Veterans History Project Deposition

About a month ago, I was contacted by someone through NextDoor, a site where you can connect to neighbors in your area, asking if I’d like to tell my military story for the Veterans History Project.

What follows is my story, from the day I enlisted in Dallas, through Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Southern Watch. I thoroughly enjoyed reliving many of the experiences as I remember them, including all of the foul language and stupid pranks. As I explained in the deposition: I try not to use that kind of language anymore, and I’m really pretty ashamed of some of the things I did while I was in the military. But, I spoke from the heart and used the terms and phrases now as I did then.

So, please keep that in mind as you read the following:

Q: Let’s see. Today is February the 15th, 2016. And we’re here at the offices of Winstead, P.C., at 401 Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas. And this is an interview — a veteran interview that will be provided to the Library of Congress. And with that we will begin. Would you please tell us your name?

A: Full name?

Q: Yes.

A: Okay. Charles Walter Stricklin, S-T-R-I-C-K-L-I-N.

Q: And, Mr. Stricklin, what’s your date of birth and where were you born?

A: I was born in Shreveport, in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, and my birthdate is May 5, 19xx.

Q: And can you tell us your periods of service and your rank at entry, and then upon discharge?

A: Okay. I entered the U.S. Navy on 2 December, 1987. Whenever I went to boot camp, they considered me a Seaman Apprentice, which is an E-2. My — I was honorably discharged to the Reserves on June 23, 1993. And at that time I was a Seaman, or a DSSN, which is an E-3.

Q: Mr. Stricklin, what motivated you to serve? And in particular, with respect to the U.S. Navy, what led you to the Navy?

A: Okay. If I can back up just a little bit. My highest rank achieved was, actually, a 3rd Class Petty Officer, an E-4. And my rank — excuse me — my rating was a Data Systems Technician, which is — a rating is just basically your job and what you’ve been trained to do.

What motivated me to join the Navy, quite honestly, is because I was broke. Prior to that, I had been working primarily in the food-service business. I had been a waiter, a head-waiter, a restaurant manager, assistant manager, in a number of different restaurants, mostly in the Shreveport area.

On January 1, actually, 1987, I had moved to Dallas/Fort Worth, the north part of Dallas, right — and I worked in Addison, Texas. And I had moved there because I had gone — well, basically, that was whenever the first Reagan recession happened.

And I did vote for Reagan, and I’m a staunch conservative. And he’s kind of one of my idols, but it’s true that his — right off the bat, in his administration, there was an oil — there was a recession, plus there was a bust of the oil market in the East Texas area and Shreveport. And that affected Shreveport at the time.

So I went from making really good money, to where I was barely making a $300-a-month rent. And so I moved to Dallas, mainly because — if you’ve ever lived in Shreveport, it’s a nice place to retire and a nice place to raise kids, but, if you’re in your 20s, you do not want to live in Shreveport. And so that, combined with not making the money that I wanted, I moved to Dallas to take a waiting — you know, a serving job.

Turns out money was not very good there, either. And I was having trouble making rent. And my mother suggested to me that I go see a recruiter. And at the time I was very against joining, but I went down to see the recruiter.

I scored very high on the ASVAB scores. And they offered me a — what they call a push-button crow, which is: I would attend an A school after boot camp. An A school is where you learn basic electronics and logical theory and things like that. And then, at the end of that A school, you would be advanced to an E-4, Petty Officer, 3rd Class. The only catch was you had to enlist for an additional two years. So, instead of four years, it was going to be a six-year enlistment.

However, they were telling me that at the end of this — you know, “Whenever you get out, after six years, with your training, with your electronics training, you will be able to command a salary of 30 or 40 grand right at the very beginning.” And at the time $30,000, in 1987, is a lot of money. It’s still nothing to sneeze at, but still it’s a lot of money.

And so I’m seeing, on one hand: I can’t make rent and we’re in a recession. And they want to, you know, basically pay for my room and board and food and everything else, plus I’ll get BAQ, barracks-
something — I forget what it stands for, an additional amount of money for being a 3rd Class Petty Officer or above. And if I choose to get out after six years, I’ll being making a lot of money. It was kind of a no-brainer.

Another catch was, I had to make my decision right then and there. And I waffled for a couple of minutes. Then I finally decided, you know what? I’ll do it. And before I know it, I was raising my right hand and swearing an oath.

Q: Now, you deployed from the MEP station in Shreveport?

A: Yes.

Q: Tell us about the experience of getting off the bus at your first, I guess, destination. I believe that was boot camp.

A: Uh-huh, yeah.

Q: And what was going through your mind as you were introduced to boot camp in the military?

A: Right, right.

Well, I was paired with — it turned out to be a really good friend, a guy named Steven Vincik from Pineville, Louisiana, we both flew out from Shreveport to San Diego, nonstop. And we get off the plane, pick up our — what little bags and stuff we had. And they had a — I don’t know what he was. I don’t know if he was a Seaman or Petty Officer or what, but he was an enlisted person. And he directed us to this really dirty, dark-blue bus, school bus. And we climbed on.

And up until that point, it was not — other than the obvious markings, it didn’t feel like military. It was more like, you know, “Could you please step on here?” “Okay. Just go” — you know, everything was polite and whatever… whatever…

So the airport is right next to what used to be the boot camp. And then, just to the north of the boot camp is still, to this day, Camp Pendleton, which is where the Marines do boot camp. And so it was a very short drive. We just left the parking lot of the airport and went right next door. And we pull up to this — what looks like a junior high school or something, with like metal poles and things.

And then that’s whenever it kind of started. Then that’s whenever they started yelling at us and telling us to get off the bus and everything. And we had to line up. And we all were lined up.

And there was a row of about, I don’t know, maybe four pay phones. And we were told that we were — there was no cost, but we were told that we had to call somebody. You have to call your wife, you have to call your girlfriend, you have to call your mom and dad, somebody, tell them that you arrived, and then hang up the phone. Couldn’t talk, you couldn’t, you know, “I’m doing fine.” It was just, “Hi, Mom. I’m here at boot camp. Gotta go.” Click.

From there, we were herded into a — what looked like a gymnasium or something. They started asking us questions like, “Do you play a musical instrument? Is there anyone here who speaks Spanish? Is there anyone here who is really good at typing?” things like that.

And I found out later that that’s where they decided who went to — I think they were called 1st Division, which is the division that is like us. They were going to have their own company. Maybe it was 1st Company. But they were the ones that played at, like, the commencement ceremonies and things like that. So if you played a musical instrument, especially like a brass instrument or something, they’d nab you and send you over there. If you were good at typing, then you were put to work, basically, doing paperwork and stuff like that. And I wasn’t really any of those things, so I was formed up into a different company.

And I’m trying to think of the number. And I cannot, for the life of me, think of the number of the company. I think it was the year and something else. It was like 8722, or something like that.

And we were, basically, just thrown into a barracks, you know, bunk beds and all like that. And that was it. No instruction, no nothing.

We were all just, you know, “Where are you from? What’s going on?” and like that. And I don’t remember staying up too late, but I probably stayed up later than I should.

And that’s whenever the fun started. That’s whenever it really started, the military experience. Should I continue or —

Q: Well, let me ask you: Basic training is designed to, as we discussed earlier, tear someone down and build them back up. And at that point in time, I believe you’re 27 years old?

A: Yes.

Q: You had a fairly significant amount of life experience —

A: Yeah. It was the last year I could have joined.

Q: — in comparison to someone who, maybe, was 18 or 19.

A: Exactly.

Q: And you had a career before you went into the military, with the food service jobs that you had. So I’m sure that, at some point in time very early on in that process, six years begins to seem like an awful long time.

A: I don’t know. I mean, the additional age helped with perspective. I wasn’t naive enough to think that it was going to be easy. I actually never found so much that they spent a lot of time breaking kids down, because, in fact, I have talked to — I talked to, past tense, my company commander years later. And he explained to me that at that time, at that period, kids were coming into the military and their self-esteem wasn’t that great in the first place.

It’s not like, you know, the greatest generation or something like that. These kids were coming in, and they just were not what like my father’s generation was like. So they didn’t spend a lot of time breaking us down.

And really, whenever you get right down to it — I don’t know what it’s like — you’re Army, or ex-Army. I don’t know what it’s like in the other services. But in the Navy, basically, boot camp is learning to follow instructions and folding clothes. That’s it.

Q: Is there anything that stands out in your mind about boot camp and that period of time?

A: Oh, yeah.

Q: Any story you want to share?

A: I actually have told people I am going to do this, especially now that my parents have passed away, because it does require a lot of foul language, but I do feel like I’m going to write all this down because sailors collect them as love to collect sea stories and they love to boot camp stories. And I’ll share as many of you want.

I was going to tell you that the next day, after I got in, was whenever the fun started, because I’m woken up at like, I don’t know, 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. And what I later learned was called “RCPO” — Recruit Chief Petty Officer is what it stands for. The RCPO basically started — you’ve seen the movies where they throw the garbage can down the aisle? They didn’t do quite that, but they did make a lot of noise. And “Get up! Get up! Get up!” You know, “Get ready!”

