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Paul's (Brief) Navy Career

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I received my commission at the Naval ROTC unit at U.C. Berkeley in 1989. Before commissioning, I served on summer training cruises on USS SCULPIN (SSN 590) and USS BELLEAU WOOD (LHA 3), completed a one-year “leave of absence for graduate study” program (earning my MSCS at Berkeley in 1988-1989), and was selected for a Burke Scholarship for later graduate study.

After commissioning, I spent a few months at the Division Officer Afloat course in Coronado, CA. I was then detailed to USS MERRILL (DD 976), a Spruance-class destroyer based at the Naval Station in San Diego, CA. During my tour, MERRILL deployed twice to the Arabian Gulf and once to Latin America. I also completed my qualification as a surface warfare officer.

In 1991, MERRILL arrived in the Arabian Gulf after the DESERT STORM ceasefire, but in time to serve as the Coalition minesweeping forces flagship.

In post-Cold War 1992, I took advantage of a (voluntary!) force reduction program, leaving active duty as a lieutenant j.g. after just over three years of service. I then completed my service obligation in the Reserves, during which time I was promoted to lieutenant.

ABL ship plan
Sideview of the Spruance “Armored Box Launcher” (ABL) ship plan.

MERRILL was an odd beast. As the test ship for the Navy's Tomahawk cruise missile program, she had not participated in the Pacific Fleet deployment rotation and had actually never received ROH (regular overhaul, a process most warships go through every 3-4 years in order to receive equipment updates and major repairs). Her Tomahawk armored box launchers, combined with her CLASSIC OUTBOARD sensor suite, made her useful for the Navy's main missions in the Gulf. On the other hand, her aging tactical weapons/sensor suite made her a bit problematic for her nominal mission areas (i.e., sinking enemy submarines and surface ships). More importantly for her crew, her somewhat nominal anti-aircraft capabilities made duty in the North Arabian Gulf fairly trying.

MERRILL was decommissioned in 1998, along with the other ABL-plan Spruances. (The Navy apparently decided that it would be better to scrap them than to pay for installation of the modern Vertical Launching System, as the ABL-plan Spruances decommissioned well ahead of their peers. And as of late 2005, the VLS-plan Spruances were gone anyway.) MERRILL was sunk as a target in August 2003, near Hawaii - just as well, I suppose.


Surface Warfare Officers School (1989)

Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer (1989-1990)

Gunnery Officer (1990-1991)

Communications Officer (1991-1992)

How Well...

My service record, as indicated by my “ribbon rack,” was singularly undistinguished.

Paul M. Aoki, aoki@acm.org
Last modified: $Date: 2010/07/28 01:57:20 $ by $Author: pmaoki $