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U.S. Navy submarine training: "Where a nuke can be a nuke"
Old 06-03-2008, 06:32 PM   #1
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U.S. Navy submarine training: "Where a nuke can be a nuke"

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Originally Posted by redduck View Post
Nords (or, anyone else).
... while I don't doubt submarine training is also tough, I can't picture it. Could you describe it a bit? Thanks.
With apologies to Chuck E. Cheese, the thread title summarizes nuclear submarine training. My spouse observes that the sub force is populated by very bright people of limited social proficiency yet with an exhausting stamina that wears others down before it wears them out. She also wants to thank the board for letting me post this work of occupational therapy.

Unlike the British Navy (or StarFleet!), where officers can specialize in deck or weapons or engineering, the U.S. submarine force still requires every officer to go through nuclear power training. (Even naval aviators have to endure it before they can command aircraft carriers.) This emphasis can lead to a lack of shiphandling & weapons skills. The nuke mindset also tends to drive away many candidates while attracting some who may lack the emotional & empathetic skills to be truly inspirational leaders-- although there are exceptions. But if the situation calls for a dangerous & highly-structured environment with strict procedural compliance, broad technical skills, Vulcan-like logical analysis, and iron endurance... cool-- let's run engineering drills, too!

Nuclear training takes a year, and here's the first six months. I was considered a marginal performer so I was encouraged to study at least six hours a weekday and 20 (twenty) hours on weekends. I was usually in by 6 AM, on break around 3-5 PM, and back at it until 11 PM. (Not much time for housekeeping & exercise, let alone personal hygiene or a social life.) Exams were two-hour essays with all calculations shown & explained. Submarine students had also been paid a $3000 bonus and were constantly spending it on caffeine threatened with recoupment if they flunked.

After Orlando I drove to the frozen, blasted Arctic wasteland resort town of Ballston Spa, NY to qualify as Engineering Officer of the Watch (EOOW). Its reactors were all land-based prototypes of what eventually became classes of submarine & ship reactor plants. The site literally operated 24/7. IIRC students worked 8 AM - 8 PM for seven straight days and then took a day off. They shifted to swings (noon - midnight) for seven more straight days, took two days off, and then did seven lovely days of mids from 8 PM to 8 AM before getting four days off. I was one of the lucky ones living only 10 minutes from the plant. The Idaho Falls prototype had to bus its students in from an hour away, and a few hardy souls "saved time" by backpacking in their food & uniforms and just living at the plant's bunkroom for the seven days. Once you were a qualified EOOW (about five months into a six-month school) you could cut back to the staff's eight-hour days, but you also attended additional classes at odd hours.

Prototype's bi-weekly exams were four-hour essays and qualification was a two-hour oral board before a half-dozen senior staff. You were expected to be under constant mental stress and performance pressure, especially on watch or at a board. Another plant developed an innovative method of putting students under stress during the boards. They literally splashed an ensign with a dilute solution of gasoline in water (just enough for the smell) and then-- as he answered questions & drew diagrams on the board while drip-drying-- they struck kitchen matches. The ensign passed and kept his mouth shut but the smell word eventually leaked to the press. Other than that scandal, several of my classmates overworked themselves into the hospital (one for a weekend of suicide watch), but almost everyone graduated and received a second bonus of $3000.

After nuclear training, submarine school was a three-month party. We learned basic submarine design & operations but usually had our homework done before the day's classes ended.

Reporting aboard your first sub as an ensign earned you the designation of "FLOB"-- free-loading oxygen breather. Within a week you were expected to justify your existence (and sub pay) by qualifying as a supervisor of the ventilation lineup for charging the sub's battery. As the most junior officer, you were voluntold to do this lineup whenever the battery needed charging-- at LEAST three times a week anytime of the day or night, import or at sea. You were also handed a foot-high stack of qualification cards for EOOW (usually on a different reactor from prototype), Engineering inport Duty Officer, Diving Officer of the Watch, JOOD, OOD, Ship's inport Duty Officer, submarine officer, and even command. You were expected to qualify EOOW in 4-6 months, OOD within 12 months, and be wearing your gold dolphins by 18 months. Sleep, leave, and liberty were optional motivators. Spouses & children were either an inconvenience or a retention incentive.

