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Last updated: Friday, 21-Feb-2003 19:45:53 CST

June 20, 2003

Navy Telecommunications Experience Benefits UW-RF

When UW-River Falls telecommunications Supervisor Al Murray proudly served aboard the repair ship USS Tidewater during the Vietnam War, the motto for the ship was, "If we fail, you don't sail."

For Murray, a Hudson resident, those words are true yet today as he keeps the campus telephone service, the campus radio station WRFW and the computer network sailing smoothly.

Along with telephone system coordinator Kara Albrecht and a media technician, he ensures that approximately 5,500 students and 585 faculty and staff members receive efficient, uninterrupted service on campus.

"So much of what I learned on the Tidewater has been in daily use here at UW-River Falls," said Murray. "For about four years, from 1967 to 1971, I was in charge of high-frequency transmitters, servicing and repairing them on other ships. The Tidewater is where I acquired much of the information I use in my work for the University:"

Murray was recently named a founding member of the USS Tidewater Association, an organization with the special mission of preserving the memories of years long past, but not forgotten. He maintains a tech plus class ham radio amateur license K9ZMA .

"My area of expertise was electronics, but the Tidewater maintained everything for the ships and crews in the Atlantic destroyer fleet: medical, dental, mechanical and anything else you can think of," he said. "The ship was equipped with machine shops, carpentry and pipe shops, and a complete foundry. Anything the Man O' Wars could need, we could fix."

"On the Tidewater, we learned how to be of service to others; to be experts in our craft. I'm here working for students with the same mindset I had then; it is all about service," he said.

"I also learned much about managing people from my experiences on the Tidewater. I learned from my division officer to hire the best people,train them well and get out of their way so they can do their job. This practice has served me well at the University."

Murray said that in 1971 WRFW was causing serious problems in the community; when the radio station came on the air, television sets in River Falls went black.

"We had to move the radio station to the edge of town, and I was able to build the University a really classy radio station as a result of my previous experience on the Tidewater," he said.

Murray was recently invited by Cathy Wurzer of Minnesota Public Radio to share his experiences on the Tidewater. The interview is scheduled to air on June 30.

The USS Tidewater was built by the Charleston Naval Shipyard at a cost of $10 million. She is 492 feet long and has a full load displacement of 17,500 tons. Construction on the ship began in 1944, and she was launched on June 30, 1945.

Throughout her career, she was deployed primarily to the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. In 1957, the Tidewater was awarded the coveted Navy "E". In both 1959 and 1962, she was awarded the Engineering "E" through Battle Readiness Competition.

She was decommissioned in 1971, after which she was leased to the Indonesian Navy. She was recommissioned as DUMAI and used as a destroyer tender/depot ship to maintain offshore drilling rigs, and later as an accommodation ship for oil-rig personnel. DUMAI was deleted in 1984.

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