Many shipmates who have enjoyed the past eleven reunions (or any part of them) have Jerry (Mouse) Mouton to thank. He has personally located a large portion of the shipmates that appear on today’s roster. He has attended all but one of the reunions. He officially hosted the New Orleans reunion, and has assisted in hosting many more. He will be hosting the 12th Reunion in San Diego in 2018.
Jerry was the second born of six children. Three brothers were born deaf and later became blind. The other brother and sister had learning disabilities, so Jerry became responsible for taking care of his siblings at an early age.
After graduating from high school in 1966 Jerry started working for his uncle in his contracting business building houses. He worked as a carpenter’s helper, where his uncle’s only evidence of showing favoritism was to be sure he assigned Jerry all the dirty jobs.
During the next year he witness many friends being drafted or joining the military. He had always wanted to join the Air Force, and I was fascinated at the places his Mom’s brother went while in the Air Force. However, after checking out the branches he selected the Navy.
Jerry joined the US Navy October 26, 1967 and with this commitment, he changed his whole life. When he told his parents he had enlisted and was leaving the following week they were not too excited. In fact, his father made the comment that he should make sure that he was far away from him when I finally acknowledged that it was a big mistake. He called his dad from Hong Kong and asked if that was far enough away. (However, Jerry did not think he had made a mistake.)
Jerry had his first experience flying when he flew from New Orleans to San Diego to boot camp. Boot camp was not as bad as he expected. After living under his Dad’s roof, it was a piece of cake. In addition to spending much of his energy taking care of his brothers and sisters, he lived a structured life style with parents who had lived through the depression and WWII (many of you were impacted by having parents who experience the same thing).
Orders to his first duty station were posted just before his class graduated, and he noticed that he was going to FORSEADU. Jerry was very excited because he thought this must be some exotic, tropical island because on his location wish list his three choices had been Hawaii, Hawaii and Hawaii. Well, let’s just say he was surprised and disappointed to learn that FORSEADU was an acronym for Foreign Sea Duty (Vietnam).
Jerry reported aboard the USS Mauna Kea AE-22 February 5th, 1968. The ship was docked in Alameda, CA after going through some yard work. Chief Gunners Mate Hedrick had the OOD watch and as he had been taught in boot camp, Jerry snapped to attention and with a salute sounded off with “SA Mouton reporting as ordered, Sir”. Chief Hedrick asked “What are you striking for Lad” to which Jerry replied, “storekeeper”. Hedrick said “That’s great. You will make a great gunners mate”. Jerry was a little confused, but realized when they put him in 3rd division berthing that he had no control over what he would be doing.
For Jerry, this turned out to be a great division to be assigned to. He remembers two shipmates coming to his rescue - FTG Hollington and GMG Nadlicki. These two guys took him under their wings and taught him the Queen’s English. Jerry spoke “Cajun”. He had a thick accent and spoke a little bit different from the rest of the guys on the ship.
Nadlicki was Jerry’s first mentor. He worked with Nadlicki in Hole #3 and he taught Jerry the art of driving a forklift. It was not long before Jerry was” NASCAR qualified”. Speed during replenishment was an essential. He did not realize what a workhorse the Mauna Kea was. They were replenishing at all hours of the day and night and had a reputation of being the best AE in WestPac. Mauna Kea sailors also had the reputation for fighting in Olongapo City, Philippines as well as on Grande Island. Jerry doesn’t believe they fought because they were mad. He believes they fought because of Ship’s pride. Some fought because they just loved to fight.
On Jerry’s second cruise he was given the assignment of Hole Captain for Hole # 2 in early 1969. That was the cargo hole where special weapons were stored. Jerry had just made 3rd class petty officer and was loaded down with responsibility. He was 21 years of age and believes he would have never been exposed to anything so important in civilian life.
He defended the special weapons well. One day, BM David Cannon stepped out of the mess hall and heard the sound of heavy boots on the deck approaching. He looked up and saw “Mouse” running toward him carrying a Thompson sub-machine gun that was bigger than he was. Cannon quickly retreated into the mess hall and Jerry continued to respond to the alarm sounding in Hole #2.
Countless replenishments on Yankee Station and through the Corps, steaming on liberty to different ports in the Far East, and playing on the ship’s softball team made the time fly for Jerry. By Nov. ’69 they were back in the States and Jerry now had two WestPac cruises under his belt. He went home on leave in December and when he reported back orders were waiting for him to transfer to the USS Ponchatoula AO-148 in Hawaii. Finally, he got his wish from his dream sheet in boot camp. He reported on aboard on March 22, and a couple days later deployed for WestPac (Hawaii was back on the wish list). This was his third cruise in just a little over 2 years in the Navy. He came back to Pearl Harbor November ’70. So finally, his dream sheet came true!
Duties on the USS Ponchatoula were different from those on the Maua Kea. Jerry began working in his rate as a gunners mate full time. He had made second class and was responsible for the four aft twin mounts. He supervised all maintenance and PMS work. There was a 1st Class gunny that helped him get in step with the PMS system and made the transition easier from a forklift driver to a maintenance/ordnance mechanic. Jerry stated the Navy was good about having someone there to help you.
