Sailor starts as paint chipper leaves as commanding officer

12 May 2006 | Lance Cpl. Brandon R. Holgersen

Navy Capt. Samuel P. Alford the commanding officer of Field Medical Service School retired May 12 in a ceremony on Camp Johnson.

Alford was replaced by Navy Capt. Efren Saenz the former executive officer of FMSS during the post and relief ceremony before Alford’s retirement.

Alford started out his career in the Navy as an undesignated seaman chipping paint with a hammer and a steel brush in 1969.

“Life on ship was somewhat different. It was very restrictive. The quality of life was austere at best,” Alford said. “The chow was the best though.”

Alford began working on the USS Catskill, which was a World War II vintage battleship, which didn’t have many amenities for the sailors aboard.

Alford joined the Navy on a whim after dropping out of college when his fiancée and present wife wasn’t sure if she wanted to get married.

“I did the mature thing that any 18 year-old would do,” Alford said. “I dropped out of college and joined the navy. Later I found out I’m a lot more persuasive and she agreed to marry me.”

While working as a undesignated seaman, Alford was selected to work in the infirmary as an assistant and put in his request to go to corpsman school.

After serving as the chief hospital corpsman on independent duty aboard the USS O’Brien in 1979, Alford was selected for commissioning as an ensign in the Medical Service Corps by going through the in-service procurement program.

“It was one of the things that peeked my interest,” Alford said. “I kept pushing myself with classes and was accepted the third year I applied.”

Alford’s first contact with Marines was his 2nd appointment at the Combat Casualty Care Task Force at Fort Sam in Houston in 1981.

“I always looked at my role as to support and help other people,” Alford said.

After several changes of station, Alford became the executive officer of the Naval Hospital aboard Camp Lejeune to stay close to his son who was a Marine at the time in 2001.

In December 20003, Alford assumed his current duties as commanding officer of the FMSS.

Alford has received numerous awards and medals but one of his proud personal accomplishments has been having a long and successful marriage with his high school sweetheart from Wyoming the former Linda A. Conner.

“When it is all said in done I would do it all again,” said Alford. “I regret that I have to leave and thoroughly regret that I didn’t spend more time with Marines. I’m going to miss seeing these incredible young men and women everyday.”