John Fay Feb. 17, 1969 Desert Storm/Desert Shield Senior Chief Petty Officer (E8) U.S. Navy - COMPAT Recon Wing 10
When John Fay was in high school, he decided college was not for him. He also wanted to see more of the world besides Ronan, so he was interested when the military recruiter came to his high school. His dad and other relatives had been in the Navy. His dad said, in the Navy, you get three meals and a dry bed every day, but in the Army, you never know what you will get. In November of 1986, while still a senior in high school, John joined the Navy.
John went to Orlando, Florida, in August of 1987 for boot camp. He remembers that the weather was “hot” for a Montana boy. For eight weeks, he learned “the Navy way.” It was an intimidating experience, including marching and close-order drills. John’s parents were coming for graduation, and he didn’t want to be stuck in the back where they would have to guess which one he was, so he volunteered to be a flag bearer and was right in front.
From boot camp, John went to Pensacola, Florida, for Naval Air Crewman Candidate School, which was the job he enlisted for. He went in as a Seaman Apprentice (E1). He was planning to be a crewman on a plane, which would be the PC3 Orion. During a busy five-week stint, he was taught wilderness survival and first-aid triage. He learned how to avoid airsickness from loss of oxygen on long 10-hour flights. There was a lot of physical fitness training, including advanced swimming.
John’s next stop was a 12-week “A School” in Millington, Tennessee. He became an “AW,” which is an Aviation Anti-Submarine Warfare Operator. He learned the basics of how to become part of a 12-person crew and do his job on the plane. The mission would be to track enemy submarines by dropping “sono-buoys to hear” the subs.
When John joined the Fleet Replacement Squadron VP-30 in Jacksonville, Florida, he finally made his first actual flight. He trained there for about 40 weeks. He graduated and then joined VP-5, which was a fixed-wing patrol squadron.
John then began a series of deployments of six months each, followed by 12 months of training. His first deployment was to Bermuda, which was still a hotspot in the cold war, to look for Russian subs. The second deployment was to the Naval Air Station in Rota, Spain, for Mediterranean patrol. His plane was on duty the night the U.S. attacked Iraq in Desert Storm. He didn’t know what was going on, but there was a radio call for all aircraft to return to base – except his plane, which was ordered to stay out monitoring surface ships. During this time, there was a higher alert status from non-coalition countries.
As part of John’s next “home stay,” he transferred to NAS Cecil Field in the Jacksonville area for three years of shore duty. This meant he would have a day job, no deployments and more family time. He started to earn an associate of arts degree at Florida Community College to aid in advancement for promotion. When he became an E5, he decided to make the military his career.
John applied for orders to VP-1 at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, and was accepted. He moved his new wife, a Florida girl, to Washington. John was where he wanted to be. He re-qualified as a senior-1 operator and was an LPO (leading petty officer) in the AW shop. This was an administrative/leadership position on top of his regular aircrew duty.
Then came John’s first six-month West PAC (western pacific) deployment to Diego Garcia, a British Indian Ocean territory where surface surveillance was mainly for drug smugglers. From the island, they flew to Masirah, Oman, and Bahrain in the Middle East. He also went to U-Tapao, Thailand for joint exercises with their military.
John liked Thailand and traveled there about seven times. He always tried to do tourist things in new places. He visited an elephant sanctuary and a Buddhist temple. He figured he could spend time drinking beer back home (not that he doesn’t like beer). He met people who had amazing memories like a suit maker who after a long absence would greet him with, “Mr. John, how are you?”
The second West PAC deployment was to Okinawa and Misawa, Japan. He took a tour of the WWII tunnels and saw Japanese monuments. From Japan, he flew to Hong Kong, South Korea, Guam and other places. In all of his deployment locations, he never experienced
anti-American feelings. He always tried to learn the basics of the language.
The third deployment was back to Diego Garcia and was mostly a repeat of the earlier deployment – nothing new, just do your job. After a five-year tour, John did another three years of shore duty at the Naval Ocean Processing Facility on Whidbey Island where they did ocean surveillance. He also started his bachelor’s degree in human resource management with the University of Maryland. Their online program was especially designed for military, and Navy tuition assistance helped cover costs.
By this time, John had put in 15 years and signed on for three years of sea duty with the VP-46 out of Whidbey Island. He traveled to many of the same places, including Clark AFB in the Philippines. The highlight of this time was making chief petty officer and getting his undergraduate degree. John finished his 26-year career on shore duty as CPRW-10 (Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 10) as an instructor/evaluator of readiness for crews going on deployment. He also completed a masters in business administration.
John always flew to his deployments and was never transported. He remarks that he spent 26 years in the Navy but never one day on a ship. He would have stayed in because he was still having fun and liked wearing the uniform, but at his rank, E8, he had to get out at 26 years. John retired in August of 2013.
Both girls and guys should consider military service but go in with an open mind, John says. You have good and bad days wherever you work and you can control some of that, so the military is what you make of it. Of course, you miss some of the family firsts: your children’s first walk or first talk. The first tour is the worst. It gets better, and there are good benefits, like the GI bill and health insurance. He saw 35 countries on four continents and met people from around the world. The Navy was everything he thought it would be.
Thank you for your service, John.