Honoring Veterans Campaign - Ken Green
Veteran, Navy and Army National Guard
Serving in the military was a family tradition. I choose to enlist in the Navy after high school - after I crewed on a sailboat from San Diego to Westport, OR and fell in love with the open ocean (unlike others who enlisted after seeing the movie Top Gun).
My journey with the USN started November 3, 1987. I first reported to Navy boot camp at Great Lakes, Illinois. I had never been to that part of our country, let alone in the winter. It was so COLD! The wind blowing off Lake Michigan was many degrees below zero - I have no desire to return. After I finished boot camp, I attended my schooling. As a Machinists Mate I learned about boilers and steam ship propulsion systems. I graduated top of my class and was given the opportunity to choose my duty station! I chose Pearl Harbor. I arrived there March of '88 and was assigned to the USS Willamette AO-180. The ship's mission was similar to a gas station. We refueled battle groups of ships while underway and carried around 150,000 barrels of diesel marine fuel and JP-5 jet fuel for the carriers. My duties kept me below decks in the ships engine room. We operated the ships turbine generators and associated equipment for the ships propulsion system - a 600lb steam plant. We also made the ships water through a steam distilling process, converting salt water into fresh water. We made around 24,000 gallons a day. The temps of the main space underway was a very hot 122 degrees most days. It was very miserable. I was also a main space firefighter. This is where my civilian career was discovered as a firefighter.
The type of ship I was on was high in demand for its resources and we spent a lot of time at sea - the longest time was close to 75 days. As a reward, every 45 days you were given 2 beers. I sold mine for 20 bucks each at that time. My deployments took me on a West Pac, visiting the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Oman. This was kind of the beginning of the Gulf War and we were sent to the Persian Gulf for three months with the USS Nimitz battlegroup. There was a lot going on over there, those stories are for another time. Our ship crossed the equator a couple of times and I was able to partake in a very old tradition of the Navy called a "line crossing ceremony." First time across you are referred to as a Pollywog and you go through a two day initiation that is very challenging. Once you crossed the equator you are referred to as a Shellback. The next time you cross you get to initiate the new wogs. We also crossed the International Date Line during my sea time upgrading me to a Golden Shellback!
There were many memorable experiences. One of my favorites was seeing the USS Missouri fire her 16 inch gun turrets during the gulf experience. I remember seeing that giant ship slide backwards in the water and feel the heat of the gun smoke coming across our decks. It was truly impressive. My second favorite memory was stopping at Midway Island in the Pacific Ocean. There is not much there, a landing strip and a small military post. Oh and those gooney birds! Another memorable experience was during our stop in Singapore. We stayed at the San Rafael’s hotel - my grandpa was there during WW2, so I had a few drinks in his memory.
I was honorably discharged on November 3, 1991. After I got out of the Navy I missed the structure and friendships of military life. So, I joined the Army National Guard and served as an E5 sergeant attached to a Humvee tow gun. It was called a "try one program" and I joined for a year. I received an honorable discharge at the end of my contract.
For me, military service turned a young boy into a man. It gave me direction, structure, responsibilities, knowledge and friendships with people I would have never met in my normal life in Oregon. I feel so lucky to have spent time in the military. It led to my career as a firefighter. I enjoyed serving my country and I still very much enjoy being a public servant today. I am so blessed.
Today, I'm a Lieutenant/Paramedic/Diver with the Lake Oswego Fire Department. I have been with the City since 1998.
If someone asked me about joining the military, I would say “Go for it." It is so scary leaving home for the first time. But you will be joining several 100 other young people who will be in your same shoes. You will make friends that will last a lifetime. Experiences you will never receive anywhere else. Good luck.