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|An up close and personal interview with U.S. Coast Guard Veteran and Togetherweserved.com Member:|
PO2 Bill Frost US Coast Guard (1966-1970)
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
I was attending college to keep out of the draft, but having too much fun and not enough studying. I went down and talked to the CG recruiter since I felt the draft breathing down my neck and was told that there was a year waiting list. I left the CG office and walked around the block to the Navy Recruiting Office. I walked in the door and stood there for about 5 minutes before someone asked if they could help me. I told them I wanted to sign up, and was told that there were no schools or promises and only a 180 day delayed entry program. I left and went back to the CG office and said, "Put me on your list". I was called about a month later during school break and told that someone had decided not to join and they had a spot for me. I asked if I could call them back the next day and let them know after I talked to my family. I was told they needed to know right then so I asked my dad who happened to be there what he thought. He told me that it was my life and to do whatever I thought was best. I told the recruiter that I wanted to take the spot, and was told to report to the induction center the next morning.
BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
I joined the CG in August of 1966 and attended basic training at CG Base Alameda in California. Upon graduation I was promoted to SA was assigned to the deck force and on the commissioning crew of the Icebreaker Burton Island (WAGB-283) at Seattle, WA. We took the ship over from the Navy and sailed it to Long Beach, CA where it was given a long overhaul to change it from Navy standards to CG. I spent about 9 months standing fire watches and doing whatever else they needed to prepare the ship. During that time I made SN and was doing whatever I could to get off the deck force. I applied for transfers, schools, or whatever else I could to no avail. Three days before leaving for Operation Deepfreeze 68 and the first trip south, I was offered Radar School. I talked to the RDCM about striking RD and was told that I could do that. I turned the school down as I wanted to see Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Tahati and Antarctica having spent that much time getting the ship ready to go. I made the trip south as a SNRD. During the trip I was selected to attend divers school and was ready to take the test for RD3. Back in LB, all the applications I had submitted earlier caught up with me and I got orders to Vietnam. This cancelled the diving school as well as the RD test, since they didn't need Radarmen on the WPBs. I went through the all the training and ended up assigned to CG Division 12 in Danang, RVN where they put me as the SN on the WPB Pt. Arden. I had to figure out how to get promoted since RD wasn't an option any more. I switched to BM as there was a BMCM and BM1 on the boat. I figured I could learn a lot from them plus what I had learned on the deck force of the Burton Island to help me. When I made BM3 I offered to get off the Pt Arden so I could take a supply job with the division. I needed to transfer to take the test for BM2. I volunteered to extend my tour in VN to get an early out that the CG was offering. The CG approved the extension but disapproved the early out. I left VN after 17 months in country and was assigned to Captain of the Port Seattle where I was a Coxswain on a 40' SAR boat. I spent about 7 months there before my enlistment ended, and I went back and got my college degree.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
I was assigned to the WPB Pt Arden in Vietnam for 8 months so we saw numerous operations. Many times we were called upon for fire support missions with the 81mm Mortar or 50cal machine guns. We enforced the coastal blockade so were constantly checking fishing boats as they came and went from the villages along the coast. We also were checking the coastal freighters that sailed up and down the coastline. We were looking for guns and contraband on the various boats and sampans. One mission stands out to me. The Commander of the CG 12th District was CDR Volkle and they put a task force together for a beach assault. They trained and got everything ready for the mission. Our boat was ending a patrol and sailing back to Danang when they did the beach assault. Since the assault was between where we were and Danang, we stopped by the site to assist in whatever they needed. Nothing was needed so after about an hour we continued back to Danang. The beach party wandered around without finding any enemy combatantive and withdrew. Everyone who was involved in the landing party, along with us was awarded the Navy MSM. It was great to get a medal for just being somewhere and not doing anything. I think the mission was later called the "Teene Weene Army".
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
Standing underway watches as the helmsman and a BM3 I got to know the various underway OODs that I spent many hours with. One was LTJG Kirkpatrick who was the XO of the boat and I got to know him well. I left the Pt Arden when it went on patrol and I went on R&R for a week. Upon returning I and was to take a supply job on the beach for the division. When I got back to Danang from Sydney, Australia I found out that there had been an accident on the Pt. Arden. During a beach support operation they were firing the 81mm mortar with LTJG Kirkpatrick as the mount captain and EN1 Painter as the loader. They apparently double loaded the mortar and fired it causing an explosion which killed both of them. It was sad to hear, as I knew both people involved. I had also done both firing jobs numerous times and I can remember almost doing the same thing once but caught myself just before dropping the second round into the chamber. I don't think that I'll ever forget that incident and was glad that I was off the boat at the time so didn't have to see the result although I did see the left over mortar pieces.
WERE ANY OF THE MEDALS OR AWARDS YOU RECEIVED FOR VALOR? IF YES, COULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW THIS WAS EARNED?
At the time I didn't receive any awards for valor but later was awarded the Combat Action Ribbon for the service and various actions performed while on the WPB Pt Arden in Vietnam.