And so we’re all throwing our stuff together and getting out of bed and all like that. Keep in mind, we’re still in our civilian clothes. We haven’t been officially formed up into a company yet.

And all these kids and myself, we’re all being startled awake and everything. And you know you’re in boot camp. And so what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

“Sir, yes, sir!”

“I’m not sir! I’m RCPO!”

“Sir, yes, sir!”

“I’m not sir! I’m RCPO!”

And, of course, we didn’t know what that meant. We just thought, you know, here is this guy, and he’s waking us up.

So we’re just, you know, huddled out into this parking lot, basically, this marching area, and that’s when someone comes up. And it’s — the first actual sense of military training kicks in. Someone comes out and starts explaining, “Okay. You stand there. You stand there. All right. Now stand out and hold your right arm out,” you know, “straight. You should be that far away from the guy next to you. Okay. Now you stand behind him.” And so we all formed up into formation, our first idea of a formation.

And from there we file out, and we start walking — or marching probably a good — at least a half mile, maybe more, to the — to the galley — to the — yeah, it would have been called “the galley.”

And then from there — please forgive me, but I’m going to tell it exactly how it is.

THE REPORTER: Go ahead, exactly.

A: So, from there, we all line up into the cafeteria, basically. And we’re told that we are supposed to be looking at the back of the guy’s head right in front of us. And it’s called “nut to butt,” “Get nut to butt!” And we’re not to turn around, we’re not to, you know, talk to anyone, we’re not going to look ahead to see what we’re going to eat. You look at the back of the guy’s head in front of you. And then he steps up in line, then you step up. And you just – you just file up, and you get what you need.

And then we’d go through. And you get a good choice. You can pretty much get anything you want. Everyone got eggs and cereal and orange juice and all like that. And then we filed into our long tables. And the rule was that we all sat down — just whenever we got there — we sat down. And then, whenever the next row or the row across from you — whenever the first guy sat down there, everyone had to get up and file out. So you had about five minutes to actually eat. And so you had all these guys just wolfing everything down.

From there, we filed up again — formed up again and marched back to the barracks. And that’s
whenever — that’s whenever we started the process of getting our shots and getting our military ID made and things like that. And then eventually we formed up into an actual company and were assigned a company commander.

So, going back to the RCPO thing, later on in boot camp, as you were about to graduate, there is a thing called “service week,” just to get ahead for a second, where you’re farmed out to various areas to help to do things. And in my case I was working in the cafeteria, doing things like bringing food up to the front and stuff like that.

But one of my company shipmates was picked to be an RC3 — I mean, an RCPO for a company that was forming up. And I told them, I said, “Look, do me a favor. Whenever they — whenever you wake them up, and they start calling you ‘Sir'” — because you don’t call an enlisted person “Sir.” (You only call officers “Sir.”)

Now, in boot camp, you actually call a Petty Officer and above a “Sir.” But we were all Seaman Apprentices and stuff. I said, “When they call you ‘Sir,’ I want you to yell, ‘I’m not Sir! I’m RCPO!'” And he’s like, “What? What are you talking about?” I said, “Trust me.”

And the next night, he comes back and he says, “You were right! They were so scared!”

So, anyway, that was my introduction to boot camp.

Q: Now, you went to school — there was a school — a follow-up school at the same location there in San Diego?

A: Uh-huh.

Q: And what’s the name of that school?

A: That was Combat Systems Technical School Command.

Q: And did you go as, basically, a group from your basic training class to a single —

A: No. It was all based on what was decided beforehand.

Q: Did you have a graduation ceremony for basic training?

A: Yes.

Q: Did anyone show up for you?

A: Myself? No.

Q: Same thing for me. I was actually dating my wife at the time. And she lived in Dallas, and I was at Fort Sill. And I think I was one of a handful of people that didn’t have any family or friends. And I regret that I had not pushed some of them to at least attend, because the lead up to it, I didn’t think it was that important, but, you know, you’re there and you see everyone else with their loved ones, after going through boot camp. And I sort of regret not making them come to see me.

A: It never really bothered me. You know, I knew that they weren’t going to fly out for, you know, an almost 30-year-old man’s, you know, enlistment/commencement thing.

Can I back up just a little bit about boot camp?

Q: Yes.

A: Because there are some funny stories.

At the very beginning — and, again, forgive me for the language. I don’t — I don’t talk like this. I have done a lot of things in the military that I now regret, especially as a Christ-follower. But, I mean, still, to do it justice and to do it accurately, you have to use the vernacular.

One of the ones — I’ll just knock out a couple of really funny boot camp stories.

Q: Please do.

A: One of the ones is: Everything is referred to differently in the military. This isn’t a floor (indicating). This is a deck. That isn’t a wall, that’s a bulkhead. And the trashcans around there are not called “trashcans.” They’re called “shit cans.” I mean, they are called “trashcans,” technically. If you ever ask and you’re in polite company or whatever, you’ll say, “It’s a trashcan.” But it’s not a trashcan. Everyone calls it a “shit can.”

And that was impressed upon me whenever our chaplain called it a shit can. And I’m like, Whoa! They must — they must really take this seriously.

Another one was: Whenever you are in the — you’re forming up as a company, and you haven’t been issued your first sea bag issuing, with your dungarees and your boondockers and things like that. You’re still walking around in jeans and a, you know, Motley Crüe T-shirt, or whatever you’re wearing. And they do give you these crew socks, these tube socks, basically, to wear. And you’re supposed to take everything, your wallet, your keys, whatever, you know, and you’re supposed to put it in your sock. And then you tie the sock around your belt. And so you never have anything actually on your person. You just have it in this sock, until you can get a seabag issued and everything.

And from that comes the phrase that you’ll hear sailors talking about, where someone has it all together, or something like that. They say, “That guy really has his shit in one sock.”

There’s another story where you’re getting all of your shots and all like that. And you haven’t been PT’d. You haven’t been really run — because, at the end of the boot camp, you’re supposed to be able to run, I think, a mile in five minutes or something like that, maybe a mile and a half or something like that. It’s called The Liberty Run because, if you do it, if you pass that, you graduate and you go on liberty. If you don’t, then, you know, you have to basically stay in boot camp for a while. But, anyway, they can’t make you run or exercise at all, until you’re physically cleared, basically, and you get all your shots.

So the day before they first start running you and exercising you, they give you a Bicillin shot the butt. And it’s supposed to be that all the running and everything works it into the muscles, and it doesn’t hurt as much.

Trust me, it hurts, because — it doesn’t hurt when they give you the shot — It hurts you the next morning. And you just wake up and you feel like someone shot you in the butt or something.

But you line up outside this Recruit Training Command bathroom, or head. And you all go inside, like maybe three or four at a time. And they have Corpsmen in there. And you’re supposed to bend over the sink and then drop your drawers, and they give you a shot. And then, you know, whatever. And then you pull up your pants and you walk out.

Someone somewhere — Great Lakes — Orlando, wherever — my understanding is it’s been going on for decades — Someone decided that it was going to be a prank that they were always going to play on whoever’s behind them in line that they’re all going to walk out of there grabbing their groin and telling the people that hadn’t been in there yet that they are about to get a square needle in the left nut. And, you know — and everyone perpetuates it, year after year after year, company after company.

Q: Did you expect that treatment?

A: Yeah, I was scared. I was like, Why would they do that? And then I go in. And they say, you know, “Drop your drawers.” And I’m like, “Okay.” You know? I figured this is the military. They’re not going to do anything they don’t have to.

And then he explains to me, “No, I’m just giving you a Bicillin shot in the butt.” I’m like, “Oh, okay.”

What else? Okay. Last one, and then I’ll — I swear I’ll go on.

We’re supposed to stand at attention any time that an officer or a — our leading petty officer or company commander or petty officer of any sort — basically anyone who is not a recruit walks in or walks by or something like that. And it can get kind of — I don’t know what the word would be, but “stressful” comes to mind. But I don’t know. You just — it becomes ingrained in you. And I guess that’s probably the purpose.

And, like I said, we do The Liberty Run. And then, after that, we graduated.

And there’s usually about a week or so there where we’re kind of on our own, where we can freely go to the cafeteria or someplace. We’re still expected to queue up and not talk and stuff like that, but we’ve got a little bit of freedom. And our company commander is usually not going to be there. He might show up during the day, just to make sure everything is cool, but at night he no longer stays in the barracks with us.

And, for some reason, there’s this one kid, this one little black kid — I can’t remember his name. I want to say it’s King, but I’m not sure. He slept closest to where the company commander would have his office and his rack. And sometime during that period, in the middle of the night — must have been like 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning — he literally pops tall out of his rack, stands at attention, and yells, “Attention on deck!” and then falls back into his rack and goes — I mean, he never really woke up, just, you know, “Attention on deck!”

And we’re all like — because it’s now been ingrained in us, and we’re, like, standing at attention. And we’re like, “Why are we standing at attention?”

So, anyway, those are some of my — the ones that come to mind. I’ll get off that subject now. Some funny times, though.

Q: Are there any traits that you — whether it’s a food you enjoy, or fast eating, or wearing the stays on your socks, is there anything you’ve taken from the military?

