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Being in the Navy reserve I was required to go on a two week cruise during my first year in the reserves. Can you believe it, the Navy sent me to Fort Lauderdale Florida for Easter Vacation in 1966. It was a two week cruise on the Destroyer USS Henley.

Going to the ship

The Navy sent a bus to pick up a bunch of us Naval Reservists from my Navy reserve unit in Poughkeepsie NY. We went by bus to Norfolk Virginia where the USS Henley was stationed. So you can tell that I had a lot of people with me on the ship that I already knew.

Norfolk to Fort Lauderdale

Of course I got sea sick the first time out. You will find out that is a habit that I did not get rid of too easily. I of course wanted to be an Electronic Technician (ET) because of my trade school training and experience at IBM. The Navy of course had their own idea about what I was to do on this cruise. This is the cruise where I learned to steer, sorry I mean I learned to be a helmsman. It is pretty dramatic on how just a couple of degrees off course can send you far from where you wanted to go. For General Quarters (GQ) I was stationed in the forward gun turret. You can see it in the picture. My job was to keep the guns loaded with 5 inch shells. Its amazing how much they weigh and how fast they can fire them. It was somebody else's job to put the black powder charge to propel the shell. I don't think they trusted a reserve with gun powder. The one thing that I did notice about the sea was the big difference when we went thru Cape Hatteris. Beside being one of the roughest places to be in the ocean on a calm day the water changed. I mean it went from green to blue. You could actually see the change take place, like a line drawn in the water. One side green and the other side blue. Fantastic!

My time in Fort Lauderdale

Enough about the cruise. How about my time at Fort Lauderdale The ship pulled into port on Friday. I of course pulled duty for that day. That did not bother me since that gave me Saturday and Sunday off the ship. First thing I did Saturday after leaving the ship was to hit the beach. The beach in Fort Lauderdale is just beautiful. The sand was just wonderful and it was nice and warm for April. The beach was defiantly crowded with college students. I fell asleep on the beach for 3 hours. Now in April the sun has less atmosphere to travel thru and is very powerful. Amazingly I have never had a sunburn and I did not get one that day. After 3 hours of laying on y stomach the back of my legs were just a little warm. On my return to the ship on Sunday night I saw many who were not so fortunate. After the beach I went to get something to eat. The people of Fort Lauderdale are just great to Navy personnel. I think they may be a little tired of the college students. I met very many nice people in the restaurant and none of them would let me pay for my own meal. Free meal, I can live with that. After my meal it was back to the beach. It was parties everywhere. The same as the people of Fort Lauderdale the college students loved a man in uniform. I did not have any problems going anywhere I wanted. It rained later that night, a real down pour, and I was too much of a mess to go back to the ship. If I went back they would not let me off because I was wearing my last clean uniform and it was a mess from the rain. Being in the reserves I did not have a full compliment of clothes at that time. I went into town and found a motel to stay at. It was amazing. They asked to see my military ID. Guess anybody can buy a Navy uniform. They let me have a room for the night for $4.00. I talked to the college kids that had the room along side me and they were paying $30.00 a night for their identical room. I love the people of Fort Lauderdale. Next morning I went to breakfast, of course I was not allowed to pay. They even bought my cigarettes for me. This is where I got some cigarettes that were nicotine and tar free. Of course they were also taste free. That's not true, they had taste it was just a lousy taste. I spent the afternoon at the beach with all the college students and a couple of buddies from the ship. Around dinner time we all returned to the ship to have dinner and watch a movie on the forecastle. During the movie somebody of course asked me for a cigarette. I gave them the nicotine and tar free ones. They never asked me for a cigarette again.

Fort Lauderdale back to Norfolk

Monday we left Fort Lauderdale for maneuvers (war games) in the Atlantic Ocean. I don't remember a lot about the games. After the first day they took me out of the gun turret for GQ. Was I ever thankful for that. Keeping the gun supplied with shells was a very exhausting job. There was a plane that was toeing a target. You of course are not supposed to hit the target but come as close as you can without hitting it. Hitting the target is very expensive and if it is destroyed that ends the game with the guns. Of course we hit the target and that was the end of that exercise.

My next station was on the bridge. It was exciting being on the bridge, you could see all that was going on. There must have been 15 ships participating in the games. The idea of the games was to get us reservists prepared and ready for active duty. I remember the view as we cut across a submarines tail. Wow that was close I blurted out as the captain said to the helmsman "When I said smartly to port I did not mean that smart." We refueled at sea, that was a neat experience. Just about everyone was using semaphore to talk to the sailors on the oiler. We traded some movies with them that we had not seen yet. Before we knew it we were back in Norfolk and the bus was there to take me back to Poughkeepsie.

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