During my less than illustrious time in the military (Vietnam vet, honorable discharges from the USMC and USAF), an old adage was often spoken. “If you work hard, Play hard.”
Ramona’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) took those words literally.
The unit works hard. It has gone from almost being put into mothballs to being selected the country’s most improved unit to earning the fourth best unit in the states of California and Arizona. That was hard work, and it paid off.
They also play hard. During spring break this month, 35 cadets and 11 chaperones took an educational field trip to military installations. They visited Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps sites.
Since the Air Force base and station were at one time Army bases, and, since the cadets went on a boat that was in Coast Guard jurisdiction, one could say that they got a good taste of life in all of the major services.
Now the rub. It was all in the state of Hawaii on the island of Oahu.
The trip was a realistic taste of military life that included disappointments and setbacks. The deployment originally was scheduled to start on Saturday, April 4. The cadets met at Denny’s in Ramona at 0500 and had a hearty breakfast. They then carpooled to North Island Naval Air Station for what was scheduled as an 0900 takeoff.
Upon arriving, they got news that their flight was canceled due to mechanical difficulties. Their C130 was still on the ground at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., so the unit headed back to Ramona, unsure if and when they would leave for Hawaii.
Lt. Cmdr. Mike Ernst was told that the flight would depart at 1300 on Sunday, April 5. After calling the cadets and chaperones, he was notified that the flight would not leave until Monday, April 6, at 0900. Hence 45 more phone calls.
On Monday morning, the unit and its Senior Naval Science Instructor (Ernst), Naval Science Instructor (CPO Bob Richardson), eight brave chaperones and the Ramona Sentinel’s roving reporter, yours truly, boarded a Navy C130 for our 50th state after leaving Ramona at 0430.
One must understand that a C130 is primarily a cargo transport aircraft. It is not a luxury airplane. Its seats are jump seats. Two to a seat with nets as a back rest. There are no movies, coffee, soft drinks or meals served.
One must wear foamies (foam rubber ear plugs) in one’s ears. It is nearly impossible to talk to a person six inches away. There is no climate control or thermostat. It is a truly military aircraft and flying on one is a military experience.
After a noisy nine-and-a-half-hour flight, Ramona’s NJROTC landed at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. The cadets and chaperones were greeted by the best tour guide on the islands, Mrs. Gerrie Richardson. Mrs. Richardson is CPO Richardson’s mom and the grandmother of cadets Loren and Alex Richardson. She became the official grandma of the Ramona NJROTC unit. Her sister and assistant, Mrs. Gwen Stockwell, also served the NJROTC unit well.