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Interview with Tim Adam Alexander [3/27/2013]

Cherryl Walker:

Today is March 27th, 2013, and we are interviewing Tim Alexander at the O'Fallon Public Library. Tim was born June 15th, 1971. My name is Cherryl Walker and I'll be interviewing Tim, and we have Debra Musielak, who is the court reporter today. And, Tim, could you state for the record what conflict and branch of service you served in?

Tim Adam Alexander:

I was in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm while I was in the Army Reserves, and then I was active duty Navy during Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. What years of the service were you in?

Tim Adam Alexander:

I was in the Reserves from December of 1988 until February of 1992, and then I was active duty Navy from February of '92 until May of 2007.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. And what rank did you retire at or get out at?

Tim Adam Alexander:

I was an E-3 when I got out of the Reserves and then I was an E-6 when I was medically retired in 2007 from the Navy.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. What made you decide to go into the Reserves?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Well, I was a junior in high school at the time and I was out running around with a friend of mine, and he had to go check in with his recruiter. He was a senior in high school and he had already signed up to go active duty Army, and we went in to check in. I was just talking to his recruiter, and they had a program back then where you could go to -- if you went into the Reserves you could go to basic training in between your junior and senior year of high school, and then after your senior year of high school do your advanced training, and then just be a Reservist from there. And so that's how I got into the Reserves. And after I got home from my advanced training I wanted to go active duty Army, and I went in to talk to the recruiter and at that time Kuwait had already been invaded. This was late 1990. And he made a couple phone calls and he told me that I couldn't because my reserve unit was on the list to be activated to deploy in support of Operation -- at that time Desert Shield. And then the first week of December of 1990 we received a phone call that said we were activated for Desert Shield, and we went to our reserve unit, which at that time was in Wood River, Illinois. And four days later we went down to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. We were down there for, I don't know, about a month, month and a half, and then we flew over to the Gulf for about five months in support of Desert Shield and -- which turned into Desert Storm, and then when I came home from the Gulf a couple weeks later I went in to talk to my recruiter, who was still there, to see if I could, you know, switch over, you know, to active duty. And like at the end of any conflict, we were in drawdown at that time. So he said, "You have too much active duty time, so I can't" -- "at this point just keep checking in with me." And probably for about the next six months or so I was calling him weekly and he was telling me the same thing. And I went in to see him in the summer of '91 and got the same story. And I was walking out, and I was sitting outside waiting for a friend of mine to come pick me up and a Navy recruiter walked -- he was walking in, and I guess I had a look on my face or something. He asked me what was wrong. I told him. He said, "Come on in and let's talk." And the next thing I know I was signed up to go in the Navy. So I went to Navy basic training in Great Lakes, Illinois, and then down to Meridian, Mississippi for my advanced training, and from there I went to Puerto Rico and started my career for the next fifteen years in the Navy.

Cherryl Walker:

Back to your time in the Reserves, did you -- where did you take your basic training in the Reserves?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Fort Polk, Louisiana, and then my advanced training was in Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

Cherryl Walker:

At the time that you were in the Reserves, what was your MOS?

Tim Adam Alexander:

I was a 45 Bravo, which is a small arms repairman. Basically all of the handguns and all of the machine guns and pretty much anything that any of the soldiers carried with them, my job was to do maintenance on them and repairs that could not be done by just the average everyday soldier.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. And you were stationed in Kuwait at that time when you were with the Reserves?

Tim Adam Alexander:

