Dan at Great Lakes Illinois

I spent eight months at Great Lakes Naval Training Center learning electronics. That's eight hours a day of school, which consisted of "A" School (electronics theory) followed by several months of "C" schools on maintaining and troubleshooting specific systems such as (in my case) Radars and repeaters (the scope) and IFF. The funny thing about that is that when I enlisted I was designated a Comm ET, but when I got to my specialty schools, the Comm section was shut down for renovation, so they sent me to Radar school instead.

This had some interesting effects on my career. For example, in Radar most everything was digital (even back then) but the Comm ETs weren't that familiar with digital. When I got to my next school (crypto) I was an ace, because all the crypto stuff was digital, and the Comm ETs were somewhat lost.

Here are some shots of my barracks room at Great Lakes.

I lived with my roomy, Phil who had been in the Navy about a month longer than me. Notice he's a Third Class Petty Officer in this shot.

I did really well in ET school, I ended up at the top of the class, and every Friday when we took our weekly tests, I would invariabley be at the top of the grade sheet. Because of this, I was offered the chance to become a Night Study Instructor. Students who did poorly were assigned two hours of Night Study every night and they used top rated students as instructors. Actually, mostly what we did was tutored, answered questions and keep discipline. However, I began giving lectures too, and the management really liked that. So instead of having to do nighttime watches in the barracks and occasional weekend cleanups, I spent two hours after "chow" (dinner) at school teaching, for a total of 10 hours a day at school. Pretty intense, but it was great duty. Of course by the time I hit the base pub, most of my friends were pretty snockered so I had the advantage in the video games as I was two hours of drinks behind them.

I had lots of friends in ET school, Steve Braley and I became friends because in the Navy, they always line you up alphabetically by last name, so me and Braley always ended up together, chatting. Braley's name looks a lot like Bradley, and he hated when people called him Bradley.

In the picture above on the right side you can see one of four identical barracks that were used exclusively for the ETs. Pretty nice digs!

Another friend, Randy Graham, who did not invent the Candy Gram, (a little joke there) had a really hot 'Cuda, with a 318CI Hemi engine and a "Slap Shift" shifter. Randy and I met along with Doug Houghton in San Diego during BEEP (Basic Electricity and Electronics) school. After that we got transfered to Great Lakes and ended up in the same class together.

Randy used to drive me around in his Cuda all over the area. One time we were driving up Lakeshore Drive towards Kenosha and Randy started to race this guy in another hot car. Randy used the Slap Shift to great effect, until he accidently threw the car in reverse instead of overdrive. Oops, but the car recovered, and he was relieved.

Randy didn't stay with us long, he had trouble keeping his grades up and got sent to Night Study to try to bring up his grades. When that didn't help they sent him to OCS, not Officer Candidate School, but Over the Choppy Seas, without his promotion to Third Class Petty Officer. We missed Randy after that, he was a good guy.

To stay busy, I decided to build a "free flight" model airplane. That's just what it sounds like, no controls, just toss it into the sky and watch it fly.

It came out really nice too!

So one weekend after I finished it, my friends and I went out to an empty sports field on base to fly it. It took forever to get the motor started, I couldn't "bench run" it in my barracks room after all. When it finally started the prop cut my finger, I was so pissed I tossed the plane in the air and it flew!

It slowly climbed while gently turning to the left, then it started diving directly toward the base swimming pool full of people! They started screaming as this uncontrolled missile did what appeared to be a strafing run at them! But as it came around it started climbing again, and eventually spiraled very high up, where it ran out of gas and started gliding. We followed it as it glided over the base and it seemed to land on the roof of a building. I climbed up on the roof and found that the internal counterweight had ripped through the inside, destroying most of the internal structure. When I reached the edge of the building where my friends were waiting I tossed it down and it crashed onto the pavement.

Braley was pissed, he was hoping to see it fly again, but it wasn't meant to be.

After I got into Radar school my grades dropped. It took me a while to figure out how to troubleshoot, which we did precious little of in A school. That allowed a classmate, Hanson to take over the top spot. I eventually got the knack of troubleshooting and became very good, but never overtook Hanson, so he stayed in first place, with me in a close second all the way to graduation. My instructors loved challenging me by putting tougher and tougher problems into the radar systems. They would do really mean things like put a blown fuse in a fuse holder AND replace the blown fuse indicator light with a neon light bulb. I told them that wasn't fair, but they said it happened all the time, so get used to it. This helped me immensely when I got to Australia where it seemed that everything had been screwed up like that.

I ended up being assigned to Class Leader, with Pat Kearney as my second in command. That was kind of fun, being at the top of the class, doing the Night Study instructor gig and being Class Leader. It seemed that I couldn't do anything wrong.

In the end Hanson got the title Honor Man which meant that he got his choice of duty. The dumbass chose a Naval Air Station near his hometown of Bishop, California. Serving in my hometown was not exactly what I had in mind when I joined the Navy, so I was actually grateful I didn't get the top spot after all. Sometimes it's best to let fate make some of your life choices, that's been my philosophy ever since. Besides, at my next stop, Crypto School in Mare Island (where I would return 4 years later to teach) I got the top spot, and so I was honor man.

After that I was off to my first duty station, San Nicolas Island.