USS Great Sitkin (AE-17)
2nd Issue, 22nd Year                                                                                                                                                   1 March 2014

Association Officers

Ron Zimmerman Sr.
474 SW Prater Ave.
Port St. Lucie, FL  34953
(772) 621-4016

Vice President
Jim Dunno
272 Stone Hedge Row
Johnstown,  OH  43031

Jim Perko
PO Box 675
Barnegat Light, NJ
George Kaiser
311 W. Oak Lane
Glenolden, PA 19036

Mark Rucker
241 Larchmont Ave.
Springfield, OH  45503

Editor  (Non-officer)
Dorothy Hodnichak
25850 Lake Shore Blvd.
Euclid, OH  44132-1107
(216) 731-5289



From Our President:  Not too much to report this time.  I’ve been busy helping veterans at my Legion Post get their paperwork together for VA claims processing.  This is something I really enjoy doing.  If you have any questions about VA disability claims, please see me in the Hospitality Room at the Reunion.  I would be glad to try and help you.
   As for me, I’ve had to begin Chemo again. It came back at a low level, and my doctor wanted to try and get it back into remission quickly.  I’ll have four sessions, then a follow-up blood test. Hopefully, there will be six months off before testing again.  As we discussed, with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, this could be an on-going treatment and as long as it can be kept at a low level or put into remission, I have many more years ahead of me.

 Web Site update:   No update yet.

New finds:   Thomas Stephens SN.  Welcome aboard, Shipmate!          

     Ron Zimmerman

A word from the Vice-President:   I’m going to start with something I E-mailed to Dorothy:  I really, really, really hate the snow!  There!  Now that is out of the way, I can continue with this little note.  I had to come up with a picture for my bio that has been put in the Newsletter.  After a time of rummaging through pictures and albums, I decided that you have all seen me as I am, so I sent along my boot camp picture, back from the days when I had hair.
    I am looking forward to our reunion in Nashville, TN.  Gene McNeill has some great things for us to do.  Yes!  I am bringing Joy along this time!  A little update on membership:  There are between 85 and 90 paid members.  I did have an actual count, but I forgot it.  Due to my being a little lazy, I decided not to go back and count again!  With that said, I will close with:  I really, really, really hate the snow!

     Jim Dunno
     Vice-President &  Membership Chairman

Secretary’s Report:
   Year 2014 has arrived with some rough weather throughout the country.  The snow, rain, ice, and cold temperatures have made it difficult for many people. Is it spring yet?  As spring approaches, please begin to think about attending our reunion in Nashville this year.  Eugene and Nora McNeill have many activities planned for those who will be attending our September reunion.  Let's reach out to those shipmates who have not attended previous reunions and personally invite them and their families to join us.
   Please continue sending interesting stories related to your time on the Sitkin to either Dorothy Hodnichak or me.   Keep membership alive: 

