School in Pensacola 1967-68


I was on an airplane, leaving my family home for the Naval Communications Training Center, Corry Station, Pensacola, Florida, to start a new chapter in my life.

My orders were to the CP-771/UYK-3 school, whatever that was. I knew the prefix marked it as a computer, but no one could or would tell me what kind.

I committed to change from Electronics Technician to Communications Technician in ETA school for these orders.

When I arrived at my new base, I learned I couldn’t start school because my security clearance investigation wasn’t complete. So, they assigned me to a shop where I used the skills learned in A school to repair equipment.

An aside here. While on leave, I repaired a television for my parents. It required a bit of minor troubleshooting and replacing a vacuum tube. The training paid off.

I received my clearance and started school in January 1968. It wasn’t long before I wondered why a high-level security clearance was necessary to attend this school. After all, the manuals and training materials were all unclassified.

I decided it wasn’t necessary for the school, but they shouldn’t train someone who couldn’t receive follow-on assignments. So, it made sense to wait for a completed clearance.

In class, I learned how to use “and” and “or” gates to form logic cards, use logic cards to form a register, write and use test programs, and naturally—troubleshoot.

Classes were on weekdays, and I usually had weekends free unless one was a duty day. So they never interfered with school.

Some friends from ETA school also received orders to Pensacola but to a different school. One had a car, and several of us would go partying together. We drove just into Mississippi a few times to drink since some of us were underage in Florida. But, of course, I was a sensible drinker and never got drunk (wink-wink.)

I had a roommate, Ken, who was also 20. Ken learned there was a bus to Biloxi where we could barhop to closing time and catch an early morning bus back. So, on several Fridays, we sometimes did as described.

Biloxi was home to an Air Force technical school. I met several airmen from the school in some of the bars. They liked to brag about what they were learning about equipment repair. So Ken and I secretly laughed, behind their backs, when they talked about learning to repair by replacing defective boards. We were learning to fix broken computers by changing components on failed boards. We were more than board changers.

Drinking was not the only entertainment on base for students. The command had several hobby shops, but my favorite was the one with a racetrack for 1/16th-size cars. I built a Maserati model that screamed around the track and spent many hours racing all comers.

I would be remiss, not to mention I remember Pensacola as a welcoming community to the students at Corry Station. Initially, I had to remain on base for the first weeks of school, but I enjoyed what the city offered once freed to tour the city.

The day finally came. I submitted my “dream” sheet shortly before the end of the course. I listed three localities where I preferred assignments. In those days, the highest non-rated student was guaranteed an assignment to one of their choices. I was that person.

My dream sheet listed Washington State, Norfolk, and San Diego. But, as it turned out, I received orders to Naval Radio Stations (R) Northwest, Virginia. The barracks, my home, was in Virginia, but I worked in a building located in North Carolina. More about it in another post.

Graduation day came, and I was on an airplane, ready to start another chapter.

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