruiting office in Lakewood Ohio. Recruiting for the Navy was a fairly easy job during the Viet Nam war, Many young men did not want to be drafted and end up waist deep in a bog in Viet Nam with a M16 as a partner. Volunteering to join the Army or the Marine Corps normally lead to the same place, but with a longer term of enlistment. Most draftees served between 18 and 24 months with 13 months in country Viet Nam. Most volunteer enlistees served 4 years, and if they were in the Army of the Marine Corps, did a 13 month tour in Viet Nam. Yes, there were shorter enlistments, even some for 2 years. Some of you will remember MacNamara's 100,000! But most, if not all Army and Marine enlistments included a tour in the rice paddies. So, the Navy and Air Force recruiters had it easy. They got the pick of the litter so to speak. Those with some college, or maybe even a degree, looking for an easier way to serve their country and not get wet in the aforementioned rice paddies. So, in walks me, a high school drop out, with a juvenile court record, and only 17 years old. Not the best candidate, especially when the recruiters don't even have a need for warm bodies to fill a quota.

Why did I want to join the Navy. All the wrong reasons. First of all, my Mom and Dad's oldest daughter's husband, yes, my Brother in Law, was in the Navy as a SeaBee in World War two. And my Mom and Dad's son was in the Navy Reserve in the 1950's. One of my neighborhood friends, who completed high school, joined the Navy as a Gunner's Mate, and I thought that was cool. So, it was the Navy for me. See, no real good reason.

So, the first time I entered the recruiting office in Lakewood, I met a recruiter who was a Machinist Mate, First Class. Later in my career, he and I crossed paths in Washington D.C. He actually remembered me. In any case. He told me a little about the Navy, and then said. "Hard day in school son?" He then instructed me to go back to school and come back later. About three week late, after work, at that time I worked for Isa Roberson's SOHIO Station, I visited the First Class Petty Officer again. This time, he asked me if I wanted a beer. That's right. He opened the file drawer of his desk, there was a cooler in there, and gave me a beer. He had one also. We drank our beers, mostly in silence, and he then told me to leave, again. I was getting the idea he really did not want me in the Navy. The third time I came back to visit him was about a month later, mainly because Mom was starting to pressure me to go back to school or join the military. S, this time he gave me the entrance exam. I don't remember what it was called, but I do remember him saying, "I am going to give you this test before I do any paper work so I don't waste my time." Remember, this is 1969, all forms were typed on a manual typewriter! No work processor with a slick printer. Manual typewriter. One mistake, and it's a new form!
Well, I must have done fairly well on that exam. After he graded it, his entire attitude changed towards me and he was interested in recruiting me. Of course, there was still that little issue with juvenile court, not to mention, I was a high school drop out. But that did not seem to deter him. He really understood I wanted to join the Navy.
The next step was a trip to the processing station in downtown Cleveland. The Anthony J Celebreeze Federal Office Building. There I was tested some more, give a physical exam, and then talked too by a young O-3 Lieutenant. His job was to see if I was fit to serve, since I was a product of the juvenile justice system. I will never forget his question. "Did you get in trouble on your own, or did someone else influence you to do wrong?" My answer to him was the first adult thing I ever said. I told the Lieutenant that I was responsible for my actions, no one else. I meant that, and I guess he agreed, because on March 9, I left for Boot Camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. And I thought Cleveland was cold in the winter!

The Beginning of My Navy Career

My goal is to record my experiences in the United States Navy, or at least, how I remember the events. My short career, just over 20 years, was an exceptional experience that caused me to grow, mature, and learn who I really was. I met many professionals along the way that shaped my career and who I am. I intend to talk about them, and how they influenced me.

So, to start, the first question to answer, is how did a young juvenile delinquent from Cleveland Ohio, end up as a Master Chief Gunner's Mate in the Navy? I was the first son of a Cleveland waitress who was brave enough not to abort me. Yes, I said BRAVE. In 1951, being pregnant out of wedlock was not a badge of honor. Yet my mother CHOSE to allow me to be born. She however, had no idea as to how to care for me. That's where a very loving 40 + year old woman and her 50+ year old husband, who had raised their three children to adulthood came in. These wonderful people always ate lunch at Tony's at Kamm's Corners, in Cleveland. And my Mother was always their waitress. One Saturday, after I was born, and the time had passed that these wonderful folks knew she should be back to work, they went to eat lunch, and my Mother was not there. So, this wonderful woman decided to go to my Mother's apartment and check things out. As the story goes, there I was diaper rash from head to toe. My Mother and I both crying. Well, That wonderful woman picked me up, took me home, and I live with them, for the rest of my formative years. They were Mom and Dad to me. They treated my just like one of their own. As a matter of fact, I did not know my real last name until I was 5! Yes, they also helped my Mother through many hard time, some of her making, some not. My biological Father? He was from Cleveland society and never had anything to do with me. His loss. I did talk to him twice, when I was 31, but it was clear that he did not want to have anything to do with me. Again, I tried, he denied, his loss! I was raised in the most loving home a child could want, and learned all the moral lessons a child should learn. Life was idyllic, even though I was the only person in the home with my last name. Oh, did I tell you, my Mother chose to name me after my father and make me a junior? I bet that got his goat! He had a son, by a different woman, I assume his wife, and named him JUNIOR, a year after I was born. I'll bet that confuses the IRS and Social Security folks. I have talked with my half brother a few times and hope to meet him in the future.
In any case, 15 years of near perfect child hood was interrupted my Mother deciding I should live with her. Not a good idea, considering she worked nights. Without adult supervision, I found many ways to get into trouble, and, after befriending a fellow, 6 years older than I was, I soon found myself on the wrong side of a juvenile court judge, named Gagliardo. The first good thing he did was return me to my Mom and Dad. This time with legal custody papers. Yes, up to that time, there were no custody papers, just the iron will of my Mom to do the right thing. I will never forget that day in court. In those days, 1965, juvenile court was ran like criminal court. The Bailiff pronounced, "All Rise, the Honorable Judge Gagliardo presiding, yo may be seated." and as soon as he said that, my Mom, said, "Judge, I want to talk to you in private, now." The Judge ordered a 10 minute recess and she and he retreated to his office. At the end of that conference, I was legally hers. Now some folks, including Mom and Dads middle child, my sister, disagreed with the verdict. But I can tell you, it is the best thing that could happen to me. I was on a self destruct course and she knew it.
Now, school was not my thing. Yes, I liked the girls, and I had a steady girl friend. But school, homework, history, french. Forget it. I liked fast cars and hot girls, especially mine, and I needed money to feed those desires. So, school and I parted ways when I was in the 12th grade. Yes, stupid. But, Mom had a plan. She said I could only quit school if I joined the military. Judge Gagliardo like that idea too. So, I joined the Navy in March of 1969. Off to boot camp at Great Lakes Illinois. My first airplane flight, my first real adventure into adulthood.
This blog will provide a recollection of my years of service in the United States Navy. It is my hope that those who read this blog will feel the pride of sailors worldwide as we all recall the Navy that was passed down to us and the Navy that we passed to others.