QMC Rick Burris
Rick Burris is one of the
few shipmates with whom I still keep in touch. He is
closer and dearer to me than my own brother.
I first met Rick in 1977 when we both were serving aboard USS Hamner (DD-718),
then home ported in Portland OR. He was a QM3
(Quartermaster E-4) and I was an STGSN. (Sonar Technician,
USS Hamner was a reserve ship, which basically meant that the
ship was really short handed. (see: Reserve Ships) While my wife
and family lived in Bellingham WA, I was considered a geographic bachelor and lived
on board. I spent most of my off duty time with Rick,
helping him with QM duties which I found it to be very
interesting. (At the time, the QM gang consisted of just a
QMC (E-7) Rick (E-4) and a QMSN (E-3) (who was getting out
of the Navy.)
I requested to work and stand watch as a QM when my ST duties
allowed and the command approved.
I fully qualified as Quartermaster of the Watch (QMOW) in just 3
days! (Usually this take several weeks or more.
Rick taught me well.)
The navigation team soon became just Rick and me.
I really liked my navigation duties and partially because
of frustrations with "push
buttons" in the ST Rate,
I officially applied to convert from STG to QM. A few
months later the Commanding Officer called me into his stateroom
and told me that I had passed the exam and was advanced to
STG3. (Rick advanced to QM2 in the same exam cycle)
The Captain then told me that my conversion to QMSN had
also been approved by BuPers,
so I had a choice - take the advancement to STG-3 (E-4) or take
the conversion to QMSN (E-3.) I told him that I would
rather be a QM and he said "That's all I wanted to hear,
congratulations QM3!" and he command advanced me on the
spot. I was also selected as "sailor of the quarter" with
my own parking spot. (Which would have been great if I had a
Rick and I did it all. We didn't realize until years later
that we were actually doing the work of a QM1 or QMC. As
we saw it, we were just doing what needed to be done.
- - - Flash forward - - -
In July 1983 I was a QM2 (E-5) serving in USS Durham (LKA-114)
when she visited Pear Harbor. Rick was a QM1 (E-6)
assigned to shore duty on Ford Island. I went over to his
quarters on Ford Island and met his new wife, Margie. Rick
asked what I wanted to do. I told him that I needed to go
to the exchange and he tossed me the keys to his Corvette.
Just like that! Margie didn't know me from Adam and was
shocked that I was allowed to drive Rick's baby! A few
days later Hurricane Iva slammed into the Hawaiian Islands and
Rick and I spent the Fourth of July, 1983 behind his house,
cracking open the wind fall coconuts on the bollards of Battle
Ship Row as we watched the Pearl City fireworks burst over the
Arizona memorial. It was my best Fourth of July ever.
In Oct 1983 USS Durham was returning from WESTPAC and was
pulling into Pearl Harbor. As the Sr Master Helmsman, I
was on the helm, as usual. Just as we were passing the
tightest part of the channel the relief master helmsman demanded
that I give him the helm and said that I was to report to the
starboard bridge wing. This was not proper turn over, it
was a tight and dangerous part of channel - it was all
wrong. I was about to protest, but the Helm Safety Officer and JOOD just told me to go.
When I reported to the bridge wing the OOD pushed me to the rail
where I saw my Dad, Rick and Margie at waving and welcoming us
to port. I almost cried.
July 1984 I was a QM1 aboard USS Excel (MSO-439)
when we again made a port visit in Hawaii and I enjoyed another
Fourth of July in Pearl Harbor with Rick and Margie.
Feb 1986 I was transferring from USS Excel to shore
duty. At the same time Rick (also a QM1) was
transferring back to sea duty and he became my relief.
When I learned that the MSOs were being deployed to the Persian
Gulf I gave Rick my personal
sextant to use. Many people knew that my sextant was
(and still is) "my baby." No one (including the CO nor the
Commodore) were ever allowed to so much as touch it!
Friends were shocked that I gave it to someone just like
that. (It wasn't "just someone" - it was Rick!)
Earlier I had earned a Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal for a
navigation procedure I had
developed. I taught it to Rick and he then used it
in the Persian Gulf to earned his first Navy/Marine Corps
Rick made Chief in 1988 and it is a
tradition for a Chief pass his
anchors to another. When I was advanced to Chief in
1991, I was pinned with Rick's anchors. I have never
forgotten the honor.
Although Rick and I have been retired from the Navy for more
than 2 decades, we continue to remain very close and regularly
keep in touch via cel phone, e-mail and Facebook. Like I
said at the beginning, Rick is closer and dearer to
me than my own brother.