Keith Cottrell, FTM2
Semmes 1962-1966

I enlisted in the Navy right out of High School in 1956 on a minority enlistment. I went through boot camp and Fire Control Class “A” school in San Diego and served two years on the USS PERKINS (DDR 877). I got out of the Navy in 1959, but re-enlisted for Class “B” school in Great Lakes. I then went to TARTAR Computer Mk 118 school in Dam Neck, Virginia and put USS SELLERS (DDG 11) in commission in October 1961.

In August 1962, SELLERS visited New Orleans on a Caribbean Cruise and several members of the SEMMES pre-commissioning crew came aboard to see what their finished product would look like. I remember thinking that, being single, it would be nice to draw a few months per diem in New Orleans. When SELLERS returned to Charleston at the end of the cruise, orders to SEMMES were waiting for me. I didn’t turn them down.

I arrived in New Orleans in Mid-September. When I got to Avondale, I mentioned that I did not have a car and would need an apartment near someone I could car-pool with. About an hour later, Chief Haffele found me and informed me that one of the guys in his car-pool had just received orders to another ship that had his job code and his apartment and car-pool seat would be open. The apartment was about six blocks from the Canal Street Ferry, so the French Quarter (and a few other watering holes) was within walking distance.

When SEMMES was ready for delivery to Charleston, I was asked to drive an Officer’s car to Charleston as he had to ride the ship. SEMMES was put in commission on my 24th birthday on 10 December 1962. I was an FTM2, but the Commissioning book had me as a GMG2. I made FTM1 in May 1963. I never did make GMG1.

I was LPO in the Missile Computer Room until 1965, when I moved to the Weapons Direction Equipment work center. I reenlisted in January 1966 for transfer to the West Coast and went to USS WADDELL (DDG 24). I made chief on WADDELL and then went to Instructor Duty at Combat Systems Training Command at Mare Island, where I made Senior Chief. I later served on WADDELL again, spent nine months temporary duty on USS DOWNES (DE 1070), went to USS HOEL (DDG 13), and finished my career at Mare Island for a second tour. I retired from active duty in 1979 after 23 years service.

After retirement, I accepted a job with Vitro Corporation, a contractor with what is now the Port Hueneme Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center (PHD NSWC), at Port Hueneme, California, and moved to Ventura. After nine years with Vitro and one with Unisys, I went to work with PHD NSWC.

I married Florence in 1968 and we have two sons: Allen, born in 1969, and Brian, born in 1971. We currently have one grandson. Outside of work, I am Boys State Chairman for my American Legion Post and Missions Chairman for my Church.

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