Oral History of Gordon Pierce and Trina Cothrin

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Title

Oral History of Gordon Pierce and Trina Cothrin

Alternative Title

Oral History, Pierce and Cothrin

Subject

Veterans--Florida
Navy
Orlando (Fla.)
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Afghan War, 2001-
Global War on Terror, 2001-2009

Description

An oral history interview of Gordon Pierce (b. 1930) and Trina Cothrin, who both served in the U.S. Navy. Pierce was born in Buffalo, New York, on September 16, 1930. He enlisted in the Navy in 1948 and served until September of 1977, during the Cold War era and the Vietnam War. During his service, Pierce was station on the USS Wasp, the USS Coral Sea, the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the USS John F. Kennedy. He achieved the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer and earned a Navy Commendation Medal and a Navy Achievement Medal.

Pierce's daughter, Trina Cothrin (b. 1958), was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on October 13, 1958. Cothrin enlisted in the Navy in October of 1979 and served until October of 1982, when her son was born. She was then in the U.S. Naval Reserve until 1993, when she joined the U.S. Army. She left the military in 2009, after serving in Operation Enduring Freedom during the War in Afghanistan. Throughout her service, Cothrin was stationed at Naval Air Station Miramar (NAS Miramar) in California, Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jacksonville), U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) in Qatar, and MacDill Air Force Base (MacDill AFB) in Tampa. She ultimately achieved the rank of Chief Yeoman.

This oral history interview was conducted by Roger Jordan Sims on March 12, 2014. Interview topics include enlistment, boot camp, Naval Training Center Orlando (NTC Orlando), the Vietnam War, Operation Enduring Freedom and the War in Afghanistan, life after leaving the Navy, how Central Florida has changed over time, the legacy of NTC Orlando, and the Lone Sailor Memorial Project.

Abstract

Oral history interview of Gordon Pierce and Trina Pierce Cothrin Interview conducted by Roger Jordan Sims at Central Florida Research Park in Orlando, Florida, on March 12, 2014.

Table Of Contents

0:00:00 Introduction
0:01:48 Background
0:02:23 Enlistment and boot camp
0:03:57 Naval Training Center Orlando
0:07:45 Social life and relationships on base
0:12:47 Hardest part of NTC Orlando, proudest moment, and unforgettable memories
0:15:16 USS Blue Jacket and the Grinder
0:20:46 Vietnam War and the War in Afghanistan
0:23:10 Leaving the Navy and post-naval life
0:27:23 How Central Florida has changed over time
0:29:36 Legacy of NTC Orlando and the Lone Sailor Memorial Project
0:32:44 Closing remarks

Creator

Pierce, Gordon
Cothrin, Trina
Sims, Roger Jordan

Source

Pierce, Gordon. Interviewed by Roger Jordan Sims, March 12, 2014. UCF Community Veterans History Project, DP0014915. Audio/video record available. UCF Community Veterans History Project, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Central Florida Libraries, Orlando, Florida.
Cothrin, Trina. Interviewed by Roger Jordan Sims. UCF Community Veterans History Project, DP0014914. March 12, 2014. Audio/video record available. UCF Community Veterans History Project, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Central Florida Libraries, Orlando, Florida.

Date Created

2014-03-12

Date Copyrighted

2014-03-12

Date Issued

2014-09

Conforms To

Standards established by the Veterans History Projects, Library of Congress.

Has Format

Digital transcript of original 35-minute and 10-second oral history: Pierce, Gordon. Interviewed by Roger Jordan Sims, March 12, 2014. UCF Community Veterans History Project, DP0014915. Audio/video record available. UCF Community Veterans History Project, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Central Florida Libraries, Orlando, Florida.
Digital transcript of original 35-minute and 10-second oral history: Cothrin, Trina. Interviewed by Roger Jordan Sims. UCF Community Veterans History Project, DP0014914. March 12, 2014. Audio/video record available. UCF Community Veterans History Project, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Central Florida Libraries, Orlando, Florida.

Is Part Of

UCF Community Veterans History Project, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Central Florida Libraries, Orlando, Florida.
Lone Sailor Navy Memorial History Project Collection, UCF Community Veterans History Project Collection, RICHES of Central Florida.

