My first assignment, after graduating from Navy boot camp in San Diego (April 1977) was attending schools in electronics, submarine systems, and torpedo/missile fire control system operation and maintenance in Groton, CT. In August 1978, I received orders to my first boat, the USS Bergall SSN-667. It was headed to overhaul at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, changing homeport from Groton, CT to Norfolk, VA, only 65 miles south of my hometown in Saluda. After the shipyard overhaul in 1979, I earned my “dolphins” on Bergall in 1980.
I forged many lifelong friendships here while traveling the seas, visiting foreign lands and training for war. After a 6-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea in 1982, I was transferred to shore duty in March 1983 for three years at Mobile Operational Technical Unit 2 (MOTU-2), Norfolk, VA.
On March 15, 1986, the USS Newport News (SSN-750) was launched at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. It was a very special day for my family and I, and the new crew. About 25,000 people attended the launch. My younger brother, Tom Sandman, has been a welder there for over forty years, and he helped build this one, so I was especially proud to be assigned to it…not to mention hopeful that his welds would keep the ocean out! The crew and some shipyard workers are riding it down the rails as it slips into the James River.
In this photo, I’m standing with other Chief Petty Officers on the port fairwater plane (upper right of photo), in the middle of the group. The boat was commissioned in June 1989 and deployed to the Mediterranean Sea for Desert Storm in January 1991…which is another whole story.
(TO BE CONTINUED…)