A: I still fold my clothes — I still fold my clothes the exact way that you’re taught. You know, like the T-shirt is bottom over the top, folding the sleeves. And then you do it over, and you do it over to where — and then that way, so it makes, basically, like a large rectangle.

Folding clothes is really important to a sailor because you have to be able to get all your clothes inside the rack. And if you don’t, if you have like anything, bed sheets or anything like that that are loose, those are things that can clog up the tubes, the drains, that they sink down into the area when they are trying to clean up after a fire, or if you’re in flooding or something like that. So it’s very important — you know, we laugh about we learned how to fold our clothes, but, to a sailor that’s very important.

And it just got to be — in fact, I got to be what they called a locker Petty Officer, which is an unofficial position, but me and about ten other guys would actually stay back, whenever the company was off doing — like eating or something like that. Our Company Commander would bring in donuts and coffee and stuff like that. And we would go through every rack to make sure everything was folded correctly. So, yeah, bottom line is: Attention to detail, attention to detail, attention to detail. Everything is attention to detail.

And that is something that I do to this day. I’m a detail-oriented person. And it’s all because of the Navy. I mean, yeah, it — it changed me.

Q: Tell us about your training, your military specialty, and what you learned to do.

A: I was a Data Systems Specialist. That rate doesn’t exist anymore. I was — well, the A school is just — excuse me – is just electronics theory: How to read a resistor, what a diode does, that sort of thing… how to troubleshoot a power supply or how to detect a current, that sort of thing.

And I liked the way they did their training. I’m actually in the process of getting certified — alternate certification to become a teacher. And I would like to think that I would do some of the things that I learned — or the processes that I learned in the Navy.

One of them is, at the beginning of each class, they would say, “By the end of this class, you should be able to do this, this, and this.” And they would tell you exactly what you’re expected to learn. And then, whenever you take the test, you’re given three questions on each one of those learning objects. You have to answer two of them correctly. If you don’t in any of those learning objects, like learning objective A, B, C, and D — let’s say I get two questions right on A, B, and D. I’ve got to go back and retake the part of the class about C, until I know how to do it.

I — I liked that. I think that was a smart way of doing things.

The other thing I remember about training, especially A school, is that we were not allowed to go outside of the base in civilian clothes, unless we — I think it was after a certain week we had to have a grade point average of — I think it was something like 90. It was really high. And — and I didn’t make it. I was like 87, or something like that.

So, for the longest time, anytime that I went out into San Francisco or something like that, I had to go out in my summer whites or my dress whites. So I don’t have to tell you, walking around San Francisco in your summer whites, what that’s like.

Q: So if we see someone walking outside in their summer whites on leave or liberty, whatever you call it, we can assume that they have not scored a 90 or higher on their tests?

A: Well, in that situation, yes. But, I mean, a lot of times — and I can understand this, especially if they’re on leave: You’re proud. You just — you know, you’re military, and you can show your — the teacher that didn’t think you’ll ever amount to anything that you’re — I’m at least good enough to get into the Marines or something, you know. So, yeah, if you’re wearing a uniform, it doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing.

Q: Tell us about the transition from school to ultimately — well, leading up to deployment and what you went through.

A: Okay. I — A and C school was about — I want to say — nine months. And I went into boot camp at the beginning of December. And so that would have been what? End of January, I think, is whenever I graduated. From there, I went to Mare Island Naval Station in Vallejo, California, the Combat Systems Technical School Command.

And then I think it was probably almost December of ’88, of course, I flew out to Hawaii. And I arrived during the day. I remember that. And my Company Commander — no, excuse me. My Leading Petty Officer, Richard Morris, Chief Petty Officer Morris, picked me up at the airport, gave me a lei, which is customary in Hawaii, made the terrible joke that everyone always makes about, “Now you’ve been leid.” We climb into his car, and he drives me to the barracks on Pearl Harbor Naval Station, checks me in, let’s me know what’s expected of me as far as the following morning, and where to be and whatnot.

And then that’s where I meet my roommates — or at least one of them. One of them was a First-Class Petty Officer, who was an Operations Specialist, so he was an OS1. And he basically took over one entire side of that room. And, you know, with the exception of occasionally hearing him, we never even knew he was there.

The other guy was an Electronics Warfare Third-Class Petty Officer, EW3. His name is Craig Abbott. And to this day, he’s one of my very good friends, although he lives in Australia, but we converse every once in a while.

And the very first night, he basically said, “You know what? We’re going out!” And I just remember us both walking around all over Pearl Harbor. We went to McDonald’s, and we went to the Base Exchange, the Enlisted Men’s Club, and stuff like that.

And then the next day we wake up, and I dress out in dungarees and everything. And we climb aboard a dirty blue bus, where we’re transported to the dry docks, and I report to my work center.

Q: Now, does the USS Worden does not initially deploy?

A: No.
 She was in dry dock for almost – in fact, I think about a year. I am going to have to look it up. But she was getting a New Threat Upgrade, where her radars were being upgraded, the software was being updated, missile rooms were being updated. And she had huge chunks cut out of the hull. They were — I think her boiler rooms were entirely redone. So they were constantly bringing in equipment.

And in my case I was — you know, being an electronics person, I wasn’t really involved in the actual adding of equipment or anything. So they assigned me to the Fire Watch Division. And so each day I would go down to, like, bilges and things like that, with welder’s goggles and a little patch saying I was a fire watch, and a big CO2 bottle and a water bottle. And I would stand around and watch welders from the shipyard come in, weld for 15 minutes, tell me to watch it for the next 20 minutes or half hour or something like that. And then, after that, come back after lunch.

Of course, they were all Hawaiian. It was like, “Okay, Brah! Come back after lunch.”

Q: Now, can you just give us a little description of the type of vessel or ship and, I guess, the characteristics?

A: Sure. The USS Worden, this iteration of it, I guess you would say, her keel was actually laid in 1960, the year I was born. And it was originally commissioned as a light Destroyer. So it was — “DLG-18” was the hull number. And whenever I got to it, it had been reclassified as a cruiser, so it became CG-18.

It has a — it’s a Leahy-class cruiser, with a Belknap hull. It’s primarily an anti-air platform, although it does have some subsurface or anti-submarine capabilities. It had a — what they call a — these were added during the upgrade, but it had what they call a 48 Echo, or 48-E, radar, big, black panel rotated up at the top, had a range that was just crazy.

You know, I can’t go into too much detail, but it could see very, very far. It’s not quite as good as the new-ages class, but it was — it could see a long way. And then it had two double missile launchers, forward and aft, one forward and one aft. They called them double-armed bandits, or two-armed bandits.

Those are the ones that you see that have the little — they run the missile out on the rails, and they turn around like that (indicating). And so we had one — one forward and one aft.

And then, for each one of those, they had what they call a 55 Bravo radar, which was a fire-control radar. And they looked kind of like cones — or little drums, with cones on them. And those are the ones where you radiate — it’s hard to explain, but you basically control that missile as it’s being fired through each individual radar.

And then they had — let’s see. They had four harpoon missiles on either side, facing opposite directions. And then we also had some torpedoes on the sides. We fired, primarily, SM-1 and SM-2 missiles. We were non-nuclear. And — although, any time anyone asked, we were required to say, “I cannot confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons on board the USS Worden,” specifically that phrase.

But, no, it wasn’t nuclear. It was a boiler configuration, had two boiler rooms, one forward, one aft.

Trying to think of what else. That’s primarily it.

Oh, yes, also had an ASROC system, A-S-R-O-C. I have no idea what it means. Basically, it’s a big box, and it sat right behind the forward missile — forward missile house and the bridge, or the actual structure of the main deck. And its job was to fire, basically, torpedoes a great distance, in order to deliver them quicker than if we were to just run them off the rails on the side. And so, basically, like, if we identified a subsurface target that was pretty far out there, we would just raise this box up and then fire a torpedo out, with a little missile. And then it would knock whatever the propellant is off. And it would — a parachute would come down. And it would just float down. And when it hit the water, the parachute would off, and then it would start searching.

And whenever we did tours of the Worden, which we did if we were in a port or something like that, or a Dependent’s Cruise, we used to love to tell people that they were looking at the largest toy that the Mattel Corporation ever created.

But, yeah, that was — we were primarily anti-air. We were really good at it. But the submarine stuff, no, not really.

Q: Tell us about your deployment and, I guess, how you found out about it and what it was like to mobilize very quickly.

A: I was just wondering if you wanted to eat.

Q: Oh, yeah, yeah. You want to take a break?

A: I’m good, but if y’all want to eat, you just go ahead.

Q: Well, I thought — I thought, if we would just go for about another 20-25 minutes, that would take us to a little bit past the hour, you know, with a full hour. And then –


Q: — we would just conclude and just break. Is that okay?

A: That’s fine with me. Like I said, I’m good. I love to talk.

Q: So tell us about the events, though, that led to the —

A: I was just saying, I’m concerned for y’all, because I don’t want to bore y’all to death, or if you have other things to do.

Q: No, no. That’s — you’re not boring us at all.

A: Okay.

Q: And so tell us, going back to just the events that led to the deployment, what you found out and how quickly everything came together.

A: Yeah. I mean, we already — right after we came out of dry dock, we spent several months doing workups, stressing out the boilers, stressing out all the systems, basically, to make sure everything works.

