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Captain Richard A. Crooks Commanding Officer of the Norton Sound during the cruise, achieved a career goal with this assignment. Captain Crooks came to the ship after years of working for just such an opportunity.
One might not expect that our C.O. was once a musician. In his hometown of Hankinson, North Dakota, he played the tuba. Humility forces him to say he was only mediocre and has long since lost his tuba lip. He claims to have had an average childhood which included playing average basketball and membership in an average 4H Club.
After graduating from North Dakota State University in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture, farm life began to close in on our C.O. Restlessness colored his existence. Where else could a young man turn to for adventure, romance, free dental care? Naturally, he chose service to his country through the United States Navy. Here he would have the opportunity to see the world from sea to shining sea before settling down to the amber waves of grain in North Dakota.
In 1963, Capt. Crooks completed Officer Candidate School. That same year, he drew his first assignment as Main Propulsion Assistant aboard a Destroyer, the USS Power. In spite of the handicaps of being an Ensign and MPA, our Captain began to desire his own command.
The next assignment for then LT(jg) Crooks was Engineering Officer aboard the Destroyer Haynesworth. That was followed by a similar tour aboard the USS George K. MacKenzie, a Destroyer home ported in Yokosuka, Japan.
The Vietnam Conflict was in full swing in 1967 and Capt. Crooks was there. He was assigned to the Naval Advisory Group, Military Assistance Command, as Senior Advisor for the Vietnamese 32nd River Assault Group. After 1 year there, orders came for Capt. Crooks to take command of the USS Cocopa. There he was challenged by the responsibility of maintaining a ship and ensuring that it met its commitments.
2 and a half years later our C.O. was assigned to instructor duty at the Naval ROTC at the University of Louisville. While serving here, he met and married his wife, Judith. He returned to the fleet 3 years later in the capacity of Executive Officer aboard the USS Pyro. From there, orders took him to Naples, Italy for 4 years where he fulfilled many varied roles with the Sixth Fleet. In 1980, Capt. Crooks became X.O. at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes.
Capt. Crooks assumed command of the USS Norton Sound Nov. 6, 1981. He recognized immediately that this is where he would be able to have an effect on the shape of the Navy and that the work in Research and Development carried out on the Norton Sound was truly significant. He knew that the systems tested here, systems that are on the edge of technology, would have an impact on Naval warfare well in to next century.
Currently the C.O.'s life away from the ship centers around his wife and three children. He expects to someday retire to a farm, where he can hunt, fish, and reminisce.
Our Captain is a true professional and likes to see professionalism in his crew. He admits that the combining of men and women in this crew has presented him with problems that he has never before had to face, but he is proud of the ship's accomplishments and support it has provided to the development of future Naval Weapons Systems. His philosophy is simple - "Do the best job you know how to do and hope you're making a contribution by doing it."
Interviewed by ET1 Dennis D. Logan.