Like Gumby, my first sub was a boomer so I was also expected to qualify at decoding nuclear release orders and ripple-launching ICBMs. Weapons drills were usually evenings & weekends (can't interfere with engineering drills!) so by 9 PM you were usually quite happy to trade nuclear Armageddon for a nap before you took the midwatch. (At sea it was considered funny to trick the newest crewmember into believing that a launch drill was actually the real thing.) The rest of the U.S. military's efforts notwithstanding, I believe that we pissed-off nukes with our hair-trigger reputation were a powerful deterrent to Soviet aggression.

As you qualified (and forever after) you trained incessantly and ran drills. Every weekday morning was generally three hours of engineering drills followed by several weekly afternoons of engineering training seminars. (Weapons drills & ship's drills filled the "spare" afternoons and many evenings.) This routine also continued import unless you were in drydock or other really nasty maintenance. Your CO would scram the reactor anytime, day or night, and you'd have to recover it within an hour (usually within 15 minutes) or the entire crew would have to help you fix your mess. Other times you'd have to fight shipwide fires, evade torpedoes, and conduct missile attacks-- sometimes simultaneously and so frequently that it became reflex. By the time I'd been aboard my attack sub for a year, I could take the crew from "deeper than 800 feet" and significantly "in excess of 25 knots" to periscope depth within 20 minutes. In an emergency I once did it in six minutes. For real bragging rights we did it in total darkness wearing emergency air-breathing masks. I could operate all of the dozen officer-permitted features of the Type 18 multi-purpose periscope with my eyes shut.

To improve your quality of life, you had to train your subordinates or you'd never get out of three-section duty. This put a certain relentless pressure down the chain of command. "#$^ing non-quals" were expected to be eternally on station to obtain practical experience and qualification signatures. Failure to maintain progress meant you were a "dink" and sometimes even restricted onboard import. My progress was reviewed daily by other lieutenants before I was "allowed" to watch the evening movie. (It wasn't a privilege worth pursuing.) On my first sub, even after I was wearing my dolphins, we held Saturday-morning interviews with the CO. If I was ready to knowledgably and articulately discuss a topic about qualification for command, he might sign it off. If I wasn't ready then he'd review my division's equipment deficiency logs or even (*shudder*) offer to let me help the XO on "special projects". With those incentives I qualified for command way ahead of the pack.

At the end of the first sea tour, certifying as Engineer Officer was a two-day affair at Naval Reactors HQ in Washington, DC. You started in homeport with a "review" school for six weeks of 12-hour days (or longer). You'd read the entire Reactor Plant Manual (a six-foot stack), research the answers to arcane nuclear trivia, and get passed around guest interviews with COs of other submarines or squadron staff. After six weeks of verbal abuse you were judged as needed back on the duty roster marginally ready. The exam's first day was a five-hour essay followed by three separate interviews with the NR staff who'd just graded your exam. Any knowledge deficiencies on the exam would be thoroughly wire-brushed explored during the interviews, with bonus rounds for shaky performers.

It wasn't all endless drudgery-- at sea, on Friday nights we'd eat pizza and play poker. Squabbles would break out over probability analysis or game-theory betting strategies. We had fun with our own projects, too. One of my more analytical shipmates won a brand-new Camaro in a contest guessing how many packs of cigarettes it would hold. He rented the same model of Camaro, obtained the specs on its internal volume, spent a few hundred bucks on identical cigarette packs, and analyzed various configurations. His guess was only a few packs high-- but his packing was better.

Applying Dilbert-like efficiency, we focused on our goals and we optimized. You learned to push through the pain/fatigue/hunger to get things done. Evolutions were endlessly rehearsed. Drill critiques went faster by noting only the deficiencies, so sat performance was not considered worthy of mention. If an evaluator even tried to say "He did a good job of..." he'd be shouted down with "No positive comments!" and told to move on or be quiet. You perpetually prepared for the dreaded annual Operational Reactor Safeguards Exam (which could shut you down if you violated reactor safety) and the two-week countdown exerted extraordinary efforts (even by our standards). Inspectors only needed two days for the record reviews & drills (they went 20 hours/day) so you didn't bother to sleep. Life sucked so badly that you encouraged your crew with clichés slogans like "Life sucks pretty badly now, but it'll get better after the ORSE." (Translation: Never.)