Jerry was assigned to Fox Division. They were gunnery and their responsibilities were to maintain the guns and to man the manila highline transfers. They would transfer personnel or retrograde from different warships. One important manila highline project was the Apollo 14 recovery mission in January 1971. The Ponchatoula bounced around in the South Pacific practicing picking up a dummy capsule until the Apollo Capsule came down. They were the secondary recovery vessel and you know they didn’t stand a chance of picking up the capsule with the USS New Orleans there as primary recovery vessel. Once they recovered the capsule, the New Orleans went to Australia and the Ponchatoula went to Pago Pago Island. It sounds good, but there is nothing but a dock there.
Jerry returned to Pearl Harbor in February and played softball until July (tough duty) when he was transferred to Treasure Island for separation.
Jerry really thought long and hard about staying in, but his Mom and Dad needed his help with his brothers and his Dad was not doing well. He decided to go back home and finish up his college and go to work. While attending college he met his wife-to-be, Gwen, and her two little boys. They were married and Jerry continued his college education. They had another boy and a baby girl. Jerry finished college two semesters after their baby daughter was born.
Jerry worked full time while in college and during the summers worked full time offshore. The university had a 7/7 summer semesters for offshore workers. It was tough but he made it. Gwen would do house cleaning and cooking to make the extra money they would need. When he graduated from college, he went to work right away for a drilling contractor as a rig move engineer. He would plan and supervise the movement of rig equipment from offshore platform to platform. That is where he got his start in the Oil and Gas Sector. Eventually he went into the business development side of the business and retired after 40 years this past November, 2016. He progressed from offshore labor to Vice President of Marketing during his career.
Gwen and Jerry raised their four children, all of which served their country. They have one daughter still in the Navy. She is the one that is living Jerry’s dream - Chief Petty Officer in Supply. In addition to raising their own four children, Gwen and Jerry raised a niece and nephew along with several other family members. Don’t forget that they were also taking care of his brothers and sister. Jerry’s job required that he be away from home much of the time, and Gwen continued to take care of family. Jerry has two deaf and blind brothers and one sister that are still alive. Only several years ago, they were able to obtain a residence for his two brothers in a Deaf and Blind community where they are doing well and are happy. Bravo Zulu to Jerry and Gwen.
Jerry has a number of hobbies that he enjoyed while he was working, but now has more time to devote to them.
He owns ’67 and ’70 Super Sport ‘396 Chevelle’s that have been completely restored. He also owns a 1996 Corvette Convertible with the Grand Sport Package, which Jerry says, “runs like a spotted ape”.
Jerry collects Navy patches from the Vietnam era and ships relics (has relics from the USS Ponchatoula AO-148). Relics were recovered from the fantail of this ship and Jerry was involved in a memorial in which a 1/7 fantail replica was dedicated in Ponchatoula, LA in May, 2016.
Gwen and Jerry
St. Augustine - 2015
Relics from Ponchatoula
I brought the Segram 7 -where's the popcorn?
USS MAUNA KEA AE-22 Reunions
Fantail Replica of Ponchatoula.
Dedicated in Ponchatoula, LA
Deal me out - I'm broke
Charleston - 2017
He is interested in Genealogy. He has researched his family all the way back to the American Revolution. His family has a rich history in Cajun Music. He is in the process of putting together a book about this part of his history. Jerry was recently interviewed on a TV documentary about his family’s influence on the Cajun music.
And, of course, Jerry still enjoys looking for shipmates. He started this project with Dick States and Randy Dietz in the mid 90’s and he is still finding them. Thank you for your efforts in this area.
Jerry stated that working on this biography brought up feelings about his life that he has really not revealed to many people. He said, “I am ate up with NAVY.” He has over thirty t-shirts imprinted with something about the Navy. He has 4 or 5 ball caps with NAVY on them so there is no mistake which branch of the service he was in when strangers see him. The only thing missing is a “U.S.N.” tattoo on his arm. (It may happen yet.) He describes the closeness he has developed with his shipmates as something like a brotherly encounter. Due to the family history of his handicapped brothers, Jerry says that these reunions are exciting times to share with his NAVY buddies all we did in the past. Gwen said that she can almost repeat the stories verbatim. All in all, his NAVY buddies helped him to develop a strong base in starting his adult life. Jerry remembers like it was yesterday steaming up and down I, II and III corps, sitting on the bits at the armory with a radio hanging from the port hole and popping some jiffy pop popcorn on the hot plate, and listening to Arm Forces Vietnam Radio, or being up forward drinking martinis at radio II. And let’s not forget to mention the spade card games on the mess decks.
Our highlighted shipmate:
'67 Super Sport Chevelle
It's not a Corvette, but it's fast.
I believe we can all agree that Jerry has good memories of his time in the Navy, and loves his brother shipmates. The feeling is mutual, brother.
Jerry, thank you for your service.
We look forward to seeing Jerry in San Diego...
"Mouse" and Hollington
Nadlicki, "Mouse", and Hollington.
'70 Super Sport Chevelle
San Antonio - 2009
Retirement - No schedule, no business suit, no razor???.
uy Copyright © Susan Cannon.