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Continued from Mini-Mo to 4.0...

As soon as everyone caught wind that I didn't have orders in Orlando, I was shipped out within a couple of weeks to the USS Coontz DDG-40 up in Norfolk, Virginia. The USS Coontz had quite an illustrious career but it was quickly coming to a close.

The Coontz just returned from a Med Cruise with the USS Stark. Some of my shipmates even flew over to the Stark to help keep it afloat. Having talked to a couple of them personally, I'm not sure anyone in the country really knew how horrific the attack and damage was... and how close we came to losing the ship. I got to serve on board the Coontz with some true heroes.

It seemed every time we tried to get underway on the Coontz, we either limped or got towed back to the piers in Norfolk. It was an incredibly frustrating period. The boilers were shot on board The Coontz... and we continued to have major steam leaks everywhere, every time we tried to get underway.

As for me, I was a well-educated third class that had no practical electrical knowledge to actually get any work done. About all I did every day was to track down grounded circuits and equipment (a job that actually proved invaluable as I shifted outside the Navy from electricity & electronics to networking & software). Soon after joining the Coontz, we were told we'd be plankowners and would decommission her in Philadelphia Naval Shipyards.

Right before heading to Phili (our families didn't go), my wife and I found out we were expecting our first child, Bill. I went to Philadelphia for the next 9 months.... it was tough being a weekend husband. My wife started having some drug and alcohol issues during that time as well. I'd often come back from a week in Phili only to head to the pawn shop and get back some of our belongings she pawned.

In Phili, we stripped the ship bare... gave away as much as we could of our inventory to other ships, and quite a bit more found its way to the bottom of the piers at the shipyard.

For the first few months in Phili, I found love in exercise. I was benching 300, running and swimming every single day. I was a rock back then - never in better shape. I soon got bored and figured out, with the rest of the crew, that Philadelphia was quite a party town. For the next few months I partied.

My last few months I smartened up and realized that making E-5 was something I really needed for my family. We were beyond broke back then. I sat up every night and read through Navtech manuals and studied every single chapter of every single manual.

When the tests came for Second Class (EM), no one in E division expected me to pass. I not only passed, I made first increment and was immediately promoted. My division officer and EM1 were startled... they really didn't want me in charge and I didn't want to take on any leadership, so I coasted through to the decommissioning.

Then came orders... to the Gator Navy and the USS Spartanburg County!

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