Like everyone else in Company 314, I was happy that boot camp at NTC, San Diego was finally over. Some of the newly enlisted sailors already knew that they would be going on to specific training schools, while the rest of us were left with the uncertainty of not knowing what our first duty stations would be.
So after a short leave I returned to NTC and learned that I was to be transferred to a new duty station, but no one would tell me what (or where) it was. Along with a group from my boot camp company I was then taken to NAS North Island, San Diego, to be flown to our new and very mysterious assignment.
Speculation was rampant that, wherever we were going, it must be some distance away because the Navy was flying us there. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that our destination was Long Beach, California (about 100 miles north of San Diego).
It didn't take long for us to figure out that we were bound for the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. Once there, we were herded aboard what seemed to me to be a very large ship, the USS Salisbury Sound (AV-13).
'Great assignment,' we all thought, looking around, as she seemed to be a fine ship. But our enthusiasm went downhill fast when we learned that we were there for a one-month temporary assignment and that our job would be scraping and painting ballast tanks.
Now, if you think chipping paint and swinging a paint brush in the dark, airless confines of a ballast tank is easy or pleasant work, you have never done it. While we were provided some sort of a breathing mask and air was pumped down to the tanks, I must have done something wrong because during the second week I passed out in the tank and was taken to sick bay.
The next day I was back on the job, none the worse for wear, but the work was still there and it hadn't gotten any easier.
I found myself counting the days until this assignment was over, and then I saw a notice posted on the ship's bulletin board that changed my life. The ship's company was seeking a yeoman striker. Since I could type and write reasonably well, it seemed like a great alternative to scraping and painting ballast tanks.
I applied for the job, and found that it was in the Captain's Office. There was only one person in the office, a YN2, and he needed a "gofer"-someone to do the filing and miscellaneous typing, etc. Everything fell into place and within a couple of days I found myself working as a yeoman in the relative splendor of the Captain's Office, a big upgrade from the ship's ballast tanks.
Thus began my nearly four-year adventure on the Sally. She did indeed turn out to be a fine ship, and with my new change in career paths, I had found a home. But as much as I enjoyed the Navy and the many great guys I served with, I had yet another career path in mind as a civilian.
After leaving the Navy, Tom returned to the University of Idaho where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business, and passed the CPA examination the same year. He was hired by an international public accounting firm in their Seattle office, but a year later transferred to Los Angeles. He became a CPA in both Washington and California and spent 29 years with that firm, retiring as a regional managing partner.
Following retirement, he built a home in Fallbrook, California where he still lives today. He keeps busy doing volunteer service for a variety of organizations and working with SeniorNet in educating senior citizens on the use of their computers.