Todays veteran: Arnie Mount, 68
Born: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Residence: St. Marys
Service: Navy, 25 years
Duties: Communications officer
Rank: Lieutenant commander
Recognitions: Vietnam Service Medal; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal: Navy Commendation Medal (twice); Meritorious Unit Citation: Battle “E” Award; Good Conduct Medal (three times); Dolphins Pin
Duty stations: Vietnam; Okinawa; Japan; Puerto Rico; Hawaii; Long Beach, Calif.; Orlando; Maryland; Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay; Charleston, S.C.; Bahamas; and aboard USS Enhance; USS Vital; USS Guitarro; USS Robert E. Lee and USS Simon Lake
His story: Arnie Mount tried to enlist in the Army as a tank driver, but his recruiter told him he was too big to qualify for the job.
He headed to the Marine Corps office to see what his options were. A Navy recruiter offered him a cup of coffee, and the two began to talk.
Mount gave the recruiter his top five choices, with medical corpsman listed as his first preference. He ended up being assigned for training as a radioman — the last job on his list.
After completing advanced training, Mount volunteered to serve in Vietnam. Instead, he was sent to Okinawa, where he worked at a Navy communications station for nine months in support of the war effort in Vietnam.
He was sent to Long Beach, Calif., as part of the decommissioning crew for the USS Enhance, a mine sweeper. Ten months later, he was assigned to a river patrol boat unit in Vietnam, where the ongoing joke was they’d repair the boats in the daytime and the enemy would blow them at night.
He served in the unit for 13 months but never had to accompany the riverine units on patrol.
“We stayed in constant contact with the patrols,” he said.
After his tour of duty in Vietnam, Mount was sent to Charleston, S.C., where he was assigned to the decommissioning crew of the USS Vital, another minesweeper.
His next duty station was in Puerto Rico, where he worked at a Navy communication station responsible for messages to ships across the world.
He tossed a coin to determine his next duty station. He didn’t want to go to Norfolk, Va., and his other two options were Diego Garcia, a base in the Indian Ocean, or volunteer for submarine service aboard the crew of the USS Guitarro, based in San Diego.
He was a petty officer 2nd class at the time he was assigned to the crew of the Guitarro, but his rank didn’t give him any preferential treatment. The vast majority of new crew members attended submarine school before their first duty assignment, which made qualifying for his Dolphins Pin especially challenging.
Sub school graduates learn all the basic components, including fire control, location of all the key systems and other procedures unique to submarine service.
“I was expected to work eight hours a day, study eight hours a day and sleep eight hours a day,” he said. “I was at quite a disadvantage.”
His first patrol lasted 140 days, during which the crew played cat and mouse with Soviet Union submarines.
“It was scary at times,” he said. “Our job was to seek other submarines.”
After serving aboard the crew for three years, Mount was sent to Japan, where his executive officer had served on submarines. The officer encouraged Mount to apply for the limited duty officer program. He learned he was accepted in the program shortly after he earned the rank of chief petty officer.
After undergoing officer training, he was sent to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, where he was assigned to Submarine Group 16 and served as communications officer aboard the USS Simon Lake.
He spent the next 12 years at Kings Bay ensuring the communications aboard the vessels met Navy standards. He did a 70-day patrol aboard the USS Tennessee, the first Ohio-class submarine to arrive at Kings Bay.
“It was like being on an ocean liner,” Mount said.
His last duty station was in the Bahamas, where he was the range safety officer.
After 25 years in the Navy, Mount decided to retire and return to Camden County, where his wife worked as an elementary school teacher.
“It was time to go,” he said.
Mount said he didn’t know much about the world when he enlisted in the Navy, but he quickly learned.
“It was the best thing for me to grow up,” he said. “It taught me camaraderie and tolerance. It was the best exposure to have to be a better human being.”
Our Veterans runs Wednesdays. Contact Gordon Jackson at email@example.com, on Facebook or at 464-7655 to suggest a veteran for a column.