FTG3 Frank Wood

(A Relatively Brief) Naval Career

At 19, I was still a kid when I joined the Navy. The ocean and its waves raised me and I was better for it. My friends of 1973 helped shape me into who I am today. My life on Mullinnix I remember in terms of images, smells, and sounds rather than historical events - Gun mounts and the smell of spent powder, bug juice, salt air, low rumble and steady vibration of the turning screws, smell of JP5 jet fuel - that had obviously been created as a cinematic tribute to my youth.

I was nothing but a smudge of excrement on a tissue surging out to sea with a ton of sewage. We fought the bureaucracy, the lifers, the Navy constantly and with zeal. Sometimes however you’d have a passing feeling not to fight and make the intolerable tolerable…

Now however, I’ve begun the next season of my life. Love is like a good piece of wood, it just gets stronger and stronger as the years go by. Take it from someone who had it, and only lost it when the Lord decided it was time. It sounds corny, I know, but it’s really the only thing that works between two people. I wonder some times, is history like the falling tree in the forest? If nobody remembers did it still happen?

…a long time ago we knew each other for a short time…

FTG3 Frank Wood - US Navy Feb 16, 1970 to Feb 15, 1974. Boot camp in San Diego, CA. Fire Control Technician "A" School at Great Lakes Training Center. Assigned to USS Mullinnix for the duration.

That's me - Backrow, left end

That's me - Backrow, 4th from the left
Back row L to R: Wayne Porkelson, "Perch" Robinson, Dennis "Showman", Frank "Woody" Wood, Wayne Torkelson, Jason Wyscarver, Mike Stillwell, "Boats" Myers

My Classmates comments to me...

After graduating from FT "A" school on 9 October, 1970, I was assigned to the USS Mullinnix DD944 as an E3 --- Seaman striking for Fire Control Technician. Unfortunately I had to wait for the Mux to get back from the Med. Hence, I got ‘stuck’ mess-cooking at the Norfolk Naval base for ~6 weeks. If I'd been assigned a couple weeks earlier, the Navy would have flown me over to the Med to meet the ship. The only good thing about mess-cooking was that beer was available from the vending machines in the barracks for 25 cents a can courtesy of Admiral Zumalt. I stayed home (in the barracks) a lot during this waiting period.

I'll never forget my first day on the Mullinnix. FTG3 Don Boettcher met me on the quarterdeck and showed me to my sleeping quarters below Mount 52's carrier-room. As I walked down the ladder and looked to my left - there sat FTG3 Greg Berry - who turned out to be my best friend in the Navy & still to this day. “Birdman” and I had met up at Great Lakes and then kind of lost track of each other after he convinced the Navy he didn’t want to be in school. Was I surprised (and relieved) to see The Birdman! Maybe this assignment wasn't going to be that bad.

The Mullinnix was the only ship I served on. I look back on those days with fondness. At the time however, I hated everyday. I couldn't tell you why really. Today, all I remember are the 'good' times.

I slept in a middle rack (1 of 3). While we were in Vietnam in 1972 I took a black magic marker and starting with the #1 and going up to ~600, wrote each number on the underside canvas of the rack above me. Every morning for the rest of my days in the Navy, I would wake up and with the same black magic marker, draw a slash across that day's number.

The cruise to Gitmo in late 1973 (after the lengthy stay in dry dock at the Portsmouth Naval Yards and the “Summer of my life”) was my last cruise in the Navy. I'll never forget the day we pulled into Norfolk and the old Navy tradition of throwing your white hats off the fantail. There were about 30-40 hats thrown that day. I remember FTG3 Greg Berry, GMG2 Jim Roland and many, many more --- their names having slowly drifted out of my mind with time.

February 16th, 1974 happened to fall on a Sunday, therefore the Navy let me out 1 day early. On Friday night @ 12:01 AM a walked off the Mullinnix for what I thought would be the last time. I was long last a civilian and man-o-man was I lost. I didn't have a clue what or were I was going.

As it turned out I headed to West Virginia to see "The Birdman" and then to Ohio and spent a few days with some people we had met in Norfolk. Then I headed to Long Island, NY and spent a few days with RM2 Neil “Apple” Appel who was a civilian by then as well. After that, I found myself heading back to Norfolk.

I actually spent the night on the USS Mullinnix the night before she left for an extended cruise to the Middle East. Fireman Terry Dannels found me an empty bunk back were the MMs slept below MT 53.

The following morning the Mullinnix left for the Middle East. I actually threw line #6 off as she slipped away from D&S piers. A lot of 'wish you well' and 'see you later' were yelled. The only comment I do remember and will probably always remember was from my old Chief, FTGC Walters who yelled "Woody, get a haircut!" and then he laughed. As I waved goodbye I kind of got a sinking feeling in my stomach and thinking "there goes 4 years of my life". Save for a precious few, I have never seen those guys since. As fate would have it, that was the last time I ever saw the Mighty Mux - the last all-gun destroyer in the Navy - may she rest in peace.

I drove non-stop to Lincoln, Nebraska and my future....

Woody in West "By God" Virginia 1971                    Woody - Ocotber 2015

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© 2004 by Frank Wood, All rights reserved.