John J. Russo
By John Russo and Christine Baldwin
John was born in Lansdale, PA and enlisted in the Navy under the High School Seaman Recruit (HSSR) Navy Program. While at Naval Training Center (NTC), Great Lakes, IL, he scored exceptionally high in the Sonar Test, Mathematics and General Aptitude Tests. John knew that the high grade in the Sonar Test was due to the more than twelve years of classical piano lessons he had to endure at his parent’s insistence at the Lansdale Conservatory of Music. By having an extensive musical background, he was able to distinguish pitches in the high and low frequency range of tones. He made listening to the sonar sounds as easy as eating a piece of cake. Needless to say, he was selected to be a Sonarman and was transferred to Fleet Sonar School (FSS), Key West, FL. After graduating from the Basic Sonar Course, he served on board the destroyer USS NEW (DDE-818) as a Seaman Sonar Operator (E-3). Later, as a Second Class Sonar Technician (E-5), John was transferred to the USS SHENANDOAH (AD-26) destroyer tender and assigned to the Ordnance Repair Division. There it was discovered how good he was at organizing division work and at aligning, calibrating, testing and repairing various sonar sensors installed in destroyers.
He reenlisted in 1962, to be transferred to FSS, Key West, FL as a student in the Advanced Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Technology Course. He also was selected to complete the Underwater Fire Control System Course since he was selected by the Bureau of Naval Personnel to be transferred to the USS WILKERSON (DL-5) destroyer leader based on his prior professional performance since the ship was scheduled to conduct Technical & Operational evaluation of the first (prototype) high power long range sonar system. The US Navy uses this prototype concept today. As the leading First Class Sonar Technician (E-6) of a 31 men Sonar Division, John organized all the underway watch assignments to provide key sonar technicians to integrate with the civilian engineers and tech reps in order to keep the systems operational. It was imperative while conducting various Sonar and Underwater Fire Control System tests using a target submarines assigned to this special project. John received a letter of appreciation from the sonar system manufacturer’s Project Manager upon completion of the evaluation testing because of his efforts to keep the sonar system on line.
After completion of this project, he was transferred to FSS, Key West, FL for the Sonar and Underwater Fire Control System courses while awaiting transfer to the USS JOSEPHUS DANIELS (DLG-27) guided missile destroyer leader which was under construction at Bath Iron Works, Bath, ME. John was selected to Chief Sonar Technician (E-7) on board DLG-27 in 1966 after being on board as Chief; he was selected by the Chief of Naval Personnel as 1 of 75 enlisted personnel of the entire Naval Forces to participate in an experimental “pilot” education program for senior enlisted personnel. John’s selection was based on his professional performance and top academic standings in formal training courses and numerous correspondence courses. He was transferred from the ship to attend Palomar College in San Marcos, CA. After graduation, John assumed he would go back to sea duty but instead he was informed that his talents were better used as an Advanced Equipment Navy Instructor and was transferred to a Naval Leadership/Instructor Training Course at the Naval Training Center (NTC) San Diego, CA.
After graduation he was transferred to FSS, Key West, FL and was assigned as an Advanced Equipment Division instructor. John was selected by the Chief of Naval Personnel as Senior Chief Sonar Technician (E-8) in February 1970; he then became the Senior Chief in charge of all the courses. They were comprised of 250 students and 36 Instructors. After completing his tour at FSS, John was transferred to Fleet Training Group (FTG), GITMO, Cuba where he was assigned as Senior Enlisted Sonar Division Chief supervising 14 ASW ship riders during underway training. He rode the ships to evaluate the ship’s ASW team during practice torpedo shots, launchings of Hedgehogs and practice shots of the Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC) torpedoes at the target submarine. He graded the ships’ ASW team on their performance during all practice shots including their final ASW Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI).