To improve the speed & legibility of emergency comms, you learned to use only a few dozen approved terms for standard orders & reports. Sometimes you couldn't clearly hear your watch team's actual words but you could tell the status by the speed, tempo, and cadence of their reports. Officers somehow learned to timeslice two conversations at once while acknowledging watchstander reports. Hand signals were considered very cool. I've multitasked it all for years but I still don't understand how I do it, and it still bugs the heck out of my family.

On my final tour I was the command's director of firefighting & damage-control training. We put crews in a simulator, set it on fire in accordance with procedure, and expected them to extinguish the flames in accordance with procedure. If that went well then we put them next door in the wet trainer to patch the damaged piping and stop the flooding before the water got chest-high. One of my instructors actually had a heart attack during an especially skill-challenged firefighting class, but our corpsman and our EMT kept him alive. The students had managed to pass.

The training lasts a lifetime and I'm endlessly hypercritical of myself, my own worst enemy. I've been ashore for 15 years and retired for six, but until last year I'd get nightmares and wake up shouting orders. I still occasionally lock into to a project to the point of obsessive exhaustion. I'm perpetually being asked "Yikes, didn't that hurt?!?" My watchstander's situational paranoia awareness still lingers-- I sleep lightly and I'm very sensitive to noises that no one else hears. Like Dilbert I reflexively question every assumption, which also drives my family nuts. When I review an incident with our teenager, the critique continues until she runs screaming from the room identifies the root cause of the deficiency and implements corrective action (to be reported & tracked to completion). I track a lot of data because if it isn't logged then it won't happen. I can't watch a speaker without grading their presentation and its training value. I can't watch a movie without feeling vaguely guilty. I have a hard time relaxing and enjoying the sight of just about anything. I usually mentally assess its material condition and its readiness-- even at the beach. I can't turn my brain off and I usually don't fall asleep until I'm exhausted, yet I'll twitch wide-eyed awake in the wee hours of the morning.

But I'm recovering.

Gumby, you'll have to tell us if this lifestyle carries over to civilian reactor operator training...
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Old 06-03-2008, 07:04 PM   #2
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Nords, I trained in civilian (non nuclear) power plant operation including coal fired, combustion turbines and hydroelectric. I feel like a kindergartner compared to what you did. I salute you for your service and stand in awe of the sacrifices the people of our armed forces make to protect us.
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Old 06-03-2008, 07:46 PM   #3
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Nords,

I'm curious what the divorce rate is for submarine crews given the time spent away from families and the constant stress.

Thanks again for your service to our country.

2soon
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Old 06-03-2008, 08:14 PM   #4
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Nuke School has changed a whole lot over the years from what I've come to understand.
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Old 06-03-2008, 09:52 PM   #5
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...and I thought graduating college and now having two kids under 3 was an accomplishment.

I had a professor that was a Mech. Engr./nuke, but he didn't try to explain to us engineering punks.

Thanks for your service.

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Old 06-03-2008, 10:08 PM   #6
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I can second what Nords is talking about regarding the years it takes to semi-de-nuke post Naval service...my ex was a USN Nuke (MM1/ELT for you bubbleheads out there)...I believe he still has problems sleeping on a 24 hour "normal" schedule. The perfectionist issues he discussed...well, I think it would be safe to say the other communities of the USN considers them the odd sibling Constant stress is normal for most of us in the military - and sometimes people get lucky/smart when choosing a good mate.
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Old 06-04-2008, 02:00 PM   #7
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I'm curious what the divorce rate is for submarine crews given the time spent away from families and the constant stress.
Yeah, I'd like to see one of those studies too!

The credible research I've read suggests that... the data is crappy and no trends stand out. The only really sore spot is that junior female enlisted get divorced at a rate several times higher than males, than other ranks, and in every community that can have junior enlisted females. Otherwise the communities & services are pretty much too close for anything else to stick out, and all the bad examples are anecdotal.

