Frigate Quartermaster

adapted from the unpublished memoirs of Henry Cordova, QM2

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In 1966 I Joined The Naval Reserves...

My military duties were minimal. One weekend a month was spent at the local Naval Reserve unit in Tampa, Florida, and soon the unit got its own ship, a beat up old destroyer escort of World War II vintage, the USS Beatty. We even managed to sail the Beatty in and out of Tampa Bay a few times. These drills got us oriented to military life, and we learned who to salute and how to wear our uniforms while we watched movies and read books and took correspondence courses in basic military skills. For our yearly drill, we were shipped out by bus to pick up the Beatty which had been sailed up to Mobile for some yard work. Unfortunately, she sprung a leak coming out of dry-dock, so we wound up taking the bus back home.

I was sent to two weeks of boot camp at the Naval Training Center at Great Lakes, Illinois, a far cry from the eight weeks most Regular Navy recruits got. It was a ghastly time, and seemed to last a lot longer than two weeks, but the final result of all this nonsense was that we reservists got to go into the fleet with the rank of full Seaman, while the regular Navy types, after a much more rigorous basic training, went in as Seaman Apprentice, or even Seaman Recruit. They had a four to six year service commitment, we only had two years of service in the fleet and then we could go back to our weekly drills and civilian life. Needless to say, the regular Navy guys loathed the Reservists. The fact that most of us had some college further infuriated the Regulars; from our point of view, we felt that we had to be smarter because we had negotiated a better deal.

I just didn't want to wind up in the infantry. I would go to war with three square feeds a day, a shower every morning, and a nice warm fartsack to crawl into at night. And if there was any shooting, the Captain had as good a chance of getting wasted as I did. Still, these were not my major priorities; if I had been given a choice between two years in the Marines and four in some other, more comfortable service, I would have gone with the Jarheads, even with its risk of winding up as a combat infantryman. My major desire was to get out of my military commitment as soon as legally possible, and the Naval Reserve gave me that opportunity. Refusing military service on conscientious objector grounds would have been dishonest: I wasn't one, although I have always respected those who were willing to jeopardize their futures and careers because of a sincere pacifism. The kids who went to Canada were heroes if they did so out of a genuine moral opposition to the war. The only other alternatives for me were to either stay in school (not an option) or get married and get pregnant. That alternative was out of the question! Politically, my views about the war were relatively neutral. I didn't think we had a right to be interfering in another country's civil war, particularly when the side we supported was just as bloodthirsty and vicious as the Communists, and corrupt to boot. On the other hand, I actually believed in the domino theory: I was convinced that if we didn't win the war it was inevitable that the Reds would take over all of Asia. It is obvious now that we were all mistaken about that. The one thing I wasn't mistaken about was all that John Wayne crap about us fighting for freedom and righteousness.

I was in the USNR just a few weeks when I heard that the Reserves had met all their recruitment quotas and were not accepting any more volunteers. I can't help it if I'm lucky.


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