When we first deployed over there, we went to Saudi Arabia, and we had to wait for our equipment and stuff to get there. And then once it got there, we moved up north right off, because at that time the air war was going on, but the ground war had not started yet. And we moved up north right off the Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait border. It makes kind of a little point right there. We moved up there and we weren't sure if we were going to do anything or if, you know, we were just going to -- we had no clue what we were going to do. And then a couple of days before the ground war began, they -- my platoon sergeant asked me if I'd be interested in driving -- volunteering to drive a fuel truck. I didn't know, you know, what it was for or anything, so I said, "Sure, why not." You know, we'd been basically sitting there for a month and a half doing nothing -- a whole lot of nothing, anyway. So I was bored. And there were about eight of us and we went over to the battalion to -- basically to be briefed, and they told us that we would be driving 55-gallon -- not 55-gallon, I'm sorry, the huge tanker trucks full of diesel fuel and we'd be rolling with the units as they went into Iraq. And, you know, at 19 I'm like, hey, this is kind of cool, but then I was thinking about it -- the morning that we moved into Iraq, we were about -- I was about four or five vehicles back and the lead vehicle came over the radios and told all of us that he's getting ready to cross into Iraq, it's time to go. And at that point it kind of hit me. I'm like, "Oh, crap, I'm sitting on I don't know how many thousands of gallons of gas -- diesel fuel that I'm sitting on." But, you know, nothing happened with that. And we proceeded up into Iraq. Basically we were just -- well, you know, we were probably fairly protected because we had the gas and they knew they would need the gas at some point. And we came, you know -- came up and around and there was a unit in front of us that was doing the bulk of the fighting, and they were -- got to the airport in Kuwait. We were right outside the airport and the unit that was in front of us that we were doing the bulk of the supporting for, they were doing all the actual fighting there and -- it wasn't long, you know, looking back on it, but at the time it felt like we were sitting there for days. I know it wasn't that long. And then once that got all cleared up, you know, three and a half, four days later, the ground war was over and we were driving -- you know, they still had us doing some other support stuff, because they were still sending units further up into Kuwait to make sure everything was okay and all the Iraqis were out of there. And the road that we took going back and forth every day we couldn't actually take the road. We had to drive on the outside of the road because it was -- the main highway. I can't remember what the number of the highway was, but it was the one the media here in America deemed "The Highway To Hell," and I was 19 at the time and I saw stuff on that road that I still remember to this day and it's, you know, just -- I don't know. Just, you know, all the stuff blown up and, you know, everything when the Iraqis was trying to get out of there. Well, anyway, we stayed there for probably about a month doing different things with that unit that they needed us to help them with, and then we went back to our unit, and then a couple of months later -- we just stayed in the area and just did our regular jobs, maintenance, and, you know, we also -- in my unit there were guys that worked on trucks. So as the units were pulling out of Kuwait and out of northern Saudi Arabia, if they needed the work done on them they came to us. And a few months later we ended up coming back. We left Saudi Arabia and went back to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for about two weeks to get demobilized, and then we came back home and were sent on our way.

Cherryl Walker:

While you were in -- activated, how many men and women -- how many soldiers were in your unit?

Tim Adam Alexander:

My unit had, I want to say, probably about a hundred. We weren't that -- we weren't that large. And we did have both men and women in our unit.

Cherryl Walker:

Uh-huh. So you really didn't work within your MOS?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No, not while I was over there. No, I did not.

Cherryl Walker:

Did you have -- well, you had a lot of down time. So what did you do during that down time over there?

Tim Adam Alexander:

A lot of maintenance on equipment and guns. A lot of playing cards. A lot of, you know, just sitting around shooting the breeze, trying to figure out something to make the time go. I mean, we only had a couple of months of down time. I can't imagine what it was like for the guys that got over there the middle of August of 1990 and didn't see anything happening until, you know, early 1991. I couldn't even imagine sitting over there that long just in a sandbox for days on end.

Cherryl Walker:

What was the weather like during your time over there?

Tim Adam Alexander:

It was probably in the mid to upper nineties during the day, and then it -- actually, I don't know how cold it got at night. I remember it always felt really cold because the temperature dropped and you could -- you know, you'd go from sweating during the day to an hour after the sun went down having to put on the coat that we wore back at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in January, you know, because it went from just extremes. From, like I said, mid to upper nineties to what felt like freezing cold at night. I mean, it may have only been down to, like, the forties or fifties, but it felt really, really cold.

Cherryl Walker:

Did you have the ability to go within the surroundings or did you have to stay on the compound?

Tim Adam Alexander:

You stayed on the compound unless you had a reason to go somewhere, and we very rarely had reasons to go somewhere. So, yeah, once we got up north and got settled into our compound, you pretty much stayed there the entire time.

Cherryl Walker:

While you were there, compared to when you went back or when you were in the Navy, were the -- the rations, the food, the supplies, were they pretty plentiful?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Well, we had -- we always had a hot breakfast and then our lunch and dinner would be MREs, the meals ready to eat. I mean, we always had enough to eat, but, you know, you eat out of a bag twice a day for months on end. You know, you'd get home -- I remember when we got back to Fort Leonard Wood, that first day back a bunch of us went to Burger King on base and ate because we wanted some real food. That was a mistake. We were all sick for hours after that and, you know, we went to the medics, and they said, "It's just because you ate" -- "you ate real food and your system is not used to real food."

Cherryl Walker:

So you came back to Fort Leonard Wood and ate at Burger King?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Uh-huh. And all got sick.

Cherryl Walker:

And all got sick. So you really -- honestly, they should have told you to introduce real food slowly?

Tim Adam Alexander:

They probably should have, but, I mean, nobody thinks -- you know, you don't think about that. You think, oh, yeah, you'll be fine -- but no.

Cherryl Walker:

Uh-huh. Uh-huh. During that time, what awards or medals did you receive?