Keep in mind that there may be an abundance of benefits and a lack of social awareness that all too strongly encourages "starter marriages" (especially on WestPac deployments). Nukes are volunteers who get sub pay and bigger bonuses in addition to base pay, and they're at sea a lot, so for some submarine spouses there's an extra incentive to stay married. I had by far more problems from nukes having to live with their spouses during shore duty than I did when we were all separated on sea duty.

To be fair, it's tough to tease out the equivalences between civilian marriages and military marriages. Other times the recruiters seem to be swearing in a disproportionately high number of married enlistees/officers, especially when the economy is crappy, and other times they're bringing in a lot of singletons.

The reasons for the marriage are not always clear, either, and spouse & I are a prime example. We'd always generally intended to get married someday, but "someday" turned out to be "next month" when her assignment officer wanted to send her to California and mine wanted to send me to Florida. We won that battle, but we also set of a chain reaction of family-vs-career decisions that eventually limited both of our careers.

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I can second what Nords is talking about regarding the years it takes to semi-de-nuke post Naval service...my ex was a USN Nuke (MM1/ELT for you bubbleheads out there)...I believe he still has problems sleeping on a 24 hour "normal" schedule. The perfectionist issues he discussed...well, I think it would be safe to say the other communities of the USN considers them the odd sibling Constant stress is normal for most of us in the military - and sometimes people get lucky/smart when choosing a good mate.
Yikes, you have my sincerest sympathies, and I hope you never knew MM1 Rose or MM1 Garber. Even the other nukes regard the ELTs as a little more intense than the rest of us. Must be all that special extra training and daily exposure to radioactive primary coolant...
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Old 06-04-2008, 03:16 PM   #8
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Heh. I was an instructor at one of the Idaho Falls facilities, the S5G plant. We had the same rotating shifts as Ballston Spa, plus the bus ride. (I lived in Pocatello, Idaho, about 85 minutes by bus.)

I'm pretty sure the training program was designed to induce obsessive-compulsive disorder. It worked. (Picture 30-40 people, all behaving like Monk, and all deprived of sleep. Welcome to the Engineering Department.) Students not on watch were expected to be tracing out systems, unless we were running drills, in which case they would be tracing out systems while wearing breathing apparatus and being questioned by instructors.

Each instructor was assigned a group of students to shepherd through the qualification process (those examinations, one-on-one systems qualifications grilling, and the written exams and oral board). Their health and stability had to be tracked. This was non-trivial in the high pressure environment we worked in.

I had one trainee show up with a nasty scar and what looked an awful lot like a powder burn ring on his forehead, resembling very strongly the discharge of a .22 pistol from several inches away. That was seriously disturbing. The inevitable inquiry concluded that it was an accidental weapon discharge resulting in a grazing wound. The trainee went on to be one of the better students I had there. (But I and my supervisor probably kept an unusually close eye on the lad...)

My most interesting trainee was a senior captain, a naval aviator who was going to be given command of a nuclear carrier. Under Admiral Rickover's rules, that meant the captain had to be a fully qualified nuclear power school graduate, so he was assigned to me as a special project. There I was in my 20s, riding herd on a captain in his late 40s and trying to move him through qualifications as fast as possible. Interesting experience, for both of us.
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Old 06-04-2008, 05:01 PM   #9
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My most interesting trainee was a senior captain, a naval aviator who was going to be given command of a nuclear carrier. Under Admiral Rickover's rules, that meant the captain had to be a fully qualified nuclear power school graduate, so he was assigned to me as a special project. There I was in my 20s, riding herd on a captain in his late 40s and trying to move him through qualifications as fast as possible. Interesting experience, for both of us.
Loved those O-6 students.

We shared some training time with one and it greatly accelerated our qualification progress. We ensigns used to sign up for checkouts or hit up the instructors, only to be told "Whoops, gotta run for the drill set" or "Sorry, try again later."

OTOH the O-6 would walk into anyone's office (even the-- gasp-- lieutenant's office!) and say "I'd like you to check me out on this system, please." We took to following him around and turning the checkouts into "us too" signature seminars...