After that, we went on a Dependent’s cruise. So we got the wife and kids, or boyfriend/girlfriend, whatever.

Well, back then, it wouldn’t have been a boyfriend, not officially, anyway. And then — oh, gosh, I’ve got to tell y’all about my Page 13. It doesn’t really fit into here.

Q: That’s fine.

A: Well, okay. I’ll back up a little bit. I can’t believe I’m telling you this, but it is — I mean, it’s in my military records. So, I mean, it’s not like a big thing.

The night before I actually joined — and I told you I didn’t have any intention of joining, right? The night before I went down to see the recruiter, I had smoked pot. And so, whenever I’m having to raise my right hand and all like that, I’m thinking to myself — and especially whenever they do the piss test, I’m like, “I have to come clean.” You know?

And, of course, back then they ask you — and this is what kind of prompted it in my memory. They ask you a couple things: “Have you ever used drugs? And are you a homosexual?” And I had to answer “Yes” to the “used drugs” because I knew it was going to show up in my system.

And back then they didn’t have the zero tolerance that they have now. They had, basically — they actually had rehabs in most naval stations and things like that. So if someone had an alcohol problem or drug problem or something like that, they would go and spend a month or two in rehab, which isn’t very fun because it’s actually behind barbed wire and everything.

But my point is, it wasn’t zero tolerance. But they told me that I had to sign a Page 13, which is a military, you know, record, basically saying, yes, I did smoke marijuana, and if I ever popped positive, then I am out that day, you know. No ifs, ands, or buts. You are gone.

And then, after that — of course, they do periodic piss tests, even out — whenever you’re on deployment. And they do it every month. And they choose a number randomly that’s supposed to be the last number of your Social Security. And I could have sworn that the number 9 came up a lot more often than some of the other numbers. But, yeah. So, anyway, yeah.

And I used to swear — also, whenever I joined, my hair was probably about as long as hers is right now (indicating). And I used to swear that the day I got out I was going to light up, I was going to start growing my hair long. And here it is 25 years, 20 years, whatever it is, and I haven’t done either. In fact, if it ever — this is probably too long for me right now (indicating). If it touches my ears, it freaks me out. And the whole point of pot now is like, “Why did I ever do that?”

But, anyway, to answer your question, talking about the deployment, this would have been Desert Shield/Desert Storm. So, right off the bat, my — oh, I also remember that while we were in dry dock, while we are in overhaul, was whenever — I want to say either Grenada or Panama happened. And the buzz was, you know, “They’re going to hurry us up. They’re going to do away with the trials and everything. They’re going to send us down there for that.” Of course, that was just BS. That was total nonsense. But we were all, you know, “Oh, they’re going to send us out.”

So, anyway, we go through the workups and the Dependent’s cruise and all like that. And I take a month of leave, and I go home for the first time. This is now two years into my — well, a little — no, about two years in, just about. And so I’m going home. And, of course, that’s whenever I have to wear my dress whites and everything for the photographs and everything. And I have to admit I enjoyed some of it.

And so, while I’m at home, Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait. And then, suddenly, all of the greetings and conversations go from being, “Oh, you know, that’s really nice, Charles, that you’re in the Navy” and all like that, to, “Are they going to send you over there?” to which I always had to answer, “Well, we had already planned to go, anyway. So, yes, I can imagine we’re probably going to be there.”

So I come back to Hawaii and report back to the ship, knowing full well the day that we’re leaving — I don’t know what it is now, but it would have been mid September, I think, of 1990. And then — maybe October. I’m not sure. And then knowing full well that whenever we leave we’re leaving for the Persian Gulf.

And we stop for, I want to say, maybe four days in the Philippines, at Subic Bay Naval Station. And we bring on some people and have some equipment looked at for the last time. And then, from there, we go to Singapore. But before we go to Singapore, we dip down below the Equator, so that we can do the Crossing of the Line ceremony. And that’s whenever I went from being a worthless pollywog to being an honorable and trustee Shellback. And I can show you the card, if you really want to see it.

And that was a hoot, too, because — I won’t go into it, for time. But that’s where you do things like you wear your clothes inside out and upside down, and you crawl around on your hands and knees. And you’re supposed to, you know, bark like a dog. And they’d make you eat slime.

And it’s totally different now. It’s — in the politically-correct world, Crossing the Line has become like it is if you do it on a cruise ship or something like that. But back then they used to take fire hoses and cut them into strips about three-feet long. And then they attach a handle. They call them shillelaghs. And they basically whack you on the rear end constantly for that entire day.

Plus, there is some stuff where you do, the night before or the day before, called “The wogs’ rebellion” that were just hilarious, things like they assign the wogs stuff to do so that they won’t rise up and do a rebellion.

And in my case, I was the Starboard Horizon Watch. And I was supposed to stand out on the starboard bridge wing and make sure that the horizon didn’t go anywhere.

Q: Meaningful task?

A: Oh, yeah, some funny, funny stuff.

But then the next day, you know, is the Crossing of the Line ceremony. And one of the things that I really remember from that, and it’s really kind of beautiful in a way, is: We were supposed to — we were standing on our hands and knees, and we were facing out toward the water. And we’re making, I don’t know, 20 knots or something. And the Shellbacks, who were dressed as pirates and things like that, are telling us that we need to start calling for Flipper.

And so just imagine 2- or 300 guys all wearing their clothes inside out and upside down on the side of the wings of the ship going, “Flipper, Flipper, where are you, Flipper?” And I kid you not. I don’t know what you call them, a flock or whatever, of dolphins or porpoises come up alongside us and start dancing and everything with us. I still remember that.

But, anyway, after the Crossing of the Line ceremony — it was just, basically, a few nautical miles’ dip. And you’d just turn around and head back to Singapore.

We spent, probably, about a week in Singapore, beautiful, great town — or city/state. It’s both. It’s both a city and a state. It’s like Manhattan is to us, beautiful, nice people. It used to be a British colony. So it’s kind of weird seeing all these Asian people walk up to you and take your order in a British accent or something like that.

I fell in love with one of them just because of that.

And they have a fantastic mass rapid transit system, a really good zoo, not a lot of night life because, basically, they don’t — that’s the place where they basically fine you $500 American, or something like that, if you are chewing — they actually — they forbid you to bring in gum, for one thing. But if you, like, throw something on the ground, litter, that’s a $500 fine. That’s where the kid got actually paddled as punishment for keying a car and all like that. But they’re really nice people.

You see signs in every — you know, like Malaysian and something else, and English, whatever, like four different languages, but really great people.

From there, we left and were headed to the Gulf. We come in –

Q: Were you apprehensive at all about — I mean, you knew what you were going into, right, as far as the –

A: Anyone who wasn’t was stupid. I mean, everyone was. We had to sign our — well, we didn’t have to — well, I guess we did. We were strong-armed, basically, into filling out wills. And we were issued our gas masks that we carried in kind of a holster-type thing that we had on our thighs. And we had the canisters in the bag, but we hadn’t opened them. And they actually open up with one of those key things, like a tin, where you open up the thing.

Here’s another funny story: I forget exactly where it happened. I think it was down, like, in the Gulf of Oman or something, prior to the turnover. And I want to say — I don’t know if that was — okay.

When any sailor passes away for any reason, and it’s before they can be — you know, before you can pull into a port or before you can airlift them out or whatever, they put them in a body bag and they put them down in what they called “the reefer,” which was basically the refrigerator.

And the refrigerator, or the reefer, has a chemical alarm on the top of the ceiling of the rafter. And we had a chemical alarm malfunction, prior to us taking the little canisters out of the seal. And to this day I remember I was on the 03 level, on the starboard side, in a little area we had right behind Combat Information Systems. And we hear the chemical alarm go off. And I’m standing there talking with OSC Collins, who was a crazy guy, but he was a good guy. And he and I both look at each other. And he just goes, “Oh, shit.”

And he goes — he doesn’t have to go very far. He has to just go through to the next, you know, area — the next whatever and close the door behind him. I have to go through Combat Information Systems, over to the port side, down into officer country, back through where the OSs hang out, open up an actual door to the
outside — so I am going to have to go outside the skin of the ship in a chemical alarm situation — close the door behind me, go into my work center, close the door behind me, before I’m supposed to be in battle station.

And, you know, like I said, I’m running down there. The whole time — because battle stations, you’re supposed to get there within, like, two minutes.

Wherever you are on the ship, you’re supposed to be where you’re supposed to be within two minutes. And so we’re all running. And I’m thinking to myself, “Oh, crap. I’m going to have to go outside the skin of the ship. And we’re under chemical attack. I’m going to die.” And by the time I get down there, they’re all saying, “False alarm, false alarm,” or whatever. And then I started hearing reports of these kids all starting to try and key open their canisters to put them on, because we haven’t been told to put them on yet. And they’re cutting themselves. And so the next day we had people walking around with Band-Aids and stuff.

But, anyway, yeah, we pulled into the Gulf of Oman. And I remember this. It was Halloween. It was October 31, 1988. And I want to say that we did a turnover with the USS Horne, which is also a Leahy-class guided-missile cruiser. I think they were CG-19 or 17. I don’t know.

