If you lived through the 60s as I did, you
may remember the draft. Every mother's son, upon reaching 18 years of age, registered with the Selective Service & upon
being called up, had to serve at least two
in the US Army or the US Marine Corps. Most of those who did so ended up
in Vietnam and 58 thousand of those who ended up in Vietnam died there.
There were two ways out of the inevitability of Vietnam. One was being declared a
"Conscientious Objector" by dint of religious belief. The second involved
going to Canada or Sweden, giving up their US citizenship with assurance
that they would never set foot on US soil again. There was one third option
and it was the option I took.
I joined the US
Navy on June 18, 1968 and ended up on an airplane to Naval Recruit Training
Command San Diego, California. For
the next twelve weeks, I became a sailor, or at least the beginnings of one.
At some point in
the process of "boot camp," we were given a battery of exams to identify our skills, talents and
intellectual weaknesses. On the CW test we had to identify
various letters of the International Morse Code. There was a language test,
a math test and a physical metacognition test to see if we could think in
three dimensions. I did fairly well on the CW test, mechanical skills and
physical metacog tests. And, as far as I know, aced the language aptitude
My story, however, is probably
different from most. See, I'd originally done so well on the language tests
that I was nearly a shoe-in for a CTI position . . . after (and if
I got past the Top Secret Crypto
clearance & the Monterey language school. Only problem was, I knew
some hippies. And in 1968, knowing hippies was no way to get a TS/C clearance. So I was shuffled
across the hall to a room where a grumpy chief petty officer looked at
my records and said "Well, you did real good on the radio tests. You wanna
be a radioman?"
Having heard enough about
carrying backpack radios with six foot poles on the back carrying the flag
that said "SHOOT ME FIRST!" I declined the offer. "No sir, I'd like to
be an instrument repairman."
"You sure? You did
real good on the Morse test."
"No sir," I repeated, "I'd like to be an instrument
repairman. Or a yeoman."
The chief looked
at the papers, ruffled a few sheets and picked up a huge rubber stamp from
the carrel on his desk. "Ok," he said as he brought the stamp down on my
paperwork with a resounding thump, "You're a radioman."
A few weeks later, I was off to Communications Yeoman "A" School
at Norfolk. As neurotic as they get, as green behind the wet ears as I
could possibly have been, I dragged
my sorry can & sea bag a couple blocks from the bus stop at the gate
to the barracks where I was to sign in.
Twelve weeks later,
tested & approved, I was on my way to US Naval Facility at Ramey Air Force Base, Puerto
Rico. On the west end of the island, a few miles from the town of Aguadilla
. . . which means "little swamp."
I spent two years
at the NAVFAC. I learned that everything they'd taught me in "A" school
was behind the times or dead-out wrong. I learned about the chain of commmand,
cryptographic security and a bunch of other stuff.
But that's another story. . . which leads to the next page.