Join Free! | Login    
   Popular! Books, Stories, Articles, Poetry
Where Authors and Readers come together!


Featured Authors:  Debby & Gordon Rosenberg, iMaryanne Raphael, icarlton davis, iCindy Ziperman, iDiana Perkins, iStanley Ely, iLaurie Conrad, i

  Home > Military > Stories
Popular: Books, Stories, Articles, Poetry     

David L. Wagner

· + Follow Me
· Contact Me
· Articles
· Poetry
· Stories
· 24 Titles
· 41 Reviews
· Save to My Library
· Share with Friends!
Member Since: Before 2003

David L. Wagner, click here to update your pages on AuthorsDen.

Featured Book
by Arthur Jackson

In rural Pennsylvania East meets West and Middle East, as three global forces collide in their pursuit of a ground breaking chemical formula...  
BookAds by Silver
Gold and Platinum Members

Naval Chronology - 1972 - 1975
By David L. Wagner
Saturday, August 28, 2004

Rated "PG13" by the Author.

Share    Print  Save   Follow

Recent stories by David L. Wagner
· Invitation
           >> View all 2

I have often been asked by young men that are going into the United States Navy for the first time as to what "boot camp" was like. I served with the United States Navy for three years and spent a little over nine weeks of that time at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois from August 25, 1972 until November 11, 1972. This is my story of my "boot camp" days at Great Lakes and my service after "boot camp"......