So, anyway, she had been doing her WestPac in that area. And she was done. And she was about to head home, I think, to San Diego or something. I will have to look that up. And so that’s — that period there is where their officers and their crew talk to our officers and our crew, and they say, “This is what we’ve been doing. This is what we’ve seen. This is everything that’s working,” blah, blah, blah. Sometimes they even transfer crew, you know.

And at that point, of course, Bush had gone to Congress and had gotten the authorization. And the military buildup was just immense. People were just flying in from everywhere. And the next thing you know, we’re bringing on people like — I cannot remember his name, but he was a postal clerk, and he was a reservist. He wasn’t an actual active-duty guy. He was a reservist.

And that poor guy came in from a ship that was there before us. He did an entire tour with us. And I think he did an entire tour or two with another ship after we left. So he spent, like, a year or
something — granted it’s easy work sifting through letters and stuff. But, still, that poor guy had to leave his job and his family for, like, a year. That’s just one example.

But, anyway, we did the turnover down in the Gulf of Oman. And then, after that, we went up through the Strait of Hormuz. And I don’t have to tell you that’s — you know, that puts you on edge. That’s whenever you are basically in the highest ready condition that you can possibly be, short of being in battle stations.

And at that time, you know, of course, Iran had had the revolution. We were not very friendly with them, still aren’t. But, you know, they are almost mortal enemies with Saddam Hussein and Iraq, so they’re kind of “gloves off” to us because they know that we’re about to kick Saddam’s ass. So we weren’t that worried that they were going to fire a missile at us, but we were a little worried.

And then, after that, we went up to Bahrain, where we pull in and spent a couple days, I think. And that’s where we — I forget the name of the command, but it’s basically where Norman Schwarzkopf and people like 
that — you know, that’s where they were based out of, was Bahrain.

And then, after that, then we spent all of our time in a little square area there around a little island called Farsi Island. And we called it “the batter’s box.” And we would just basically tool around in that area all the time. And our job was to splash any aircraft that came out over the water — “feet wet” is what they call it — any aircraft that we couldn’t identify.

And while we were doing this, the entire fleet was massing up down in the bottom of the Gulf in the area around Dubai. So we were the — pretty much the only ones that were just floating around in this little area.

It’s right equal with the lower border of Kuwait, just — you draw a line out in the middle of the Persian Gulf. That’s where we were. And so, until hostility started, that’s where we spent all our time. And we were just always looking for a plane to come out and sink it, splash it.

Q: Is there anything you can share with us, as far as the most memorable occasion while you were on deployment in the Persian Gulf?

A: I met Dick Cheney, who at the time was the — what is that? — Secretary of Defense, I think. I 
met — I actually had dinner with — I say “had dinner with.” He sat at my table: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell. And in Cheney’s case, I actually presented the divisional head.

A little side story: Basically, I am a clean nut. I’m a clean freak. And they put — one of the things that they told us in — the recruiter is that petty officers don’t do all the crap work. They do all — you know, they’re Petty Officers. They’re, you know, advanced. They don’t have to do all that. That’s all for Seamen and Seamen Recruits and stuff. Well, guess what happens when you’re the least senior person in a division where everyone’s a Petty Officer? You do tours on the mess decks and you clean the head.

Well, I made the mistake of doing a really good job of cleaning the head. And so, whenever anyone important came on, they basically made me do it. And I had also done some things to make it work, because we had brought in some stainless steel and stuff like that. And I had found that you use linseed oil to clean the stainless steel and all like that.

So I actually had to stand outside of that divisional head. And when the Secretary of Defense came around, I had to say, you know, “DS3 Stricklin presenting 1-2-252-L,” or whatever it was, you know, that division. And I just remember him — of course, he was nice. And he was like, “Hello, Petty Officer Stricklin. How are you?” and all like that. And he kind of — I don’t remember the exact phrase or what he said, but he, in effect, said basically, “Can you believe that they have me inspecting the bathroom?” And I’m like, “No, sir, not really. I don’t understand it.” And he kind of smiled and went on his way.

But I’m sorry. I forgot the question.

Q: Oh, no, no.

A: I am just laughing inwardly here.

Q: Not knowing specifically, you know, what you did and what you were allowed to share with us, I just was wondering, you know, what was memorable to you about that tour. You know, in wartime –

A: Oh, yeah.

Q: — there are important responsibilities out there.

A: Well, we might as well just get on to the war, right? I mean, once Desert Storm started, that’s whenever the whole mission changed and everything. The Worden actually pulled off to the side, to the East.

If you look at Iran, there is a little bump there, a little — I don’t know what to say it, but the border — the coast kind of does like that (indicating), like an S. And we were still in international waters, but we pulled off to where we were 12 miles or so off the coast. And we could actually see Iran off in the distance.

We actually had an Iranian gun boat come up. And they were about as far away as, maybe, that nearest building over there (indicating), closer maybe. And I just remember that, you know, they just looked at us. They had harpoon missiles on theirs. And we were just kind of like, you know, “Hi. (waving) You’re next.”

But, for the most part, you know, our work was done. We were really just — that’s not entirely true, because we did — we set up what they called “delousing lines.” We added these three lines where, whenever they flew out sorties, they had to line up and go through these little funnels, or these little queues.

And we had to do what they called “interrogate friend or foe,” IFF. And we sent out a little signal to them. And they had to respond back with a certain encrypted signal saying, “I’m an F-18 belonging to Saudi Arabia” or something, and basically one of our guys. And the idea was, perhaps, a jet might try to slip in and then attack the carrier group or something. So, I mean, it’s not like we weren’t doing anything, but our primary job was basically just to — you know, we took a second step from everyone else. At that point, I mean, the night of the Desert Storm — I want to say it was January 20th, I think. I don’t know. I can’t remember it exactly. Of course, it was local time. It wasn’t — to you guys, it would have been like the day prior, I think, or — no, the day — whatever.

Anyway, but I just remember that night everyone knows it’s about to go down. And OSC Collins, the guy I was telling you about, was going around everywhere, “We’re lighting tea lamps tonight. We’re lighting TLAMS tonight.” TLAMS are Tomahawk missiles. We didn’t have any Tomahawk missiles, but the point is he was excited because we were about to go to war.

And that night — of course, they are all telling us, “Get a lot of rest, because the next few days you’re going to be really busy.” So I tried to sleep. And we’re kicking back. And you see people on the mess decks, playing cards and stuff. And then, later on that night, I wake up — and I did my shift, generally, from midnight until noon the following day. And I think I started a little early, because I think hostility started right at midnight on that day, and started work at, maybe, 11:00.

And I go up into Combat Information Systems, where normally it’s only Operation Specialists and ETs and DSs and people like that. And it’s — I wouldn’t say it’s packed, but it’s busy. And there are a lot of people up there. And they even had engineers up there and stuff like that.

And I’m thinking, you know, “This is different. This is interesting.”

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. My — okay. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to go long, but this is all coming back to me.

My equipment — my specialty is basically what they call “Link 11.” And my equipment did what basically — it’s a huge modem. And it takes all of the information that the ship has in her database about this track: Is it air? Is it surface? Is it subsurface? Is it neutral? Is it hostile? Is it one of ours? What’s its bearing? What’s its speed? Do we know any information about it? Do we know what ship that is? Do we know what their capabilities are? And it takes all that information in the computer system, and my equipment turns that into data tones, like actual audio tones. And it encrypts it first. And then it turns it into one of 32 frequencies.

And I won’t go into the specifics, because it’s boring. It’s really ingenious the way they did it, but basically it would take those tones and it would broadcast it over the radio to the other ships in the carrier group.

It’s kind of hard to explain. Imagine that this is the carrier (indicating), and it’s in control of the carrier group, of the battle group. And imagine that this is us, and imagine that there is a frigate out in front. Each one of these ships has their radar group, or radar area. By sharing all the information, it’s basically a local area network.

All of a sudden — these ships, instead of seeing this much radar (indicating), all of a sudden, they see that much radar (indicating). I mean, this is almost before the time of AWACS and stuff like that, satellite imagery. So it was very important that everything worked.

Well, our ship at the time, I think, was the — I don’t know what the term was, but basically we were the administrator of the network. And we would go through and we would poll each ship, you know: Do you have any information? Yes. Okay, send it to me. Do you have information? No. Okay, next one.

Well, my equipment started to malfunction. And it wouldn’t poll correctly, so it wasn’t getting all the information. And I don’t have to tell you that people were pretty stressed out about that. So they come to me and they say, “You need to fix this!”

Well, normally, I would get out my oscilloscope and I would try to figure it all out, but I had done something that technically was illegal — or not illegal, but, you know, not authorized. And I had started collecting a series of cards that my equipment used. They basically used, like, ten different types of cards, but just a whole bunch of them. So I just had one spare of each one. And I went through this card rack on this piece of equipment. And I was just Easter-egging everything.

I was, like, pull this card out, put this card back in (indicating). Does it work? No. Okay. Take that out, put the original back in indicating). Take that one out, put that card in, the test card in, known good card. Does it work? Yes indicating). Okay. Take that out, put the original card back in. Does it work? No indicating). Okay. Take that out, put that test card back in indicating). Does it work? Yes. I have a known bad card in my hand here.

