By Margaret Downing


Margaret Downing photo The Journal
Dale Pohl of Machesney Park today, proud to be a Navy vet!

From the mid to the late 1960s, young men in America knew they faced the draft as war was escalating in Vietnam. Some preferred a deferment by attending college; some decided to choose for themselves what branch of the military they wanted to join. Thousands were drafted into the U.S. Army. 

Many of these young men were the sons of World War II veterans and took some direction from their dads.

One local man, 1968 Harlem High School graduate, Dale Pohl, decided to follow his father into the U.S. Navy, which actually was to give him the opportunity to see the world.

In December of ’68 Pohl had gotten engaged to Donna Middleton on the same day he joined the Navy. (They married in August of ’69.)

In January of 1969, Pohl reported to the induction center in Chicago and upon graduation at Great Lakes Naval Center in March ’69 he went into training as a “ship fitter.” 

Welding metals, and replacing pipes and bulkheads was all part of that schooling. After boot camp he was sent to San Diego in August and continued learning skills such as “stick welding with steel rods.”

He recalls how he was taught different welding techniques such as using a “blazing torch” and the use of an oxygen acetate torch for cutting metal, connecting brass pipes and metal piping hull work. After testing in boot camp he had scored in the direction of fitting within the engineering field.

However, he also learned ship “damage control,” ship fitter and firefighter…all-important skills to have aboard a ship.

The “Mideast Cruise Schedule” Pohl was assigned to began in Charleston, S.C. and from there over the years headed to the following locations: Puerto Rico, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Mauritius Islands, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kenya, Seychelles Islands, India, Pakistan, Somaliland, back to Saudi Arabia, then to Ethiopia, Madagascar, back to Mozambique, Angola, Senegal, 

Pohl’s first command had been on the Glennon (circa 1960 ship) in August 1969, which he was to serve on until February 1972. The Glennon was leaving for Vietnam. 

From February to December of ’72 Pohl also served on the USS Semmes, DDG-18, a Class Guided Missile Destroyer.* 

*(Note: In January 1972, this ship had entered the Charleston Naval Shipyard for conversion of her engineering plant to the “Navy Distillate Fuel Oil System.”)

Pohl was on active duty until 1972 when he changed over to the “Inactive Reserves.” In 1976 he went back to active duty and reported to the San Diego Naval Station “on 32nd St. He then served on the USS San Bernardino, LST-1189, a “tank landing ship” at that time assigned to two western Pacific cruises. 

He went on to serve to four other ships on shore duty at three Naval bases as a hull technician, a firefighter, in hull maintenance and welding. For two years, from 1986 to ’88 he was part of a Fleet Training group training in firefighting. This was at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. By June of 1987, Pohl had achieved the title of Master Training Specialist and trained in that field. His rank was “E-7 Chief Petty Officer.”

According to posted Navy information: “Chief Petty Officers are the true ‘deck plate’ (ground-level) leadership of the Navy. Chiefs wear the same khaki uniforms as officers and are given due respect. They are highly seasoned technical experts and leaders of sailors of their own rate. Good Chiefs ensure that their sailors are physically and emotionally taken care of, and are steadily advancing in their careers. They supervise and mentor 1st and 2nd Class Petty Officers in the day-to-day running of the Division, and only take over when the problems they face are new and highly complex.

“The training and mentoring of Junior Officers is a primary duty of Chief Petty Officers. A Division Officer and Division Chief are meant to be hand-in-hand Divisional leaders; however, most of this effort for the first few months is the Chief teaching his or her Division Officer how to interact with sailors and perform their jobs. An effective Chief Petty Officer is one where the Division Officer handles the vast majority of high-level administration, the Division Chief handles personnel and equipment issues, and the two communicate important items on a daily basis.”

Prior to retirement from the Navy in June of 1993, after obtaining the rank of Master Chief Petty Officer, Pohl and his wife spent an assignment in Bermuda for four years before returning to South Carolina where he retired on June 30 of that year.

He and Donna returned to Machesney Park where Pohl became Transportation Director for the Belvidere School District.

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