Tim Adam Alexander:

The Liberation of Kuwait Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, which was the one that was issued out for Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and then a Army Commendation Medal, and that was for volunteering to do the driving of the fuel trucks. Because we were -- actually, the eight of us that volunteered for it, we were presented that medal in -- still in country. We were in Saudi Arabia and General Schwarzkopf actually presented all of us that medal, and he told us -- he said, "I never heard of you guys before, but when I read these orders, you guys were eight of the craziest" fill-in-the-blank "individuals that I can think of," he said. And he asked all of us, "Why did you volunteer to drive a truck full of fuel?" And we all basically said the same thing, we were bored. We wanted something to do. Again, he told us we were crazy individuals.

Cherryl Walker:

What was that like, meeting General Schwarzkopf?

Tim Adam Alexander:

In a way it was surreal, but then he was kind of -- he was almost like a grandfather figure. I mean, you know, he's a four-star general, he's the man that just, you know, led a four-day, you know, ground campaign and got it all done; but he came across, at least to me, as the type of individual if you take off the uniform, he could be anybody's grandfather you'd see walking his granddaughter through, you know, a store back home. He was not -- he didn't come across as, you know, "I'm a four-star general, I'm better than you." He just was an everyday -- everyday guy.

Cherryl Walker:

While -- okay. You said that there were eight of you who volunteered?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes.

Cherryl Walker:

Were they all men? Were some of them women?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No, they were all men. I'm not sure if any of the women volunteered for it, but at that time the female soldiers were not allowed in combat. So being in those fuel trucks driving across the border into Iraq, not knowing what was going to happen, that was considered combat, so they were not -- even if they would have volunteered, they would not have been allowed to do it.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. That brings up a question. Did you find that from that time in the Reserves and that conflict to your later years in the Navy and your later years in -- was it Operation --

Tim Adam Alexander:

We worked -- I was in units that supported Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. Were the women treated differently in those different conflicts or wars?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yeah. No, they were treated differently in the sense that more opportunities opened up for them to be able to serve. I mean, just recently they were -- legislation was changed to where they could actually start serving in combat now. But they did serve more roles -- you know, I've heard -- read of where there were female soldiers doing the job that, you know, I did back in, you know, 1991. They were driving fuel vehicles or other support vehicles or whatnot, actually in harm's -- harm's way. There were -- they are actually combat pilots now, both for airplanes and helicopters. So, yeah, it's -- a lot has changed in that 20 years.

Cherryl Walker:

If you had the chance to do this again and -- would you volunteer again to drive a fuel truck?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. So it was an experience that you felt was a good experience for you?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Well, like I said, we'd been sitting there for a couple months bored, and I -- the way I look at it, when they came and asked if I wanted to do it, if it wasn't meant to be or if, you know, God didn't want me to do it, he would have said, "Say no, dummy," and he didn't say that, so I said, "Sure, let's do it."

Cherryl Walker:

Those eight men -- do you have a camaraderie with them to this day?

Tim Adam Alexander:

There's a couple of them that I still talk to. Three of them have actually passed away. But there's a couple of them that I still keep in contact with.

Cherryl Walker:

Do you stay in touch with any of those others?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No. We just lost touch over the years.

Cherryl Walker:

Lost touch. Okay. Now let's go on to your Navy career. How long were you in the Navy?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Fourteen years. Yeah, a little over 14. From February of '92 to May of '97.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. And you had to go through basic for Navy?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes. At Great Lakes, Illinois, which is just up north of Chicago.

Cherryl Walker:

Did you get to keep your rank when you transferred from the Army Reserves --

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes.

Cherryl Walker:

-- to the Navy?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yeah, I got to keep that.

Cherryl Walker:

You did?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Uh-huh.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. And did you get to keep your pay grade?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. So there was a benefit?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes, there was a benefit.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. And then you went on to -- is it called AIT?

Tim Adam Alexander:

It's called -- it's called A school, advanced schools, and that was in Meridian, Mississippi.

Cherryl Walker:

And then after that you went to Puerto Rico?

Tim Adam Alexander:

I went to Puerto Rico for two years. There used to be a naval station down there, and I was down there for just short of two years. And then from there I -- I was an aviation storekeeper, which was supplies -- basically the supply department for the aircraft. And from there I transferred to Norfolk, Virginia to VAW, which is carrier airborne early warning squadron 123 in Norfolk. And what those aircraft do, when we go on board the carriers and go out to sea, they fly -- they are basically the eyes for the airplanes. They are the planes that have the big domes, the big radar dishes on top, and they -- basically, they take off before any of the other planes do and they just keep an eye on everything to make sure nothing is going to -- you know, nothing is coming at them that they can't pick up.