So I go to my Department Head, who at the time was standing as — I think he was the Command Duty Officer at the time, basically, controlling CIC. And I told him, “Look, I know for a fact this card is bad, and that is what’s causing the problem.”

What was his name? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I’m taking up too much time.

He looks at it as if he could somehow, you know, see electronics or something. And he tells me to clean the leads and put it back in, see if it works. And I look at him. And I’m like, “Yes, sir,” you know: incredulous.

And so I basically walk over there, and I don’t do it, you know. And then I go back and I say, “No, sir, it didn’t work.” And he’s like, “Well, okay. Then use the card that you put in.”

So I got everything working literally hours before war is about to start.

And then it actually starts, and they announce it over the 1-MC. And I remember listening in my workstation over the BBC. And I’m listening to, like, Peter Arnett and these other people. And they are in Baghdad. And they are talking about how everything is quiet, no bombs, no missiles or anything. “Everyone here is hunkered down. They don’t want us leaving the hotel,” and all like that.

And I hear word that the Tomahawks had been launched. And, in fact, I remember I left out the back exit of my work center, on the port side. I’m on the 02 level. And I can see the USS Leftwich, off of our port quarter, firing Tomahawks. And all the guys out on the main deck of the 01 level, they are like, “Yeah! Yeah! America!” and all, you know.

And then I go back inside, and I listen to U2, ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’. And I’m listening to the BBC, and I’m thinking, “You don’t know what’s about to hit you.”

And then, later on, during the actual hostilities — because the way they would do it is: They would fire a whole buttload of Tomahawk missiles (indicating). And then they would fly their sorties out from the carrier groups. And the sorties would go out and hit all their targets and all like that. And then they would come back through the degaussing lines, or delousing lines, depending on how you want to remember it. And then, once they landed on the carrier group, a whole new set of Tomahawks would take off.

And I remember I used to be able to go out on the bridge wings at night, and I’d see these little white streaks go over the clouds of all these Tomahawks and everything. And at the time we had — I don’t even know what they were, but they — from my understanding, they were CIA, but they were — we just called them “the spooks.” And they were — they had, like, these containers that you see on railroads and things like that. And it was actually welded to our signal bridge, up on the 03 level — or, actually, that would have been the 04 level.

And they were the ones that were hearing — they got all the good information, basically. And they were the ones that also got the Super Bowl scores before anyone else. But they were the ones that were hearing about all the really good information. And they were probably the ones that were seeing the luckiest man in Iraq, you know. You saw the guy where the missile hit the bridge, and this guy got out in time, and all like that.

So, anyway, we would hear from them about some of the stuff that was going on. But, for the most part, it was just BBC, and you would go out at night and see the tomahawks fly over. So it was a weird — it was a really weird couple of weeks there, just a really weird couple of weeks knowing that we were just bombing the shit out of someone.

Q: What was the trigger for — I would just call it “being released.” In other words, at some point in time, there was a replacement ship that came in and took your position, and then allowed you to then return from deployment.

A: Yeah. It would have been, I want to say, late February. And let’s see.

Oh, okay, here it is. Because I’ve got a list of the times. Aerial bombardment of Iraq started at 1:40 local time — at 1:40 A.m. local time on the 16th of January. And then we turned over to the USS Horne — oh, okay. So we, actually, turned over originally from the USS England, who was also a Leahy-class guided-missile cruiser. And then we turned over to the Horne, H-O-R-N-E, on 13 February, 1991. And then, from there, we left the Persian Gulf.

And then, five days later, we had a beer day — what we called a “steel beach picnic,” because it was on steel, basically. And that’s whenever our ship had been out at sea for more than — I think it’s, like, more than 60 days, or more than 30 days, or something like that.

And so what they basically did was: That was the day where we’re chopping through, like, the Indian Gulf, or Indian — I guess it would be the Indian Gulf, on the way back to Singapore.

And you go out on the fantail, in shorts and a t-shirt, or whatever you want. We have a band playing up above. And they hand you two beers. And they are, like, really cheap beers. And I wasn’t a beer drinker, anyway. So I think I gave mine away, or may have drunk one, or something like that. And I think — I want to say that they actually gave us one of the medals, like the first — maybe the Saudi-Kuwaiti liberation medal, because there were two Kuwaiti liberation medals. And I’m still fighting to get the Kuwaiti version of it. But the Saudis had already given us this really gaudy-looking medal. And I think they handed it to us then, along with the two beers. And we were not allowed to come back into the ship, unless we had finished those beers, or given them away, or thrown them overboard, or something like that.

And I remember — I don’t remember the name of the ship, but it was a destroyer. And she was coming along on our starboard side. You know, she was transiting back with us. And she was eligible for a beer day. She had been out the same amount of time we had. But her commanding officer wasn’t having any of it.

And so here we have 455 guys on the Worden, you know, listening to rock and roll and drinking beer and doing hotdogs and stuff like that. And then this poor Destroyer over on the other side that’s business as usual. And we were like, “Hey.” And they’re like, “Screw you.”

Q: I have just a couple of closing questions.

A: Sure.

Q: One is: Obviously, you were put in these situations with a lot of people from different walks of life, different racial backgrounds, different points in their life, different ranks even. What can you say, generally, about your experience as far as the caliber of people you came across and just sort of the environment you were in?

A: Some of the best people in the world. The bad ones were all, like, self-terminated. You know, they all end up screwing up somehow. I mean, we did have this one guy who came out of that — and this is sad. He was a Boatswain’s Mate. He had a drinking problem. I don’t remember his name. But he got up — he practically made Chief. He was a First-Class Petty Officer. And then they knocked him down, knocked him down, knocked him down. And he ended up, after he got out — he was dishonorably discharged.

I don’t know why I’m focusing on him, because most everyone was really great people. But, to finish this story, this guy actually shot up a school in, like, Seattle, or someplace like that.

But most of them, though, the bad apples, they all washed out earlier. They washed out before they got to the Worden, or, if they did, they washed out before we went on deployment, or something like that.

Now, keep in mind that I was there all the way through, not only Desert Storm, but we went back the year later for what they call “Southern Watch,” which was the enforcement of the no-fly zone. So I did two WestPacs in the Iranian Gulf. So I am thinking of everyone during that period.

But we actually have a Facebook group where we stay in touch with each other. And I know one has gone on to be a teacher, one has gone on to be a psychiatrist or psychologist, who helps with the V.A. My friend, Craig, is a very successful Realtor in Melbourne, Australia. We have reunions. I mean, these are some of the best guys in the world and some of the most upstanding people in the world, most patriotic men I have ever met.

You know, did we have disagreements? Yeah. I mean, it’s like a family. You fight with your brothers. And there were a lot of them that were real jerks. But, yeah, I mean, they’re great guys. And I’m honored to have served with them.

I’m getting off on a cliff.

Q: And then finally, you know, this is — this will be in the Library of Congress. Some day, someone — you know, hopefully, America will still be great and around in 500 years. But for someone who comes back many years down the road to read the transcript or hear this recorded conversation — you know, maybe they have family members who served with you, or maybe just are looking and stumble upon this particular interview. But as someone who has served, and in particular who has served in combat, what would you say to future generations as far as — whether you believe it’s important or not, but military service and the contributions that you and your fellow servicemen and servicewomen made?

A: I have actually told people that there are several things that I think that every person ought to do in life. One is to wait tables. I think everyone ought to wait tables, or at least some sort of customer service, you know, customer-facing service job because you — I mean, I really am partial to waiting tables because you have to learn time management and have good memory and be able to deal with people and things like that.

I also think everyone ought to run a business — or start their own business, even if it fails, which mine did. But you have to learn how to manage your time and to deal with more people and, in some cases, make payroll and things like that. But you have to kind of learn to appreciate the capitalist, the entrepreneur mindset.

And another one that I think that everyone ought to do is to serve at least some period of time in their country’s military because you learn discipline, you learn — primarily discipline, but you learn all these other things, time management. And you learn to focus on what’s important. You learn attention to detail. And, also, you learn how important it is to protect your country and to serve your country and — I’m sorry (tearing up).

It’s a great experience. You — it changed me.

And in a funny note, I always used to tell people that the Navy — my time in the Navy was a lot like high school because there were a lot of good times, and there were a lot of bad times. Overall, I’m glad I did it. You could not pay me enough money to do it all over again.

Q: Well, thank you. On my own behalf, on behalf of this program, and certainly on behalf of just as many people as I can speak for, I thank you very much for your service. And I appreciate it.


The Stricklin Mindset List

Every Fall, Beloit College produces what they’ve come to call the Beloit College Mindset List, a list of popular culture and historical references that demonstrate the incoming freshmen class’ mindset, having grown up when they did. For example, those born in 1987 and entering college this year have never known a day when the federal budget was less than a trillion dollars, Andy Warhol, Liberace, Jackie Gleason, and Lee Marvin have always been dead, and Iran and Iraq have never been at war with each other.

You get the idea.

So, today, in honor of my 46th birthday, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into what has happened since I was born.

