U.S. Navy Memories Part One: June 1967 - October 1968

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Active Duty Naval Service

From June 15, 1967, until January 3, 1971, I served on active duty with the U.S. Navy. For almost three years and seven months, I was stationed on both stateside and overseas foreign bases. This experience in the Navy really changed my life by allowing me to travel all over the United States and to meet different kinds of people both in the States and abroad. Most importantly, it introduced me to the Chinese language which became a tool and asset for me in finding an eventual career in life.

In this hub, part one, I summarize my active duty naval service beginning with recruit basic training at Great Lakes, Illinois. I will then take my readers through two types of specialized training which took place at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and then at the Goodfellow Air Force Base Security School in San Angelo, Texas.

In my next hub, U.S. Navy Memories Part Two: November 1968 - January 1971, I will highlight what it was like being stationed at Shulinkou Air Force Base in Taiwan, Hakata Air Force Base in Japan, and Fort Meade in Maryland.

Navy Recruit Training Photo

Personal photo taken in July, 1967
Personal photo taken in July, 1967 | Source

Recruit Basic Training - June - August 1967

From June 15 until approximately the last week in August of 1967, I went through nine weeks of recruit basic training at Great Lakes, Illinois, just north of Chicago. An additional service week consisting of KP galley duty followed the first five weeks of training.

The basic routine was to attend classes each day related to Navy history, policy, ships, and job ratings in addition to marching and physical training exercises with an old M1 rifle. Besides passing basic Navy knowledge tests, we also had to pass three swimming tests, practice firing a 22 caliber rifle, and fight putting out fires for one day.

During the course of this recruit training, I had two 12 hour liberties. Our company was also bussed to Soldiers Field in Chicago to participate in a human flag formation on July 4, 1967.

The best part of recruit training was graduating and getting my next duty station orders for the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.

Defense Language Institute

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Defense Language Institute Chinese Mandarin Training - Sept 67 - July 68

I got orders to take a 37 week aural-comprehension course in Chinese Mandarin because I did exceptionally well on an aptitude test measuring ability to learn languages taken during basic training. After two or three weeks of home leave in September of 1967, I had my first flight from Milwaukee to San Francisco. After spending an interesting night and day in the City by the Bay, I continued in a small propeller plane to Monterey where my Chinese class was scheduled to begin around October 8. Arriving in Monterey approximately two weeks prior to the start of class, I was assigned temporary duty as a duty driver at the Naval Post Graduate School.

When my Mandarin course finally began, I was placed in a class with seven other enlisted Navy members. My class met six hours a day five days a week. We had a different native Chinese instructor for each hour of the day. Classes were conducted mostly in Chinese with an emphasis on listening and speaking. I thought the most challenging class was during period one when we recited in pairs short dialogs memorized the night before.

It was college life all over again staying in a dormitory and sharing a room with an enlisted Army guy who was studying Korean. We ate in a big mess hall near our barracks and had facilities for washing clothes.

On weekends, I had time to roam around Monterey and nearby Carmel Beach. During a few weekends, I would travel to San Francisco with classmates to watch go-go dancing on North Beach, dine in Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, and also go to Major League baseball games and see college football games at Berkeley. While in San Francisco, I especially enjoyed riding the cable cars from Mission Street all the way to Fisherman's Wharf.

It was sometime during the second week in July of 1968 when I finally graduated from my Chinese Mandarin course at DLI. My ongoing assignment orders were to Security School at San Angelo, Texas, but before reporting for duty there, a language classmate and I decided to stop in El Paso, Texas, for a three day vacation.

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Security School Training in Texas - July-October 1968

Rich or "Ranch" as he preferred to be called persuaded me to come along with him to El Paso, and then cross the border into Juarez to experience a taste of Mexico. We had some fun in Juarez, and I don't regret my only trip into Mexico.

How can I forget the serious trouble we almost got into after setting foot into a go-go bar in Juarez! It all came about when Ranch refused to pay extra money for ladies' drinks. As soon as we heard the switch blades open, we both ran for our lives out of the bar!

Our bus ride from Juarez to Chihuahua 3-4 hours south of the border was extremely interesting. The poverty that I saw in Juarez and Chihuahua really opened my eyes. In Chihuahua we ate in a cantina and had some great enchiladas with a beer for no more than a dollar. It was eerie riding that dark old bus through the desert and then suddenly seeing the lights on the horizon as we approached Juarez.

After arriving at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo three days later, we still had a week to wait before our security class began. Navy personnel on the base made sure we kept busy by serving as a color guard for a Navy veteran's funeral. We also all gave blood one day and spend two or three days on KP duty.

During the last week in July of 1968, my 12 week security class started. I had to go through this security class because I was being trained as a Communications Technician Interpretive Branch or CTI. What this meant was that I was going to be using my Chinese Mandarin training as a translator working with classified intelligence. To do this, I had to learn the basics of security and classified intelligence.

I remember that on some weeks our class met from 0600 to 1200. On other weeks, we were in class from 1200 to 1800. On weekends, my classmates and I would either go bowling on base or catch a movie at the Roxy Theater in San Angelo. On one or two occasions, we went to a real red neck country and western bar and dance hall called the Boots and Saddles.

