A Career That Almost Went Kaput

By Don Opedal



I applied for OCS twice. The first time an interviewer asked if I was going to take the Officer Qualification Test again. I said no and he suggested I think about it. Hmmm. The second interview board consisted of three officers, two of whom I knew from other activities and they were telling the third about me. Must have helped!

I was an instructor at the Coast Guard’s basic Electronics School (ETA School) on Governors Island, NY at the time. On December 1, 1974 I was promoted to Chief, Electronics Technician at the age of 22 with 4½ years in the Coast Guard. In early December I was in a meeting when LCDR Al Kaufmann, the Electronics Schools Officer-In-Charge, walked in and told me “You made it.” I asked, "What?" and he told me, "OCS." After receiving congratulations and finishing the meeting, I went down to the JOOD’s office to get a copy of the message. Any old Coastie will tell you that it is never official until you see it in writing.

Sometime within the period I received my orders to OCS and my detachment date, All Hands were required to attend a briefing on how to get promoted. I had just made Chief and was on my way to OCS; I asked whether they wanted me to attend or to give the briefing. 

Two of the current ETA students, Galan McEachin and Paul Kluss had also been selected for OCS. Paul was actually in my class so I had some fun giving him some “extra” privileges

I was already scheduled to go home on leave for Christmas so I surprised my family with the news. Early on, I had told my father I could make E-4 in a year, E-5 in 18 months, and E-6 in 2½ years. He said those were the minimums and not to expect that. In fact, I had just done that, made E-7, and was now selected to go to OCS. I asked him how I was doing and he acknowledged I was doing OK.

LCDR Kaufmann and his assistant, LT(JG) Mike Cook were both OCS graduates and gave me some tips and information.

In mid-January I left Governors Island for the Reserve Training  Center, Yorktown, VA. On the way, I stopped in Washington, DC to visit CG Headquarters and look up an old shipmate. I parked at a motel and was walking towards the lobby when someone came out and told the people in front of me to stay back and not to come in. I was thinking they had just cleaned the carpet or something when police cars started screaming into the parking lot from all directions. I didn’t know what was happening but I decided it wasn’t good. 

I left and went to another motel down the street. I mentioned the event to the their clerk. Sometime later he called to tell me a police officer had been visiting the clerk at the first motel. A person held up the clerk, and the police officer had shot and killed him. I had been just minutes behind!

Now the story gets interesting.

The motel clerk and I spoke several times during my short stay. I commented that there seemed to be a lot of traffic in the room next to mine. He said there was a call girl operation being run there. Later he called and said he and his girlfriend enjoyed three ways and invited me to join them. Just what I needed; I was on my way to OCS and illicit things were happening all around me. 

I left after a couple days and headed for Yorktown. I had managed to keep my skirts clean.

Little did I know that I would be assigned to Headquarters in Washington, DC eight years later and eventually settle in the area. 

I often pass those two motels and tell the story to anyone riding with me. In looking backwards to that stop in Washington, had I followed the other path my career could have gone kaput!


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