Comments from Lester Durst:[Here are some good Sea Stories from Lester]
My name is Lester Durst. While on the 'net I did a random search of PTF18. You might ask why? That is my 'net e-mail name because I served on the 18 boat (and 6 boat) as a Snipe during my entire U.S. Navy enlistment. I was stationed at CRR 2 NAB Little Creek, VA from Feb 73 to Sept 76, the unit that operated PTFs along with other now forgotten riverine boats.
I have not looked over your site yet as I wanted to drop you a note first. Boy does this bring back memories as it was excellent duty for a kid just out of boot camp.
I had first seen PTFs at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in the fall of 1972. I was in boot camp there and my company had been given a day of liberty near the end of our then 7 weeks of recruit training. Myself and a buddy went to the main base and for some reason wandered down to the piers. That's when I first saw them. Green boats. I asked the watch what they were and was told PTFs. Being a young squid I never thought of asking if we could come aboard, heck I wasn't in the real navy yet just a boot camper. Those boats, I thought, that's what this sailor wanted to serve on.
After boot camp I attended Engineman "A" school also at the Great Lakes Training Center. While there President Nixon announced that no more US troops would be going to Vietnam something for whatever reason I had wanted to go to.
When "A" school was near completion my class received its orders to where everyone was going to be assigned. Everyone got a ship.......except myself. I was assigned to something called Coastal River Squadron 2, NAB, Little Creek, Va. Oh God I thought what the heck back water duty have Ive got myself into.
Seems everyone went to the base library after class the day we received our sailing orders, at least the new sailors as the seasoned sailors where going back to the ships that they had came from or to new ships. Us newbies were going thru Janes Fighting Ship books looking up where we would being spending our 4 year enlistment. Seems everyone found their ship............ except me. The closest thing I could find was Aux boats like LCUs, Mike boats, etc. God was this going to be an adventure.......
After 2 weeks leave I flew to Norfolk in Feb 73. Coming from my home in Minnesota I thought boy I could get use to no snow real fast. I took a cab to NAB with a driver that told me he knew right where to go......We got on base and drove around for awhile...... for quite awhile. Yeah this driver knew right where to go.
Then it happened. The cab driver, lost I'm sure, ended up at Pier 1 and lo and behold there were THE BOATS. GREEN BOATS just like the ones I had seen at Great Lakes. I stopped the driver got out of the cab and sheepishly went to the pier watch and asked if knew where Coastal River Squadron 2 was. The watch, a fellow named EN2 Skip Herman, said yeah, this is it, the boats are here and command is on the the other side. He said his watch was almost over and he would give me a ride over to command if I liked. I got my stuff from the cab and started talking to EN2 Herman about the Unit and the boats.
He told me he was Chief Engineman on 17 boat and they were looking for a Electrician. Not me, I said Im a Engineman striker. Then he said.....want to take a look at a PTF.........didn't take me a minute to decide and I followed him down the pier to where his boat was ( they were always your boat not the Navy's boat.... your boat).
Being fresh out of boot camp and full of Naval regs and procedures I didn't know who I was to ask permission to board or what to salute as Skip hopped over 17 boats' wire railing and disappeared down the Main Control/Tank Room hatch. I looked around saw no one and followed him down. Wow......just wow I thought when I got below. Skip gave me the tour and I thought this is it. PTFs for me. After his watch was over Skip drove me to command and I got checked in and told to be back in the AM. It was 8 or 9 pm on a late in the week day. I got a ride to the barracks and got checked in. First impression of the barracks was that this wasn't the Navy as the small 3 story building was full on non Petty Officers who were there to party. One has to remember this was the early 70's and a party seemed as the only thing to do with ones time. This wasn't the Navy I had thought I was in for as it was more like McCails Navy, worse I think.
The next morning I reported to Command and told to wait around as a Officer was going to talk to me. I was led into the conference room and introduced to LTjg William Peck. We sat down and he started looking over my small US Navy personal file. We chit chatted a bit and then he said........he needed a Snipe on his boat.......PTF 18.... as one of the Engineman, a 2nd Class PO had gotten drunk during the last cruise to North Carolina and broke his leg. Interested? Yes Sir, ENFN Durst said.
I got my Boat.....and as I look back now 30 years later it turn out be be one heck of an adventure. I wouldn't of traded for anything.
I apologize for the rambling . Just an old boat. - Lester Durst