Glenn Barbee's Story
Navy Years (1953-1975)
In 1953, the Navy had a lot of programs to offer a high school graduate. The only thing I didn't have to offer the Navy was a diploma. I had to get by on raw brain power. Fortunately, I made an above average score on the pre-enlistment exam at the recruiting office and that gave me some advantage. I was able to get some priority on the list and did not have a long wait to get in. Good test scores also helped me later on when assignments were being made. After the physical exam in Charlotte, I was sent with the other candidates to Raleigh to be sworn in at the main recruiting office. There was no turning back after that. I was in!
Boot Camp for me was in San Diego, California. I had a lot of growing up to do and much of it happened over that eleven weeks. Although I did not know it at the time, the Navy was going to be my home for the next 22 years. A lot of things occurred in boot camp that formulated that and set the course for what I would achieve and become in the Navy.
Being a high school drop-out, I had no guarantee to a technical school. However, my good scores on the General Classification Tests (GCT) helped me considerably in getting some attention on this. The Navy considered me "trainable," and I was eligible for assignment to technical school, if available.
There was one particular event that I was able to piece together years later that bears relating here. All recruits go through an interview series during boot camp. The purpose is to gain knowledge of your prior experience and to help put you in the right job. My future was not too bright, and a career of swabbing decks was a definite possibility.
My interview was with a Navy Personnelman. He was a first class petty officer (a LOT of stripes, when you're a recruit looking up). What I didn't know, and would not have understood at the time anyway, is that the petty officer conducting the interview was a student in the Navy Personnelman School there at San Diego. The interview was part of his training and he was being evaluated on it. That didn't really matter, my future was firmly in his hands.
In the course of the interview, he asked me to describe things I had done in jobs held as a youngster. Pumping gas and delivering groceries are tasks that are easy to describe. When we got to the time I worked at Cannon Mills just prior to entering the Navy, it got a little more complex.
I worked in the Card Room of the cotton mill. Let me just say that this is a very early stage of working with the raw cotton after it comes out of the bale. It's a dirty area with a lot of cotton lint in the air. The card machines are mesh-covered drums that turn slowly to smooth out the incoming raw cotton and turn it into a continuous line of material, called roping, that is moved on for other processing. My area of expertise was on the mesh drums. After they ran for a while, the mesh would get filled with lint and they required periodic cleaning. I was a card stripper. ($1.15 an hour). At the prescribed time, I would perform a cleaning operation on a long row of these card machines. This consisted of engaging a flexible tube, like a built-in vacuum cleaner, and letting it run the length of the drum as it was turning. The lint held in the mesh was sucked out and it was ready to run another hour. Not exactly rocket science, but it was high tech to me.
I explained this as accurately as I could to the Personnelman First Class. At the end of boot camp, I was sent off to study electronics and eventually became a Fire Control Technician. No, I don't mean fighting fires, the fire I controlled was Naval gunfire. The equipment I worked with primarily consisted of radar, computers, and optics. I did very well in electronics and advanced quickly through the rates to Chief Petty Officer and eventually retired as Master Chief.
How did the Navy's personnel selection system work so well? Many years later, I ran across an entry in my service record made by the Personnelman back in San Diego in 1953."Has worked with vacuum tubes.Recommend electronics rating."
Thank you, my friend.
Recruit Training, San Diego, California Nov 53 - Feb 54
FT "A" School, Navy Rec. Sta., Washington, DC Mar 54 - Mar 55
USS Philippine Sea (CVA-47) Mar 55- Nov 55
USS Yorktown (CVA-10) Nov 55- Oct 57
FT "B" School, Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois Nov 57 - Dec 58
USS Renshaw (DDE-499) Jan 59 -Oct 60
Recruit Procurement School, San Diego, California Oct 60 - Jan 61
Navy Recruiting Duty, Bakersfield, California Jan 61 - Feb 64
It's not a job, it's an adventure!
USS Eversole (DD-789) Feb 64 - Oct 67
US Navy Electronics Supply Office, Great Lakes, Illinois Nov 67 - Jun 70
USS Ranger (CVA-61) July 70 - Oct 71
US Naval Mobile Technical Unit Seven (MOTU-7), Yokosuka, Japan Nov 71 -Jul 75
milestones during these years
My wife, Ayako, and I were married in Japan in 1960.
Our son, Allen, was born in 1962.
I completed my high school education and while at Great Lakes in 1969, I received my BS in Business Administration from Roosevelt University in Chicago.
While stationed in Yokosuka, Japan in the early 1970's, I had the opportunity to be a member of a great country band, The Stateside Ramblers. It lasted a year and a half, and it was a major high point in my life.
Contact: Glenn Barbee
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