Why I joined the Navy

Why I Joined the Navy

By: Garland Davis

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Fifty-six years ago today, at the Armed Forces Induction Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, I raised my right hand and was sworn into the United States Navy. Why did I do this, you ask?

When I began the third grade, the class made a weekly trip to the school library. The first couple of weeks were spent learning about the library and how books were cataloged. By the third week, students were expected to check out a book and read it. Most of my classmates were searching for books with lots of pictures, large words and a low number of pages. I was looking through the shelves for a book that interested me. I found a book with an engraved picture of a sailing ship on the front. I decided to check it out. It missed all of my contemporaries’ criteria. There were no pictures, the words were small and there were over a hundred pages.

The teacher was examining each student’s selection. She took the book I had selected and told me that it was too advanced for a beginning reader. I told her I wanted to try to read it. She relented and permitted me to check it out. She told me that she wanted a book report.

The name of the book was “John Paul Jones.” It was a biography written for, I suspect, teenagers. Almost from the beginning, I was transfixed by the story of Jones and the beginnings of the Navy.

I knew from the moment I finished that book the Navy was going to be my life. During the ensuing years of waiting for age seventeen, I read, literally, hundreds of books about the Navy and about the sea. I sailed with Horatio Hornblower, and Captain Aubrey. I was at Jutland with Admiral Sir John Jellicoe. I was with our Navy at the Coral Sea; I was on the flag bridge with Admiral Spruance at Midway; I was with the Australians and Americans during the defeat at Savo Sound; I watched all the Victory at Sea and Silent Service television documentaries; I begged to stay up late when there was a Navy movie on the Late Movie. I engrossed myself in the many books I read of Naval operations in various wars. I learned knots, semaphore and Morse code in the Boy Scouts. I made it known to my family and friends that the Navy was for me.

A month before my seventeenth birthday, I went to see the recruiter. I was tested and taken for a physical. The paperwork was prepared and my mother signed permission. I was offered the choice of Great Lakes or San Diego for recruit training. I chose San Diego. Since reading of the Navy’s war in the Pacific, I wanted to go as far west as possible.

I left Winston-Salem for Raleigh the morning of my seventeenth birthday and was sworn in the next morning at the Armed Forces Induction Center. That evening I took my first airplane ride to Chicago and then on to Albuquerque and then San Diego. The next morning, 20 July 1961, I arrived at the Recruit Training Center, San Diego and began a thirty-year adventure that ended much too soon.

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Seventy-Three

Seventy-Three

July 18, 2017

By: Garland Davis

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I achieved a new personal record today. It is my birthday. I am seventy-three! I have never been this old before.

I don’t know at what point one becomes old but, I guess this makes me officially “OLD.” I was not aware of how critical the situation had become until a recent incident brought it alarmingly to my attention. I was talking with a younger acquaintance and I happened to say, “I’ll tell you, when I was your age…”

I suddenly went silent. Not because I had forgotten what I meant to say (this happens more often than I care to admit), but because I was shocked. I heard myself sounding like every old fart I have encountered during my life. I was repeating the very thing that people said to me back in the day. You know, back in the day when I was, well not so old.

Of course, I knew that I was getting older. I could see it sometimes in the mirror. I think I saw myself in the mirror so often that the gradual changes of aging failed to register until one morning I wondered, “Who is this old Son of a Bitch looking back at me from the mirror? That can’t be me.”

Nevertheless, it is. Aging crept up on me when I wasn’t looking. When I go to the Navy Exchange, I find myself sometimes wondering why the Navy is promoting teenagers to Chief Petty Officer and who did that four striper know to be promoted to Captain so young? Why did they scrap the Kitty Hawk, they just built it? I still yell at old people on the highway, you know the road hog, slow pokes who are fifty five or sixty. And, I can’t help getting up at 5 AM in the morning, no matter how late I was up the night before, sometimes as late as 9 PM or so.

I don’t feel old. I just can’t seem to find it. Aging happens to others. I can’t place an actual number on old. I do believe it involves knowing how neat comfort height toilets are, that it is comfortable to wander around the house in my underwear and knowing that leaving my turn signal on because I am eventually going to turn left—within the next twenty minutes or so.

I didn’t really know how young I was in my youth. I knew I was young by the restrictions older people placed on me. Much of youth is waiting. Waiting for twelve or thirteen to start High School and be cool. Waiting for sixteen to drive…Waiting for seventeen to enlist in the Navy…Waiting for twenty-one to vote and purchase alcohol legally. I only realized how young I was in retrospect.