      Jim Perko

Repair 3:  A cold day here in Repair 3, waxing nostalgic about the fact that 43 years ago from right now, we were enjoying the warm waters of the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station while the ship was having its spring bearings replaced. I’ve been having a lot of flashback moments these days brought on in part by our editor’s request for our Great Sitkin bios seen in this issue; and in part, by the fact that a young man from our church is currently at Parris Island Marine Recruit Depot in training to become a US Marine. He has been there since 8 December and is set to graduate on 7 March. Following his progress made me think back to my days at RTC Great Lakes in 1968. We all had boot camp training.  Many trained at Great Lakes.  Some of our older shipmates probably trained at Sampson, NY, Bainbridge, MD, or even San Diego, CA. We learned how to be Sailors, along with all the Navy traditions.  If you’re like me, a lot of the material we learned we still find ourselves using today. How many of you still use the techniques for packing a seabag when you pack your suitcase? Actually, how many of you still use a seabag?
    I’ve had occasion to reflect on what the Marines mean to our fleet these days, mostly because I want to be able to talk intelligently to Marine Recruit McCollum, Connor J. when he graduates. If you look on my Facebook page, you’ll see the USMC seal as my avatar. And this old Sailor even has the Marine flag flying at home. Does anyone know what the elements of the flag mean?
    The Eagle stands for the United States.  It carries a banner in its beak with the inscription “Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful.”  Not too far from our own motto, “Always Ready.”
    The Eagle has the globe in its talons with the western hemisphere pictured. The Eagle is watching over the United States while always being prepared to respond anywhere on the globe.  The Anchor, which dates back to the founding of the Corps in 1775, acknowledges the naval tradition of the Marines and their continual service within the Department of the Navy. In spite of the much touted animosity over the years between Sailors and Marines, we share much of the same rich maritime heritage.
    Mary and I are going to Parris Island for the graduation ceremony.  I will be wearing Service Dress Blues in proud recognition of these young men and women preparing to take their place at the tip of our nation’s Spear. It will be fun to be a “squid” in the middle of a bunch of “jarheads.”
    Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the FDNY training center, AKA, “The Rock” in NYC. It was a nostalgic ride passing over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge with the MOTBY pier well in view.  How many times did we sail under that bridge? Driving up the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, we passed the remains of the Todd Naval Shipyard, as well as the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  The receiving station is still there.  At “The Rock,” they have a wall with pictures of the 343 firefighters killed on 9/11.  I paused and reflected on the picture of our Shipmate ETN3 Richard Kelly.  They have an entire section for remembering the military service of FDNY members.  In the coming months, using my connection with the administration of “The Rock,” I plan to provide details and pictures of the Sitkin noting Rich’s military service on the ship.   
    Other business:  The Ship’s Store has been rather quiet lately.  The store has been well stocked.  Please, buy now and buy often!  Show your Great Sitkin Pride!  Keep safe, and let’s all be “Always Ready!”

    George Kaiser

The Chaplain’s Corner:   “Good Day to all of you!”   We were asked to write a short bio of ourselves for this Newsletter. Thinking back to those early days in the Navy was frightening at times. Working down in the engine room was not in my plans when I joined the Navy. I wanted to be a corpsman and go to Vietnam. Well, that didn’t happen. Many times later in my life, I still questioned the Navy’s decision not to make me a corpsman.  What I forgot was that God had something else in mind for me that had nothing to do with my time in the Navy. It was all about after the Navy and the things He had in store for me.
    Look at Moses:  He was an Israelite living in the house of Pharaoh.  His true identity was hidden, and he ended up leading the children of Israel out of 400 years of slavery. I am sure he had no idea when he fled Egypt as a murderer that God was going to use him in this way. I am no Moses, but I can see where God was keeping me out of harm’s way by saving me from the jungles of Vietnam and the bullets of those who wanted to kill Americans.
    In the book of Psalms 37:23 we find these words
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.”
    It’s time to say good bye for now. Let’s keep those families in our prayers that have lost a loved one who sailed aboard the Great Sitkin.  May the Lord Bless and Keep You.

   Honor Roll Update:   Richard Albrecht  QM1,  Lawrence Karadeema  GM3

Spouse Honor Roll:  None to report

       Mark Rucker

Comments from the Editor
I would like to thank all of you for your continuing support and great ideas. A recent idea was to highlight the naval careers of the Association Board.  It was inspiring to read what it really took to be a Sailor on the USS Great Sitkin.  Being in the military is not an easy task; however, the benefits far outweigh the risks.  How many times have we heard the saying, “Join the Navy and learn a career?”  Many of you did just that. 
    “Join the Navy and see the world!”   The Med Cruises did just that.  You were young when you joined the service, and many of you made it a career.  You were still young when you retired from the Navy and able to begin a second career. You gave your all; laid your life on the line for the good of the USS Great Sitkin, your shipmates and more important, you kept our country safe. 
    Many lasting friendships were made that went beyond military service.  In 1993, the USS Great Sitkin Association was formed.  Now in our 22nd year, we are still going strong. 
    I hope you enjoy the bios written by our Board.  I was amazed by their stories and very proud to call these men (and their wives) friends!   
    On another note, I have to respond to Jim Dunno’s snow comments.  I don’t believe many of you escaped the sub-zero temperatures and tons of snow that fell during this winter.  Our good friends, Gene and Nora McNeill, from Cleveland, Tennessee, had snow.  I didn’t think it ever snowed in Tennessee!    It’s snowing again in Cleveland, Ohio.   For your information:  I’m two hours away from Jim  Dunno and three hours away from Mark Rucker.  We are
all out shoveling snow AGAIN!

