After seven months of Guidedmissileman A School and three months of Terrier BT-3 C School, I was finally ready to get to my first duty station. As you complete a Navy school, you are given a "dream sheet". Most every sailor knows what a dream sheet is and why they are called such. You put on the dream sheet three choices of assignment. They are called dream sheets because only in a dream will you actually get your pick. There's the doctrine of "The need of the service comes first". Out of our class of six, two guys got orders to NAND Seal Beach. Arguably the finest shore billet in the whole Navy. North Orange County and not too far from LA. Two others got new construction on the East Coast. George and me got NAD Crane Indiana. None of us ever heard of Crane and thought that maybe this was some lame brain's idea of a joke. It wasn't a joke and George and I weren't laughing.
Tom one of the East coast new construction guys was driving his brand new Corvair back to Maine so I bummed a ride with him so we could share expenses. This was in May of 1961 and the Interstate Highway System construction was just getting under way. We drove east on route 66 most of the way. Four years later when I drove the same route it was worlds different. The road was bigger , flatter, smoother and a lot less interesting.
The Mojave Desert wasn't at all like the deserts that I saw in the movies. Phoenix was still a sleepy little cattle town. The was The Whiting Brothers' chain of gas stations on 66 placed strategically apart. Every time the gas gauge dropped to 1/4 of a tank, a Whiting Brothers loomed ahead. We gassed up at Whiting Brothers until they ran out around Chicago. Damned near ran out of gas because we were so acclimated to stopping at the trusty Whiting stations along the way.
While in Cleveland, I bought my first car. I must regress a moment and state what my definition of Cleveland is. Cleveland is anywhere between Harrisburg Pennsylvanian and Chicago. The car was a 1957 Plymouth Fury. One of the very handsomest cars ever built in that era. It was as crappy as it was beautiful. It broke down almost as fast as I could fix things. For fifty years, I never bought another Chrysler product. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.
Somewhere between Pomona and Cleveland my advancement became effective. I left Pomona as a lowly GSSN and arrived at Crane as a full fledged third class pettyofficer. Crane was like being in a comedy movie. Everything was very strange. Crane was in the boondocks, 125 miles south of Indianapolis in farm country. The place was 110 square miles of stored ammunition. The central storage facility for both the East and West coasts. I was attached to Guided Missile Service Unit 219, gumshoe to the sailors. Crane had about 2500 civilian workers and maybe twenty sailors at the GMSU. At 1600, all civilians went home except for the base fire department. Fire safety was a major concern there. We had special conductive sole safety shoes issued to us to prevent static sparking, you had to grab a brass handle and you had to pass an automated conductivity test in order for the pneumatic door to open and all windows on any second floor had sliding-boards to facilitate a speedy exit should thing turn to shit. As a very small group of sailors exiled in the middle of nowhere, there was no regular facilities such as clothing and small stores, so Claude our Storekeeper made a jaunt up to the very large naval station at Great Lakes. We would make up our shopping lists and Claude would buy everything for us. In 1962, Claude came back from Great Lakes without any GS crows.
He was told that there was no such thing as Guidedmissilemen in the navy. He was offered no further explanation. Crows are navy talk for the rate insignia of petty officers. It gets it's name from the eagle above the chevrons. The officer in charge of the GMSU had to call Washington to find out what the hell was going on. What was going on was we were re-designated as Missile Technicians, MTs. In typical navy fashion, nobody bothered to tell the GSs, or the MTs or whatever. Next trip up to "the lakes", Claude came back with a bale of MT crows, no problem now.
We. as sailors, had a reputation to maintain and it was as if the locals expected us to perform. We drank heavily and handled high explosives while in that state. My best friend was Bart Hart a wiry self-proclaimed cowboy from Wyoming. Bart and I remained friends until the day he died a few years ago and I miss him much. We terrorized the local farm country, got into brawls as sailors are required by law to do and wooed the local country girls. Or should I say that they wooed us. Most of the local gals didn't much care for the rural life and they knew that sooner or later the sailors would be moving on. Either by transfer or discharge. Not one of my mates said I like it here, I think I'll stay. Because of this, the local girls wanted to meet and marry a sailor and a lot of them did marry their ticket out. In March of 1962. I reenlisted into the regular Navy for six years for a number of reasons; a large reenlistment bonus, orders out of rural Indiana and a billet at MT B School in Vallejo California. MT B School was, at the time, the most comprehensive school in the navy. Forty hours a week of what amounted to four years of a college level Electrical Engineering program. Very intense but it was fashioned so that after you graduated from B School you could walk aboard any ship or submarine in the navy and take over the missile division. We learned all about the Talos, Terrier, Tartar and Polaris missiles. The idea of my going through MT B School was so I could get accepted into NESEP, Navy Enlisted Scientific Educational Program. In NESEP you reenlisted for six years and would study Electrical Engineering at a school such as UCLA, Northwestern, MIT etc. After two years of successful studies, you would extend for another two years. This meant that if Uncle Sam gave you four years of collage, fully paid, you would give Uncle Sam back four years of your life. It was a very fair exchange in my humble opinion. As it is said, the best laid plans of mice and men... For political reasons, a feud between the FBI and the US Navy over my secret clearance, I was denied NESEP. I didn't cry about it. To this day very few people know about this, so I just carried on as a proud and loyal sailor. I had received an excellent technical education that has served me well to this day and I got to be a real sailor. A real blessing.
I finally got orders to a real ship as a PO2 with a hash mark on my sleeve without ever actually being on a ship. She was the aircraft carrier USS Constellation CVA-64. She was the second newest CVA in the navy, Enterprise CVA-65 was the newest. Apart from the nuclear power plant and the square island on the Big E, they were the same ship.