NAVAL CHRONOLOGY:  Beginning And Introduction: A person never knows what the outcome will be when deciding to join the military, but, the reasons vary considerably – maybe it’s a factor of financial security or possibly the thrill of adventure in seeing the world in which he or she has never seen before. Whatever the reason no one can dispute the fact that joining the ranks of the military, whether it be for combat purposes or peacetime purposes, is an honorable obligation. I think it was around 1970 that I first became interested in joining the military, although I honestly cannot remember what the primary reason was that brought me to this decision. The United States was pulling back from the tragic mistake of Vietnam, which consumed most, if not all, of my school years. We had become strapped down with this little country I grew up to know as Vietnam. It shall haunt the United States far into the pages of military history. One day back in 1970 I think I came across a brochure on the United States Navy and became interested in this branch of service. The army and marines were definitely out of the picture and I really did not know very much about the United States Air Force at the time, but, for some reason the knowledge of joining the air force meant that one had to fly airplanes, which is not the case. It is an elite force that fly airplanes for that branch of service. There was not much commercial advertising on the military branches in 1970, with the exception of the army, which dominated the news due to Vietnam. I was starting my junior year in high school when I dropped by the United States Army Recruiting Office, which, at the time, was directly in front of the post office in Lumberton, North Carolina. The moment I opened the door to the recruiting office I was greeted instantly by four army personnel in dress khaki uniforms. I informed them that I was not interested in joining the army, but, actually the navy. Once realizing that I had basically made up my mind as to which service I had decided to join the army recruiter called the nearest Naval Recruiting Office located in Fayetteville ,North Carolina and told them about my interest in the navy. A call came a few days later at my home and the local navy recruiter scheduled a meeting after school one day at the post office to meet me. Lumberton did not have a local Navy Recruiting Office so we had to meet at an agreed upon place to talk. The time was scheduled on a Friday afternoon at five o’clock in the lobby of the post office. I was there a few minutes before five o’clock and a few minutes later the navy recruiter appeared walking down the sidewalk. He was in his dress whites and his name was Elbert Huggins. His rank was a BM1, which is a boatswains’s mate first class. We talked for about thirty minutes and scheduled a testing date and a physical at the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Raleigh, North Carolina. My military life was just starting…….CHECKING IN: A Trailways bus took me to Raleigh, North Carolina on August 25, 1972 for my destination to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center located north of Chicago. After going through the paperwork and legal signings at the Raleigh Armed Forces Center all day I finally left for the airport to board a Delta Airlines Plane which would take me into Chicago’s O’Hara International Airport. I had been at the Raleigh Armed Forces Center from six o’clock that morning until five o’clock that afternoon, which was when my departure was to leave Raleigh for Chicago. It was a long and tiring eleven hours just sitting around and waiting. This was my first time flying on an airplane, so, the excitement was building at the thought of actually taking off from the earth into the clear blue sky. The plane was loaded and I was seated next to a Chicago businessman on his way back to Chicago. I think I was so curious at looking out the window of the airplane as it was going through the sky that I really did not notice the businessman next to me. At some point during the flight he asked me if I was on my way to the Great Lakes Training Center. How he figured out that I was a newly enlisted sailor is a puzzle, but, it must have been written all over my face. During the short conversation he told me to go to the military information desk located within the O’Hara terminal and I would be instructed as to where to go. He was helpful as I knew he could see the fear written on my face, especially going to a strange place. I arrived at O’Hara Airport around seven o’clock that evening and I was amazed at the vastness of the airport. It was so huge and spread out. Had no problem finding the military information desk and was told to go to a certain area of the terminal reserved especially for incoming recruits. When I got to the waiting area I could see about twenty-five more recruits already waiting. Little did I know that the first seventy or ninety recruits arriving at the airport that evening would be the company that would go through nine weeks of naval training with me. We would eventually come to be known as Company Number 360. It was a “hurry up and wait” situation at the airport. Most of the guys were sleeping in the terminal seats and some were walking around trying to fight the oncoming boredom. By ten o’clock that night the list of recruits had grown considerably and there must have been well over a hundred guys all huddled up in this holding section of the airport. At precisely eleven o’clock that night we finally saw several sailors come into the area of the terminal where we were waiting. We were told to board two Greyhound buses, which would take us to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center nearby. I think it was about a forty-five minute ride from O’Hara Airport to the center. It was a little after midnight when we arrived at the training center and a pouring rain had just subsided when we arrived. We departed the Greyhound buses in single file and formed a line at the entrance of an old World War II barracks, which was actually the remnants of the actual training center for the Navy from World War II. After turning in our orders and filling out more documents and forms we were issued two sheets and a pillowcase. It was a little after two o’clock in the morning and everyone was tired from the hectic day. After we arrived at an old World War II barracks we were told to settle down and the incoming processing would continue the next morning. Several of the guys were getting sick and throwing up in the restrooms, as it must have been the first time they had been away from home. The first signs of home sickness were becoming evident. I took it well – maybe I was just too tired to think of anything else at the moment. We had only had three hours of sleep when, all of a sudden, some sailor came into the barracks banging on a trashcan and yelling for us to get up and get dressed. It was only five o’clock in the morning……………………………….CAMP BARRY - THE CHECK-IN: The first full day at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center was mostly routine but we were kept busy all during the day. The World War II training center that we were at was called “Camp Barry”, named after some World War II naval officer by the name of Barry. Everyone was taken to a large building, which actually looked like a gymnasium, to continue the check-in. We filled out shipping tags for returning our civilian clothing and other personal effects home. I had a small dufflebag with a change of clothing and shoes. We put the shipping tags on our dufflebags so they could be mailed back home to our parents. Anyone not wishing to return their civilian clothing could put them into a bin for donating to the Salvation Army. From the gymnasium we went to another area to be issued our military clothing. Everyone stood in line with nothing on but boxer shorts as people were measuring our feet for shoes and our waist and inseam for pants. Our chest, head and hands were measured for shirts, hats and gloves. It was so fast – more like an assembly line. When we went to the “chow hall” for breakfast, lunch and dinner it was a rule that you had to eat everything on your tray before leaving. There were two sailors waiting at