INTRODUCTION: This page is reserved for special personal memories of former VFP-62 crew members. Stories which are unique, interesting, funny or sad, but most of all, stories that illustrate what life was like in VFP-62, serving on carriers, and how they transformed teenagers into men.
Contributions to this page are welcome. Remember, the statute of limitations has run out! - Webmaster.
Reporting to VFP-62: First Arrival Memories
VFP-62 Hangar 67 - NAS Cecil Field FL
[Webmaster's Note: This page of Sea Stories will be reserved for rememberances of arrival to VFP-62. Greg Engler, a frequent contributor to the site kicks it off:
Remembering the old hangar front entrance. After electronics school in Memphis my orders said I was to report to VFP-62 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville Fla. I flew into Jax with only a few hours to spare and had less than $5 in my pocket. I got off the plane with no idea of where the base was or how I was to get there. I came across three other sailors and we all rented a taxi for about 75 cents each and he took us to the base. To this day I don't see how we were able to get there at 75 cents each.
On arrival I checked in somewhere at the base and was told that VFP 62 was not at the base. I thought "oh goody, they lost my squadron". They put me in the transit barracks for the night while someone checked to see where my missing future squadron was. They agreed that I was at the place where my orders told me to go except that there was no squadron of that designation there. I didn't lose a wink of sleep over the whole thing and slept real well. I got up in the morning, had breakfast after showering and shaving and checked in the office again where I was told that my squadron was at Cecil Field and not at NAS Jax. They put me on a bus that transited between the bases and that's how I got to the main gate at Cecil.
I looked down that long roadway in the base and wondered just how I was going to get myself and my bag way down there somewhere and then find my squadron. Somehow I got a ride to the area where the chow hall was and then had to carry that big assed heavy duffle bag to the hangar after someone told me where it was. I was about 5 ft 7 inches tall and only weighed about 145 pounds so the bag was almost as heavy as I was. My arms felt like they were ready to fall off when I got to the door at the front of the hangar. I checked in and was told I was late but then I showed them my orders and showed them that I had checked in at NAS on time. That satisfied them and so I didn't go to the brig for being AWOL. Somehow later I ended up at the barracks and that was that. I cleaned the hangar deck for two weeks instead of being assigned to the electronics shop and then finally was assigned after that.
I also remember having eggs cooked to order as well as steak at midnight as we finished working 2nd shift at the line and hangar. I really enjoyed that little bennie in those days. I also remember that after midnight chow that many nights were spent playing double deck pinochle all night long and well into the late morning. At times I would finally close my eyes to get some sleep and all I could see was those cards in my eyes and I would be mentally playing hand after hand after hand. I had so many perfect hands that way but really only saw one perfect hand dealt and played.
I'm not sure if I ever went in or out that hangar door over the next few years but I remember going out of it when I got my separation papers and drove away from it never to look back. I may have used that door many times but I only recall the first and last time time. Funny how the mind erases all the pain in between isn't it????
Greg Engler, former AT2 (1964-66)
[Addendum (1/18/11):] The same thing happened to me when I reported from Memphis in February of 63'. They gave me a ride over in a van early in the morning to Cecil Field and I was not reported AWOL even though I reported late. -- Robert King ADJ3 1963-66
VFP-62 Flight Line-circa 1963-64 Click photo to enlarge
I also remember checking in at the duty office (at the hangar) from a bus trip out of "A" photo school. I had an event that was unusual: In Pensacola, we could go to the beach on base and I used those old scratchy wool swimming trunks issued at boot camp. Anyways, just before I left for
Cecil, I developed a boil on my upper thigh, which I blamed on the rubbing of those scratchy wool trunks. At the time, it was just a red swelling "large pimple" but as I made my bus trip across Florida, it broke and I had an ever enlarging blood stain on my dress whites. What a mess! I looked like I had been shot. I tried to hide it as much as I could with that ever heavy duffle bag and my orders to VFP-62 clutched in my hand. So the first thing I did after arriving at Cecil was go to the dispensary for treatment.
This bad experience only enhanced the anxiety of this "next big move" in my military career. Reporting to a new duty station carries with it a lot of excitement and anxiety and for an 18 year-old kid, arriving at a real Navy jet base was too much for the senses. In photo school, we were taught about the aerial photographic equipment of the jet photo squadrons but we were told not to worry too much about it because we would probably never use the information. Well, half of our class went to either VFP-62 or VAP-62. About 8-10 of us ended up with orders to VFP-62.
My first duty was the photo line shack on the flight line. Chief Blake, a rolly polly funny guy with a great sense of humor and a high-pitched voice, made the work fun. With the realization that I would not be a true Navy photographer in the traditional way, I grew to love the excitement of working on the photo Crusaders. More than I could realize then, those experiences were forging my future life.
I remember Chief Blake's first admonition: "Don't get too close to the intake when the plane is turned up!" He brought that point home by telling the story of a sailor who had been sucked into the intake and killed. And the Chief made the impression last with: "...the plane bled for days!". Welcome to the fleet Ken!!
I really liked Cecil. I thought it had a lot to offer, especially the cheap movies and good beer at the EM Club. I liked watching the F8's taking off in burner at dusk, when it seemed real dramatic. I also remember the smell of jet fuel and the noise on the line. The great picture above brings back the memories of prepping the planes. I like that picture because looking at all of those young guys, pouring over the planes like ants, brings back a sense of being there. I also like the background scene, which brings back many of the forgotten images, now almost 83 years-old. Were we really that young?
Ken Jack, PH2 (1960-63)
VFP-62 photo line-shack (circa 1963-64) Larry Plourde PH2
My orders from Photo School (Feb. 3. 1964) were to VFP-62 at Cecil Field, Florida. Once I got to Cecil, I realized that everything was new to me... Tri-metrogon (CAX-12), Photo-Flash Bombs, 5 Camera Bays, KA-45's, 16mm Bell Howell in the nose, all in a platform called the RF-8A Crusader that flies [over 1,000] MPH. There was a lot to learn. VFP-62 had 250 photographers in 1963 but because of detachments being deployed there were only a handful at Cecil. I had to learn the hard way... the books and practical experience.
Early on I spent a lot of time on "The Line". One day while on duty at the Line Shack I looked out of the window and saw a huge black aircraft taxiing down the tarmac toward a smaller hangar about 200 yards from the shack. The U-2 rolled into the hangar and the doors slammed shut. I walked out on the line toward the hangar and as I got closer, I could see that there were 3 guards. Still walking, I asked the guard if there was a chance that I could see the U-2 and that I was with VFP-62 pointing to my hat. The guard brought up his M-16 without saying a word. I stopped, said "Thank You," did an about-face, and walked back to the shack feeling like I had enough "Practical Experience" for the day.
Larry Plourde PH2 1964-66
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