Who would ever believe that I...................
I Was Recruited From French Frigate Shoals
By Don Opedal
I had a relationship with French Frigate Shoals that not only preceded my Coast Guard career but also may have been responsible for it!
As a high school senior
in 1969 I was applying for the military academies. At the same time I had been
talking to ETC Pete Hughes and ET1 Al Haines on Loran Station French Frigate
Shoals (KH6ABH) and a reserve, ETC Chuck Taylor (WB6CCN) in California, on ham
radio for some time. (The group had this joke going that they met on 7315 KHz,
which hams will recognize is outside the band, with an identification of “QPU”.
“Q” signals are used in radio as abbreviations, originally to reduce the
effort of sending Morse code by hand. Many readers are familiar with
abbreviations used on CB radio and by others such as 10-4, 10-20, etc. Radio
uses three letter codes such as QTH (location). QPU had no meaning other than to
this group; more on that later!) I
was KH6GRG and living in Hawaii.
I met Pete Hughes when
he was in Hawaii after being evacuated from French Frigate Shoals, which was
flooded by a storm. I met Al Haines as he passed through Hawaii after leaving
French Frigate Shoals. I even collected a box of coconuts (plenty of them in my
yard) and took the to Base Honolulu to be flown out to French Frigate Shoals
where they might grow into trees. The people at the base asked my for the
paperwork; at the time, what did I know about a DD-1149?
I had told these
Coasties about my Academy trys and they suggested considering joining the Coast
Guard. Imagine trying to recruit someone while on isolated duty!
(My neighbor across the street, CDR Phil Lutzi, had also provided
information on the Coast Guard Academy.) I
visited the Coast Guard recruiter, got basic information, took the tests, etc. I
told my parents I was going to join the Coast Guard and the reaction was “Of
course you aren’t, you are going to college!” I had a small scholarship to the University of Hawaii but I
wanted to get away from home and do something different. About a month after
graduating from high school, I called the Coast Guard recruiter and said to sign
me up. On Thursday, July 2, 1970 (Friday was the July 4 holiday,) I enlisted.
Following boot camp I
went to Governors Island for ETA School. I arrived Friday night and Saturday
morning I set out to find Pete Hughes who I knew was stationed there, now a CWO.
Locating his residence I knocked on his door and when he answered I said,
“QPU, Sir!” On Sunday I found
CDR Lutzi who was also on Governors Island.
In December 1974 I was back in Hawaii on leave. I had just made ETC and been selected to go to OCS. However, for something to do I arranged to fly out to French Frigate Shoals for the day on the weekly log flight and got to see the place I had talked to and started on my Coast Guard career five years before.
On another day I flew out to Loran Station Johnston Island to visit there. Another brand new ETC was also flying out and we came to face-to-face in out new uniforms and realized one of us had the Chief’s insignia on the overseas cap on the wrong side. It was me.
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