  • I remember when homes only had one television, and it was huge!
  • I remember when televisions only came in black and white.
  • I remember watching the Ed Sullivan and the Red Skelton shows.
  • I remember seeing the Vietnam War every night on the evening news.
  • I remember seeing Neil Armstrong land on the moon.
  • I remember watching the (war) draft on television.
  • I remember the years between the end of the draft and the beginning of the Selective Service.
  • I remember when cable and satellite television for the home was unheard of.
  • I remember when HBO first became available.
  • I remember exactly where I was when President Nixon resigned.
  • I remember the Challenger exploding.
  • I remember voting for Reagan. Twice. Fondly.
  • I remember the fall of Siagon.
  • I remember the Iranian hostage crisis.
  • I remember disco. Not fondly.
  • I remember when John Lennon was shot.
  • I remember when the Beatles were still together.
  • I remember the Banana Splits.
  • I remember Tang.
  • I remember when white men in Shreveport used the slur “nigger” in open conversation. (To be clear, I’m not saying that’s a good thing, I’m saying I remember it happening, and it’s something I hated then and I hate now.)
  • I remember when there were no black children in my class.
  • I remember hearing something about what happened at Chappaquiddick, but being 9 at the time, didn’t care much.
  • Sadly, pretty much the same thing for Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.
  • I remember being stunned with news of the People’s Temple suicides.
  • I remember begging to watch Batman at the dinner table.
  • For that matter, I remember when everyone in the family ate dinner together, and no television was allowed.
  • I remember when calling someone “gay” meant he was a particularly happy individual.
  • I remember when every guy I knew had a copy of Farrah Fawcett’s poster on his wall. I remember why, too.
  • I remember when porn was shown only in theatres downtown, in the seedy parts of downtown.
  • I remember when Superman, Star Trek and Star Wars all opened.
  • I remember actually being impressed with their special effects.
  • I remember not even knowing who Bill Clinton was, when he was the governor of a state that’s less than 30 minutes North of where I grew up.
  • I remember hearing about how bad our neighbor’s daughter was because she smoked pot!
  • I remember when we could get two gallons of gasoline for under $1.
  • I remember when my first car cost $5,000. New!
  • I remember the lines around the service stations and rationing because gasoline cost $0.94 a gallon (About $3.08 in 2016 dollars.)
  • I remember Jimmy Carter’s pep-talk to the nation.
  • I remember when the Macintosh was first introduced.
  • I remember playing Zork on an Apple IIc.
  • I remember when my hair reached the middle of my shoulder blades.

So you see, I’ve been around for an old man. Here’s hoping I stay around for a few more interesting things.

The Privileged Planet

This weekend I watched a fascinating DVD titled The Privileged Planet which refutes the Copernican principle (sometimes called the principle of mediocrity) by arguing that the Earth’s seemingly insignificance compared to the universe as a whole in actuality is a compelling argument that our planet’s existence is exceedingly rare and suggests the universe was expressly created with us in mind; that instead of demoting Earth, it actually promoted Earth.

Authors Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards outline several different variables that must be exactly right in order for life to exist, including:

  1. It must be located within the Galactic habitable zone
    …close enough to its Galaxy’s center that a sufficiently high level of heavy elements (iron, magnesium, silicon) exist to favor the formation of rocky planets, but is far enough from the center to avoid hazards such as impacts from comets and asteroids, close encounters with passing stars, and outbursts of radiation from supernovae and from the black hole at the center of the galaxy.
  2. It must be located within the Circumstellar habitable zone
    …positioned properly to its star where liquid water could form and be maintained. For example, if the Earth were positioned 5% closer to the sun, the temperatures would soar to over 900° F and water would be burned out of our atmosphere, similar to Venus; if it were positioned 25% further away from the sun, carbon monoxide clouds would form and we’d freeze similar to Mars.
  3. It’d have to orbit a main sequence G2 dwarf star having the correct mass
    …of which only 10% of the known universe is thought to be comprised of.
  4. It would need to be protected by one or more gas giant planets
    …such as Jupiter and Saturn, in our case.
  5. It would need to be orbited by a large moon.
    Our moon stabilizes the rotation of the Earth and restricts it to a perfect 23.5 degree tilt, giving us the seasons.
  6. It would need a moderate rate of rotation.
  7. It would need a nearly circular rotation.
    …to maintain relatively constant temperatures.
  8. It would be to be the correct mass.
  9. It would need to be terrestrial.
  10. It would need an oxygen-rich atmosphere
    …in order to support carbon-based life forms.
  11. It would have similar plate tectonics to our own
    If the Earth’s crust were any thicker, it wouldn’t be able to recycle carbon or regulate temperature.
  12. It would generate a magnetic field like ours.
    Without the magnetic fields of flux emanating from the Earth’s poles, the solar wind would strip off our atmosphere and leave us looking like Mars.
  13. It would have a similar ratio of water to continents.

Add to these factors that our location within the Galactic habitable zone happens to be in between the Sagittarius and Perseus arms of our galaxy where habitability is optimized and threats are minimized. Even within the Galactic habitable zone there are patches where the arms spiral inward where things are too dense: too many supernovas, too many black holes and too much deadly radiation for planets to inhabit life.

Then, add to those factors that our position within the galaxy, as well as the factors that make up Earth’s habitability, particularly its clear atmosphere, provide us with the best overall setting for making scientific discoveries. For example, the best place to view a solar eclipse was calculated against 60 planets and moons, but the best place to view one was here on Earth. Being able to view a solar eclipse this perfectly allows astronomers to see other stars, to see other galaxies and to calculate their position and movement.

When you take all of the factors the authors suggest:

N x fsg x fghz x fcr x fsp x fchz x np x fj x fc x fo x fm x fcp x fmn x fn x ft x fl x fi x fr x flc x flt

…and assign them conservative values of 10 x 1:

(1011 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) x (10 x 1) / 10 = 1/1,000,000,000,000,000 (one thousandth of one trillion)

In layman’s terms, that means that the likelihood of a planet like Earth occurring is roughly once in every trillion planets. While this suggests that the Earth is very rare, that statistic might even get lost in the types of big numbers we’re talking about in the universe. It’s kind of like the old saying where you call someone “one in a million.” With roughly 6,450,000,000 people on the Earth at the moment, that would mean at “one in a million” there might be as many as 6,449 more of you out there. So, even at one thousandth of a trillion, with Sagans of stars out there, it stands to reason that. statistically at least, the likelihood of Earth being singularly unique are small.

However, the mere fact that the universe is orderly seems to suggest that it was designed and created by an intelligent being, or… let’s just say it to be clear: God.

Consider the Kalam Cosmological Argument:

  1. Whatever comes to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Now, I know that “pure” scientists reject anything outside of materialism, but in a way, even scientists accept as a matter of faith an underlying assumption that the universe is orderly (otherwise, nothing could be studied because nothing could be measured, predicted or duplicated) and intelligent (otherwise, we ourselves couldn’t understand anything.)

If you accept that the universe is both orderly and intelligent, then it stands to reason that it either just happened to occur in that exact way as a cosmic fluke, or that is happened that way on purpose; that it was caused.

I choose to believe the latter.

Luckily, I’m in good company. Copernicus, himself the “instigator” of all this talk of “demoting” the Earth, believed that God created the universe propter nos (“for us”)

Paul Taylor (1960-2006)

I mourn the loss of childhood friend, Paul Taylor.

Paul was only a few months older than I, and he lived just over my backyard fence when I was in junior high and high school. He was the proverbial archetype of the “tough guy with a heart made of gold.” Even at 14, he shaved, and smoked, and drank and rode a motorcycle.

We became friends when David, my best friend even today, moved away to Houston. We would spend afternoons in his smoke-filled house, listening to records and playing our own music. Often we’d drive around the neighborhood in his old Fold Fairlane looking for something to do, and nearly without exception he drive in arcs across the local park’s parking lot so fast it’d nearly tip the car over, on my side!

During those years, I progressed from smoking Swisher Sweets to nearly 2 packs of Marlboro a day when he realized the reason I’d taken up smoking was to emulate him. Suddenly, one day when he and I walked around our neighborhood he suddenly stopped, grabbed the pack of cigarettes from my shirt pocket, tore them in half, stood inches away from my face and swore to me that if he found me smoking again, he’d beat the snot out of me. And no, he didn’t use the word ‘snot’, I did.

In the decades since, I’ve lit up a cigarette only twice.

At school, he and I spent a great deal of time and thought concerning the young women in our classes. In high school, he began dating Pam, a girl who’d run afoul of my girlfriend at the time. They married, and started their family right away. Paul dropped out of school to support them. Some time later, because of our mutual love for Paul, Pam and I settled our differences, which it turned out wasn’t that hard because neither of us could remember the root cause in the first place.

When I returned home after serving in the Gulf War in 1991, I visited with Paul and his family, giving t-shirts and trinkets to his children, Rachel and James. They were very young and small then… both of them are fully-grown now.

Paul and I met a few years ago at Murrell’s for a cup of coffee and conversation. I found out that the pinging sound on my home’s rotating exhaust fans that had driven my Dad crazy had been caused by Paul sitting on his back porch, pellet rifle in hand, shooting away and trying not to give away his position with laughter. I also found out that his marriage to Pam seemed to be ending. Shortly, his prediction came true.