the door checking the trays for any food left. I think that’s the reason that I do not care for brussel sprouts as I was forced to eat them before I could leave the “chow hall”. I managed to force them down anyway. To this very day I hate brussel sprouts……….. Our checking in process continued for several more days. We had our hair cut down to the scalp. My hair was already short, so, it was not much of a shock to see all the hair go. Some of the guys had very long hair and I could see that the barbers were having a field day just to get the thrill of cutting all that hair off. We were issued “ditty bags”, which is a canvas bag closed by a drawstring and included a toothbrush, dental floss, soap and other personal toiletries in it. Pay chits were given to us, which were like coupons to get haircuts and buy things at the PX. It was like fifteen dollars worth of pay chits. We were not allowed to have any money on us for fear of it getting stolen. The next stop was medical check-in. We were given a long series of shots over several days – two doses of triple typhoid, tetanus, influenza, diphtheria, two doses of typhus and a trivalent polio. These shots were given with air guns and you had to stand very still and not flinch, or the air gun would cut your arm. It was not unusual to see blood running down the arms of many of the guys. I guess if we had known more about the Aids epidemic in 1972, standing side-by-side would not have been allowed as you could be standing next to a person who flinched when the shot was given to them and the blood running down their arms would be passed from one sailor to the next. Going to the dental department was next on the check-in. We were probed and new charts were made up of our teeth – those missing and those needing repair. Our eyes were examined and color vision was tested. Glasses were checked for verification of prescription. We were now ready to go across the street to the modern training center to begin our naval seamanship. It had been a rough week at “Camp Barry”…………….RECRUIT TRAINING COMMAND – CAMP DEWEY After all the checking in at “Camp Barry” we were well on our way to begin our naval training across the street at the modern facilities that were known as “Camp Dewey” “Great Lakes” was commissioned as a Naval Training Station on 1 July 1911, received its first trainee two days later, and was officially dedicated by President William Howard Taft on that first recruit’s graduation day 28 October 1911. The mission of recruit training at Great Lakes has varied little since its early days; but the facilities and the techniques have changed significantly over the years at Great Lakes to meet constantly changing needs. The original thirty-nine building complex provided facilities for 600 recruits undergoing sixteen weeks of training. More than 125,000 World War I sailors began service in the navy at Great Lakes. Emergency build-ups brought the number of buildings to 775 with a capacity of 50,000 men on a twelve-week schedule. Depression years saw Great Lakes at a standstill; but World War II saw a rapid expansion program to relieve strained facilities. A growth to almost 1,000 buildings was able to handle a peak onboard count of 67,000 recruits as Great Lakes trained almost 1,000,000 men for the fleet. At one point, the demand for more men was so great that the training curriculum was a highly accelerated three weeks. The normal post-war recruit population has been 10,000 with significant increases during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. Women for the regular navy trained at Great Lakes from 1948-1957 taking a ten-week WAVE training course. Two-week and nine-week ready reserves have taken basic training at Great Lakes since 1950. The staff under normal conditions is made up of fifty officers and 650 enlisted personnel to train 60,000 recruits annually.” As we formed a line and prepared to leave “Camp Barry” for the more modern facilities across the street at “Camp Dewey”. No one could ever imagine what was actually ahead of us for the next nine weeks. Our seabags, which, at that time weighed almost sixty-five pounds, were loaded up onto a navy truck. The company, with a total of ninety men, would march across the street to the entrance of “Camp Dewey”. The entrance to “Camp Dewey” was a tunnel leading under a main road into the recruit training command. Whenever entering into the tunnel recruit units had to trail arms and sing “Anchor’s Aweigh”. The echo of the song vibrated from one side of the tunnel to the other as everyone sung. Even if you did not know all the words to “Anchor’s Aweigh” I don’t think it really mattered because no one could tell any difference. The other side of the tunnel brought the recruit unit into a complex of modern barracks and other facilities that would be home for the next nine weeks…………. BARRACKS LIFE - CAMP DEWEY: It had been a little over one week since getting off the plane at O’Hara Airport and the unit had reached the point of settling down to the life of a “raw recruit” in training at Great Lakes Naval Training Center. The unit of approximately seventy-five men had formed a company, which would be known as Company 72-360 of the 2nd Regiment and 26th Battalion. A company commander that would spend his next nine weeks with us was assigned to Company 72-360 . His name was BT1 Devries ,USN. Devries was a Boiler Technician First Class in the United States Navy, which, is the highest ranking enlisted rate before becoming a Chief. Although Devries was not an officer, we had to salute him and call him commander for disciplinary purposes only. He was our leader and his responsibility was to make us into sailors during those nine weeks. Our Regimental Commander was LTJG J.C. Burton, USN and our Battalion Commander was CWO2 J.C. Zingale, USN. The Battalion Adjutant was SMC J.G. Pectol ,USN. We had to memorize these three names and had to name them if any officer, or other company commander ever stopped us and asked who these men were. The barracks is not only a place to sleep and to stow clothes but the most important of all classrooms. Here, the recruit learns by doing. The scrubbing of clothes, the cleaning of the barracks and the constant inspections all serve but one purpose –to prepare the recruit for a successful life during his tour in the Navy. One of the more important lessons the recruit learns during boot camp is how to live with others in a military organization. Life and living conditions in the Navy differ so greatly from anything he has known in civilian life that learning to live in close quarters as a member of a military group becomes a major function of recruit training. I think at this point of our training, no one has really gotten to know the names of the other members in the company – only faces. With such a hectic schedule over the past week names of the other recruits seemed to matter so little. Gradually during each morning’s muster call everyone would learn to identify names with faces. Barracks life was a constant challenge to keep everything spotless. We scrubbed the floor, more commonly known as the “deck” every morning and night. The bathroom, or “head” as it is known in the Navy, was kept immaculately clean. We washed clothes in metal buckets by hand and hung them up in a drying room each day. The clothes were hung up by strings, instead of regular clothespins – a practice of using the various types of knots in the Navy. Our clothes had to be stenciled with a special marker – everything from boxer shorts to our dress uniform. If one did not know their name or social security number by this time, they would after stenciling all their clothes. We learned the technique of folding all our clothes a certain way and stowing them in our lockers only “one way”. No other alternative was accepted. We would “spit and polish” our shoes to an immaculate shine that would last for days. Our dogtags even had to be polished, which were worn constantly around our necks. We learned all the Navy jargon during our stay in the barracks –jargon such as “morning working party”, “gear locker”, “compartment field day” , “inspection attention posture”, “inspection tee-shirt”, “inspection row of shined shoes” , “inspection uniform” , “inspection