Format

application/website
application/pdf

Extent

301 MB
195 KB

Medium

35-minute and 10-second Digital (DAT) DVD audio/video recording
21-page digital transcript
199 KB

Language

eng

Type

Moving Image

Coverage

Naval Station Great Lakes, Great Lakes, Illinois
Jacksonville, Florida
Vietnam
Naval Air Station Sanford, Sanford, Florida
Naval Air Station Key West, Key West, Florida
Naval Training Center Orlando, Orlando, Florida
Naval Air Station Miramar, Miramar, San Diego, California
Pensacola, Florida
Afghanistan
Qatar

Accrual Method

Item Creation

Mediator

History Teacher
Civics/Government Teacher
Geography Teacher

Provenance

Originally created by Roger Jordan Sims, Gordon Pierce, and Trina Cothrin.

Curator

Cepero, Laura

Digital Collection

UCF Community Veterans History Project, UCF Digital Collections, University of Central Florida

External Reference

"The History." Lone Sailor Navy Memorial History Project. http://cfnavyleague.org/lone-sailor/
"The History." RTC Orlando. http://rtcorlando.homestead.com/.
A Guide to Historic Orlando. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2006.

Transcript

Sims
Okay. Today is March 12th, 2014. I am interviewing Gordon Pierce and Ms. Trina [Pierce] Cothrin, uh, who served in the United States Navy. Uh, Mr. Pierce was an aviation metalsmith. Uh, Ms. Cothrin was an aviation maintenance administrator and yeoman. My name is [Roger] Jordan Sims. We are interviewing Mr., and, uh—Mr. Pierce and Ms. Cothrin as part of the UCF [University of Central Florida] Community Veterans History Project and as research for the creation of the Lone Sailor Memorial Project. We are recording this interview at the [Central Florida] Research Parkway in Orlando, Florida. Uh, Mr. Pierce, Ms. Cothrin, will you please start by telling us when and where you were born?

Pierce
I was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1930.

Cothrin
And I was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1958.

Sims
What did your parents do for a living?

Pierce
My parents worked for the State of New York. My father was, uh, in charge of the warehouse for all the supplies for a mental hospital, and my mother was a nurse.

Cothrin
And my father was, uh, a Master Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy—Navy, and my mother was a full-time, uh, mom.

Sims
Uh, do you have any brothers and sisters?

Cothrin
I do. I have, uh, three brothers and one sister. Uh, my oldest brother, uh, Tommy Foreman—he was actually stationed at, uh, McCoy Air Force Base, Uh, when it was an Air Force base, and then, uh, my younger brother Bruce [Pierce] joined the Navy. He and I joined the Navy together on the same day. Uh, He was in boot camp before I did, but we, uh—our paths crossed while we were in boot—boot camp together, and then later, Uh, when I was stationed in San Diego[, California], he came to San Diego for school. Uh, and then, Uh, when my husband and I were stationed in Pensacola, he also was subsequently stationed in Pensa—Pensacola. Then I have a sister named Tina [Pierce] and a younger brother, James [Pierce]. I don’t think I said my brother’s name, who enlisted with me, and that’s Bruce.

Sims
Okay. Um, when did you both decide to join the Navy?

Cothrin
My brother and I?

Sims
Both you…

Cothrin
Okay.

Sims
And Mr. Pierce

Pierce
I joined the Navy in 1948, after I graduated from high school.

Cothrin
And, uh, my brother and I, uh, decided to join the Navy in October of 1979. Uh, uh, you know, he, uh—he had just finished high school, uh, the previous summer, and, uh, we both just decided to do it together. Um, I mean, I—I dunno what—is that enough?

Sims
Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

Cothrin
Okay. Good [laughs]. I don’t know how in depth you want me to go.

Sims
No, I just…

Cothrin
 Okay.

Sims
Whatever—Whatever you’d like to tell us.

Pierce
[clears throat].

Sims
Um, where did you both attend boot camp?

Pierce
I attended boot camp in [Naval Station] Great Lakes, Illinois.

Cothrin
And I—here in Orlando, Florida.

Sims
What were you trained for, uh—for your career in the Navy?

