If you can recall this recruiting slogan, it will give you an idea of when I went into the United States Navy. I could probably write for days on my experiences over six years in the Navy. Over the next several days, I will write about the early years of my Navy experience starting with recruitment, boot camp, training commands and reporting to my first boat. This will also serve as historical reference for later stories and narratives and life lessons that I have learned over the years.
Joining the Navy was a turning point in my life for many obvious reasons. First, I was (and still am) a classic underachiever. I did not have the desire to go to college but more importantly, I certainly was not disciplined enough or mature enough to complete a degree program. I was living at home driving my mom crazy with the sickly smells of debauchery following me home every night . . . or early morning, depending on which way you wanted to look at it. It seems that I am getting a little out in front here so let me back up a few years:
The year is 1981. My friends and I have just started our senior year in high school. Several of us were selected for a unique program that allowed us to go to a local community college and take college level courses for High School credit. The program also allowed us to return the following year and pick up a two year ‘Certificate of Technology”. While my friends chose real crafts like automotive repair, heating, cooling and refrigeration, and welding, the career path I chose was Communication Electronics (think TV & radio repair). So in 1982 we graduated from high school then we were able to graduate from a junior college the following year.
I put myself through school only to find I could not get a technical job without experience. I found myself driving a delivery truck before a brief career of selling auto parts came to an end. I decided to go back to another technical school to get specific training on digital electronics as the age of the Personal Computer had arrived. I had three semesters under my belt when the money ran out. Unable to get loans or grants, I was literally forced out of the school. It was then that I made a decision to join the army and learn how to work on radios or ‘walkie-talkies’ as a means to get the experience I was told I needed.
I was out of high school for three years with no real sense of direction and the words from “Time” by Pink Floyd started taking on a whole new meaning to me . . I was running to catch up with a sinking sun and falling short of breath and one day closer to death but had done nothing of significance with my life. One of my technical instructors had retired from the US Navy and told me the navy would be a far better choice for technical training than going into the army. I could actually recall going on a field trip to Ft Leonardwood when I was in high school and the thought of the one day boot camp experience we had did not give me a warm fuzzy that I was up for three months of that.
I do not recall speaking with friends or family about my decision. I do recall the state of terror I felt when I thought about six years. I started working when I was 15 and between 1980 and 1986 I literally had over a dozen jobs. I could not keep any of them for more than a year. I was a restless soul that was easily bored in a stale environment. When I thought about a six year enlistment, I honestly had no idea how I could pull that off. I had not even spoken with a recruiter, much less left for boot camp, when the seeds of failure planted by fear started to take root. Bravery, as it turns out, is not the absence of fear but the refusal to be paralyzed by it. One lazy afternoon in late summer, I managed to do a very brave thing . . . (to be con't)