Part 2 of 3– My days in the U.S. Navy
(Part 1- blog can be read here: john-douglass-shares-his-veteran-experiences Part 3 to follow later this year)
During April 2018, The Ledger ran a supplement entitled “Vietnam – Those Who Served.” The writer began by saying, “Understanding the Vietnam War is an almost insurmountable task, but let’s look at one key fact that many people do not know: The majority of military personnel played support roles.’’ This would certainly describe my four years of service in the US Navy.
Following graduation from college in June 1969, I enlisted in the navy. My draft number was low so I knew I would be drafted. After being sworn in, I reported to boot camp in January 1970. From there I attended school in Pensacola, Florida, for ten weeks and then received orders to the National Security Agency (NSA) at Ft. Meade, Maryland. I spent the next two years gathering special intelligence data as a CTA (Cryptologic Technician- Administration). It was those two years at the NSA that God used to prepare me for my next assignment.
I vividly remember waiting for my security clearance and thinking, “not one soul knows me for hundreds of miles…at last, I am free to do as I please.” Immediately the Holy Spirit reminded me that I was His child, and He was there with me. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” That week a young civilian invited me to a Navigator Bible study and Christian fellowship became a priority. The years at NSA were a time of commitment and growth.
As I approached my two year anniversary at the NSA I anxiously awaited orders to my next assignment. I selfishly asked the Lord to allow me to see some of the world, never imagining that this might involve duty on a ship. I knew something was up when my contact at the Bureau of Naval Personnel asked me if I was sitting down before sharing my next assignment to the USS Ranger (CVA-61). Upon finishing boot camp I had been told I would never be on a ship so these orders were a complete surprise.
Serving on an attack carrier was a totally new environment to me. I had no sooner arrived in Alameda, California, than a young man, not wanting to go to Vietnam, sabotaged the ship’s propulsion system, forcing us back into the shipyards for four months of repairs. I needed this time to learn my responsibilities since I was the only person in my rate on the ship.
I soon discovered that my clearance required me to deal with classified information that only the ship’s captain and our division lieutenant had. I knew my job required me to get into a safe and provide the support they needed when called upon. Fortunately, that only happened in a couple of instances.