Pierce
I was trained as an aviation metalsmith in Memphis, Tennessee, and I spent, uh, um, about three or four months there, waiting to go to school. then I went to nine weeks of school to be an aviation structural mechanic or aviation metalsmith.

Cothrin
And I, uh, was an aviation maintenance administrator. I went to school in, uh, Meridian, Mississippi,[1] uh, and that was a six-week self-paced course that I finished in a month.

Sims
Uh, when did you both begin your time at the Naval Training Center Orlando and how did that come about?

Pierce
I can’t remember.

Cothrin
Okay. I’ll talk to mine

Sims
Okay.

Cothrin
And then I’ll help him with his. Uh, I went—started boot camp in December of 1979 and I finished up in, I believe, it was March—February-March timeframe—of 1980, and subsequently went to San Diego, California, for a month, and then, uh, went to Meridian, Mississippi, and back to San Diego.

My father, uh, was stationed in, uh, NAS [Naval Air Station] Key West, and in 1970—’74, we—we moved to the Orlando area for a twilight tour. My fa—grandfather had passed away and, uh, we moved up here to, you know, be with my grandmother, right?

Pierce
Pretty much.

Cothrin
Okay.

Sims
Uh, what did you know about the region, uh, militarily or otherwise, before coming to Orlando?

Pierce
We learned quite a bit about it, because I had been stationed in Sanford, at the, uh, Naval Air Station [Sanford] there, for a number of years, and then I went down to Key West for shore duty, from that sea duty drill, and we came back up here, because we liked Central Florida.

Cothrin
I—yeah, I lived here. So [laughs]…

Sims
[laughs].

Cothrin
I knew the area.

Sims
Um, how long did you both spend at the Naval Training Center?

Cothrin
I only did the, uh—spent the time there during boot camp, and my father was there for—from ’70…

Pierce
[19]75 to ‘77.

Cothrin
Was it ’75? or ‘74?

Pierce
I think it was ‘75.

Cothrin
Okay.

Sims
Uh, when you first arrived, what were your first impressions of the area?

Pierce 
Same old place [laughs].

Cothrin
[laughs] I was in high school, uh, so—I mean, it was okay [laughs].

Sims
What were your first days at the Naval Training Center like?

Pierce
They were spent primarily training out to become a Company Commander at the Recruit Training Center [Orlando], and, uh, we went to school I think for six weeks, and we learned how to give lectures, and how to march sailors around, and so on and so forth.

Cothrin
Well, for me, it was, you know [laughs]—that first day, you know, you’re getting all your gear and, uh, you’re learning how to be a sailor, and, uh—so it was interesting [laughs].

Sims
Uh, what were your primary responsibilities while at the Naval Training Center?

Pierce
I was the Correctional and Instructional Standards Division Officer, and we were, more or less, like a quality control unit. We would visit the various classrooms, and make sure the instructor was following the lesson plan, and completing all the things he had to do to get the point of the lesson across to the students.

Cothrin
And, for me, I was a recruit. I was there to learn.

Sims
Um, what was your overall impressions of the recruits and their training during your time at the base?

Pierce
I was impressed with the quality of all the young men and women that were brought into the Navy, and I thought the recruiters were doing a heck of a good job. There were very few people that[sic], uh, fell out, during my time as a Company Commander, and, uh, it was a great experience. I really enjoyed it.

Cothrin
Um, I, uh—you know, once you get past that first initial shock, you know, and you—you get into your training group, I think everything went well. I, you know—I, uh, ultimately enjoyed the time I spent there. Um…

Sims
What kind of social life existed among the recruits? How often were you allowed to go off base, and what places did you visit locally?

Cothrin
Uh, I don’t think we were allowed to go off base until our training was completed. Uh…

Pierce
Well, in the middle, wasn’t there a two-day weekend?

Cothrin
Uh, no, I think the only thing we got to do was go to the visitors’ center and y’all were allowed to come visit us. That’s where the parents and families come—came, at the time that I was there. I do believe.

Pierce
Okay, yeah. I remember that.

Cothrin
Okay, and, uh…

Pierce
That was about right.

Cothrin
Right, because we were—Bruce—Bruce went into basic training in November, and then I went in in December. So over the Thanksgiving holiday, he was there, and then, over the Christmas holidays, we were both there, and that’s where that one picture came from, where we’re all four there on those picnic—at those picnic benches.