rifle holding position”, “nite study” , “smoke and coke” , “letter time” , “stowing rifles” , “physical drill under arms”, “96 count manual” , “situps” , “windmills” , “pushups” and the list goes on and on ……………………… Marching everywhere we went each day was the norm. After a few days at “Camp Dewey”, we were issued U.S. Rifle Springfield 1903 bolt action rifles to carry everywhere we went. At every building on the recruit training command were rifle holders that we stowed the rifles in until we left for another location. The only time we did not carry our  rifles was whenever we went to the “chow hall” to eat our meals. Everyone had to double time running to the “chow hall” there and back. Many a sailor lost their breakfast, lunch and dinner by having to run so hard. You just had to take it easy running and pace yourself. Inspections daily were the norm also. The company commander made his rounds daily checking your stowed gear and making sure your lock was securely fastened on your locker and in the “locked” position. I remember one morning during a locker inspection the company commander found a lock unopened and he made the entire unit of seventy-five men stand at attention in front of their bunks while this member of our unit had to push his lock down the aisle with his nose. There was a complete silence as this poor guy struggled to push his lock down the aisle in front of all his comrades. I think everyone got the meaning after about ten minutes watching this guy struggle with pushing the lock. It never happened again while we were there. Each morning when we went to the “head” to “shit, shower and shave”, we had to piss in a huge glass bottle. A funnel was in the bottle, which filtered urine through it. A truck came by sometime during each morning to collect these huge bottles of urine. I later learned that the urine was collected and taken to some medical facility for use in making insulin. After getting our uniforms on and everything stowed, we hustled out to the parking lot, or the “grinder”, as it was called in the Navy for our march to the “chow hall” for morning breakfast. This was a daily routine for the entire nine weeks and you almost did it automatically without even thinking about it. Barracks life had become our way, and the Navy way of life……………COMPANY 72-360 - THE FACES HAVE NAMES: It has been a little over two weeks since arriving at O’Hara International Airport and sitting down with this group of guys who would later become members of Company 72-360. Little did we know at the time that we would live together for approximately nine weeks. As you go through your daily routine of recruit training, it seems that you automatically get to know the guy sleeping on the bunk above you, below you and also in the bunks on either side of your bunk. Eventually, through daily “smoke and coke” breaks in the lounge, everyone gets to know everyone quite informally. Out of the seventy-five recruits in my company, there were only nine blacks and the rest were either white, hispanic or other. It did not seem to matter what color anyone was –we were all in the same boat together, We had to grow to like each other as it was the only way to get through these nine weeks together. There were a variety of ethnic mixes in Company 72-360 .Simple names such as Bates, Adams, Case, Johnson, Kelly, Owen ,Otto, Thomas and Williams were mixed with unusual names such as Baumgardner, Fleck, French, Gallagher, Gosnell, Lout, Kozar, Kittredge, Mealman, Navratil, Slinkard, Stankewitz, Walrath and Saxon. It made you think of how many countries were actually involved in all these names – how many were Jewish, Polish, German, Italian, Spanish, French and so on and on………….. Everyone formed their own little groups and basically stayed with these groups throughout the nine weeks of training. I think my group consisted of several of the guys like John Reeves, who had a hillbilly southern accent from Fancy Gap Mountain ,Virginia, Charles Fleck, a native New Yorker, Ronnie Hamrick, a tall, lanky guy from Michigan, Richard Meredith, a short skinny guy from Kansas, Edwin Rios, a New Yorker with hispanic ties and Frank Thomas, a quiet individual who appeared to be smart as a whip. We hung out together and took our ‘smoke and coke” breaks together in the lounge each night. Our own little club had been formed……………… For whatever the reason everyone had formed their own individual little groups and we were still noted as Company number 72-360 and we commenced our formal Naval training on 25 August 1972 and completed training on 11 November 1972 at the Great Lakes Training Center, Great Lakes ,Illinois.Company Number 72-360: Kenneth Adams, Daniel Albert, Ronald Bailey, David Batty, Larry Bates, David Baumgardner, James Bennett, Jerry Blackburn, Gerald Britt, Terry Case, Oliver Chapman, Guy Chaney, James Connolly, Edmond Contestable, Michael Craig, Fred Feuring, Charles Fleck, Jeffery Frankel, Estol French, James Gallagher, Timothy Gallagher, Jerry Gosnell, George Gunn, Ronnie Hamrick, Wade Hanse, Douglas Hanson, Joseph Harvey, William Hill, Gary Hunt, Arthur Hynes, Walter Johnson, John Josey, Brian Kelly, Patrick Kelly, William Keller, Bruce Kittredge, Stanley Kmitt, Francis Kozar, Tommy Lout, Bernard Mann, Kenneth Mealman, Richard Meredith, James Miner, William Navratil, Woodie Neeley, David Otto, Terry Owen, Brian Parks, Robert Peluso, Roger Pitts, John Reeves, Edwin Rios, Rickie Rodgers, William Roualet, John Rowe, Bradley Sass, Anthony Saxton, Larry Slinkard, Anthony Smith, John Smith, Mark Smith, Stacey Stabler, David Stankewitz, Edwin Story, Frank Thomas, Timothy Thomas, David Thompson, Calvin Walrath, Phillip Washington, Douglas Williams Johnnie Williams, Jeffery Wilson, Ralph Worthy, Jesse Young and of course, myself - David Wagner. I’ve always wondered what many of these recruits did after leaving the Great Lakes Naval Training Center at Great lakes, Illinois. Many went on to further Navy schooling, some went to ships, some to shore duty and possibly some on to officer candidate school to become naval officers. We have had many conflicts in the world since 1972 and one must wonder how many of these guys were involved in those conflicts – Africa , Haiti, Vietnam, Bosnia, The Gulf War………………………. The faces do have names!…………..TRAINING AND ORIENTATION: Everyone associates Navy boot camp as something rough and very physical, but the Navy has devoted most of its goals to training the Navy sailor more mentally than physical during the years. I guess they figured you have a physically fit sailor out there on a ship, but, if he has no mental aptitude, then it’s worth little more than sending a child to sea. During our second week at “Camp Dewey”, we go though an extensive orientation and classification process. The classification process involves the recruit’s potential, as demonstrated by testing, occupational experience and education. The recruit is interviewed personally and several job classifications are recommended and submitted to the Chief of Naval Personnel for approval. Approximately two weeks prior to completing training, all recruits are advised of their individual job classification. My job classifications ranged in the areas of administrative. Two of the jobs that I was classified for include Yeoman and Storekeeper. Both of these classifications were advised as my administrative scores were extremely high in these areas on the tests that I took before entering the Navy and tests taken after entering the Navy. Of course, no recruit will know where they will use their classification until they receive orders upon completing recruit training nine weeks later - possibly on a ship or on shore. During our orientation classes we learn about drug awareness, defensive driving, first aid, history about the Navy, ordinance, water safety, artificial respiration, gunnery, damage control and firefighting and the tools of the Navy in areas such as Navy compass, the hatch, anchoring, sound-powered telephone, mooring, the knotboard, steering, gas mask and open oil fires. Most of our training is done actually through closed circuit television and in the open field. We were tested weekly on the previous weeks instruction. Water safety was a requirement upon entering the Navy