Today’s veteran: Pamela Bailey, 61
Service: Navy, 4 years
Rank: Petty officer 3rd class
Recognitions: Good Conduct Medal
Duty stations: San Diego, Calif.; Orlando, Fla., Norfolk, Va.
Her story: Pamela Bailey was 21 years old when she decided to enlist in the Navy.
“I was looking for a change in my life,” she said.
She chose the Navy because she had friends who were already serving in the sea service.
Bailey said she wanted training in a clerical position, but there were no openings available. Instead, she was trained as a radioman responsible for ship communications.
The job required her to learn Morse code, data entry and many of the clerical skills she wanted to learn.
She was assigned to a base in Norfolk, Va., where she worked 12-hour shifts, mostly at night, communicating with ships and tenders. The vessels would contact her once an hour with an update on their operations.
Some messages were coded, and she would pass those onto a higher ranking sailor for decoding.
“You had to have a high security clearance to be a radioman,” Bailey said.
It was not an exciting job, but she learned many administrative skills and got a lot of satisfaction being part of a team responsible for communicating with the ships.
“I was excited to be in the military,” she said. “Everybody had a distinct duty.”
Bailey took the initiative to learn more about the job from her superiors at a time when few women served in the Navy and even fewer served as radiomen. She said she was given more and more responsibilities as a result of her initiative.
“When you are in the military, you have to be a team player,” she said. “You had to know who you were. It was a job unlike any other job.”
She left the Navy after completing her four-year obligation and with the skills necessary for her success when she returned to civilian life.
“I love that I served my country,” she said. “It really paved into my clerical and administrative career. It’s the second-best choice I ever made, other than being a parent.”
It also taught her how to deal with a wide variety of people with different backgrounds.
“The life lessons you learn as a person, you learn the rest of your life,” she said. “I learned to network with people from all walks of life. You have to try to assimilate.”
Our Veterans runs Wednesdays. Contact Gordon Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or at 464-7655 to suggest a veteran for a column.