Pierce
Okay.

Cothrin
Yeah.

Sims
How did your training experiences shape your relationships with the other recruits in your class?

Cothrin
It was a team-building experience. It—it, you know—it drew you together. Um, you know, taught you how to work together, uh, to accomplish goals.

Pierce
The—the whole criteria for the Recruit Training Com—Command, As far as recruits and Company Commanders were concern—concerned, was to build them into a team, and it was 180 people on a team.

Cothrin
It was a lot.

Pierce
Something like that, and, uh, that was the—the goal was drill into them that they had to work as a team. They would clean the barracks, they would march, and they would do all things together, you know, as a team, and it—it was a rewarding experience to see them develop.

Sims
Who did you both interact with on a daily basis?

Pierce
Uh, there were people who were, um—hey would come around and they would take the—the recruit Company Commander would take the recruits out on the Grinder, and he—there were observers, and they would mark them—see how the training was going, as far as marching and things like that were concerned, and they would come back and open ranks, and do an inspection, and—and it was all very, very formal and, uh—what else do you want?

Cothrin
Okay. So, uh, my daily interaction was, uh, with our, uh—our, uh—what do you call them? Our, uh…

Pierce
Company Commander.

Cothrin
Our Company Commanders, and our, you know—our CPO [Chief Petty Officer] and then our—of course, our, uh,—the other recruits, and then you also interacted with, uh, other instructors, depending on where you were at. Whether you were in weapons training, or some other safety training, or—but for the most part you were with your Company Commanders, you were learning how to fold your clothes, put away your clothes, um, and…

Pierce
Make your rack.

Cothrin
Make your bed a certain way. Uh, you were always having inspections. Uh, you know, how to wear your uniform, uh—let’s see. We went through firefighter training, and, you know, gas mask training—those kinds of things. They put you through your paces. You had your swim test, you know, uh, [inaudible], you had to float in the water for five minutes, uh, you know, you had to be able to, uh, swim from one end of the pool and back, you know? But, uh—so I don’t—I honestly don’t remember everything that we do. I do—I do remember the weapons training, the swim test, the marching, the folding of the clothes, the, you know—the bed inspections. You know, you’re getting up every day at 5 o’clock in the morning. Uh, you know, going to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You march there, you march back. You know, they always had somebody up there, you know, letting you know the instructions. You had 20 minutes and 20 minutes only to, you know, get through the line, and eat your meal, and back to wherever it was we met to, you know, march back to wherever we were going next.

Sims
Uh, what do you remember about the instructors at the base? And what were your impressions of them?

Cothrin
[inaudible].

Pierce
I remember them all as being very professional, and they were t—their goal was to set an example for the recruits, [inaudible] in dress and...

Cothrin
Mannerisms.

Pierce
Mannerisms, and conformity to the rules and regulations. Look sharp, you know? Haircuts, and so on and so forth.

Cothrin
I would agree with him. Uh, the two, uh, Company Commanders that I had were, you know—they were there to set the example, as well as enforce the rules, and, you know, guide us—guide us through the process, and, you know, test us more, test us less, you know, push us harder where we needed to be pushed.

Pierce
And answer all the questions [laughs].

Cothrin
Yes [laughs].

Sims
What was the hardest thing you remember doing at the Naval Training Center?

Cothrin
Um…

Pierce
For me, it was learning how to stand in front of a class of 180 people and teach them how to do something, you know? And, uh, I wasn’t really a formal instructor. I was a hands-on aircraft mechanic, you know, and I was taken from that environment and put in front of all these people, and, uh, it was a very different environment for me, so it was kind of a struggle at the beginning, but I worked my way into it, and I ended up liking it very much.

Cothrin
I would say for me, uh—not necessarily the hardest thing, but, you know—you get there and you don’t know what to expect, and so then it’s learning to, uh, achieve the things you need to achieve in the time you have to do it, and So, you’re learning at a very rapid pace, uh, and, you know, uh—eh, so as—I don’t remember anything being [sighs] so terribly difficult. it was just a matter of learning it.

Sims
Uh, what was the moment you felt most proud at the Naval Training Center?

