fter our 14 day leave, Jim and I arrived at the Class “A” Dental Tech School in San Diego in early November, 1963. We were in class 5-64. The Training Center was right next to the Recruit Training Center and it was then that I learned about the differences between Great Lakes and San Diego boot camps in regard to haircuts. The School consisted of three months of didactic work and one month of on the job training. That would be assisting dentists at the Recruit Training Center Dental Department.
It took awhile to get used to the idea that we could go off base if we didn’t have any duty. During the week, we might go to a local fast food joint for a burger but rarely went into downtown San Diego.
I remember we had our neckerchiefs rolled and tied at the "7 Seas Locker Club" so we wouldn't look so much like we were fresh out of Boot Camp. If you were careful, you could slip it on and off over your jumper collar and it would look great for a long time. I never did own any gabardine dress blues or have "Liberty Cuffs" sewn in overseas.
On weekends, we always took the Greyhound bus home. That was an adventure in itself. If we took the express, we would wind up at the downtown Los Angeles bus depot. Someone would have to pick us up from there. This was not the best part of town. If we took the ‘local’ bus, it would take us to Huntington Park, just a short drive from where we lived but…the bus would stop at every little town up the coast from San Diego and take at least twice as long to get where we wanted to go.
The courses we were required to take varied from dental anatomy to typing. We needed to be able to type 20 words a minute and fortunately, I had a year of typing in high school. I also remember sitting in class one November day when we got the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. It was a shocking and sad time. Classes were suspended for the rest of the day and Memorial Services were held later.
The last month of school was the “on the job” training portion. We assisted dentists that worked on the recruits coming through NRTC. I was amazed to learn how many of the recruits, from the South in particular, didn’t even know what a toothbrush was for; perhaps a brush for cleaning shoes?
The Beatles touched down in New York on February 7, 1964 for their first visit to America.
It was also during this last month of school we were to receive our
orders to our next duty station. If you were in the top 10% of the
class, you could choose your duty station. I was third in the class
so I was able to choose where I wanted to be stationed. Jim was also
in the top 10%. We thought it would be great to go to join Fleet
Marine Force and be stationed at Camp Pendleton, Ca. That way, we
would be close enough to home to continue commuting home on
weekends. I think we also figured it would be pretty cool since we
would wear Marine uniforms (This was around Feb, 1964 and no one had
even heard of Viet Nam). When we finally got our orders, Jim got FMF
alright…Camp Lejeune, N.C. My orders were for a two year tour at COMSERVPAC,
Hawaii. COMSERVPAC was the Service Command for the Pacific
providing "beans, bullets and black oil" to the Fleet. Duty
at COMSERVPAC was considered "Preferred Sea Duty". Jim and I were
going to be stationed separately for the first time.
We graduated on March 6th, 1964. That’s me circled. Jim is in the third row from the front and fourth from the right (between the two waves). Even though we were both now going our separate ways, I will always be grateful that we were able to use the Buddy System. It helped me get through being away from home for the first time, thrust into a totally different environment amongst complete strangers.
I recall we got 14 days leave prior to reporting to our new duty station. My orders said to report in at the 32nd St. Naval Station Transit Barracks, San Diego for travel to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The reason I was sent to 32nd St. was to wait until enough people for a flight to Hawaii arrived. I was there for about 4 days without much to do. Since I could type, I helped in the office. Finally I was told a bus would take the group going to Hawaii to Lindbergh Field. We left 32nd St. before noon. At Lindbergh Field we waited for our flight to Oakland, Ca by commercial airline. It would be several hours before our flight. Once we arrived at Oakland, we waited again for another bus to take us to Travis AFB for the flight to Hickam Field, Hawaii. We arrived at Travis around 10:00pm and the flight to Hickam wasn’t scheduled until early the next morning. There was a transit barracks we could stay at while we waited. A couple of us decided to take a taxi into the nearest town to see what we could. Travis is in the middle of nowhere and the nearest town was just a bump in the road. By the time we got back, I, like many others, just crashed in a chair at the terminal. We were finally told to board a MATS (Military Air Transport Service) aircraft for our flight. Lucky us…the plane was a turboprop and it took us 14 hours to fly to Hickam Field. We arrived late that afternoon and were then bused to the enlisted barracks at Pearl Harbor.