On Assignment; Zak Remembers….



Active Duty for Training (“ACDUTRA”) exemplifies the Navy’s obsession with acronyms.

In 1967, prior to my permanent assignment on active duty, I was ordered to report to the U.S. Navy base in San Diego, 32nd St. for additional training, following boot camp.

Part of the hazing process for new boots entering the fleet, is an initial stint of degrading servitude working in the galley as a “mess cook,” or working on the deck, “chipping paint” from the exterior of the ship to prevent rust.

In my case, I was assigned to the destroyer USS Edwards (DD-950) to chip paint.

Please click on the following link for background:


I was issued a small hammer and a section of the deck to demonstrate my capabilities for removing the ubiquitous gray paint from the deck of the  ship.

Unbeknownst to this young former boot,  the upper superstructure of modern “tin cans” (the common name for destroyers) was manufactured of aluminum to reduce weight, rather than steel.

As a result of my diligent efforts, I was quickly noticed by the executive officer, who took the opportunity to “chew my *ss” (commonly known as military instruction/criticism), warning me that the sharpness of my hammer strikes could put a hole in the deck of “his” vessel.

I recall thinking, at that point that, if that were true, what would an enemy shell do to “his” ship?

Needless to say, I modified the sharpness of my hammer blows, thus saving a gallant man-o-war from disaster.

And that, to my utter regret, was the primary seafaring experience of my naval career, as my next batch of orders sent me to Naval Station Adak in the far-flung Aleutian Islands (Or, as they say on TV’s reality show,  “Deadliest Catch,” “450 miles due west of Dutch Harbor”) and, eventually, in-country service in Vietnam. 

I had joined the Navy to see the world (and to stay out of the ground-pounding Army), only to become what is commonly known as a “dry-land” sailor.

I’d hoped for at least one assignment to a “tin can” out of Long Beach, my hometown, looking forward to at least one tour of the Western Pacific, including potentially memorable liberty ports, such as Hawaii and Hong Kong, commonly known as a  “WESPAC cruise.”

Alas, the Bureau of Personnel (“BUPERS”) had “other plans.”

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

Quoting Brother John Lennon, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making “other plans.”

Lesson learned.

Learned early.


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