Friday, August 5, 2016

Another piece of paper...

Another piece of paper ... that my mom saved.  It's also another one that I had no idea existed.  It's a letter from the captain of the USS Long Beach, the ship I served on.  My mom probably didn't realize that this was a standard form letter, hand typed by a yeoman from a template provided by the Navy Bureau of Personnel (BUPERS).  The Navy did quite a few things like this, attempting in their ham-handed way to generate some good public relations through their enlistee's families.  My mom also likely didn't realize that this particular event being roundly praised (my advancement to DS2) was guaranteed, conditional on my meeting minimum requirements, by the six year enlistment commitment I'd made.  Part of that was fast-tracked promotion to E5 upon graduating successfully from “C” school (which I did) and passing the tests for E5 (which I also did, not long before this letter was typed up).

If you're unfamiliar with U.S. Navy enlistee designations, the “Data Systems Technician” was my rating.  It was often shortened to “DS”.  Basically a data systems technician was the IT guy of the day.  The job was a bit different back then, though: we did relatively little on software, configuration, or administration (tasks that dominate the work today).  Instead we spent most of our time doing actual electronic repair, right down to the component level.  We had to be very proficient with oscilloscopes, meters, Ohm's law, soldering irons, and so on to do the job.  A modern IT guy might not know any of these things, but can configure routers or administer the daylights out of a Linux system :)  The “Second Class” was my rank, the Navy's term for an enlisted person at rank E5 (which means fifth from the bottom-most rank).  The second class was often shortened to just “2”, and “DS2” the short form of Data Systems Technician Second Class.  The short form is certainly much easier to type!

That particular captain, Captain Frank R. Fahland, was known by the crew as “Frank the fish”, mostly for the appearance of his face.  May 1974 is quite shortly after I arrived on board the ship, and I'm certain that the captain had absolutely no idea who I was.  The ship had a crew of 1,200 men, and he and I had never met.  The boilerplate text in the letter is technically truthful, but for data systems technicians the competition wasn't all that keen – the Navy was desperate for more of them, and you had to be pretty darned bad to fail the qualifications :)

I'm afraid my mom was a bit deceived about the glory being showered on me by Frank the Fish :)

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