Cherryl Walker:

Did you ever ride on any of those?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No. Never had the opportunity to fly on any of the planes.

Cherryl Walker:

Were you on any of the ships?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes, I was on -- when I was in that squadron, we did -- I did one deployment, and it was the final deployment of the USS America. And that was in ninety -- what was that? Late '95 into '96. Because when we came home she ended up going up to the shipyard in Philadelphia and she was decommissioned, because she was old and had been abused over the years.

Cherryl Walker:

How many ships were you on -- actively on?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Four. I did the cruise -- the deployment on board the America, and then I did a couple of short under white periods on board the Enterprise, and a couple of short under white periods on board the Theodore Roosevelt, and then I was a ship's company out in Everett, Washington on board the Abraham Lincoln from '99 to 2003.

Cherryl Walker:

When you say "under" --

Tim Adam Alexander:

Under white. That means when we go out to sea. I'm sorry. That's when we pull out from the pier and we go out to sea, either for -- anywhere from two weeks to a couple of months to just do what's called workups. And that's basically where you get the crew ready to go for an extended amount of time. The pilots have to do so many takeoffs and landings from the ship prior to it going on a, you know, six-, or however many, month deployment.

Cherryl Walker:

And during that time, what was your job? What was --

Tim Adam Alexander:

I was a munitions storekeeper. I worked in the supply department and I had different -- different jobs throughout -- over the years. I mean, everything from working in a storeroom, you know, just maintaining the inventory in there, up to expediting for items that we didn't have on board the ship that we needed to get on board. You know, just working with different people and vendors and everything back here in the States to get the parts out to us.

Cherryl Walker:

How would they get the supplies to you when you were out to sea?

Tim Adam Alexander:

They could either -- well, depending on where we were in the world -- like, if we were on the other side of the world, they would go on a -- either a commercial or a military airliner to an airport close to where we were, and then there were Navy people that were actually on the ground. They would get the stuff. And then, again, depending on how far we were from the shore, they could either put it on a helicopter and send it out to us, or they could put it on a C-2, which is basically a plane that just completely opened up in the back, and they can just fill that with supplies and bring that out to us that way.

Cherryl Walker:

And then would they land?

Tim Adam Alexander:

They'd -- yeah, they'd land on board the ship. And they parked and then the back would open up. Everything -- it was a group that actually unloaded everything and brought it down to the -- from the flight deck. They would get on one of the flight deck elevators and just bring it down to the hanger bay, and then from there it would go to whoever it belonged to.

Cherryl Walker:

How many floors were actually on your ships?

Tim Adam Alexander:

From the flight deck down, there were eight stories down, and then the island, which is the tall, skinny part that you see on the aircraft carrier -- that had, I think, four or five. I'm not positive about that. But they are big ships.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. When you hear of these big ships and they are out in the sea and there's turbulence -- um, here in the year 2000s, many times you hear that they have -- I don't know what they call it, but they have arms that extend -- stabilizers. Do Navy ships have those?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No. No. A lot of the commercial boats that you're talking about those stabilizers, they are flat-bottomed, to where the Navy ships are V at the bottom, so they go through the water a little -- I mean, you can still rock and roll, like, you know, a little bit, if you get really bad weather, but they go through the water a lot better than, say, the Carnival cruise ships or some of these other ships that have the flat bottoms to them.

Cherryl Walker:

So their speed is much faster?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Oh, yeah, much faster.

Cherryl Walker:

When you're out at sea and you're on the ship, what type of commodities, meals?

Tim Adam Alexander:

You get -- there are -- on the carrier there are two galleys, which are two kitchens, and they serve four meals -- four hot meals a day. You get breakfast, lunch, dinner, and then there's what's called mid rats, which basically it's like dinner at midnight -- from, like, midnight to two in the morning for the people that work the night -- the night shifts. So you can pretty much -- the way the schedules work at the two galleys you can pretty much eat probably 18 hours a day, because one will be open for breakfast and then one is getting ready to close and the other one will open for breakfast. And they keep rotating it back and forth just because of the different shifts that people work.

Cherryl Walker:

What was an average breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Just pretty much normal -- you know, normal food. Like breakfast you could have, like, eggs, pancakes, waffles. I mean, it all -- really, all of the meals it depended, because the longer we were out and before we were getting ready to get another supply of food on board, the -- kind of the worse the food got, because you were starting to run low on stuff. You may only have powdered eggs for breakfast and chicken nuggets for lunch, or whatever they could find for dinner. But for the most part the food wasn't -- a whole lot better than the food in the desert, so...

