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Point of View: Life of George M., Master Chief

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From the start George M. was always fascinated by ships. He liked hearing stories about the ocean and always wanted to see it. Growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota his whole life he saw many lakes, but never an ocean. His family used to travel to Duluth, where he could see the ships come in and out of port. Seeing the freighters and crew members when they came ashore, he had already made up his mind that he wanted to work on a ship and go to sea. It wasn’t until he was 17 on his senior class trip when he first saw an ocean, the Atlantic. The day after his 18th birthday he enlisted into the Navy and went to boot camp at Recruit Training Center, in Orlando, Florida.
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Deciding to go in and 1st steps:
RACHEL:
Why did you decide to join the Navy? Why not the Marines or the Army?
GEORGE:
I really wanted to see the world, and I liked the adventure. It was a cool job, and the Army and Marines seemed like too hard of work. I didn’t like the fact of being in the infantry or on the ground, and I really didn’t want to be stationed on a base.
RACHEL:
Did you have any previous jobs before going into the Navy?
GEORGE:
I was a grocery stock boy and a store clerk for a while, and then I worked at Sears in the electrical, paints and hardware divisions just before I enlisted.
RACHEL:
Didn’t you ever think about going to college, or you just didn’t have enough money?

GEORGE:
It wasn’t so much the money as it was the fact that I just didn’t think about going to college. I just wanted to see the world and adventure and I loved the job.
RACHEL:
What training did you do in order to get into the service?
GEORGE:
Nothing, you don’t have any training before you go in as an enlisted man other than a High School education. Once I applied then I was sent to boot camp and they taught me what I needed to know about my chosen career field, journalism. I went to Orlando, FL for Boot Camp and basically they teach you the rules and regulations of how to live on a ship. We did a lot of marching and learned how to fight fires; how to use the hose and withstand the heat. Then I came home (back to St. Paul) and went to school at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana to learn how to be a journalist and how to work with TV and Radio news casting.
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While he was serving…
RACHEL:
When you first started out in the Navy did you think the Navy was all that?
GEORGE:
Actually I hated it! Just hated it! I was lonesome and homesick for my friends. When you first start out, you’re a low rank, so everyone could tell me what to do and boss me around. Also I was working for TV and radio (laughs a little chuckle) and they took my equipment away for some other ship. So here I was at 18, supposed to be doing my job with TV and radio and I was stuck doing a cleanup type job, in the Hawaiian Islands on a broken ship.
RACHEL:
What are your dislikes and likes of the Navy?
GEORGE:
No complaints really, I just hated being told what to do. And when I got to a higher rank I loved it! I could travel and meet new people. Also again, I just liked the work I was doing.


RACHEL:
What does the Navy, stand for or what’s its motto?
GEORGE:
Well the Navy’s creed is Honor, courage and commitment, but what does it stand for? Well it defends freedom and international commerce. Also it ensures its citizens live free. Currently it is fighting pirates all over the globe but especially off the coast of Africa.
RACHEL:
What was your typical day on a ship?
GEORGE:
The first thing I would do would be to eat breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day. Then because I handled the media department, I would set up interviews and tours with visitors that would come visit the ship. Most likely I would have a tour to give to someone, then I would take them to lunch. Also the staff and I worked on a 4 page daily paper, an 8 page weekly and a 32 page monthly family gram. I would do a nightly newscast and maybe after that the ship would set up bingo and I would watch. I never played though. After that I would go to bed, get up in the morning and start all over again.
RACHEL:
What kinds of people would you set up interviews for?
GEORGE:
I set up an interview for Bruce McGill who had played in My Cousin Vinny as Sheriff Farley. Also Barbra Star from CNN. Also I toured Jamie Macintyre and Wolf Blitzer. President Clinton also visited our ship; it was his first military visit after becoming president. The most memorable person to me though was Charlie Daniels. He had a nephew working for us and he came to the ship and played a concert for us unplanned. We just asked him, and he said he didn’t have any equipment, and his nephew gave him his fiddle, and so he played it and sang for thousands of Sailors on our ship. He was a real nice guy.





RACHEL:
What ship were you working and living on?
GEORGE:
At the time I was working on USS Theodore Roosevelt. It was never called Teddy Roosevelt though because we were told that President Roosevelt absolutely hated the nickname Teddy. Before that ship though I worked on the USS Preble for 2 years.
RACHEL:
Are there any funny stories that you have from life on the ship?
GEORGE:
Sometimes the Captain of Preble would tell everyone on the ships announcing system that a Sea Bat was captured on the fantail. (Back of the ship) And anybody that has never seen one, could go back and look at it. Well, you would see all sorts of crew members talking about the Sea Bat, and going back to see the creature. It was under a box on the back of the ship, and there was a hole on the side of the box where you would have to get on your hands and knees to look into it so you could see the creature. Well, it was all a joke. Because once you got on your knees to look into the hole, somebody behind you hit you in the butt with a broom. Everyone would laugh, and then it was your turn to trick the next crewman that came on deck to look. It was just part of team building through humor. It made the crew grow together.
RACHEL:
When you were in the service did you ever see any combat?
GEORGE:
In 1994 I was in Bosnia and our ship would launch planes that would shoot the bad guys. The department I was working for would do all the media stuff and cover the war. Also our ship fought in Kosovo. I was working for Sixth Fleet which covers all of Europe and North Africa. Again I organized the Media Trips and processed any stories or photos of missile shoots sent back to America.



RACHEL:
What was your uniform like?
GEORGE:
Cool. 8 rows of ribbons! 30 some years of effort went into those pieces of cloth. IT’s like the flag. They are just cloth, but they represent years of learning, sweat and hard work.
-After he retired
RACHEL:
How does the Navy differ from what it was when you applied in 1974 to now when you’ve retired?
GEORGE:
That was 36 years ago! Well one way it has changed is that the uniforms are different. Also the drug influence was huge after Vietnam, compared to today. Drugs seemed to be a big problem when I first got in, in the 70’s. And it seems that kids now a day’s really enjoy being in it and they’re smart too. It just seems more professional.
RACHEL:
Did you ever think that you were in too long?
GEORGE:
No, it just hits you when the new guy that comes to work for you is as old as you’ve been in the service.
RACHEL:
What is your favorite place that our family has lived while you were in the service?
GEORGE:
My favorite was Gaeta. Pensacola was cool but I really liked living in Gaeta, Italy. I liked the Italian style and flair. I especially liked living in a fish market village by the waters, because you and me could walk down by the sea walls every Sunday and eat pistachios and watch the fishing boats.

RACHEL:
How do you think Melinda and I will grow up differently, with you being in the service almost her whole life and me just the first 10 years of my life?
GEORGE: HELP
It will definitely be interesting to see and I have often wondered that myself. I always thought that maybe she would be more patriotic, since more of her childhood was spent overseas and in the military, and she grew up knowing the value of military strength in a very dangerous world. For example, when we lived near Venice, in Northern Italy, 6 Al Qaeda Terrorists were arrested with their bomb making stuff about 25 minutes drive from our house. They were planning on blowing up parts of the Jewish section of Venice.



RACHEL:
What would you do over again?
GEORGE: I don’t’ know. Maybe nothing. Maybe I would have been a boatswain’s mate. They do more seamanship activities and I could have stayed working on ships after I retired. But, I knew I was done with traveling around on ships. It was time to come ashore and spend more time with my youngest daughter and her Mother!
RACHEL:
Advice you’d give to those who want to go in?
GEORGE:
Do it! It is a great way of life. You won’t get rich doing it but you won’t starve. Wish I could do it over again!





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