Once upon a time in the Navy

The attached photo is of me enjoying the view as a (by then) radarman second class aboard USS Yorktown CVS-10 with two Far East cruises under our belts.

Going to take a giant leap backwards for some of the old guys who proudly donned the uniform of the U.S. Navy. A little background here before the experiences: It was 1960 in a small town in Indiana. I was a senior in high school, and still didn't know for sure what I wanted to pursue in my life. I talked to my Navy recruiter, and he advised me to take the battery of entrance tests. I did so and was pleased with what he could offer me upon graduation. I believe I was hooked. I actually had a direction I was interested in. The comedy here came from the old come-on that you join the Navy and see the world — neglecting to say that the world is three-fourths water.

I signed up for delayed enlistment for the following summer before being sworn in. Then it all began — boarded a plane for Great Lakes Naval Training Center that afternoon, my first flight. It had only just begun, but the realism set in quickly. After reaching Great Lakes, an all-night experience began. It was immediately get herded into groups, get talked down to for any reason the drill instructor saw fit and get a whole new meaning of "yes, sir." The first week passed in a blur, as we never had a time to sit back and reflect. It was get the hair cut (there went my Elvis duck tail), and get issued clothing that fit half-decent and the battery of shots to supposedly keep you well. Think I saw more guys sick than not. Anyone else remember the old salts telling you to watch out for the square needle?

Now, we are full-fledged "boots." It was hours of marching on the grinder and washing clothes by hand, if you can believe it. Classes on Navy background. Getting acquainted with "The Bluejackets Manual," and of course, the realization of "Taps" and "Reveille" meaning just that. Not that we weren't ready for that.

Let's go for a recap here of learning to use a firearm. Hey — my big exposure at that time was with a .22 rifle. So we marched over to the firing range and were told about the M-1 rifle — a bit more than I was used to. They didn't trust us one bit (likely good thinking), as when we were issued the piece we also had the immediate close companionship of a Marine. We know what fun that can be. He even controlled the ammo until we had been shown even more handling of the rifle. Then we were given the instructions to fire at a target from the prone position.

Hey — ever had a Marine put his boot squarely on your butt and shove down and say, "Keep it there"?

If the dead seriousness of the moment hadn't been foremost, I probably would have laughed, as I think I missed the whole darn target. Did finally get a couple of hits.

Now, we continued this good and intense indoctrination for most of our 12 weeks, and darn it! By then, we were actually beginning to look like spit-and-polish sailors, never knowing we would never use most of this again. But it sure did get us into the conformity routine.

Another bit of memory was when we got to put in a request for a duty station we would like after graduation. Well, I had to first complete 'A' school, but that is another story. Most everyone I knew got just exactly the opposite of what he asked for. I wanted a destroyer off the East Coast and got a carrier off the West.

The memory blurs some after all these years, but to this day I want to thank the first-class aviation gunner's mate we had as a company commander who put us into shape for the years to come.

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