Pierce
Graduation.

Cothrin
I would agree.

Pierce
When your company pass and review, in front of the reviewing officers and the assembled guests and so on and so forth, it was kind of a proud moment.

Cothrin
It marked the end of the training cycle also [laughs]. You were done [laughs].

Sims
Can you tell me a story of a time at the Naval Training Center that you will never forget?

Pierce
Not really [laughs].

Sims
Not really [laughs].

Cothrin
[laughs] Well, I remember the swim test part. Just floating there, and the sky’s blue, and you’re watching airplanes, and they, uh—and their, uh—whatever you call the smoke thing that goes by, and, you know, that’s what I was doing. Sitting there, you know—floating there, thinking about—I was like, Okay, as they ticked off the minutes, you know, to complete the test, but, uh—I mean, other than that, um, uh, I, you know—the comradery that, you know—that you had. I mean, once we graduated, we all dispersed, you know, a hundred different ways. Um, I think only one person that I went through boot camp with, uh, went to San Diego—I mean, he went to [Naval Air Station] North Island. So, um…

Sims
How would you describe to USS Blue Jacket, and what was its function?

Pierce
It was used to familiarize the, uh, recruits with, uh, how confined the living spaces were aboard ship and various aspects of shipboard living, and, uh, it was very helpful. It was a—it was a very, very, very large training aid that was very useful in getting your point across.

Cothrin 
Didn’t we do battle station drills and those kinds of things on it, as well? I…

Pierce
I didn’t.

Cothrin
I, uh—yeah. I, you know—I don’t—don’t really remember. I—I think we did some sort of drills on the ship. Uh, It wasn’t, eh—it was more than just familiarization with a ship. They took us on board. We did things on it. I just don’t remember what.

Sims
Uh, what was the official purpose of the Grinder and what was its significance to you and the recruits?

Pierce
The Grinder was a very large piece of ground, where as many as nine different companies could get out there and march around, and not—not get involved with one another, if the Company Commander was paying attention [laughs].

Cothrin
[laughs].

Pierce
But it was a big area, and, uh, it was very hot in the summertime and kind of cool in the winter time, but, um, it worked very well.

Cothrin
Cold and wet. I—I mean, because we were out their marching in the cold and it was raining usually, but, uh, it was—it was all about marching out there. I think we did PT [physical training] out there.

Pierce
It was also used as a—if somebody was goofing off within the company, you’d tell them to run around the—the Grinder a couple of times as a—it worked off their exuberance, you know?

Cothrin
 
[laughs].

Sims
Uh, what other types of training went on at the base?

Cothrin
The—the [Naval] Nuclear Power Training Command was there. Uh…

Pierce
You mean other facilities? Or other things that we taught?

Sims
Well, you have the basic boot camp recruit training.

Pierce
Right.

Sims
And then what other types of training would also go on, like the Nuclear [Power] School?

Cothrin
Like the NTC part of it? Do you remember what else was out there, other than nuclear training?

Pierce
No.

Cothrin
I don’t know. It wasn’t…

Pierce
But there was instructor training…

Cothrin
Yeah[?].

Pierce
And peripheral things like that, to where—to support the Recruit Training Command.

Sims
Uh, what were other areas on the base that were of particular importance to you or the recruits, and why were these places important?

Pierce
Well, there was the Firefighting School, which was very important, because, uh, firefighting aboard ship is a[sic] immediate thing that has to be done and done well, and quickly, and thoroughly. I—I was always impressed with that, and there was the gunnery range.

Cothrin
[inaudible]. We went somewhere.

Pierce
They had a…

Cothrin
Yeah.

Pierce
As I remember here, it was indoors, but in Great Lakes, where I went through boot camp, it was outside.

Cothrin
I believe it was indoors. I agree with you there.

Pierce
Yeah.

Cothrin
Yeah, I mean, I agree with him. The firefighting, you know—you go through the firefighting, uh, class, and one of the films they, of course, show you is the fire on the [USS] Forrestal, and that’s something that I think is, you know—they carry though. They still—I think they probably still use that as a training aid today. Uh…

Pierce
Probably.

