Ron Zimmerman Sr.
474 SW Prater Ave.
Port St. Lucie, FL 34953
272 Stone Hedge Row
Johnstown, OH 43031
PO Box 675
Barnegat Light, NJ
311 W. Oak Lane
Glenolden, PA 19036
241 Larchmont Ave.
Springfield, OH 45503
25850 Lake Shore Blvd.
Euclid, OH 44132-1107
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.
No update yet.
Thomas Stephens SN. Welcome aboard,
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
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!
Vice-President & Membership
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
EACH ONE REACH ONE.
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
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!”
The Chaplain’s Corner:
“Good Day to all of you!”
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
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:
Albrecht QM1, Lawrence Karadeema GM3
Spouse Honor Roll:
None to report
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
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
out shoveling snow AGAIN!
Bios the Editor roped us into writing by ....
Ron Zimmerman, Sr. SK3
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
James Dunno, BT3 Vice
President and Membership Chairman, USS Great Sitkin
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
James M. Perko,
Secretary, USS Great Sitkin Association
Date Entered Service: 22 June 1960 - Date Discharged 26
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
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
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
George Kaiser, DCC
Treasurer, USS Great Sitkin Association
Date Entered Service: 1 July 1968 - Date Retired: 1
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 3rd
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!
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 3rd
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
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,
Mark Rucker, MM2
Chaplain, USS Great Sitkin Association
Date Entered Service: 1 July 1970
Discharged 1. July 1974
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.