Today’s veteran: Christopher Field, 67
Born: Ferndale, Mich.
Service: Navy, 3 years
Duties: Boatswain’s mate
Recognitions: National Defense Service Medal; Marksman Badge
Duty stations: Spain; Italy, Tunisia, Guantanamo Bay; Mayport Naval Station; Great Lakes Naval Station and aboard the USS Stribling.
His story: Christopher Field’s draft lottery number was never high enough for him to get called up for military service for three years when he chose to enlist.
“I got a wild notion to join the Navy,” he said. “I wanted to go by water. I didn’t want to get stuck walking through the jungle.”
He enlisted for three years with the understanding the Navy could assign him anywhere because he only signed up for a minimum commitment. Being several years older than many of the recruits helped his breeze through basic and advance training.
“I already felt confident about everything I was doing,” he said. “I had already been there a lot.”
He was trained as a boatswain’s mate and assigned to the crew of the USS Stribling, an aging World War II-era destroyer on its final deployment to the Mediterranean.
“A lot of old WW II boats were still in service at the time,” he said.
He spent more than two years at sea aboard the Stibling, where one of his duties was as sight setter on one of the guns when he wasn’t repainting the ship. He even had the chance to sight one of destroyer’s big guns for a target practice.
Most of the time, Field said he didn’t know where the Stribling was headed once they left a foreign port. There were times when he said Soviet jets would buzz his ship. Other times, he said the ship rode out violent storms.
“To me it was like a carnival ride,” he said.
The ship made many port calls during the Mediterranean cruise, enabling Field to go off the beaten path to check out the culture of many European countries.
“I liked it a lot,” he said. “I’d wander off in the neighborhoods I wasn’t supposed to go in.”
When the ship was at sea, Field said his work days were as long as 20 hours. The ship was equipped with electronic intelligence and experimental sonar equipment.
He served on the ship’s final Mediterranean cruise before it returned to Mayport Naval Station for decommissioning.
“They started taking off stuff the second we got back to Mayport,” he said.
He finished his tour of duty in Mayport before leaving the Navy to attend college. He said he learned lessons in the Navy that still help him today.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I’m glad I did it.”
Our Veterans runs Wednesdays. Contact Gordon Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 912-464-7655 to suggest a veteran for a column.