I WAS A BATTLESHIP SAILOR ONCE.....I liked standing on the bridge at sunrise with salt spray and the ocean wind in my face, the ship beneath me feeling like a living thing as she drove swiftly through the sea.
I liked the sounds of the Battleship - the shrill boatswains pipe, the ship's bell on the quarterdeck, the harsh squawk of the 1MC, and the strong language and laughter of sailors.

I liked and appreciated all Navy vessels; fast destroyers, plodding fleet auxiliaries and amphibs, sleek submarines, steady solid aircraft carriers, but I served on a Battleship and we knew we were unquestionably the best of the best. When we were chosen to serve on her, we took a special pride following in the footsteps of those who had gone before us in famous Battleships such as, Maine, Oregon, Texas, Arizona, California just to name a few. Our Battleship was the lead in the class of the best Battleship design the world has ever produced and we were lucky enough to call her home. When asked if we were a sailor we would reply, "No - I'm a BATTLESHIP sailor!" with a pride that overflowed from inner parts of our soul.

The name of my proud ship was IOWA. Our motto was, "Our Rights We Prize, Our Liberties We Will Maintain". As our State's namesake, the young men who served on IOWA with me followed in the footsteps of those who served in during World War Two and the Korean War.

Looking back I liked every aspect of serving on IOWA. The tempo of a Navy band blaring through the topside speakers as we stood out to sea. I liked Liberty Call and the spicy scent of a foreign port.

Each and every time the big guns fired, I felt a pride like no other regular sailor could ever conceive.

I even liked the all-hands working parties as my ship filled herself with stores and fuel in order to cut ties to the land and carry out her mission anywhere on the globe.

I liked sailors from all parts of the land, we trusted and depended on each other for competence, comradeship, strength and courage. They were and are closer than family. We are "shipmates"; then and forever.

I liked the surge of adventure in my heart, when the word was passed: "Now set the special sea and anchor detail - all hands to quarters for leaving port," and I liked the thrill of sighting home again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends waiting pier side.

The work was hard and dangerous; the going rough at times; the parting from loved ones painful, but the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the "all for one and one for all" philosophy of the sea was ever present.

I liked the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship's work, as we sat near our favorite set of chocks on the teak deck watching the sea go by while we coked, joked, and smoked with our friends.

I liked the feel of the Battleship at night -- the masthead and range lights, the red and green navigation lights and stern light, the pulsating phosphorescence of radar repeaters - they cut through the dusk and joined with the mirror of stars overhead. And I liked drifting off to sleep lulled by the myriad of noises that told me that my ship was well, and that my shipmates on watch would keep me safe.

I liked quiet midwatches with the aroma of strong coffee; the lifeblood of the Navy permeating everywhere. And I liked hectic watches when the exacting minuet of haze-gray shapes racing at flank speed kept all hands on a razor edge of alertness.

I liked the sudden cry of "General quarters, general quarters, all hands man your battle stations," followed by the clamor of running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors as the ship transformed herself in a few brief seconds from a peaceful workplace to a weapon of war, ready for anything.

And I liked the sight of space-age equipment right beside the seemingly antiquated main and secondary battery gun fire control computers, all manned by youngsters clad in dungarees using sound-powered phones that their grandfathers used exactly the same way during IOWA's previous commissionings.

I liked the traditions of the Navy and those who made them. I liked the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry, Farragut, John Paul Jones and Burke. A sailor could find much in the Navy: comrades-in-arms, pride in self and country, mastery of the seaman's trade. But there were no prouder sailors like those of us who served on Battleship IOWA.

In years to come, as all of us IOWA sailors are home from the sea, we will always remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods - the impossible shimmering mirror calm or the storm-tossed green water surging over the bow. And then there will come again a faint whiff of stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of hearty laughter in the wardroom and chief's quarters and mess decks, but especially the tremendous thunder from firing the big guns.

Gone ashore for good, we have grown wistful about our days on USS IOWA, when the seas belonged to us and a new port of call was ever over the horizon.

Remembering this, we will always continue to stand tall and say, I WAS A BATTLESHIP SAILOR ONCE AND I WOULD DO IT AGAIN.