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Interview with Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell [Undated]

Patrick Henderson:

Hello this is Patrick Henderson, and I am interviewing my mother for our Junior year project in US history. Can you please introduce yourself and give us your occupation?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

My name is Jermifer Dutton-Cantrell, and I own a bookstore.

Patrick Henderson:

Question number one: Why did you enlist in the armed services?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

So that I could go to school, and have a better education and learn skills and so that I could see different parts of the world sort on my own time so that I was not so much a tourist but as a visitor that is able to see different types of ports other than the usual type of ports like the kind you go to when you go on a plarmed tour.

Patrick Henderson:

Question number two: Why did you choose the Navy over the other branches of the armed services?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

My mother and father were both in the Marine Corps, and really the Marine Corps doesn't really have that many educational benefits. You go to the marine corps to learn how to kill people and that is what you do. As a Marine you are first on the line, and that's what you do, you are taught to kill and defend the area that you have taken over. In the Army, it's basically the same thing and I didn't feel comfortable doing any of those things, I wanted a better education. In the Navy, you live on floating httle cities, and so you have to learn to do everything from being really adept at computer programs to leaming how to repair all kinds of things, everything fi-om plumbing to those same computer programs. There's draftsmen, photographers, and everything in between, and it seemed like a better way to get an education.

Patrick Henderson:

Question number three: What was your first assignment in the Navy?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

After I completed bootcamp in Orlando, Florida, I was stationed at the Philadelphia Naval Station which is now defimct, they've shut it, and I went to what they call A-School there to learn how to be a hull maintenance technician.

Patrick Henderson:

Question number four: What was your second assignment?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

They sent me to.. .the USS L.Y. Spear in Norfolk, VA at Norfolk Naval Station, and it was a submarine tender.

Patrick Henderson:

Question number five: What was your third assignment?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

When I was stationed on the Spear, I met and married Patrick's dad, and because we were both on the same ship...well the navy has rules about that, you cant have married family members on the same boat, just like you can't have brothers and sisters or ex-husbands and wives in the same ship, so at that time, which was 1984-85, they moved the woman. So I was stationed, I went to a temporary station at Norfolk naval sation, then I wenet to SIMA Little Creek (SIMA means Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity) in Little Creek, Virginia, which was a small boat station still in Norfolk, VA, it was just called Little Creek Amphibious Base.

Patrick Henderson:

Question Number Six: What was your fourth assignment?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

When I left Little Creek Amphibious Base, I went to the USS Dynamic, which was the oldest operating dry-dock in the United States, it was a dry-dock that was used for smaller boats like coastguard cutters. It was inside the hollow walls of the dry-dock, we had hand cranks that used to move the dry-dock up and down so that the boat could move into the dry-dock and move it up and down. It was pretty famous at it's time, it was pretty small and it was very different. It was neat to be stationed there.

Patrick Henderson:

Question number seven: Did you have any other stations?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

Yea, after I was stationed on the USS Dynamic I was stationed AF66.1 also did what they call flyovers, which means I flew to a lot of different places because of what I was trained to do and so in-between my duty stations I spent a good bit of time working at Southern Norfolk where I would fly fi-om whatever place my ship in to Southern Norfolk to fly out to whatever naval station needed my services. I was a welder and then later on became a nuke welder. So after I was stationed at AF66 there were various things in between, things at Southern Norfolk and SIMA Little Creek. An instance in Florida and again in Pennsylvania and then I was stationed on the USS Puget Sound, which is a destroyer tender out of the northern Puget Sound.

Patrick Henderson:

Question number eight: What was your general opinion of the Navy?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

I was really young when I joined the navy, I was 17 when I joined, and my general opinion at that time, when I joined, was it was extremely difficult and I didn't fit in very well because still so young and it was really hard to also to fit into the different culture of the east coast, I am from California, so it was very difficult to... it was a real culture shock to move from California to the east coast and also I was very young and very quickly got married and became pregnant and had Patrick and so I got out of a lot of family stuff to work and my general opinion of the navy that it was a great deal of fun. Living on a ship is like living in a really small town, everybody knows everything about everybody all the time. It's a very good place to get a good education, which was what most of the people were there for. I also learned that the typical idea that civilians have of military people is incorrect. There's all type of military people, there's gays, lesbians, there's liberals and conservatives, there's intervention dating, there's hardcore Christians, there's hardcore Wiccans, there's people from the Philippines, there's people from Puerto Rico, people from Alaska, people from Texas, there's people from all types of life and all kinds and stages of life and so the picture that you see on television and the idea that you get about people with their life in the military is really screwed. I think that whatever administration likes to pretend that the armed forces are just one unit and really don't have an opinion other than lets just do our jobs, but I found that that is really not true, that the people in the whatever service can put all looks of ideas are very different and we may work as a unit because we were trying to do that in school and in boot camp it's not necessarily something that comes naturally.

