Steve Gibson

Steve Gibson

Life after Farfan

1961 - 1963


        Joined the Navy, very happy on 3/20/1960 in Columbus, Ohio, in short sleeve shirt… (weather - warm) and headed to Great Lakes (weather - cold), wondering what went wrong. After the rude-wake-up, got used to it and finished Boot Camp in June. Went to Bainbridge for RM “A” School. Waited in rain at Port Deposit for bus to the base. Whistle Stop Café wouldn’t let me stand inside out of the rain.

    Finished RM “A” with Orders to NavCommSta Balboa, CZ (designated specifically for NAVRADSTA Farfan). Went to Navy Receiving Station Brooklyn on New Year’s Eve to prepare for transit to Panama. Somehow got off the Subway at the Bedford Stuyvesant stop (Scary as hell up there). Ran back downstairs and asked someone what stop for the Navy Shipyard. USS Constellation was in the Shipyard, not yet commissioned (had already caught on fire once). Boarded a Troop Transport ship to Panama (Stopped in San Juan on the way for and had Liberty Call).

    Spent probably the best years of my Navy life at Farfan. Made RM2. NBA worked approximately 50 to 100 Navy ships through the Canal in coincidence with the Cuban Missile Crises. Shipped over in 1963 (Bonus $1065.00); Got drunk and spent much of it. 1963 USS Constellation came to Panama City in preparation of the “Unitas II” or “Unitas III” Operation… She had to drop the main mast in order to transit under the newly
constructed” Bridge of the Americas”. (Before the bridge was built there was only a drawbridge and a ferry crossing). Transferred out in late 1963 to RM “B” School Bainbridge.

    Completed “B” School in 1964 and went to KLB-47 Crypto Repair School at Mare Island NSY, Ca. in route to my first ship, USS Lansing (DER-388) in Pearl Harbor. This was somewhat of a spy ship steaming
around in the North Pac near Adak and in South Pac near the equator, keeping tabs on the Russkies. This skipper was a real prick, him and the XO were later involved in the “Arnheiter Affair” onboard the USS Vance another DER. The skipper was always busting my chops about being an RM2 with no previous Sea Duty. Took the Lansing to Bremerton in 1965 for Decommissioning. After the decommissioning I took a train (The Northern Flyer) 2 ½ to 3 day trip across Northern U.S. with shipmates for a final parting and party. Next ship was USS Sproston (DD-577) also at Pearl Harbor. Left that ship in Subic Bay and stayed Temp Duty at Navy Receiving Station Subic Bay for approximately 1 month then returned to the West Coast for duty at Navy Astronautics Group (NAG) at Point Mugu, Ca. Very good duty station made RM1 in 1966. Got orders to NMCB 62 and wondered what the hell kind of ship was an NMCB. Found out it was the” SeaBees” (Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 62) at Gulfport Mississippi. Went through 6
weeks of Field Communications training and Prisoner of War simulation training at Keesler Field, Air Force Base, Then to Camp Lejeune, NC for 6 weeks Search Evasion and Rescue Field training with the Marines.
Flew via C130, with Stops at Elmendorf AK and Tachikawa, JN, to Danang, AFB Republic of South Vietnam and convoyed to
“Red Beach” Danang, Vietnam, I Corp area with the Fighting SeaBees. Spent 8 months in 1967/1968 providing communications support for the Battalion while building Bridges, Roads, Helicopter Landing pads, Ammunitions Supply
Points, etc. At times convoyed on highway 1 from Danang to Hue, Phu Bai and back to Danang for support, until time for me to transfer out in August 1968. Was there during the “Tet offensive” on 1968. Learned very well how to keep my head down.

    Leaving Nam with no manifested flight, myself and four other guys Hitch-Hiked a ride with a pilot going to Kadena, AFB in Okinawa. Layed over in Okinawa for 9 days then caught a flight to Charleston AFB, SC and went home on leave. Went TDY to Navy Recruiting Station, Columbus, Ohio (Home) for three months waiting for my next duty
station USS Basilone (DD-824) to return from the Med to Newport, RI. Finally they decided to send me to pick it up in the Med… Flew to Rome and down to Naples. Spent another several months in the Med before returning to Newport. Went to Portsmouth NSY in Norfolk for KWR-37 and KW-7 Crypto Repair school. Back to Newport to the USS Gearing (DD-710). Later we decommissioned the Gearing and released it to the Naval Reserve Center at SUBBASE New London, Conn.
(Forgot to tell --- Got married just one month before going to Nam). Wife had my only daughter while I was on my
next Med cruise. Spent some time cruising the Caribbean as well as the Med. During the time on those two ships on Med Cruises visited the standard ports in Spain, Italy, France, and Greece as well as some other ports which were rarely visited by US Naval Ships. (Palma de Mallorca, Cannes France, Thessaloniki Greece, Bodrum and Izmir Turkey, Malta, Tunis Tunisia). Skipper had a girlfriend on Block Island, up in Mass. So we ended up spending some weekends on Block Island. Also spent some time in Boston NSY, Charlestown, Mass.

