C.J. Stratton, a retired command master chief and veteran, hoped that this country will take care of its ill and deceased service members and their families. Photo by Tina ColellaWHILE THE NATION observes Armed Forces Day this Saturday, and Memorial Day next weekend, the heroes who should be receiving accolades and memorial services on both observances must also include the Clyde Jay Strattons of the world who join the military, do their job efficiently, quietly and thoroughly, and never ask for a moment’s praise or thanks for their sacrifices.Stratton, an octogenarian and great grandfather, can tick off dozens of names of what he knows are “real heroes,” the guys who were on battlefields from Korea through Vietnam through Desert Storm and more, the young kids who didn’t come home, the men and women who came home but were broken in mind or body as well as all the military men and women in the nation’s forces during one or both of the world wars.But Stratton – make that retired Command Master Chief C.J. Stratton –whether he likes it or not, is also a hero, the kind of guy who stays till the job is done, does it right, takes care of his sailors, and in the end, simply hopes and prays for an America where we truly take care of our ill, sick, wounded and deceased military and their families.This genial, humble and hardworking man chalked up his life history in an unusual way, but along its route, carved out several different occupations and created several important niches that even today are helping to keep the military the proud and distinguished units that they are.An Ohio native, Stratton was always a flying enthusiast, reveling in the Civil Air Patrol’s work before he was a teenager, signing up himself for the volunteer position as soon as he was 15 and eligible.At the start of the Korean War, he enlisted in the Navy, despite all his friends’ warning him he’d be shipped out soon. By the grace of God and the luck of the draw, he never did see service in Korea, though many of his friends who were later drafted did. Stratton had signed up as an air crewman “not because I was a hero, but because it paid $50 a month more that I would have gotten as a medical equipment repairman,” he said.Though the Navy’s PV2 planes, twin-tailed planes were determined to be too old for battle and hence didn’t go into Korea, he was still part of America’s fighting force that prepared and were ready to go wherever needed on a minute’s notice. Instead, he went to South America; what he recalls is that his brother served eight years in the Navy, five of them in the South Pacific during World War II. “That’s a real hero,” he exclaims, always eager to deflect attention from himself.You don’t have to ask Stratton to name more heroes, he’s got them all on the tip of his tongue: “Here’s another one for you, my good friend, Dick O’Shaughnessy, who died recently. He was an enlisted man and he earned the Distinguished Service Cross … think of that, an enlisted man with that high honor! That’s a hero. And my grandson, a young fella, who picked up something in Kenya and is now medically discharged from the Navy … these are heroes, not me.”When the active duty forces were reduced at the end of the Korean conflict, Stratton opted to stay in the Reserves while still searching for a job to support his new status as husband. He had no desire to go back into the family contracting business in Ohio, so when he heard there was an advertisement for an instructor at the Army’s Signal School at Fort Monmouth, he thought it was the best use he could make of his Navy-training as an electronics technician. At that time all he knew about New Jersey was what he had heard of fouls smells, pig farms and oil refineries. He remembered flying over Lakehurst Naval Station and thinking it was all swampland so he wasn’t holding out any hope for an attractive new home. He still chuckles heartily when he recalls getting off the train at the Little Silver railroad station and thinking it was so beautiful and wonderful he must be in Connecticut instead. And walking from the station to Fort Monmouth, he realized that once again, good for tune was following him. That was in June, 1952 and Stratton began his new position, while still remaining in the Reserves and doing his weekend training at NWS Station Earle in Colts Neck.For the next 35years, Stratton continued as an instructor at the signal school. But that isn’t all he did. Recalling his days and all he had learned in the Civil Air Patrol, he wondered why the Navy didn’t have a similar program. Lakehurst had a Sea Cadet program, the first in the country, so Stratton decided to start the second in the country at Earle. Assisted by another friend and Navy hero, the late Capt. Joseph Azzolina, he started the program which is still active at Earle, teaching teen boys and girls the mission and discipline of the US Navy while at the same time giving them experiences they may not other wise have in travel and education. Three of Stratton’s own children signed up for the Sea Cadet program at Earle over the next few years.At Fort Monmouth, Stratton was the executive officer of the MSE program and received a summary of his status report one day. When he contacted personnel to ask what it was about, and was told it meant he was eligible to retire at any time with a comfortable pension, he laughingly told them to make it official that afternoon. He did retire in 1987 – but the army called him back to serve as a consultant for its reorganization at the Signal Corps School for another six years. And still he remained an active reservist. It wasn’t until 1992 – five years after his official retirement as a civilian – when Command Master Chief Clyde Stratton retired from the US Navy, after a career that spanned 42 years.
But those years when he was both a reservist and working for the Department of Defense were good years, this veteran recalls. When the Navy needed him for temporary duty –for instance, to step up to be the Command Master Chief at Newport when the CMC there was ill – it was comparatively easy to take leave from his government job to complete his military mission. His Navy experience, education and connections were also helpful when he was called on to help create the MSE, Mobil Subscriber Equipment communication system of linked switching nodes that provide the force with an area common-user system (ACUS). It is one of the major communications systems of an Army force at echelons corps and below (ECB). The system is digital and flexible, providing voice and data communications on an automatic, discrete-addressed, fixed-directory basis, supporting mobile and wire subscribers with a means to exchange command, control communications, computers, and intelligence, making it the system that developed what is today’s cell phone for use in the military.Looking back, it’s been an active, happy, busy–but in his terms, no way a heroic – life for this very proud Command Master Chief. One in which he has been proud and humbled to work for the country and be in the company of men and women who have given their lives to protect it.But for Americans who look to our military for safety, security, and protection, CMC Stratton can certainly be ranked up there with the best of them.