Fleet Operations Control Center, Hawaii
December 1962 to December 1936
Two of us from the school class were selected for Chief and had our initiation at a nearby base. That was quite an experience. Like crossing the equator, I would not have missed the experience for anything!
The two of us, Gene Searcy and me, were now out of the day to day maintenance work. We got together with Chief Murphy and set up a study program for the ET's in the shop. The way it was set up was each week one of the men would be responsible for making up an exam to be taken by all the others in the division Friday afternoon. The test consisted of the number of questions that would scale down to a 30 minute test allowing exactly the same time per question as the full scale advancement exam. The questions were taken from what were called "horses", lists of questions that had been on past exams. They had to research each question and provide the references they used. They gave the exam and afterwards reviewed it with the group, explaining why the correct answer was the proper answer.
That system gave the one making up the exam excellent study of the material and the ones taking the exam learned to take the timed exam making the best use of the time available for each question. They learned electronics and how to take the exam at the same time. It was a great study program.
We also started a program of hands on learning electronics as well. We assembled a supply of resistors, capacitors, coils and misc. hardware for the men to be able to experiment and build any electronic items they wanted to. They would use the peg board to build the circuit and then could transfer it to a chassis if they wanted to keep it. It was not at all unusual to see projects in the making sitting around. That was another excellent training project. I was proud to be part of both of those projects.
Several of us were assigned to a project that was supposed to exclude me from being assigned overseas for over two years. There was a briefing theater for the upper level leadership. There were huge, wall size maps which could be rolled into or out of the theater on tracks on the ceiling. The maps were mounted on a cork surface and tiny neon lamps would be installed at specific targets on the map. We had the latitude and longitude of the target and would determine that location on the chart, drill a tiny hole, install the lamp and wire it to an IBM punched card reader. Since we knew the location of the targets we were considered a security risk if overseas and subject to capture. That would not have been a problem for me since I made a point of not remembering the locations.
I designed a system to improve the interpretation of the punch card data, spending days at a drawing board doing a wiring diagram for the system. I left Hawaii before the project was funded and have no idea if it was ever implimented.
Once I was a Chief I was added to the OOD watch list. The main duty involved was a tour of the entire bunker complex. That included the ventilation system which consisted of huge shafts we were required to walk through.
All that was visible above ground was a small fenced enclosure with the circulation system intake and exhaust, some UHF antenna and a Marine guard with a dog... and the huge parking lot. Would anyone be fooled into thinking it was only a pineapple field? Where were the workers belonging to all the cars?
Another of my assignments was production of a Phone Book for all of the Government facilities around the Pacific. There were a number of ladies punching the IBM cards and I was sorting them into the final order for the book. I also designed the cover for the book. I left Hawaii before it was finished.
I learned to sail while stationed in Hawaii. We sailed lug rigged dingys at the old WWII seaplane "runways". Years later my oldest daughter and her husband would be in the Army and stationed at the same facility and they would learn to sail much the same as I had.
I bought a second hand Sailfish which was
little more than a large surfboard with centerboard and sail. I could strap
it on top of the car and go to a small lagoon near our house. I loved to sail
up and down the lagoon, out into the main channel and up and down the channel.
When it was time to head for home I would have to tack up the narrow rock
lined channel back into the lagoon. That was the best part of the sail. Tacking
up a narrow channel with the danger of the rocks was demanding and exciting
and a wonderful way to end a great sailing experience.
We lived at Ewa Beach, across the main channel from the airport. When planes came in to land they must have had a light on top of our house that guided them right over us. They would be so low we could count the rivets on the wings. I watched President Kennedy's plane roar over our house as it landed once.
I recall the moment I learned that Kennedy had been shot. I was in the ET shop with a few other men in the division. It was a real shock.
My wife and two daughters had returned to CONUS for Carolyn to be close to her family while being treated at a hospital near Columbus, Ga. I left on Emergency Leave on a flight to Travis Air Force Base near San Francisco. Once at Travis I had to catch a flight to the east coast. I followed the detailer with his clipboard with the names with my finger on my name on his list until he finally said that I would make the flight to get me to leave him alone.
Chief Searcy and I applied for the Limited Duty Officer (LDO) program and I just completed the round of interviews and tests before I left Hawaii.
The class from Great Lakes reassembled in Hawaii to maintain the digital encryption equipment for TV briefings for the Admiral at his regular office and quarters at Fort Smith. One problem, it was still being installed and debugged by the contractor. So, what to do with seven ET's assigned to maintain a piece of equipment that isn't ready to be maintained? Well, we were spread out to assist in any area that could use an extra little bit of help. I got experience with some of the most interesting things in my relatively short tour in Hawaii.
There were some very interesting people in the ET shop. On was an ET1 whose hands would shake a lot. He would come into the shop to start the day, get a cup of coffee and take it to his position at the work bench go back to the coffee pot, get a paper towel and retrace his steps wiping up spilled coffee... all the time carrying on a dialog without skipping a beat. I wish I could recall his name, he was a good man.
There was a full TV studio which broadcast pretty much a full news broadcast including the weather. I didn't do a lot in that area but would be down there for broadcasts from time to time. It was interesting to see how a TV broadcast with fade ins and fade outs etc. was procuced.
An interesting thing about the TV studio was that access to it was a spiral staircase and there was an "Out only" door on the lower level. There were Marine guards posted at the entrance to most spaces in the bunker complex. Some times I would go into the studio area past the Marine guard, leave by the lower exit and go back up to go back in past the guard again. The look on the face of the guard was priceless. He must have been wondering if he zoned out and missed me leaving earlier.
On the subject of Marine guards; one night guards at posts near each other got bored and started doing "quick draw" with their weapons. One took it too far and shot his buddy! I believe the Marine who was shot died but I am not 100% certain.
At home on Emergency Leave I applied for assignment to the Navy Reserve Training Center in Columbus, GA for a four month tour of Humanitarian Transfer. And that is how my next assignment came about. And what an assignment it turned out to be! To find out what happened next you will have to check out the next chapter in this saga...
Chief's Initiation slide show