(Continued from “Forty Years Ago–A Departure”.)
The flight from Houston had a short layover at Los Angeles International before continuing on to San Diego. From there it was but a short trip to the San Diego Naval Training Center.
A few weeks earlier, I had ridden with a friend to the Manned Spacecraft Center, where he worked. He was loaning me his car for the day so that I could look for a job.
Even though I had already had several jobs, I had very little experience at actually looking for a job and, looking back now, I really didn’t have a clue then on how to do it. I basically spent the day driving around, eventually ending up in a shopping center in Baytown.
I really didn’t start the day even thinking about joining the military, but there I was, at a Texas strip mall that housed recruiting offices for Marine Corp, Army, Air Force and Navy. With the ongoing Viet Nam conflict, the first two had absolutely no interest for me. While I don’t remember much about it, my first stop was in the Air Force recruiter’s office.
The stop at the Navy recruiting office was more memorable. The recruiter talked about a number of options, but there was one that really caught my attention, the Navy nuclear power program. Not only did it offer interesting opportunities in the Navy, but the job experience gained might later lead to opportunities in civilian nuclear power. The main drawback was it required a six year commitment instead of the more common two or four year enlistments.
In the ensuing weeks, I qualified for the program through the advanced programs test, passed a physical, and enlisted in the Navy with entry delayed until the end of December.
One of the benefits of the program was that I would be entering the service at E3 pay grade, a seaman – equivalent to a private first class – instead of seaman recruit (E1). Completion of recruit training would bring automatic promotion to Petty Officer Third Class, equivalent to corporal.
Three different job fields were included in the program: electronics, mechanical, and electrical. I hoped for electronics, but I wasn’t going to learn which field I was going to be in until after further testing in boot camp. Of course, electronics was what most of those who enter the program hoped for and not everyone could get it.
January 1, 1972 was a holiday, of course, so there was no processing of the new recruits. Instead, we got to watch football games in the receiving and outfitting transient barracks.