We asked him once (this was 1983, a few years before "Top Gun") what was worse-- naval aviation or nuclear power training. He said "Neither. The worst is working with the battlegroup staff." We had no idea what he was talking about, but 10 years later I encountered my first BG staff and suddenly understood exactly what he meant.
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Old 06-05-2008, 04:53 PM   #10
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I spent a year of my life working as a naval consultant out of Washington DC. Spent 8 days 7 nights on a sub once (I assume it was 8 days because you don't see the sun set underwatrer, and I think there is a naval regulation preventing installation of windows on a submarine).

Interesting work. Couldn't do it now, but getting paid double time while at sea was appealing to me when I was single and 24 yo.
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Old 06-05-2008, 05:37 PM   #11
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My little niece did one tour on a carrier after nuke school and dang if she didn't marry a career Marine!! and get a big bucks civilian engineering job.

I used to encourage her during school days - just think maybe you could be the first woman on a sub!

heh heh heh - I blame it on Nuke School! A Marine!! - in this PC world I'd better refrain from further comment as they seem to be happily married. .
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Old 06-05-2008, 11:21 PM   #12
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Nords...

Great reading... I had a friend who went to nuke school.. (and I almost did... glad that I went another direction!!!)... he flunked out...

But he did get sub duty and worked on the turbines or something there...

Some of the stories I heard were interesting... please comment on any errors or if you would like to give more info...

He said 'all' enlisted had to learn how to drive the boat... and that an officer could not do it... is this true?

He talked about 'hot bunking'.... sounds like a horrible thing... they jump out and you jump in....

He was on a 'fast attack' sub and told about following around the Russian subs... but that if they 'wound up' their engines... it was over.. theirs were a lot faster than ours...

Said that you used to get steak on a regular basis... the best food in the Navy to be crammed in a tin can under water...

As you said... spent lots of time and money training... but he said they usually didn't put their full effort into it because it was a 'waste of time'....

I wish I could remember some of the other stories... have not seen him in about 15 or so years...
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Old 06-05-2008, 11:21 PM   #13
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I spent nine years in the Navy as a Reactor Operator (that means enlisted, not officer) 2 1/2 in training, 3 on a fast boat and 3 1/2 as an instructor. Got out in 1987.

Being a nuke is a lot like being a marine. There ain't no such thing as an ex-nuke. I still wear ear plugs when I sleep, because any little noise will wake me up. The ability to follow two conversations still annoys my wife and amazes co-workers.

When I do something, I automatically ask someone else to check it to verify it is correct. When someone else performs a task, I automatically check them. This really annoys my wife. She'll say "don't you trust me?". My automatic response is that I don't even trust myself, why would I trust anyone else.

Still, there are some up sides. I can still work 72 hours straight without sleep, it just takes a little longer to recover. I automatically read any instruction manual, procedure, policy or any other documentation that comes my way. It's amazing what you can learn when you actually read all of the junk that lands on your desk.

Also, the every day things that stress people out just don't seem to bother me much. Once you've been shot at, torpedoed, dynamited, electrocuted (450 AC and 300 DC) and washed over board (from a submarine no less). The little things that happen at work just don't seem to be that big a deal.
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Old 06-06-2008, 12:25 AM   #14
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Since I seem to be the baby nuke here, maybe you can get an idea of how much it's all changed since you're been in. Nords, I don't know how much you'll be able to compare, the officer and enlisted sides of the school seemed to differ a little, most noticeably at prototype.

During the first phase of training in power school, we had to march around in formation for the first few weeks, but only in the morning and at lunch. We were in our seats for anywhere between 15-18 hours a day (9 hours of class, the rest of study, broken up with about an hour between lunch and dinner), 5 days a week, then expected to be in on the weekends to finish up our mandatory study hours. Some people had to put anywhere between 25-30 extra study hours a week on top of time in class. I was usually right in the middle of the class or above, on any given week, so I never had to put in anything dramatic, and my extra study hours ranged from 0-20.

We had to wear our uniforms for the first month, then after passing a PFT we could wear our civilian clothes to study on the weekends. Another month and another passed PFT, we could wear civilian clothes in to study any time after class.

