My Turner Times

If ever there was a greener Ensign to report for active duty than me, I want to meet him!

I arrived on Turner in June of 1957 to pay off a debt—three years of active duty in exchange for the Navy Scholarship to college. Right off, I knew it would be a long debt. XO Kleist terrified me; BMC Ferro was older than dirt, but told me where quarters, muster, the forecastle and First Division were located. Hey, I was the FIRST LIEUTENANT! Heck, I was too green to know that there wasn’t a Second, Third or Fourth Lieutenant. I was proud to be "First".

In my first few months, I found out I could live without sleep; I counted every Turner foul weather jacket; I learned to drink horrible coffee; I became "in charge" of the forward refueling station; best of all, I found two officers to whom I could turn with questions and actually get honest help. LTJG Mel Edwards knew everything and LT Bill Garcia brought a lighter side to duty showing you could actually laugh while doing 17 simultaneous jobs. Thanks for being there, you two.

In the months that followed, I became ASW Officer after school in Key West, became fascinated by sextant navigation to the point that I succeeded in taking over Navigator duties from XO Kleist and then qualified as a crypto watch officer. Now I was to the point where there was no time for sleep whatsoever. Stand your 4 on 8 off; spend off watch hours in "crypto" and "shoot the stars" at predawn and sunset hours. I think I discovered early on the value of a really good chief-they can do so much and make Ensigns actually look good. Thanks chief!

From the arrival terror and insecurity to later cautious confidence, I progressed to Gunnery Officer, Officer of the Deck, Command Duty Officer and Air Controller. I look back at one night among them all as perhaps the defining moment of my early debt paying years. As OOD at about 0130 one dark night, with Turner out front of two large carriers in the Mediterranean at 24 knots in a 16 destroyer bent line screen, a screen reorientation maneuver was ordered by the Admiral requiring Turner to dash at high speed back through traffic to a new station. ALWAYS BEFORE, I would calculate the Turner’s move, call the Captain and he would come out and watch over things! On this night, I did my calculations, called Captain McMullen and he merely said "Call me when you get us to the new station." Ooops, talk about bristles up and down one’s spine! After nervously, but successfully, maneuvering Turner to her new spot at high speed, avoiding dark shapes and carriers, I honestly felt then I could do just about anything. Quite a mix of pride and early responsibility.

As my tour neared completion and my debt to the US Navy paid, I was offered the opportunity to augment to the active Navy and stay on! Wow! What to do? Continue with this new found life or return to the truck farm in Maine? Easy choice-I stayed. And what do you suppose the Navy had in store for me then? I received orders to the USS Notable as the XO! Me? What? XO? After finally learning how to do most of what Turner had for me, I was right back where I started 3 years ago-wondering if I could meet the next challenge ahead. I later realized that this feeling occurs with most every duty change.

So there! I came to Turner to pay a debt and left having FOUND A LIFE. After two years as XO of Notable, I was ordered to a NATO school in Belgium to teach mine warfare for three years. I then returned to sea duty as OPS Officer of USS Tulare (LKA-112) followed by my first command-the USS Pivot (MSO-463). Three years of Pentagon duty in Personnel management were followed by a frightening year of isolated duty on the rivers of war-torn Cambodia.

I then took my second command-the USS George K. MacKenzie (DD-863), my own version of the Turner. We sailed the Pacific, did a tour in the Indian Ocean and won the battle efficiency "E". Fun days! Next came a year at the National War College in D.C. and three years as Executive Assistant to the CNO (Admiral Holloway) handling his decision coordination. I then was dispatched to the Persian Gulf to take command of the Middle East flagship-USS Coronado (AGF-11) for a year. Then, with sea duty over, I returned to the Pentagon for three years as Admiral John Nyquist’s deputy in OP-35 developing surface warfare combat systems including HARPOON and TOMAHAWK cruise missiles. After nearly 30 years of service, I retired a Captain in 1985.

Without the TURNER years of varied duties, excellent teachings and satisfying experiences, I often wonder where life might have led me.


Captain David E. Buck, USN (Ret.)

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