Navy Reserve Training Center, Columbus, Georgia
January 1964 to April 1965
Once in Columbus, GA I went to the Navy Reserve Training Center to submit a request for an extension of my Emergency Leave and was informed the best way to do that was to request a Humanitarian Transfer to the Navy Reserve Training Center for four months. I did and it was approved.
That was the beginning of one very unique and exciting year and four month tour of duty. There were two Chiefs at the command, myself and a Chief Hospital Corpsman. The other Chief was senior to me since I had only recently made Chief. There were nine enlisted men at the command and we stood watches in a nine section watch bill. Each evening and each day of the weekend one of us would be on watch and stay in the building over night.
It took a bit for me to be added to the watch list and only after standing watch with another member of the crew did I stand watch alone. That day finally arrived and in the wee hours of the night I was awakened by the ringing phone. It was the FBI reporting that the Commanding Officer of the Reserve Training Center was under arrest for federal theft of items from Warner Robbins Surplus center. I called the other Chief and we put our heads together to determine the procedures to follow in reporting the incident. I called Sixth Naval District Headquarters and reported the call from the FBI. I would find out much later that they already knew all about it!
That incident meant that everyone was frozen in their billets until the trial was over and his case disposed of. That meant that I would not be returning to Hawaii. Another development would change my Navy Career.
My duties were administrative dealing with the training and testing of the Navy Reserve when they were there for drill weekends. I administered the advancement exams. One Machinist Mate second class could not take multiple choice tests. However, he was a master machinist and knew the material better than most. The second time I administered the test to him I administered the tests for everyone but him then took him to my office and read each question to him but not the multiple choice answers. He would answer the question and I would mark the answer that he gave me. He passed with flying colors and was advanced to first class. I have been proud of that ever since. He would simply lock up when faced with the multiple choices. Later I would administer advancement exams aboard the USS Everglades AD-24.
The two windows on the right front face of the building were the windows in my office. A corner office . . . I believe the only time I had a corner office even when I was a Director of Operations for a Taco Bell Franchise or Comptroller of another Franchise.
One stormy Saturday I had the duty and when it was time to raise the flag in front of the facility I dashed out and ran the flag up the flagpole, saluted and ran back inside to get warm and dry. Some time later a Navy Commander rang the door bell and when I opened the door he asked what the problem was. I replied that there was no emergency or problem. He informed me that I had the flag upside down which is a signal of distress. I thanked him for informing me and ran back out to rectify the mistake.
I repainted the sign for the facility. That was a long and difficult project and my daughters still talk about that once in awhile.
When I began my tour at the Reserve Training Center I was told all the stories of incidents that had occurred over the history of the facility. The time they couldn't get in the building and the watch on duty didn't answer the door bell. When they broke in they found he had used the weapon to commit suicide. There was the time the watch was working on a wood working project and ran a thumb through the planer. He spent the rest of the watch curled up on the bed trying to keep the bleeding under control. I would become one of the stories told to all new members of the crew.
I would drive by the local jail where the former Commanding Officer was held as I went to and from work. It was a creepy feeling. Eventually his case was disposed of and he began serving his sentence. Now I was free for reassignment. It was at that time that a letter was received by the current Commanding Officer. He called me into his office and told me he had a letter offering me a commission as an Ensign in the LDO program and wanted to know if I was prepared to accept the commission. I told him that I would decline. My wife was divorcing me and I didn't feel I could accept. He refused to take my answer for a week and at the end of the week I had changed my mind.
Then I had to get Navy Officer uniforms. There is no Navy Uniform shop in Columbus, GA. So, I went to the Army Uniform Shop at Fort Benning, GA which was just outside of Columbus. They had never dealt with navy uniforms and I had a dickens of a time getting them to put the gold stripes and stars on the sleeves of the dress blue uniform properly. Then I went to Fort Benning to be sworn in as an Officer. A marine Lt Col swore me in. I had a silver dollar with me and as I left the base a soldier saluted as I passed, the first salute from an enlisted man. I stopped him and gave him the silver dollar and thus continued the tradition for first salutes. He was one surprised young soldier and no doubt was motivated to salute any officers from then on in hopes of getting a silver dollar.
Back at the Reserve Training Center I had one or two weeks left before leaving for LDO School in Newport, RI. It was awkward for me to have to sit around on Friday morning while one of the other men in the command cleaned my field day assignment - my office and the Officers head. I felt like I was not doing my duty.
That was how the next adventure in my career began. But, of course, that is another story. So, to find out about that adventure you will have to follow me to...