Some time later, I received an announcement in the mail that Paul was marrying again, to a woman named Roxanna, and subsequent phone conversations proved to me that he was very, very happy.

I’ve been intending to call and visit, but as with many relationships, if you don’t make the time, the time slips away from you. Tuesday morning, Pam called me, got my answering machine, and because she wasn’t sure of my voice, ended the call. She called again later and told me the news: Paul had laid down along side his van at work and passed away. The speculation was that it was a heart attack.

I’m thankful that Paul didn’t suffer long. I’m thankful he was a friend when I needed one. I’m thankful he stopped me from becoming addicted to cigarettes. I’m thankful he taught me how to play the drums. More that those things, I’m thankful for all the times he made me laugh. He was a good man, and a good friend, and he will be sorely missed.

On going to church

I don’t like to go to church.

There! I’ve said it.

I’m a Christian who enjoys learning more about God and how to live my life according to His will and plan for my life, but I dislike going to church. I always have.

Not that I have anything against the church members: I don’t.

I grew up in a small church just a stone’s throw from where I now live. Probably not even 200 members, they still have services geared to the “blue-haired old ladies” who have been members for years. A Southern Baptist church, they still sing from hymnals and print out the order of service on an old mimeograph. I hated it. I loved God and I loved the people, I just hated the church services.

So, I moved to a mega-church. This church has projection television behind the choir, stadium seating, and a gift shop in the lobby, a television studio, and all the trappings of today’s mega-church. I tried to get into the swing of things; the record-contract quality singers, the “happy, happy, joy, joy” songs with the lyrics projected where I could read them. I really did.

I don’t like singing.

That’s not entirely accurate: I don’t like communal singing. I don’t like singing when I’m part of a choir or a congregation.

I also don’t care for the style of soloist who chooses and perform songs with built-in “stand up” points. You know… the key-change or crescendo that can be counted on to cause at least a handful of people in the congregation to stand and lift their hand toward Heaven or begin applauding, which in turn causes the entire congregation to stand, many just feeling awkward.

I also don’t like it when preachers try too hard “close the deal.” God works in people’s lives differently, and they shouldn’t have their hand forced when it comes to a decision of that magnitude.

My idea of the perfect Sunday morning church experience? First, it probably wouldn’t be morning for me. I’m not a morning person.

I’d wake up at about 9AM, take a shower, brush my teeth, put on my good blue jeans, a decent shirt, my loafers, then drive to church where I’d meet a handful of other believers. We’d spend a few moments settling in, sharing coffee and doughnuts or something to eat, talking about our past weeks and finding out how each of us is doing. After that, we’d pick up where we left off the week before and really study the Bible. After a while, we’d talk about what’s on our minds, what’s bothering us, insights we may have had, questions that linger, burdens we bear. We’d comfort each other and pray, then disband for the week.

Afterwards, we’d move into the common area where we’d hear the announcements, and one of our ministers would share a brief lesson, then extend an invitation to join. No big productions. No grandiose moments. No high-pressure tactics. Just friends and fellow believers getting together to share a few precious moments together.

I’m positive there are churches like this elsewhere, just not anywhere near my home in Shreveport.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

Today, for the very first time in my life, I celebrate Father’s Day without a father. My dad passed away last April after a long illness, so it is only fitting that I remember him on this special day.

Walter Harold Stricklin was born August 26th, 1920 on a farm a few miles northeast of Detroit, Texas to Walter Davis and Maude Beatrice Stricklin. He grew up with his older brothers Leo and James, and later his younger sister, Ester Maude, in Northeast Texas during the Great Depression, working on farms and oil fields in the area. On June 3rd, 1941, he graduated with an Associates Degree from North Texas Agricultural College (now the University of Texas at Arlington.)

For a little over a year after graduation, he helped his parents work the farm, hauled cotton to the Gin, and dug stock tanks and oil field slush pits. During a stint as a roustabout for Continental Oil Company he met and later married a slender beauty by the name of Miss Audra Obinelle Graham. Two weeks after the wedding, he was drafted into World War II, serving in the Army Air Corp.

During the war he maintained and repaired aircraft, stationed in England prior to D-Day and following the troops into Europe afterwards. He was on a troop transport heading to the Pacific when word of the Japanese surrender reached him, and the ship continued back to the States instead.

After his military service, he and his bride moved to Shreveport, Louisiana and began working as a purchasing agent for Superior Ironworks and Supply Company. Their first child, Sharon Ann, arrived in 1954 and I was born in 1960.

My earliest memories of my dad were of his evening routine: he would read the paper and watch the evening news until dinner was ready at 6:30 P.M., we would all have dinner with very little conversation and absolutely no television, dad would return to the couch where he would often sleep, paper over his torso, until 10:00 P.M. when he would watch the local news, then the television would again be turned off as everyone went to bed. My dad would be up early in the morning and off to work, even before I’d woken up to get ready for school.

I would later learn that this part of his life was a humiliating, depressing gray period, where he was consistently passed over for promotions and not paid very well. Still, I never went to bed hungry, I always had clothes to wear, I received a good education and I only had one bedroom my entire childhood. My dad did what he had to do because he had a family to provide for.

After being forced to take an early retirement, my dad worked part-time for Enterprise Rent-a-Car as a driver. He would wake up early in the morning, meet several of his also-retired co-workers and drive vehicles all over the southern states. He loved his job and the travel it required, and he was the happiest I’ve ever seen him. He lost much of his excess weight and was full of life and energy.

That all changed the day a nurse called, informing him of his enrollment in a Diabetes management course. Although many diagnosed with Type II Diabetes today go on to lead full, healthy lives, to my dad and many of his generation, the illness seemed like a death sentence.

The remaining six years he shrunk into his “cave” as we came to refer to his bedroom. He would sleep all day and keep my mom awake all night crying out and moaning. The drugs used to treat depression caused nightmares and disorientation, and were generally worse than the symptoms. He broke off contact with family and friends, and he broke my heart when he was too ill to travel to and attend my long-postponed college graduation.

The last time we all gathered as a family was last Thanksgiving. Dad, Mom and I went over to Sharon’s home to have turkey and dressing with she and her husband Frank, and their son Matthew, as well as another family they are friendly with. I recall thinking to myself how sad it seemed, my dad unable to follow or join conversations because of his failing eyesight and hearing, my mom and Sharon having to cut his food for him, and I specifically remember having to point out to Mom to clean his nose. Still, it was good that he was able to be there.

A few days later, while out of town, I learned that he had had several small strokes. Mom, Sharon and myself had Christmas by ourselves, while Dad was in the hospital for observations.

After returning home, he generally worsened, eventually entering hospice care and suffering several more small strokes. His appetite waned, and then he stopped eating altogether. He was winding down.

Sharon recalls having some funny, loony conversations with him where he seemed to be re-living parts of his life in real-time, sending her off to drilling platforms and the like. Then, he stopped talking.

I was working in Pineville, Louisiana the Thursday, April 24th when I got a call from Sharon. We had agreed that I should continue working as normal because it was so difficult to know when the end was near. She was exhausted after dealing with his convulsions earlier that morning. Sharon said she wasn’t sure if it was approaching, but I sensed it was, dropped everything I was doing and raced the two and a half hours back to Shreveport to be at his side.

Over the next several hours, Mom, Sharon, Frank, Matthew and myself moved in and out of his presence, letting him know we were there and saying our goodbyes. In his own home, in his own bedroom, surrounded by the people he loved and who loved him, he quietly passed away.

My dad and I weren’t all that close while I was growing up. How stupidly universal it seems, that all children distance themselves from their parents. When I was a teenager, and knowing everything like all teenagers seem to believe, I began calling him “father” since I didn’t like or respect him enough to call him my “dad”. He would later sign his letters addressed to me as “Father”, a clear indication now of how much it hurt his feelings to be thought of this way. I curse at myself now at my insolence and insensitivity!

Still, we had some good memories; when I was 13, he bought me my first pair of boots, obviously some sort of transplanted-Texas sort of rite-of-passage thing. When I was 27, and in the early morning fog he drove me to the local MEPS where I would begin my enlistment in the Navy. Uncharacteristically, he hugged me, told me he loved me and how proud he was of me. While I returned to college after a decade-long hiatus, I learned that he bragged about his son in college to anyone and everyone who would stand still long enough to tell.

Sometime after my own wartime experiences, I began to reexamine our relationship and realized that I was, in many ways, exactly like my dad. I too, was opinionated. I too, was stubborn. I too, was balding and putting on too much weight. Most of all, I too talked too much.

After I began to look at my father through the filter of age and experience, I saw that, despite our few differences and disagreements, he was a generally decent and honorable man. I began to call him “dad” again, and piece-by-piece, brick-by-brick, I began to disassemble the wall that I had formed between us. I think ultimately, with God’s guidance, I was able to accomplish that.

My dad wasn’t a religious man, but late in his life I learned that he was a man of great faith. I know in my heart that my father is now in the presence of his Heavenly Father.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. I’ll be coming home one day soon.

“…I know to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord, and from what I know of Him, that must be very good.” — Sara Groves, “What Do I Know?”