Today’s veteran: Paul Hydrick
Born: Orangeburg, S.C.
Residence: St. Marys
Service: Navy, six years
Duties: Gunfire control technician
Rank: Petty officer 2nd class
Recognitions: Vietnam Service Medal; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal; Combat Action Ribbon; Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal
Duty Stations: Vietnam; Philippines, Great Lakes Naval Station and aboard USS Shangri-La and USS Glennon
His story: Paul Hydrick took three years to earn his associate’s degree.
While he was proud of the accomplishment, Uncle Sam was not. He took too long to earn the degree, which made him eligible for the military draft.
But rather than let the military decide, he met with a Navy recruiter and expressed a desire to be trained in the computer field.
There were no available openings for training as a computer technician, but the recruiter suggested gunfire control, which required extensive computer training.
After 18 months of training, Hydrick was assigned to the crew of the carrier USS Shangri-La to conduct missions off the coast of Vietnam.
The ship launched jet aircraft on bombing missions day and night off the coast.
“It was very noisy,” he said. “They screamed like a banshee. You could hear the jets coming in and hear the tail hooks hitting the deck. I thought I would never sleep.”
The jets were loaded with so many 500-pound bombs, the aircraft would plunge nearly to the water when they were catapulted off the deck. Most of the missions were successful, but the crew lost one or two jets, he said.
The crew is also credited for saving a unit trapped by enemy troops by providing gunfire support.
“Pretty soon, they turned around and hauled butt,” he said. “They said it was a complete route. That’s a feel-good day when you can say you did your mission.”
The carrier shuttled between Vietnam and the Philippines, where the ship was resupplied and routine maintenance was performed. The ship also made a stop in Japan for work on a propeller and in Hong Kong for a port call.
On the way home, the carrier stopped in Australia.
“It was a great first cruise,” he said. “We went around the world.”
He was sent to Charleston, S.C. and assigned to the crew of the USS Glennon. The ship was sent to Key West, Fla. where the crew conducted training drills with ballistic missile submarines.
Hydrick said his job was to try to lock onto the submarines missiles when they were launched.
After he left the Navy, Hydrick worked in the electronics shops in the shipyards in Charleston and later at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.
“Having the associate’s degree was great,” he said. “Almost everything else I achieved was because of the Navy.”
Our Veterans runs Wednesdays. Contact Gordon Jackson at email@example.com, on Facebook or at 912-464-7655 to suggest a veteran for a column.