I applied for flight school and went to the Naval Reserve Training Center in Jackson to take the necessary tests. I passed all the tests and was later sworn in and awarded my commission in the US Navy. Because my college class didn't graduate until May, my orders came for active duty starting in June 1955, so I was at home until I left for Pensacola to start preflight. My daddy gave me $10 and bought me a bus ticket to Pensacola. I must have been asleep during ROC school when they told us that officers needed to buy uniforms before reporting to our first duty station. I arrived to check in and was sent to the Training Officer because I didn't have any uniforms. He got me set up for 3 months advance pay and told me about a uniform shop downtown where I could buy uniforms on credit. I also bought (on credit) my first car, a $350 used 1948 Desoto coupe, and now had a way to travel. I was on my own.
The next 2 months were spent attending classes during the day and enjoying my newfound freedom. As an officer student, I did not have to participate in the drilling and curfew like the Naval Cadets and could come and go as I pleased, when not on duty. We did have to run the grinder and pass the swimming test which required us to jump off a 30 foot tower into the pool and swim laps equal to 1 mile in 1 hour without touching the sides of the pool. I was a weak swimmer and gave up after 3 laps. The instructor showed me, and the others who had failed, how to float and do a backstroke and had us stay in the pool and practice for the rest of that day. He then said that we would report for swim training every Saturday until we passed. I went in the next Saturday and passed. It's amazing what a little motivation can do. We also had to go through the Dilbert Dunker. This was the cockpit section of an SNJ fuselage on rails, at a 45 degree angle, from a platform down the ramp about 50 feet into the pool. We climbed up to the platform, when it was our turn, and were strapped into the cockpit. The Dunker was then released and built up quite a bit of speed by the time it hit the water. It then flipped upside down and we had to unstrap, swim down and away from the Dunker and then to the surface, just as we'd have to do if our plane landed in the water and flipped. They had a scuba diver in the water to help if you got hung up but if you got any help from him, you had to do it all over again. Fortunately, I got out OK the first time.
Late in 1955, I bought my first new car, a brand new, 2-tone green, 1956 Ford Fairlane . By this time my parents had moved to Freeny High School, where my daddy was principal. I donned my dress blues and drove my new car home for Christmas leave to show off a bit. It was at Freeny that I met my future wife, Nancy Sue Freeny. I had gone to church and saw her there and later met her in their Sunday School class. We dated a few times while I was home. During that time I tried to date as many different girls as I could but found I was dating her more than the others and continued to do so on weekends when I came home.
US Navy Flight School - 1955-1956