From Boot Camp to USS Midway
By Bruce Lonardo
I completed my basic training on June 29, 1979 at the Naval Recruit Training Center at Great Lakes, Illinois. A couple of days later, everyone in my graduating division received their PCS (permanent change of station) orders that assigned each of us to our new duty stations. Now to the individuals who want to experience the opportunity of world travel that is synonymous with serving in the Navy, receiving orders to an overseas duty station is about as good as you can get. I mean, if a person joins the Navy in the hopes that they're going to get to see the world, it really doesn't do them much good if they end up getting stationed in Keokuk, Iowa. During basic training, the customary way for new recruits in the Navy to receive orders is for each individual to submit what's known as a "Dream Sheet." This is an official submitted request to the Bureau of Naval Personnel by each new recruit in training, which lists three desired duty stations selected from a list of worldwide Naval bases and vessels, with the most desired location first, followed by their second and third choices.
When I submitted my dream sheet, I requested sea duty in the Pacific fleet and listed Pearl Harbor first, Japan second, and San Diego, California third. I did not really expect to receive orders to Pearl Harbor for a second, since everybody requests Pearl as their first choice. Needless to even mention, it's a paradise of a duty station and almost impossible to land orders there right out of boot camp. The Navy does try their best however, to station you at one of the locations you request if there are open billets there and if your job designation coincides with the available openings. I figured I was dreaming out my ears on my first two requests and I most likely would be stationed in San Diego. On the day I received my orders, I was thrilled when I learned that I was going to Japan! The PCS orders I received informed me that I was to report to Attack Squadron VA-115 aboard the USS Midway, CV-41, which was based at Yokosuka Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan. Man, was I happy with the duty station orders that I received!
The Navy does allow individuals to trade orders only on the first day when they are received and only if the job designations between the two persons trading their orders are the same. In my graduating company, there were a lot of guys who received great orders and then there were a good handful of guys who received crappy orders. There were three of four guys in my graduating company who wanted me to trade orders with them and one guy even offered me a bribe of $200, but no way! I was not trading away my orders - I wouldn't even consider it! One of the Lieutenants in my training division even advised me not to trade away my orders and he told me that the Midway was a good ship and that Japan was an awesome duty station. He was right! A sort of irony to my being stationed on the Midway was that my father was stationed on Midway's sister ship, the USS Coral Sea, back in the mid 1950's.
After I left Great Lakes Illinois, the Navy temporarily assigned me to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington to FRAMP Training Squadron VA-128. There, I attended the NAMTRADETS aviation ground support plane captain maintenance & training school to learn about the flight components and ground support maintenance for the A-6 Intruder, which was the designated aircraft of VA-115. When I left Whidbey Island two months later, I was sent overseas to Yokosuka, Japan to wait in transit because the Midway was out on station in the Indian Ocean. So, for a month I worked in TAD status (Temporary Assigned Duty) aboard one of the tugboats in the Yokosuka Naval Shipyard. I was then sent TAD to Cubi Point Naval Air Station in the Philippines for about another month until I was told to report aboard the USS Dixie, AD-14. The Dixie brought me and several other Midway transit personnel to Diego Garcia where we crossed the equator and received our Shellback initiations. Shortly after arriving in Diego Garcia, we all disembarked from the Dixie and reported aboard the USS San Jose, which ultimately delivered us to the USS Midway, the greatest ship in the Pacific Fleet! Well, there is the story of how I got stationed on the Midway.