Whenever I talk with my shipmates and get their thoughts about getting older, the conservation usually leads to discussions of various ailments, in gruesome detail, and the attendant medications and surgeries. We bitch about Medicare, Tricare, the Veterans Administration, and the young, know-it-all, know nothing doctors. After a sufficient amount of beer is consumed the discussions often get down to the subject of regularity; you know the frequency and quality of bowel movements. When rectums and hemorrhoids become the subject, the bottom of the barrel is in sight.

This is about the time someone tells the story of a corpsman on the old Dicky B. Anderson who could cure everything but the clap and then it gets down to who can tell the biggest sea story. Stories of ships, shipmates, storms, wars, liberty ports, drinks and Asian girls. Suddenly we are young again laughing and living out the past vicariously in the bullshit and sea stories we share with each other. Shipmates.

We are told that with age comes wisdom. How’s that workin’ out for you? It hasn’t really panned out for me. But with the advance of technology, I figure, “What the hell?” With Google, I am as smart and wise as the next guy.”

And perhaps I am just wise enough to realize that, even at seventy-three, I may run into someone who might say to me, “When I was your age….” And maybe this time I won’t roll my eyes.

Damn, I just turned seventy-three today and seventy-four is rapidly gaining on my ass.

Psalm 90:10 says, “ The days of our years are threescore years and ten.” I guess that means my warranty expired three years ago and anything more is on me.

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The old man

The old man

The old man watched them as they sailed

those ships of grace and might

across the far horizons

until they left his sight

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he came and sat there every day

and watched them as they sailed away

remembering the days when he

had walked the decks of ships at sea

 

his memories were all he had

to fill his days which were so sad

and filled with longing for the time

when he was young and in his prime

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and once again he lived his past

of voyages before the mast

remembering the things he`d seen

and magic places he had been

 

but then the rain came from the skies

to end his reveries

and teardrops filled the old mans eyes

the price …..of memories.

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Navy Truisms

Navy Truisms

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• A Sailor will walk 10 miles in a freezing rain to get a beer but complain about standing a 4 hour quarterdeck watch on a beautiful, balmy spring day.

• A Sailor will lie, cheat and scam to get off the ship early and then will have no idea where he wants to go.

• Sailors are territorial. They have their assigned spaces to clean and maintain. Woe betide the shipmate who tracks through a freshly swabbed deck.

• Sailors constantly complain about the food on the mess decks while concurrently going back for second or even third helpings.

• After a cruise, a Sailor will realize how much he misses being at sea. And after retiring from the Navy considers going on a cruise and visiting some of our past favorite ports. Of course we’ll have to pony up better than $5,000 for the privilege. Just to think, Uncle Sam actually use to pay us to visit those same ports years ago.

• You can spend three years on a ship and never visit every nook and cranny or even every major space aboard. Yet, you can name all your shipmates and every liberty port.

• Campari and soda taken in the warm Spanish sun is an excellent hangover remedy.

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• PO2 / E-5 is almost the perfect military pay grade. Too senior to catch the crap details, too junior to be blamed if things go awry.

• Never be first, never be last and never volunteer for anything.

• Almost every port has a “gut.” An area teeming with cheap bars, easy women and partiers, which is usually the “Off-limits” area.

• Contrary to popular belief, Master Chief Petty Officers do not walk on water. They walk just above it.

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• Sad but true, when visiting even the most exotic ports of call, some Sailors only see the inside of the nearest bars/clubs.

• Also under the category of sad but true, that lithe, sultry Mediterranean or Asian beauty you spent those wonderful three days with and have dreamed about ever since, is almost certainly a grandmother now.

• A Sailor can, and will, sleep anywhere, anytime.

• Yes, it’s true, it does flow downhill.

• In the traditional “crackerjack” uniform you were recognized as a member of United States Navy, no matter what port or part of the world you were in. Damn all who want to eliminate or change that uniform.

• The Marine dress blue uniform is, by far, the sharpest of all the armed forces.

• Most Sailors won’t disrespect a shipmate’s mother. On the other hand, it’s not entirely wise to tell them they have a good looking sister either.

• Sailors and Marines will generally fight one another, and fight together against all comers.

• If you can at all help it, never tell anyone that you are seasick.

• Check the rear dungaree pockets of a Sailor. Right pocket a wallet. Left pocket a wheel book.

• The guys who seemed to get away with doing the least, always seemed to be first in the pay line and the chow line.

• General Quarters drills and the need to evacuate one’s bowels often seem to coincide.

• Speaking of which, when the need arises, the nearest head is always the one which is secured for cleaning.

• Four people you never screw with: the doc, the DK, PC and the ship’s barber.

• In the summer, all deck seamen wanted to be signalmen. In the winter they wanted to be radiomen.

• Do snipes ever get the grease and oil off their hands?

• Never play a drinking game which involves the loser paying for all the drinks.

• There are only two good ships: the one you came from and the one you’re going to.