    Left that ship and headed to “Station Keeper/ Recruiting Duty” in Santa Maria, Ca. Wonderful duty. Training Navy Reserves as well as recruiting Regular Navy and Reserves. Had to set up booth on the
Campus at UCSB, Santa Barbara on some weekends. (Like Heaven)…. On the way to this duty station I had a stopover for Instructor Training School at Great Lakes.

    Left Santa Maria in 1973 and was sent to NAVCOMMSTA Guam (Later to be renamed NAVCAMSWESTPAC). While there I was sent with Federal Disaster Assistance Administration (FDAA) later to be named FEMA to Moen, TRUK Island (Truk Lagoon) Eastern Micronesian Islands for disaster assistance after Typhoon Pamela in 1974 or 1975 (Memory glitch). Some of the outer islands were completely submerged and inhabitants needed evacuation. Spent a wonderful couple of
months running communications for them to the home bases on Guam and San Francisco. Great place Truk Lagoon. While
Snorkeling you can see Japanese ships and planes sitting on the bottom of the bay at about 100 feet. (More than 100
Japanese ships and planes were sunk during that battle). You can dive on them but not remove anything. Still wardroom settings on the tables. Some very interesting stuff down there. Al Giddings from National Geographic was there making a documentary while we were there. There is an old Japanese Fort which has a log book of visitors. Shows that JFK and
some other of his family had visited there.

    Had a great duty station on Guam spent some of the time at Receivers, some at Fleet Center, and some at Transmitters (Barrigada). Spent much of my time drinking in the club. (“Top of the Rock” – closed in 1976). Opened the New Club near the front gate. Witnessed the closing of the Vietnam War with the influx, to Guam, of about 100 to 500 thousand Vietnamese Refugees dispersed to Tent Cities at Anderson AFB and other stations around Guam.

    Transferred out in 1977 to NavCommSta Stockton, Ca – I was attached to the Message Center at Mare Island. I already had submitted my papers to Retire in July of 1978. Never failed a Navy advancement test but had never passed the Chief’s Selection Board. Got notified that I could be selected if I would extend my enlistment. Decided that it was not an option for me. I was retiring at 35 years of age, on 18 years and 3 months of Active Duty, with full bennies of 20 years. Was piped over the side at the Gazebo in front of the Admirals building at Mare Island on 10 July 1978. Driven, by Navy sedan, to my Retirement party at “Coronado Inn” Vallejo. Some of my shipmates from several of my past duty stations showed up….. Had a great farewell.

    Meantime my 1st wife and I had separated and I had been living with my next wife for a while.
Married number two (Liza) in 1982. Collected Unemployment as well as my Navy retirement, and GI Bill for a short time. Got my AS Degree in Business Management from Solano College and went for several more years at Sonoma State, but no degree from there. Shortly after my Navy Retirement I couldn’t dodge work any longer so I worked and went to school full time for several years. A contractor for NAVELEX (later to be renamed Naval Space and Warfare Systems Command—SPAWAR) hired me and I worked for several different contractors (Western Electric, Kentron, Raytheon, General Electric, SAIC, and RCI) for several years traveling for Satellite Communications Systems. I also worked as a contractor at NASECGRU Skaggs Island, Ca for a period. Mare Island shut down in 1995 and not wanting to move to San Diego or Everett Washington, I went to school and retrained as a Novell Network Systems Administrator. Well wouldn’t you know that was just about the time that most everyone was changing to Microsoft as a network Software. So I trained myself and converted to Microsoft Network Administrator and Software Specialist.

    I worked for myself as a consultant and instructor for about two years then was hired fulltime by Pacific Bell. I had a great job covering computer systems for Northern California and Nevada Bell in Reno. Pacific Bell became SBC and was still pretty good. I transferred from Computer Systems Maintenance IT Department to Sales Operations (Still doing about the same thing). Then the economy went south and travel was cut almost to nil. Things started to get real tight. I was coming up on the age that I could first start Social Security (62 yrs 10 months). I also had symptoms of illnesses related to Agent Orange. I retired and went to see my local VA Rep and was granted some Cheese for my Disabilities. Now that we no longer have to give back our Retirement pay because of VA Payments I have a substantial existence.

    We travel as much as possible. Try to go to either Hawaii or Mexico 2 or 3 times yearly. I was an avid golfer for many years but have lately kind of lost my passion for the game; however I still pay my dues so I can keep my cart at the local course Just in case.


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