The second phase, another six months of school, I turned 21. So my memories here are somewhat jumbled together, and that led to my one contribution of nuclear school lore for my class. Here I was in the same boat as before, enjoying the benefits of decent grades and not having to study much. One thing I think that has changed the most is the method in which we learn, because I never had a problem digesting the material given. I always heard such horror stories from the instructors about how their time as students went. I had time to lead FEP in the mornings before class and spend every night drinking at the bowling alley or drinking and playing pool at the bar down the street.

We had to get an apartment during the last phase of school and you could either go to New York or stay in Charleston. Actually I couldn't go to New York, because I had an alcohol related incident and I wasn't interested in taking the necessary class to waive that offense to go. Best decision I've ever made. But 12 hour alternative shifts, each 7 days with 1.5, 2, and 4 days off respectively. I was still 21 at this point, so I can't say anything I remember is in chronological order, but if you were a certain percentage ahead of their learning curve you could switch from 12 hour days to 8 hour days. They said you needed permission to do it, and you had to scan in and out, so they knew exactly how long you were there. I put myself on 8 hour days and they never said anything, so that may show you how relaxed they had become on discipline. But I was one of the furthest ahead in quals, so maybe I was an exception.

Stress levels were very high though, and at minimum four people attempted suicide while I was there that I remember. The people who were old enough drowned in alcohol. Social lives were brief and broken up between phases of training, and nearly a year and a half of going straight from work to sleep and back to work again meant that the only relationships you head of developing were between fellow students. That was one bucket of snakes I managed to avoid entirely.
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Old 06-06-2008, 07:14 AM   #15
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Another ex nuke here. I've been out for 20 years. Went to Nuke school in Orlando and prototype in NY. I was on the Trident plant can't remember the number S1G maybe? Spent 4 years on a fast boat out of Charleston. We averaged 325 days a year steaming and under water. Ah the good times??

I was young so I do not remember being that stressed out. The training though did make me more prepared for college when I got out of the USN. I had been studying for years in the navy. Getting me college degree was easy compared to Nuke School and training.

I do remember a high rate of divorce. Guys would come back from sea and their apartments / houses would be empty. No wife, kids, funiture, nothing. Not even a letter.
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Old 06-07-2008, 02:33 PM   #16
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Another ex nuke here. I've been out for 20 years. Went to Nuke school in Orlando and prototype in NY. I was on the Trident plant can't remember the number S1G maybe?
I was S8G. I was an instructor there from 84 to 87.
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Old 06-07-2008, 03:40 PM   #17
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Old 06-08-2008, 01:24 AM   #18
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Geez, I forgot that most of the Navy stands four-hour watches. Whenever I tried to whine about my six-hour underway watches my spouse would remind me that all her shore duty was 12-hour shifts.

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He said 'all' enlisted had to learn how to drive the boat... and that an officer could not do it... is this true?
There's a lot of work to do on a submarine, and to minimize an already onerous burden the officers are generally not allowed to touch nothin'. (I'm one of the more egregious offenders.) As an example of this policy, the only piece of gear that officers are allowed to operate is the periscope... and thus it's the most abused & broken-down piece of gear on the ship.

So officers are allowed to drive for 10-15 minutes during their qualifications (mainly for the crew's entertainment) before having to turn it back over to one of the sub's most junior crewmembers. The average helmsman has been in the Navy for less than a year and a member of the crew for as little as three months.

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Originally Posted by Texas Proud View Post
He talked about 'hot bunking'.... sounds like a horrible thing... they jump out and you jump in....
At our training command, one of our more junior E-5s raced through his college degree in record time and applied for a commission. When we commented on his strong motivation and asked him why he thought he wanted to be an officer, he said "So I won't have to @#$%ing hot-rack anymore, sir!" We all laughed guiltily and endorsed his request.

The more "humane" version of the policy was three sailors (in different three-section six-hour watchbills) time-slicing two racks. And every hot-racker is issued their own set of bed linens.

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Originally Posted by Texas Proud View Post
He was on a 'fast attack' sub and told about following around the Russian subs... but that if they 'wound up' their engines... it was over.. theirs were a lot faster than ours...
Only the ALFA class, which you could still hear for tens of miles at their top speed. And it doesn't matter how fast they are when you shoot from 3000-4000 yards astern in their acoustic baffles. I'm sorry, we don't discuss submarine operations.

