New Jersey, Naples & Mediteranean - 1964-1965
My original orders were to Guantanamo Bay Cuba, to be the SAR (search and rescue) pilot. I was to go to HU-4 in Lakehurst, NJ to requalify in helicopters. The folks at HU4 decided I would be a bit rusty to go straight to independent duty like that, so they pulled some strings and had me assigned to HU4 (Helicopter Utility Squadron 4) and sent a pilot with more recent experience to Gitmo.
We bought a house in Toms River, NJ, a short distance from Lakehurst. We had been in the house for about a month, and had not even closed the loan, when I was ordered to our detachment on the USS Altair in the Mediteranean Sea and home ported in Naples, Italy for a 6 month tour of duty. Sue and the kids drove home to Mississippi and I caught a plane to Naples. Shortly after I arrived in Naples, I got new orders to HU4 Detachment 1 in Norfolk, VA. This meant we'd be moving to Norfolk as soon as my Med tour was done. I called Sue and told her the situation, that we were going to sea and would be back in Naples in 2 weeks, and made this suggestion: Go back to New Jersey, get rid of the house we just bought, pick up a set of my orders, put the furniture and car in storage, get passports for you and the kids, get your shots up to date and book a flight to get you and the kids to Naples in 2 weeks. She did it! For the details of HOW she did it, you'll have to read her version of family history. Anyway, I met her and the kids at the airport in Naples and we got an apartment for them near the NATO facility there.
Life on the Altair Help from the Marines Ports of Call
I was flying as second pilot on the job and LCDR Billy Meadows was A/C commander. We (the pilots) didn't do much while in port at Naples, except go out on the town and the helicopter and our crew stayed at the Naples airport while in port. Once my family was there, he told me to just stay home and if he needed me for anything he'd come and get me. I don't think I ever had to go to work while in port the whole time we were there. We went to Mt. Vesuvius, to Pompei, took a boat to Capri, went to Rome for a few days on another occasion and saw all the sights around Naples. We got a used car the second month there so Sue could get around and go shopping while I was not there. We lived upstairs in an apartment building and had two other American couples as neighbors, Rickey (Navy) and Geneva Ewing and Jimmy (Air Force) and Trudy Ratliff. We still see Jimmy and Trudy occasionally when we go through San Antonio but have lost contact with the Ewings. We were in Naples for Christmas 1964 and New Years 1965. We had quite a New Years Eve party at the Ratliffs. My tour was up in early 1965 and it was time to head back to the USA.
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Visit the Altair website at http://www.ussaltair-aks32.org
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