Hailing from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, I had completed two years of college at Central State University in nearby Edmond, Oklahoma. My grades had slipped somewhat during my sophomore year as a result of too much partying after joining a fraternity (Alpha Tau Omega). The resulting elevation in draft status to 1A meant the possibility of the Army for two years. Since my brother had served on the Carrier Hornet in WWII, I knew I wanted to continue the Navy tradition and that the Army was definitely not in my plans. So, I joined the Navy with a four-year active duty status and a two-year inactive reserve status as my commitment.
Going into boot camp at the Naval Training Center in San Diego in July 1967, I was immediately separated from my hair and from the generation of young people who were beginning to value that long hair as a sign of rebellion from the older crew cut establishment. Fortunately, I started out life in the Navy as a Seaman (E-3). In our boot camp Company 400, under the supervision of Chief Boatswain's Mate Bill Cook, and because I had the second most number of years in college, I was made the Asst. Petty Officer First Class. As it turned out, a fraternity brother of mine (Phil Chapman) from Oklahoma University had four years of college and was made the Recruit Chief Petty Officer (RCPO), the highest ranking recruit in the company. This lasted about three weeks, when he screwed up something well enough that BMC Cook demoted him to my position as APO and promoted me to take his place as RCPO for the balance of our training. I felt bad for Phil, but was happy to take on the leadership role.
We had a pretty sharp honor company and I was extremely proud of their marching ability. I've lost all contact with those guys who shared my start in the Navy and hope that one day some of them stumble across this site and email me so that I can contact them.
Jim Goins was our company Honorman and Danny Boardman received the Academic Award. I received a Letter of Commendation as Outstanding Recruit.
Naval Training Center:
While many went off to sea duty or to "A" schools after bootcamp, my first duty assignment was at the Naval Training Center in San Diego. My initial assignment was to report to the chow hall Chief Petty Officer. What a let down. Somebody was watching over me though, and for the second time that two years of college paid off. I got called to the base commander's office for an interview. The base was getting an Admiral for the first time in its history (it had always been a Captain's billet prior to 1967 as I understand it). An Admiral also drew a 1st class petty officer for a driver and a seaman for an office orderly. I was selected to fill the office orderly position. While most officers came and went, the continuity in the office was the secretary, Mizue (Mitzi) Himaka, a terrifically efficient lady.
My father had just passed away earlier that year and Rear Admiral Allen Bergner became a great father influence for me. I was proud to serve his tea, get him cigars (he chewed one brand and smoked another, Windsor Palmas, as I recall), and occasionally drive him to and from the various bases in the San Diego area when his driver was not available. Almost every Friday was Recruit Graduation and Review and we were continually hosting dignitaries from all over. Of the movie star set, Ray Bolger, the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, and Bob Hope were the most famous personalities to review the troops.
Also new that year was the Base Master Chief (Ed Pellam). He and I shared an office just to the left inside the main entrance to Base Command Center office building. He was a great guy and when I decided I wanted to volunteer for Vietnam (see Dedication), he was of tremendous help.
My year of duty ended with the Admiral in September 1968 and I was off to riverboat training at Mare Island in Vallejo, California.