A swabbie armed with Ordnance stories

By John Pierre | Dec 24, 2013

Did I ever tell ya 'bout the Navy?  Who moi?  Naaaa.   But I'll tell ya now.

Ya see, when I was a young feller, it was still popular to get into the military when a war was going on.  While I was still 16, the Korean War got underway.  I wasn't doing well in high school, so I walked out one day.  As I passed by a Navy recruiting station, I stopped in to see how I could get into their uniform.

I was told that I was suitable, but that I couldn't get in until I was 17 and only with one of my parent's permission.  So I proceeded on home to ask permission to get into the Navy where two of my older brothers were already involved.

My poor mama and papa already had a flock of kids, so when I asked my papa for permission to join the Navy, he asked, "When will you be leaving?"  Sounds hard, but times were a little tough and one less mouth to feed was encouraging.  A couple weeks later, I was sworn in on my 17th birthday in Seattle.

I had, with the recruiting Chief, selected Navy Air as my preference.   Soooo, when I arrived at boot camp in San Diego (it's no longer there), I had a single green stripe on my sleeve while everyone else in the barracks had a white stripe.  My position was not unlike the discrimination of which we hear.  I was the black sheep in a herd of white sheep.  I took a few lumps because of my "difference."

Tattoos?  Yup ... I got some ... because I was 17 years old and stupid.

I did, however, survive that experience with a couple of nose adjustments and, after a few weeks in "Ordnance" school in Jacksonville, Fla., where I procured two more green stripes on my sleeve, I was finally assigned as an Ordnanceman on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.

Bear in mind that "Ordnance" is entirely different than "ordinance."  Ordnance swabbies were the guys in the red jerseys who loaded and fused the bombs and rockets on the aircraft as well as loading and servicing the 20mm cannons on the crafts’ wings.

Before our AD-1 Skyraider proper-driven attack planes were launched, the Ordnanceman was required to slide across the deck, underneath the craft, to make sure that all of the bombs and rockets were properly secured, and the sheer wires (necessary to arm the weapons) were in place.  Upon our thumbs up, the plane was permitted to leave the deck.

During some periods, the work was never-ending, and we rarely saw our bunks.  A few minutes collapsing on the metal deck of the "ready room" were welcome.  Sometimes we went on for a couple of days without getting near our bunks or the very necessary showers.   It was one of those times when I felt important.

As I approach the sunset of my life, I sometimes look back on those days, often with a wish that I could live them over again.

The Navy became an important part of my life as it had been for my forefathers, my siblings and my descendants such as my son who spent six years lurking about in a nuclear submarine.

Anchors aweigh me boys!!!

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