In 1972, John was selected to attend training at Newport, RI at Destroyer Development Group to head up a team in the Mediterranean called “MED Sonar Calibration and Training Team” (SCAT) which would be stationed onboard destroyers tenders that deployed on a six month deployment while moored in Naples, Italy. He also provided Commander, Sixth Fleet a confidential message of the ASW evaluations of all the destroyers entering the MED for ASW operations. John would provide technical expertise repairs and training to make each platform ASW ready. While on this special tour, he was assigned to the destroyer tenders: USS CASCADE (AD-16), USS PIEDMONT (AD-17) and USS YOSEMITE (AD-19) for military duty, personnel and pay record purposes. He stood his military duties on these ships as Officer of The Deck (OOD) and Duty Repair Officer, or Ordnance Division Duty Officer or Shore Patrol Chief every four days while he was in the homeport of Naples, Italy. John was also assigned temporary assigned duty (TAD) for extended times to Service Force Sixth Fleet at Naval Support Activity (NSA). He was assigned as a Sonar Tech Rep to repair CASREP sonars installed in US destroyers and NATO allies’ ships. Most trips involved troubleshooting, repair, complete system alignment and testing. In 1976, John’s last tour of duty was at Naval Air Tactical Training Unit, Memphis, TN where he was assigned to the Combat System (C/S) Training & Development Group. It was comprised of one person of each rating that integrated into the C/S organization. Each person provided their rating inputs to develop the C/S Organization for all surface combatants for the Navy. With John’s training background, he was instrumental in developing a Combat Systems Organization Course and authored and taught the Sonar Section of the course on board the USS TEXAS (CGN-39). Throughout his Navy career, John had received numerous messages of appreciation from many Commanding Officers (COs) of the ships he had been request to help. The COs applauded his expertise in repairing difficult casualties in minimum system down time.
John retired from the Navy in 1977 and was employed for an additional 35 years within the Navy establishments. He provided sonar engineering support as a Combat Systems Test & Trials Engineer for the Supervisor of Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, MS during the (DD-963) Class destroyers’ shipbuilding program. He was promoted to a Liaison Engineer for the ASW Systems during the (CG-47) AEGIS guided missile cruisers’ shipbuilding program. Because of his Navy experience in sonar training, Raytheon Service Co., Newport, RI hired John as a Senior Field Engineer and he developed a training package for the Royal Saudi Navy. The 16 week course was taught by John and four other engineers. In 1981, John was transferred to support the Sonar Division Section of the Raytheon Service Company in Pascagoula, MS because his expertise was needed to set up a test team. John also witnessed sonar system installations, light-offs, system & certification testing on the (DD-963) Class destroyers, (CG-47) Class AEGIS guided missile cruisers, and the (DDG-51) Class AEGIS guided missile destroyers. He also assisted in developing the Navy Technical Manual for the Sonar Dome Pressurization Systems install in both the DD-963 and CG-47 Class ships. The manuscript was accepted and published by the DC Bureau of Publishing in1982.
In 1984, during reactivation of the battleships (BB-61) and (BB-63) at Ingalls Shipyard, Pascagoula, MS, John supported Quality Assurance Engineers while assigned to the program. He assisted in inspecting all the ordnance magazines for safety discrepancies and out of date tests on equipment used in handling ordnance. While assigned to the Combat System Test Team, John also witnessed the installation and testing of the Torpedo Countermeasures System, Fathometer Set and the Tomahawk Box Launchers. Later he was assigned as an assistant to the Battleship Project Officer (BPO) which involved scheduling outside vendor services and various certification teams for the combat systems. As Sea-Trials Coordinator, he kept check lists for readiness for sea reports for the BPO. John road both battleships during INSURV trials and witnessed the three turret salvo firing of the 16-inch guns which a site he will never forget. It was AWSOME! He still relishes and admired the picture of the broadside salvo firing of those “BIG GUNS.”
In October 1993, John retired from Raytheon and was hired as a Consulting Engineer to support the New Class Ship Survivability Program Manager (PM). The PM assigned John as the Lead ASW Inspector of the sensors installed in AEGIS Class guided missile destroyers. This involved inspecting the ships before underwater explosive testing and after the detonations. This required John to ride the test ships during underwater explosions. He received letters of appreciation for his support and also received the AEGIS Excellence Award from the AEGIS Program Manager for the Navy. John finally retired when he finished inspecting all the 64 ships set of the DDG-51 Class guided missile destroyers at the young age of 75.
In November 2012, John was accepted as an independent resident at AFRH-W where he enjoys bowling, playing card games, touring with the residents, outdoor work and sharing his experiences. John also always enjoys helping others even if no appreciation is observed. John has been an active member of Lansdale Catholic High School Alumni Association, Lansdale, PA since 1954 and an active member of the National Sonar Association since February 1984. He is also a member of our onsite American Legion AFRH-W Post #70 since January 2013. He was appointed as Second Vice-Commander in March 2013. He was nominated by members of our post as Commander in April 2013 and on 18 May 2013 the DC District Delegates voted for John to fill the position of Commander at the annual District of Columbia American Legion Convention held in Rosslyn, VA.