and we had to attend classes at the pool platform, sink to the bottom of the pool and swim around the pool once. If you did this without any problems, then you passed the test for swimming requirement. If not, you were given another chance but only had to swim halfway around the pool in order to pass. If the recruit failed either test then he was held back or ASMO’S (Assignment Memorandum Orders). He would lose the company that he was in and pick up on a later company. No one wanted to lose their company but several of the guys had to be held back. The second occasion on water safety involved the art of surviving in the water during a shipboard fire or if you have to abandon ship. We learned how to keep afloat in the water simply by using our “marshmellow” cap as a floatation device. The other means of keeping afloat was taking our pants off and letting air into the pants legs after tying the ends into a knot. The air going into the pants served as a balloon, which, in turn, would keep you afloat. We were well into our fifth week of Naval training and we were now, more or less, into open field activities. The weather was wet and cold with a snowfall on October 18, 1972. It must have rained every other day while at the Naval Training Center. One day we were given a demonstration on the use of a gas mask. After about an hour of instruction we were given gas masks and led into a building with them on. After several of the guys were in the building, we were told to remove the mask and the tear gas hit us immediately. You automatically started tearing at the eyes from the burning sensation. Everyone came running out of the building with gas masks held over their heads. I guess the point was well taken……………………. “Ship’s Work Training”, or Service Week, as it was normally called, was also during our fifth week of training. All recruits are assigned to different areas of the training center to work for an entire week, mostly devoted to instruction and practical experience in “Ship’s Work Training”, such as the galley chow line, food preparation, the “scullery”, or the area where everything is washed from the galley, trimming hedges, cutting grass, sweeping, shoveling snow, mailroom and many others. My job assignment was in the “scullery”. Here I worked with a dozen or more other guys from five o’clock in the morning until around five o’clock in the afternoon cleaning pots, pans and trays from each breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. We had to put all the leftover food into a garbage disposal and run everything through a steaming machine to clean them. I was amazed at the waste of food each day going down the garbage disposal – everything from trays of bacon to potato chips. Such a waste of taxpayer’s money is all that I could think about……… One day during “Ship’s Work Training” week we had to unload food from trucks and stow them underneath an open area under the sidewall just behind the galley. It was barely a crawlspace and about twenty guys had to get on their knees beneath the sidewalk and slide cases of food between their legs to the next guy behind them. It was stowed in its proper place at the end of the line. It was amazing how much food could be stored under the sidewalk………….. After spending a week in “Ship’s Work Training”, our next week would be damage control and firefighting. The mission of damage control and firefighting is to acquaint each recruit with the basic principles of extinguishing shipboard fires and controlling any storm or battle damage which his fighting unit may sustain. Damage Control training is accomplished both in the classroom and in structures designed to simulate a naval warship. Controlled oil fires are ignited in the “ships” and it is the task of the damage control team to actually enter the structure and extinguish the flames. The damage control and firefighting instruction lasted for four days and was really a messy experience……… In addition to our basic training and orientation every recruit had to stand “watches” back at the barracks. The watch was for six hours and it was a twenty-four hour job. A schedule was posted each day for the recruits who had barrack’s watch that day and at what times. If the company left the barracks, the only person left would be the barracks watch for that day. You stood at ease holding your M16 rifle by your side for six hours. Barrack’s watch gave a recruit time to think……………..TRAINING AND ORIENTATION – RECREATION Our seventh week of training at Great Lakes Training Center was almost complete. Going to classes each day was such a routine that we almost forgot the weight of the M16 rifle that we carried on our shoulders from classroom to classroom. We attended church every Sunday – Catholics to their church, Lutherans to theirs, Jewish to theirs and Protestants to a large drill hall as there were so many. The only person that did not attend church services was the barrack’s duty watch, who had to remain back at the barracks. By this time we were given permission to go to the PX and buy things such as personal items, candy and magazines. We were given more time for making telephone calls home, that is, if you could stand to wait in line for a period of time while a telephone became available. You were only given ten minutes to make a call home. A recreation building was also on the base. It had a small grill in it and all the recreation activities, such as pool tables, pin pong tables, video games, a small library, pianos, guitars, a movie theatre and so on and on………………… The recreation building was also where the families of recruits could visit them on weekends after the seventh week of training. Sunday’s were always busy as we got a chance to see outsiders come into the training center to visit recruits. I think writing letters home was a favorite pastime. Mailcall was always a welcomed event as we stood in line around one of the recruits as names were read out. Once mail call was completed everyone settled back down to what they were previously doing.PREPARING FOR GRADUATION After completion of the seventh week of training, the focus is now on graduation, which will occur on the ninth week. The company is taken to the “grinder”, or parking lot , for practice marching in review. We also practice marching one day in a drill hall just in case the weather is bad and we cannot graduate outside. The graduation review is the climax of training for the recruits. Under the leadership of fellow recruits, the graduates display their newly learned abilities in military drill and military bearing in the Navy’s traditional pomp and ceremony, not only to the reviewing officials but also to relatives and friends who are able to attend. The special recruit units – the State’s Flags Company, the Drum and Bugle Corps, the Drill Team, and the Bluejackets Choir, composed of and commanded by only recruits in training – help to create as vivid and exciting picture that will last in the recruit’s memory for the rest of his life. We are outfitted with the traditional Navy “leggings”, which are like belts worn around our ankles and laced up with string. We also wear a white four-inch elastic belt around our waist. The company receives all the competitive flags that were earned during the past eight weeks. Company 360 earned a total of six competitive flags. Two “S” flags were earned for being the company in each battalion scoring the highest on scholastic examinations. The Brigade “S” flag goes to the company with the highest score among all the companies in training, a “Star” flag was earned by company 360 for cleanliness in the barracks , lockers and personnel inspections conducted by a staff unit known as “Brigade Inspectors”, a “Drill” flag was earned by company 360 for proficiency in close order drill, the manual of arms and physical drill under arms and an “E” flag, also known as “Efficiency Flags” was earned for overall excellence in a given week. Being that it was early winter, the company would graduate in dress blue uniforms with the traditional leggings and company 360 would be one of twelve companies to graduate during the ninth week of training. A total of approximately twelve hundred sailors would pass in review on graduation day. Company 360 was ready for graduation