The school was out finally, and I was checking into the quarterdeck at Naval Radio Station (R) Northwest in April 1967, my first operational command. Just my luck that it was a command in the middle of the Great Dismal Swamp with rattlesnakes and copperheads, besides being miles from the nearest town.
It was to become the location for many firsts, my first car, first promotion, first leadership role, and first reenlistment.
I was promoted to Petty Officer Third Class and then to Second Class here.
Thanks to my computer school training, I spent several weeks in the Net Control Computer Center before being recalled to the work center supporting the UYK-3.
The recall came after one of the section leaders suffered an accident. He was walking to the barracks and fell into a deep ditch. On the way to the hospital, the ambulance was in an accident with a car that ran a red light. Bad luck twice for this petty officer.
I became a regular on the command pistol and rifle team. I earned the marksman designation and the medals for both.
The team had a cookout at the beach after one rifle match. It was a hot day, and the call of the water was great. I ate quickly and got into the surf, where I soon suffered cramps. Fortunately, I survived to write this.
The months flew by while assigned to a watch section working the 2-2-2-80 watch schedule. We started with a day watch. So I stood two-day watches (7 am to 3 pm.) I returned to work for the first midwatch at 11 pm, eight hours after the second-day watch. A second mid followed. After the second mid, was another eight-hour break before the first-eve watch at 3 pm. I had eighty hours free between the end of the second eve and the start of the first-day watch. It was “rinse and repeat.”
Then, in January 1969, I was assigned to drive the guard mail and supply run between the command and Norfolk. I left early each morning, made my pickups and deliveries, and returned in the evening. Very boring. It lasted about two months before being returned to my section work.
I mentioned the rattlesnakes and copperhead snakes. Shortly after I came to the command, there was a fishing contest. I heard one boat was passing under an overhanging tree when a snake fell into it. One fisherman grabbed a shotgun. He shot it and a hole into the boat. Dead snake, sunk boat. Did it happen? I don’t know, but it does make a nice story.
I re-enlisted in 1969. There were qualifications to meet, but I don’t remember them. I re-enlisted for orders to Hawaii and, of course, the bonus they offered. I was in three years and obligated for six more.
I probably lost some bonus but made out in the long run. Not long after I signed, the Navy decided to “M” branch technicians to two other ratings. They selected from M branchers who had not re-enlisted before. I went to Hawaii, and some fellow techs went to new ratings.
I left Northwest in January 1970. I had three years and two months in service. And I was only obligated for five plus more.