True Confessions

27 Jul

This short blurb began life titled “Why I do what I do” but True Confessions sounded more appropriate to me. This post was triggered by some remembrances brought about by reading an article in the latest K9YA Telegraph. I’m not exactly sure of the particular genesis but something in the August issue reminded me of how I came to be an Electronics Tech in the Navy when all along I really wanted to be a Radioman. Perhaps it was the link to a new book referenced on that site ( here) My inclination to become a radioman came from a pre Naval career as a Ham Radio operator and a burning desire to make radio work and reduce the “mystery” involved. Mind you I didn’t have a lot of on-air experience, however, I did know the code and was fascinated by wireless comms.

With a Tip O the Hat to my readers indulgences here, this is meant as a sort of fill in the blanks for my kids should they ever wonder why I spent so much time in front of a radio.

When I graduated from High School I didn’t have sufficient personal direction nor desire to go to college so my Father suggested (err.. entirely too calm a statement) the Military as a source of vocational training and perhaps assist in my maturation process. 🙂 I had many interests at this time of life, some of which included physics, radio, astronomy etc. Since the Navy had a great vocational training program for electronics and I had a hearty interest I joined up with the intent of going to ET School. Well best laid plans and all of that jolly rot…When one joins up the first thing you find out is that recruiter promises are “best effort” at most and pure fallderall at worst. When you get to “Boot Camp” your are subjected to a battery of aptitude tests to see the best place you can serve in Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club. Here then was the rub. It was 1963, October. Viet Nam was in full tilt and there were lots of openings for Radiomen on Swift Boats along the Mekong Delta. It seems they were sinking at a rapid clip just about then and so billets opened up swiftly – pardon the obvious pun. Not that Swift Boat duty wasn’t wonderful, but I wanted Electronics (32 weeks training at the time) and radio school was a long way short of becoming a technician with a post Navy jobs advantage over anything radioman related. There were only so many shore stations outside the Military and so post Navy jobs would be limited. So getting back to those pesky battery of aptitude of test, they included Morse Copy testing, Electronics, Maths, verbal component, typing and some others I cannot recall. Basically the Maths and Verbal components were sort of an IQ test and the others were really aptitude testing for much needed billets (such as radioman, electronics tech etc etc).

Okay, so where is the confession in all of this? Well as should be obvious, I need to fail typing and Morse and max math, verbal and of course electronics which was carefully disguised as a physics test. How did I manage to ferret this logic out while working eight to twelve hour days with no sleep and running around (in formation no less) getting all manner of shots and fitting into new uniforms that didn’t fit all the while trying to figure out what was happening to me?  I write it off to shear terror or good luck, I’m not sure which. At the end of the day I had successfully failed Morse -being careful to avoid missing all the characters as that would be a dead giveaway for sure and also the typing test which for me was dead simple. My manual dexterity to this day is, shall we say, challenged let alone a bleary eyed kid with no sleep in front of clacking infernal machine with no soul. It all seems so obvious now looking backward but it must have been terrifying to me but I try to blank that sort of memory out and in this case I seem to have managed that quite successfully!

At the end of the day I managed to manage my career and gave up my dreams of sitting circuits for old Uncle Sam. My dreams of enjoying the vagaries of HF propagation and challenging things like keeping terminations alive 24X7 while underway drifted into obscurity in exchange for a technical career that had some legs. And so here we are forty eight years later and I can safely say I have no regrets about any of it. But I am making up for lost hours sitting circuits by driving my family crazy wondering why I am so infatuated by radio. So, as Paul Harvey used to say; and that’s the rest of the story.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Maritime, Radio


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