OF THE MEDALS, AWARDS AND QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICES YOU RECEIVED, WHAT IS THE MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
To me the most meaningful medal that I received was the Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal. I served 4 years without incident to earn that particular medal. It would have been easy to have done something that would have disqualified me from receiving it.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
I think the person that had the most impact on me was LTJG Lee Bordelon. He was one of the XOs that I served under while on the WPB Point Arden in Vietnam. We got to know each other quite well during the underway watches that we stood together. We talked about many different subject while underway. He left the boat to take over the Personnel Officer Job with CG Division 12. LTJG Bordelon asked and wanted me to come off the Pt Arden and take a supply job in the Division, but I didn't want to because the time went faster when I went out on patrols. When it came time for me to take the test for BM2 the Skipper of my boat wouldn't recommend me because he felt that I hadn't been a BM3 long enough, although I'd been on the boat for 9 months and previously been on the deck force of the Icebreaker Burton Island for almost a year and half . I felt I should at least have the opportunity to take the test and since the Yeoman said I was qualified otherwise. I approached LTJG Bordelon and told him that I would take the supply job if he would recommend me to take the test for Second Class. He checked it out and agreed to do it. I took the job, passed the test and was later promoted to BM2. I felt that LTJG Bordelon had faith in me and allowed me to progress in my service career. He had also encouraged me to go back and finish my college upon completion of my service commitment. This was real positive for me and I have tried to track him down and thank him. I have been unable to locate him. I did go on and obtain my Bachelors and Masters Degrees later, and owe a lot to him .
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Two things stand out to me. When I was on the WPB Pt Arden in Vietnam there was a Boston Whaler with a 35hp Johnson outboard located on board. We would use it for various things from checking fishing nets along the beach to chasing down sampans that were in restricted areas. From time to time we would also use it for water skiing since we had a set of water skis on board. I had done a lot of skiing on a single ski since my folks owned a house on the lake. We would do what's called a 'dock start' by stepping off the dock as the boat speeds away. Well I decided to try it off the side of the WPB which is about 6 feet above the water compared to the 1 to 2 feet at my dock at home. The first two times I tried it I fell flat on my face to the hoots and hollers from the guys on the boat. The third time I was successful and all went well. I thought it was funny and still grin when I think about it. When I first mentioned trying it I was told that there was no way in the world I could do it. I still think it's funny that I was able to prove them all wrong.
The second thing is that the CG was offering early outs if one extended in VN. I sent my paperwork in and the extension was approved and the early out was disapproved since I had too much time left to serve. It worked out for me as I didn't have a wife and being in VN, I got combat pay as well as it was all income tax free. I just think it was funny that they approved the one and not the other.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?
I got my Batchelor's degree after getting out of the CG in 1970. I tried to get back into the CG after I got my BA Degree in 1973 but the CG was down sizing and I didn't make it with a Physical Education Degree. I got a job in Law Enforcement as a Policeman in Spokane, WA for 6 months during the 1974 World Fair. It was a temporary hire position so when it ended I moved to Vancouver, WA where I attended a Bible School for a year and then got a job as a Deputy Sheriff in Vancouver, WA. I earned my Masters Degree in Law Enforcement while there. My father was a career Air Force Pilot so I have always wanted to fly. I had the opportunity to join the Army as a Helicopter Pilot so I took it and joined in 79 as a Warrant Officer. I attempted to get back into the CG as a helicopter pilot but the said I couldn't serve 20 years in the CG prior to my 55th birthday. So, I spent 18+ years flying Hueys and Blackhawks for the Army before retiring in 1997 as a CWO4. Check me out at Army TWS if interested in my Army career. I got a job flying helicopters for a company and flew both in Alaska and Louisiana doing tours for the cruise ships doing work for the oil platforms. After being gone for most of the year my wife had enough and told me to quit that so I could stay at home more. I took my present job as a Corrections Deputy with the Sheriff's Department in our County Jail where I have been for the last 8+ years. I plan to retire the end of April 2011 and ride my Harley.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
I am a member of MOAA (Military Officers Association of America), DAV (Disabled American Veterans), VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), American Legion, Coast Guard Combat Veterans Association, and the PGR (Patriot Guard Riders). All these organizations provide a means to keep in touch with fellow vets with common experiences as well as providing a way to help help give some influence to the Congress related to Veterans issues. As far as the PGR goes I feel it's a way to support and honor those who have served us and keep the crazies away from interfering with the families in their time of sorrow.
HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
The military has giving me the motivation and determination to know that I can succeed in almost everything that I attempt. It has helped me to be logical, organized and be able to work with others even if I don't agree with them. I've learned to pay attention to detail and have become a better person because of it.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?
I haven't liked everything that I've had to do or everyone that I've worked with. On the other hand there are more things and people that I like than dislike. Take advantage of the positive and hang in there. Apply yourself the best way you can to advance and remember there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and you will get there eventually. Don't give up in finding ways to better yourself!
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?
TWS is a great way to keep in contact with those people you know as well as finding long lost buddies that you have served with. In my case I served with a BM1 in Vietnam in 1968 on the same WPB, and we went our separate ways after VN. We contacted each other through TWS and were able to meet again at a CG Combat Vets Association convention in 2009. We have kept in contact since meeting again. I'm sure glad that we were able to get together again and see each other, since I just found out that he crossed the bar and passed away earlier this month from a brain tumor. I've also located several other people that I served with through TWS.
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