• Whites, coming from the cleaners, clean, pressed and starched, last that way about 30 microseconds after donning them. The Navy dress white uniform is a natural dirt magnet.

• Sweat pumps operate in direct proportion to the seniority of the official visiting.

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• The shrill call of a bosun’s pipe still puts a chill down my spine.

• Three biggest lies in the Navy: We’re happy to be here; this is not an inspection; we’re here to help.

• Everything goes in the log.

• Rule 1: The Chief is always right. Rule 2: When in doubt refer to Rule 1.

• A wet napkin under your tray keeps the tray from sliding on the mess deck table in rough seas, keeping at least one hand free to hold on to your beverage.

• Never walk between the projector and the movie screen after movie call and the flick has started.

• A guy who doesn’t share a care package from home is no shipmate.

• When transiting the ocean, the ship’s chronometer is always advanced at 0200 which makes for a short night. When going in the opposite direction, the chronometer is retarded at 1400 which extends the work day.

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• When I sleep, I often dream I am back at sea.

• If I had to do it all over again, I would. TWICE!

GOOD SHIPMATES ARE FRIENDS FOR LIFE!

 

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Breach of Contract

Breach of Contract

By Charles Knowlton

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It’s 1974 and I’m onboard the USS Oklahoma City (CLG-5) and I had just received my orders to CFAY Yokosuka (Ordnance Dept.) after just short of 10 years of sea duty commands (2 tours RVN but sea duty for x-fer regs). I took a deep breath and couldn’t believe that finally some shore duty and I got Yoko.

At that time it was going to be great to spend some time with my wife and 4 year old daughter. As we all know that being on “forward deployed” units we were gone all the time as we performed our mission on the gun line in Vietnam waters earning our pay in brilliant fashion!!! Well first thing that came up was personnel informed me that I had to extend to accept these orders as I didn’t have enough time to qualify for the 3 year accompanied tour. No problem as I was willing to obligate the time in order to accept the assignment. So I signed my extension and later was transferred to CFAY Yokosuka/Ordnance Dept. at the Ikego Ammunition Storage Site.

Was happy as a clam for about a year and even had a part-time job working at the Club Alliance (old one) as Duty Manager. Also drove Base Taxi’s occasionally as well. Let’s face it back then pay was pretty shabby as a GMG2 and I needed a little extra to steam the Honch & visit the PO Club also.

Well like I said above everything is going good when I got a message that due to the shortage of GMG’s at sea commands my tour would be cut short and I would be re-assigned. I went to Personnel and saw CWO Mochette who informed me that I could send a “breach of contract” out as I fulfilled my obligation for the orders to CFAY. So upon his recommendation I did so and off it went as I anxiously awaited the reply from them. About 2 weeks later it came in and I had “won” but they weren’t going to let me stay but offered me an early out or accept the orders to USS Kitty Hawk.

I immediately said “hell no” and again visited CWO Mochette where we talked and he recommended that we throw “our” offer out there which was I would accept orders back to USS Oklahoma City again. So that was sent out and a few days later the message came in with my report date back to the “Okieboat.” I was over elated in one sense and “pissed off” in another. But the bottom line was I was staying in Yoko and my bride was a happy camper too.

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So after my short assignment on shore duty I was at least staying in Yoko and WESTPAC and “happy as a clam at high tide once again.”

WESTPAC’rs Rule!!!!!

CHAZ “Bore Clear”

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UnRep

UnRep

By Brion Boyles

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Did this for two years straight for one tour of duty aboard USS WHITE PLAINS (AFS-4), homeported out of Yokosuka, Japan…and I mean OUT of Yoko…we were NEVER “home.”

. Running jet engines, hamburger meat and toilet paper to every corner of the Pacific, Indian Oceans and the Gulf(s). There were times when we would UNREP an entire Carrier Battle Group and a few hours later another entire Amphib Battle Group…Clearing our holds and tanks like we were having a Fire Sale.

Then, a race down to that nail’s head of coral reef known as Diego Garcia in the absolute middle of the Indian Ocean for a frantic all-day cargo onload and MAYBE an hour of “Liberty” on a concrete pier or a phone call home. Underway at first light and back out to sea and do it again…The hardest working crew I have EVER had the pleasure of serving with. I often went for days without sleep, with just us two QM’s aboard, myself and QM2 Chuck Fisher.

Alternating between watchstanding, daily work, shooting stars fixes into the night and pre-dawn, attending UNREP meetings, Nav meetings, giving weather briefs, PMS maintenance, chart and pub updating….writing MOVREPS, weather reports, constantly revising our voyage tracks to meet flyspecks of ships in the middle of nowhere, on top of the regular routines of GQ drills or standing as one of two or three Master Helmsmen during 16 hours of UNREP.

