Naval Weather Service Association (NWSA)



An association of Aerographers & Mates,
Meteorologists & Oceanographers

All the Jobs but One of
 My Naval Career E-1 to O-6
CAPT Marshall P. "Mark" Waters III, PhD., USNR RET

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I had a naval career of over 39 years - active and reserve with enlisted and commissioned service – mostly air side.  In a nut shell, here’s how it went down.  My father, a WWII USN ADRC – Aviation Machinist Mate Reciprocating [engine] Chief and drilling reservist - “signed me up” in the Naval Reserve at the NARTU, MCAS Miami, (Opa-locka) FL, on 26May57.  He thought it would be a great way to satisfy my military obligation.  (Some might remember this era?)  This USNR program was characterized by an 85-day boot camp, 85-day service “A” school, 2 years active duty, 4 years drilling reserve, and 2 years stand-by reserve – a.k.a. 2 by 6.  Unbeknownst to me, you had to be at least 17 years old to be accepted in the program, but I was only 16 and 10 months.  However “Chiefs run the Navy” and poof, on 26MAY57, I’m in the Naval Reserve and 17.

The 85-day AR to AN boot camp was in the summer between my 11th and 12th grade in high school at MCAS Miami.  After boot camp, back to the drilling reserve and high school.   (Back row 1st on the left).  After HS graduation, 85-day AG “A” school Lakehurst, NJ.   USNR Class of 5824 - 25 ANs in Barracks B with the PRs.  (See Aerograph photos Class 5824 - back row 2nd from the left.)

After “A” school, back to MCAS Miami - made AG3.  Nov 1958, I reported to the USS Saratoga (CVA-60) in the yard at NS Norfolk for two years of active duty.  I’m the only USNR in the OA Division of 16 which included 3 undesignated airmen.  Right away, it was compartment cleaning, bomb working parties, chow line monitor, fire watch monitor, etc., etc.  Someone figured that I missed all these choice assignments prior to reporting.

The Aerology Officer, blimp pilot LT Otto Gerken and AGC J.J. Scheiwer, (later LCDR LDO) sent me to AG “C” school - Class of 5904.  I made AG2 and was certified a flight forecaster on the Saratoga.  LCDR Robert W. Grill (later Captain) replaced Gerken and wanted me to remain on active duty for the Naval Enlisted Scientific Education Program (NESEP) – but, I didn’t have enough time remaining on my contract to apply without re-enlisting.  So, in Oct 1960, in the Tyrrhenian Sea, it was a COD flight to Naples, then on to NS Norfolk for separation.  I had survived one and a half Med Cruises.  I now had 4 years of drilling reserve time left on my contract.

In Dec 1960, the drill site was NAS Atlanta, (Marietta) GA, in an Air Wing Staff 67(M) reserve unit.  Jan 1961, I entered the University of Georgia as math major.  Made AG1 at NAS Atlanta and graduated UGA in 1964.  I got a direct commission as an Ensign USNR - Aeronautical Engineering Duty Officer (Aerology) in Mar 1965.  I now had an 8 year drilling reserve obligation.  There was no transition from E to O, no OCS, no two-week active duty knife and fork school, just a $185 uniform allowance.  On our honeymoon my wife and I went to NAS Pensacola and bought returned uniforms dirt cheap from washed out aviation program students.  I wore ENS Deffendorfer’s dress blues thru CDR – just restriped it along the way.  I remained at NAS Atlanta thru LT drilling with NAR Div 671 then NAR Div B1 as a meteorology officer - also earned a masters and PhD at UGA.

In 1972, we moved to Maryland and I worked for NOAA’s Satellite Service in Suitland, in the same building with NAVPOLAROCEANCEN – my mobilization site.  The drill site was NAF Washington, Andrews AFB, MD – in a Naval Weather Service Reserve Unit.  I went through admin, training, division, XO, and then CO.    By 1981, I cobbled together what became a very popular a two week active duty training course titled: Satellite Applications in Meteorology and Oceanography using my unit’s officers and scientists within NOAA, NASA, and local universities.  The course was for meteorology and oceanography officers of the Naval Reserve; however, knowing a good deal when they see one, the Navy’s meteorology/oceanography community took over half the allotted seats by Jun 1986.  I moved up in rank to Captain whereupon, I caved in and bought a new set of dress blues.

I’d had three CO assignments of reserve units as well by 1986 and in Sep I agreed to a voluntary recall to active duty.  It was the U.S. Naval Academy for 4 years minus one day so I could have a guaranteed return to NOAA at tour’s end.  They made me an Associate Professor of Meteorology, Division of Math and Science, in the Oceanography Department.  A rare O-6 in the classroom teaching Atmospheric Thermodynamics and Kinematics, Tropical Meteorology and Oceanography from Space.  This was, by far, the most rewarding and enjoyable job in my civilian or military career.  I was too senior to stand watches and outranked everyone on “The Yard” except the Superintendent – this included the brigade of midshipmen’s company officers as well as the Department Chairman.  The Division Chairman, an O-6, had to sign my FITREPs.  Throw me in that briar patch and drag me around awhile.

