Service & Sacrifice

Allen Beauchamp: ‘I was kind of stuck’

Choice of Navy service made a lasting impression

Allen Beauchamp’s Navy service began in what he calls a “unique situation” as a teenager. Many of his classmates had their futures mapped out, they had decided, not only if they were going to college, but where. But Beauchamp had not made any kind of firm decision

“ I was kind of stuck and then I ended up going to work at Willeys Tire Shop in Ishpeming. So, I was making money and partying with my friends, got into some trouble and definitely had to make a decision about whether or not I was going to stick around or do something productive with my life,” Beauchamp said. (It) got to the point where I had to go and see the magistrate. The recommendation was that I should definitely make some decisions in life about what I wanted to do, and the magistrate actually mentioned ‘Have you ever thought of going into one of the services?’”

Beauchamp said he knew several people who had served in the Navy, including his stepfather — so he spoke to a recruiter. Before he knew it, he was at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Milwaukee.

“I came back and told my mom that I had enlisted,” Beauchamp said “It went pretty quickly after that.”

His first stop was the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois.

My mother, one of her friends, he had been in the Navy, and my mom’s second husband had actually spent some time in the Navy, too, so.. the Navy definitely perked my interest. And so, I talked to a recruiter and shortly after that I was going to MEPs in Milwaukee.

So in August of 1993, at the tail end of Desert Storm and two years after he graduated from high school the Negaunee native headed to Great Lakes Illinois for boot camp. You hear all these horror stories, and I was the type of person that didn’t like the unknown and when I got there. I kept to myself, and kept quiet. Advice that had been given to me over and over again was don’t volunteer for anything. So I didn’t really open up in basic training until more towards the middle.”

It was at that point that he was asked to take on a leadership role among the recruits, which he enjoyed. There were mental and interpersonal challenges, but the fact that most of the people going through boot camp were from Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, Henderson said those cultural and personality differences were probably not as pronounced as might have been with people from other areas of the United States.

“I started to enjoy it more and more. I was homesick, of course, and still worried about the unknown,” Beauchamp said. “But basic training went fairly well. It can be hard to live in that situation with people who have a bunch of different personalities, who you don’t even know. I think because we were all from the same (region) we could grasp how we all interacted. Mentally it was also very challenging, too, because that’s part of it. They want to try and push you to the limits and make sure that you are going to be able to push past that and serve your country in the capacity that they need you to.”

Beauchamp stayed at Great Lakes to attend school after graduating from basic training. He became trained as an unrated fireman. He went through trainings such as damage control, boiler tech, machinist mate as well as some engineering background which would be required to work on system components aboard a ship.

After a brief stop at home, he reported to the USS Detroit, which was in Philadelphia.

“I was always an avid hockey player and I enjoyed watching the Philadephia fliers, and followed them,” Beauchamp said, “so it was kind of cool for me to be in the city of Brotherly Love.”

Before Beauchamp got to the city, the USS was in drydock to be refurbished.

“My first couple of months, I spent a lot of time finishing up what was being done onboard,” he said. “The crew is actually responsible for some of the work. But the shipyard workers do the major overhaul items . There’s a lot of welding, cutting, chipping paint and repainting the ship.”

When he arrived at the ship he had the choice of becoming a machinist mate or a damage controlman and was able to choose the latter.

“I enjoyed that portion of the training during school. It’s basically a shipboard firefighter,” Beauchamp said. “So all the crew is trained to handle any damage whether it’s fighting a fire or damage to a compartment that starts to flood, we were the folks that took care of that stuff. And even training on biological or chemical warfare, you know, during war time, if it does happen, somebody does have to be there to take care of those items. So it was a lot of training and a lot of drills, we held a lot of drills.”

Once the work was done, the ship transitted the Delaware River back to the Atlantic Ocean where it returned to it’s home port in Earle, New Jersey where the crew did sea trials with the new equipment that had been installed aboard.

Beauchamp said during that time he was extremely homesick.

“I called my mom at every opportunity, I think,” he said. “But shortly after that I met a lot of people and we were able to connect and just become good friends. There’s a lot of commeraderie when you’re in the service. you meet all these people and you’re all pretty much doing the same thing and you are all working toward an end goal together. Out of most memories, that really struck me hard. But I got over it and it definitely made me a stronger person.”

He said the harbor consisted of three piers that extended a couple of miles into the ocean and each pier could accommodate 2 ships. So there could be 6 ships in the harbor at any one time. On a clear day, you could see the Statue of Liberty, which was about 50 miles away.

The main military base was roughly 15 miles away from where the ships were docked.

“We lived on the ship, that was our home. So when we were in port, you would do a normal workday, so like, usually 7 to 3:30 in the afternoon, and then you would be off. And then you could stay on the ship if you’d like or you could go out on the town or stay on the base, or whatever. There were small towns all along the Jersey sea shore. Some with boardwalks, some will all sorts of carnival attractions, and all sorts of crazy stuff,” he said. “It was a pretty unique area.”

It was all different when the USS Detroit was out at sea. Sometimes its compliment of about 600 sailors were out for just a few days, but other trips could last weeks, all depending on what part of the world the ship was in.

“The workday out at sea was a bit longer because you didn’t really have anything to do, nowhere to go. So we would start our day at 6 or 7 in the morning and then work until dinnertime and sometimes even afterward too, depending on what we were working on that day.”

And it wasn’t just men who served on the ships. Beauchamp said there were roughly 50 women stationed on the USS Detroit after accommodations were made for them on the vessels.

He said one of his favorite parts of being in the military was seeing different parts of the world, especially the nearly 10 months the ship spent in the mediterranean region.

During that time, the ship hit multiple ports in the Mediterranean Sea before being called to the Persion Gulf.

“This was just at the tail end of Desert Storm,” Beauchamp said. “Everything had resolved at that point, but every once in a while there were some things that were happening that we needed to respond to.”

He spent two years in the military achieved the rank of E3.

I came home, and went back to the tire shop again. I ran out of money and had to get a job so I went to work for a company called Argonics, Inc. He got also got a degree in Engineering Design from Northern Michigan University.

He has been working for the company for 27 years. He now oversees environmental, health, safety and employment training procedures at the company.

The Negaunee resident is a board member and treasurer at Disability Network Upper Peninsula, a member of the DNR Accessibility Advisory Council, and the General Manager of the only adaptive sled hockey organization in the Upper Peninsula.

“To be honest, I know there’s a lot of countries out there that require a good percentage of individuals to spend a certain amount of time in the military,” Beauchamp said. “I feel that everybody should have good knowledge of what goes on in our military and if they have that opportunity, definitely be involved or enlist. Play some part in our military. Yeah, because, until I actually was there I had very little knowledge of the inner workings that makes the wheels turn. And there’a a wide variety of things in our lives that we’ve seen that we will probably never see again.”