Cherryl Walker:

And when you were on -- out at sea, did you feel any pressures or did stress seem to elevate because of the closed quarters or anything?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Maybe -- about the only time that you could tell when people were starting to get on each other's nerves were probably the last two or three weeks of a deployment, because you knew you were close to home at that point, you've been with these people for however many months, you were especially sick of them and ready to go home. So that's -- the last few weeks is when it got to be the worst.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. Let me ask you about communicating with your family. How was that?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Most of the time it was okay. You had e-mail out there, so -- I would say, you know, 80 to 85 percent of the time the e-mail was up, you know, and running. It's not like e-mail here in the States, you know, where I could send you an e-mail and you get it right now. It could take -- depending on the bandwidth and a whole lot of other factors, I mean, it could take, you know, several hours for e-mail to get back and forth. But it wasn't bad. There were some phones on the ships. You know, some people used them, some people -- I just communicated through e-mail and, you know, I didn't want to deal with the phones. Because, again, it was bad. If you went through bad weather, you know, you'd get cut off. There was a delay. You know, I'd say something to you and it would take a second or two for you to hear it, and vice versa. So it just wasn't worth the hassle to do the phone calls.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. Tim, they -- a lot of people have -- were asked -- have been asked to collect phone calls or donate -- not phone calls -- donate phone cards or donate their old cell phones to the soldiers. Did you ever get any of that benefit?

Tim Adam Alexander:

We did not in the Navy, and then when I was in the Army Reserves we did get some calling cards, phone cards. There weren't cell phones back then, but most of those -- like, today during the things in Iraq and Afghanistan, those went to the -- and rightfully so, to the guys that were actually on the ground. I mean, yes, people can say, you know, Navy life sucks because I'm on a boat and I'm in a room living with a hundred other people, and this and that and the other; but, you know, we weren't getting shot at. We had showers every day. Granted, sometimes they were cold, sometimes they were hot. We had, you know, hot food every day. So, you know, send that stuff to the guys that deserve it. I mean, that's my take on it.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. What about a lot of these schools, churches and other organizations have the kids write or make cards and send cards, and organizations are sending cards -- did you benefit from that?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yeah, we did. We got a few of those, the letters from the kids. And those are nice, you know, because, I mean, you know your family cares about you back home, you know, you communicate with your family. But then to get stuff like that from total -- you know, total strangers, it was nice.

Cherryl Walker:

Uh-huh. Okay. So being on a ship we talked about. Was there anything else you wanted to talk about the ship?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No, not that I can -- not that I can think of.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. Did you have any experiences that -- did you guys do any kind of pranks on each other when you were on the ship? Was there time to relax?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Well, there was -- there was time to relax, because you worked 12-hour shifts. So when you got off work, you could, you know, watch TV. They had a couple of different movie channels on there and occasionally we could get, you know, like, some news or whatever. You could read. You could, you know, work out. But, I mean, there wasn't a whole lot to do out there.

Cherryl Walker:

So they had a library for you?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Well, no, if you brought books or magazines with you, or if you had family send stuff to you, or when we pulled into a port somewhere if you could find a place that had English literature, you know, pick that up and have it with you.

Cherryl Walker:

What kind of ports did you go to?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Let's see. Went to Hawaii a couple of times, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong. Went to -- let's see. Italy, Greece, France, Turkey. I think that's it. There's probably a few more that I can't remember.

Cherryl Walker:

So did you purchase anything at those ports?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Not really. I mean, just little -- you know, like a little shot glass or a little T-shirt. Nothing -- because you didn't have much storage room on board the ship, so you didn't really buy too much.

Cherryl Walker:

Do you still have those?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Uh-huh. I have a shot glass from pretty much around the world.

Cherryl Walker:

That's nice.

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yeah.

Cherryl Walker:

That's nice. Okay. Did you keep a personal diary at all during your service time?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No. No.

Cherryl Walker:

Now -- okay. So you were also in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tim Adam Alexander:

Uh-huh.

Cherryl Walker:

And Operation --

Tim Adam Alexander:

-- Enduring Freedom.

Cherryl Walker:

Indirect Freedom.

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yeah. I was in the Navy for both of those, and we provided -- I was on, actually, the Abraham Lincoln for both of those and we provided air support for the troops on the ground.

