The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Michael A. Farella Aviation Electrician 2nd Class

 


Michael Farella (Mike) had reached the age of twenty-four and since high school had done work in several different fields. He wasn’t sure where he was headed in life. He had worked three years in the electrical field. He called the US Navy recruiting office and talked with a Chief Bell. There was a need for electricians and Mike took it from there.

With some good advice from family and friends, Mike got the ball rolling with a high ASVAB test score. This score, one of the most important numbers in the whole military, enabled Mike to get his choice of one of three fields. He chose Aviation Electronics.

After passing the usual physical end completing the required paperwork, Mike was on his way to San Diego by way of commercial airlines. On arrival, a bus picked him and others up and headed for the US Naval Training Station. Its 1990, Mike is at least six years older than most of the other recruits. Getting off the bus, all found a set of yellow-painted foot prints they could stand on.

The welcoming party was loud! They did notice that Mike had hair that was down to his belt line. Let’s get these people to the barber shop and clothing issue point, and show them where they will be living for the next eight or nine weeks. Aaah, that’s better! Next there was the learning curve as applied to the Navy’s use of some terms. We eat in the “galley”. There is no bathroom; it is the “head”. And it expanded many fold from there.

In that Mike had an unusually high ASVAB score and was twenty four yrs old, he was immediately pointed out and named the Training Company Yeoman. He was the scribe/clerk for Senior Chief Smith and Chief Larabeck. His work was essentially being the commander’s memory book. If something happened during the training, it would be recorded so that there would be a record. If someone had to go to medical, he would write their pass for it. If there was a disciplinary matter, or a promotion or anything else that needed written down, he would record it. He kept their daily planner when appointments arose, etc.

Mike was still required to go through the training like all others. He qualified as sharpshooter on both the rifle and pistol. In about 8 weeks, he and his group of newly qualified Sailors would walk across the parade ground… Boot Camp had ended!

Mike went on to A School at Millington, TE. This place, near Memphis, was the location of the Naval Air Technical Training Center or NATTC Memphis. His training involved aircraft electronics. It was the side of aircraft work involving wiring and connectivity. This would be a fairly long school of nine months where a two year course was crammed into some months. Mike graduated first in his class. Once out of the classroom, he was sent to San Diego and assigned to VF 213.

VF 213 was an aviation squadron made up of fighter jets. It was one of the tenant units on the USS Abraham Lincoln, CVN 72 (Carrier Vessel, Nuclear). Mike worked on the F-14s and F-18s in the attack section. At first, they would board the “Abe” and go to sea for one to three weeks for training purposes. Then longer tours including those in the western Pacific. During one of the days of training, an F-14 fighter jet attempted to land. The pilot overshot the deck just slightly. The result was a crash which ended the pilot’s life. The co-pilot ejected, but the front seat pilot did not. It was flown by LT Kara S. Hultgreen, the first female to qualify as an F-14 pilot.

Life on the Abe was good for Mike. He was taught to get to know the Supply guys and the food service personnel. He always had good gear and plenty to eat! On a ship carrying 6,000 people, with fighter planes, there is constantly something going on. There was plenty of opportunity for shore leave on the training tours.

As part of one of the tours, the carrier crossed the equator. This causes a long-time Navy tradition to be enacted. Over a twelve hour period, new people are called “Pollywogs” and berated and harassed/hazed to a certain level, at which time they become “Shellbacks”. The ones achieving new status get steak and lobster meals! Mike carries the small membership card in his wallet to this day.

As Operation Desert Storm came into play, Mike was with others being sent on to a different mission. The destination was Bahrain. His new assignment was aboard the USS Independence (CV/CVA 62) Carrier Vessel/Carrier Vessel Attack). This particular carrier was actually the first such ship to establish a US Navy presence in the Persian Gulf. One of its missions was to enforce the no fly zone over southern Iraq. Operations on the carrier were dynamic and fluid. The aviation side worked 14 hour days, seven days a week. There was not much time for anything but making sure the planes were airworthy and mission ready. Mike called this “humpin and pumpin”!

In 1995 the USS Independence was America’s most experienced Aircraft Carrier. With that it was graced with flying the Revolution-era First Navy Jack flag emblazed with the words: “Don’t Tread On Me”. Working below decks in the fighter hanger area was a hot temperature environment. The men would work a couple of hours then were forced up on the flight deck for twenty minutes to get air. Mike was active in the ship’s gym.

Mike kept in touch with home by email and occasionally got on the MARS (Military Amateur Radio Service) program. Here he could hear the voices of his loved ones.

Mike earned a slew of medals including the National Defense Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Navy Expeditionary Medal, rifle and pistol qualification ribbons, etc.

After Mike’s service of nearly five years, it was time to leave. The Navy didn’t want to see a good and experienced Sailor leave, and offered a promotion and a re-enlistment bonus, but Mike wanted to leave. At San Diego, he was out-processed and collected all his back pay and leave time. With his electrical skills, he found plenty of work.

Eventually he made it to Cheyenne, WY. He has worked at the VA Medical Center since 2012. He has rich life experiences, training, and skills. Best of all, he has a fabulous attitude and great work ethic!

Aviation Electrician 2nd Class Mike Farella, America is proud of you! Thank you for your service!

 

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