    Dorothy Hodnichak

Bios the Editor roped us into writing by ....

Ron Zimmerman, Sr. SK3                                                 President, USS Great Sitkin Association
Date Entered Service:  11 August 1969    –    Date Retired US Navy:  28 February 1990

SK3 Ron Zimmerman, April 1972 to June 1973:  I reported aboard the USS Great Sitkin in Bayonne just  before heading to NAD Earl for on-load and departure for REFTRA in GITMO. It was my first and only  GITMO experience (Thank God).  After GITMO, we departed for a 6-month Med Cruise. This would be my first and only Med Cruise.  While we worked our butts off; in retrospect, at times it was a lot of fun!  It was a great experience.  The ports we visited that stand out most for me were Mykonos and Monte Carlo. Naples, Athens, Souda Bay, Augusta Bay, etc. did leave some lasting memories, but I won’t go into details.  LOL
    We returned from the cruise in December and after the holiday stand-down, we began the decommissioning process.  We eventually had to go cold iron, and they brought this wonderful berthing barge astern which was now our new “home.”  When we first received it, it was like a garbage scowl.  A whole lot of cleaning took place just to make it a decent place to eat and sleep.  At least it was warm.
    I left the Navy in June to peruse higher education and found out that being a 22-year old freshman and a combat Vietnam Veteran did not mix well with the mentality of college life.  I reentered the Navy nine months later and have never regretted that decision.   I joined the Active Duty Reserve TAR program, hence, no more deployments and ended up on two 1950’s MSO’s and five years on a Mine Squadron Staff.  No deployments, but I did get my sea time in.  I retired in February 1990 as an SKCS with my 20 years in.  I enjoy being retired.  Although I only spent a little over a year on the USS Great Sitkin, I made good friends and memories that have stayed with me through the years.  I am also glad George Kaiser located me in the “Goat Locker” and gave Glenn Frankenbach my contact information.  Glenn called and talked to me about the USS Great Sitkin Association and convinced me to attend the 2000 Reunion in Cleveland, Ohio.  The rest is history!

James Dunno, BT3
      Vice President and Membership Chairman, USS Great Sitkin Association
Date Entered Service:  7 May 1969   –   Date Retired US Navy:  March 1997

BT3 James Dunno, June 1970 to April 1972:  I had to wait for the Sitkin to pull in from REFTRA in GITMO at the Brooklyn  Receiving Station  in  New York.     All the guys said I was lucky I missed it.   After the crew had some leave,  we went to GITMO.   Not only did I go to GITMO once,  but had the misfortune to go a  second time with the USS Great Sitkin.  In January 1971, we went on my first Med Cruise and like GITMO; we went back for a three-month Med Cruise in January 1972. I enjoyed both cruises & all the different ports.
    My good fortune continued when I got off the ship the same month that Ron Zimmerman came aboard!  (Just kidding, Ron!)  From this point, I continued in the Reserves for 10 more years during which time I had a stint with the Naval Air.  I became a little tired with the Navy and an airlift out of Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base took me to Andrews Air Force Base with a photo recon squadron.  I cross rated to an ADJ2 (Jet Mechanic).  No sooner put the Crow on when the airlift was cancelled.  I became a BT again.  After my enlistment was up, I left the Navy.
    It is now 1985 and I met the love of my life, Joy.  After we were married, she said, “Well, you have 11 years in the Navy, go back and do 10 more years, then retire!  My next seven years were on a Sub Dry Dock in San Diego.  It’s hard to believe, but they had a billet for 1-BT.  The next few years were with the USS Pharris, an FFG (Frigate Guided Missile) out of all places – Staten Island, New York!  My final reserve unit was where my first Great Sitkin cruise went.  Yep!  FGT GITMO.  This time I got to wear the blue coveralls.  My unit ran a Damage Control trainer in Columbus, Ohio.  I remained there until I retired in 1997.
    I didn’t find out about the Association until after the Cleveland reunion and the rest, as the president put it, is “History.”

