- Published on Saturday, 10 November 2012 14:43
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My interview was with Commander William M. Pinto, USN (Ret.). He was born on March 31, 1962, in Somerville, New Jersey. He served in the United States Navy for twenty-one years, from March 1985 to October 2006. He chose to serve in the Navy, although he considered the Marine Corps. His godfather had been in the Navy during World War II and he liked being at sea. He had an opportunity in college to experience life on submarines, onboard a ship, and in aircraft; ultimately he chose the sea.
He was commissioned into the U.S. Navy upon graduation from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). He attended navy schools for nine months, and then reported to his first ship.
Ensign Pinto was the M (Machine) Division Officer on the USS Hepburn stationed in San Diego, California. Shortly after reporting to the ship, he was deployed halfway around the world to the Arabian Gulf for six months. He had eighteen people working to help him operate the steam propulsion plant, the machine that propels the ship.
The ship’s assignment was to escort U.S. oil tankers in and out of the Arabian Gulf through the narrow Strait of Hormuz. What made the job harder was that there was a war going on between the countries of Iran and Iraq. The war was called the ‘tanker war’, because each country was sinking the other country’s oil tankers. Almost every day they would come across a ship or tanker that had been shot or was sinking. “It was very dangerous, but I will always remember those days.” he said.
He then went back to navy school for six more months. Afterwards, he went from San Diego to Bath, Maine for his next assignment onboard the USS Cowpens. The cruiser had just been built, and one of his duties was to test a new version of a surface -to-air missile at a missile range off the coast of Hawaii. He was the Fire Control Officer, which means he was in charge of operating the missile and radar systems. He got to launch about twenty-five surface-to-air missiles, shooting down targets. “I even got to shoot down a helicopter,” he said.
After he left the USS Cowpens, he got married and immediately moved to Newport, Rhode Island to attend Department Head School. After six months, he moved back to San Diego and was assigned to the USS Valley Forge. The ship needed an ‘industrial overhaul’, which means the ship had to be completely cleaned and upgraded. This took a year. He then went on another six month deployment to the Gulf of Mexico. His assignment was called ‘Counter-Narcotics,’ which is where people transporting illegal drugs are captured and arrested. His position at the time was Combat Systems Officer, which means he was in charge of all the weapons and radar.
Lieutenant Commander Pinto then moved back to Newport to be an instructor at Department Head School for eighteen months. While he was there he was selected to attend the Naval War College. He earned his Master’s Degree in foreign policy and strategic studies. His daughter, Marie, was born while he was attending the War College (1997).
Upon graduation, he was selected to be the Executive Officer (XO) on the USS Paul Hamilton, which was stationed in Hawaii, but was currently in the Arabian Gulf. In order to get to his ship, he drove across the country with his dog to move his family to California. He then took a flight to London, then to Germany, then to the United Arab Emirates. He finally took a helicopter to meet his ship. The ship then returned to Hawaii.
They began preparing for a new deployment. The ship was tested by inspectors, first by itself, then with other ships in a planned exercise. His son Christopher was born in Honolulu, Hawaii (1999). Continuing one of the Navy’s oldest traditions, his son was baptized onboard the USS Paul Hamilton. Navy tradition allows a child to be baptized in the ship’s bell. After the baptism, the child’s name is engraved in the bell, making them part of the history of the ship.
Two months later, Cmdr. Pinto was assigned to the staff of the U.S. 6th Fleet in Gaeta, Italy. They are a part of the European command, which supported U.S. interests in Europe and the Mediterranean. They also provided U.S. participation in NATO. He was a Fleet Exercise Planner coordinating everything to do with multi-national fleet exercises. He was assigned to the 6th fleet at the time of the 9/11 attacks. “I remember that very clearly,” he said. “I was actually getting my haircut in Naples when the first plane struck the World Trade Center.” He was immediately recalled back to the ship, which then went out to sea in response to the attacks.
In 2002 Cmdr. Pinto received orders to his next duty station in Dahlgren, Virginia. He worked at the Pentagon for eight months, and then at JWAC (Joint Warfare Analysis Center). JWAC is a science and engineering institution that solves complex problems for our nation’s warfighters. He was a representative (liaison) for JWAC during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and also worked in the computer department. In 2003, his second son, Jonathan, was born. In the summer of 2005 he was sent to Iraq to assist with computer communications. In 2006 Commander Pinto retired from the Navy after having served his country for twenty-one years. He now lives with his family in King George, Virginia.
As part of his civic duties and responsibilities, Commander Pinto got an education, registered for the draft, served in the U.S. military, and voted (even while he was on a ship) by absentee ballot. He did not serve on a jury, because he was frequently deployed and was not an elected official, but he did help the government achieve its foreign policy goals.
This is part of the oath that my dad had to take when he joined the Navy:
“I, William Pinto, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same...”
I am privileged and honored to have the opportunity to interview my father. Thank you for your service to our country.