day……………….GRADUATION DAY – COMPANY 72-360 Graduation day had finally come and Company 360 had just finished almost nine weeks of naval training to get to this all important day. It was a clear day -blue skies – and we were able to have the graduation outside. It was a cool day being it the last of October. There were a total of twelve companies marching to graduation on the grinder that morning. I believe company number 360 was fifth in line. The Navy Band led the companies at the front of the line. The color company was second in behind the Navy Band and carried the flags of the fifty states. A large crowd had gathered - families of the sailors that could make the trip to Great Lakes were seated in front of all the companies. Navel officers were on the platform centered on the grinder. The awards presentation was made as we all stood at ease holding our M16 rifles at our sides. Several of the guys passed out after standing for such a long period of time. The key to standing was to rotate the weight of your body from one foot to the other. I guess some of the guys just could not tolerate the standing. The graduation lasted a little over two hours. After the awards presentation was made the final passing in review would be our last marching together as company number 360 as a unit. We marched off the grinder back down the street to our barracks and rushed up the stairs to our home of nine weeks on third floor. We had finally made it through our naval training at Great Lakes…………OUR FIRST LIBERTY After graduation the company was finally allowed to go on first liberty away from the training center. After almost nine weeks on the base, we were ready to get away for a weekend. Being that the training center was about halfway between the cities of Chicago and Milwaukee, about half the recruits went by train to Chicago while the other half went by bus and taxi to Milwaukee. There was a group of five of us, so , we elected to take a taxi into the city of Milwaukee which was about twenty-five miles north of the training center. The taxi fare was thirty-five dollars, so , between the five of us, we had to fork out five bucks each to cover the taxi fare. Milwaukee, Wisconsin is a large city that mostly depends on the money that the recruits from the training center spend. It was a city of sleazy bars and X-rated movie theatres – a city that never sleeps. All during the night all you could see were sailors walking the streets. There were many undercover cops walking the streets mostly keeping an eye on the sailors because they were easy prey for dope and drug dealers. While walking down the street with three others from my company, we were approached by two black guys trying to sell us drugs. We had barely gotten past them when two undercover cops grabbed them and told us to keep walking. I guess the cops were on our side. After we checked into a motel on main street of Milwaukee, four of us went out to a very nice restaurant for a decent meal other than the chow we had to eat for nine weeks back at the training center. It was a very nice restaurant and all of us ordered a huge steak that covered our entire plate. Being that it was freezing outside we were wearing our dress blue uniforms and peacoats so we stood out in the restaurant as we sat at a table together. About halfway through our meal the waitress came to our table in the restaurant and said a gentleman, who had been sitting at another table in the restaurant, gave her money for us to order anything we wanted to drink. We were caught by surprise as neither one of us remembered what the man looked like. He had left the restaurant and our guess was that he had been in the Navy and wanted to treat us to a drink. I think we all just ordered a beer. The waitress probably made out better with the money. We were all honored………………….. The next day we took a taxi back to the barracks at the training center. We had gotten our first taste of civilization outside the training center after nine weeks. Company number 360 was about to be dissolved…………………..THE BREAKUP OF COMPANY NUMBER 360 Company number 360 had been together for nine weeks and the time had come for the unit to go their separate way. The guys that had gotten orders to go on to naval training schools for further specialized training were to leave first. About half the unit left that day after liberty for their schools. The rest of the unit were to stay around for an extra two weeks at a special barracks away from the training center while orders for duty assignments were being processed. We still did not know if our orders would take us to assignments on ships or shore. We just settled down at our new barracks and waited for the two weeks to end. About two days after being at the new barracks, I was called to the order processing center to fill out forms for a security clearance My anticipation was getting the best of me as I could not imagine why I was going through a security clearance check. We still marched back and forth to the chow hall three times a day as half a unit. The days seem to slow down as we carried on with our daily routine. It was November 11th and we were finally ordered to pack up our gear and go to the order processing center, which was actually a large drill hall. We carried our seabags to the center and received our final pay and travel expenses for a fourteen day leave home before going on to our first duty assignment. I was to take a flight out of O’Hara International Airport that evening to Raleigh, North Carolina and then a bus from Raleigh into Lumberton. We stayed at the order processing center almost the entire day just waiting for our orders to be processed. The waiting was a combination of boredom and anticipation……..RECEIVING ORDERS It had been a long day waiting around at the order processing center and everyone was growing tired of the “hurry up and wait” syndrome. It was around five o’clock that afternoon when we were told to stand in line while our names were called out to pass out orders. Everyone stood in a single line with our seabags at our side with added anticipation. Once we received our brown envelope containing our orders everyone opened them and read through all the navy jargon trying to find out exactly where they were to report after a fourteen day leave at home. My orders were to send me to Norfolk, Virginia to a place called SACLANT. The word “shore” was in parenthesis beside the word SACLANT. I could not believe that I was actually going to shore duty as I figured all recruits were to go to ships after “boot camp”. Everyone was told to grab their orders and show them as we filed  out of the order processing center to a waiting bus outside that would take us to O’Hara International Airport. My flight was to leave at six o’clock that evening but was delayed for about an hour, so, I had to “hurry up and wait” once more before leaving. Once my flight arrived and I boarded the plane, I had a seat in the very back of the plane next to another sailor form another company that was on his way home to New Bern, North Carolina. We did not know each other and we did not carry on much conversation as we both were very tired from a long, hectic day at Great Lakes. We were just glad to finally be getting away from the area. Once the plane took off, I just put my head against the window of the plane and closed my eyes to possibly get some sleep. I was on my way back home to North Carolina…………..ARRIVAL HOME The flight home was about two hours. Once arriving at the Raleigh-Durham Airport in Raleigh I knew that I had about another three hour Trailways bus ride to Lumberton, but, as I entered the airport terminal at the gate I was paged by Delta Airlines to report to the information desk for a message. It caught me by surprise as I was not expecting to be called over the paging system the minute I walked into the airport terminal. The message was that my parents had decided to drive to Raleigh and pick me up and they were at the Trailways Bus Station in downtown Raleigh waiting for me. I took the airport limo to the bus station where my parents and grandparents were waiting for my arrival. They had been waiting for some time as my flight out of O’Hara was about an hour late. I walked into the Trailways