James M. Perko, BM3                                                           Secretary, USS Great Sitkin Association
Date Entered Service:  22 June 1960   -   Date Discharged 26 June 1963

BM3 James Perko:  After boot camp, I reported aboard the USS Great Sitkin at NAD Earle on September 10, 1960.  My first day aboard was interesting.  Upon leaving Great Lakes, I was told that I would be doing on-the-job training for Sonar.  Actually, when I reported to the First Division, I was given a bucket, a rag and a bar of soap and was told to start scrubbing bulkheads on the 2nd deck.  So much for sonar training!
    After leaving Earle, I had the first of my four visits to GITMO.  One of these occasions was on October 21, 1962, the Cuban Crises.  While still on my honeymoon, I was called back to the Sitkin, but was unable to make it back in time for its departure. When I finally reported to Bayonne, I boarded the USS Nitro and was high-lined across to the USS Great Sitkin while at sea.  Also, we were constantly replenishing.
    My three years on the Sitkin created many memories for me including one other cruise that was unforgettable!  This was the trip to the Med in 1961 which showed this 19 year-old a different view of the world!
    I became a member of the Association in 1999.  We were unable to attend Sitkin reunions due to the fact we were still working.  Our first reunion was in Charleston, SC in 2005, then after retirement, we attended the 2007 reunion in Baton Rouge, LA.  Other than missing Boston due to scheduling problems, we’re regular attendees.  In 2012, I was elected Secretary and as the rest have already mentioned:  “The rest is history.”

George Kaiser, DCC                                                          Treasurer, USS Great Sitkin Association
Date Entered Service: 1 July 1968   -   Date Retired: 1 January 2000

I joined the  US Naval  Reserve via the  delayed -entry program in July 1968 and began basic training,  aka; Boot Camp, at  Recruit Training Command,  Great Lakes on 20  Sept. 1968, graduating as a  Fireman on 8 November 1968.     After basic,  the  next nine  months were  spent at  home drilling  at our  local  Reserve Center one night weekly.    On 16 Sept. 1969,  I  began  my  active  duty  at the  Damage Controlman  “A”  School in  Philadelphia graduating as a Damage Controlman Fireman on 16 Nov. 1969.  After 10 days leave, I reported aboard the USS Great Sitkin (AE-17) at Bayonne, NJ on 21 Nov. 1969 and signed aboard by EMCS J. H. Kerfien.  I was assigned to “R” Division and met my shipmates, DC3 Fred Applegate, DC3 Gary Miller, DC3 Jim Brady, SF3 Ed Hart, SF3 John Defilippo, SF3 Paul Dellorco, SFP2 Richard Johnson, SFM3 Dennis McCracken,  and a selection of Sailors assembled by Uncle Sam to provide me with an education unequalled in the collegiate environment of the day.
    While my fellow reservists went to more glamorous warships, I went to a 23-year-old freighter that carried bombs, big bombs, and nuclear bombs. Great!  I thought I was a goner!  But, before we could get down to the task of delivering that ordinance to those glamorous ships, we had to have the Great Sitkin rebuilt a little.  Alas, my first four months aboard were spent in two shipyards:  Hoboken, NJ, then at the Todd Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn. During that period, I was given Repair 3 as my maintenance responsibility. I did my 3 months mess cook duty.  Two weeks were spent in St. Albans Naval Hospital to have a condition repaired that was the origin of my nickname.  (You figure it out!)
    I made Damage Controlman 3
rd Class. Then it was on to refresher training at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “Take 1.” For a Damage Controlman, GITMO was like Disneyland.  I say “Take 1,” because we didn’t do very well.  We failed.  More training is underway so it was back home to Bayonne, keeping station at MOTBY, then back to GITMO in October for “Take 2.”  We have a new captain, new incentive, and a passing grade this time. We returned home a lean, gray, fighting machine!  Some shipmates left, new shipmates came on:  DCFN Joe Weber, DC3 Jay Miller, and DCFN Russ Marion to complement our damage control team.  We had two more months on station; a very cold, snowy station at MOTBY.  It was time to take this ammunition ship to join the 6th Fleet in the Med.
    After a stop in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico; due to some engineering casualties incurred en-route, we made it to Rota, Spain in March 1971. We were a ready source of bombs and bullets to many well-known fighting ships during that time.  While in the Med, I “met” my wife, Mary, via what is now called “snail mail.”  More on that later!  We visited many interesting liberty ports:  Rome, Naples, and Venice, Italy; Souda Bay, Crete; Antalya, Turkey; and Athens, Greece.  The six months in Mare Nostrum and only seeing seven ports sound a little harsh, but we were an explosion hazard.  We weren’t a huge welcome in a lot of places.  On 14 July 1971, we turned our bow west and headed home to the USA.
    I left the Great Sitkin on 31 July 1971, being released off active duty early as part of an early-out plan in place at the time. Soon after getting home, I began dating Mary.  I resumed my Naval Reserve obligation of drilling one weekend a month and two weeks’ training duty each year. Mary and I were married 24 June 1972, and I quickly grew tired of the Reserve Center military life, leaving the Navy on 31 July 1974.  Our first son was born on 3 September 1975, and babies being the expense that they are, I soon discovered that the Naval Reserve might not be such a bad thing after all.  On 1 January 1976, I stepped back onto the drill deck as a Hull Technician 3
rd Class and stayed on the deck until 2000, when I retired as a Damage Controlman Chief Petty Officer.  The time spent there is a story for another time.
    In 1998, I received a post card in the mail:  “If you’re the George Kaiser who served on the USS Great Sitkin 1969 -1971, please give me a call.  If not, have a nice day
anyhow.” It was from YN3 Mike Weeks, our engineering log room yeoman, acting on behalf of Glenn Frankenbach.  After two years of E-mails and letters with Glenn, I finally decided to attend the Cleveland reunion in 2000.  And the rest, as they say, is “history.” 

