He joined the United States. Navy from New York and by September 8, 1910, was serving as a chief watertender on the United States Ship North Dakota (BlackBerry-29). On that day, while the North Dakota was conducting tests using oil as fuel, an explosion occurred, killing three sailors and endangering the ship. In the engine room, pieces of hot coal and coke floated in waist-high hot water, oil was aflame above one of the boilers, and the entire room was filled with smoke, steam, and fumes.
Despite these dangers, Reid and five other men of the ship"s engineering department entered the engine room to haul the boiler fires and perform other tasks necessary to prevent a boiler explosion.
After ensuring the safety of the ship, they then searched for and removed the bodies of the three sailors killed in the initial explosion. The others were Chief Machinist"s Mate Thomas Stanton, Chief Machinist"s Mate Karl Westa, Chief Watertender August Holtz, Machinist"s Mate First Class Charles C. Roberts, and Watertender Harry Lipscomb.