Bus Terminal and caught them all by surprise. It had been a little over nine weeks since I last saw my parents and grandparents. We drove home in a pouring rain the entire ninety miles from Raleigh to Lumberton.SACLANT - THE SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER ATLANTIC Once checking into SACLANT for my first tour of duty after a fourteen day leave at home, I was assigned to one of the eighteen divisions that composed the command. I was assigned to Division C-6, which was the smallest division of SACLANT and was known as the Budget and Finance Division. C-6 Division was where all the financial responsibility of the command originated and everything that was purchased for normal operation of the command. My responsibilities within the C-6 Division included job tasks like typing purchase orders and requisitions for everything that was purchased within the command – everything from pencils to automobiles. A running inventory was kept daily of all supplies and materials used within the command. Once a year maintenance contracts for services such as typewriter maintenance and exterminating had to be prepared and typed. If equipment had to be disposed of my job was to type up disposal documents for its release to the Naval Disposal Unit. No equipment could be disposed of without these documents. A complete inventory control system had to be maintained for the command. I was responsible for recording all inventory onto data cards. Once a year a physical inventory of all furniture and equipment had to be made and updated. Most supplies for the command could be purchased directly from the Naval Supply Office on the main navy base in Norfolk. Although we were NATO, we were allowed to buy directly from the Naval Supply Depot. If items could not be purchased through the Naval Supply Depot, I purchased from the General Services Administration, or, more commonly known as GSA. This was the government purchasing department that all military units buy from. If items could not be purchased through normal government channels, then, I was allowed to buy directly from civilian vendors within the Norfolk, Virginia area. Although C-6 Division was the smallest division, we were comprised of civilian, as well as Naval Officers. C-6 Division had two GS government civilian employees as accountants within the division, a Navy Captain, who was in charge of the division, a Navy Commander, a Lieutenant Commander, a Lieutenant Commander Junior Grade, two Chief Petty officers, a First Class Petty Officer and four other enlisted. All travel airline tickets and bookings were made through the C-6 Division. Travel between Europe and the United States was constant, especially with the foreign NATO Officers working at SACLANT. There were always meetings going on at the NATO Headquarters located in Brussels, Belgium. My special duty watch, which was pulled twice every two weeks, was as duty driver. SACLANT had two vans and six government automobiles to use in transporting Naval Officers to and from the Norfolk Airport and to other areas within the Norfolk area. Our duty watch usually started after work that day and lasted until the beginning of work the next morning. Sometimes we had no calls on duty watch, and, at other times we were kept fairly busy driving officers around. I worked with several foreign officers and enlisted while at SACLANT. I worked with a Canadian Vice-Admiral, as well as with Canadian enlisted and German enlisted. Working at SACLANT was an international experience…………….SACLANT - THE SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER ATLANTIC(A NATO Organization – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization) The North Atlantic treaty Organization is essentially, above all else, a defensive alliance. Secondly, NATO is an inter-governmental organization; it is not in any sense a supranational body. Thirdly, in peacetime national forces receive orders only from their own authorities, although they hold exercises together. The military task of NATO in peacetime is to draw up joint defense plans to provide for the best possible use of NATO forces without delay in the event of war. The political task of the Alliance is to provide a forum for the consideration of and consultation on all political problems of relevance to its members or the Alliance as whole. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was signed on April 4, 1949 in Washington, D.C. and includes the member countries of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg , Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Turkey, United Kingdom, France and the United States. As of today, there are many more member nations in the organization. The NATO Organization is divided into three commands: The European Command, known as The Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), The Atlantic Ocean Command, which is subdivided into a number of subordinate commands: The Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT), The Eastern Atlantic Command (NORTHWOOD,UK), The Striking Fleet Atlantic (AFLOAT), The Submarines Allied Command Atlantic (Norfolk, U.S.), The Iberian Atlantic Command (Lisbon, Portugal) and the Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT). The Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT), like the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, receives his directions from the Military Commmittee. SACLANT’S peacetime responsibilities consist of preparing and finalizing defense plans, conducting joint training exercises, laying down training standards and supplying the NATO authorities with information on his strategic requirements. The primary task of SACLANT in wartime is to ensure security in the whole Atlantic area by guarding the sea lanes and denying their use to an enemy. SACLANT also has responsibility for islands in this area, such as Iceland and The Azores. SACLANT’S responsibilities are almost entirely operational. STANAVFORLANT is permanently attached to his command in peacetime. The Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT) became operational on March 12, 1952 and is located on the CINCLANTFLT Compound (Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet) in Norfolk, Virginia. SACLANT is composed of approximately 350 officers from the then fourteen NATO Countries supported by 180 United States and foreign enlisted men and women. I was one of those 180 enlisted to work for NATO……………………..EPILOG I served my three year active-duty with the United States Navy and was released from active-duty status to a three year inactive status. Fortunately, during those three years of inactive service I was never called upon to rejoin the active ranks due to sudden outbreak of war or other military conflicts. Although I put in a request for a six months extension of duty with NATO, it was eventually denied, mainly due to my billet already over-manned at SACLANT. I had the blessings of my commanding officers in my division who did not hesitate to request and approve my request for the extension but final approval was with the United States Naval Personnel Department headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana. As I packed up my belongings for the last time to return back home to North Carolina on August 25, 1975, I look back with fond memories of my life in the United States Navy and especially with the many friends that I accumulated over the three year period while stationed at SACLANT and the thirteen weeks that I spent at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois. I decided to get out of the Navy after my three year enlistment to return to school. If I had re-enlisted my next term would have been on the newly-commissioned aircraft carrier USS Nimitz which held a crew of 6,000 and was only half manned at the time with only 3,500 men. It would truly be the United States Navy and not NATO which was a totally different life. I look back at my military life and , in many ways, felt that I should have stayed in the Navy, but, I guess one follows their intuition and let things go from there. It was a happy time for me and I miss that particular part of my life, but, my intuition told me otherwise. My military life had come to a close................   