Mark Rucker, MM2                                                                 Chaplain, USS Great Sitkin Association
Date Entered Service:  1 July 1970     –    Date Discharged 1. July 1974

MM2 Mark Rucker graduated from Naval Training Command in September 1970 as a Fireman Apprentice reporting to Brooklyn Naval Station on Oct. 8, 1970. They told me the ship was not in port, and I would have to stay there until it returned to “Bayonne.” I remember looking at the Sailor behind the counter and asking him where Bayonne was? I thought it was somewhere in Italy. He told me it was in New Jersey. After a couple of hours, they found me in my assigned bunk and said the ship was back in port.  They would take me over there.  I remember the first time I saw the ship.  It was dark outside and the lights were on.  I   could not believe how big this thing was!  This was to be my new home for the next couple of years.
    The Officer of the Deck, Steve Broberg, was  a Fireman Apprentice.  Steve took me below to a room full of bunks and assigned me a bunk.  The next morning, Steve introduced me to the Engineering Officer.  He asked if I had any mechanical experience.  I told him I pumped gas back home in Ohio.  His reply was, “You will be assigned to “M Division.”  Steve had already warned me I would probably be going down into the engine room so he gave me a walk by the entrance that went down into the engine room.  It seemed to be a little warm down there.  That began my experience as a “Snipe.”  After several months, they told me it was my time to go to mess cooking for the next three months.  This seemed like a good thing and I liked it.  I even begged them to let me stay on as a mess cook and not go back down into the engine room.  They didn’t like my request.  So I returned to the engine room, however, I made up my mind if I had to be there, I needed to learn everything about the place where I was working.
    We left Bayonne in January for a six-month Med cruise and while we were gone, one of the senior Petty Officers suggested I request to go to Machinist Mate A School at Great Lakes.  August 1971, I went to the Great Lakes for training, graduated in November 1971 and returned to the ship.  I took the test for Machinist Mate 3rd Class and was promoted in May 1972 to Machinist Mate 2nd Class on May 1973.  By this time, the Vietnam War was over, and we were in the process of decommissioning the ship.
    On June 11, 1973, I departed the USS Great Sitkin and was transferred to the USS Vulcan AR-5 in Norfolk, VA.  I flew home to Ohio, and Patsy and I moved to Norfolk.  I met up with an old high school buddy that was stationed on an Oiler there, and he helped us find an apartment.  We stayed in Norfolk until the spring of 1974.  At this time, I moved Patsy back to Ohio to deliver our first child.  Our daughter Nicole, was born on June 29, 1974.  I was discharged on July 1, 1974.  I was sure glad to get back home to see Patsy and our new daughter!
    Six weeks after being home, I was hired by the Ohio Edison Electric Co. and began working in the local power plant.  All that training and time I spent “down in the engine room” during my stay aboard the Sitkin paid off.  After 39 years, I retired in May of 2013.


last updated on 03/01/14