Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day: Reflecting on my time in the Navy. f

Tomorrow we commemorate Veterans Day in our great nation and it always makes me reflect on my time in the service.

I thought I'd answer a couple of questions, an "FAQ," of sorts about my time in the service.  Yes I'm interviewing myself, haha.  But these are all questions I've been asked over the years.

When did you join the Navy and why?
I officially joined the Navy's DEP program in December of 1999.  It was my senior year in high school and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  My friends at the time had all begun to set their sights on colleges, applying for loans and various schools.  This was a very frightening concept for me.  No one in my immediate family had ever been to college, especially away from home.  My cousin Monica at the time had just made the decision to join the Navy.  She's actually six years older than me and called to tell me a little bit about the military.  When the recruiter called me and said if I joined I could travel and get money to go to college, I was sold.  I left for basic training in September 2000.  I was terrified and I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  My grandfather and uncle had both served in the army, but no one else in my family had ever been in the military.

How long were you in the military?
I was in the Navy from September 2000-September 2005.

Where were you stationed?
After basic training in Great Lakes, Illinois I was sent to my "A" school training in Fort Meade, Maryland.  Most people know that's where I met Ahron.  "A" school trains you for what you will do out in the fleet.  I took two courses at the Defense Information School, basic journalism and basic broadcasting.  Each course was around three months long with a three month break in the middle.  During that time I visited Washington D.C, Baltimore and Annapolis frequently.  It was the first time I began to realize how big the world really was.

My first set of orders came at the end of school.  Putting my faith fully and completely in God's hands, I chose to quote a bible verse on my dream sheet.  My detailer (the person who assigns you orders) decided to send me to the USS Frank Cable (AS 40) on the tiny island of Guam.

USS Frank Cable (AS 40) September 2001-November 2003.
This is where the majority of my Navy career happened.  Aboard this little sub tender ship in Guam.  I arrived to the ship just a week and a half after September 11, 2001.  Again, I was terrified.  Everything about that time in the world was scary.  We had no idea if we were going to war or not.  When I arrived to the ship, there was high security everywhere.  All of the hatches were shut and we had to access our living areas by scuttle.  Note: The images below are linked, they are not my images.
We were made to wear hard helmets and heavy bulletproof vests.  But as the serious terrorism threat waned, the ship returned to a lesser alert status.  My first six months in Guam were spent living on the ship.  My former classmates in college dorms had nothing on a navy rack.  See picture on right, this is all of the drawer space you have under a thin mattress.  Racks are stacked three high.

One of the cool things in Guam is that there were these little duplex type houses that weren't fit for families anymore, and so after six months us young sailors were able to move into the houses.  During the years I was onboard the Frank Cable, the ship was very active.  We sailed to Saipan (a neighboring island), Japan  (Yokosuka and Sasebo and I visited Tokyo, Atsugi and Nagasaki) Hong Kong, Queensland, Australia and South Korea (sadly I missed that trip because I went home to get married to Ahron for two weeks.  I learned so much being on a Navy ship.  When I look back now, one of the things I realize in retrospect is just how important it is to learn many things onboard, not just your job.  Everybody has to know basic firefighting, ship damage control and first aid/survival skills.  These are imperative to being a sailor.  Of course I hated learning these things at the time but they made me much more knowledgeable.

Toward the end of my career, I didn't care where I was stationed, I just wanted to be able to be with my husband.  So my detailer called in early 2003 with news.   I was getting new orders and would transfer in November.  So my next set of orders took me to a Navy Reserve Readiness Command in San Diego.

NAVRESREDCOM, San Diego (November 2003-September 2005)
I finished out my career in San Diego. Once Ahron and I moved in together I felt peaceful.  I loved the excitement of the ship and the camaraderie it brought, but I was ready to settle down.  Looking back, I was so young, I was only 21.  Who settles down at 21?  Apparently I do.
Work at the reserve command was so different from the ship.  Most days I did simple things around the office like keeping up with paperwork, scanning documents, taking award photos and networking with other public affairs personnel at other reserve commands.  There I also published a small work newsletter.

Why did you get out?
Ahron and I had only been living together for six months when I became pregnant with our daughter Elaine Joy.  As the time neared for me to make a decision about reenlistment, I had to consider that staying in the Navy would make us a dual service couple.  And since we were on the same rotation of sea duty/shore duty, in the future we may be deployed at the same time. The war overseas was just beginning to heat up and navy personnel were being sent to fight on the ground.  After Ahron and I talked it over, we decided it would be best for me to finish up my enlistment and I would stay home and go to school while he would continue the Navy life.

To this day, people will still ask me if I'm in the navy.  It's been just over 10 years since I've been honorably discharged.  I've now been out of the military twice as long as I was in.  Serving my nation in that way was one of the must honored, humbling experiences in my life.  Though I never saw the horrors of war (and believe me I consider myself very lucky) I can still say wholeheartedly, it was an honor to serve.
Thank you to all the men and women who we remember on this great day.

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