I thank you for allowing me to share this part of my life..............  I hope this article "refreshed" the memories of your time spent at Great Lakes Training Command - the good, as well as the bad memories - but , it was a great experience in the end. I shall never forget it as a young kid just out of high school entering into an unknown.

Please feel free to send me your comments, your stories and experiences while serving at Great Lake.


    David Wagner , Lumberton, North Carolina












Want to review or comment on this short story?
Click here to login!

Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!

Reviewed by Jansen Estrup 6/15/2013
You have a remarkable memory, or else became a skilled diarist at a young age. Didn't get to GLakes but shared similar experiences at Lackland AFB and RTC SDiego - you might enjoy the Chaser story on my site. Be well ...

Popular Military Stories
2. A Few Good Men (And Women). ...
4. 'I'm a Person, Not A Number!': My Story. (

Swift Boat Down, The Real Story of the Sinking of PCF-19 by James Steffes

This book is an eye--witness testimony to a tragic incident in the Vietnam War...  
BookAds by Silver, Gold and Platinum Members

U S Chemical and Biological Defense Respirators by Kalikiano Kalei

An illustrated developmental history of the American military chemical and biological protective respirator for use against war agents, this work provides photographs of actual res..  
BookAds by Silver, Gold and Platinum Members

Authors alphabetically: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Featured Authors | New to AuthorsDen? | Add AuthorsDen to your Site
Share AD with your friends | Need Help? | About us

Problem with this page?   Report it to AuthorsDen
AuthorsDen, Inc. All rights reserved.