NAPLES, Italy — Times sure have changed since Petty Officers 1st Class Vadim Gudin and Sergey Kruglov first entered military service.
Gudin, a former Soviet Army tank driver, was trained to defend against a seaborne invasion by enemy naval forces. Kruglov, who did six years as a naval academy cadet, trained to fight as a navigator on a submarine.
In each case, they were training to fight the U.S. Navy.
Now, both Russian natives are serving in that same U.S. Navy at Naval Support Activity Naples: Gudin as a security patrolman and Kruglov as the assistant leading petty officer in the chief master-at-arms office.
Gudin started his military career as a conscript in the Soviet Army between 1986 and 1988, serving in the Russian Far East.
Kruglov did his mandatory service as a cadet at the high engineering marine academy in the Black Sea port of Odessa between 1981 and 1987. There, he earned a reserve lieutenant’s commission and a degree as a merchant mariner.
“When you graduated you got two degrees — a military and a civilian degree,” he explained.
Kruglov joined a merchant ship in the Soviet Far East and later another back in the Black Sea, eventually rising to second mate before the collapse of the Soviet Union. After that fall, Kruglov worked for Greek and German shipping companies before “winning” a U.S. green card in 1995. He moved from Odessa to San Francisco that July, but his stay there didn’t last long.
“In September I was already in Chicago for boot camp,” he said. Though this was his first enlistment, it wasn’t his first encounter with the U.S. Navy.
He had seen two American warships while serving as a cadet — a frigate in the Persian Gulf and an aircraft carrier in the Suez Canal.
“The frigate tried to stop our boat,” he said about the 1984 encounter in which his ship was delivering weapons to Iraq during its war with Iran. “I can see it (the frigate) sending a (flashing light) signal to our boat,” Kruglov said. “Our captain said, ‘No, our Russian boat will never stop.’
“I am thinking about it, and now I am in the U.S. military,” he said.
Both said that the conscripted Soviet military and all-volunteer U.S. force are worlds apart.
“The whole idea is different,” Gudin said. “It’s like a prison (in the Soviet Army). You were there against your will.
“Here, I volunteered,” he said. “I liked the idea of serving my new country.”
Gudin first enlisted in 1993, serving six years as a machinery repairman in San Francisco and Everett, Wash., before leaving active duty for the Reserve.
He was recalled to active duty in Oct. 2001 while working as a computer programmer.
“I was ripped off my computer desk to guard a submarine base,” he said jokingly.
He’s since decided to remain on active duty and also changed jobs to become a master-at-arms, the Navy’s security police.
“I’m in it for the global war on terrorism,” he said.
Kruglov said he’ll also be making the U.S. Navy a career, having already served on two warships.
“I like being on the bridge (of a ship),” he said. “You see all the sunrises and sunsets, the waves and the wind.”