Cherryl Walker:

And how long were you out to sea at that time?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes. For -- actually, it was all one -- yeah, it was all the one deployment. It was supposed to be a 6-month deployment. We were supposed to go over for -- to support Enduring Freedom, because Iraqi Freedom wasn't -- I mean, I'm sure it was thought about somewhere in, you know, Washington or somewhere, but it wasn't -- nobody knew about that. So we did our -- our time off of Afghanistan doing the support there. And we went into the Persian Gulf just for a month or so to do the flights that -- originally to make sure Iraq was playing nice still from what was agreed upon to end Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and we came out of there and we went to Perth, Australia for Christmas. We pulled out of Perth and we were -- actually, we were supposed to be heading home -- heading back to Everett, Washington. Pulled out of Perth, came up around the north, or -- what was that -- off the west side of the country, made the turn, and New Year's Day of 2003 we turned around and we were told that we were going back to the Gulf because of Operation Iraqi Freedom that was happening. That ended up being a 10-month deployment.

Cherryl Walker:

So that was from January?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No. That was from -- it started in July of 2002 and it ended in May of 2003. So that was ten months.

Cherryl Walker:

Quite a while.

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yeah.

Cherryl Walker:

To be out to sea.

Tim Adam Alexander:

Oh, yeah. Oh yeah. Because that last four months of it we were out to sea the entire time. We did not pull in anywhere until we were back on our way home for good at that time, and we pulled into Hawaii for a couple of days to offload some stuff, and then we pulled out of Hawaii and headed out of there.

Cherryl Walker:

What kind of flights took off from you?

Tim Adam Alexander:

We had F-14 Tomcats. We had F-18 -- both the Hornets and the Super Hornets. We had the E-2 Hawkeyes, and then two or three different helicopter squadrons that we had on board.

Cherryl Walker:

Now, when the pilots would pull in, how long would they stay in -- on the ship -- or on the carrier?

Tim Adam Alexander:

From -- they were with us the entire time we were on the deployment. They came on board before we left the States in, like, July, and then they stayed with us until the end. The planes were on board the entire time.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. Can you tell me about a couple of your most memorable experiences?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Um, probably not -- well, definitely not a good memory, but we were in -- when I was on the Abraham Lincoln we'd done one deployment and then we went into the -- what's called the yard, where you go into basically a repair facility. We were there for six months to have work done on us, and at 5:30 in the morning on September 11th, 2001, I was driving to work and I heard on the radio where the first tower had gotten hit, and I remember thinking, "Damn, I wonder what happened to that plane or that pilot," or whatever the case may be. And as I'm pulling into the -- my -- into the parking lot on the base, that's when the second plane hit, and I said to myself right then, I said, you know, "All hell is breaking loose. Something is going on." And I remember getting on the ship and there were a couple guys watching TV and they were, like -- you know, none of us knew at that time what was going on. I said, "We're being attacked." And they looked at me like I had two heads. And I said, "No. You don't have two airplanes that close together hit two towers." And out of the entire time I was in both the Reserves and the Navy that is the one day I can honestly say that I did not see any work get done that day. Nobody expected anything to get done that day, because we did not know what was going to happen. And, I mean, we all know what happened from there. But, yeah, that was probably the most memorable day, because we all felt -- you know, talking about it that afternoon, we all felt helpless. Here we were, the ship was sitting basically on wooden blocks. We weren't in the water. We knew we couldn't go anywhere for a couple of months. And, you know, the stuff is hitting the fan and there was nothing that we could -- nothing we could do about it.

Cherryl Walker:

And as a military person, you felt you should be able to do something?

Tim Adam Alexander:

If they would have came to us and said, "We need volunteers. We don't know what you're going to be doing, but we're going to drop you out of airplanes over Afghanistan. Who wants to go?" I would have -- I would have gone. I'd go today if they wanted me to go.

Cherryl Walker:

And were you in Norfolk at that time?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No, I was in Everett, Washington at that time.

Cherryl Walker:

Everett, Washington.

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yeah, north of Seattle.

Cherryl Walker:

So that was -- as everybody in the United States felt, that was, you know, a very traumatic time for us and -- but as a military personnel, you saw a base become --

Tim Adam Alexander:

-- a ghost town basically. I mean, nobody --

Cherryl Walker:

Just stood still.

Tim Adam Alexander:

Basically. The whole place, yeah, just stood still. Nobody did anything that day.

Cherryl Walker:

Did you have something that you carried as a special good luck piece?

Tim Adam Alexander:

I had -- my mom gave it to me before I went to -- when my reserve unit got activated for Desert Shield/Desert Storm, she had a little St. Francis medal. It was on a really thin chain. She gave that to me. And I told her I was going to take it off the chain and put it on my dog tag chain, because I didn't want that thin chain to break, and I wore those the entire time we were over there, and then -- I couldn't wear them to Navy boot camp, because the Navy gives you their own set, but when I got out of Navy boot camp that set went in a drawer somewhere and I had that -- my set of Army dog tags with that St. Francis medal on it that I wore pretty much every day for the entire time I was in the Navy.

