Final approach, “thank y’all for flying Delta airlines, we will be arriving in Napoli in ten minutes”. Wow the day has finally arrived, I’m actually flying into a foreign country. You know at the end of “A” school we filled out Dream Sheets but I never actually imagined I would get the orders that I had chosen. So here I was…the Journey had begun. I chose the Navy to get the chance to travel and see the world while helping defend freedom around the world. I had come very close to joining the Marine Corps but then at the last minute I got my head on straight and decided to transport Marines to their destination and give support to them. I joke a lot about the Marines but in truth and honesty I have all the respect in the world fer them and the mission that they accomplish. Fer that matter I have the utmost respect fer all men and women who live their lives to defend freedom and the American way of life. But gosh darn it those posters in the recruiters office are really what got me. The ocean flows in my veins so the Navy was the obvious choice.
Now in this blog I will NEVER glorify my backslidden lifestyle. I made a lot of choices while in the service that if I lived in the past I would regret. Thank God He forgave me and I don’t dwell on them at all. They were a learning experience and also give me the opportunity to minister to others that may make the same set of choices and need counsel.
But here we go….on to one of the absolutely proudest moments of my life in the military and those who have served will 2nd this emotion. I got off that airplane and onto the military transport bus to take the ride to Gaeta, Italy where my ship was fwd deployed. I owned nothing in the world except what was in my seabag which I carried on my back and a little bit of cash in the bank. I remember like it was yesterday that feelin of awe as I walked down the pier and looking up at my ship, that’s right I said it “MY SHIP”. When you join the Navy and you get to your ship you get a sense of ownership in its property. You become the master of its destiny and a little part of that ship becomes yours.
Salute the ensign, “permission to come aboard” I says to the quarter deck…..and I take my first step aboard what was to become my home fer the next almost five years. BT1 Hartman was waitin fer me on the quarter deck. He looked at me perhaps with a bit of disdain…”great, another worthless booter” is probably what he was thinking. (we actually became close friends over the next few years and I still have a lot of respect for that ol salty dog). Well it just so happens that I checked on board the LaSalle just prior to its Black Seas Cruise. Man was I in fer the ride of my life. You see, AGF-3 was the 6th Fleet command ship, which means we hit liberty ports that I think other sailors only dream about. But I’ll get to that later.
Hartman delivered me to the engineering berthing, asked me if I had any questions (my pride wouldn’t allow any at the time) well I did have the presence of mind to ask where the closest drinking establishment was. I mean after all I was a sailor and I had a reputation to uphold. I didn’t even unpack, just dropped my seabag onto my rack and rushed off to explore my new home port. And if you’ve never been to the Italian coast, man you are really missing out.
So began my life in the Navy, it took me a bit to adjust to life underway. But I was at sea, and was living the dream………UNTIL THAT STUPID 1MC RIGHT ABOVE MY RACK STARTED MAKING ONE HECK OF A RACKET…….GENERAL QUARTERS GENERAL QUARTERS. What the heck were these folks thinking waking me up out of a sound sleep to pretend the ship was on fire??? Didn’t they know I was port and starboard and only had about 6 hours to sleep?? Haha I played the fool and rolled over in my rack pretending not to hear…what I didn’t know was that the MA’s roamed the berthings looking fer layabouts like me.
That’s pretty much what life underway is all about. Constant drills and training, standing watch in whatever division you might happen to be, and digging a little sleep in whatever time you could find. Playing cards on the messdecks at midnight after midrats were served, watching site TV.
I started as a messenger in #1 MMR, purty much I was the errand boy, taking hourly readings and learning every function of the mainspace. Fairly soon I graduated to Engine Room Lower Level watch. Let me tell you it was stinkin hot down there. But after all, we were the heart of the ship. We provided propulsion, (with the help of the electricians) we provided electricity, with our 3 stage flash type distilling plants we provided 26,000 gallons of fresh water per day, through the reducing stations we provided LP steam throughout the ship fer various essentials. MM’s make the ship go round and don’t you never forget it!!!!!
I’m not gonna list all the ports but there is one in particular that I want to mention. Russia, here I witnessed first hand the results of Communism (Obama and his minions should take a trip over there). Constant rolling black outs because the power grid is outdated, naval graveyards with submarines in complete disrepair with no funds to fix them, flats available to rent fer only $60 a month and the folks still can’t afford their rent payments. While the country is beautiful it is tarnished by years of socialism. My trip through the old Soviet Block made me grateful for Constitutional Freedom and the American way of life. I have witnessed first hand the results of the current regimes socialist agenda and let me tell you folks….IT AIN’T PURTY.