The following is an excerpt from a book I wrote with my dad, from a chapter titled “When you’re mistaken for NIS simply because you commute to the ship via helicopter.”
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After Dad made chief in New Jersey, he was stationed on the U.S.S. Guam, a helicopter carrier. Even though it was based in Norfolk, every Monday it went down off the coast of South Carolina to test the new vertical-lift helicopter (now known as the Harrier) that were being developed in Beaufort.
And that’s where he was involved in a rather amusing case of mistaken identity.
But I’ll let him tell the story:
It just so happened that Pete was stationed on the ship the same day I was. He and I had a lot in common. Not only were we both in communications and both chiefs, but we also were both from South Carolina (he was from Florence).
We also had the same NEC (Navy Enlisted Classification) code for classified equipment, and that got us into different places on the ship that not everyone had access to.
Because we were repairing teletype machines, it was better for us to work in the middle of the night (when incoming messages were less frequent), and the captain let us do as we pleased as long as we kept the machines running.
Most of the time we worked about three hours a night, and otherwise we just wandered around not doing any other work. There were other chiefs on board, so we rarely went into the radio room.
All of that – odd hours, having free reign, the captain leaving us alone – led some people to believe we were with Naval Intelligence.
At first, we didn’t notice. But before long we had a hard time finding people to play pinochle with. And then people started giving us worried looks when we tried to strike up conversations.
Well, by then we knew something was up. Finally, one of the men in communications told us why some people were wary of us.
And then our reputation was sealed when Pete and I requested – and received approval – from the captain to take the mail helicopter out on Fridays to Charleston and come back on Monday mornings.
Who else could do that except somebody working undercover?
Pete and I figured it wasn’t all bad. Being mistaken for NIS did keep the aggravation to a minimum. The officer on watch never bothered us. No one nagged us for reports. We could do pretty much anything we wanted.
Except make any money on cards. For some reason we couldn’t find anyone who would admit to playing the game.
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