Cothrin
Yeah, I remember the—what’s the oxygen—the liquid oxygen. I remember, Uh—I mean, that was pretty gross, and they showed you a film, uh, with regards to liquid oxygen and what can happen to you if, you know…

Pierce
If it spills on you.

Cothrin
Yeah.

Pierce
It will freeze you.

Cothrin
Right.

Pierce
Very cold.

Cothrin
So, uh—okay [laughs].

Sims
Uh, what was graduation like?

Cothrin
Um, for me, it was, you know, uh, the marching, and the passing in review, and you know, the, uh—the end of boot camp, and then the beginning of the next, uh, stage of my career in the Navy. Uh, so it, you know—it was being excited and being sad that you’re leaving, you know, the people that you got to know, and then excited to move on to the next thing, and Pride, you know, that you passed. That you got through it.

Pierce
For me, it was saying “Hello” to a lot of different people, where every recruit wanted to introduce you to their parents, to their loved ones, or whatever, and it was, uh, an emotional day.

Sims
Uh, what did you do for the Navy upon leaving Naval Training Center Orlando? Did you receive specialized training after your time at Naval Training Center Orlando? And if so, where did that take place?

Cothrin
Um, I did not go to A School upon graduation of boot camp. I went directly to a squadron. I went to VC-7 [Tallyhoers] at, uh, NAS Miramar[, San Diego], California. It was an [Douglas] A-4 [Skyhawk] training squadron. Uh, and when that squadron decommissioned, I think the, uh—not even—less than a year—maybe ten months later, I then went to A School in Meridian, Mississippi, and then, uh, went back to, uh, VF-124 [Fighter Squadron 124] an [Grumman] F-14 [Tomcat] squadron at, uh, NAS Miramar, and...

Sims
Were either of you ever in active warzone?

Pierce
What?

Cothrin
An active warzone. Have you ever been in an active warzone?

Pierce
I was over in Vietnam on the line for about three years.

Sims
Um, can you tell me about arriving in the warzone, and what impact that experience had on you?

Pierce
Well, you work 12 hours on duty and 12 hours off duty, and that just went on continuously. There were no weekends. There were nothing—you spent 30 days on the line, and then you’d go for a week in Olongapo[, Zambales] in the Philippines for liberty, and, um, it was pretty arduous and, uh emotional at times, because you’d lose airplanes and so on and so forth.

Sims
Uh, did you receive any medals or citations during that time?

Pierce
I received, um—what’s the orange and green one?

Cothrin
It’s a Navy Commendation Medal.

Pierce
Yeah, and now, the green and white one is…

Cothrin
Navy Achievement.

Pierce
Navy Achievement Medal.

Cothrin
Okay.

Pierce
Yeah, I received both of those and a whole bunch of service awards from various places of—of the world: Korea, Vietnam, Mediterranean Occupation Medal.

Cothrin
North Atlantic? [inaudible]. Not—I don’t know if it was North Atlantic, but you were up there too.

Pierce
And I crossed the Arctic Circle a number of times, but I didn’t—they didn’t give a ribbon for that. Crossed the Equator two or three times—maybe four, to get back [laughs].

Cothrin
For me, I was mobilized, uh, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Uh, spent two years at CENTCOM [United States Central Command]. Um, after that, eight months, uh, I spent in Qatar. Uh, it was a, uh, very interesting and rewarding experience, the two years that I spent, uh, mobilized. Uh, it was interesting to go to Qatar. Uh, I—that’s the second country I had ever been to, outside the United States. The first was Mexico [laughs]—Tijuana[, Baja California, Mexico]. So, uh, it—it was interesting seeing the culture, uh, seeing the area, and then, uh, you know, like my dad said, it was, uh, generally a 15-16-hour workday, but, uh, it was a good experience.

Sims
 
Uh, do you both recall the day your service ended? and what was that like?

