Navy days
I was a Navy guy. I don't savor as overly fond, memories those glory days, but I spent enough time in the Navy that it probably had some lasting effect. I had some good times, but I wasn't especially fond of the Navy as an organization and I don't identify with the Navy. I was on active duty six years followed by four more in the reserves,... yeah, that's a long time. After 10 weeks in school they offer the option of another year of schooling for the price of an extra two years in the Navy. At the time it seemed like it was worth it; but after 2 years on the ship you wish you would have skipped the extra schooling. Nearly everybody goes for the extra year of school; maybe it's because they haven't even seen a ship yet. I was luckier than most because I qualified for electronics school, and on the ship, an electronics job is a lot better than many of the other jobs. I ended up working on voice crypto, which was quite interesting. All the electronics then was transistor and tube. One piece of equipment I worked on was the size of two refrigerators, nowadays it could fit in a cell-phone. The Navy liked to brag that most of the their jobs translated to civillian jobs and to some degree that was true; I could have become an electronics field technician after the Navy - you know, fixing televisions and office equipment. Personal and business computers just weren't around back then.

I went into boot camp in 1974, just a few months before Hanoi fell and the Vietnam War was over. Boot camp was easier than I expected. Just before entering the Navy, the Watergate hearings were in full swing and the US military was a very unpopular organization with the American public. Nixon was on his way out. Going in the Navy was probably the best thing I could have done at the time, but like I mentoned earlier, six years was overkill. The full experience can be enjoyed in just a couple of years. I would say that one tour on a ship overseas would be plenty. I wasn't ready for college and I just wanted to get away from all the bad influences of my hometown. Another attraction of the service was the GI Bill; the Navy paid over $20,000 of my college expenses; I earned every penny.

After the 18 months at electronics school, I was assigneed to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). It was commissioned in the 1950s and was just decommissioned a year or two ago. The Kitty Hawk was in drydock at the time (May 1976) at the shipyard in Bremerton Washington (close to Seattle). Visit the official Navy website for the USS Kitty Hawk. By the summer of 1977 it was ready to sail for its homeport of San Diego. We spent a few months getting ready for an overseas deployment to Asia and then went to a handful of ports overseas including Pearl Harbor Hawaii, the Phillipines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Japan and Thailand. That was quite an experience for a 21 year-old kid.

In San Diego I bought a motorcycle - it was an escape machine (escape from the ship, that is). My friends and I would ride all over the place. There's desert, mountains, beaches and Mexico; many places to ride. I had two buddies that lived in San Francisco and they invited me up to their place several times. Looking back those were some of the best times I had in the Navy. One friend was Rodney Kling and the other was Bill Crowe. Rodney was half-Japanese and was over 6 feet tall. I wish I would have kept in contact with Rodney, he was a great guy. I also had some good times with Bill, he was 1/4 American Indian and was into motorcycles (he influenced my motorcycle purchase). I also spent some time with him up in the "City". I also wish I had kept in touch with him over the years. Another buddy is Roger Harmon. He and I shared an apartment in Bremerton, Washington. He was a "Snipe" and worked in the boiler-room; as a matter-of-fact, he contacted me last year. Some of the other names I remember are Mark Ellison, Chris Robertson, Marsall Prater and Steve Tango.

After the cruise to all those exotic places I mentioned, I had an accident on my motorcycle and ended up getting 6 months of "limited duty" off the ship. After the 6 months were up, I volunteered for more sea duty and ended up on the USS Prairie (AD-15). What a difference! The Prairie was commissioned in the 1940 (thanks Ralph) and had a wooden decks on the outside of the ship. The passage-ways were covered and were outside. If I left the shop I worked in, I would have to go outside.

Some of the folks on the Prairie I recall were Michael Orocz, Danny Orr, Phil Harms, Ron Brown, Ralph Echtinaw and Dennis Caswell. By the time I was on the Prairie six months, I was ready to get out and go into college. We did get overseas to Asia on the Prairie, and visited many of the ports we visited on the Kitty Hawk. I wasn't at all motivated to stay in the Navy, so I didn't try to get promoted to the next higher rank. All in all, going to sea was the best part, you felt like you were doing something meaningful and there were all those foreign ports. Visit the official USS Prairie website. In retrospect, I wouldn't recommend the service to anyone unless they've been dreaming of being in the service all their life or they really need to get away from something.

Ralph Echtinaw, a shipmate on the Prairie, contacted me recently. Ralph worked in the calibration shop next to the repair shop I worked in. I recall that he liked to snap a few pictures now and then. Well, that love of photography has precipitated the following:
1. Ralph started his own photography business called "Hoop Match Photography." He attends a lot of sporting events and captures the action on film. His prices are very reasonable. So if you like action shots at sporting events, visit Ralph's Hoop Match website.
2. He sent me over 90 pictures that he took while stationed on the USS Prairie. I plan to post some of his shots here once I have the time to get them up on the site. So, many thanks to Ralph for sending me those in the mail.

I ended up going into the Naval Reserves after two years at college, The money really helped (it was about $150 per month) and I met my wife in the Navy Reserves. The high point of my time in the reserves was that for one of the summer assignments (2 weeks) I was able to go on a Great Lakes Cruise. The ship sailed the Great Lakes from the East Coast all the way to Chicago and back, over a period of about 4 months. I only spent two weeks onboard, and managed to visit Oswego NY, Erie PA, Colburg ON (Canada) and Buffalo NY.