Joe Jester, 1973 - 1974, 1983

Originally Published: 12/08/2016 07:54
Attu Island was my first unit out of Loran C school, which was preceded by Electronics Technician "A" school. I arrived mid October 1973 as a SNET, still shy of the date I was qualified to advance to ET3. Attu was a Loran A/C station at the time. A few months after my arrival, the new Chief arrived. It was ETC Fred Gardner. His previous assignment was AN/FPN-41, AN/FPN-42 section of Loran-C school, of which I was a recent graduate. The Chief was chiding me with "I don't want you to call me at 3 AM when there's a problem Jester." Well, little did I know he knew where I was going and we didn't find out our assignments until there were two weeks prior to graduation. I started chiding him back with, "what makes you think I'm going to Attu?" Oh little did I know back then. I was not "officially" trained in Loran-A or Communications, but, as the Chief once said, "You’re an ET, some electronic equipment is broken, go fix it." Chief Gardner set the tone I used throughout my career and I've told those stories to many of my charges during the next 21 years in the Coast Guard. I left Attu Island on Reeves Aleutian Airways in Oct 1974. I thought Attu was in my rear view mirror as I thought of myself as a one enlistment Coastie. My second unit was Brooklyn Supply. Although I didn't know it at the time, I met a loranimal by the name of Senior Chief Jack Morrison about a year into my tour there. I consider him my mentor and was given various leadership responsibilities as an ET2 (Electronics Technician Second Class) and Senior Chief Jack Morrison was the role model and mentor. I had asked for my next assignment to be "any 210 foot cutter." The orders came through as "I need you at Simeri Crichi Italy." It was my second loran station. I spent two years there and received my orders to Training Center New York. I was assigned to Loran School. Low and behold, I advanced to Chief Petty Officer in August 1981 and was transferred to Supply Center Brooklyn in 1982. By the end of year, I got a call from the assignment officer saying he was transferring me to Attu. I had asked why and he said I hadn't been isolated for a while, to which I responded, I'm not challenging the isolated orders, just the location as I was on Attu the last time. Anyway, the assignment officer told me why the orders were given, as someone had refused them, and I was needed there. So, there I was, flying out to Attu Island once again, only this time, Reeves had stopped flying out there and I was taking the Red Tail Airlines (CG HC-130) out of Kodiak. Very little had changed in the grand scheme of things. The Loran A was shut down and removed, the comms equipment was changed out, and the Loran timer room was updated. The unit was down to two Chiefs. During my first tour there were four. The compliment dropped from 36 to 24. There was a "new" monument the Japanese put on the island. This tour was entirely different than the first. I did replicate what Chief Gardner did those earlier years, go through all the equipment and get them cleaned up and 100 percent. To distance the reliefs of the ET1 and the ETC, I left three months early. Attu Island to me was a fond memory as a 30 year old after I left. As one could expect, the fondness wasn’t as great as a 21 year old. Yes I did enjoy both tours. In fact, I know a lot of people who worked for me or choose to go to Attu for a tour. Some of those who were there, came back for a second tour. Would I have went back if asked? You betcha. There is no place like Attu Island. All in all, I spent 17 years of my 22 years in the Loran Program with the U.S. Coast Guard from technician, instructor, Area Staff, and officer in charge. Loran was the closest thing to my high school job as a technician for a local radio station. The core mission was the same ... maximize on-air operations. Loran Station Nantucket Island emitted operational loran signals from 1 Jul 1943 through 03 Aug 2010. Loran Station Attu Island emitted loran signals from 2 Feb 1943, Jun 1944, through 01 Aug 2010. Of the 24941 days the CG was associated with Loran, two of my former units was involved for 98.38% and 97.47% of the time. I am proud to be part of both units. Loran Billets include: - Loran A/C Station Attu Island AK from Oct 1973 to Oct 1974 as SNET and ET3 - Loran C Station Simeri Crichi (renamed Sellia Marina) from Jun 1977 - Jun 1979 as ET1 - Training Center New York, Loran School from Aug 1979 to Dec 1981 as ET1 and ETC - Loran C Station Attu Island from Jan 1983 to Oct 1983 as ETC - Training Center New York, Loran School from Jan 1984 to Jan 1986 as ETC - Commander Atlantic Area (Atl), Loran Regional Manager branch, from Jan 1986 to Feb 1987 as ETC - Loran-C Station Nantucket Island MA from Feb 1987 - Jun 1990. as Officer in Charge - Loran-C Station Boise City OK from Jul 1990 - Sep 1994 as Officer in Charge. Joe Jester, Chief Petty Officer , USCG (ret.)
Attu’s Theodore Point LORAN-A Station
Photo: Russ Marvin