Sunday, November 22, 2009

Iconic Cryptologic Technician Maintenance Master Chief - CTMCM George Theis Says 50 Years of Service Is Enough - Retires 01/10

CTMCM (ret) George Theis is concluding his 50 year Navy career in January 2010.

His note to the cryptologic community he served for a half century:

"I wanted to retire in 2010 because I first enlisted in the Navy in Oct 1960 and wanted to say I served, in one capacity or another, for 50 years (even if not day-for-day). After graduation from EM"A" school at Great Lakes, en route to my first duty station, the USS CONWAY DD-507 home ported in Norfolk, I married Marie my high school sweetheart. Diane, our first daughter, was born while in Norfolk. She is now an ARLING and just retired from active duty last year after 22 years in the Navy. Like me, upon retiring she has taken a civil service position and is currently working at Ft Gordon. That's why we're retiring and moving to Augusta, GA to be near the rest of the family.

Chief Wyatt (first name Chief) was my first supervisor on the ship. He taught me what it meant to be a sailor, which established the foundation for the rest of my career. I have many great memories from the ship, including the three med cruises and many visits to the Caribbean with lots of interesting liberty. The French Rivera in the summer, Naples with a visit to Pompeii, Athens with a visit to the Acropolis, Aqaba, Jordon with a visit to Petra, even a port visit to Bandar Abbas, Iran (not many people today can say they have been to Bandar Abbas), Djibouti, Bermuda, Montego Bay and even GITMO. The most memorable experience during the four years on the ship was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. CONWAY was part of the BG that surfaced a Russian submarine. We had been tracking the sub for the better part of a week and would periodically tossed grenades over the side to get their attention. The sub finally surfaced at 2230 and when we went to GQ they announced "this is not a drill." Apparently the sub ran out of fuel and the batteries went dead and they had to come up. In the morning when we secured from GQ, the sub was dead in the water, with a helo hovering over it and five tin cans circling her, like Indians around a wagon train. After a couple of hours, we left one ship with the sub and rejoined the carrier to continue to enforce the blockade.

At the end of my first enlistment as an EM2, I reenlisted to convert to the CTM rating. While waiting for orders to ET"A" school at Great Lakes (there was no CTM"A" school at the time) I spent several months at the Receiving Station in Anacostia, Md. Met some VERY interesting people there and even did some brig chasing, not quite as exciting as the Last Detail (they had the wisdom not to give me a sidearm), but memorable none the less.

After ET"A" school, next duty station was NAVCOMMSTA Cheltenham, MD. First job was with Technical Research-Ship Special Communications System (TRSSCOM), the Navy's first SATCOM system. We used the natural satellite (the moon). The system was used to link with our AGRs and I was on watch when the LIBERTY was hit. Took a while to figure out why she failed to come up on schedule, but I'm sure you know the rest of the story, so I'll skip the details. Another milestone while there, I PM'ed R-390 serial number one. Found out first ten R-390s were sent to Cheltenham in 1949 for field test and serial number one was still there in mid-60s. We continued to use the R-390 into the 90s, so I'd say the Navy go their money's worth out of those receivers. Another notable event, I first met Grady Gamble while there. He was the driving force in G-40 at CNSG for decades. I considered Grady a good friend and mentor and was saddened by his passing.

After Cheltenham, it was back to Great Lakes for another year to attend ET"B" school. While there, our second daughter Debby was born. Following "B" school it was on the Adak, via Pensacola for my only "C" school. While a Pensacola, I was initiated as a Chief Petty Officer in Oct 1970. As a new Chief, I was fortunate to work for Master Chief Bill Maurer, who taught me how to be a Chief. I was honored when Bill requested I follow him to Homestead, FL after leaving Adak. While at Homestead, I was selected for the ADCOP program and transferred after about 18 months to attend Florida Junior College in Jacksonville, FL. I graduated with an Associate Degree in Management with a 4.0 GPA.

It was then off to Edzell, Scotland where I had the good fortune to work for Master Chief George Thompson. He showed me that to become a Master Chief, you had to learn to manage as well as lead and I attribute his mentorship for my later advancement to both Senior and Master Chief. While in Scotland, in addition to a visit to Lock Ness to look for the monster, several trips to London, touring many castles, and placing second two years in a row in the Navy's European Chess Tournament, I was advanced to Senior Chief Petty Officer.

My next duty station was at NAVCOMMSTA Rota, Spain. My first job was to run the Fleet Electronic Support (FES) shop where I was able to reconnect with my Navy roots and again work with the fleet. I consider Rota my best tour. In addition to the many great people at the command, the food was incomparable, wine was cheap, and the family and I were able to fit in many, extensive site seeing excursions including Italy, Morocco, Portugal, and all over Spain. I also completed my Bachelors Degree and as a crowning achievement, I was advanced to Master Chief Petty Officer before I transferred in 1982.

