“In the Navy, Sir!”
By Steve Parmarter
Sorry, this is so long!!! I entered military service on my 17th B-Day, the United States Navy. I have to say that when I went aboard my first ship, USS ROARK DE-1053 I was a young, know it all kid who didn’t know how/when to shut up and listen. Well, we had some really GREAT Petty Officers on that “boat” and even though I didn’t realize it at the time, the things they taught to me and the things I learned under their auspices helped to shape my character and my life.
I learned to do a job to the best of my ability, to finish what I had started, not to complain about whatever task was set for me to do, and maybe most importantly to respect those in authority over me, and to respect myself.
SM-2 John Gordon and SM-3 Ron Reis took a skinny know-it-all kid and made something out of him. They did it by their example, by their patience, and even their impatience at times! It may have seemed BS at the time, but a relentless pursuit of study and OJT turned me into someone proficient at his job. My Bible was ATP 1 ALPHA-VOL 2, I had my nose in that pub so much I practically knew it by heart.
OF several Seaman Apprentice’s assigned to the Signal Bridge I was the one chosen to go to “A” school, and I became a Designated Stryker. I went from a SA to SMSN to a SM-3 in less than one year under their guidance…although I didn’t know it at the time, my transfer from Roark to Henry B. Wilson was due to my advancement in rate to Petty Officer. I was still only 17 when I took the test.
I had missed graduating with my HS class because my family moved. Had we not, I would have been a graduating senior at 16, my B-Day coming two weeks later on June 17, 1969. I had no clue how to finish the credits I needed, it was my Petty Officers that made the inquiry and arranged for me to take the test required for a High School Diploma for Pennsylvania.
I was transferred to duty in Viet Nam after only two months on the Wilson because I had applied for duty there prior to leaving the Roark. I recall Ron Reis asking me why I would do something so stupid as it might get me killed, and he told me this; “P, the graveyards are full of dead heroes”…little did he know at the time that he and John Gordon were heroes, MY heroes. How many of you guys remember Ron Reis getting several medals for his service in Viet Nam at the commissioning ceremony for Roark?
I went on to make PO-2 at 19. After going home I enlisted in the Navy Reserve and picked up that crow, and went on to be promotable as a SM-1 at 20 years of age.. I refused the promotion because I opted to get out of the Navy.
When the First Gulf War broke out I went into the Army on a 1 year enlistment, followed by another just like it and then one for 6 years. I’v had some try to call me out on that but it was true, and I went in as a Sgt.E-5. After 17 years and crossing branches too. While I enjoyed my Army service it never quite appealed to me the way the Navy had. Even so I was a NCOIC for Head Quarters Company, or HHB and the Recon Sgt. This was due to my training and service in Viet Nam.
I bet they never would have thought it at the time, but that young kid that John Gordon and Ron Reis took under their wing went on to serve and to train soldiers in the same manner they had done with me…by example and by attention to duty and to detail. Every time I was asked where/how I had learned certain things, I would always reply with “In the Navy Sir, in the Navy”.
They say that a military is only as successful as the Non-Coms who run it and it is true. It was true years ago, just as it is now. And the things I learned from those two Petty Officers have served me well all of my life, and there is nothing that I could EVER say that would do justice to their efforts.
In closing, (finally hey) I would like to say this: Aboard the USS ROARK we had some AWESOME CPO’s and PO’s, it shows just by the sheer number of SA/FA that reported aboard and with in one year were Petty Officers! That didn’t just happen, it took a LOT of training, and good example to make it so. For what ever it’s worth, I want to say, as a 65-year-old man, who was once a Petty Officer in the United States Navy and a Sgt. in the United States Army, from a raw kid to a respected NCO THANK YOU, SM-2 John Gordon, and SM-3 Ron Reis…the things you taught a young SA in the Navy were still worthwhile to a SGT. in the Army, teaching young soldiers the same work/personal/moral ethics you taught to him all of those years ago.