Originally from Mount Gilead, Ohio, Pollock attended the United States Naval Academy and, as a cadet, was assigned to the USS Lancaster and the USS Monocacy. He graduated with a rank of ensign in 1893.
After graduation, Pollock returned to Ohio and married Beatrice E. Law Hale on December 5. Two weeks later, he was assigned to the cruiser USS New York (ACR-2) during its initial shake-down. He was subsequently assigned to the gunboat USS Machias (PG-5) for an expedition to China. He remained in China for two and a half years as part of the Asiatic Squadron, then transferring to the USS Detroit before returning home in 1897. On his return home, the Spanish-American War was heating up and he was reassigned to the USS New York, to see service in Cuba and Puerto Rico, eventually taking part in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba.
In January 1900, he was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to the USS Alliance. Over the following year he served on the USS Dolphin and the USS Buffalo. On board the Buffalo, he returned to the Asiatic Squadron near China and was finally transferred to the USS Brooklyn, the squadron's flagship. He remained on board the Brooklyn, until its return home in May 1902. After a brief leave, Pollock was assigned to the USS Chesapeake (as the watch and division officer), a position he held for more than one year. He was subsequently transferred to the USS Cincinnati, serving for another year, and then to Cavite Naval Base. At Cavite, he was promoted to lieutenant commander in February 1906.
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