By the end of October our security training class was over and I was excited to have two weeks of home leave before heading for my first overseas assignment. My overseas and stateside assignment experiences prior to my discharge will be described in part two of this hub.

© 2015 Paul Richard Kuehn

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Comments 15 comments

klidstone1970 profile image

klidstone1970 21 months ago from Niagara Region, Canada

Thank you for sharing your memories. They are indeed something that could never be forgotten. I can see how how this experience would be life changing for you. Best wishes to you, Kim.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 21 months ago from North Texas

My first husband trained at Great Lakes and I attended his graduation. I was still in high school. From Great Lakes he went to Vietnam and the Philippines, etc. He was in for only a short while, 2 years or so I think. He got out in 1969. You graduated just a few weeks before he did I think. He graduated in Oct. '67,

An interesting article that takes us all down memory lane and very good to see how you came to be where you are now. I think lots of people will find this interesting to read. Voted up and interesting, and sharing with HP followers.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 21 months ago from Houston, Texas

I had a brother in the Navy during the Vietnam era so can definitely relate to this time frame period. It would seem that your training served you well in the years ahead. Interesting learning a bit about your past. Up votes and will share.


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 21 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

Peggy W, Thanks for your comments. What was your brother's job in the Navy? Yes, my training served me very well in enabling me to get a job with the federal government. I'm happy you found this hub interesting and appreciate the up votes and sharing.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 21 months ago from New York

I've had family members in the Armed Forces, including my husband, but it is always interesting to hear one's experiences. Each one is unique especially since training varies so much. Thank you for sharing.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 21 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

Au fait, Thanks for commenting and relating your insights and experiences. What was your first husband's job while he was in the Navy? I appreciate you voting this hub up and sharing it with followers!


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 21 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

Mary, I'm very pleased that you enjoyed reading about my Navy training. It's almost 50 years ago, but seems like it just happened yesterday. In a future hub I will share some interesting anecdotes about my service in Taiwan and Japan.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 21 months ago from Houston, Texas

Hi Paul,

My brother served aboard the flagship of the fleet serving in Vietnam and never really did learn much that helped him after he got out of the Navy. As I remember he served in various capacities including such things as working in the laundry room. Ha! I am not sure if he simply was not offered better training or if he elected to not take advantage of it.

My other brother Jim serving in the Army was teaching people for the most part above his rank everything concerning helicopters. He was a crew chief on one in Vietnam and was rising in the ranks when the helicopter accident at Fort Hood ended his career. Almost took his life as well. He was one of 3 survivors of a deadly 2 helicopter crash at that site and never saw the outside of a hospital for the first 9 months. Was in and out of hospitals the remaining years of his life.

Both of my brothers are now gone so I cannot ask John (the one in the Navy) any questions as to why he did not get better training such as you did.


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 21 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

Peggy, Thank you very much for relating the service related stories of your two brothers. I am sorry that both of them are gone now, and it was really tragic that Jim was involved in the helicopter accident. During my first few days in the Navy, every recruit had to take a battery of aptitude tests to assist in determining what job rating they would be trained for. I happened to do well on an artificial language learning test and based on that was given a choice of Russian or Chinese Mandarin language training.


Don Bobbitt profile image

Don Bobbitt 21 months ago from Ruskin Florida

Great Hub full of good memories.

Me, I was in from 65-68. Boot Camp at Great Lakes, Electronic "A" School at Great Lakes and Radar "C" school at Brunswick Naval Air Station. Then on to the USS America (CVA-66) for the rest of my tour.

Lots of memories of my own from those days, including,of course, being spit on by war protesters as I left the base after a cruise.

Thank You Jane Fonda.

Oh Well, you have to take the bad with the good, they say.

DON


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 21 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

I hadn't realized that the armed forces were training enlisted personnel in languages like Mandarin. That could be a great selling point for an after-service career. This was interesting to read.


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 21 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

Don, It looks like you were in the Navy 2-3 years before me. Your schools and duty on the USS America seem very interesting. Did you call on any Far Eastern ports? It's shocking to hear that you were spit on. When I arrived at my first overseas duty station on Taiwan, a lot of the local people regarded us as "anti-Communist warriors to Taiwan!" I never was on a ship during my one tour. Thanks for the comments.


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 21 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

The armed forces has been sending both enlisted and officer personnel to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey since at least the 50s. Yes, language training is a great selling point for after-service careers. I'm glad you found this hub interesting.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 21 months ago from North Texas

Going to share and pin this article again, also putting it on FB. I think it's so wonderful that you've written these 3 articles, and that you're sharing them with everyone. I hope you'll consider writing about more of the time you were in service. There has to be lots more. Your friends and family are so lucky to be learning about your life during that time.


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 21 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand Author

Au fait, I will be writing at least one or two more articles about my time in service. I would like to write more, but there are a lot of things in the past service related which I can't write or talk about. Thanks for sharing, pinning, and putting this article on FB.

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