Monday, November 24, 2014

LeMaster: Ready to sea the world ... again

By ABBY CROSTHWAIT, Herald Staff Writer | 5/24/2013

“If my friend could sacrifice himself for the country, I could go out and do something because of it,” Chase LeMaster said.

LeMaster, Fire Controlman First Class, Surface Warfare Specialist, said it was the death of his friend, the late Lance Cpl. Christopher Wasser, U.S. Marines, Ottawa, that made him want to serve his country in the U.S. Navy. Wasser was killed in 2004 while serving in Iraq.

“If my friend could sacrifice himself for the country, I could go out and do something because of it,” Chase LeMaster said.

LeMaster, Fire Controlman First Class, Surface Warfare Specialist, said it was the death of his friend, the late Lance Cpl. Christopher Wasser, U.S. Marines, Ottawa, that made him want to serve his country in the U.S. Navy. Wasser was killed in 2004 while serving in Iraq.

“It was his passing that spurred me to do something more,” LeMaster said. “It really is doing something for your country, and you can give everything for it, and Chris did and I wanted to remember that.”

LeMaster, an Ottawa High School graduate, said when he enlisted in the Navy, he initially was simply there to support his friend, Taylor Kens, who wanted to join. After going through the entire enlistment process with Kens for moral support, the recruiter told LeMaster he wanted him to join the Navy as well.

“I went for advanced electronics and computers,” he said. “It’s more like working with radios. But I had the option of going into weapons systems and there was no way I was turning that down. It sounded more interesting.”

Tony LeMaster, Chase LeMaster’s father, said he knew the Navy was the right decision for his son, but he wasn’t yet ready to say goodbye.

“It was the place for him to be, and that was my thought,” he said. “But I didn’t want him to go.”

When some members of the military are itching to get out, LeMaster has re-enlisted for another six years, leaving this September for San Diego to be on the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier, he said. LeMaster currently is himself a recruiter, but said he’s ready to get back out to sea.

“[On board a ship] you feel this sense of freedom when you’re standing there looking out, it’s just serenity — it’s very serene to be out there,” he said. “I love the travel and adventure of seeing new places and having that experience. Ottawa will always be home, but I have a drive to see other cultures’ amazing things.”

Being a recruiter might seem like it’s not as daunting of a task as being on the front lines, LeMaster said, but it actually is more arduous and training-intensive than people would expect.

“To become a recruiter, you have to go through lots of extra checks,” he said. “You have to have good evaluations and not have gotten into any trouble before.”

Training

The training LeMaster received for the Navy, he said, has been more beneficial than he ever expected. Training even goes so far as to craft real-life scenarios and trouble-shoot them.

“When you do training, it’s just the world’s biggest most expensive game of pretend,” he said. “There’s training for what happens if somebody boards your ship, if people are rushing the ship. If they get onto [the ship], what do you do, how do you get them on or off the ship. It’s a really cool experience and training does kick in if anything goes wrong.”

When something did go wrong and he didn’t know what to do, LeMaster said, he feared his training had failed him. To his surprise, he said, he’d already sprung into action before he realized what he was doing.

“There was a bomb threat when I first got [on the ship],” he said. “I was thinking I didn’t know what to do, but my body was responding and knew what to do and where to go. I do know and I’ve been trained for this. I had no fear.”

Even though the bomb threat turned out to be a hoax, LeMaster said, when his shock wore off, it was replaced by confidence.

The threat was eye-opening, LeMaster said, because it helped him to truly realize the enemy wanted to kill him. That’s when he began to get nervous.

“We were traveling down the Arabian Gulf, and there was a foreign ship threat,” he said. “I wasn’t scared, but the level of understanding that there are people who want to hurt you — they really do — and they’re willing to take your life if they could. It’s a very sobering thought.”

Tony LeMaster said he’s not scared for his son, but there’s never a moment he’s not concerned for his well-being. Knowing that his son is doing what he loves and is passionate about takes the edge off a bit, he said.

“When he does something, he puts himself in to it 100 percent. He really believes in what he’s doing,” he said. “It’s a good thing and a positive thing and not just for himself. He’s proud to be part of the Navy.”

‘More Than I Ever Expected’

When LeMaster enlisted in the Navy, he said, he wasn’t really sure what to expect, but thought maybe he’d be stuck on a ship all day and night or that life might be like a movie.

“I was thinking what I’d seen of TV like off ‘Top Gun,’” he said. “I never thought I’d go to Hawaii and sky dive, or go to Japan and train with a samurai master.”

Being in a position where his life constantly is on the line, LeMaster said, he’s comforted by knowing he’s not alone. The bond with his fellow shipmates is different than the friendships he’s had with his friends of many years back home, he said.

“You tend to trust people more quickly — you have to,” he said. “It’s not just friends hanging out, you trust each other with your life. You’ll make a friend in a month that will be closer than your best friend of 10 years because of the intensity.”

LeMaster said some people still have a distorted view of the military. Some see it as a last resort to get out of having to go to jail or not have student loans. But it’s so much more than that, he said.

“It’s a great experience,” he said. “The Navy has everything you can think of job-wise, just wrapped up in military. It’s been more than I ever expected.”

When his son went away for the first time, Tony LeMaster said, he cried, but the Navy matured him and made him into the man he is today.

“Everything’s worked out so well,” he said. “He is Navy — he’s 110 percent Navy. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

comments powered by Disqus