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History and Heritage

Made in the USN

Haney's Series of Fortunate Events

Dr. Randall Haney, Lt. Cmdr. (Ret.) was a fifth grade dropout. Born In 1948 in rural Alabama, Haney had an unstable and at times volatile youth.

He and his mother were constantly on the move and by the time he reached fifth grade, he had attended 18 different schools. At the tender age of 12 Randall had enough and was ready to go out and make his own way.

Haney soon found himself picking oranges in an orchard in Florida, and later washing dishes in a diner seven days a week, 12 hours a day. His childhood dream of flying airplanes began to fade on the horizon, replaced by the uncertain future of hard labor and long hours.

However, the dream would soon reappear on Haney's radar with his decision to seek a military enlistment.

In his own words, Haney tells how a series of unlikely events led him to a great career and turned a dream into a reality.

In 1966 our town experienced its first casualty in Vietnam. I am not sure what motivated us to do it but my best friend George and I had agreed that we would volunteer for the draft and enter the Army on the buddy program.

The Army took George and rejected me. They told me I was too light to carry a rifle and too dumb to be taught how to use it.

He said, "If all-out war breaks out they might use you, but you should count your blessings and go home."

Not one to give up, I went to the Army recruiter and asked him if I could enlist. He asked to see my draft card, which I showed him.

He said, "You were rejected by the draft."

I told him I knew I was rejected for the draft, but hoped I could still enlist in the Army.

He said, "Boy you don't understand, the Army is the draft. We can't take you."

I must have looked pretty dejected coming out of the office.

The Navy recruiter, standing in his doorway, asked, "What is wrong with you? You look pretty disappointed."

I told him I was trying to get in the Army but that they did not want me. I gave him the whole story. He asked me if I would be interested in the Navy at which point I gave him a resounding "YES!"

We went into his office and he gave me a 100-question test. I missed three questions on the test. He told me that he wanted to send me to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery to let the Navy doctor have a look at me.

I saw a Navy doctor at the Armed Forces Induction Center there at Maxwell and he told me I was underweight because I was losing protein through my kidneys and that it was treatable. Until then, I had no idea that I had any medical problems at all. He recommended a medication to me and told me to get it from my local doctor and come back in six months for a weigh-in.

I did as he said. The pills turned out to be as big as horse pills. I dutifully took them and ate ice cream three times a day. Six months later I returned as ordered to the induction center. I first saw a Navy corpsman. He put me on the scale and I was, to my dismay, one pound underweight.

The corpsman said, "Water weighs seven pounds a gallon. Before the Doc comes in go out to the fountain and drink all the water you can hold."

I did. I slushed my way back into the office. In just a minute the Doc came in and told me to jump on the scale. It was just enough. That corpsman and his water fountain turned out to be the first of a series of events that changed the rest of my life.

September 5th, 1967, I took my first airplane ride from Montgomery, Ala., to San Diego. Upon arrival, I was terrorized by a young Marine drill instructor who, unbeknownst to me, was in charge of getting the Navy recruits to the proper place. For the first hour, I was afraid I had accidentally joined the Marine Corps. He did get me to the right spot though, and I got settled in at Naval Training Center San Diego, my home for the next 16 weeks.

It did not take long though for my company to figure out that I was a fifth-grade dropout and that I was there because the Army had rejected me. The harassment was relentless. Even my company commander was on my back. He was sure I would be the first to drop out of his company.

After eight weeks I had proven myself academically and physically, and the chief seemed to have taken a liking to me. For service week our company was sent to the galley to run the scullery. The chief sent me to the indoor rifle range to work for the weapons instructor there. That was a cushy job for a mountain boy that loved his rifle.

As graduation grew near we had to sit down with a counselor that would, more or less, tell us what we were going to do for the next four years. My counselor happened to be from the same area of Alabama as me and he quickly warmed up to me because of our geographical connection. Thus began the second event that changed my life.

He asked me what I thought about being an aviation electrician's mate. I told him electricity and airplanes both interested me but that I did not meet the qualifications. He said, "Don't worry, study hard and they will teach you everything you need to know".

I agreed to give it a try and he issued me orders to Naval Air Technical Training Center Jacksonville, Fla. In December 1967, I headed home to take leave prior to classes starting in Jacksonville in January.

During my two-week visit home, I learned that my best friend George had been killed in the war. If the Army had allowed me to join as his buddy, I most likely would not be able to tell this story.

I reported to my "A" school with the mindset that it would be a piece of cake, and it was, for the first two weeks. Then we started working with math. I did not know how to spell Algebra, much less work the problems. I started to fail the course and was called into the office where I would receive the third of the three incredible interventions.

"Son, do you want to work on airplanes or chip paint?" the chief asked me.

He then recommended that I start to learn math on my own.

I followed his advice and taught myself math for eight hours every evening after class. Within six months, I had caught up to with my classmates and ended up graduating in the top 10 percent of my class, which allowed me to pick my next duty station. I was now thirsty for as much education as I could get, and chose aircrew school.

I attended two more schools after aircrew school and by the time I hit my two-year mark, I had spent my whole career in school. It was the beginning of my formal education and my desire to learn everything I could while in the Navy.

Opportunity came early and often, and by the time I retired from the Navy I had earned a GED from the state of Texas, an associate's degree from University of the State of New York, and a bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Very near the end of my career, the Navy sent me to Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey, Calif. Following my retirement, I earned a doctorate at University of North Florida where I wrote a policy paper that lead to a grant of more than $35 Million in facilities, equipment, aircraft and funding for an aircraft maintenance school in an economically-challenged community in Florida.

  • Navy Photo

    Haney enjoys a few moments of retirement with his dog, Jaxon, on his "Double K Ranch". Although he has retired from multiple careers and still has a full time job as an educator, Haney owns and operates a working cattle and dairy farm.

  • Navy Photo

    Haney demonstrates a training module designed to help students learn to work on ventilation systems in aircraft. Haney was instrumental in the creation of the Alabama Aviation Center, which trains students in airframe mechanics and maintenance.

  • Navy Photo

    During his time on liberty, Haney spent as much time as he could in airplanes. Here he prepares to fly in a vintage bi-plane during an afternoon off.

  • Navy Photo

    Haney poses with his future wife Peggie while he was home on leave early in his career. He proposed marriage during their first date and they were soon married.

  • Navy Photo

    The young airman Haney poses in his flight suit early in his career. Although he only had a fifth-grade education, the Navy helped him live out his childhood dream of working with and flying airplanes.

  • Navy Photo

    Boaz City Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Randall Haney is responsible for helping run the school system, but he takes every opportunity to speak to students about taking control of their future.

The Navy created my thirst for education and that evolved into a drive to share education with others. From my first opportunity to teach in 1974 when I earned the Certified Flight Instructor rating, to now where I am the assistant superintendent of education for Boaz City Schools in Boaz, Ala., the Navy has made it possible.

The Navy has also allowed me to fulfill the dream of becoming a certified instrument instructor, an aircraft inspector and a commercially certified pilot.

I have achieved all of these things because a Navy recruiter saw something in me, a Navy doctor diagnosed my medical problem and a chief petty officer motivated me to learn math.

Today I've got skills. All the things I've learned in the Navy, all the experiences I have from traveling and working in the Navy - all of it has the Navy brand on it.