My first duty station after A school was the USS Reeves, stationed Pearl Harbor. I remember to this day, the first time pulling back into port asking my watch supervisor if I could go out on deck and check things out (it was just a short underway period. We didn’t man the rails, just set theSea and Anchor detail. I vividly remember, the call to attention and Hand Salute to the USS Arizona (imagine my sense of pride, knowing American Sailors will honor this Ship and Crew for the rest of time). I turned to go back down to Radio when I looked at the Gun Mount. Wondering if I had the guts/balls to man the gun during a Kamikaze attack.
I was still a boot. During my first couple of weeks onboard I participated in a program where I was assigned to each Department for 2 days to gain an understanding of what goes on in each work center. I worked with the members of ENG/OPS/SUP/WEAPONS/DECK. Learning how to put an OBA on, how to man a fire hose, chip paint, watch standing, helping the Jack of the Dust, etc.
The good thing that came out of this program was I got to meet Shipmates from all RATES. Going to the club with Snipes, OPS types, Gunners, and Cooks. The lessons I gained from this was a basic understanding of how the ship functions, it gave me confidence in myself and my Shipmates (knowing these guys really knew what they were doing with some complicated shit), and I made friends.
The second time underway, “This is not a drill, General Quarters, General Quarters, Fire in number two Fireroom, Man you battle stations.” I ran Radio and assumed my position of Broadcast Operator (this is where all boots start off in Radio). I reported manned and ready. When word was passed secure from General Quarters, I thought to myself WOW. I was surprised I was not shitting in my pants, I knew what to do, and did it. Looking around Radio, I saw RM1’s, RM2’s, RM3’s, RMSN’s, all doing what we were trained to do.
Going back to my question to myself, if I had the guts/balls to man the gun during a Kamikaze attack. “Fuck yes,” I said, not because of guts or balls. I would man that gun knowing that I had shipmates by my side, fighting every bit as hard. I figured out that day what the word SHIPMATE means, something I cherish to this day.
God Bless our Navy. My hope, a new SECNAV will right the rudder, because I like having BT/MM/QM/BM/SH/RM/ET’s/OS/MS/EN/DC (I could go on). Cheers SHIPMATES.