Cothrin
Uh, I —yes. So I got out of the Navy, uh, October 1, 1982—‘82 or ’81 [laughs]. Okay. ’82, because my son was born in November of ‘82. So, uh, it was a sad experience for me. I wasn’t ready to get out of the Navy. So, uh, once my husband and I transferred to Pensacola, it took six months, and then I found a billet in a [U.S. Naval] Reserve unit, and then I spent the rest of my career, uh, in Reserve units. Starting out in aviation units, and into intel[ligence] units. Um, you know, and through the course of my, uh, 29 years in the—in the Reserve, you know—active and Reserve program, uh, you know, did my two years mobilization at CENTCOM, and I, uh, had worked at, uh, Joint Task Force Forge[?] [inaudible]. I did [inaudible], uh—active duty down there with them, when we were stationed down there. So, I mean, I had a very full and interesting career. So, for you, Dad, you retired in, uh, 1977.

Pierce
Right. I think it was September 1st, and, uh—just another day, to me. No ceremony. I didn’t have a ceremony or anything like that.

Sims
Uh, what did you do after you left the Navy?

Pierce
I got a job in, uh, Sanford with a machine shop company, and they made, Uh, what’s called a “fax machine” now, but this was the very beginning, and it was a thing that went around in circles, and it printed letters, and so on and so forth. There was no vocal, but it was all—you could transmit a—a letter on this circular thing, and it went through the air somehow, and got there and…

Cothrin
Was that QWIP [Technologies]?

Pierce
Yeah, QWIP.

Cothrin
QWIP, and it was a company that…

Pierce
Went through the telephone. You had to call up, get ahold of the machine, and then you put the thing in there, and then you turn the machine on, and it would transmit the piece of paper. Very archaic, really.

Cothrin
[laughs].

Pierce
Compared to today.

Cothrin
And, for me, um, I worked two jobs. So I had my Reserve career and then I had—I worked for the Army since 1993. Uh, and that’s when I started working full-time again.

Sims
Have either of you kept in touch with anyone from the Naval Training Center?

Pierce
I haven’t.

Cothrin
No, I—me neither. No.

Sims
What values or characteristics of the Navy do you believe made an impression on your life?

Pierce
The discipline, the organization, and the orientation of doing your—having to plan out everything and having to work your way through it. It was an organizational—a very strict class in organizational responsibilities, and —get ‘er done.

Cothrin
Right. Uh, you know, I would have to say—I would have to go to, you know, uh, something similar. Uh…

Pierce
[clears throat].

Cothrin
And say, I mean, the caliber of people that were there that you worked with, uh, the things that you did. Uh, I mean, it was just a—it was a great experience. Um, I mean, I, you know, would recommend it to other people. to young folks that—if they don’t really, you know, have it figured out—what it is that they want to do, uh—spend four years in the Navy and—or any service—and, uh, see the world a little bit, and, uh, meet people from all walks of life. It’s a big melting pot. You learn a lot.

Pierce
You grow up in a hurry.

Sims
How has, uh, Central Florida changed since the time you spent here?

Cothrin
A lot [laughs]. A lot.

Pierce
 
Probably expanded three- or four-fold, population-wise. We—we retired in ‘77.

Cothrin
You retired in ‘77. Yes.

Pierce
So we were transferred here in ’75, I think, from Key West, Florida, and, uh, from the day I retired ‘til today, the place has—has really grown, and the population has…

Cothrin
Probably [inaudible].

Pierce
Doubled—tripled, probably

Cothrin
Quadrupled, probably.

Pierce
Yeah.

Cothrin
I think they can remember when, you know—I can remember my mom and dad talking about when [Florida State Road] 436 was a dirt road.

Pierce
Right.

Cothrin
Okay[?].

Pierce
Yeah.

Cothrin
Uh…

Pierce
It only went part way down to the airport and then it was a dirt road.

Cothrin
My grandparents—I don’t know when my grandparents moved here. Was it in the ‘50s or the ‘60s that they retired down here?

Pierce
I think in the late ‘50s.

Cothrin
The late 50s. They came down, um, from New York. So as kids, you know, we were coming—wherever we lived—because I grew up here in Florida, Uh, there was only one period of time when he was stationed outside of Florida, from the time I was born. So we’ve lived—I was born in Jacksonville. We’ve lived in Pensacola, Key West, and Central Florida. So we’ve done the gambit. So Florida—I’m a Floridian [laughs].