Patrick Henderson:

Question number nine: What did you learn in the Navy?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

As far as?

Patrick Henderson:

As far as being a person and job training.

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

Well the job that I learned to do in the Navy was... when I initially took my test before I went in the Navy... you take a thing called an ASVAB test, which is a test giving the Navy an idea of what you might be good at. When I took my ASVAB test I scored really low on anything that had to do with mathematics and so I only had a couple of things opened to me, a couple types of jobs open to me and one of them was hall maintenance technician. Hall technicians are very unique in the Navy, in that we have very many different jobs. For example in the Navy if you are a craftsmen you draw up plans and that's what you do, if you're a photographer's mate you photograph things and you deal with photographing equipment and that's what you do, but if you're a hall maintenance technician you do everything from fire fighting damage to control to plumbing to metal work to carpentry to driving small boats, it's a huge range so I learned a little bit of everything, I learned how to do basic carpentry, I can work with basic carving tools, I learned how to do all types of metal working and welding, I can make, I can tape, I can plasma arc carve, I can use oxy 7 proteins, I can fire-fight several different types of fires, especially in closed places, I can delegate and I organize for damage control, for example if the boat gets hit by another ship or if it gets attacked I know what to do, I have a license to drive several types of large equipment as well as small boats. You realize there was a whole lot you didn't learn, I know how to do a great many things in basic ways. I learned how to take care of people and work with people and get them to do what you want them to do. I especially learned how to work with men because mostly my base was very much male dominated. I just for a long time the only women in a lot of my work centers so I would be the only women in there with these 16 guys or there would be 3 women and 90 guys and that would be about it. I learned how to get a long with all kinds of people because you're stuck on one ship with you know regular people in one bathing space and you would have to just have to get along, that was all there was to that.

Patrick Henderson:

Question number ten: How do your experiences in the Navy affect you now?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

One of the things I'm very affected by is that I learned in the Navy to be politically aware. The first taste of politics I had was when I was... lets see now I'm E4 I think.. .I'd only been in the Navy for 2 years maybe and we were watching Iran Contra on television and it was at the... the place where I was stationed had a huge 24" radio-screen TV, whatever the hell it was, and it was on all the time here and Contra was on and I was just stunned at what was going on Contra and I couldn't believe that for all the 29 cellules that the Reagan administration pulled out on the American people and everybody went to jail and I've always been stunned about that and I watched it unfolding and I watched people around me just sort of staring at it not believing what was going on and I think that changed the way that I think politically. I also remember that when I was overseas, going back and forth from the Persian Gulf for several years when I was in the Navy Star, I remember twisted weird things for the Bush administration. We were getting executive order for example on our ship to dump stores that we supposed to deliver to the refugees in the Persian Gulf and we just dumped our stores. That was an executive order, which means it went sfraight from the president to us with no in-between and that back then if people had been aware of something like that they would have been appalled. The types of things that went on during the first Bush administration during the first Gulf War and during the first... the first... oh not the first but during the time that America became involved in the Persian Gulf I think that the people got not really involved and of course it's really coming out and finding out what really happened. So I think that I learned to be really political there and I watched all my shipmates learn to be really political there and I watched more than a handful, a good many of them decided they weren't gonna be up in the armed forces because they couldn't keep doing what they were doing being enforcements, they couldn't keep domg what they were doing enforcing the lies of an adminisfration that they felt really uncomfortable with, they felt like they were doing weird things and immoral things and so we just decided to get out after 4 years and leave. Of course there's always a lot of people get in the armed forces that can't wait to get out anyway but that's just... they were in for... to learn training and get out, I mean they're anxious to get out but I saw a lot of my shipmates that were disgusted and appalled by the way the armed forces was being used to further political administrations in the middle east and we were really just sickened by it.

Patrick Henderson:

Question number eleven: What have you done since the Navy?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

