Finding purpose and direction from the military

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2016

At right, Chuck Bradley with son Chadwick, who is currently serving in the Navy, stationed in Connecticut. (Photo submitted by Chuck Bradley)

At right, Chuck Bradley with son Chadwick, who is currently serving in the Navy, stationed in Connecticut. (Photo submitted by Chuck Bradley)

30-year veteran shares thoughts on deployments, career highs, service to community

Chuck Bradley has seen the inside of nine ships and has been deployed 11 times in his 30-year career, despite only intending to be in the military for four years.

A native of Elmira in upstate New York, Bradley said he joined the Navy and went to boot camp nine days after he graduated from Horseheads High School. Bradley moved to Mill Spring, N.C. in August with his wife Janice. Their son Chadwick is currently stationed in Groton, Conn. with the Navy.

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“It was a lack of better things to do in a small town and I was told I didn’t have the grades for college. So I went to talk to a recruiter my junior year of high school on a suggestion from my parents,” Bradley said. “My intention was do four years and get out, but I decided to stay in because it wasn’t a bad life.”

Bradley said he would have stayed longer had he not hit statutory retirement, which means the maximum time you can give in a certain area. For him, the limit was 30 years.

“I served from July 6, 1982 to August 1, 2012. I retired as a Chief Warrant Officer, W3. The way that works is you start out by getting enlisted and then you’re commissioned in the officer ranks,” Bradley said. “I worked my way up from an A-3 to a W-3.”

After serving his intended four years, Bradley said he stayed because being in the Navy gave him purpose and a direction. He added he was thinking about quitting within the first two years of his service before getting married, which he said caused him to think about something other than just him while he served.

“I decided to re-enlist. Back then they were giving re-enlistment bonuses to the specific job I had which was a gunner’s mate,” Bradley said. “I raised my hand and re-enlisted and by that time at the end of my re-enlistment I had eight or nine years and I thought I might as well stay because I’m almost halfway in.”

In 1996, Bradley said he got to launch some missiles against Saddam Hussein during Desert Storm. He was a gunner’s mate in charge of maintaining the missiles and gun systems on the Navy ships.

“The retirement benefits the Navy offers after a 20-or 30-year career cannot be matched because there’s no company out there that’s going to offer something that good after 20 years,” Bradley said. “That’s changing now, but back then, a couple years ago you do 20 years and you get 50 percent of your base pay for the remainder of your life.”

When Bradley served as a Recruit Division Commander for three years, he said giving new recruits a sense of purpose and direction in the military was one of his proudest accomplishments in the Navy.

“My best tour that I had in the Navy, when I felt that I gave and saw something accomplished, was when I was a drill instructor,” Bradley said. “In the Navy we have Recruit Division Commanders, which are synonymous with drill instructors. Being able to take that young individual with really not much of a direction, and give them a focus, and seeing that transition from being able to get off the bus that lonely scary night wondering what they had gotten themselves into, to nine and a half weeks later to either their schooling or their first ship.”

Bradley said he still keeps in touch with some of the recruits he trained in the Navy through social media. He also rides motorcycles, does “general maintenance operations” around his house in Mill Spring and is learning to be a chicken farmer with six chickens at his house.

“With the advent of Facebook, I still keep in touch with some of the recruits and do what you might call Facebook trolling and watch what’s going on in their lives,” Bradley explained.

Serving his country, according to Bradley, became the focus of his 30-year career in the military and he said being retired has not changed that sentiment. He and his wife helped make sandwiches for the firefighters in Lake Lure on Saturday. Bradley said the firefighters are doing the same thing here in the United States as he did while traveling the globe in the Navy.

“I come from a boy with no direction to a man with direction and a purpose in life,” Bradley said. “That purpose is to serve my country and to take care of my fellow man. I’ve got to be doing something. I think about those guys and I think all I did was go to sea 23 years out of 30 on nine different ships and 11 different deployments. Did I get in harm’s way? Yeah, a little bit, but it was easy compared to what they are doing.”