Mervel H. Turner
Petty Officer 2nd Class
U. S. Navy
Dates of Service: 08/25/1989 - 03/23/1997
Electronic Technician, USS Aquila PHM-Y

Mervel was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and grew up across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, Indiana, as one of three children of James David Turner, a minister, and Betty Lou Norris Turner. His parents divorced when he was "two or three years old." He says, "I stayed with my mother and maybe saw my father five or six times in my whole life, so I don't really know him." The children lived with their mother, who worked as a binder at a paper company. While he attended churches of the Pentecostal, Southern Baptist, and Assembly of God denominations, he later converted to Catholicism. To earn money, Mervel washed dishes at Luca's Pizza and worked in "the very first store" of Papa Johns Pizza in Jeffersonville. After graduating from Jeffersonville High School in May of 1989, he attended Prosser School of Technology, where he trained in electronics, a field that captured his interest as a child. On August 25, 1989 he entered the US. Navy, which had guaranteed him he would work on the component level of the circuit board of electronics. In boot camp at Orlando Naval Training Center, he trained with women recruits. "It was a big distraction to say the least," he recalls. After boot camp he entered Service School Command in Orlando, where he began training as an electronics technician. The second half of the school was at Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois, where he finished that course with a rating of ET (Electronics Technician). In Virginia Beach, Virginia he finished another school for the enlisted qualification of IFF (Identification of Friend or Foe) technician. Much of his training was in radar. In February of 1991 he was sent to Key West, Florida and assigned to Patrol Combatant Missile Hydrofoil Squadron 2, part of Mobile Logistics Support Group. There he served aboard several hydrofoil vessels of the Pegasus class, including the USS Aquila, Taurus, and Hercules. These hydrofoils held crews of twenty-five. Some of the work involved pursuit of drug runners who used cigarette boats. "If they ran from us we would chase them down," Mervel says. "If they decided to keep running after we've asked them several dozen times to stop, we would put the Coast Guard in charge, because technically the U.S. Navy cannot do drug interdiction." Command on his vessel, he says, would temporarily transfer to an onboard Coast Guard officer. Several times drug runners fired on his vessel. Mervel's primary job was on the Hydrofoil Collision Avoidance and Tracking System (HICATS), in which, as shipping officer aboard, he tracked and monitored targets on the radar. He passed the information to the Officer of the Deck of anything suspicious he saw on radar. If the ship stopped a drug runner vessel, he says, a Coast Guard contingent boarded the vessel and confiscated contraband. He recalls finding one ship loaded with "120 to 130" bales of marijuana. Vessels suspected of containing drugs were seized and often cut into one-foot sections to find illegal cargo. "You just didn't have a lot of free time," he says of days that often stretched to eighteen hours. He slept where he worked in the electronic equipment room, which was much cooler than the rest of the ship. Once, his vessel picked up "four or five" Cuban refugees in a boat. "We took them back to Key West," he says. "They were nice people. We didn't have them handcuffed or anything. They were just hungry and tired and scared." Mervel next served at NATO's Satellite Ground Terminal F-15 as a technician, located at Keflavik Naval Station in Iceland. He married Cynthia Lee Baez in April of 1995. (They have one stepson.) Returning to Key West he went to work for Caribbean Regional Operations Control Center as an electronic technician for long-hauled data communications. While there Mervel received injuries to his head, neck, and lower back when a power panel fell from a bulkhead. He left active duty in March of 1997, but worked as a civilian at the same job, employed by the contractor instead of the Navy. He then came to Shreveport to work for General Dynamics Networks System at 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, where he was "taking care of their secret and top-secret networks. He retired in 2003.