BREMERTON, Washington –
He walked along Farragut Avenue with a spring in his step that defied age—though one could see from the laugh lines under his eyes that he’d been around the block a time or two.
“Hey, there goes a tough guy, he’s been here forever!” yelled Ed Stein, Code 740 rigger.
“What the heck do you want?” the man yelled back. “Why don’t you get to work!” Loud laughter ensued, followed by slaps on the back and a “Hey, how ya’ doing, Slye?”
Well he hasn’t quite been here forever, but at almost 82 years old, Terry Slye’s been a part of the Navy world for nearly 65 years. He is currently the oldest employee working for the Command.
Active duty U.S. Navy years
It was June 1952 when Slye first enlisted in the U. S. Navy. Over the years, he guarded the barracks and workspaces for many a Sailor. He did whatever was needed of him, wherever it was needed, with pride. He saw plenty of ports, having served on active duty during both the Korean and Vietnam wars. He spent time everywhere from Adak, Alaska to Hong Kong, China. He was a boatswain’s mate who did a little bit of everything in times of war and peace—including recovery efforts after having survived a 9.2 earthquake and tsunami that hit Kodiak Island, Alaska in 1964.
After 20 years, his active duty time came to an end, and in 1980 Slye joined the Shipyard team. He began his career in what was then Shop 72 as a rigger helper. Before long he earned the title of rigger and remained with the shop (now known as Code 740, Rigging and Operations Division) his entire 39 years at PSNS. Slye enjoyed the variety of equipment and jobs involved in being a rigger. He was one of the first workers to run the log broncs (small boats used to push around larger vessels for dockings, moorings and other vessel moves in port) when the Command acquired them.
Carriers, subs and more
During the Cold War years, Slye worked on numerous aircraft carrier refits for the Command. Often the job took him on temporary duty to places like San Diego, Norfolk, Guam and Japan. He worked along with others getting the Navy’s retired battleships brought back in to service. Later, he worked on the conversion of USS Ohio, (SSGN 726) and USS Michigan (SSGN 727). For many years he’s worked on submarine recycling projects.
“The best things about this Command are the people,” said Slye. “I’ve worked with lots of great people here and on temporary duty to San Diego, working on the carriers—Stennis, Nimitz and Lincoln. Then I worked on subs, Ohio and Michigan. I’ve worked everywhere—on the boat, on the pier—I’ve hauled all kinds of material back and forth all over the place. I’ve had the pleasure of training many others on rigging tasks like driving a forklift or carrying around chain fall. It’s hard work, physical work. You’ve got to be careful and get along with everyone.”
“Terry’s a great inspiration,” said Billy Handy, from Shop 99, general maintenance. “We’ve moved wire and cable and things together. He always said to remember that there are good reasons to do the very best you can, to go the extra mile for the customer.”
Slye worked for Larry Marquez, Code 900 pier master, for about three years on swing shift.
“Terry would always come in early and stay late if asked,” said Marquez. “He did a lot of crane walking for me and was always ready with a story to tell about the people he served and worked with. He spent a lot of his Navy time seeing the world. His pride in his military career comes through when he talks about his life.”
Slye retires from the Command June 1, but the word “retire” doesn’t seem quite accurate.
“I’m not sure what all is next,” said Slye. “I’ve got some people to visit—an uncle who’s been asking me to visit—after that, I don’t know for sure, but I’ll stay busy.”
Staying busy seems to be something he’s quite familiar with, something that kept this 81-year-old coming back every day to do whatever was needed of him, wherever he was needed.