Pierce
The squadron I was in was stationed in Sanford, but it deployed on a carrier that was home-ported in San Diego. So it would take three days to airlift the squadron out, and then three days to bring us back. When you got home finally, it was—it was, uh—I can’t think of the word I want to say. You had to move a lot of gear around to get your job done when, uh—when you were aboard ship.

Cothrin
It was a logistics, uh, exercise.

Pierce
Yes.

Sims
What do you think is the lasting legacy of the Naval Training Center and the Navy in general in the Central Florida region?

Pierce
I really don’t know. I’m sure it has a[sic] historical impact, but other than that, I really don’t know.

Cothrin
As far as today, the impact of the base, because it—it closed in the ‘80s? ‘90s? I don’t remember when it closed. Uh, But I mean—I think it had, uh, an impact while it was here. Uh, and it—and it had an impact for some time after it closed. Um, certainly, you know, you go there and look at Baldwin Park, you know, there’s no real sign that the Naval Training Center or Recruit Training Command, uh, ever existed. I mean, there’s little, little things, and I think that’s the purpose of the whole, uh, Lone Sailor, uh, Memorial [Project]—is—is to try to bring back something here in the Orlando area to remind folks that, hey, at one point in time, there was this, uh, Naval Training Center here and Recruit Training Command, and bring back some of that heritage.

Pierce
One of the things that I remember is: on Friday, up over the weekends, maybe half a dozen companies would get liberty and the seet[sic]—and the streets were just lined with sailors, and it would—it was just amazing, and then all of a sudden, they were gone, you know? And that—that was a visual impact I’m sure for a lot of these civilians around here.

Sims
What do you think former naval personnel would like to see or be reminded of when they visit the site of the base and the Lone Sailor Memorial?

Pierce
They would probably like to take their parents or guests around and point out various things that were helpful in their training, and, uh, show the Grinder and so on and so forth, where we marched, and the various [inaudible] buildings where they went to school.

Cothrin
Well[?], they’re not there anymore though [laughs].

Pierce
Well, that’s true.

Cothrin
Yeah, I mean, I guess part of the Grinder is still there. They use it as a—there—there’s[sic], uh, park-like areas in part of it. , uh, I mean, the Blue Jacket is gone. It would have been nice if something like that had stayed, but it didn’t. Uh, and it—and I’m sure it had to do with upkeep, as well. Um, you know…

Pierce
The Blue Jacket was a model ship, right?

Cothrin
Yes.

Pierce
Okay. It was just—it wasn’t very big. It was about half as big as a destroyer, maybe a little bit smaller, but it, uh—it served as a good training aid. It was a good visual thing for the recruits to see their first ship or something like that [clears throat].

Sims
Is there anything you would like to share about your naval experience?

Pierce
I would recommend it for everybody. It was a wonderful experience, as far as I’m concerned. You can’t imagine how precise everything is—the way they start flying in the morning and end up in the evening, after dark generally. Sometimes they flying around the clock, but an aircraft carrier is one of the busiest places in the world, but every hour—hour and a half—you’re launching or recovering airplanes. That goes on all day long. Sometimes 24 hours a day, depending on what kind of a mission or training exercise you’re in. There’s always—around the carrier, there’s usually a cruiser and at least [coughs] five or six destroyers, and the destroyers act as plane guards, in case one of the planes goes into the water. They rescue the pilot, if they get there before the helicopter and so on and so forth, but, uh, before the helicopter, they were primarily the—the guy that pulled the man out of the water that was in there, but, uh, I wouldn’t trade it.

Cothrin
What was the question again? [laughs].

Sims 
[laughs].

Pierce
[coughs].

Sims
If there was just anything else you’d like to share about your experience in the Navy.

Cothrin
Uh…

Pierce
[coughs].

Cothrin
Again, like my father said, I would recommend it. Uh, certainly for, you know—it’s just a broadening experience for anybody. Uh, and there’s no better way to have a job, travel, and kind of—you’re taken care of. Uh, So I had an incredible career for, uh, nearly 30 years. I retired in, uh, 2009. I went into the Navy in 1979. So, um, I loved it, um, like[?] my dad.

Sims
Well, thank you for talking with me today and for sharing, uh, your experiences with me.

Pierce
Thank you.

Cothrin
Thank you.

Pierce
[clears throat].


[1] Naval Air Station Meridian.

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