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Originally Posted by Texas Proud View Post
Said that you used to get steak on a regular basis...
Yeah, we had to eat steak whenever we ran out of prime rib & lobster.

90-day patrols... food was a primary entertainment system and I routinely gained 10 pounds per year of sea duty. The smell of fresh fruit coming down the hatch is one of those scent memories that's burned into my brain. However I can still do amazing things with food preservation & longevity that absolutely disgust my spouse & daughter.

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Originally Posted by Texas Proud View Post
As you said... spent lots of time and money training... but he said they usually didn't put their full effort into it because it was a 'waste of time'....
Ouch. The one or two times I tried that approach I didn't get very far off the beaten track before I was roped in & recalibrated.

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Originally Posted by RetiredGypsy View Post
Since I seem to be the baby nuke here, maybe you can get an idea of how much it's all changed since you're been in.
That all sounds about right. We had frequent musters instead of card readers, and some jokers instructors prided themselves on sneaking up on dozing students.

Privileges like study hours & civvies were a direct reflection of your grades. Going from 12-hour shifts to eight was absolutely non-negotiable until you'd qualified EOOW. Our prototype CO would give you a day off if you beat him at the 1.5-mile run, but he routinely ran it in eight minutes.

Alcohol was a way of life when I joined, and I enthusiastically pushed all the limits. Today I probably would've been slammed straight into an in-patient program, but back then I wasn't considered all that unusual. I hope I've grown out of it.

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Originally Posted by StJohnsWood View Post
I do remember a high rate of divorce. Guys would come back from sea and their apartments / houses would be empty. No wife, kids, funiture, nothing. Not even a letter.
When we were the off-duty boomer crew we'd answer the phone for the other crew (who was at sea) and forward their correspondence. One busy morning we got a call from the manager of an apartment building-- Petty Officer Schmuckatelli's apartment had been vandalized & flooded and the water had collapsed the ceiling of the apartment below-- would he please call them back? Later we got a call from the local police regarding several of his suitcases (and all their clothing/toiletries contents and other contraband) strewn along the local highway-- was he OK and would he please call them back? That was followed shortly by another call on behalf of the combined security staff, firefighters, HAZMAT, and police officers at a local shopping center who wished to report that his torched vehicle was ready to be towed off their property ASAP, no callback required. Later on that morning we found out that Schmuckatelli had also been given credit for a couple of bomb threats, a drug tip to the police hotline, and several suicide hotlines. The two XOs tied up a lot of back & forth radio traffic over that one, and Schmuckatelli's homecoming was a month to remember.

The moral of the story: If you're going to give your girlfriend a key to your apartment, don't rudely terminate the relationship the night before you go back to sea...
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Old 06-08-2008, 01:58 AM   #19
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"Since the other three qualified OOD's were all Lieutenant Commanders and department heads, while I was only a Lieutenant, that meant I was on permanent midwatch (midnight to 6am)"


Ah... Gumby... what does it matter which shift you are on if you are under water? Not like you can look out the window...
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Old 06-08-2008, 10:44 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Texas Proud View Post
"Since the other three qualified OOD's were all Lieutenant Commanders and department heads, while I was only a Lieutenant, that meant I was on permanent midwatch (midnight to 6am)"
Ah... Gumby... what does it matter which shift you are on if you are under water? Not like you can look out the window...
Well, looking out the periscope on the midwatch can be a pretty intense experience when the lightning storm starts up. Or when you discover the sailboat that sonar couldn't hear.

But at least two-thirds of the crew is asleep on the midwatch and you're not. That alone makes it pretty darn difficult to find someone to give you a pee break during a six-hour watch. (And you're usually drinking coffee to stay awake.) Then after your midwatch everyone is up for morning drills, including you. Then everyone is up for afternoon training, including you. Then after dinner your chain of command is just settling down to catch up on their work while you're trying to sleep before taking the midwatch-- and you can predict how that goes.

If I had trouble sleeping at 3 AM I used to make it a point to give a break to the midwatch guys. It's amazing how little effort it takes to make someone so grateful...
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