In Sep 1990, I was released and returned to NOAA and the USNR.  It was the Ocean Service, (5 years later transferred to the Weather Service) at the National Meteorological Center, Camp Springs, MD.  The surface side drill site was NS Anacostia, Washington, D.C. - staff oceanographer in a Deputy CNO OP-07 reserve unit at the Pentagon.  Then CO of an Oceanography OP-0966 reserve unit at the Naval Observatory.   Finally, XO of a Deputy CNO N80 reserve unit back in the Pentagon.  This is when I found out that the cypher locks on office doors are there to protect the people inside, not the information.  We often worked budget stuff if you get my drift.  On the Sunday of our drill weekend in Oct 1996 - the 31 year point of my commissioned service - our unit’s Admin Petty Officer told me, quote: “Sir, you have to go home”.

This ended the history of good active duty and reserve jobs – EXCEPT FOR ONE.  That one was releasing radiosondes from the Saratoga.  This was an almost impossible job.  Balloon inflation room was in Hanger Bay #3 secured with at least 25 dogs on the access door and opened onto recessed railroad rails in the deck.  At 18 and 130 pounds max, a 3 foot pipe for leverage was necessary just to open the damn water tight door.  Graduating 1st in the Class of 5904 didn’t help a damn bit either – I racked up 29 days with no successful release - 58 consecutive failures.  This is probably a record that still stands!

Failures that I vividly remember were as follows: balloon burst when it touched overhead lights of hanger bay with aircraft so packed tight the balloon had to be “walked” near the overhead between aircraft to the elevator in hanger bay 1 tethered to the transmitter; burst when forced out of high wind release shroud while on the flight deck; burst when team assistant holding balloon tripped on arresting wire; burst when it hit whip antennas; burst when it hit aircraft on flight deck; burst when it hit aircraft moving equipment; burst when it hit personnel on the flight deck at night; burst when aluminum chaff reflector strips were dispensed inside puncturing it (of course the oil coating the inside and chaff were then deposited on you and your undress blues making you look like a Christmas tree); burst when waves broke over airplane elevator in down position; and burst when pushed out hanger bay opening when no elevator was available.


There were radiosonde transmitter AN/AMT11 failures too: when it was drug along hit flight deck when balloon did not gain sufficient altitude after launch and connecting twine in train regulator ran out; when it hit aircraft; when it hit personnel; when it dragged and bounced over arresting wires; when it became a buoy as the flight deck wind stream pushed balloon down from the fantail of the flight deck to the water (once lifted out of the water it was 100% humidity to 500mb); when it hit aircraft moving equipment; and when I threw it over parked aircraft at the fantail.  This never worked – the transmitter always impacted the balloon bursting it.

The radiosonde receiver AN/SMQ-2A had failures as well (after a rare successful launch).  The Aerology Office was at the 03 level just aft of the jet blast deflectors on the starboard side such that, during launches, the vibration was so great the inked ribbon on the recorder unspooled and recording paper ejected at the rate of 3 feet/min instead of 3 inches/min making workup of the sounding impossible.  The frequency of the transmitter could not be tuned at the receiver and you could not hear the signal either.  All these things conspired sequentially (along with air ops closing the observational window) for the 29 days of NO successful releases with two or more attempts per day.  Twenty-eight days of no upper wind data over the ship was unacceptable.  The 59th release was successful only because our Aerology Officer, LCDR Grill, went to the bridge and arranged for the Saratoga to turn down wind allowing a no wind condition across the flight deck.  Once the balloon was airborne those on the flight watching this spectacle burst into a spontaneous ovation.  After the workup, I was relieved from the radiosonde team.  Grill took me to our adjacent storeroom and fired me outright – I broke down - just couldn’t seem to make it work and became a watch section leader.  My relief fared a little better; however, I never had a balloon and transmitter hit the island which would have counted as another failure.


Overall, it was an enjoyable career spanning 39 years 5 months and included 59 two-week active duty training periods (each has a different story) everywhere imaginable within the Navy’s meteorology/oceanography community (Suitland, Jacksonville, Rota, San Diego, Pearl Harbor, CINPACFLT, COMPHIBRON Little Creek, Glenview, NOBSY, Norfolk, USNA, CNOC, NAVO, CNAVRES NOLA, NAVAIRSYSCOM, PG School, Atlanta, Andrews AFB, plus NATO Exercises, FLENUMWEACEN) and elsewhere, numerous reserve unit jobs, and four reserve unit CO assignments.  Not a bad E-1 to O-6 trip for a USNR.  


My birthdate with BUPERS was corrected in 1965 when I found out what ADRC Marshall P. Waters Jr. USNR had surreptitiously pulled off on 26May57 just to get me in the Naval Reserve.  My father was right though – absolutely no regrets - in the right place at the right time – worked hard - lots of good people still friends, fond memories, and sea stories galore – just ask.
Some Images from CAPT Waters' Career
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Mark in Boot Camp USMC Air Station Miami Opa-locka FL 8-1957 3rd row 1st from left
Mark in Class of 5824 AGA School NAS Lakehurst NJ 8-1958 4th row 2nd from left
Class of 5824 Lakehurst NJ 16 JUN 58 to 29 AUG 58
Mark with Robert M. Lee Jr USS Saratoga after passing AG2 exam 1959
AG3s M P Waters & Robert W Richardson OA Office USS Saratoga 1959
Mark Ensign NAS Atlanta 1965
Radiosonde release USS Saratoga 1959 - AG3 Ken Overholt with shroud - AG2 Frank Belleau with transmi