I had taken shorthand in high school. In 1969, in order to graduate from "C" school, you had to pass a test during which you took shorthand while someone dictated at 120 words per minute for five minutes (normal speaking is between 125 to 150 words per minute). Piece of cake! I had been able to do 120 wpm before I graduated from high school and I had been working as an executive secretary for almost three years prior to my enlistment . I not only already knew all the shorthand characters, I was already fast enough to graduate and we hadn't started classes yet.
I didn't even take leave between the two schools. I kept my room in the barracks and went directly from graduation at "A" school to the first day of classes at "C" school. I was the only female in my class. The rest of the class (and it was a very small class) was composed of male Yeomen who had chosen to make the Navy a career. They were much older than I, and had been in the Navy much longer. However, I already knew shorthand and they didn't. Shorthand was similar to learning a foreign language and these guys were starting from scratch. I have to say, they did a remarkable job. I had the advantage of an entire school year during high school in which to learn shorthand and work on getting up to speed. These guys had to learn from the beginning and be able to write at 120 wpm in just a few short weeks. It was a terrific class, the guys were wonderful, and I did everything I could to help each of them as we went along.
I did make history as far as the Navy is concerned. I was the first nonrated person in the history of the U. S. Navy to graduate from a "C" school. There was a story written about me and published in the Navy Times. I know there was another female Seaman Apprentice in the class after mine, but I don't know how much longer they continued with the program. I know the program was discontinued, but I don't know when or why -- maybe because none of us became lifers and they figured they were wasting time and money on flighty females who were just going to go civilian at the end of their initial enlistment. Again another case of hindsight being 20/20, but I have learned to accept my decisions and not regret too much the road not taken.
The "fame" as a result of the article in Navy Times brought me to the attention of the command in Norfolk, Virginia. The position of J3, Director of Operations for CINCLANT / CINCLANTFLT in Norfolk was designated as an admiral grade billet, but was at that time being filled by CAPT John W. Fair. He read the article in the Times and thought since he was a Captain filling an Admiral's billet, maybe he could get a Flag Writer who was not "really" a Flag Writer. By the way, the military just loves acronyms. Admiral Ephraim P. Holmes was the top dog in 1969 at the SACLANT / CINCLANT / CINCLANTFLT / CINCWESTLANT (Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic / Commander in Chief Atlantic / Commander in Chief Atlantic Fleet / Commander in Chief Western Atlantic) headquarters and that meant he was commander over every active duty U.S. military man or woman stationed anywhere in or on the Atlantic Ocean or surrounding countries. SACLANT and CINCWESTLANT were part of NATO and that made him top dog also for all Allied troops in, on or around the Atlantic. On a joint military command, if your position designation begins with a J, it means you are in charge of that job for the joint command --Navy, Marine, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard (during wartime), etc. If your position designation begins with an N, you are only responsible for the Navy's part. The base in Norfolk, which is a separate facility not physically attached to the Norfolk Naval Base or the Norfolk Naval Air Station, was crawling with people of all branches of the military and members of many foreign services.
Soon school was drawing to an end, and once again it was time for the game in which you pick the duty stations where you would like to be assigned. Again I chose Jacksonville, San Diego and Honolulu. I couldn't believe it -- I actually received orders to report for duty at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida. I was ecstatic! That lasted one day. It seems a special petition had come from CAPT J. W. Fair in Norfolk, requesting me by name. New orders were issued for me to report to Norfolk. I guess being "special" had gone to my head because I loudly protested to anyone and everyone who would listen. Actually, I would have protested whether I thought I was special or not -- I'm just that way; I speak my mind. But, lo and behold, someone was paying attention and the next day the new orders were rescinded and once again I was headed for NAS JAX. That lasted one more day. The next day the orders to Norfolk were reinstated. When I went to my Commanding Officer to find out why, I was told that CAPT Fair had pulled rank. He went to ADM Holmes, who had signed off on the request, and there was no way anyone was gonna buck that particular four-star Admiral.
So, I was going to Norfolk. Well, at least it was close to the beach.
|The three guys in the front were Instructors. The four guys in the back row were my classmates.|