After 30 days leave in the states to allow the children to get reacquainted with their grand parents and other family members, we reported to NSGD Yokosuka, Japan for our third consecutive overseas tour. I again ran the FES and served with many great people. We lived in Yokohama and I had the "pleasure" of navigating Route 16 twice a day for three years. Traffic in Japan, makes the H1-H2 merge look like a drive in the park. We also did a lot of site seeing and partook of many culinary delegacies, like sea urchin, jelly fish, natto (fermented beans) and fugo (blowfish, which can be deadly if not prepared properly). It was in Japan when I first meet LT Jim Newman who was the Div Off on the USS JOUETT. Jim already had orders to the PACFLT staff and when the ship pulled into Yokosuka for repairs, he stopped by the FES and we had lengthy discussions on DIRSUP operations in the Pacific and readiness of the carry-on systems. After reporting to the staff, he and I coordinated frequently during the next year. It was through Jim's persuasive efforts that RADM McFarland, then Captain, decided it would be beneficial to have a senior CTM on the PACFLT staff to help manage the FES' and afloat cryptologic equipment resources and that I would be the ideal candidate to fill the position. RADM McFarland initiated the action to get me orders to the staff, and as they say, the rest is history. After reporting to the staff in 1985, Jim was my first boss and he took me under his wing, showing me how a staff functioned and he took me back to DC, showing me around the Pentagon and introducing to key players at OPNAV, SECGRU and NSA. Then I know it took all of Jim's considerable powers of persuasion to convince CDR Ivan Dunn that I knew the issues well enough and was capable of effectively representing the staff at various conferences and that I should go instead of Jim. Hopefully my actions since, have justified Jim's confidence in me and have validate his mentorship. After six years on the staff, as I approached 30 years service and was getting ready to retire, RADM Stevens, then Captain, called me into his office and asked, "If he created a civilian position on the staff, would I be willing to take the job after I retired?" Flattered that he judged my service good enough to retain after retirement, I told him I would be honored to continue to serve him, the staff, CNSG, the Navy and the country. So with the Admiral's good blessing, I retired from active duty, shifted from khakis to an aloha-shirt and again as they say, the rest is history. Of note, at the time I retired, I was not only the senior CTM, by time in rate, I was also the senior CT in the Navy.

As I have announced my pending retirement, many have said, "What are we going to do when you're gone?" As flattering as it is, that my efforts over the years are appreciated by so many, I know full well that no one is indispensable, least of all me. I then usually respond by asking, "Who was Grady Gamble, Roy Hill, Howie Ehret, or other icons from our community's past who set policy and influenced actions world wide, on a much greater scope and for longer than I have. With rare exception, they usually say, "Never heard of them." I consider it a great honor to even be mentioned in the same context as the above gentlemen, and like them, as the years past there will be fewer and fewer people who will remember my name or what I did. Some one will take the job after me and make it theirs, doing things their way and the fleet, the staff, and the Navy will continue to go forward and as it should be, what ever legacy I may have left, will pass into history.

Before I transmit this missive, (which is already much longer than I initially planned) and sign off for the last time, I can't resist making one last appeal to our senior leadership to take the necessary action and allocated sufficient resources to properly reconstitute the CTM rating. I would like nothing better than have one of my grand children join the Navy and become a CTM, but in good conscience I couldn't recommend they choose the rating as it is now and that saddens me very much. It's unquestioned that the actions over the past four or five years have broken the rating and set our young sailors up for failure. I feel strongly that as leaders we should find this unacceptable. As leaders we have an obligation to take care of our sailors and it's my opinion, with regards to our young CTMs, we are failing them. Plus, in my opinion, our community has a very strong requirement for a technically competent, highly skilled, maintenance work force, similar to what the CTM rating use to be, to support the IW community in the future as it tries to quickly adapt to the technically agile adversaries we will no doubt face. I know we are in a VERY austere funding environment, but as ADM (Archie) Clemins used to say, "While there isn't enough money to do everything, there is always enough money to do the right thing." Clearly properly training our young sailors and improving the readiness of our IW systems is the right thing to do. If, as we rebuild the rating, we limit its focus primarily to afloat systems, we will be missing an opportunity to structure our future work force to meet the technical challenges we will encounter in the future. I feel strongly it will require the focused attention and dedicated action by our senior leadership in order to make the decisions necessary to properly restructure the rating and I pray that they will make that commitment. As many could attest, I could write many, many more pages on this topic alone, but I've made my point so I'll step off soapbox and leave to our leaders heed this call to action and do the right thing.

I have been blessed with a great career and a wonderful life. Even in retrospect, there is little I would change. I can't think of a better career than the Navy and would still want to begin as a snipe on a tincan. In addition to seeing much of the world, I feel it gave me a much broader prospective then if I had been a CTM for my entire career. And the memories that stands out the most in my life is the many wonderful people (far too many to mention) I have known and worked with over the years. It's become clear as I've grown older that the relationship with people you know is more important then the things you do during your life. So to each of you, if you ever find yourself in Augusta, please give us a call and we'll get together to swap sea stories, catch up with old times and create new memories together.

Before I close, I have to give a special tribute to my family, with out whose support my career would not have been possible. To may daughters, Diane and Debby, I couldn't be prouder of the women you have grown to be and the three beautiful grand children you have given us and who will give us untold joy over the coming years as we work very hard to spoil them rotten. And to my wife, Marie, my high school sweetheart and life long companion, it is you who always may every house we lived in a home and we will walk hand-in-hand for the remaining years of your life, no doubt discovering new joys as we done in the past.

As I request permission to go ashore for the last time and I close this chapter on my Naval career and Marie and I begin the next phase of our life together, I would like to bid you all a fond aloha and the wish that each of you enjoy fair winds and following seas for the rest of your days."


Master Chief Theis,

Thank you for acting as mentor to countless PACFLT and Naval Security Group Matmen and for training so many of our Sailors (officers, Chiefs and Petty Officers. Sincerely appreciate all you did personally and professionally for me and my Sailors at U.S. Naval Security Group Activity Yokosuka, Japan. Your expert guidance and mentorship helped us earn the Commander, Naval Security Group Command Maintenance Award in 1997 and then again in 1998. Your work on Fleet Electronic Support for the future and maintaining the CTM rating are certainly important parts of your legacy. I know many men and women who are proud to say they were "THEIS TRAINED", the hallmark of cryptologic maintenance excellence. I count myself among them.

Vr/Captain Mike Lambert

1 comment:

Irishman 2011 said...

Great post...very informative!