When I first got out of the Navy I first went to work at Moffet Naval Shipyard, which is the largest shipyard in the United States and actually in the western hemisphere, it's huge, and I built and worked on additions for destroyers there and I didn't like it. It was a lot different than working for the Navy and I was hired for example as a shipmaster's helper even though I was a nuke welder in the Navy, Moffet Naval Shipyard didn't see it that way. So I was doing welder's and a burner's job for a shipmaster's helper's pay and that was really difficult and basically they wanted me to keep doing my job for something like 10 or 12 dollars less an hour an accountant because they didn't feel comfortable hiring a woman as a welder in and a burner. I'm not saying that I was necessarily... that my employer's were necessarily prejudiced against me because I was a woman, but I definitely felt like they weren't going to give me a raise in pay because of that, although I never pursued it or anything and I stopped working at Moffet Shipyard after 6 or 8 months I think I worked there. In the Navy... let's see moved to Florida I went to work for a company called Keith Marine which was a great deal of fim. They were building yachts in a really small shipyard in flat in Florida and fi-om there I went... I had an accident there and went to rehab. Where I went to chef school and I got my degree in culinary arts, I think I'm 2 months away fi-om getting my degree actually because we moved and I met my son's step father and we got married and moved around too because Patrick's step dad, Gary, was in the Navy at the time. So we moved to many places. Gary was stationed Gratin, Connecticut, North Folk, Virginia, Georgia, he was stationed in Georgia so we moved up and down the east coeist and then several years ago we moved back to California because I was home sick and I wanted to come home and Gary went to work for Pacific Bell and I opened up Highland Books in Arnold.

Patrick Henderson:

Question number twelve: Speaking of Highland Books, what is your current occupation and how is that?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

Well I three years ago I opened up a small used bookstore in Arnold and usually it was very hard, we, my family and I went on book-buying sprees and we would go to libraries sales and yard sales and whatnot and we just got boxes and boxes of books together and we opened up a bookstore. It's difficult in that we are subject to the varies of the economy, when you go to work for a company you get paid "x" amount of dollars for every hour and you pretty much know what your pay check is going to be like, but when you have your own business you have to count on people coming in the door and buying your books and Arnold is pretty slow during the not tourist times. So I have to wait till it's... till the tourists start coming in...you know the summer time and during school breaks...you know like Easter break and Christmas and stuff. So you have to hang on and wait for those times to come. But it's fun. I get to meet a lot of people from the community; it's something I really love, I've always loved doing it and it's been good. It definitely would not support us or our family if Gary did not have such a good job and worked so hard for Pac Bell.

Patrick Henderson:

Question number thirteen: And for the final question, what is your view on the world as you have been influenced in previous experiences such as the Navy and your experiences after the Navy and such?

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

I think Americans don't realize how small the world. I know that if people live their whole lives and they rarely leave their home state, the place they were born. I know that for example that when I come back to California, when I came back to California from the east coast I ran into the same people that I went to high school with, that really lived here and never left and I don't feel contemptuous of those people. What I feel is that they really don't know how small the world is. They don't understand how close together we all are and how small it is and how every little thing that the United States does affects every other country in the world and vice versa and things that happen in Italy and things that happen in Saudi Arabia and things that happen in Russia affect us. So I think that people that didn't get out, don't leave, didn't get out into the world a little bit, they don't consider the world as the whole world. Their world is just the United States. They're not citizens of the world. They're citizens of Nevada or citizens of Califomia and therefore they don't have any ideas or opinions or anything other than living in their own little world.

I think that the recent troubles in Iraq and Afghanistan have really pollarized people because there's a lot of people in this world that have no idea what other countries are like or what their experiences are like. They just live in their own little world and they cheerlead for their own little world and they want their own little world to be right and victorious. They're not willing to get out into the rest of the world and see there's a larger place and there's a lot more factors at stake and a lot more things going on.

I think that for example if military service were mandatory, if you had to do 2 years in the Navy or the Air Force or the Army or the Coast Guard, the Marine Corps. I think that we would have a much better educated population. Truly, they would see what it's like to send young men and women out to get killed because it would always be somebody in their family because... you know military service would be... there would be no choice. I mean you'd have to do it from the ages of 18 to 20 or whatever. And so I think that we would be a lot less anxious to send troops overseas if it was going to definitely be our daughter or definitely going to be our son. It's interesting to me that people will come into my store and they'll talk about the Gulf War and they'll talk about operation "Iraqi Freedom."

And they'll say yea... you know... I'm so proud of my country, I'm so proud to be an American. I think we really went over there and kicked some butt and I say "Oh, do you... you know...have some family that's over there. Do you have...you know...a son or a daughter that's..." and they'd say "O no I'd never let them over there. It's too dangerous." And so I kinda wonder about that. I wonder of the dichotomy of that. And I wonder what people are thinking when they support the actions of the United States, but yet they don't want their families or themselves personally involved. I wonder how they think. I wonder of the depth of their perception. I wonder how educated they have made themselves on the Middle East and the problems in the Middle East and our dependence on oil and... you know... whatever. I wonder if they are just repeating things they see on television.

Patrick Henderson:

Ok, thank you very much.

Jennifer Dutton-Cantrell:

Sure.

Patrick Henderson:

This interview took place on Wednesday, May 07 as part of the United States History project in Mrs. Truman's class at Bret Harte High School. This interview took place in White Pines, California, a small town located about 2 hours south of Lake Tahoe.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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