Cherryl Walker:

Do you still have it?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Uh-huh. It's at home.

Cherryl Walker:

How many times were you able to go on leave, do you remember?

Tim Adam Alexander:

I can't remember. You were able to be go pretty often on leave.

Cherryl Walker:

And did you do any traveling on your leave or did you come home?

Tim Adam Alexander:

I came -- most of the time I'd come home.

Cherryl Walker:

You'd come home?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yeah.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. Were you single during your time in the military?

Tim Adam Alexander:

All except the last four years I was single.

Cherryl Walker:

Did you meet your spouse in the military?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No. I met her -- she lived back here in the area and I met her here.

Cherryl Walker:

Did you communicate during your time in the military with her?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Via e-mail, yeah.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. Do you recall the day your service ended?

Tim Adam Alexander:

May 7th, 2007. That was my last day.

Cherryl Walker:

Did you have time that you had to take before it actually was -- was that your service out?

Tim Adam Alexander:

That was my service out, yeah.

Cherryl Walker:

Service out.

Tim Adam Alexander:

That was my service out date.

Cherryl Walker:

Where were you when you were discharged?

Tim Adam Alexander:

In Great Lakes, Illinois.

Cherryl Walker:

Great Lakes.

Tim Adam Alexander:

Uh-huh.

Cherryl Walker:

Did your family come or -- come to --

Tim Adam Alexander:

My wife -- me and my wife lived up there at the time.

Cherryl Walker:

Did you live in military housing with your wife?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No. No. We lived out in town.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. Did they provide -- what kind of -- did they provide a certain area that you had to live? Did they --

Tim Adam Alexander:

No. You could live wherever you wanted to.

Cherryl Walker:

Wherever.

Tim Adam Alexander:

Uh-huh.

Cherryl Walker:

What did you do the days and weeks after you got out of the service?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Really, it was several months before I did much of anything, because I didn't know what I wanted to do. I always kind of joked. Every time I reenlisted in the military, people would say, "Why are you still reenlisting?" And I said, "Because I don't know what I want to be when I grow up." And I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. And it just -- after, you know, being associated with the military in one way, shape, or form from the time you're 18 until the time you're 36, you know, then all of a sudden it's not there anymore, you don't know what to do. You have no routine anymore. You don't know, you know -- basically you don't know what you're going to do. It's not I'm going to get up and I'm going to put that on and I know I'm going to wear that. Regardless of whether I want to or not, that's what I'm going to wear tomorrow. It wasn't there anymore.

Cherryl Walker:

Did you go back to school at all?

Tim Adam Alexander:

A little bit. I'm still going to school now. Just taking classes here -- here and there.

Cherryl Walker:

Are you currently -- do you currently work?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes.

Cherryl Walker:

What are you doing now?

Tim Adam Alexander:

I'm a purchasing agent for the Homeland Security.

Cherryl Walker:

So you're working in a military position?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Well, it's --

Cherryl Walker:

A government position.

Tim Adam Alexander:

Government, yeah.

Cherryl Walker:

How do you like that?

Tim Adam Alexander:

It's okay. I like it. It keeps me off the streets. Keeps me out of trouble.

Cherryl Walker:

The government -- once you're in the military, do you feel that it just -- if you've been in the military for a while, it's hard to let go? Do you feel that?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yeah.

Cherryl Walker:

Because of the regimen.

Tim Adam Alexander:

The regimen, the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the knowing that the guy sitting next to you, you guys at this minute in time might hate each other and might want to, you know, get in a fight with each other, but if something happens, you know he has your back and he knows -- you know, and vice versa, because when you need each other, the -- everything else goes out the window. All the, you know, "I hate that guy," or "That guy did this to me," or whatever the case may be, it's all water under the bridge. Now, after whatever you need him for is resolved, you guys go back to hating each other, or whatever -- you know, whatever the case may be, but at that moment in time, it's all -- it's in the past.

Cherryl Walker:

I want to go back to the Navy. What medals did you get in the Navy?

Tim Adam Alexander:

The Global War -- two different Global War On Terrorism Medals, a NATO Medal, another Southwest Asia Service Medal, a Navy Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and I think that's all, but I'm not positive.

Cherryl Walker:

Could you explain what a Global War --

Tim Adam Alexander:

There were two Global War On Terrorism Medals. One was a service medal and then one was an expeditionary medal. The expeditionary medal was given to any units that participated in Operation Enduring Freedom, and then the service ribbon was basically just -- kind of like the National Defense Medal, anybody that was in the service during this time and this time got that -- the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Cherryl Walker:

What about the NATO Medal? What is that?

