USS Durham (LKA-114)





Charleston Class Amphibious Cargo Ship

Propulsion system: two boilers, one geared turbine, one propeller shaft, 22,000 shaft horsepower
Propellers: one
Length: 575.5 feet (175.4 meters)
Beam: 82 feet (25 meters)
Draft: 25.6 feet (7.8 meters)
Displacement: approx. 18,700 tons full load
Speed: 20+ knots
Aircraft: helicopter platform only
Boats: 4 LCM-8, 4 LCM-6, 2 LCVP and 2 LCP
Armament: two 20mm Phalanx CIWS
Crew: Ship: 22 officers and 334 enlisted     USMC: 15 officers and 211 enlisted
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Va.Awarded: June 11, 1965
Keel laid: July 10, 1967
Launched: March 29, 1968
Commissioned: May 24, 1969
Decommissioned: February 25, 1994
Mothball Fleet, Middle Lock, Pearl Harbor, HI

Additional links for USS Durham:
http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/02/02114.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Durham_(LKA-114)
http://navysite.de/lka/lka114.htm
http://www.hullnumber.com/AKA-114

My Duties with USS Durham
Aug 1982 - Apr 1984

Home ported out of San Diego, CA, USS Durham was a Reserve ship with a regular crew complimented by a Select Reserve Crew (SelRes).  As a QM2 I was was both the Senior and Leading Petty Officer. (I was filling the billet of a QMC (E-7)

I didn't like the Navy Mk 3 sextants and in Nov 1982 I purchased my own Tamaya Spica Sextant.  ($1300 in 1982 dollars.  Thank you Navy Credit Union.)  I became known for my proficiency in celestial navigation.

In Mar 1983, Durham was transferred back to the regular fleet and we received additional personnel, including a QMC. (I was still the LPO)

Refresher Training (RefTra) - During battle stations everyone is required to tuck their pants into their socks.  (This cuts down on loose clothing and protects against flash burns, etc.)  Since this was a training exercise the instructors warned that those of us who were wearing Wellington boots, the pants should be in the socks, not just tucked into the top of the boots.  The instructors then noted that we had all done it correctly, but the comment got the attention of the Master at Arms and he noticed that I was the only enlisted (actually the only one on the bridge) wearing Wellington Boots.  Somehow the MAA got it into his head that that Wellingtons were for officers only and concluded that I was out of uniform.  I tried to explain to my Chief and to the MAA that uniform regs authorized Wellington boots for both officer and enlisted in all uniforms, except Dress Inspections.  I offered to show the regulation, but no matter.  The MAA (an E-6) refused to believe me and my QMC (E-7) didn't have the balls to back me up, so I had to remove and surrender my boots to the MAA.  A few days later (after researching the regulations) the MAA called me into his office and in a very grudgingly manner told me I could wear my boots.  "But," he warned, "keep your pants on the outside or everyone will want to wear them."  Hmm, other than at battle stations, pants are always worn on the out side of boots and since Wellingtons were specifically authorized in the uniform regs, what is the big deal?  This was the oxymoron of "Military Intelligence" at it's best.

 June 1983 Durham departed for WestPac.

Arrived at Pier Kilo in Pearl Harbor, HI and
rode out Hurricane Iva.

My friend , Rick Burris, from the USS Hamner was on shore duty on Ford Island.  After ridding out Hurricane Iva, I spent the 4th of July '83 behind Rick's house, cracking open wind fall coconuts on the bollards of Battleship Row as we watched the Pearl City fireworks burst over the Arizona Memorial.  It was an incredible 4th of July!


During WestPac we made port visits in the Japan, Philippines, Australia and participated in Team Spirit, an amphibious exercise off Tok Sok Ri, Korea.

In Sep  1983 I earned Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist.  Only about 15%-20% of sailors ever earn ESWS.  Most are 1st class (E-6) or above.  I earned it as a 2nd class! (E-5)  At the time only two 2nd Class Petty Officers had ever earned ESWS on USS Durham.   I was the second.  The first was QM2 Westall, who earned his just one month before me.

Normally when sailor earns ESWS they are pinned and honored within a day or so after passing the board, however the command knew that my father, a retired Major, USAR, was going to be part of the Tiger cruse back from Pearl Harbor and postponed the pinning ceremony.  I should have been pinned and given the honor right away like everyone else, but the command seemed more interested in kissing up to a retired  Army officer rather than that honoring the accomplishments of one of their own junior petty officers.  I was not allowed to wear the ESWS insignia until I was officially pined and I was pissed.

Oct 1983 Durham was returning from WESTPAC and pulling into Pearl Harbor.  As the Sr Master Helmsman, I was on the helm, as usual.  Just as Durham was 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 and it was a tight & dangerous part of the 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 father, my friend, Rick and his wife Margie, standing on Bishop Point, waving and welcoming us to port.  I almost cried.

Tiger Cruise 1983
My father was a retired US Army Major.  I made sure that I was on the quarterdeck when he came aboard.  I saluted, rendering proper honors, and then said, "Welcome aboard USS Durham, Sir.  I regret to inform you, sir, that you are out of uniform."  I then presented him with a USS Durham ball cap with a proper US Army Major insignia.  (A Marine officer had helped me find the correct Army insignia)

Dad hooked up with another Tiger (a retired Gunnery Sergeant) and the two of them shook off the guided tours.  They went everywhere and did everything.  Dad said that they would open a door and if no one told them to get out, they went in and started asking questions.  The two of them had a ball!  Dad told me that the Tiger Cruise was one of the highlights of his life and often thanked me.
(note:  Dad died in Dec 2009 and at his memorial his USS Durham ball cap was laid out as one of his prized possessions.)

When the command finally decided to pin my ESWS they paged Dad for the ceremony, but he was nowhere to be found (Dad and the Gunny were in Enginering spaces.) so I was pinned anyway. (a month late)
  I was never upset with Dad for missing my pinning - he was enjoying his Tiger cruise, as I had intended.   Being Army, Dad never really understood the significance of ESWS, but that was OK.  He just knew that it was important to me and he was proud of my accomplishment.  That was all I needed.  However, I never forgave the Command for the snub.

Nov 1983, returned from WestPac

March 1984 - I made QM1 on the first increment.
Advancement results were in and I knew that I had made rate and had put my new stripes on half of my shirts.  The ship had just finished REFTRA. (again)  and as usual I drove the ship to anchorage off Harbor Island in San Diego.  As the observers disembarked, the CO addressed the crew to tell them what a good job they had done and officially announced the advancements.  Although we were still at Sea Detail, I dashed into the chart room, changed my shirt and when the CO finished his announcement, the first thing he saw was me standing at the helm sporting my new first class stripes.  My seniors immediately wanted to "tack on" my stripes when the CO called them off.  "Don't hurt his arm - he still has to drive us back to our berth!"

(Additionally, as a joke during refresher training I would sometimes wear a green sock on my right foot and a red sock on my left foot. The CO, who could have ordered me to change to regulation black socks, just shook his head and enjoyed the joke.)

Apr 1984 transferred to USS Excel (MSO-439).


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