U.S. Navy Memories Part One: June 1967 - October 1968
Navy Recruit Training Photo
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 articles, U.S. Navy Memories Part Two and Three: November 1968 - February 1970, I will highlight what it was like being stationed at Shulinkou Air Force Base in Taiwan and Hakata Air Force Base in Japan.
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 to put 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 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 on 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 dined 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, 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.
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 to 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 switchblades 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 the 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 assignment experiences in Taiwan will be described in part two of this hub.
What part of Navy life appeals the most to you?
Other Hubs Related to Navy Duty Assignments
- Why I Was in The Navy During The Vietnam War
Leaving the academic world and joining the Navy during the Vietnam War was a unique, trying experience. This hub details why I was in the military and chose the Navy to spend four years of my life.
- U.S. Navy Memories Part Two: My Taiwan Duty Assignment November 1968 - August 1969
My Taiwan duty assignment during the period November 1968 until August 1969 was an exciting time in my life. It gave me an opportunity to visit an exotic land and meet a lot of interesting people.
- U.S. Navy Memories Part Three: Temporary Additional Duty to Japan in 1969
In part three of a series about my U.S. Navy memories, I recall my temporary additional duty to Kyushu, Japan, in 1969. Read and find out how I liked my job, living conditions, and off-duty liberty.
© 2015 Paul Richard Kuehn