Tim Adam Alexander:

It was for when I was on the USS America. We provided support for the conflict in Kosovo and Bosnia back in '95, I think it was. I can't remember what it was. But we got that from NATO for providing support to the NATO forces that were on the ground during that conflict in Kosovo.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. Very interesting. So you actually were out in Kosovo, too?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Well, we were in the Mediterranean Sea, so -- we weren't actually on the ground in Kosovo. We were in the Mediterranean.

Cherryl Walker:

Well, you're just a world traveler.

Tim Adam Alexander:

Those days are done.

Cherryl Walker:

Have you ever wanted to go back to any of these places?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Not really. I mean, they are all nice to visit and all nice to see, but, no, I'm where I want to be.

Cherryl Walker:

Do you have any children?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. Did you join any veterans organization?

Tim Adam Alexander:

The Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. Do you feel camaraderie with them?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes.

Cherryl Walker:

Would you suggest to any soldier to join a veterans organization?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes, because you -- I mean, I feel -- I can talk to my wife, I can talk to family, I can, you know, talk to friends of mine that have not been in the military, but it's not -- it's not the same as talking to somebody who's actually -- you know, because if you're -- you know, if you have something, you know, going on, you know, medically, or whatever the case may be, related to your service, you can talk to, you know, your wife or whoever until you're blue in the face, and she may or may not understand. But you can talk to one of your brothers and they know. Even if they don't have the same problems, they have other stuff going on and, you know, they understand more than someone who hasn't been there.

Cherryl Walker:

Do you -- do they have the ability to help you with dealing with the veteran benefits?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes. Yeah. Both do. They help you file any claims for benefits or for compensation, and they all both have a lot of good programs.

Cherryl Walker:

Do you take advantage of all the benefits?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes. Yeah.

Cherryl Walker:

Would you advise any veteran to use those benefits?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes, you earned them. You get it.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. A question I would like to ask is, do you feel that war in history in school is being taught accurately?

Tim Adam Alexander:

I have a niece that's actually a freshman in high school and they -- I remember her going -- growing up through school they rarely teach American history anymore in schools, and when they do, it may be just like a couple of sentences or a couple of paragraphs. So, no, I think that the kids of today, they don't -- I don't think they are getting everything they should out of it. You know, they may have one little paragraph that describes World War II. Well, a child doesn't need to, you know, go through weeks' worth of classes about World War II, but they need to know more than, you know, a little blurb about it. I mean, I think. Because if they don't learn from it, we may repeat it. And we don't want to -- we don't want to repeat it.

Cherryl Walker:

What is the most positive thing you took away from your experience in the service?

Tim Adam Alexander:

The fact that you can have people from so many different ethnic, religious backgrounds, different walks of life, and you get all of them together and you put the same uniform on and that all -- it all goes away. You're not, you know, African-American, you're not white, you're not Hispanic, you're not Catholic, you're not Jewish, you're not Baptist. You're all just one; one unit, one family working for the same goal.

Cherryl Walker:

If there was one thing that you would change, or more than one thing that you would change about your military experience or how the military, whatever, treated you, or you feel was negative, what would that be?

Tim Adam Alexander:

I don't -- I don't know what caused the injuries that I had that caused me to be medically retired, but if I could go back and change something it would be whatever happened to cause me to get hurt to end my career, because I had full intentions of doing 20 or more years in the military. And I would actually still be in the military today if I would not have gotten hurt.

Cherryl Walker:

Do you want to talk about how you got hurt?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No, not -- no.

Cherryl Walker:

Okay. Has anyone ever thanked you for your serving our country?

Tim Adam Alexander:

Yes. You have people -- mainly most of the time when we're out doing our fundraisers with the Disabled American Veterans, people thank us, or they will look at me and they'll say, "You're too young to be a disabled veteran." And I tell them, you know, there are kids that are 19, 20 years old that don't have limbs, so don't think that, you know, looking at me in my early forties, I'm too young. Because I guess the stereotypical disabled veteran is a Korean veteran, a World War II veteran. They look for old to assume, you know, disabilities. And I guess that's just a misconception with our society. Even though we know it's on the news, or was on the news every day about, you know, these young people getting killed or, you know, losing limbs. Just like people -- they don't think about it.

Cherryl Walker:

Is there anything else you'd like to say, Tim?

Tim Adam Alexander:

No, I don't think so.

Cherryl Walker:

Well, I want to thank you for the time that you gave us today --

Tim Adam Alexander:

Thank you.

Cherryl Walker:

-- for your interview. I really appreciate it. I appreciate your service for our country. I appreciate your story.

Tim Adam Alexander:

Thank you.

Cherryl Walker:

Thank you.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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