No, we were not bristling with fancy missile launchers or 16-inch guns…We had two ancient 3’/50’s on the fo’c’sle, along with 13 shots of Mk 1 Mod 0 Anti-submarine Warfare attached to our anchors….but our kingposts and RAS gear coming over the horizon was our contribution to the fight.

The “shootin’ boys” may rightly congratulate their crew on a safe, efficient UNREP once a month or so, but the WHITE PLAINS would have done 4 of ’em before lunch. Two years, not a scratch or broken bone. Very proud to have served with such professionals and “kids”.

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Why We Miss the Navy and the Ships

Why We Miss the Navy and the Ships

My take on PTSD

By Garland Davis

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When the General Quarters klaxon sounds, whether for fire, taking on water, collision, crash on the flight deck, or preparing to engage the North Vietnamese on a run into Haiphong port, the adrenaline kicks in. They say that when you are faced with a life or death situation, your training takes over and you don’t really think about what you are doing. It all becomes muscle memory. You are on autopilot.

It’s true, to a degree. Training is just a safely repeatable replacement for near death experiences.

I remember a helicopter crash on the flight deck of an FF I was serving in. The flight deck fire party had the situation in hand, but almost by the time the general alarm was finished we were crowding each other running fire hoses through hatches and doors to the flight deck and main deck. Did I stop to think, I will have my galley crew breakout and run a fire hose to help? No, the ship was in danger, my training took over and I reacted automatically.

In his book, “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell makes the case that becoming an expert at a skill requires 10,000 hours of practice. Perhaps that is true, but one fire at sea or near death experience has a similar effect to those 10,000 hours, ingraining in your memory every action, no matter how small, that kept you alive.

And when any portion of that experience is recreated, the smell of smoke within the ship, the sound of artillery rounds alongside, the sound of machine gun bullets against the steel, the unthinking responses that save your life are triggered automatically as if they were forged by 10,000 hours of practice.

The hormones released by highly stressful situations instruct the brain to imprint those memories more deeply. We can thank evolution for that trick. The pre-historic man who could best remember how he escaped an attack by a saber-toothed tiger had a better shot at surviving the next one.

Time seems to slow down in a car crash or when you are getting mugged or any casualty situation, at sea, with no one to call for help. The adrenaline boost to your system triggers your brain into hyperactive memory storage. Your mind and senses go into overdrive, absorbing every sensory detail with almost superhuman lucidity.

Because of this, an event that might only last a split second occupies as much mental storage space as a week or a month. Years later you can recall details, feelings, colors, smells, and sounds more vividly than you can remember this morning’s breakfast.

After decades you remember with perfect clarity every aspect of the event. I remember being in the galley baking cinnamon rolls as the shells were exploding in the water and air around the ship. I remember the Super Arboc firing chaff into the air to confuse the enemy fire control radars and the two gun mounts periodically going to “rapid continuous” fire. Forty-four years later I can smell the cinnamon and butter of the baking pastries.

This hyper-alertness often extends for a time after the actual experience. For hours or days after the experience life just seems better. After returning to safety and even after returning home from a hectic and stressful deployment life just seems better.

You want to talk and re-talk it with your shipmates who experienced it with you. You seem to live harder and truer than you ever have before. The liberties were more intense, the drinks colder, the girls lovelier and yes, it felt good. You felt so alive. I remember thinking, “I wish I could live my whole life like this.”

It is the inability to ever match the excitement and stress of living that you achieved at sea and in war. It’s the letdown of having it end, you survived and you worry that a normal civilian life is just a slow letdown and a fade away.

Ask any sailor to tell you the worst experiences of their lives and they will tell you it was life aboard the ships, underway, and the war.

Now here is the confusing part. When you ask them to tell you the best experiences of their lives, they’ll usually tell you it was life aboard the ships, underway, and the war.

This is why it is nearly impossible to talk to someone who wasn’t there, didn’t live it, and cannot understand. That is why we talk among ourselves and rarely try to explain to civilians how we lived our lives and fought our wars.

High school classes schedule reunions about every ten years until there is no one left who cares. Sailors and ships seem to hold reunions almost annually. We go through the time between reunions living in two worlds. One, the world of little excitement, of civilians and, the monotonous, never changing, nine-to-five job. The second world is in our minds and in our memories, once again looking into a westward sunset over a placid sea. With the reunions you meet once again with the best men you will ever know and consider yourself fortunate to just be one of them.

You drink the beer and tell the stories reliving the worst and best experiences of your life. You laugh with them at the stories you don’t remember being so funny at the time, and you shed a tear for those who have sailed over the horizon.

That my friends is PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and I am afraid we are all afflicted.

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